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.

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