On Stimulus Checks, Crepe Pans, and 1918 Influenza Diaries

April 15, 2020

cooked crepe
Photo by Hakim Santoso on Pexels.com

Good morning, I hope you and yours are well.

Although I wish it were warmer than a brisk 42 degrees this morning, the sun is shining. The lilac bushes are in full bloom and the vegetable and herb seedlings in my living room are standing strong like little toy soldiers. Next week’s weather forecasts promise temperatures in the mid-to-high 60s. I’m anxious to plant the seedlings in the garden plot and in the three-tier wooden planter I ordered from Lowe’s, but surprise snowfalls are common in my neck of the woods until Mother’s Day. So, I’ll enjoy the lilacs, peonies, grape hyacinths, and daffodils in my flower gardens while I wait for consistent, good weather. I will also continue searching for the cortisone cream to relieve my annual bout of poison ivy. Fun.

Other than making online donations, I wish I could adequately express my thanks and gratefulness to the brave souls on the front line of this pandemic, all heroes. We, the American people, can never thank them enough for keeping us safe and healthy, fed and sane. If I ran the world, I’d pay each front line worker crazy amounts of hazard pay and pay them retroactively until we are safely out of the woods. I shudder to think where we would be without them. My local heroes are the trash collectors, the Fed Ex and UPS drivers, and my postal carriers. The best thank you at this time is for us to stay home and practice safe distancing if we can. I will continue to stay home.

Despite reading about a Harvard study that predicts we could be dealing with periods of quarantine until 2022, which seems both unbelievable and totally believable, I felt tentatively hopeful this morning. I can’t think that far into the future; my brain won’t allow it. It’s a day-to-day, new normal type of struggle for me. Although my routine often feels out of whack and forced, the early days of fear and despair, of feeling numb and experiencing immense sadness over the suffering around the world, and missing my children, are thankfully fewer and not as acute. But when I feel happy, I immediately feel guilty for being happy. Welcome to the new world.

I suppose it’s true we play head games with ourselves to get through traumatic situations, and maybe ‘faking it ’til you make it’ can help. On days when I don’t feel particularly happy (blessed, always), I acknowledge my feelings, write my Morning Pages or a blog post, work on my WIP, and I start a project, any project. Yesterday I cleaned out my medicine chest and bathroom cabinets. Tomorrow I might tackle the under the kitchen sink nightmare…yuck.

Some days (particularly on rainy, gray days), it’s more difficult to reach inside and pull out happy thoughts and memories, but I try. Thoughts of my children, family vacations of the past, and videos of frolicking baby goats really help. Whatever floats your boat, right? Oh, and food videos. They always do the trick.

And speaking of food, my crêpe pan and beechwood crêpe spreaders arrived yesterday! I’m off to check out recipes for sweet crepes and savory galettes. On Sunday, I watched beautiful Salma Hayek’s fun video for making no-bake chocolate bites with nuts (she is one of two celebrities I follow on Instagram). I found a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and a bag of hazelnuts from Christmas pre-COVID in my pantry and done. They taste amazing and perfectly satisfy my major chocolate cravings.

Well, I have yet to receive my stimulus check. We shall see. This morning I learned about Trump and his insane pulling of funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) during a global pandemic. I can’t stand it. It’s pure insanity. I’m super grateful I don’t live in the states whose Governors refuse to put a state-wide, stay-at-home order in place. What the hell is the Governor of  South Dakota thinking? The depth of ignorance, short-sightedness, and stupidity in some people is mind-boggling. What doesn’t she understand? Doesn’t she care about her constituents? Okay, I’m not going there today. Not today, Satan, stand six feet back.

Be well.

Eleanor x

***

April 16, 2020

mona lisa with face mask
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I’ve been a history buff as long as I can remember. As a kid, I read the encyclopedia for fun, so it should come as no surprise I write historical fiction novels and I love doing research. Before I began to write full-time, I was an exhibiting painter. My passion was rendering realistic portraits in pastel and watercolor (an unforgiving medium for portrait painting; actually, any painting). Clearly, I don’t do things the easy way, but I am tenacious.

