Why Do These Things Happen To Us?

In 2010 I left Northern Virginia where I’d worked as a Spanish language Family Support Worker with 27 clients and their beautiful children. It was a rewarding and busy job, but tough in that I was required to make home visits once and twice a month to each family. As you can imagine, driving around the DC area and getting caught in lunch time and rush hour at the end of the day made for a stressful job. I practically lived in my car. Not to mention the enormous binders I had to keep updated for each of the children of my 27 clients, which included their shot records, school and medical information, and a detailed, written account of each of our home visits. I felt I could never catch up.

Our manager Nancy was a wonderful, kind woman who understood when I told her I loved my job, but I’d decided it was time to return to my creative life as a painter and a writer. Nancy, a jewelry designer in her spare time, supported my decision wholeheartedly, and my co-workers also understood, despite their personal fears about what I’d be living on monetarily in the future. I didn’t care. I’d felt like a round peg in a square hole for years. I needed my creative life back.

Two months later, I bought an old house in Berkeley County, West Virginia and three months later, I moved to a state I’d only visited once in my life. It felt like I’d jumped off a cliff, but I trusted myself and the Universe, and never once have I felt I made a mistake. I finished writing my first novel, it was published in 2015, and here we are today. I’m still happy with my decision–the only decision for me–to paint and write full time.

Taking control of my life, adapting to new situations, and remaining flexible is nothing new to me as I grew up an Army brat, who moved and thrived every two to four years until college. I raised my kids abroad for 13 years, traveled extensively, and I took control and easily adapted to becoming a 50-year old single mom. I sacrificed until my children graduated from university and found good paying jobs, and then moved to West Virginia. It was an easy decision. I knew it was time to focus on ME for the first time in my life.

So, fast forward to 2016. When my step-mom Rebecca, a lovely woman who has cared for my 84-year old father, who suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s, called me in early January with an invitation to visit them, I jumped at the chance. Rebecca was concerned that my father wasn’t interested in eating and that his roommate’s death a few days earlier would negatively affect him; it was important to fly to Florida. I knew we’d be busy, so I decided to leave my laptop at home to concentrate on my family. Rebecca graciously paid for my airline ticket and my sister was able to get a week off from work, so off we went to offer moral and physical support, where we could. For five days, we visited with my dad, who now lives in a wonderful assisted living home, and enjoyed our time with Rebecca, who treated us to three days in Key West, Florida near the end of our visit. We had a great time, enjoying the warmer weather and each other.

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Then we heard the news: a blizzard in the Washington, DC area which would also affect my adopted town in West Virginia. We watched the Weather Channel every few hours and on late Wednesday, Jet Blue called us–our Saturday morning flight was cancelled. I’d survived the back to back blizzards in Northern Virginia alone with my dog in late December 2009, and knew this could be bad. Here I was thousands of miles from my house built in 1907, and my next door neighbor was pet sitting for me. I had visions of my old roof caving in, of frozen pipes, and a leaking roof, which I know didn’t help my nerves. Then I realized that my neighbor and her husband would be shoveling for me, as well. I felt just awful. Thinking we’d avoid the blizzard by flying a day earlier than our scheduled Saturday flight, we changed our tickets to Friday morning. I called my neighbor to let her know. She told me that my Friday flight would never leave the ground. She was right–late Thursday evening, Jet Blue called about the cancelled flight on Friday. And the representative informed us that the next available flight out of West Palm Beach Airport or Ft. Lauderdale would be Wednesday. Six extra days. Wow, we couldn’t believe it. What could we do?

Now, I’m a firm believer of not freaking out about such things, as I believe things happen for a reason, but…it was glaringly obvious my poor neighbor and pet sitter and her husband would be in deep kimchi with their own home and trying to shovel 35 inches of snow to get to my animals. I called my neighbor with the bad news, but she didn’t miss a beat. She was several steps ahead of me. If the power went out, she’d take my Chihuahua and cat to her home, where she lives with two large dogs and two cats, and two kerosene heaters. I felt badly, but there wasn’t a thing I could do. I thanked my neighbor profusely, and promised to give her my firstborn…who is now 30 years old! That’s what I call true friendship from a woman I’ve only known four years.

