Monday, October 10, 2016

Guest Post w/ Doretta Lau

“Write like a motherfucker.” -Cheryl Strayed

So today begins my guest blog post series! Since I feel like I have run out of things to say (on my blog, because all  my creative energies are going towards my other writing projects) I have decided to highlight and share the stories of other chronic illness bloggers. 

Here's my first Q & A interview with Doretta Lau, a journalist living in Canada who shares her writing and health and wellness journey on her blog and website. Hope you enjoy getting to know her a little better and check out her blog for more!

Can you tell me a little about your chronic illness journey? How long it took to get a diagnosis etc.

I got really severely sick in September 2015 to the point where I was afraid not to be near a toilet. Meanwhile, the migraines I’d been getting for the past seven years became more frequent. Then eczema started blooming all over my face, neck, hands, and back of my thighs and I had insomnia because I was so itchy. I had the flu and developed a cough that lasted for months. After many meals, I felt like I was going to pass out, which made me think I had diabetes, but I’d been tested several times so that wasn’t the culprit. Every time I went to the doctor I was given five kinds of pills and bottles of cough syrup, but I got the sense that suppressing the symptoms wasn’t helping me heal.

Regular blood work didn’t turn anything up. Finally, one of my colleagues referred me to her integrated health clinic, where my doctor listened to me talk about my health issues for an hour and gave me some treatment options to choose from. It was empowering to be able to listen to her advice and choose based on what I thought was best.

Why did you decide to start blogging about your illness journey? How has writing helped?
I was reading so much and learning so much I thought it might be helpful to share what I’d picked up along the way. Also, I hadn’t been writing and I wanted to reconnect with the craft in some way, even if I wasn’t producing fiction. The blogging has been incredible because so many people have reached out and offered support or shared their struggles with me. It’s really taught me that we get through illness with a community behind us.

What have been the top three challenges of living with chronic illness? How do you overcome these challenges?

I can’t eat out at most restaurants now, so that has limited a lot of social interactions. At the moment I’m a bit anxious about how to handle attending a wedding because I won’t be able to eat anything at the meal, but I still want to celebrate with my friends. To get around this, I started cooking a lot more and asking friends over for meals or to go out for picnics. At work I started a Slack group called #radddesklunch to gather people to eat lunch in the office with me. I now pack a lunch every day.

I also stopped drinking, so that has cut out many old interactions. This has proven to be amazing, because it has eliminated a lot of unhealthy patterns and friendships.

I’m also limiting the amount of time I’m at work. Before I was willing to stay late if there was an avalanche of tasks, but now I set firm boundaries and stick to the set office hours.

What’s one thing you used to eat/drink and/or do that you can’t anymore? How have you learned to cope with these dietary/lifestyle changes and what keeps you motivated to be consistent with it? 

I no longer ingest alcohol, caffeine, painkillers, sugar (this includes sweeteners such as honey, agave, and maple syrup), or sugar substitutes such as aspartame.

I discovered that I’m allergic to yeast, along with seven other foods that I used to eat pretty much on a daily basis. Just knowing what to avoid has made a huge difference in my quality of life. My hands are no longer oozing, I’m not having intense stomach pain, and I’m not suffering from the feeling that my heart has slowed down and I’m about to collapse if I don’t sit or lie down immediately.

What are your top three suggestions/advice/tips for self-care.

1. Establish a nighttime routine so you can fall asleep before midnight. I feel a lot better the next day if I’m asleep by ten p.m. the night before. I used to think I was a night person, but in reality I had terrible sleep hygiene and I probably drank too much. Once I figured out I need at least an hour to putter before going to bed, this helped me better plan my time.

2. Learn how to say no. (I realize that this is on your list too, Jasminne! But it is so important I’m including it.) I’ve become a hermit while I’m healing and the time for myself has been amazing.

3. Buy a set of airtight glass containers that can withstand the microwave and the freezer. This way you can cook one huge meal and freeze it into multiple portions, while not worrying about toxic chemicals leaking into your food. You can also chop up vegetables ahead of time and have them on hand as snacks.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is newly diagnosed (with you same illness or just any chronic illness)?

For me, it’s all about doing research and reading. I understand my body better than any expert does so I need to be able to talk about what’s going on so doctors can listen and help me. It’s good to keep a notebook to write down what your health practitioner tells you--it’s easy to misremember as you’re being told a lot of new information at once--and to track progress and note symptoms and how things shift.

I once worked as an admissions clerk for a university medical program so I know that if you don’t trust a doctor, it’s time to find a new one. There’s an old joke that goes: “Q: What do you call the person at the bottom of his medical school class? A: Doctor.”

The biggest key is your healthcare practitioner should be a good listener who acknowledges the information you are providing. Anyone who is dismissive of your concerns should not be a part of your treatment team. I understand that as a Canadian, this is a lot easier for me because I don’t need to choose a doctor based on my insurance coverage, but you are in charge here. You can respect and listen to your doctor while advocating for yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to seek out people who have gone through a similar health journey as you.

