Aug 022017
 

Recently, I visited The American Writers Museum in Chicago and brought my son along for the ride.

One of the first exhibits we saw was the Children’s Literature Gallery. There is a beautiful mural painted on one of the walls along with ample seating and a bookshelf filled with children’s books. There is also an area where you can listen to Langston Hughes’ poems.

There is also an area dedicated to L.M. Alcott’s, Little Women.

Across from the Children’s Gallery is a room filled with plants! This temporary exhibit is called Palm: All Awake in the Darkness. It is dedicated to the life and work of poet W.S. Merwin. At the end of the exhibit, there is a pile of blank, white paper and pencils with a sign urging each patron to write a note. These notes are to be sent to Merwin to be planted underneath newly planted palm trees in his Hawaiian garden. This made my son and I feel connected to both nature and Merwin’s work. We wondered if a palm tree would be grown from our words. We loved this exhibit.

Afterward, we entered a room with a long hallway. There were interactive, glowing, rectangle tiles aligned on a wall. This exhibit was called the Surprise Bookshelf. My son was immediately drawn to the wall and began turning the tiles. Some were filled with more information, while others smelled like food. It was very interesting.

On the opposite side, there were portraits of writers. When you turned the tile, one could read more information about each writer including an excerpt from their work. One could spend hours here.

Here is something that has crossed my mind more than once:

Most artists find process fascinating mainly because we all do it differently and writers are no different. This area of the museum is dedicated to the mind of a writer. It is genius.

It’s been a long time since I used a typewriter, but when I sat down, I remembered how to set the paper and the margins. My son was fascinated by these ancient typing machines. He even requested one! It’s true what they say, everything old becomes new again.

I love this quote:

I found The American Writers Museum both interesting and well-put-together, which is why I recently purchased a membership. I urge you to all check it out if you live in Chicago or are in the Chicago area. It is fantastic!

Share
Nov 062014
 

I just had a piece published by Chicago Literary Map.

If you haven’t heard of Chicago Literary Map, you should check it out. Here’s what it’s all about:

“Beyond the bright lights and cityscapes, stories unfold. Some are true, others are fiction, showing you a side of the city that often goes untold. Chicago Literary Map is charting the text and putting it in the palm of your literary-loving hand.

Navigate Chicago on a new level, guided by the voices who have been, where updates bring new vignettes from around the city.”

Rad, huh?

Please check out my piece called Ohio Street.

If you’d like to more about the creator of CLM, Stephanie Plenner, please follow her on Twitter: @splenner. You can also follow Chicago Literary Map here: @literarymap.

Your turn. What was it like where you grew up in Chicago?

Share
Oct 072013
 

A few months ago, I stopped working on my novel. I was scared to finish it because I knew I’d have to tackle some painful childhood memories and I didn’t want to deal with them. I wanted to leave them in the past where they belonged.

I did everything to prevent myself from thinking about them including starting new projects, planning trips, and drawing, but it didn’t work. I had the urge to finish my novel, but I couldn’t. Not until I dealt with some issues.

I made the decision to stop pushing away the pain, even though the thought terrified me. And I knew a scratch of the surface wouldn’t do. I was going to have to sledgehammer that bad-boy open. I needed to feel every emotion.  It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was downright painful, but this is bleeding on the page. This is writing born from pain. This is the feel of writing.

I jumped in head-first and started off by interviewing my parents and then each one of my siblings. It forced me to look at the same situation from many different angles, which is a phenomenal gift, but difficult. Their truth was not my truth and vice versa. Since we’re all individuals with our own take on each situation, our perceptions were different. I had to come to the realization that this is okay. This is real.

Then I had my sister interview me. In the middle of the interview, I let everything go and shouted out my feelings. I wasn’t expecting that to happen. It shocked me, but it was also liberating.

I’m glad I decided to interview my family because it recharged my novel. I am now able to look at it with mature eyes.

