Tuesday, March 6, 2012

But I Still Get Jealous of People with Stoves. That Demon Rages Like No Other.

-



A good thing disguised as a not so good thing happened yesterday. Someone crossed the finish line in my chosen field while I am still lacing up my kicks. I work with writers and for writers. Talented and established writers, talented and emerging writers. Working with and for people that are stronger than me is a benefit I enjoy and feel comfortable with, a confidence I credit to all those years booking major hot models for fashion shows. Hating on someone isn't going to make me smarter or skinnier, but reading+writing and not eating doughnuts will. Being around people that have something special going on is a reminder to remain focused on craft, not competition.


So when I saw this piece of information, my neck broke out in a rash and I started stuttering. It affected me in a way I'm embarrassed to admit. I've been on the other end of the hater stick and it feels nasty. There is a voice tone people get when they pretend to be happy for you, the timbre of a restrained "You? You got that?" psychically broadcasts their interior thoughts. There are also a million decibels of truth in silence. These are things that can't be concealed and are instinctually detected. In other words, if you are pissed off that someone is making progress, they know it.


Recognizing that the demon was in me, I engaged it for a minute by saying obscene things in my head, then I put a leash on its neck and took it for a walk. We ate some chicken then went to LACMA. That evening, Aimee Bender was reading stories by her and Sra. Leonora Carrington in the middle of the In Wonderland exhibit. She interspersed the reading with snippets of Breton's Surrealist Manifesto. Sra. Carrington's story was about a hyena eating a face off a maid and wearing it as a mask to attend a fancy ball. Paintings and photographs by the master artistas surrounded the small group of attendees. We were seated in little fold-up chairs and the author was seated in front of a painting by my favorite artist, Remedios Varo.

My sister is the one who introduced me to Aimee Bender's books;  she introduces me to all the best writers. I trust her more than book reviewers and coffee-shop talk. She moved away and is now working in a Texas library introducing great books to a whole other batch of people who need her. And when I found Remedios Varo, my whole world changed. I was a senior in high school and couldn't believe someone that amazing ever lived. Her friendship with Leonora Carrington was powerful, its nucleus raw creative energy. They were incredible and I wanted to be like them.  Paint was too expensive, I stuck to writing.


Listening to the author that ties me to my sister read the work of Sra. Carrington in front of a Remedios Varo cuadro, calmed my demon into a gentle lizard. He then skittered across my garden head space instead of fucking everything up with his claws and fire. At that moment, if my seventeen-year-old self saw me, she would be so happy that I honored her enough to stay on the course we plotted for us. I did what I said I would do and could finally see Varo's brush strokes and listen to a great author read from the Manifesto.

I've so been intensely focused on getting to the next place, the next deadline, the next project. No breaks in-between to question myself, just GO. Now that it is all out of my hands and in the hands of admissions committees and selection panels and agents, I have become shaky and insecure about my fate as a writer. Seeing those paintings and conjuring the memories of my sister and her stolen shopping cart filled with books, our cat tea parties, the way acrylic feels on fingertips as it dries, it all reminded me that my fate as published author or an MFA candidate or a travel fellowship recipient are out of my hands, but my fate as an hacedora is solely in mine.


This is the painting that was in the backdrop of the reading:




It's titled, aptly, "Woman Leaving the Psychoanalyst"

Monday, January 2, 2012

THIS GREAT THING HAPPENED!!! And What I Wish for in 2012



The Los Angeles Times published "How to Make Tamales" in the Sunday Opinion section on Dec. 11, 2011.


So happy!

2011 also resurrected my novel, now 86.7% complete (for the thirtieth time). I am also looking forward to the publication of my short story El Cholo in the fantastic Slice Literary Magazine Issue #10 (spring 2012). I closed out the year writing a new short story about Satanism and traumatic iritis and finding a really great book about cultivating carnivorous plants.

Goals for 2012: I want to stop having to cut the side seams of my pants because I can't afford to buy a wardrobe for my new body (thanks late-night writing snacktime ritual!) and I want to sell my book.
That's pretty much it.


And no, the world isn't going to end. But the world as you know it will.



FOX ON STILTS!!!
(maned wolf)







HAPPY 2012!









Sunday, December 4, 2011

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Things the Radio Taught Me on a Recent Commute to Work


  1. Matthew McConaughy is a spokesperson for beef. Apparently, this has been going on for a few years. It's not a joke.
  2. You can rent car rims at Easy Rims 4 Rent. Because "friends don't let friends drive stock".
  3. Rhinoceros are vatos. At least according to the San Diego Wild Animal Park ad where the urban rhino said things like "ese" and switched out the "y" for a "j" as in "jou all better come viseet thee Animal Park ese or my homiez will shank you with our horns." Just kidding. They didn't say that last part. 
I was going to spend all afternoon Googling the hell out of "rhino ad san diego radio" to add a link, but I have to put in at least 5 hours of solid writing time today so you are just going to have to trust me on that one.  Or was it hippos?