Can you share one quick/easy recipe for our readers?(smoothie, salad, dish)
1 bunch kale
1 cup quinoa
1 sweet potato
raw pumpkin seeds
olive oil
sea salt

Soak the quinoa for two hours in water. Rinse and cook. Depending on what kind of quinoa you’ve purchased, this will take 12 to 15 minutes. Peel and cut sweet potato and boil for 10 minutes and let cool.

Remove kale from stalks into bite sized pieces. Drizzle olive oil onto kale and massage until kale is tender. Add a dash of sea salt.

Combine all ingredients and sprinkle raw pumpkin seeds on top.


Thank you Doretta for sharing your story with us and providing such great tips on self-advocacy and self love! Keep writing and keeping loving yourself we are excited to follow you on your journey back to health and wellness. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Radical Self-Love

At the beach in the DR
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” — A Burst of Light: Essays, Audre Lorde

For the last four months or so, I have been trying really hard to practice self-care and practice radical self-love. It is the only way I can psychologically and emotionally carry all of the various traumas around in my body. (racial battle fatigue, illness, infertility etc) While I have been healing a great deal from the physical trauma chronic illness has wrecked on body over the last eight years, I am now more vulnerable, attune to and receptive to emotional trauma brought on by the crazy world we live in and by needing to come to terms with what I have lost because of chronic illness. 

The charts and the stars and the mystics keep telling us that 2016 is a year of transitions. I can agree with that. I have started so many new things, been on many new adventures, met new people and felt and experienced things I swore I never would. In the process I have cried a lot, questioned a lot and felt really lost and scared at times. If I let myself go I could fall into a pretty bad place. But I also know, that right now, I still have a choice in the matter. And as long as I have that choice, I choose to take care of myself and not let the emotions and the grief overrun all the good that is in my life. 

So, while I may often post that eating a cupcake, or drinking a glass of wine or taking a lavender bubble bath is "self-care" that's not the only kind of radical self love I want to talk about today. For me, it's more than that. I recently read an article on The Mighty about how another woman practices self-care, and some of my suggestions are similar. 

Radical Self-Love Includes:
Quiet time and writing time.

1)Nonnegotiables: I learned about this in my first teaching gig almost ten years ago. What are the things you are NOT willing to compromise on? Make a list and stick to it. These are your non-negotiables. For me, I decided four years ago that I would not and could not work full-time outside of the home. Period. It is not good for my mental or physical health. I am lucky enough to be able to financially afford to do this thanks to the support of my husband, but even if and when we have struggled financially he has never let me backtrack on this nonnegotiable and I am so thankful for it. A few of my other nonnegotiables include (and sometimes this list changes a little depending on how bad I'm flaring and what my body needs)
A) Quiet time at least once a day (through meditation, deep breathing, alone time)
B) Writing time (as often as I can get it)
C) Time with my husband--anything that gets too in the way of that has to go. 
D) Rest- I have to find the time to rest
E) Flexible weekday schedule to go to doc appointments and take care of adulting responsibilities
F) Of course my health is a nonnegotiable. Anything/anyone gets in the way of that, they gots to go.

When you make your list and it's a true and honest list, the hard part will be not compromising...which leads to my second act of self-love---

2) Learn to say NO: Boy do I struggle with this one. Us Type-A people often do (notice how Type-A people are THE ONLY people that constantly remind you of and define their "Type?" We like labels and lists). I am a people pleaser and I want to be of use. I want to show the world that I CAN DO THIS! I used to over commit myself so that I wouldn't let anyone down. Boy did that ship sail once scleroderma and lupus decided to have their way with me! I am a flake. Period. Get used to it. Get over it. Love me anyway. 

I can't help it sometimes if/when my body decides to shut down, so plans I made weeks ago may just fall through. Instead of beating myself up over it I've just learned to say no or "maybe" on the front end. If I know I have a busy week of work or readings coming up and someone invites me to dinner or hanging out that week I usually say "I can't promise anything. Maybe. I'll text you the day of." My real friends understand this and at least to my face have never give me slack for it. (Thank you real friends!) Instead of "flaking" out and seeming unreliable I just have learned to say no and create a flexible and reasonable calendar and schedule for myself that allows me to do what I need/want to do without sacrificing my emotional or physical health. What's more radical than saying no?!

My bedroom...when it's clean :)
3) Clean Up/"Adult": Yes. Do some damn chores and get your adult life right. Now that I have the energy and the physical ability to wash the dishes, fold laundry, sweep, mow the lawn, vacuum, wash my car and bathe the dogs, I feel like a normal real human being again. I know that cleanliness isn't everyone's personality...but trust me even just organizing your clutter can go a long way to making you feel better. I hate the sight of mess and clutter it stresses me out. Taking the time out each day to clean up and tidy even just one corner of my personal or professional space makes me feel really good. I feel like: "hey I love myself enough to take care of the things I worked so hard to get." 