The process of writing this novel has been incredible. It has broken me down mentally, built me up, and challenged everything I am and thought I was. I am emotionally drained, but enlightened in a way I never thought possible.

I didn’t want those memories to bleed into my current work, but the truth is, that wasn’t authentic. I needed to bust open the memories from my past to write what I am meant to write and I’m glad I did.

Now back to work.

Share
 Posted by at 6:23 pm
Aug 232013
 

My sister and I recently finished our collaborative picture book. I’ve got to tell you – it feels amazing! It took a lot of hard work, motivation, and serious revision, but we’re finished. It looks awesome and I like the way it reads.

I am proud of us!

This work is especially important to me because it’s about growing up as a multiracial kid, a subject I know all too well.

I grew up in Chicago in an area called Ukrainian Village and went to a grammar school in Humboldt Park; a neighborhood that was a stone’s throw away and mostly Puerto Rican. Many of the students that attended my grammar school were 100% Puerto Rican. My sister and I were not. We were genuine Poliricans – half Polish, half Puerto Rican. It doesn’t seem like such a big deal now, but it was back then. I didn’t and still don’t speak Spanish or Polish. To people in these very strong communities that is a no-no. It looks lazy and like you don’t care enough about where you came from, but that is incorrect. All that means is that neither language was available to you. If you were not immersed in a particular language, chances are, you did not pick it up. That’s what happened to us. It had nothing to do with us being lazy or not wanting to connect with our cultures. It didn’t have anything to do with the kinds of people we were or the kinds of people our parents were. It did however, have everything to do with the environment we grew up in. Now try explaining that to a child. I can tell you from personal experience that all of those things don’t matter because kid world is different from adult world and it comes with its own rules. Kids can be loving and enthusiastic, but at their worst they can be as cruel and illogical as any adult.

I was told that I wasn’t Puerto Rican because I didn’t speak Spanish in the 7th grade. When I stood up for myself, my classmate asked if I was calling her mother a liar because that’s who she got that idea from. She was the tallest girl in my class and she was towering over me in a threatening way. For a moment, it scared me. Would she really hit me? I didn’t know. All I knew was that you never wanted to call somebody’s mother a liar in grammar school because it could get you punched. So I did what any kid my age would do, I backed off and let it be. I never believed what she said, but I never liked her or her mother again. From that day on, I refused to be her friend.

What she said to me divided us. It made me feel like I was not good enough to be Puerto Rican, that even though I had this blood running through my veins, until I spoke Spanish, I would never be good enough for that girl and all of the other Latina’s that spoke Spanish. To them, I would be just be an imposter, a fake, different.

Being different is the worst thing you can be in grammar school. Nobody wants to be different. Everybody just wants to fit in and blend and exist because nobody wants to be made fun of. Everybody just wants to be left alone. Most days, I was, but some days, I wasn’t. So, I just got quieter and quieter. All I wanted to do was disappear. And I was disappearing or at least my self-esteem was. That’s how it all started. That’s when I learned how to bury my feelings. That’s where it lay until this one day when I took my son to the park.

This older kid singled him out and told these little girls not to play with him because he thought my son looked weird. Weird to kids nowadays seems to be the new racial epithet. And he wouldn’t let it go. He was berating him and my son didn’t know what they were saying because, well he was two, but I did and it brought back all of these horrible memories of being ostracized by ignorance. All because he looked different. It made me angry.

So, in order for my son to be accepted into their world he had to look like them? Who told them that nonsense?! Where did they pick up that ideology?! I wanted to leave and never take my son back to that park, but my husband said no. That we weren’t going to just walk away and hide. That doing so would be teaching our son that he’s not welcome to play where ever he wanted to and that is not a good lesson to teach a child. You know what? He was right!

And then one of the little girls said something that changed everything. She said, “WHO CARES IF HE LOOKS WEIRD. I DON’T CARE!” And I wanted to applaud that little girl and I was, on the inside, because even though she didn’t know it, she was standing up for my son, for people of color, for me. I knew then that my son and this world would be okay. And that is how our picture book was born.