The weather reports were correct and for once, hadn’t exaggerated–my West Virginia town had 35 inches of snow by Sunday. And since I’d expected to be home by Friday, I now had an interview with The Center of Puerto Rican Studies to finish by Sunday evening, and I had no laptop. Rebecca graciously offered me her brand new Apple computer, which I wasn’t familiar with, and then I realized she didn’t have word processing capabilities. I didn’t want to fool with that, so I finished the interview in an email and did the best I could to find copies of my author photograph and a copy of my bookcover, which were on my cell phone. It all worked out, but not without the fear that I’d lose the interview because the server kept shutting off. Lord, what a headache. But I got it done and was never so happy to press, ‘Send’.

As a full time writer and blogger, I really missed working on my second book during my winter vacation. It was tough to put my new characters on hold, but it was a great time and opportunity to put pen to paper and write out scenes longhand. Sitting on the beach on our last day, I told my sister about my second book, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Immaculata’, and received good feedback. She loved the story. It was the first time I’d spoken my story out loud and it really helped in discovering weak links and missing information. I was newly inspired and anxious to get back to writing, but I also knew this visit could possibly be the last time I’d see my father. I vowed to enjoy every minute. Every day, I tried to remain in the present and not sweat the snow or my lack of a laptop.

Wednesday morning, we headed to the airport and the flight took off during a thunderstorm, which is NEVER my idea of a good time. The captain informed us that the extreme turbulence would most probably last the duration of our flight–two hours. I can’t tell you how terrified we were with the plane dipping, shaking, and careening left and right. I laced my arms through my sister’s arms, we prayed and kissed our butts goodbye. At one point, my sister asked me to please stop repeating, “Ay Virgen, ay Virgen” because that frightened her more, which I understood! But I guess all that fear bottled up inside was more than I could handle and I began to cry. The young woman to my right rubbed my arm and asked me what I did for a living, probably to distract me. I laughed and replied, “When I’m not crying on flights from hell, I write books!”

We landed safely, the Metro was working, and miraculously enough, the spot where I’d parked my car before we left for the airport had received enough sun because my car was entirely clear of snow! I drove right out of the spot and decided to park closer to my sister’s townhouse. When I reached a cleat parking spot, I turned off the engine and made my way inside. When I returned with my luggage, my car wouldn’t start. I couldn’t believe it! I don’t know where the hell I keep my reserves of patience, but I found it. My poor, long suffering neighbors would have to add one more day of shoveling and caring for my home and animals, and my sister had to put up with me for one more night. Luckily, my area didn’t lose power, and I drove home Thursday morning. I was happy to see the mounds of snow around my house. I love snow and had hoped I’d see a bit of it. Well, I wasn’t disappointed–there was at least 30 inches in my front and side yards.

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I will never be able to repay my awesome neighbors for their tremendous kindnesses, and I am blessed to know them. My furry kids were happy to see me and my home was toasty and warm. I do wonder, however, why the Universe chose to preclude me from experiencing Blizzard 2016. I guess some experiences are meant to be, and it isn’t until much later that we see the Great Plan. It is often later when we realize the ‘why’ and are able to nod our heads and say, “Oh, now I get it.” I believe that to be true, but I’ll never leave the house without my laptop again.

Stay warm out there, my friends.

 

 

About Eleanor

ellie

Puerto Rican novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker, and a refugee case worker, inspire her stories.

‘A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club, and is listed in Centro Voices, The Center of Puerto Rican Studies, ‘Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season’. Book clubs across the United States continue to enjoy A Decent Woman. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani, and in the soon-to-be released anthology, Organic Coffee, Haphazardly, edited by Allie Burke. Eleanor is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, The National Association of Professional Women, and the Historical Novel Society, and she is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, she loves facilitating creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

Eleanor is a mother of two wonderful adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Immaculata’, and a collection of short stories.

http://amzn.to/1kzKdGq

 

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David Bowie: Pushing Creative Boundaries Into The Cosmos

I discovered the untimely death of legendary artist and musician, David Bowie, from my son’s Facebook post. My son simply wrote, ‘BOWIE’, and included one of his favorite Bowie songs. We were deeply saddened by the loss of one of the most talented, multi-faceted music greats. I remember feeling shock and then a combination of pride and relief that I’d introduced my children to Bowie’s music when they were young teens. I love that my adult children join me in continuing to listen to his songs and will continue to appreciate his genius for years to come.