I have a strong sense of pride in taking care of my home and doing this on a regular basis keeps me motivated and happy overall. I usually start the day with one small chore. It's also where I find my quiet time. No music or TV, just me and the "boring" task at hand. I get some great ideas for writing, I think of my to dos for the day, I contemplate life. It centers me and I feel good. Also, what's more feminist than taking care of your man and your house because you CHOOSE to? :) 

4) Treat Yo'Self: Of course! And that is going to mean different things for different people. Does a pedicure and a massage make ME feel good? Hell yes. So sometimes I indulge. Does the gym and a swim in the pool also make ME feel good? Yes, so I do it often. Does a cupcake and wine sound good too? Damn right. But those are my "treat yo'self" options. Sometimes indulging means roaming the bookstore for a few hours, buying a new book and sitting in a coffee shop to read it. Sometimes it involves reading tabloid magazines while bathing in a lavender bath. Sometimes it involves planning nothing on a Saturday and Sunday morning and cuddling with the hubs to binge watch Netflix all day.
Treating myself also has involved making time for and allowing myself to laugh. At a movie, at my husband at myself. Laughter is the best treat you can give yourself any time of day.

All of those things are "treat" to me and I do them often. Because, I can't take care of others if I don't take care of myself. And...most importantly DON'T FEEL GUILTY! The guilt ruins the act of self-love. Enjoy it because you deserve it. You've earned it just for making it through another damn day. No guilt!

5) Stand Up for Yourself: Like saying no, this one can be hard. But it is so important, especially as a woman of color. It's hard for most anyone, but I definitely feel like WOC are often silenced more than any other group. (I experienced this this summer at my MFA program and boy did it almost destroy me). The only way we will be heard is if we speak up. In an age of social media cyber bullying and trolls where anyone and everyone says the most racist, ablest, sexist, obnoxious things we must find a way to speak our truths and be heard. (I am not suggesting that you engage with racist trolls on the internet) What I mean is, if you are in a situation like at the doctors, or in a group of friends/family/co workers, and you are in conversation and someone attempts to silence or worse "correct" your point of view or your story, don't stay silent. Speak up and speak your truth. Don't be afraid of the confrontation (I HATE confrontation but know it only eats me up inside later). Showing that you will not be silenced and that they cannot walk all over you is the most radical form of self love and political warfare you can engage in without picking up arms. Microagressions are real and they can eat away at you if you're not careful. Standing up for yourself is a way of healing those wounds before the cut gets too deep. 

Galveston, TX
6) Unplug: Yes, it's hard. I love social media too. But close the lid. Turn off the screen. Back away. Sometimes it's just all white noise (pun intended). And you need to find the silence. Silence is good. Listen to the silence. (no screen distractions, no beeping phones, no email alerts) It's hard. I unplugged from FB last year for 30 days---most restorative time of my life. I signed off this year for almost two weeks (yes I did suffer withdraw) and now I only come back to share writing links and see pics of my niece. I need to step away from all of that because it is draining and emotionally taxing. I suggest you find a way to unplug too even if just once a week like a Tech free Tuesday or something. I know we need our devices for work, but disconnect from social media for 24hrs or more. Trust me, you'll thank me for it later. 

I'm sure there are other things I can/should or am doing as self-care but it's 5:45am on a Thursday and I have to get to know, I like living in my technically going to this job is self care too because know..I also like to eat. 

These are just the first few things that came to mind. The ones I practice regularly or am learning to get better at in order to save my sanity amidst the chaos. 

What are YOU doing to practice radical self-love? What is keeping you from it? 

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Write to Heal: Summer, Summer, Summer Time

At RWW- PLU Campus

"Ocean--/get up. The most beautiful part of your body/is where it's headed. & remember,/loneliness is still time spent/with the world." - Ocean Vuong - Someday I'll Love Ocean Vuong in Night Sky with Exit Wounds 

Aaahh! Ok, so I cannot possibly even begin to capture ALL that has happened in the last six weeks and how I have grown as a person, a writer, a poet, a woman....too much...too much.. but I will try to do my best. (And maybe give a quick health update at the end too) here goes..more in depth analysis of these moments to come...for now a recap.

1) Macondo Writer's Workshop

Was a great four days spent in the company of writers from across all genres. I was challenged to write in ways that make me very uncomfortable and about topics that I tend to feel indifferent about (place poems for example). I spent some time building relationships with wonderful writers like Raina de Leon, Sara Rafael Garcia, Monica Teresa Ortiz and Javier Zamora among many others. My writing family grew exponentially because of Macondo and although I have a way of often sabotaging my own happiness at times, (I got really down on myself for being only one of two Afro-Latinas in the whole group, making me feel, as usual, like I didn't belong) I am thankful for my wonderful hubby Lupe who knows just want to say

Me & Lupe @ Macondo
and when to say it to bring me back to reality. Overall it was a great experience made even better by Laurie Ann Guerrero's strong leadership, passion, kindness and attention to detail. Also...Tim Z rocks and I love his facilitator skills! I will definitely be back next year if they'll have me and I'm really looking forward to helping out more in the future in any way I can.