It’s a book that is long over-due, a book that kids like my siblings and I have been waiting for our whole lives. We are currently shopping our PB around and we’re hoping that it gets picked up soon. This world needs this book and more books about being multiracial; about acceptance and love.

Our fingers are crossed.

Share
Nov 272012
 

I constantly bite off more than I can chew. I know I’m not the only one. What I want to know is, why do we do this?

Every year, from October thru February, my life is insane. I have no business taking on a new project, but like many people out there, I have a superhero complex, so I do. This past month I decided I was going to give Nanowrimo another go. After all, the last time I completed Nanowrimo was in 2005.

This year, I actually had a good idea and spent time creating a chapter by chapter outline. I even wrote a character analysis. I was ready to construct my amazingly, awesome, completely thought-out novel, but after writing 1,000 words I realized that I couldn’t devote the amount of time necessary. This of course, was in addition to the fact that I needed to finish up the other projects I have in the works.

I have no business starting anything new.

This is why I’ve decided to take this new novel bit by bit. I will finish it when it’s right for me to do so and it will be right when I have finished all of my looming projects. I desperately want to give this new project the respect it deserves.

On that note, there isn’t very much time left for Nanowrimo, so I’d like to wish all of the Nanowrimer’s out there much luck. Keep going! You can do it!

Share
Nov 192012
 

Why does living life seem to take up so much time? There are twenty-four hours in a day to spend however we’d like, which seems like a lot, but it’s not. Not when you have to spend eight of those hours recharging. Not when you’re getting ready for work, commuting, actually working, commuting again, eating dinner, spending time with family, cleaning up, decompressing, and getting ready for bed. In that case, twenty-four hours may as well be one.

I think the lack of time is getting to people. Well, it’s getting to me. There are way too many distractions. I’ve noticed that I’m happier when I spend time doing the things I love. Don’t people seem to be happier when they’re spending time doing the things they love? It’s like a personal road map to happy.

What would happen if we took a few moments during the day for ourselves? How awesome would you feel if you did something you truly enjoyed? Now how often do you do that for yourself?

I vow to spend a few moments of each day on myself and you should too.

I made a short video about this very thing. Take a look.

Thanks for watching!

Share
Sep 042012
 

These past two weeks have been incredible. I won a query critique and a critique of the first two chapters of my novel from Amanda Sun. Her YA novel, Ink is coming out next year, which I can’t wait to read. I won the critique through The Write On Con, which is a completely amazing and free conference for writers. I implore you to check it out. It recently ended, but you can find tons of incredible information through their archives. Please go visit them when you get a chance: writeoncon.com.

A few days later I got notice that my short story, The Town on the Road was to be published in Luna Station Quarterly, which publishes speculative fiction from new and emerging women authors. It’s now live so you can follow this link to read it. I am so glad LSQ exists and I wish them much success in the future. Now I just have to find a home for the other short story orphans sitting on my desk. To read the rest of issue 11, please visit this link. As you all know, literary magazines are labors of love, so if you have a few bucks to spare, please support Luna Station Quarterly by buying an issue. Issue 11 is available for purchase for $2.99 in EPUB, MOBI and PDF formats here.

In other news, I recently visited Stanley’s Fruits & Vegetables in Chicago and bought a coconut. I wanted my son to experience the awesomeness that is coconut. He was super excited, but the best part came when he was watching me crack it open. I used a drill on the seam of the coconut and cracked it open with a hammer. My son was obsessed with the insides, but for some reason he refused to eat any of it. Oh well. More for me! Here’s a photo:

 

I’ve also been working on completing some home projects and as I was pulling the top off of a paint can, it slipped out of my hands and landed on the counter. Here’s what I saw when I lifted it:

 

Even the paint splotch was upset at my mishap! LOL!

Well, I’ve got to get back to work! Laters!