Yesterday I spent the day scouring the Internet and reading hundreds of heartfelt social media tributes to the cultural icon and fine art lover, and with each beautiful message, my heart felt more and more constricted. I felt like crying but I didn’t, which is when I know the hurt runs deep. More than once in my life, I’ve experienced delayed emotional grief and numbness when tragedy struck. Yesterday was one such day.

Today the tears flowed as I listened to Bowie’s songs, and I realized my tears were more than profound sadness for his untimely death. The further back I went into my memory bank with Bowie’s music and my youth, the more I realized I was nostalgic and mourning him and days gone by. My youth. His inspiration. Our huge loss. And that it was okay to be a misfit, an original, because David Bowie was in our lives. He’d paved the way. We are so very fortunate to have lived on planet Earth with such an incredible creative being.

I will miss you forever, David Bowie. Thank you for decades of inspiration and for showing me how to push artistic boundaries in the world, out into the cosmos, and beyond. Rest in peace, Starman.

Terry O’Neill, David Bowie – Scissors, 1974 (1974).
Photo: Artnet.

terry-oneill-david-bowie-scissors

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvLnPO9t4Wg

About Eleanor

ellie

Puerto Rican novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker, and a refugee case worker, inspire her stories.

‘A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club, and is listed in Centro Voices, The Center of Puerto Rican Studies, ‘Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season’. Book clubs across the United States continue to enjoy A Decent Woman. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani. She is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society, and she is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

Eleanor is the mother of two wonderful adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel and a collection of short stories.

http://amzn.to/1kzKdGq

 

The Writing Life in 2016: Slow Down Already!

The Writing Life in 2016: Slow Down Already!

by Eleanor Parker Sapia

I don’t know about you, but I am experiencing the unsettling urgency of a new year like nobody’s business. I woke up today and realized the date was January 6, Three Kings’ Day. Where did the first week of 2016 go?

Honestly, the last time I truly felt organized was New Year’s Day, which I spent washing and putting away a small mountain of plates and glasses, thinking back to the fun party I’d hosted the night before. We had a great time. I also drank a gallon of orange juice and popped 400 mg of Motrin twice that day for a banging headache that wouldn’t let go and for general malaise. Yes, we had a really good time drinking champagne and eating way too much, and yes, that all seemed like a really good idea at the time. I’d also enjoyed hosting my family for Christmas Day dinner, which was a lot of fun. It was one of the best Christmas holidays I can remember, except for missing my son who lives in Europe. We will see him soon, though! But back to feeling disorganized.

This morning I sipped my coffee and realized the last blog post I’d written was posted a few days before Christmas Eve. And I hadn’t touched my work in progress in two weeks. This startled me. I’m an organized person. I’m a writer. I write for a living! Then I remembered: this scary scenario happens to me every January. I felt a bit better because I always make up for a slow start to the new year by working hard during the year, and ending the year with a bang. But January 6 was staring me down. I opened the closet door and dragged out three wicker baskets that contain my WIP; several bulky notebooks; the research material for my second book; a short pile of envelopes (read, December bills); and my 2015 calendar, all hidden away in the closet, so we’d have enough dance floor space on NYE.

I ripped ‘December 2015’ off my calendar and squinted at the tiny January 2016 calendar on the next page. No good, I couldn’t read it, but I did see where I’d written ‘Nothing due this week’ on the side. Thank God. But where was the 2016 calendar I’d bought before the holidays? Everything was a blur. I remembered buying a calendar, but couldn’t be 100% certain. What a mess. Thank goodness I hadn’t let anyone down with a promised guest post, an author interview, and I didn’t have any meetings or appointments this week. It was a major relief, but that early January shock to my system was jarring.

