Hurricane Maria: Jangled Nerves and Prayers

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My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean islands, and with Mexico. This afternoon, I’m thinking of the people of the small Caribbean islands, who are currently suffering the devastating effects from Hurricane Irma, and who face the real possibility of more devastation with Hurricane Maria. It’s unthinkable, yet a reality. I wonder if Barbuda will ever recover and if Barbudans will return to their beloved island. I worry for the people of Dominica, Tortola, the British and US Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, and Guadalupe. And of course, I am beside myself with worry for my family and friends in Puerto Rico.

I know the resiliency and courage of the people of the Caribbean, but Hurricane Maria is a beast. I’m grateful to the countries helping in the recovery and rebuilding efforts throughout the islands, and I’m especially proud of my fellow Puerto Ricans for welcoming and assisting our Caribbean brothers and sisters to our island–Puerto Rico is truly a beautiful port in a storm for many. And what a storm is coming tonight and tomorrow morning.

On Monday, I spoke with my family members and friends in Puerto Rico. My aunt and cousins in Ponce and San Juan assured me their homes are physically prepared to “welcome” Maria. Well, as prepared as you can be with a Category 5 hurricane coming toward you. Emotionally? I’m not entirely sure, but I know their nerves are jangled at this time and stress is high. Our family members in the United States join me in praying and hoping against hope that Hurricane Maria goes far north of Puerto Rico and doesn’t make landfall on any Caribbean islands. That seems implausible with all the hurricane models and weather reports I’ve seen, but nonetheless, that is my prayer.

All the unknowns of a hurricane make this event very frightening. Like millions of others, I’m finding it difficult to concentrate with so much happening around the world with other hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods. So, the candles are lit and I will pray–that’s what I can do today. Be present, be still, and pray for my family, my beloved island, and for mankind.

ABOUT ELEANOR:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English, at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English, at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015, and Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book, A Decent Woman, available in paperback and ebook format:  http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK


Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

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2017 International Latino Book Awards

I am honored and pleased to share exciting book news with you! My novel, A Decent Woman, set in 1900 Ponce, Puerto Rico, was awarded Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English, at the 2017 International Latino Book Awards held in Los Angeles this past weekend. 
My deepest gratitude and thanks to Latino Literacy Now; Las Comadres Para Las Americas; Kirk Whisler and his amazing staff; all the judges; and most importantly, many thanks to my wonderful, supportive readers!
I am hard at work on a second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Old San Juan and the Puerto Rican islet of Isla de Cabras, Island of Goats, off the coast of San Juan. This happy book news makes me smile and offers encouragement as I finish writing the next book.
Thank you for your visit! Please read on for more information from Kirk Whisler, Latino Literacy Now, about the book awards. I will post the complete list of winners very soon.
Eleanor X
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The Largest Latino Cultural Awards in the USA Recognizes the Greatness in 233 Authors & Publishers From Across the USA & Around the World
By Kirk Whisler, Latino Literacy Now
The International Latino Book Awards Ceremony occurred on September 9th at the Dominguez Ballroom of California State University Dominguez Hills. Over the last 19 years, the Int’l Latino Book Awards has grown to become the largest Latino literary and cultural awards in the USA.
A crowd of book lovers cheered on this year’s 233 author and publisher
honorees from across the USA and from 19 countries outside the USA. The 2017 ceremony also unveiled the new, world class medals that were given to all honorees in Recognizing the Greatness they have achieved.
Latinos in the USA will purchase $700+ million in books in both English and Spanish. The number of books by and about Latinos has risen substantially. In 1980 less than 400
books were written and published by a Latino in the USA. In 2017 that number will be between 25,000 and 30,000. The bottom line is that books targeting Latinos are a growing
segment because of the rapid growth of the market and the current gaps in relevant topics being presented.
The ceremony also featured a major salute with The National Latino Trail Blazer Awards for Charlie Ericksen, co-founder of Hispanic Link; Mimi Lozano, founder of Somos Primos; Ambassador Julian Nava; and former Secretary of Labor, Supervisor Hilda Solis. Edward James Olmos, Rick Najera, and Katherine A. Díaz were this year’s emcees. The Awards also featured musical performances by Suni Paz and Georgette Baker. This list of winning books makes a great Christmas shopping list: a kid’s book for this child; a good mystery for that friend, this nonfiction book for that student headed off
to college, etc. With all the categories we have, there’s at least one perfect book for everyone.
The 2017 Int’l Latino Book Awards are another reflection of the growing quality of books by and about Latinos. In order to handle this large number of books, the Awards had 196
judges, triple the number from 2013. The judges raved about the quality of the entries. The Award sponsors included California State University Dominguez Hills as a Gold Sponsor; The California State University System, Entravision, Latino 247 Media Group, and Libros Publishing as Silver Sponsors and the American Association of Latino Engineers and Scientists, El Aviso, the Los Angeles Community College District, LA Plaza de Cutura y Artes, and Scholastic Books as Bronze Sponsors. Award partners include Las Comadres de las Americas, REFORMA, and Mi Libro Hispano.
Latino Literacy Now, is a nonprofit co-founded in 1997 by Edward James Olmos and Kirk Whisler that has five types of programs:
Latino Book & Family Festivals around the USA: we’ve held 63 Festivals attended by a combined 900,000+ people; Awards which also include the Latino Books into Movies Awards; Education programs like Empowering Students and Education Begins in the Home; Membership programs like the Int’l Society of Latino Authors (www.ISLA.news) and the Empowering Speakers Bureau; and Content programs
like Latino Reads video show plus other online efforts. More about the Awards can be found at http://www.Award.news, and the 2018 entry form is now available.
Amazingly, sales of books by past ILBA winning authors have totaled more than 200 million copies! Winners have included many of the best-known Latino authors including
Belinda Acosta, Rodolfo Anaya, Alma Flor Ada, Ron Arias, José Antonio Burciaga, F. Isabel Campoy, Denise Chavéz, Paulo Coelho, Dr. Camilo Cruz, Junot Díaz, Gabriel García Márquez, Reyna Grande, Juan Felipe Herrera, Oscar Hijuelos, Mario Vargas Llosa, Josefina López, Pablo Neruda, Ana Nogales, Jose-Luis Orozco, Luis Rodriguez, Don Miguel Ruiz, Alisa Valdes, and Victor Villaseñor. Winners have also included well-known figures from other professions including Entertainers like Celia Cruz, Gloria Estefan, Shelia E, Cheech Marin, Rick Najera, Jenni Rivera, Linda Ronstadt, and Carlos Santana; Sports notables Pedro Guerrero, Oscar de la Hoya and Jorge Posada; Media figures like Martín Llorens, Jorge Ramos, Teresa Rodriguez, and Ray Suarez; Public servants like Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Henry Cisneros; and Chefs like Paulina Abascal, Jose Garces, Pati Jinich, and Daisy
Martinez.
ABOUT ELEANOR:
ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English, at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English, at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015, and Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book, A Decent Woman, available in paperback and ebook format:  http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK


Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

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The 19th International Latino Book Awards:  A Reflection of the Quality of Books By & For Latinos

Book Award LOGO & Image rgb
The 19th International Latino Book Awards:
A Reflection of the Quality of Books By & For Latinos
By Kirk Whisler

         

       The Int’l Latino Book Awards is a major reflection that the fastest growing group in the USA has truly arrived. The Awards are now by far the largest Latino cultural Awards in the USA and with the 233 finalists this year in 91 categories, it has honored the greatness of 2,404 authors and publishers over the past two decades. These books are a great reflection that books by and about Latinos are in high demand. In 2017 Latinos will purchase nearly $700 million in books in English and Spanish.
       The 2017 Finalists for the 19th Annual Int’l Latino Book Awards are another reflection of the growing quality of books by and about Latinos. In order to handle this large number of books, the Awards had 196 judges. The judges glowed more than ever about how hard the choices were. Judges shared how the books “Enriched my life” and how much they “Loved the books”. Another judge stated ‘This book appears as candy for the soul and senses’. Several dozen judges exclaimed ‘I could not put the book down until I finished.’ The Awards celebrates books in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Finalists are from across the USA and Puerto Rico, as well as from 20 countries outside the USA.
       This has been a great year of growth for Latino Literacy Now’s efforts. Our most recent Latino Book & Family Festival in San Bernardino was our 61st – and brought our combined attendance to over 900,000. The Int’l Society of Latino Authors is now just under a hundred members. Education Begins in the Home, a Latino Literacy Now program, has impacted literacy for over 25,000 people. The first formal event for the 2017 Finalist will be at the American Library Associations Conference at the end of June in Chicago. Latino Literacy Now is now an Affiliate of the ALA. The Award Winning Author Tour has 10 more events in just 2017.
       The Awards Cermony will be held September 9, 2017 in Los Angeles at the Dominguez Ballroom at California State University Dominguez Hills. This is part of the Award Winning Author Recognition Weekend that also includes the Award Winning Author Celebration Night on Friday, September 8th and the Los Angeles Latino Book & Family Festival at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes on the 10th. The Awards are produced by Latino Literacy Now, an organization co-founded by Edward James Olmos and Kirk Whisler, and co-presented by Las Comadres de las Americas and REFORMA. Major sponsors include the California State University Dominguez Hills, Libros Publishing, and Scholastic.
ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA:

 

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, is a finalist for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book in the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book also garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book, A Decent Woman, available in paperback and ebook format:  http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

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2017 International Latino Book Award Finalist – A Decent Woman

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Buenos días!

On this beautiful morning, I was humbled and happy to learn my debut novel, A Decent Woman, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico, is a finalist in the 2017 International Latino Book Award and Latino Literacy Now for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book. I’m beyond honored, blessed, and proud to introduce readers, through my books and book events, to Latina/o characters and to Puerto Rico, the beautiful island of my birth.