2) CantoMundo (as a guest, tag along)

Juan Felipe Herrera
AAAhhh!! Is all I can say. Fan girl. Fan girl. Fan girl. That's all I was able to do all weekend. I met Elizabeth Acevedo for the first time in the flesh and it was like reuniting with a long lost cousin. She is a beautiful poet and soul. I also sat front row and saw Carmen Tafolla and Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera perform their work. Along with all the other talented poets that performed, the weekend was truly magic.
I was also able to share an Air BnB with two of my favorite people now Yesenia Montilla(who is everything!) and a new sister Denice Frohman (whose extent of fandom I didn't realize until she kept getting approached by random strangers in Austin). We had a blast hanging out, telling stories, talking politics and going to the Canto Mundo readings with all the Canto Mundistas.

Me, Liz, Denice, Malcolm, Christina, Lupe
I realized what a great community the Canto Mundo family is and I hope that one day I can join them officially.  (Lupe, you were right. There I said it.) Their application opens September 1st and hopefully by October I'll have a group of poems that I can deem "fit" enough to send them. (Even though I'm struggling with calling myself a poet these days- that's a topic for another day)

3) Tintero Readings

All I can say is, I think we made history! I was able to open for Malcolm Friend and Raina deLeon at Inprint house in late July and I'm pretty sure it's the first time the Houston literary scene has had that many Afro-Latinx writers in one room together. :) I felt so blessed and excited to be sharing the space with these talented poets (CantoMundistas) and I only hope that they can come visit us some day soon to recreate the magic.

Tintero Reading Flyer 
(Side note, La Casa Mendez will probably go down in history. We've had over 7 famous or soon to be famous writers and poets stay at our house in the last six I think our house qualifies as a historical landmark..or will one day in the future, including all those in the pic on your left!)

4) My MFA Journey-Rainier Writing Workshop

This should really be a complete blog post by itself. But, I'm going to try and condense it here for the sake of brevity. And because, in the greater scheme of things, the smaller details don't matter much anymore. So here's what does:

A) I am THE ONLY black/Afro-Latina in the ENTIRE program (including faculty). This was a bit of a shock. I knew the program would not be super diverse given the fact that it's in Washington state. However, I didn't realize there would only be one other African-American in the program, who graduated this year, making me THE ONLY ONE. Once I let that sink in (took a couple of days), and I realized the heavy burden I was to carry, I decided to carry it with pride and just do what I do best: poet and write.
RWW Swag

B) Writing workshop sessions were actually the least of my worries. I had a great time workshopping my pieces and listening to feedback. It was really enlightening. There was one moment of anxiety that I will not get into here, but I was fortunate enough to have the support of the MFA director who talked me through it and supported and understood my position.

C) I felt very fortunate that the writers of color in the program were able to come together and talk about the community and how we can work together to make it a safe space where we can grow and learn as writers and as people.

D) I met some amazing people that I am really looking forward to becoming lifelong friends with.

E) The campus is lovely. The weather was a nice relief from the Texas heat and humidity and I'm looking forward to exploring more of Seattle (not really Tacoma) when I go back each year.
PLU Campus

F) I got a great mentor, who is aware of my desires and needs as a female writer of color and I'm really excited about all the reading selections she has chosen for me so far. I am a little nervous about generating new work each month since she wants me to focus on new work and not my current manuscripts (which is fine!) I just hope that the new work is genuine and that I don't fall into the trap of "writing for school" instead of for myself.

Performing at RWW Talent Show
Overall it was a good first residency and I learned a lot about the process and about myself. I even got a chance to do some of my spoken word, folks loved it and even asked me if I wanted to sing in the RWW band next year! lol, I'm not much of a singer but hey YOLO, I'll try it! I'm excited about what grad school can offer me as a writer and I'm looking forward to the next three years.

5) Health
Is good. Protein levels down. Kidney function is good and stable. No physical pain. Started working out. Trying to eat better. There is a fear of osteoporosis thanks to years of prednisone use, but I won't know for sure till later this week. So say a prayer and light a candle that my bones aren't completely ruined for life.

I'm still on all the meds, but we are hoping to lower things as I continue to improve and remain stable. I'm down to my lowest prednisone dose EVER 5mg/a day and I haven't had any flare ups so that is a great sign.

Other than that, life continues to move forward. My body is definitely headed in the write direction and for once I feel like my life goals and dreams are too. And yes, it is a beautiful thing. More updates and reflections soon, just wanted to recap the amazing summer that everyone keeps asking about. Now I gotta get back to the daily grind and earn a living.

Hugs and Chocolate!
Love & Light!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


I know I walk in and out of several worlds each day. - Joy Harjo

So this was not the post I was intending to write, but it's been lingering on my mind the last few days so I need to get it off my chest. (My trip to the DR will have to wait, for now). 