Unlike a lot of folks, I’ve never enjoyed putting myself through the tedious, annoying, and potentially humiliating process of writing down my new year resolutions that I damn well know I’m not going to keep…for long. Who likes to revisit the list, say in March, only to realize you accomplished and crossed off one or two items? If you’re anything like me, you resent the items you’ve written almost immediately because you hate routine and yes, you’re a bit on the rebellious side. I’m not going to stick to a list of resolutions. I know myself very well, so no.

Instead, I wrote a simple list to keep me on the straight and narrow because I didn’t like the emotional, disorganized, fast-moving train I was on this morning—a train I was ready to abandon before the next stop, which I wouldn’t be prepared for because I didn’t know what the destination was, or how much time I had. Clearly, I was in a bit of a fog. I needed to slam on the brakes and get it together. I made a large pot of coffee and made a decision. I needed a list for this week. Yes, I liked the sound of that. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Once a week, preferably Sunday evening or Monday morning, make a list.
  2. Stick to and update said list.
  3. Say no to all social invitations.
  4. Remain in writing seat until book is finished.
  5. Cancel Netflix.
  6. For goodness sake, buy another 2016 calendar.

About Eleanor

ellie

Puerto Rican novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker, and a refugee case worker, inspire her stories.

‘A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club, and is listed in Centro Voices, The Center of Puerto Rican Studies, ‘Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season’. Book clubs across the United States continue to enjoy A Decent Woman. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani. She is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society, and she is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

Eleanor is the mother of two wonderful adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel and a collection of short stories.

http://amzn.to/1kzKdGq

 

 

 

 

 

First 2016 Author Interview: K J Dixon

Happy Three Kings’ Day!

Welcome to The Writing Life and our first author interview of 2016!

Today I am very pleased to welcome the lovely and talented Kristen “KJ” Dixon, author of the newly released novel, ‘The Trouble with Red Lipstick’.

Profile pic Karen Dixon

Originally from Atlanta, Kristen “KJ” Dixon-Barnes was born the youngest daughter of a school teacher and a social worker. After receiving her undergraduate degree from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, she began working in the field of one of her many passions-women’s health. Her experiences while taking care of others during their most fragile and vulnerable moments taught her to respect and appreciate the many different paths and perspectives that help to grow, shape and sharpen women.

It wasn’t until she completed her Master’s program in Public Administration from Troy University and began writing policies and procedures for health care agencies and facilities that she started to write fiction.

To family and close friends, it’s no surprise that KJ Dixon began writing The Trouble With Red Lipstick after being inspired by several discussions with women through book clubs, women’s groups and personal friendships. Although it is a work of fiction, its themes surrounding self-love, mother-daughter relationships and self-actualization in the black community are familiar to many.

In her spare time, KJ Dixon actively participates in outreach events sponsored by her beloved sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated; hosts Tiny Tales (a book club for children developed to promote and improve children’s literacy rates); conducts events for underserved health care populations; and tries anything else she finds fun and rewarding. She lives in Atlanta with her family and is busy at work on her next novel.

Welcome, Kristen!

the-trouble-with-red-lipstick

What genre/category does ‘The Trouble with Red Lipstick’ fall under?

I know this is supposed to be an easy question but I still struggle with it! By most folks’ standards, ‘The Trouble With Red Lipstick’ is probably best considered Women’s Contemporary Fiction. The main characters in this story are black women but their issues, challenges and struggles are universal. It definitely has some elements of both humor and chick-lit too.

 

Please describe what your story/book is about.

It’s about a mother and her three adult daughters—so four women in total—and all of them are attempting to fix their brokenness. They’ve always done everything they believed they were supposed to do, and they’re now trying to figure out what’s still missing and why happiness continues to elude them. Then throw in a family secret that rocks everybody’s world and voila! The drama unfolds!

Oh, those family secrets! Love it. How did you come up with the intriguing title?

That’s a funny question. I wrote the whole book without even having one. Then I sat down and read it one day and I realized how much a particular line—one including the book’s title—was central to the entire book’s theme. I tried it and it just worked immediately. Besides, I love red lipstick. And maybe I like a little trouble, too.