I am forever grateful to my readers and blogger friends for their continued support and friendship as I meet so many on my travels and during book events. A huge thank you to Latino Literacy Now and everyone at the International Latino Book Award organization for their untiring, brilliant work in bringing Latino literature in English and Spanish to readers in the US and around the world.

A special thank you to my children, my loves, and my family for their unending love, encouragement, and support. I am truly blessed to do what I love–tell stories from long ago. I honor my ancestors and my family, on both sides of my wonderful family, for their love and support, and for continuing to listen and tell stories at the kitchen table and around the fire for the younger generation as we did last month at a recent Sapia family reunion in Ohio. A very special time for all!

Now, I must confess. I really miss my Tuesday Author Interviews series with my fellow authors, which I began in 2014. I’m excited to begin a brand new author interview series in January 2018, and in the meantime, I am hard at work on my second book, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. I am in love with this new story and my new characters, who are whispering their stories in my ear. I hope you will like this new story as much as I do.

I will share the complete list of the 2017 International Latino Book Award finalists as soon as I find a good link. Congratulations to all the finalists.

Be well, be safe, and enjoy your summer! ❤

Eleanor

ABOUT ELEANOR:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, is a finalist for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book in the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book also garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book, A Decent Woman, available in paperback and ebook format:  http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

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Author Interview: Liza Treviño

Welcome to the last installment of our 2017 Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. I will take off the rest of the year to finish my second historical novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico, hopefully, by January 2018!

I began interviewing my fellow authors in 2015, and to date, it looks like I’ve interviewed 82 authors. It’s been great to meet and chat with new authors. I hope you’ll check in at the blog during summer and fall 2017 as I begin a new series of blog posts that relate to my work in progress. We’re looking forward to sharing new author interviews in 2018.

Thank you for your continued support, dear readers. Keep buying books and remember that a book review on Amazon and Goodreads means the world to all authors!

Today, I am pleased to welcome Liza Treviño to The Writing Life.

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Liza Treviño hails from Texas, spending many of her formative years on the I-35 corridor of San Antonio, Austin and Dallas.  In pursuit of adventure and a Ph.D., Liza moved to Los Angeles where she compiled a collection of short-term, low-level Hollywood jobs like script girl, producer assistant and production assistant.  Her time as a Hollywood Jane-of-all-trades gave her an insider’s view to a world most only see from the outside, providing the inspiration for creating a new breed of Latina heroine.

Welcome, Liza! What is your book’s genre?

All That Glitters is a women’s fiction novel that features a Latina heroine. There’s LA grit, Hollywood glamour and some romance mixed in for good measure.

All That Glitters Cover

Please describe what All That Glitters is about.

It follows the rags-to-riches Hollywood journey of a creative, ambitious, street smart and stunning Latina who sets her sights on making it big in Hollywood as a writer-film director in the 1980s. It’s also about the sacrifices one must make at the service of their ambitions. When is it too much? When do you take that step too far that can ultimately ruin you? How do you keep your integrity in the face of rampant sexism, misogyny and self-doubt?

How did you come up with the title?

While it’s a well-known saying, All That Glitters perfectly captured both the glitzy desires of Hollywood while also evoking the darker aspect that all is not what it seems, no matter how you might desire it.

What inspired you to write All That Glitters?

I’ve always been a reader and a writer, since I was a kid. I loved – love – all kinds of genres: horror, suspense, romance, but Jackie Collins, in particular, always held a special place in my heart. I adore her work and all Hollywood fiction. Eventually, I was re-reading one of my favourites of hers while I was in grad school in Los Angeles, and it hit me.  Where is a Latina Lucky Santangelo? I wanted to read about a badass character like Lucky Santangelo, but I wanted her to be Latina. And that’s how it started for me. I began thinking about the popular stories I liked to read and decided I was going to create those kinds of stories but put a Latina at the center of the action.  That’s definitely something I wanted to read. I couldn’t find it, so I started writing.

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

There are some surface resemblances for sure: Latina, from Texas, curly hair and a penchant for curse words. On a deeper level, Alexandria Moreno and I share a ‘survivor’ mentality. But there are definite distinctions. Alex is tough and uncompromising, that is how she survives. That’s not my approach.

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

My inspiration for writing this particular story and for creating Alexandria Moreno was that I wanted to read about someone like her. I didn’t see why characters like her weren’t all over the place, and I just hadn’t found them yet. When I didn’t find what I was looking for, that’s when I decided to start writing. And now, it exists.

It’s been a long journey to get All That Glitters published. Alex is out in the world for anybody and everyone who’s looking for a Latina anti-heroine. I hope to introduce readers to the unforgettable character of Alexandria Moreno. I want the reader to be surprised, upset, excited, worried and unsure of Alex, her choices and what she’s going to do next. And to see Alex as a complicated, strong woman and then you remember that she’s also a Latina to boot? Very cool!