In late February 2020, my son, who lives and works in Bangkok, urged me to pay full attention to worrying news out of mainland China. I listened and began preparing myself and my pantry for an epidemic. My blood pressure went up, but I prepared nonetheless. Remember the classic book “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Dr. Spencer Johnson? It’s a wise little story about the two mice named Hem and Haw, who are faced with a disappearing cheese supply. Well, I remembered it and recognized COVID-19 had moved the damn cheese in a dramatic way like only a global pandemic can. I became the curious, forward-thinking Haw, who paid attention, didn’t hesitate, and acted. I embraced (maybe accepted is more accurate here) and began thinking of ways to deal with the coming changes in emotional and physical ways. I recognized that adapting would be crucial to successfully get through the coming pandemic in one piece. It wasn’t always a pretty sight, but I didn’t hesitate to do what I thought might be the next helpful step.

Now…as the number of people in this country and around the world who died from this virus rose, did my new mindset help? No, not every day. Some days were/are harder than others, and each day is a new day for me, my community, this country, and the world. Let’s be clear, COVID-19 has caused MAJOR CHANGE and upheaval in our lives; it’s not as simple as a change of routine or mindset. This time in our history requires herculean efforts on our part to get by; it’s damn hard. We didn’t choose for any of this to happen and it’s more than okay to admit we are struggling. Yeah, I might clean out a closet or two, work on my work in progress, arrange lilac branches in an antique vase, and bake an ugly loaf of bread, but I’m struggling, too.

When the World Health Organization officially called the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, I began thinking about keeping a pandemic diary for posterity’s sake and started searching online for diaries from the past, specifically, diaries from the 1918 Influenza, the Spanish Flu. These days, my favorite past time is reading pandemic diaries as primary source in novel writing. Remember, I read encyclopedias for fun, so bear with me.

If you’re interested, check out the fascinating article in Smithsonian Magazine by Meilan Solly, published on April 13, 2020, “What We Can Learn From the 1918 Influenza Diaries”.

Two excerpts from the article, “History may often appear to our students as something that happens to other people,” writes Civil War historian and high school educator Kevin M. Levine on his blog, “but the present moment offers a unique opportunity for them to create their own historical record.”

“Nancy Bristow, author of American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of The 1918 Influenza Epidemic, advises writers to include specific details that demonstrate how “they fit into the world and … the pandemic itself.”

We writers, specifically writers of historical fiction, use everything we can get our hands on while researching for our novels: diaries, historical photographs, memoirs, letters, journals, government documents, newspaper clippings, vintage magazine articles, and merchandise catalogs. A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about using drone camera videos on YouTube of Old San Juan and Isla de Cabras, the settings of my work-in-progress (WIP), THE LAMENTS. They are all primary sources and useful tools for a writer’s research arsenal.

My WIP benefited greatly from deep and extensive research, and from articles like the one written by Meilan Solly, all fantastic resources. As an added awesome benefit, pandemic diaries remind us that people, our ancestors, remind you and me, that they lived through the 1918 pandemic in quarantine with lost jobs, illness, disease, depression, limited food sources, death, losing loved ones, and they survived. I don’t know about you, but that gives me tremendous hope and strength today.

This too shall pass. I will see my children as humanly and medically-safe as possible.

Thank you for your visit. My blog post stats show many of you are reading my posts, which I appreciate. Please feel free to leave a comment. I read and reply to all comments.

Be well, stay safe.

Eleanor x

Me in March 2020

ABOUT ELEANOR:

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. She currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is in quarantine, working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

 

 

 

 

On Family Visits, Author Interviews, and New Babies

April 14, 2020

sliced meats on wooden chopping board
Photo by Nicolas Postiglioni on Pexels.com

A few days ago on Instagram, I joked how I would give a roll of toilet paper in exchange for a charcuterie board. I have plenty of food at home, but no cheese or salami left, but I did have a new cutting board. It’s like that during this pandemic–you might have three ingredients for a great recipe, but you lack the most important ingredient, so you keep searching. God love the chefs who teach us how to use substitutes, such as how to turn milk into buttermilk and heavy cream. Thank you, chefs.

On Saturday afternoon, my daughter sent me a text, “Look out the window.” She is always sweet about sending gorgeous floral arrangements for holidays, so I assumed I had an Easter delivery. I looked out the front window and there stood my beautiful daughter and her boyfriend! My jaw literally dropped and my eyes teared up. What a sight for sore eyes.