It takes at least 32 oz of coffee to burn off my AM fog. I ran out after Cup #1 so I took a stroll down to the neighborhood Salvadoran restaurant that has this really tasty coffee for a buck. It has a hint of canela and tastes kinda like cafe de olla without too much sweetness. It is good.

When I say "stroll down" it is because it is at the bottom of the steep hill where I live. It is a pleasant walk, birds and dogs and little kids being mean to each other. The walk back up the hill is always difficult, especially in flip flops. I thought about the novel and the chapters I have to fix. Then that nice thing happened when you see a scene in your head and, like a hovering video screen, you can place it in between the other chapters that already exist and it builds a stronger narrative bridge you can walk across toward the finish line. Then I stepped in dog shit. 

The mean kids laughed at me. The rest of the walk up, I yelled at some assholes in a Beemer that littered Capri Sun pouches from their car window (Capri Sun, the choice of hardcore G's). They pretended to screech to a stop like they were going to back up and pelt me with their Legos or something but then kept driving up the hill because they probably smelled me.

This is enough warm up. On Cup #3 and turning off the Internet.



Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Book Puta



This post was going to be titled HotLatinaSlutReader to lure readership but I changed my mind after reading this on Book Slut.
Particularly point #4.
Replace "gender" with "ethnicity" and "female" with "Latina":

Pick your mentors and role models wisely. Sisterhood can be a wonderful thing, but a supportive and productive working writer-editor/publisher relationship is going to be built around individual personalities, not ethnicity per se. You’ll recognize encouragement and good advice when you encounter it. Don’t assume that allLatina writers and editors will automatically help you; also don’t assume that all male writers and editors are intent on keeping you down. Be alert for evidence of bias, though, and be prepared to contest it. You deserve equal consideration as a writer; you don’t deserve to get published just because you’re Latina. Think about the published writers you admire who are also Latina and take heart from their example. They did it, ergo it can be done.




The one thing that usually deters me from picking up a "Latina book" is not some political opposition to the marketing term. It's because I don't like it. It's either got boring characters, no action, the dialogue sounds fake, or worse - the culture feels like it is deployed as a gimmick. Pretty much the same reasons I ignore other books. 

But the lack of book reviews that constructively critique Latina fiction makes me wonder - because there is such a small number of Latinas in the publishing industry and getting published, does that mean we have to be treated (or treat  each other) like intellectually weak and emotionally fragile little sisters? 

I am in awe of  Christine Granados review of Brando Skyhorse's Madonnas of Echo Park. You have to read it. Not only was it an intelligent and well thought out review of modern Chicano literature, it feels like a call to action for Chicanos to not let outside cultures define them.  Immediately after reading the book review, I attended a literature reading. Although I did not recognize any of the readers of Latino descent, this being Los Angeles, Mexican culture was referenced in three different stories. These are the words that told the audience a Mexicanito character was in scene: "puta" "illegal" "gardener" "borracho".

I may have been the only one in the audience bothered by (or cognizant of) that.

Reading Granados review and attending that reading made me want to be a better writer. Granados showed how we are at the point in our cultural evolution where we can speak honestly about work and only have our taste questioned if we don't like the work, not our cultural loyalty.  And attending that public reading illustrated that it is my responsibility to contribute to the cultural conversation.  When the time is right, my novel will have its moment. Until it does, allow me to share the work of writers I like.


Let's start here.












More book things.













Wednesday, April 20, 2011

HAWT GURRRLZ!!1!



Silver Lake Jubilee Presents: “Girls, Girls, Girls!”

Emerging Voices alumnae Natashia DeonMarytza RubioMehnaz Turner, and Rachelle Cruz will read at this Silver Lake Jubilee promo show. PEN Center USA will curate the reading stages for the evening.
$5 Admission Wednesday, April 27 @ 8 PM
Pehrspace
325 Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, 90026
The Silver Lake Jubilee is a two-day music and art celebration featuring more than 20 local music acts, multi-discipline artists, crafters, and comedy acts, with literary performances curated by PEN Center USA.



YO! 
Come out!


Friday, March 18, 2011

TAROT! BOTANICAS! WRITING! ME!