Have a lovely week y’all.

Share
Dec 192011
 

In September of 1999, I was traveling thru London. It was rainy, then sunny, then rainy again. One night, I decided to see what the London nightlife was all about. I went to call a cab since I wasn’t all that familiar with the Tube. Turns out, I couldn’t make outgoing calls from inside my hostel, so I left to find a phonebooth. It was 10 p.m. I was alone. I headed towards the little red phonebooths outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral. They were a few blocks away, down a long, cobblestone street filled with random wine bars and the such; mildly populated. Up to that point, I was fearless. I was a Chi-town, street-smart cookie. Besides, I had just traveled to Paris by myself and I was careful, I watched my back and I always trusted my instincts. Up to that point, they served me well.

When I reached the phonebooth, I opened the door and went inside. I shut the door and began dialing with my back towards door, with my back towards the door. This is when I heard a noise; a boom-like sound. It was startling. I turned around. A man was pulling the door open. He was white. He had long, curly hair and was wearing a parka with black jeans. His eyes were black, saccadic and wild. He attempted to pull me out by the lapel of my jacket and he didn’t say a word. His silence frightened me. I had no time to think and just enough time to react. I watched the phone drop from my hand in slow motion when this voice came from my mouth; a shrill B-horror movie scream. I’d never heard it before and haven’t heard it since. And then my words: “What are you doing? What are you doing? Get off of me! What are you doing?” And then it happened; my fight mode kicked in. I lifted my hands and gave the guy one solid push to the chest. He barely flinched. I pushed again; harder this time. He flew back, feet in the air and all, and that’s when I took off running back to the hostel looking back the whole way; warning other women of a predator near the phonebooths.

When I got back to the hostel, I told the front desk what happened and they called the police. They came and took my report. They said if my attacker wanted to do something, he would’ve done something, but I disagreed. My fighting response startled him, almost as if he never anticipated it and I think this is what saved me.

I used to think my fight response came from growing up in Chicago. I was taught to always make scene, to scream fire instead of help if anybody ever pulled me into a dark alley, to fight no matter what and that’s exactly what I did. Could my fight response be cultural? Maybe, maybe not. I now think my fight response was instinctive. Where that instinct came from, I don’t know. Looking back, I’m just glad I had it.

I continued to travel from London to Krakow without any other incidences, but I was on edge after that; especially when I was in a phonebooth, when somebody that looked like him passed nearby, or if I was the only woman on the street. For a long time after, I saw that guys face in my head when I lay down to go to sleep.

The good news is that nothing physically happened to me. I am still here, alive and doing well. I protected myself the best way I knew how and for whatever reason it worked. I don’t ever think about what could have happened and in a lot of ways I have moved on, but I would be a fool to say that it didn’t scar or rob me of that safe feeling we’re all supposed to have.

Before this incident, I felt fearless and after, I was afraid to venture out in the dark alone in my own city. To this day, I’m always afraid of what could happen. I know that some people may view this as silly or stupid even, but I was the one who lived through it and in some minute way, I feel that I can control this from happening again if I’m cautious enough. Of course, I know this is just a false sense of security, but it gets me through the day. And now a cliché thrown in for good measure: I never thought it could happen to me, but it did.

Although I wish this never happened, it helped me realize what kind of reaction I would have if I were ever attacked again. I’m positive that I would fight. Do you know if you’re you a fighter or do you freeze when you feel threatened? How do you know?

For years, I retold this story in a humorous way, but it’s not humorous. It’s scary.

I’m not telling this story now to warn people to watch their backs, although I think everybody should. I’m telling this story because I think it’s incidences like these that you can pull from and use in your writing. I’m not talking about the actual account, but the feelings and emotions.

This is the epitome of, “write what you know.” It’s not writing about a specific incident that happened to you, it’s writing about the emotions surrounding those situations: the fear, the rush of adrenaline, the idea that somebody you don’t know is trying to harm you. These are the things readers relate to. These are the things that make your writing authentic. It’s the reading and knowing that you’ve felt those same things that is reassuring and appreciated by many readers.