They’d driven two hours from Northern Virginia to my home in Berkeley County, West Virginia for a much-needed, mask on, six feet away visit in my courtyard garden. And to deliver a grocery bag with cheeses, salami, crackers, and roasted eggplant dip!

That’s love. 💗 We had a wonderful two-hour visit and again, I realize I’m the luckiest solo quarantine mom in the world. We didn’t hug, but love was in the air in my garden.

 

***

After two awesome ZOOM chats with my children, family members, and friends over the weekend, last night I finally figured out how to create a meeting and invite friends. That was a major coup for me as I’m as untech savvy as they come.

My invited guests were my “The Artist Way” participants and a new friend, which puts our group at five. Tonight, we do it “for real”. Fingers crossed it all works out as we tackle Week Three for 40 minutes.

On the writing front:

I’m nearly finished with my written interview with Five Directions Press, which might come out in May. Fellow author Joan Schweighardt sent interesting, thoughtful questions and asked that I include a photograph of one of my paintings, which I am very happy to share. Thank you, Joan.

Last night, I found out that the wonderful, talented editor I’d hoped to work with for my work-in-progress, “The Laments”, gave birth to a baby girl in NYC! My heartfelt congratulations to Marcela, her husband, and their healthy baby girl. What a birth story, wow. Marcela is, of course, on maternity leave and kindly recommended an editor friend. I’ll contact her friend today and hopefully, we’ll get this editing ball moving forward soon. Gracias, Marcela!

A baby. What a beautiful symbol of unbridled joy, pure love, and tremendous hope. I’m hanging onto those good feelings today as I move forward in this new and unknown reality we’re all living through.

I hope you and yours are well.

Be safe, stay healthy.

Eleanor x

 

ABOUT ELEANOR:

Me in March 2020

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

 

 

Still Working From Home: Thoughts and Tips

March 22, 2020

I hope this blog post finds you and yours healthy and safe. Without a doubt, we all feel a certain degree of anxiety about Covid-19; if not for ourselves, certainly for our children and loved ones. This morning, as is my daily habit, I enjoyed my first cup of coffee in my wicker chair on the kitchen patio. I listened to the birds, checked out the growth of the peonies, and minutes later, as I watched my puppy happily run around the yard like a little heathen, the surrealism of that moment struck me to the core. While everyone on the planet is living through a deadly pandemic and economic disaster, my flower garden and soon, my vegetable and herb garden, (and Sophie for that matter) will do what they do–grow and thrive. Life will go on and we will get through this horrible time, but no one knows when this will end and what the world will look like after this virus is either eradicated or disappears back into nature.

As I type this blog post, Republicans and Democrats are still debating a $1.8 trillion Senate-led stimulus deal for our economy. In the US, there are still not enough masks, ventilators,  or personal protective equipment for our doctors, nurses, health care workers, and mental health workers, who are heroes in my eyes. I would also add cleaning crews and those who work in grocery stores, restaurants, and banks. All heroes. The fact that the United States still doesn’t have enough Covid-19 tests for those who need to be tested is criminal. What the actual hell is going on? We are at war, for God’s sake. We’re in a global war against a deadly virus. I just heard that Trump decided to activate the National Guard and to enact the Defense Production Act. I’ll listen to that news conference a bit later to confirm. A step in the right direction, if he makes good on those decisions. Who the hell knows if it’s true or not.

On Friday, a psychiatrist who works at my daughter’s site in Northern Virginia (she’s a mental health therapist) resigned after citing concerns about inadequate safety in the face of Covid-19 in his county. Finally, the County approved teleworking for more sites, and it’s about damn time. My daughter’s workplace has been a major source of concern and unbelievable stress for her, her coworkers, me, and her brother, who lives and works in Bangkok with his girlfriend. This morning I learned their Bangkok work sites approved teleworking for their employees, thank God. My stress levels, which were creeping up last week, have lowered quite a bit. Everyone should stay home, if possible.

My weekend entailed making sure I have enough food and non-perishable goods, water, and dog food. I cleared the pine armoire in the kitchen of decorative items and cookbooks and turned it into a food pantry. I held each item in my hands and thought how wonderful, but useless they were, which is strange because I love antiques. Those things don’t seem to matter at this time.

This week, I’ll continue to listen to online meditations and keep in touch with my kids, my family, and friends. I’m researching which food items freeze well. So far, lemons, limes, and bananas are on the ‘yes’ list and dairy products and legumes are next. Of course, I’ll keep writing, which isn’t easy, but necessary for my sanity these days.