Last week I went in for my third round of infusions (6 month follow up) and next week I will do the fourth and hopefully final one. It was just as easy and smooth as the first two and the only side effects were drowsiness and hot flashes for a few hours afterwards. Easy peasy. 

But after my return from the transformative experience that was VONA(which these infusions made possible), I've had a lot on my mind and have been in and out of really high highs and really low lows. 

I know that just one year ago, my body would not have been able to handle the physical work that it took to make it through all the walking, the heat, the long days, the poor sleep, and the emotional exhaustion that was VONA. And while it makes me very happy and very proud of myself that I DID actually survive without any major incident (aside for sleeping for 16 hrs straight when I got home), knowing that the state of "remission" I'm currently in is and may only be VERY temporary keeps me grounded, and scared, and humble, and cautiously happy. 

You see, these infusions have granted me a temporary visa into the land of the well again, but much like our own troubled immigration system in the US, I know that this visa can be revoked at any time. If I make the wrong move, eat the wrong food, lower my dosages just a milligram too much, stress too often or hell just because my body decides to say "fuck you" and rebel again...I could be thrown across the border into the hell that is chronic illness and pain. 

This knowledge has made my "reentry" into the land of the well a bit hard to swallow lately. The longer I feel "normal" again, the more I worry about relapse. As more and more days pass where I am pain free, the scarier "real" life becomes. The more the questions haunt me:

If I feel normal, does this mean everyone expects more of me now? (Like the "old" Jasminne?)
What if I can't live up to the dreams and goals I've set for myself now that I have the strength to try and achieve them?
What if I succeed at this?
What if I fail?
Will this be the time in my life where I will look back and say: "Well at least 31 was a good year"?
What if I forget what it feels like to be sick?
Will I be strong enough to handle a relapse after so much time feeling well?
Why don't I hurt anymore? Is something ELSE wrong?

These questions and doubts nag at me day and night. One minute I am enjoying all the wonderful moments, people, and experiences that have entered my life in the last year, and the next it feels like I'm suffering from some form of PTSD. I get anxious. I cry at nothing. I stalk chronic illness and chronic pain twitter feeds to remind myself that I am only one missed pill away from being where they all still are again. (Seems torturous I know, but when all you've known for 8 years is pain and illness, you tend to find comfort there)

You see, everyone talks about "a cure"...talks about the glory of "remission"....just like prisoners talk about "being free"....but no one, not doctors, or nurses, or even pinche therapists talk about reentry. How does one transition back into the land of the well, back into normalcy? 

I don't know how to live a care free, spontaneous life anymore. I don't know how to make plans whole-heartedly and just jump right in. I live in a constant state of "maybe." I live in a constant state of anticipating and preparing for the worst. 

To better understand where I'm coming from, I'll put it in perspective. Lupe and I have been married 7 years. If all continues to go well, and I continue on the path to remission, this will be the first summer in 7 years where I will not have ended up in the ER or hospitalized. THAT was MY normal. 

I've been writing about my "new normal" for the last 6 years if not more. Trying to convince and accept myself that normal was just a setting on a dryer. Normal is subjective. And that I was ok with chronic pain and illness as my normal. 

And now (for the better), that normal is gone (for now). And I have to readjust again. I'm not complaining about my good health, please don't misunderstand me. I am incredibly grateful. But I'm also a realist and I also know that there is no handbook for this transition. That I worry day in and day out that I will do something to sabotage my good health because being in pain and being sick is all I have come to know. 

Dreaming again is hard. Dreaming again is scary. Acting on those dreams is absolutely petrifying and often debilitating. 

If my body hurt all over and was falling apart, I wouldn't be expected to try. Getting dressed every day and brushing my teeth would be good enough. Now that I can push myself to do more, I want to push myself more, but of course I worry that at any moment it will all be stripped away again. (Realism, not pessimism) 

I'm trying to focus only on the now, like all the good philosophers, yogis, and smart people say to do.I guess I've just had a lot of time to think lately and that is what has been weighing on my mind. 

Yesterday was the 4th of July and all I could think about was my state of imprisonment. I am shackled to a body that has been temporarily set free from pain, but am also fully aware that these diseases I carry within me are a life sentence I will inevitably have to keep facing. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Wound Care

"I've started dreaming in Spanish, which has never happened before. I wake up feeling different, like something inside me is changing, something chemical and irreversible. There's a magic here working its way through my veins. There's something about the vegetation too, that I respond to instinctively-- the stunning bougainvillea, the flamboyants and jacarandas, the orchids growing from the trunks of mysterious ceiba trees..." -Cristina Garcia

Wound care, I've been doing it all wrong these last few years. I've been treating infected cuticles, bones and finger tips with saline solution, bandages, surgeries, pain killers and warm gloves. But this past week, I realized that wound care begins on the inside.