To all the writers out there, use what you have and what you know. Dig those memories out of the recesses of your mind and put your feelings to the page. It’s your turn to create explosive pieces of art.

Share
Dec 072011
 

I’m convinced that luck comes in waves. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that a few people around me are going through rough and tough times, while others are at their optimum. Case in point, one family member was recently laid off, while another was offered a promotion and raise. His wife was also offered a job with a competitive salary. Earlier this year their situations were reversed. What the heck is going on? Is this some kind of reversal of fortune? Is it their turn to get showered with good luck from the universe? Does good and bad luck come in waves? I’m starting to think yes.

This good luck occurred within the last couple of weeks, which brings me to this – the moments before the New Year always count. Whatever you want to do this year, whatever dreams you have can still be reached. Don’t give up just because you may be in the midst of a bad luck wave. Keep pushing along because good luck is heading your way.

Confession: I’ve been putting off the completion of my novel because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and it scares me. Sounds strange, I know, but exposing my inner most thoughts is a frightening thing for me, hell, for any writer. It’s a vulnerability I didn’t expect to have and one I didn’t prepared for, but I’m pushing forward. There’s not much sense in keeping my manuscript hidden on a file folder on my desktop. My plan is to finish my novel by the end of this year and edit it early next year to get this pony in the publishing show.

I want to leave this year on a high note. Don’t you? If so, then take this as your sign to sprint to the finish line and get whatever you need to get done – done.

I’m wishing all you writers and artists out there good luck on your current project! You can do it.

“Let me know – do I still got time to grow? Things ain’t always set in stone. Let me know, let me know. Seems like street lights, glowing, happen to be just like moments, passing in front of me, so I hopped in the cab and I paid my fare. See, I know my destination, but I’m just not there.”

-“Street Lights” by Kanye West

Share
Oct 182011
 

It’s time for R. Harrie’s third campaign challenge and here are the rules:

Write a blog post in 300 words or less, excluding the title. The post can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should show:

  • that it’s morning,
  • that a man or a woman (or both) is at the beach
  • that the MC (main character) is bored
  • that something stinks behind where he/she is sitting
  • that something surprising happens.

My piece is just under 300 words. YES! Check it out:

Hannah’s Tomatoes

Hannah sits on a bench; knees bent, feet firm on the seat. Sweat drips down the small of her back as tiny wet beads form on her upper lip. She brushes them away and breathes in the sticky air. There is a smell; familiar, but pungent. A dead rat maybe? Ah, the joys of North Avenue Beach. She coughs and unscrews the cap from her bottle. The water rushes down her throat, a short relief from the heat. Sweat drips from her hands. She presses them against her head and slicks down the loose strands of hair. She picks at a piece of skin hanging from her fingernail as a slight breeze presses against her body. He is walking towards her, the blur of a boy folded into the distance of the hazy sun. The closer he gets, the harder her heart beats. When he is near, she stands up. He paces towards her disturbing the morning dust with each step.

They walk off the concrete walkway into the sandbank. Her toes sink in. The gritty grains brush against the pads of her feet. Dirty, orange-colored mountains form along the sides of her heels.

They set their towels down and run towards the edge of the pier. She crashes into the water. Bing. The clasp of her bikini top flies open for all the world to see. Her face reddens like a tomato. Now two tomatoes are hanging out. She pulls her top shut trying to push one side of the clasp into the other, but it’s pointless. The thing is busted. With a hand across her chest, she runs from the water, leaps down, snatches the towel from the sand, and wraps it around her body. She shouldn’t have done that cannonball after all.

Thanks for reading!

I am #46 on the linky list if you feel so inclined to vote for me. You can place your vote for any of the entries at Rachael Harrie’s Third Campaigner Challenge blog post.

 

Share