Monday, May 30, 2016

The Write to Heal Series

It's been almost a month since my last post! So sorry..but you So instead of dropping bombs or getting all heavy I thought I'd share what's been keeping me from extremely busy writing life! Here's a recap of all that's gone on since the last Write to Heal Series.

1. Residency & Workshop Acceptances: I have the great pleasure of announcing that I was accepted into BOTH the VONA/Voices Workshop for Writers of Color at the University of Miami AND the Macondo Writer's Workshop for Latino Authors!!!

I am thrilled, scared, nervous, intimidated and just ready to be surrounded by mi gente. I am really looking forward to getting feedback on my work and just being in community with inspiring writers. It definitely means that I will be very busy this summer, so blogging may be put on hold, but as soon as I can get back to this page and share with you all that I learned and experienced, I definitely will.  

2. Publications:  If you've been keeping up with my sporadic posts, then you know by now that my creative non-fiction piece Shades of Red was recently published by the University of Edinburgh's Dangerous Woman Project. (I just thought I'd plug it one more time) It was great to be included in this project and hey they even paid me a small!

Trevor, Me, Lupe, Kayla & Alvaro @ NP Showcase
3. Performances: As you probably remember, April was National Poetry Month so I was very busy. To wrap up the month I read and sold over 19 copies Island of Dreams at the Nuestra Palabra 18th Anniversary Showcase. It was a long night but it was amazing. All the old and new NP folks gathered for a night of literature, film, art and fun. It was great to see old friends and to be able to make new ones.

Also, I had the privilege and honor of being asked to read at HCC central for the student creative writing group. It was a great experience because the students asked really great questions about what it's like to be a professional writer...and I just kept thinking to myself "I'm still trying to figure it out too!" Everyone was very gracious and I always love reading on college campuses because the students are like sponges and really enjoy my work.  There were even a few Afro-Latinas in the audience who approached me afterwards and thanked me for writing the work that I do.

It's been over a month since that reading and just last week, the young lady who booked me for the even sent me an email...(one of the few pieces of "fan mail" I've ever received and it almost made me cry!)...She wrote:

"I just wanna say that I just finished your book and it resonated so much in so many ways!! Even though I'm Mexican, there's so many things that I went through just like you said. I wanna thank you for writing this and for sharing your art with the world. I just came back from Barnes & Noble trying to find a new book to read after yours but I came back empty handed. I got that feeling you get when you just read a great book that nothing comes close after that. I seriously can't wait to read more from you! I loved your performance that day at HCC and your book!

Thank you thank you thank you!!!"

Aaah! How sweet! I was so excited to read this and it reassures me that my stories matter and that they resonate with the audience I hoped it would.

Lastly, the hubs and I had the wonderful and rare opportunity to share the stage as the featured poets at Inprint's First Friday Reading Series earlier this month. It was a truly rewarding and fun night. He and I took turns on the mic and even read a piece together (which never happens). I love what we do and I love when we can do it together.
First Friday Reading

4. Upcoming Gigs & Stuff: This summer is full of writing experiences and opportunities. I know I will be tired by the end but I know I will also be fulfilled. Aside from VONA and Macondo, I will also be attending my first summer residency at PLU for my MFA. I am currently working on editing my workshop submissions and am again very intimidated and nervous about the process and the experience. But I want to take it all in and just learn from it.
I have also been asked to be the keynote speaker at a Teen Summit for girls in Baytown at Lee College. I have never been a keynote speaker, but they are allowing me to perform some of my poetry and just talk to the girls. I will be working on preparing that later this month.

While I have a busy couple of months ahead, I will have some down time starting next week. Mom, sis and Baby B and I will be taking a trip to the DR to rest and relax for a few days and I simply can't wait! The beach, the sun, the food...I'M READY! I also think it will provide me with the space and quiet to get some reading and writing done before everything gets crazy.