My tips for staying grounded during your quarantine:

Breathe. Read. Connect. Chronicle this time in history. Practice stillness. Share information. Read aloud to your kids or grandkids via Skype. Meditate. Pray. Write poetry or short stories. Learn a new language or a new skill. Paint your kitchen. Order seeds and potting soil. Start a vegetable and herb garden in your yard or in containers. Take up knitting or sewing. Draw and paint. Wash your hands. Organize your closet(s). Order a thermometer. Find a meditation video on YouTube. Consider ordering an inhaler, if you have respiratory issues. I ordered mine from Amazon. Write your Congressional representatives and your Governors with your current concerns, opinions, and needs. Stay informed of current guidelines and news from the CDC and WHO. Don’t wait for Trump to do what he should have done months ago to reduce the spread of this pandemic–protect yourself and your family, stay home and stay safe.

It’s important to remain positive, informed, hopeful, and safe. We must remember that during this challenging, scary time, our emotions will be up and down. I might be okay today and you need to express yourself, so I will listen. I might need that from you tomorrow. None of our emotions will match on any given day. Some of us deal by posting funny virus memes, others will feel the need to share what they hope is useful information, and others will post quotes and stories of hope and faith. Let’s be patient and kind to each other. We are doing the best we can with what we have, and we must not forget the most vulnerable in our society.

Oh, and happy book anniversary to my first novel! A Decent Woman is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle, smile. Take good care of yourself.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

Me in March 2020

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

Tune in! Blogtalk Radio Show – Writing the Best Story You Can

Mark your calendar and join us!

Writing The Best Story You Can- Host Marsha Casper Cook

Marsha Casper Cook

Marsha Casper Cook

Call in to speak with the host – (714) 242-5259

Please join Marsha Casper Cook on Thursday, October 3 at 4EST 3 CST 2MT 1PST when her guests will be Jack Remick and Eleanor Parker Sapia.

Please join Marsha Casper Cook, Michigan Avenue Media, on Wednesday, October 3 at 4 EST 3 CST 2MT 1PST when her guests will be Jack Remick and Eleanor Parker Sapia.

Eleanor is the author of the multi-award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Winter Goose Publishing. 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.

Jack is a celebrated storyteller, a poet, short story writer, and novelist, the author of Gabriela and The Widow–Montaigne Medal Finalist in the Eric Hoffer Award competition. Gabriela and The Widow–BOTYA Finalist. Gabriela and The Widow: Wins “Best Women’s Fiction” Orangeberry Hall of Fame Virtual Expo Satori, Poems, from Coffeetown Press was released on May 1, 2014.

For more info on the shows http://www.michiganavenuemedia.com

https://www.blogtalkradio.com/michiganavenuemedia/2019/10/03/writing-the-best-story-you-can–host-marsha-casper-cook?fbclid=IwAR271G5wpD-gzNQCv00dEJyWoBOjA4iehpUmLcOnzE45oSLKGH3sYD5Sc0U#.XYr2OhpdJY0.facebook

 

 

Summer 2019 Update

Happy Summer to you, dear reader!

Me at the wedding June 2019

June was a special month of much joy and long-awaited reunions with my family. In early June, I enjoyed six fun-filled days with my daughter, my son, and his girlfriend in Capon Bridge, WV after their year in Asia. We kayaked and fished on the Great Cacapon River; cooked together and enjoyed Portuguese wines (courtesy of my son and his girlfriend); laughed and hugged, and made new memories. 🧡

Last week, I spent four fun days in Maryland with a cousin and my sister before her daughter tied the knot, and this past weekend, our family members and friends traveled from MA, OH, GA, MD, and VA to share the joy at my niece’s beautiful wedding ceremony and fun-filled reception at Celebrations at the Bay in Pasadena, Maryland with breathtaking views of the Bay at sunset. It was magical. My Polish/Russian and Puerto Rican clans sure can party and party, we did!

Last night, my son and his girlfriend flew back to Asia. Of course, as a mom, I have mixed emotions about that, but they are happy, so I am happy for them. My daughter is thinking about new adventures herself, especially about joining me in visiting my son and his lovely girlfriend in Thailand this fall. We are excited to see them again!