We can’t have enough Latina heroines! What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

First, putting your butt in the chair and writing. Second hardest is making it public. It’s like walking naked in front of a crowd of strangers. And I’m no exhibitionist.

So true. What is your favorite part of writing?

When you finish and the ending feels right. It literally feels like a weight has lifted and the story is out of me and in the world.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

King Peso by Carmen Amato. It’s the latest installment of a series about Mexican female detective, Amelia Cruz. This was my introduction to the character and the series. Detective Amelia Cruz is a badass and complicated. She’s a lot of fun to read. The story moved along at a brisk pace, but what really set this book apart was its insider’s specificity of detail to Acapulco and the city’s surroundings. Amato took you to all corners of the region, making you feel like you are there, from the street corner taco stands to the exclusive, ‘privada’ beach communities. 

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Jackie Collins and Joan Didion are my absolute favorites. I’m also a big fan of Carlos Fuentes, Stephen King, Carrie Fisher and Michael Crichton.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

Certainly the authors I just mentioned have each influenced me a great deal. With authors like King, Crichton and Collins, I love their economy with language and the way their stories unfold and pull you along until you’ve reached the last page.  Fisher, Fuentes and Didion, their inspired and nuanced insights to the human condition make me catch my breath.  I’m also greatly influenced by film directors, especially Martin Scorsese, Kathyrn Bigelow, Bob Fosse and James Cameron. Their use of visual motifs and tone to convey personality is how I like to write. It’s the small detail, the visual punctuation that resonates with me, and I like to include those kinds of things in a story or scene.

I look to film for the same reasons you mention here. Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

I read and write whenever and wherever I can. I’ve moved around a lot as an adult so I’ve had the pleasure of discovering (and leaving) all kinds of nooks and crannies to hole up and read and write. I do like coffeeshops and earbuds for writing and my bed or a breezy deck for reading.

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

I’m lucky  – or, unlucky, depending on how you look at it – that I’ve spent my entire adult life as a writer, whether it be as an academic or in the fiction realm, so I have always spent time reading, writing, editing, revising, formatting something, whether it be papers, a dissertation or a novel. The process seems to just get more and more refined over time.

Working with a great editor who gets the story is invaluable. It’s an amazing experience to collaborate on your work with someone who sees it with new, fresh eyes.  Of course, the con aligns closely with this, too.  It can be hard to hear that words, passages or scenes you slaved over just need to go. But, it’s part of the process and, ultimately, it does make the work stronger, and it helped me become a better writer.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

The main thing is that I set out to write a story that I wanted to read. That was probably the best thing I could do in order to keep going and not give up on the project and walk away.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Don’t give up. If you have a story you believe in and are passionate about, keep writing and finish that project. It will find its audience.

Good advice. Website and social media links?

Website: lizatrevino.com

You can learn more about All That Glitters and find my blogs that provide resources for Latino writers as well as ‘updates’ on a Brown Girl’s Burden, my ‘spirited’ Latina’s Guide to Assimilation and Rebellion.

All That Glitters Cover

Liza, where can we find your book?

Click to Buy on Amazon: All That Glitters

BarnesandNoble.com and ibooks.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a follow up to All That Glitters, I’m shopping a Christmas-time romantic comedy set in San Antonio and working on a true crime, detective story also set in San Antonio, Texas.

Thanks for visiting us today on The Writing Life, Liza. Best wishes with your writing!

About Eleanor:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book, A Decent Woman, available in paperback and ebook format:  http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

Island of Enchantment or Island of False Promises?

Reblogged from Latino Rebels, Guest contributer: Marinda Hollar

Island of Enchantment or Island of False Promises?

I am a Boise State University student who went to Puerto Rico on an exchange program for a short year with the goal of improving my Spanish, learning about political processes in another cultural environment, and well, to enjoy a year in a tropical Caribbean paradise. It didn’t take long before I absolutely fell in love with the island; the beaches are so unbelievably beautiful, the people are so incredibly welcoming, the culture so vibrant and full of life. It certainly lives up to the its nickname—The Island of Enchantment. On any given corner on any given day, one can hear music floating through the air: it always seems to be either an infectious salsa rhythm or the pumping bass of the latest reggaeton song, (the local mix of reggae / rap that seems to be the music of choice for many young people here) and undoubtedly, somebody is dancing or singing or refreshing themselves with a nice cold beer while they share time with friends or family, or as is often the case, with both. The culture is so oriented in family, in sharing, in passing quality time with loved ones—whether it be at the beach, seated next to the river in the jungle, or even just hanging out at home. It is truly a delightful place to be.

However, I quickly also realized that Puerto Rico has its fair share of problems. They are currently faced with a stifling $73 billion debt, brought about by an unfortunate mix of unwise spending habits by the local government including corrupt politicians, failed privatization attempts and a plethora of unjust financial policies imposed by the United States government.