Looking back at the last month and half I realize how truly lucky I am to live this life and to be able to move forward in order to do more. As many of you know I didn't always feel this way and my ailing health often makes it hard to see things in a positive light, but all in all I can say confidently that things are good...and truthfully...all is well.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Seeing Red Part III- Guest Posts

“My dad used to say makeup was a shallow girl's sport, but it's not. It's armor.” 
― Courtney Summers

There are so many updates I need to share: health, writing, plans, hopes, But I'm going to take some time away from the over-indulgent navel gazing and share two more Finding my Red stories. I find that listening to and sharing other's stories is just as important as telling my own. So here are two stories from fellow bloggers:

Labios en Rojo-Lips in Red by Rosa Angelica Castaneda

Porque Me Dio La Gana 

I was encouraged to wear makeup since middle school, but I rebelled.  My grandma thought, “Un poquito de roodge mijita. Y los labios tan morenos. Ponte algo!”  Grandma felt that a woman with a little color was going places. Makeup marked her success in her home with her marido and in her life with being attractive enough to climb the ladder. I would have rather been a boy. Boys didn’t deal with makeup nor did they deal with the need to be attractive to go places.

The rest of my family warned about the consequences of makeup and the consequences of too much of it. “Necesita color esta muchacha!” My grandma insisted I needed color. I stopped wearing dresses and asked for my first pair of Red Wing boots.

Botas? Nomas los hombres usan botas!” Only men wore boots! My grandma was appalled. My mom snickered in the background. “Carolina, eres manflora?”

I don’t know what I was, but a girl who wore makeup I would not be.  I didn’t wear makeup for years. I felt it was oppressive. I felt makeup was the very disguise we hid behind so that we didn’t have to be ourselves. Because someone demanded it of us.

Each day over the years, I watched my grandma paint on her face and then grab a pencil to stab a fake mole onto her face. My grandma was beautiful. Her modos were elegant and her work ethic was fierce. She was a confident woman.

After I had both of my children, I started to wear makeup. Something to spruce me up and make me feel better about myself after post-partum depression. I only wore a bit of nude lipstick (mostly lip gloss) and eyeshadow the color of my skin.

I didn’t break any barriers until last year. My children are 16 and 10. My 16 year old is fabulous at wearing her makeup. Wings, and lips and eyebrows. Esta werca salio como la abuela! She wears it confidently.  Something I could never do when I was her age.

“Mom, just do it!!” My daughter’s enthusiasm was a great way to step into wearing makeup con ganas.  Last year, I wore red lipstick for the first time. Because mija gave me the confidence and the free pass to wear what I want. I was self-conscious the first time I wore it. Will people think I’m ofrecidaNo one said a word, but it made me feel rebellious in such a different way. I owned the time I chose to wear the lipstick. I chose how much and where I would wear it without any regard for submitting to someone’s demand of me wearing it. I wore it porque me dio la gana.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Seeing Red Part II

How do you enter a room? How do you claim your space, assert your identity, and "own it?" Own who and what you are. Own your ideas, your right to be where you "don't belong." Own your body, your words and yourself. We all do it differently, some of us have yet to learn how to do it at all. But as women and especially those of us who are women of color or women who are chronically ill "owning it" and claiming our space is necessary and important to our sanity and our survival.


Because we are often in places and situations where we feel "less than" or "othered."

At a doctor's office.
At a literary event.
At a business meeting.
In a room full of men.
In a room full of white people.
At the gym.
At a gala or fundraiser.
At the hospital.

If we do not assert who and what we are and what we will and won't accept we can become victims. Victims of micro aggressions, victims of criticism and patronizing, victims of verbal and even physical abuse or discrimination.

I have recently been in many spaces where I needed to make an entrance and assert myself. It's taken years for me to learn how to do this and to do it well, and in some spaces I'm still trying to get better at it. I often feel like an impostor that I'm only faking it till I make it..but hey it's a start!

For example, I am often nervous before a reading (especially at colleges or universities) because I feel like there is an "expectation" for me to deliver a certain type of work, aesthetic, or answer certain types of questions. This still scares me, that people see me as the expert or the professional when it comes to writing. The responsibility of that is terrifying as I try to inspire and engage "new" writers when I still consider myself a new and emerging writer. But, I try and do several things to make an entrance, take up the space I deserve and own it:

1) I dress the part. I wear clothes and jewelry and even make up that is a reflection of how I'm feeling that day and that make me feel beautiful but comfortable! I rarely wear heels to these things because I'm self conscious and hate walking around in them since they cause pain. But dressing in a way that makes me feel confident allows me to exude confidence.
2) Speak only what I know. Instead of trying to tell people what they want to hear, I tell them MY truths based on MY experiences. I let them decide what advice they want to take.
3) I speak to everyone like a peer. I don't act "more than" or above anyone else and I make people feel comfortable enough around me to just chat.
4) I make no apologies for my word, my words, my story or who I am. If it offends you...good.