I knew this. But I didn't really know it. Because the thing is, how can you care for a wound you didn't even know existed? This past week at VONA I became woke to the wounds I had buried so deep I had convinced myself they didn't hurt. But the reason they were buried was because they hurt the most.

I am an open book to anyone who knows me. I will tell you everything about my chronic illness and pain, my miscarriage, my surgeries, the pills I take, how brown and black I feel, how alone I feel as an Afro-Latina in Texas, how much I love my parents and my sister. I laugh off my relationship with my brother. And we laugh when things are uncomfortable. This past week, I was made to confront that discomfort. (And that's all I have to say about that)

A few weeks ago...
And because of that, something truly wonderful happened (aside from the internal healing that began when I wrote the "real hard poem") finger (the one I've been trying really hard to save from amputation)...started to scab. I'm not kidding.

Just the week before, while in the DR I was really concerned that the finger was headed back down the ugly rabbit hole of infection and amputation, I just couldn't stay positive when progress wasn't being made. However, when I woke up Saturday morning (I slept for an hour before getting up to catch a 6am flight) the wound actually started to look and feel like a scab that was healing.

That is no coincidence. The poets in my VONA workshop
helped me care for a wound I didn't even know I had self-inflicted. They treated that wound with love, and compassion and understanding and care. And in doing so, the physical wound on my finger has finally decided to heal.

We are only as sick as our secrets. I finally shared one of mine with others. And in that sharing, these people these poets became my family and that space, wherever we all are, became another home.

I am not ready to write about the full extent of my VONA experience, and I don't know that I ever will. But I know that I have been changed. As a writer, a poet, a woman of color, and a survivor. I know now how to care for wounds both big and small and I have a team of caretakers willing to help me through it.

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!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Seeing Red Part I

This week was unbelievably hard. Between spilled coffee days, cancelled appointments, stress at work and a finger that won't heal and has been in pain for the last three days I am utterly exhausted. I guess all these months of good health have made me weak. This kind of week used to be the norm 9 months ago, now I can't even handle a few days of the chaos. Buck up Jas!! :) But of course, the bad times are meant to teach you something. This week I learned how brave I really am. I'm not as afraid of losing another fingertip as I thought I was (though I hope it doesn't have to come to that), I'm not as afraid of the future in general, and I am brave enough to share stories that may not always be pleasant for all to hear/read. I did that this week and I'm proud of myself for it.

As a writer, you sometimes have the privilege of getting published. This week was one of those times for me. I submitted my creative non-fiction piece Shades of Red to the Dangerous Woman's Project for consideration. They accepted it almost immediately. I was thrilled. The editor said the piece was "evocative and powerful." I was nervous because the story I shared does not show everyone in it with a favorable light- me included. But I figured if it's going to go in the book I'm going to have to face the music sooner or later. Well, within three days of submission, we edited the piece a bit, chose a cover photo and it was up online and I even got paid for it!
Flaunting my red


The purpose of the Dangerous Women's project and online publication is to highlight women's stories from around the world where they answer the question: "What does it mean to be a dangerous woman?" I had written the piece several months ago and plan on including it in my second hybrid-memoir so decided to put it out in the world to see if it was publishable. Apparently it was! I then shared the link with many of my girlfriends and also received some great feedback.

While talking about the implications of what it means as a woman to wear red lipstick I came up with what turned out to be a fun idea. I asked all my girlfriends on social media to tell me when and how they "found their red."

For those of you that may not understand: Red lipstick in many cultures comes with a lot of baggage. You do not wear read if you are "proper lady." Red is scandalous too sexy. Many women are often fearful of how they look in red, red lipstick, red dresses, red shoes etc. So, for that reason, many of us "found our red" later in life and did so in order to feel something: courage, beauty, sexiness, joy...something..anything than whatever it was we were feeling at the time.

I thought to myself, what a great ask women to share these stories, how empowering and fun! And it was and I hope it will continue to be. I am still brainstorming ways on how I can get more and more women involved in sharing their red stories with me- maybe a cosmetic company can use it as a new ad?...but for now, I will leave you with some of the awesome, stunning and beautiful stories and photos of some of the women in my life who are being brave and have found and are flaunting their RED. **I only use initials to protect identities and respect their stories**

(May I also share, that at least two women who had never dared try red before, finally did because of this post and said they loved it! Yay!)

These are only 10 of them...Part 2 next week will share 10 more! Yes I received THAT many responses and am still getting them!

Photo Credit: Angelie Eggert

"It's a constant struggle all young Latina women share. I discovered my red lips at 23 when I dressed up as Harley Quinn for Halloween. And it wasn't as scary as our moms told us it would be. Embrace those red lips ladies!"- Y.C.

"The first time i wore red lipstick i was 21 years old and it was for a friend's retro birthday party. I worried the whole night!"- J.M.