The most recent law forced upon the Puerto Rican people by the U.S. government with the supposed intention of helping Puerto Rico pull itself out of debt is the Puerto Rico Oversight Management and Economic Stability Act (or PROMESA, a terribly frustrating pun which I will explain shortly). This law stipulates that a team of seven individuals, nominated by the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. federal government, in effect take control of the Puerto Rican government in order to restructure and repay the debt. They must approve the local government’s budget for the fiscal year, and they must additionally sign off on every law passed to ensure that it doesn’t worsen the crisis. This Oversight Board has the power to make demands of the Puerto Rican government, and has already imposed significant austerity manners.

It is important to note that the only purpose of the Board is to pull the country out of debt. It is not necessarily charged with the well-being of the Puerto Rican people. In fact, one could argue that there is motivation to continue to entrench the island in even more debt, as the president of the Board currently own at least $265,000 in Puerto Rican bonds, sparking debate over a possible conflict of interest, as an increase in debt would mean an increase in his wealth.

This oversight board is an uncomfortable concept. I want you to imagine this from the Puerto Rican perspective: giving up even more of your local government’s sovereignty, rendering your governor (the highest government office on the island) a mere puppet, with the country that has repeatedly mistreated and abused your people as the puppeteer. Putting your country’s future in the hands of a group of people chosen by a government that has a history of squeezing every last cent out of your people by passing such legislature as the Jones Act, which stipulates that Puerto Rico can only import goods from the United States, on a U.S.-based boat with a U.S.-baed crew, increasing the price of pretty much everything and doubling the federal taxes that Puerto Ricans have to pay. A government that makes a habit of sending your country’s young men and women to the most dangerous fronts during times of war so that your people are those who are dying en masse, and not the white soldiers. A government that has conducted experiments testing new methods of contraception on the women of your countryside in the name of not endangering their own people (even though people born in Puerto Rico are, technically, U.S. citizens). A government that has in the past gone so far as to make your own flag, the pride of the nation, illegal in public arenas. A government that is not representative of your people, your culture, your interests, or even your well-being. This is the government that chose the members of the group that basically have fiscal control of the island.

I know that I would be bitter. No, more than that—outraged. And I would most definitely be extremely dubious in regards to the true goals of the Oversight and Management Board. The PROMESA (the Spanish word for promise) from the U.S. government to “help the Puerto Rican people” by taking complete control of the local government has already been broken. In the short four months that the Board has had control of the islands finances, they have approved measures such as:

    • Increasing property taxes,
    • Increasing court fees,
    • Increasing traffic ticket prices,
    • A new internet tax,
    • Increasing the mandatory minimum car insurance,
    • Increasing the already tangled web of permits that one needs to drive a motor vehicle in PR,
    • Increasing the number of permits required for construction projects, and increasing the cost of said permits,
    • Cutting credits for projects that attract tourists (the island’s main source of income),
    • Cutting credits to revitalize urban living centers,
    • Cutting credits for investments that would develop the local economy, and the cut that personally pains me the most,
    • Cutting $603 million dollars of funding from the only public university system on the island, La Universidad de Puerto Rico.

The current governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo “Ricky” Rosselló, has said that the Oversight Management Board requested that $603 million be cut from some part of the Puerto Rican government’s budget. He has also said that other than the university system, there is simply no other source of funding, except for the public health program. However, he also refuses to release an official list of how the public funds are being spent, and refuses to have the massive $73 billion-dollar debt audited by an economic board to determine how much of it is “legal debt” (used on projects that served to benefit the citizens of Puerto Rico), and how much of it is “illegal debt” (exactly the opposite: used for corrupt purposes, often in the form of useless projects, i.e. “bridges to nowhere,”, etc. This kind of debt does not have to be repaid, as the people should not be punished for bad decisions made by their government). The debt that Puerto Rico has accumulated over the years, legal and otherwise, is so substantial that the annual interest on the debt has reached $6 billion. With a population of 3.4 million people on the island, that means that every man, woman, and child would pay about $1,500 yearly, just to cover the annual interest. This amount becomes much more significant when one considers that the average annual income for a Puerto Rican is just $15,000. This number is bound to decrease even further if the latest round of proposed cuts by the oversight management board are approved. Without access to a quality, affordable education, the cycle of poverty on the island is bound to continue downward.

Keep in mind, the country has been in crisis mode for a while now, and the university has already seen about $300 million in cuts in the last three years. The resources are already stretched thin, with overly crowded classrooms in need of upkeep, professors’ benefits and salaries that have already taken substantial hits, and funding for research at an all-time low. The result of these proposed cuts would be disastrous: it has been stipulated that 8 of the 11 public campuses in the UPR system would be forced to permanently close their doors, leaving all the students registered in those unlucky eight branches of the university to scramble to either try to enroll in one of the three universities that remain (which will overnight become extremely crowded, and also have to take cost-reducing measures to be able to continue), or give up on receiving a higher education and settle for trying to find work in the struggling Puerto Rican economy. By the way, those that choose (or are forced, by lack of resources to pay the higher tuition) to take the latter path will potentially soon only receive a minimum salary of $4.25 hourly if they are under 25 years of age, compared to the continental U.S.’s $7.25 national minimum, another change proposed by the Oversight Board. It is also very possible that the UPR would lose its accreditation if the proposed cuts are approved, because the education will simply be unacceptable. In this case, all the time and money that the students currently enrolled will have been for nothing, as other universities and employers don’t accept credits earned in a non-accredited organization.