SPOTLIGHT ON THE MARK: MARYTZA RUBIO

Marytza Rubio is a writer from Santa Ana, CA. She was a 2008 PEN Emerging Voices Fellow and the 2010 Bread Loaf-Rona Jaffe Foundation Scholar in Fiction. Marytza live s in Los Angeles and can be visited at www.marytzakrubio.com.
In your own words, what is the Mark Program? 
The Mark is a focused and structured program that specializes in manuscript finishing and publication for Emerging Voices alumni with complete/nearly complete drafts. We meet for workshop, discuss fellow participants' work with the instructor, and do writing exercises that encourage us to think about our characters or story in different ways. The majority of the program so far has been dedicated to revising and rewriting the work. I feel like I arrived with a novel that was a band performance in a seedy bar and going through the Mark Program has been like recording in a professional studio.

Give is a short synopsis of your current project.

I’m working on an untitled novel about a Tarot card reader, Renata Reyes, whose journey into adulthood mirrors the Journey of the Fool, the protagonist in the story of Tarot. She is gifted, but is handicapped by her hypersensitivity and she is unable to function in society. Renata has a lot of cats. It is told in multiple points of view and takes place in my hometown. Santa Ana is the perfect setting for this story because Mexican traditions and folklore are imbued in the city yet still evolve with each generation. Renata apprentices at a botanica with a rockabilly tattooed psychic. In Santa Ana, Day of the Dead is a citywide event. Growing up there, I used to read Tarot during recess for my Catholic school girlfriends. These modern subcultures and ancient traditions coexist in the city; it naturally invites the mystical.

How did you know that this was the right time for you to apply to the Mark Program? 

Last year I accumulated lots of rejections. I put the novel aside and went to Bread Loaf. That blew open my mind on how limited and glossy my story was as it stood. It wasn’t doing justice to the characters, the rich tradition of Tarot, or any of the faiths/healing systems I invoked, including Candomble and Ayurveda. When I came back from Vermont, I knew that if I was going to move forward with the project, I needed help. When they announced the Mark Program in September, it felt like fate.
You are mid-way through the program. What has been your biggest challenge in the Mark so far? 
I had a mini freak-out about a month ago when I almost turned my book into a murder mystery and my main character into a total weirdo. I’ve deleted four characters from the original draft, heightened the importance of a minor character and then restructured the entire story to accommodate the changes and new scenes. Somewhere in that shuffle, I lost my point and distrusted the main character. That was tough. That identity crisis has since been resolved but I was spinning all over the place until my instructor, Diana Wagman, helped me get back on track.
There are three crucial elements to the Mark: the Project Defense, Mid-Project Review and the Final Review. Can you tell us what your experience was like going through the Project Defense?
I was given a list of questions to prep for the Defense about the genesis of the project, the writers who influence me, my weaknesses and strengths – similar to a standard job interview but as if I was applying for a job of Author. I don’t usually analyze why I write the things I write or seek out the books I read, I just do it, and that reflected the casualness and more instinctual tone of the book in its previous incarnation – a tone that wasn’t right for the material. I figured out that Renata’s journey was the Fool’s Journey and was only able to have that realization because of the in-depth thought process triggered by the Defense questions. The actual Defense in the PEN office was intimidating because you are set up firing squad style with a group of intelligent writers asking questions about your characters’ motivations, the action, the plotting and pacing...The conversations at the Defense didn’t follow my rehearsed answers, but it was a better dialogue. I drove home feeling lucky that if the Project Defense could inspire all those positive changes, the Mark Program itself would be an invaluable writing education. And it has been.
What does this program offer to the EV alumni that a regular workshop doesn’t? 
The small class size and focused instructor attention is a luxury that you won’t find in a regular workshop. Because the entire manuscript has been read, the chapters are critiqued not only as individual pieces but their placement in the larger story is also considered. The limited number of participants gives us the benefit of personalizing and tailoring our critiques to be most beneficial based on what we are each trying to accomplish creatively. We’re all EV’s so our writing skills are solid. That frees us up to take utilize our strengths in regards to story and tone. For example, Avi has an instinct for recognizing when to stay in a moment because the reader needs more information to stay engaged, and when to get out of that moment before it starts to drag. Eduardo has this ability to create sensory details, like claustrophobia and sound, without ever mentioning anything in the room that is crowded or noisy. It’s a subliminal thing and weird how it works, but it does.
Can you leave us with one writing tip you have learned from the program? 
In the middle of my freak-out, when I almost turned Renata into a vengeful cemetery-dwelling Tarot reader who dreamt of dead people, I asked Diana for help. She shared her insight about how it is natural to get to the point where you are bored with your work or reach a point of saturation and self-doubt. She then asked a simple question: “Why is this story essential reading?” Answering that brought back the energy and commitment I had when I started writing the novel five years ago. I wrote it as a remedy for loneliness, to show a different path toward happiness. Remembering that at one point I needed that remedy keeps me going.