While there are times when I still struggle with this (I am trying to learn how to own it when I am my doctor's office. Doc's and all their knowledge still intimidate me at times, but I'm learning to be my own health advocate since I know my body best) I am getting better and only hope to continue growing.

Last week I shared some stories of my friends and the first time they wore red lipstick. This week I share some more, and as you will see for some of these women, red lipstick is one of the ways they make an entrance, exude and inspire confidence. Why? Who knows. Maybe it's because red is the color of risk, danger, fire, love and lust. Maybe it's because red demands attention and says "look at me" and we feel noticed in a bold shade of red. Whatever the reason, I urge you to try it. See what wearing red can do for you!

"I was a tomboy growing up and I hated the thought of makeup. I did participate in this ritual however when I started going to dances at the Copa Cabana. I felt alive dancing all those cumbia songs. "Juana la Cubana," made my heart beat faster."-J.T.

"I started wearing red lipstick when I was eight or nine years old. No, I was not raised in a brothel; I was born into a theatrical family. Here I am at age 10 about to dance “Waltz of the Flowers,” and though it is not a color picture, I was most definitely wearing red lipstick. When I was a teen, we all wore pink lipstick; red was for old ladies, like you know, women over 30. Of course, I was an actress then, so I did wear red lipstick when I was working. During most of my adult years, I’ve worn many different shades, but I did not start wearing bright red lipstick again until a few years ago. Now it’s the only color lipstick I wear. It makes me happy and looks great with my silver hair."-B.D.

"I have never had the courage to wear red lipstick. I have always liked the color as red is one of my favorites, but haven't worn it for two reasons. First as a dark skinned black girl I was always told that I should avoid red, cause I was too dark for it. Second as a dark skinned black girl with big lips I was double discouraged. It has taken me years to actually like my skin and my lips. I'm going to buy me some red lipstick!!!"- I.G.

"Adolescence in the 90's meant a LOT of brown lip liner for me. My core clique in high school looked like a scene right out of 'Mi Vida Loca'; pencil thin brows, spiral perms, flannels and baggie jeans. My love affair with hip hop had me intersecting the two worlds, but it wasn't until I saw a matte ruby red velvet pout on Selena Quintanilla that I wanted to wear red.
It was bold, and feminine, and when she sang you could not HELP but to watch her mouth. It was mesmerizing.
I wasn't as bold, to be honest. My first attempts with red were still lined with brown. And to be equally honest, I don't think anyone even noticed it.
Eventually the brown lines I confined myself with faded away, and red lips became a signature look for me. Always ruby red. A matte velvet pout that makes me feel classic, timeless, empowered and iconic...
And sometimes, I even pop my lips together when I look in the mirror and sing 'Bidi bidi bom bom.'" -C.D.

"I was made fun of for having VERY big lips as a child and, of course, was self conscious of them. Every time I attempted red it seemed to plump them up 3x's bigger so I completely stayed away until very near adulthood. When I published my book in 2010 I did so under a pen name and decided to assume another identity (to hide my own). Red lips were a shot at that - but now I love it. Instead of hiding an identity I discovered the true (really beautiful) me, with a gorgeous smile to boot." - A.S.

"We went to Sephora and she got new make up. Then we sat and played make up in her bathroom. You can't stay in with a full face of make up on so we went to a bar with my parents and laughed at the awful dancing. It was fun!"-C.G.

"I was sixteen 
Bathed in Exclamation perfume
Freshly curled hair
eyeliner heavy
a brand new fire red lipstick
We all wore red lips that day 
1 tube shared by four
We ran to catch the crosstown bus
to a jam in the South Bronx
Visiting the boys with their Timberland boots, 
fitted hats and "Yo shorty come over here"  attitudes
 which seemed to amuse us Manhattan girls
That night,  smiles, laughter and secrets mixed with pigment.  
Today,  there are smiles, laughter and secrets still." -Vanessa F.

"The first time i wore red lips in public... I was 35, after losing 110 lbs. And I wore it work. A huge global tech company. Everyone kept asking where am I going or who am I going to see. So I went in the bathroom and took a selfie. I wore the red lips for me. I wore them to see what the world would say.."-J.L.

One more Found My Red story coming next week! Special blog post by my friend Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros. Check out her blog: Cisneros Cafe!!

To see my original story of finding my red check out Shades of Red on the Dangerous Woman Project website!