The options are grim for students who are already struggling to pay the relatively low tuition. The country has an astounding 46% of the population that lives below the poverty level, that is about twice as poor as the poorest state in the U.S., and faced with these new cuts to social services and increases in expenses, the whole island has troubling times ahead. The Oversight Management Board is not thinking about the future of the Puerto Rican people—they are tying their hands behind their back, blindfolding them, kicking them in the gut and asking why they don’t get up and fight. The U.S. government seems to make a pattern of setting Puerto Rico up for failure and then blaming them when the inevitable happens. They are unable to declare bankruptcy (like all U.S. states have the ability to do) because of their “commonwealth” status, (codename for colony, which is illegal according to a resolution 1514 of the United Nations- “All peoples have an inalienable right to complete freedom, the exercise of their sovereignty and the integrity of their national territory, [the UN] Solemnly proclaims the necessity of bringing to a speedy and unconditional end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations”). And they are equally unable to declare bankruptcy as a country, because they are technically not an independent nation and are therefore considered “dependent” on the U.S. for financial support.

Now is when I make my plea to you. Before I came here on exchange, I had no idea what was going on in Puerto Rico. I am a Political Science and Spanish student at Boise State University, and I like to think of myself as a well-informed person. I make it a habit to read the news daily, but I had no idea about the status of Puerto Rico. My knowledge was basically, “They’re almost like a state, right?”. And from what I have gathered based on the reactions of my family, friends and university colleagues back in the states, many U.S. citizens share that same level of very limited information. Puerto Rican news is simply not broadcasted in the states, and I don’t remember ever learning anything about this small beautiful island in any part of my public-school education. Because of the unfortunate collective ignorance of the American people, the U.S. government basically has free reign to continue to pass oppressive policies against the Puerto Rican people, and the country will continue to be at the mercy of their great dictator.

Unless you do something. I truly believe in the American system. Further, I truly believe that if we can rally enough people to call their senators and tell them that this issue will not be silenced any longer, we can make real change. I propose that we raise our voices, and demand that we treat Puerto Rican (technically fellow American) citizens with the respect and decency that they deserve, do away with the law PROMESA and all the false promises that accompany it, and most urgently, most immediately, demand that the $603 million not be cut from the university, because a nation without education is a nation that will be trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and an inability to bring about change.

During my time here, I have made some of the most solid friendships of my life. I have met people that are truly amazing. Their struggles to attend university despite the fact that their family is barely scraping by are truly awe-inspiring, accepting loans and graduating with thousands of dollars in student debt in order to get an education and have a shot at a better life for themselves and their families. The UPR system educates thousands of students every year that are often recruited by U.S. companies because it produces such driven and competent workers. If the funding is cut, many students won’t be able to afford to travel to other parts of the island to study, as the only campuses that will be able to remain open are on the far east and west sides of the island, and they would either have to pay for an apartment near campus or pay the approximately $40 in gas daily in order to be able to go to class. Please, help me bring attention to this issue so that the people of Puerto Rico that are trying to better their situation are able to do just that. Please, help me to put pressure on our government to stop these disastrous cuts from being made. I thank you so much for your time, and sincerely ask that you spend five more minutes to have a conversation with your local representative to show that this issue is important to their constituents.

Below I have written a brief statement that nicely summarizes the main points that the Puerto Rican people want YOU, as an American, to tell your state representative that the people here don’t have. I know it can be intimidating to pick up the phone and call, but it truly is the most effective way to make your voice heard in these troubling times. Below I have also included a list of senators and representatives on the Natural Resources subcommittee, which oversees all things Puerto Rico, that you can call to apply pressure. Please, an extra five minutes of your time has the power to make all the difference for the beautiful island, and the American citizens, of Puerto Rico.

Hello, my name is ___________ and I am a constituent of (CITY, STATE, ZIPCODE) and I am calling to talk about the situation in Puerto Rico. I don’t need a response. I believe that:

  • Before any further austerity measures are taken, it is necessary that the public debt be audited, to determine how much of the debt is actually legal, and therefore, necessary to repay.
  • The Puerto Rico Oversight Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) unfairly imposes an undemocratic regime on the people of Puerto Rico and its government.
  • It is also trying to implement policies that will cripple the economy and the people of Puerto Rico, most notably cutting the $603 million from the UPR system. This would kill the university system as it is known here and prevent many people from studying. It must be stopped. The university needs that funding and the island needs the university.