So life goes on, and I do what I always do—take off enough time during the summer months to enjoy life and my loved ones. And to make sure my second book, The Laments, (published next year) is the best novel possible, I will be working with someone special, with whom I’ve wanted to work with for a few years now. More details about that later!

Enjoy your summer and your families, my friends, and keep calling your state representatives—No more family separations at the border! Reunite the families!

Note to self: Learn how to apply lashes before the wedding day 🙂

Be well and be happy.

Eleanor x

ON WRITING: CULTURAL HERITAGE AND DIVERSE AUTHORS

ON WRITING: CULTURAL HERITAGE AND DIVERSE AUTHORS

by Eleanor Parker Sapia

Tell me where you were born, where you’ve lived and about your travels, and most probably, I’ll intuit a bit about you. Of course, I don’t know specific details about your life, your favorite color or song, or everything about your culture, but I’ll feel a kinship with you.

Now if you tell me you are bi-cultural, a third culture kid like me or you love to travel, and you’re a writer, from my experience there will be a whole lot of nodding and smiling between us after we meet. And I’ll have a million questions for you; it’s natural to gravitate towards people with similar life experiences and sensitivities.

“Third culture kids are people raised in a culture other than their parents’ or the culture of the country named on their passport for a significant part of their early development years. They are often exposed to a greater variety of cultural influences.” Wikipedia

cropped-cropped-el-morro11.jpg

Luckily for me, I’m still curious and love learning about different cultures, languages, and traditions. I’m a bona fide sponge (I’m learning Latin phases for my second book and my second tattoo). I adore ancient history and research (vital for a writer of historical fiction); I love meeting new people; and I still travel, which is a huge blessing. My children live in the Washington, DC area and in Thailand (where I hope to visit for the first time this fall), and I have many good friends around the world I’d love to visit with again. Among many things that can enrich a writer’s writing “kit”, travel and experiencing life abroad, whether in person or through books, are right up there in my humble opinion.

As an Army brat, a bi-cultural and bilingual (Spanish) kid, my childhood was spent in the United States, Puerto Rico (my love, my birthplace), and in many capitals of Europe. My father is of Polish and Russian ancestry and my mother, born and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico, was of French, Catalonian, Canarian, and Italian ancestry. I married an Army officer and enjoyed posts in the US and in Europe with many summer vacations spent in Puerto Rico with our children, and after enjoying 13 years living in Belgium and France, I returned to the US in 2006 with my children. I continued to travel throughout Europe and returned to Puerto Rico to visit friends and family each summer. In 2010, I made a solitary move to Berkeley County, West Virginia (nearly a foreign country to me at first and I’ve been happy here), where I’d hoped to write full-time. I am happy to report I’m still writing full-time in 2019, which is not without sacrifices and many challenges, believe me. I make it work because I can’t imagine not living a creative life.

At times, I think I’ve lived the life of five or six people. But, oh the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met through travel, reading, and writing!

If you were to ask me about my favorite authors and books, I would say I love reading novels primarily written by diverse authors with diverse characters in their homeland settings, and authors whose novels are flavored by their experiences of having lived in or of traveling abroad. Makes sense, doesn’t it? To me, the language is rich, lyrical, familiar, and there’s nothing like being an armchair traveler while I save up for that next trip.

Happy Spring to you!

Eleanor x

Author Interview: Ivelisse Rodriguez

Welcome to the monthly Author Interview series at The Writing Life. Today I have the great pleasure of chatting with Dr. Ivelisse Rodriguez on a special day, the debut of her short story collection, Love War Stories (The Feminist Press, 2018).

Ivelisse Rodriguez has published fiction in the Boston Review, All about Skin: Short Fiction by Women of Color, Obsidian, Kweli, the Bilingual Review, Aster(ix), and other publications. She is the founder and editor of an interview series focused on contemporary Puerto Rican writers in order to highlight the current status and the continuity of a Puerto Rican literary tradition from the continental US that spans over a century. The series is published in Centro Voices, the e-magazine of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College. She was a senior fiction editor at Kweli and is a Kimbilio fellow and a VONA/Voices alum. She is currently working on the novel The Last Salsa Singer about 70s era salsa musicians in Puerto Rico. She earned an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College and a Ph.D. in English-creative writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Welcome and congratulations, Ivelisse.

What is your book’s genre/category?

My book, Love War Stories, is a collection of short stories. It is literary fiction.