Your catchy title makes me wonder what the trouble with red lipstick is! What inspired you to write this book?

Both everything and nothing. I started writing a scene one day with Karen—one of the book’s main characters—where she was falling in love with Tim, the truck driver. I wondered what would happen once Karen realized that she wasn’t feeling love at all—but that she was really just in need of a good orgasm and was confusing the two! Then I realized that Karen had a mother and a couple sisters and before I knew it, they were begging me to write their stories too.

I love when a character leads me into their inner world. It’s exciting to become a voyeur to their secrets and inner struggles. What is your favorite part of writing?

All of it. It’s thrilling for me to explore issues that I don’t fully understand by writing about them. It reminds me of solving a math problem. It might not make sense in my head at first, but as I start to work it out on paper the answers begin to slowly unfold. Real life is tricky like that sometimes. These characters have problems that they’re trying to solve just like everyone else.

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Editing. Enough said. But wait. Let me erase that period and replace it with an exclamation point.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Maya Angelou may be my absolute favorite. I’m also obsessed with James Patterson and John Grisham. Michael Connelly, Terry McMillan, Steven King and Amy Tan are pretty high up on my list as well. I’ll read anything by Mary B. Morrison, Lee Child, Dan Brown and Dr. Suess. And then Eleanor Parker Sapia stole my heart with A Decent Woman…

Great list and thank you for the mention, Kristen! I’m so pleased you enjoyed Ana and Serafina’s journeys.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

As a writer? That’s easy. Angelou. Patterson. Maybe even Beverly Cleary from my childhood days of reading Ramona books for all those hours at a time. As a person? There really are too many to name. Let’s say my family, my friends, and a dash of everyone else on planet Earth.

I wholeheartedly agree with your last sentence. Do you have a favorite place to write?

My kitchen table. Don’t you dare laugh.

No laughing here! The kitchen is the most important place in the home; it’s where a lot of living and sharing happens. Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I had four or five moles as a child and now I’m up to nine, plus a new set of freckles across my cheeks. I’m terrified of spiders. And I never thought I’d end up a writer. I loved writing stories as a child, but I took several detours on my way here. Before going to college, I sold shoes and perfume, did make-up, was an actor in local plays, and tried several other things that seemed really exciting. At least they did at the time.

Our paths to the writing life are always so interesting to me. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

Prayed really hard.

For real, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t get this book published because I did everything right. I just tried my best to listen in the characters’ voices in my head and to write their stories down in a way that most women could identify with. I’m surprised each time someone tells me that they’ve purchased and read the book. It’s hard to believe that anyone can take a story from their head and place it in the mind of someone else who they’ve never even met. It’s an amazing gift for which I’m very thankful.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Keep writing until you get good at it. Stay true to yourself and to your characters. And as much as this part is always much easier said than done, try not to get discouraged when people tell you ‘no’. You persevere, you get better, and eventually you get matched with the person or group that you’re supposed to have your book baby with. It works out better for you in the end.

Great advice. Website?

Of course. Please hit me up at www.thekjdixonexperience.com. I love interacting with readers and other writers.

Twitter: @Dixon01K
Facebook: K.J. Dixon
website: www.thekjdixonexperience.com

Where can we find ‘The Trouble with Red Lipstick’, Kristen?

Amazon, Barnes and Noble’s online website, iTunes and a few local bookstores. If you don’t see it, please ask for it!

What’s next for you?

Another book. It’s untitled right now too, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun so far. Stay tuned.

Thanks for visiting with us at The Writing Life, Kristen. I wish you a world of happiness and happy writing in 2016!

About Eleanor

ellie

Puerto Rican novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker, and a refugee case worker, inspire her stories.

‘A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club, and is listed in Centro Voices, The Center of Puerto Rican Studies, ‘Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season’. Book clubs across the United States continue to enjoy A Decent Woman. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani. She is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society, and she is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

Eleanor is the mother of two wonderful adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel and a collection of short stories.

http://amzn.to/1kzKdGq