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!

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