Please describe what the stories are about.

My book is about the burgeoning sense of womanhood in Puerto Rican girls and young women. I am interested in the love stories women have been told generation to generation and how anti-love stories need to rise up to give women other alternatives.

How did you come up with the title?

The title comes from the last story in the collection where mothers and daughters hold “love wars.” Daughters tell love stories and mothers tell anti-love stories. The title captures the trouble with love that is evoked throughout all the stories.

What inspired you to write this book?

This book, I think was written for my college self. I think that these are the stories young women who break themselves for love need to hear, that the self is more important than being beholden to love. Women need to hear different stories that they can be more than women in love.

What is your favorite part of writing?

Being done. Or, in the interim, writing really good lines.

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

The most challenging part is sitting down and doing it. You have to face your fear of failure every time you sit down and sometimes it is so overwhelming that you just have to walk away. Another challenging aspect for me is revision. It is easier for me to start something, but when you revise, you really have to focus on the larger story and your word choices, so this part of the writing process is much slower for me. 

Ivelisse, did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

During the writing process, I learned to be more patient versus rushing to send out a story that needs more work. I also learned that consistency is the only way to get your story done.  

What I learned about the publishing process is that it is pretty mysterious and plenty of other writers don’t know what is going on either. I wanted to know how everything works—who got my ARCS, who got my press kit, etc., but I didn’t want to stalk my publicist. I’m just super nosey, and I wanted to learn about the process. And other writers and I would trade any information we were able to procure.

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

I hope they gain some insight about love, and the ways it can break women in particular. I also hope they will be deeply moved by the stories I have to tell. I hope it is a book that people carry in their hearts.

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

In terms of marketing, my query letter did a good job of describing my book. That partly stems from the feedback I received from a professor in my Ph.D. program who was working with the students going on the job market; for my academic job letter, she told me to make my book sound more interesting, so I worked a bit on that. And I name-dropped in my query letter, so that helped too.  

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped?

What didn’t work is that I sent the book out when it wasn’t ready. And I think that squanders opportunity. Being on the other end as a reader of submissions for a literary journal and for fiction contests, I can tell you, especially for the contests, there were too many submissions that needed a lot more polishing, so they weren’t even in the running.

Ivelisse, do you have advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Revise, revise, revise. And go to writer’s conferences and meet other emerging writers. Don’t be dismissive of people because they aren’t some bigwig. I have received support from people I met early in their careers, those still building their careers, and those who are literary icons. We are in this together, so don’t treat people like crap because they are not famous—just as a general rule of being a decent person but also because you never know where people will end up. I also think it is important to be a good literary citizen—again, we are in this together, so take the opportunity to help other writers whenever and however you can.

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

The last book I read is the forthcoming Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras. I think the book adds so much to the narrative of Colombia. It’s the story of a wealthy family and a plot to kidnap the two daughters. Contreras shows how wealth does not shield one from violence or dire situations or the destabilization of home. She also showcases all the hard choices that women, in particular, have to make. It’s a lovely read, and I would highly recommend it. It’s a memorable book.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I have favorite books more so than favorite authors. Some books that I love are The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk, Loose Woman by Sandra Cisneros, Middemarch by George Eliot, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange, Drown by Junot Diaz, and Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas, and quite a few others.

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

I like to write in bed, only because I have an adjustable bed, and it is super comfy. I also like to read in bed. I hate reading paper books now because I love turning off the lights and reading my Kindle or Nook in the dark. It is one of my favorite things to do.

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

I grew up in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and then I went to boarding school when I was 13 (on a full scholarship).

Website and social media links?

https://www.ivelisserodriguez.com/

Love War Stories Cover

Where can we find your book?

You can find it at https://www.feministpress.org/books-a-m/love-war-stories, or Indie bookstores, or Amazon.com.

What’s next for you, Ivelisse?

Hopefully, I will get back to working on my novel in August. It’s called The Last Salsa Singer, and it is about the friendship between two musicians in a salsa band in Puerto Rico during the 1970s. It’s about the value of friendship and art over romantic love, it’s about salsa, and it’s about an underestimated young woman who shatters everyone’s life.

Best of luck with Love War Stories. I look forward to reading the book and wish you happy writing!

About Eleanor Parker Sapia:

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning 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. 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, set in 1926 Puerto Rico.