"The first time I put on red lipstick was when nothing else worked to make me feel alive again. I had survived a serious car accident and I thought I was okay. But when my friend got hit shortly after and did not survive his, it felt like the life I had was not my own. I was laid low for weeks. Finally, I woke up one day, and bought some red lipstick. I put it on and walked out the house. The shocking color that had never existed on my face before made the world stop looking like a black and white movie. It shocked me awake and informed me that I was still bold, I was still alive, I was still here: and it was okay to celebrate. It was okay to live my life." -H.B.

#4 "At 20 years of age I began wearing red lipstick because I wanted to be noticed, to command attention. I was tired of feeling like I didn't matter, I was gonna be bold. Mi prima gave me a lipstick named fire truck red and I never looked back. Now I wear red whenever I'm nervous or scared."-M.R.

"I was 26 and it was around December 2009 for a company holiday party. So I decided to wear a red sweater, of course, I have to match. Also, to impress a boy. Lol! His favorite color is red and I hate the color red. But I thought I looked cute. I wore the red lips again for New Years and was getting used to the red lips. I haven't done it again since then. I think I'm gonna have to bust it out."- C.dR.

"The first time I wore red lipstick was for a dance performance celebrating Mexican traditions. It made me feel like I was the face of the 'Mexicana.' Like I was in costume 100%. Now many years later, I wear it when i feel like spicing up my makeup. It's very bold on my white skin, so it definitely makes me feel like I'm making a bold statement; 'I am woman'."- K.C.M

"I spent years letting my eyes speak for me because they can't be sexualized. Lips, on the other hand...
So I wore earth tone lipsticks (if I wore any at all) until about two years ago. A make-up artist friend would lovingly chide me about my 'naked from the nose down' face. One day I walked into a drug store, saw red and said 'Why not?'

Red lips made me smile more.
It was just that simple for me.
I wanted to smile more. - S.C.I

"I have never been a 'Red' lipstick kind of girl...give me maroon...burgundy or deep plum any day. Well, now I just wear gloss and liners etc. Anyway, let me get to the root of it all. Maybe I just never really felt it suited me because standing out like that in my earlier years was just not me. Until I stopped caring what people thought (in my 20's) Red means being bold, proud, and sexy. It wasn't red lipstick that did that for was wearing it. wasn't me. But wearing that's what I love about the color."-U.L.C.

"I've always been more into the earthy/natural type tones. Maybe it was because growing up I didn't like drawing attention to myself. If you're a big booty Latina, you're looked at like a sexual object. Boys were jerks in school. It wasn't until mid 30s that I felt comfortable wearing red lipstick and dressing a bit more sexier from time to time. I'm stronger and comfortable with myself now. Red is bold and beautiful."- B.A.

"Red has a wonderful and extraordinary way of defining the plump edges of my lips. With every word I speak, the color and movement define the mood I am in because my words speak respect and empowerment. With my tongue I can love you and school you. Bless the hearts of the men that kiss and cross these red lips. I am woman." D.B.R.

#foundmyred on Twitter!
My Projects on my website to learn more!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Write to Heal Series

"I wanted to be my own heroine." -Jesmyn Ward

Venice Beach w/Poets
So last week, I'm pretty sure it was the fatigue from the traveling and the stressful experience it is to go to AWP for the first time that had me in an unbearable and very sad funk. When my body gets tired, my emotions plummet as well and it is harder for me to be reflective, thankful and happy. Such is life. 

But, this week, thanks to a wealth of wonderfully rejuvenating and affirming writing experiences....I'm back to conquering the world. One Afro-Latina narrative at a time. :) 

Is there still a threat that I'll lose another fingertip? Yes. Has a new painful ulcer started to form on my OTHER hand that scares me just the same? Yes. But...."ain't nothin gonna break'a my stride..ain't nothin gonna hold me down...oh no...I got to keep on moving!" And as long as I can type these blog posts, then clearly...I can keep here goes...the last THREE weeks of writing adventures in as quick a recap as I can muster...there's a lot to tell so I won't get on my soapbox for any of it..just want to share some of the highs and lows...

1) Good Friday Reading @ The Woodlands United Methodist Church- I will admit, I was a little nervous performing a new piece in this space...a church that is predominantly white in one of the wealthiest suburbs of "Houston" (way outskirts). I was almost waiting for someone to yell "get that nigger off the stage" while I was performing my new piece about living with invisible illness and disability. I am always fully aware of my otherness in those spaces, yes even in a place of worship. I wasn't sure what to expect.
Poets & Pastors
But, the truth is, people are more compassionate and inclusive than I often give them credit for. After the four poets read and the service was over (an amazing and emotional service at that, kudos to everyone involved), church members came up to us and thanked us for our words, said they were extremely moved and welcomed us back anytime. 

It was really a privilege and an honor to share the stage with the poets (Lupe, Corinna and Dream) and I am grateful that we were so well received.  The pastor even thanked me for speaking with such strength and conviction and said he wanted his parishioners to hear more of that. And thanks to Hana for making the connection!