The American people have a sense of justice and this repression of the people that are supposedly under our care will not stand. Please, raise your voice, help the people of Puerto Rico avoid the looming educational crisis that will ironically be brought about by the group of people sent to improve the economic crisis on the island. Please, let your government know that false promises are NOT tolerated in our political system, and that we demand better.

***

Sources
Bury, Chris. “Is This 1917 Law Suffocating Puerto Rico’s Economy?” PBS. Public Broadcasting Service, 14 Aug. 2015. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.

“Directory of Representatives.” United States House of Representatives. US House of Representatives, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.

Pr, Telemundo. “Obama Nombra Integrantes De La Junta De Control Fiscal.” Telemundo Puerto Rico. Telemundo Puerto Rico, 31 Aug. 2016. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.

Soledad Dávila Calero, María. “Professors Argue Against Further Cuts to UPR Budget.”  Caribbean Business. Caribbean Business, 10 Mar. 2017.

“The United Nations and Decolonization.” United Nations. United Nations, 1 Dec. 1960. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.

Original article:

http://www.latinorebels.com/2017/05/01/island-of-enchantment-or-island-of-false-promises/

Author Interview: Gabriel Valjan

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life, where I have the great pleasure of chatting with my fellow authors across genres, which is always interesting. Today I’m happy to welcome Gabriel Valjan.

Gabriel Valjan is the author of the Roma Series from Winter Goose Publishing, as well as numerous short stories. He lives in Boston’s South End, where he enjoys the local restaurants, and his two cats, Squeak and Squawk, keep him honest to the story on the screen.

G Valjan

Welcome, Gabriel.

What is the genre of the book you’d like to discuss?

Corporate Citizen is the fifth book in the suspense/thriller Roma Series from Winter Goose Publishing.

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Briefly describe what Corporate Citizen is about.

Bianca, our former analyst for the covert agency Rendition, is called to Boston to help clear a friend framed for a double homicide. All her Italian friends except for her boyfriend come with her. The murder investigation uncovers a drug ring for synthetic heroin, which Rendition may or may not have an interest in. Bianca continues to receive help from inside Rendition through a mysterious agent named Loki. There’s a troubled vet and a love interest and a criminal mastermind, unlike any Bianca and her gang have ever encountered.

How did you come up with the title and what inspired you to write this series?

The title is a buzzword from the business world. Corporations, like people, have ethical, legal, and social responsibilities. I am intrigued as to who is responsible when corporations commit crimes. A CEO might be the face to an organization, but decisions are far more complex when there is an obligation to shareholders and the ultimate objective is profit. What do you do when you are a citizen and your country behaves like a corporation? Bianca left Rendition because of the necessary evils she witnessed. She learns that one can never leave Rendition.

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What do you do when you are a citizen and your country behaves like a corporation? This is a question many Americans are asking themselves right about now.

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

Yes and No. Bianca may resemble my younger self, when I was more logical than Mr. Spock. Like her, I acted that way as a coping and defense mechanism. With age, I allowed myself to relax. Where we differ is gender and I do hope that I was successful in putting across a woman’s perspective.

Is Bianca in all five novels?

Bianca is in all 5 novels. The graphic above depicts the book in chronological order.

1: Roma, Underground takes place in Rome. Bianca is enticed to participate in a sting to capture thieves stealing cultural artifacts from the city’s underground. A real group of amateur archaeologists are mapping the city beneath Rome and I let my imagination run with that idea.

2: Wasp’s Nest. Bianca returns to Boston under the pretense of helping a contact within Rendition, but she is fearful of the growing intimacy between her and Dante. I tried to showcase lesser known parts of Boston. The inspiration behind this outing was what if someone disrupted the pharmaceutical industry, particularly cancer research, with an invention that did away with chemotherapy and radiation.

3: Threading the Needle. Bianca and her gang tackle political terrorism in Milan. The inspiration here was what the Italians call The Years of Lead, which was a series of terrorist attacks from 1969 to 1984. The height of terror culminated in the kidnapping and murder of Prime Minister Aldo Moro. Speculation exists as to who funded and directed far-right groups to destroy the Communist Party in Italy.

4: Turning To Stone. Bianca is caught between the Camorra and the Sicilian mafia in Naples. The Sicilians are hatching a plan to destabilize the world currency market to their advantage. The Fiscal Crisis of 2007 provided the basis for this novel.

5: Corporate Citizen. Bianca is back in Boston to help a friend framed for murder.

Each of my novels includes the first chapter of the next one in the The Roma Series. Book 6, Crunch City, is situated in London and it will explore (or explode) the extent of surveillance. Bianca has a new and formidable nemesis at Rendition, but she also has an unexpected ally at her side. She’ll have to make a decision on her relationship with Dante.

Thanks for including the brief synopses. What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

I worry whether I have seeded the story with just enough clues so that it is not predictable. Am I too obvious? Was I too obscure? The reader is a god, who must be appeased, and yet should still be surprised with the creation. It’s kind of like looking at a platypus and scratching your head. There’s logic to the design.