Afro Latinos ....and... Lupe
2) AWP Conference- Where. To. Begin. I'm not going to go off on a tangent right now, I will summarize a few moments and share one of the videos Lupe and I made while there. 

Highs- Meeting new people and spending time with friends. It was a great experience to be in the same space with so many amazing and talented writers that I admire.
Lovely Ladies- Dominicanas Represent!

Learning all about different publishers, journals and magazines I could submit to. It was a bit overwhelming at first but I came away with a good list of folks I want to submit my manuscript to and I've already started. 

I saw my girl Marilou from the Afro-Latina writer's retreat and we were able to catch up and hang out. This girl is fierce and will be making moves one day so watch out!

Willie Perdomo!
Meeting Willie Perdomo! Omg I totally fan girled out on him and cried and couldn't keep it together. It was literally a dream come true and he was so sweet and gracious and just gave me a hug and thanked me for coming to the session. I think I literally felt Miguel Pinero's presence floating around us lol. 
Picking up my copy of The Best of Cutthroat and realizing that my work is sitting in a book with Martin Espada, Joy Harjo, Sandra Cisneros, Rita Dove and so many other talented writers! It feels so good to know my words sit between those pages amongst greatness. 

Going to Venice Beach with three poets I admire, respect, and want to emulate one day. It was the perfect ending to the weekend. 

Lows- Not. Enough. Panels. For. Writers. of. Color. And the panels that they did have were scheduled at the same time so it was like we were forced to choose and split up. (Strength in numbers, you know they don't want that)

The systems of oppression they have in place to keep minorities and the disadvantaged out of their privileged spaces is sickening. I won't go into what it takes to even form and sustain a caucus at AWP, but if you want to know, just ask me or Lupe. (Vomit)

We didn't get a chance to go to any of the offisite next year. 

Here's a video for some more of our thoughts on the conference

3. Women's Stories from the Margins Workshop and Reading @ MECA- YES. YES. AND MORE YES!!! How fun, amazing and inspiring can it be to share the stage with three other amazing Latina writers?! Extremely is all I can say! 

Las Muxeres Chingonas!
This past Thursday I was able to host a workshop and share the stage with writers Sarah R. Garcia, Isabel Qunitero and Edykah Chilome. Wow, what a night. We each read/performed poetry and fiction and then were able to sell our books and merchandise. 

The night was a celebration of women voices and honoring each of our stories, our lives, and our art. I felt welcomed and loved. 

I sold out of books. Yay! And made some new friends and contacts in the process. They even wrote an article about us in the Houston Chronicle!

4. College Language Association Convention - My peoples! I found my peoples! This conference was everything AWP wasn't. It was a gathering of Spanish language and literature professors, women's studies professors, African American and African diaspora professors, poets, writers, scholars and artists of color. Panels were in English, Spanish, French and Portugese. They even had a panel on Afro-Germanic literature! 

I presented a panel on the black lives matter movement across borders with my sisters Icess F. and
D.E.E.P. While we only had 4 people in our session (we were in a back room and no one really knew who we were's to be expected) the folks that were there really enjoyed it and gave us some great feedback. of all, I made a great connection with a Ph.D. student from Dallas who is doing her dissertation on black women and disabilities in literature. She's really intrigued by my work and wants to be in touch. Said I inspired a new chapter in her dissertation!!! 

The other highlight to the event was listening to Jesmyn Ward give the keynote address. While I am not familiar with her work (yet) what she had to say brought me to tears and was very inspiring. She talked about being a black woman in the south and how she grew up and what she was and wasn't exposed to in school, she mentioned Treyvon Martin and her own brother's death, it was very moving and I am looking forward to reading her latest memoir. (Since memoir is "my thing" right now, I need examples of good writing!) 

It was really refreshing to know that there are folks out there studying authors of color and it lets me know that my work DOES matter and is "good enough." 

5. Other Things & Projects- 
Saturday I attended a publishing workshop that helped shed light on what to look for in a publisher and a publishing contract. It really helped me think about and look more closely at the presses I want to submit to next. Yay! Always love learning new things about the business side of writing. 

Me & Lupe staying positive
By the end of April I will start "shopping" my second manuscript around to presses, contests and publishers. It is a collection of creative non-fiction pieces about my life with chronic illness as an Afro-Latina. When it finally comes out, you may recognize some of the pieces, since a few are revised versions of former blog posts. It promises to be moving, funny, inspiring and provocative! Stay tuned!!! 

I have a few more National Poetry Month Events coming up where I will be selling books and performing. Check my website for more details!

Next week I go in for the amnio procedure on my finger ulcer. Doc will remove dead skin and scabs and then put drops of this magical stuff on the wound in the hopes that the skin will regenerate itself and begin to close and heal so I can avoid amputation or a skin flap. Wish me luck!! I'll let you know how it goes next week. 
It's been a busy few weeks, so today I rest. Thanks to everyone who's been there and continues to support me and all that I do.