Great questions to ask during the writing process. Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

My characters have a life of their own. When I write it is like meeting old friends. I’ve been fortunate to have a collaborative relationship with my publisher. I have a say in the editing process and in cover-art design. I believe the first sentence of A Tale of Two Cities describes today’s authors and publishers. Indie publishers have proven they can put quality out there in the market. The Big Five and literary agents are not necessarily gatekeepers for taste and talent. Self-publishing, while not new, is a hit or miss. Amazon has created both the markets and the platform. Readers are feasting and authors are like matchstick children hoping for a kind soul and a sale.

I found myself nodding at your answers above. What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

Walter Tevis’s Mockingbird. In a post-apocalyptic future where machines do everything and reading is illegal, an android named Bob Spofforth runs the world — and he is suicidal. Another character, Paul, is a conformist who teaches himself how to read. He falls in love with Mary Lou, a rebel who lives in a zoo. This is not Humanity versus the Machines story. Knowledge has slipped away. Watching Paul learn and then teach Mary Lou how to read is a reminder of why we read and why we are human. Tevis will reduce you to tears.

Another book for my reading list, thank you. Who are some of your favorite authors?

Tough question. Margaret Atwood. Jane Austen. Louise Brooks. Raymond Chandler. Eduardo Galeano. William Faulkner. Dashiell Hammett. Dorothy Johnson. E.J. Levy. Gabriel García Márquez. William Maxwell. Carson McCullers. Flannery O’ Connor. Victor Hugo. E.B. White. Richard Yates.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

Dashiell Hammett and William Faulkner. Though these two writers polar opposites in style, they worked language in ways I envy. If you research Gertrude Stein, you’ll discover that it was Hammett — not Hemingway — who was responsible for the spare minimalistic style. Hemingway learned his craft from journalism (being shot at is excellent motivation for brevity) and reading Hammett. Faulkner – read his Nobel Prize acceptance speech (557 words) – and ask yourself this, Is not compassion first and foremost a necessity to being a better human being and a great writer? His novels are challenging but rewarding.

Is not compassion first and foremost a necessity to being a better human being and a great writer? Great question. For me, the answer is yes. I’m off to Google Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I have an MA in Medieval Studies. 

Gabriel, what is your favorite part of writing?

The beauty of a series is I have a cast of characters and each one has a personality and quirks. Corporate is a long, hard look at Bianca and what makes her tick. I enjoyed those moments when she surprised me with something she said or did. Bianca is guarded and she allows herself some vulnerability when she meets Nick.

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Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

I write in my bedroom, where one or two cats stare at me and count keystrokes. I like reading in bed.

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

The Roma Series is classified as genre fiction, but I hope that readers see each novel as an exploration of friendship and love, that what matters most in life is how we treat each other. Each novel takes place in a different city because I want readers to see how Europeans see the world, and how an American deals with a different mindset. I ask questions about culture and society throughout the Series. Do you work to live, or live to work?

I like the idea of offering readers an opportunity to see the world through different lenses. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

It depends on the definition of success. Sales have not made me a household name, but I have developed a small following. Social media has allowed me to meet other writers and for them to know me. If ‘success’ is word of mouth, then I would say other writers, established and struggling, know that I am a supportive and encouraging person. It costs nothing to be kind and positive. I think what I have done ‘right’ is be myself and let my name stand for something. I go to readings to support others, I tweet to get the word out on writers I know, and I’ll write reviews. The best community for me has been other writers.

I agree with your definition of success. I met you through your generous tweets of my book, so I can attest to your support of other writers.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped with your books?

It’s hard to tell because I believe everything is cumulative. The problem is you don’t know what will work. I have had mixed feelings about PR firms. They are expensive and I think they are figuring it out along with the rest of us. It’s been a learning experience.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Read and learn from the writers you enjoy. Take apart; analyze what you admire. Be consistent, persistent, and tenacious about improving your skills. Set aside your ego and write because you have a story to tell. Respect your reader’s emotions, intellect, and their time. To paraphrase Carver, your job is to capture the heartbeat and the ‘human noise.’

Well said. Website and social media links?

Web: www.gabrielvaljan.com

Twitter: @GValjan

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Gabriel-Valjan-291400997547203/ 

Where can we find your book?

Amazon Author page: http://amzn.to/2pORYMH

WGP: http://wintergoosepublishing.com/authors/gabriel-valjan/

What’s next for you, Gabriel?

Winter Goose Publishing will release the first book of another series in late 2017. The Company Files: The Good Man is what I would call historical noir. The story takes place in 1948 Vienna and it’s the early days of the American intelligence community. Jack Marshall is asked to find former Nazis in Germany’s atomic program before the Russians do. Someone is killing them and Jack has to put a stop to it. For touchstones for the writing, think of Joseph Kanon, Phillip Kerr or John Le Carré, and yet different.

Vienna and the American intelligence community. We will have to chat about that another time! Thank you for visiting today, Gabriel. All the best to you. 

About Eleanor:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book, A Decent Woman:  http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com