Still Writing and In Quarantine

March 26, 2020

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

This morning, I awoke ahead of the alarm to be ready for a delivery of seven bags of soil from Lowe’s; it’s that time again. I timed the delivery right as it’s supposed to be sunny later today. What I need at this time is a day in my garden for my mental health and for a bit of vitamin D.

I lay in bed, grateful for the doctors, nurses, mental health workers, and health care aides across the country, and worried for all of us in light of the government’s inaction in enacting the Defense Production Act. I’m trying to remain positive, but it’s getting more difficult to muster up any positive thoughts about this president and this administration. Honestly, I’m furious. Sorry, not sorry.  And I’m not alone.

This morning, I didn’t check my phone or turn on the news, probably because last night, I watched nonstop. I literally clicked between CNN and MSNBC. Anyway, within ten minutes of waking up, I was teary-eyed. I didn’t even feel it coming. After a good cry, I felt a little better and not as hopeless about the lethal spread of this deadly virus, knowing full well the news of the day would probably erase all the positive thoughts. Instead of allowing myself to “go there” again, I concentrated on remaining positive and grounded. I prayed for protection and good health for my kids and for my family and friends, and I offered up prayers for the world and for the end of this horrible outbreak. I prayed for negative results for anyone awaiting test results at this time, especially a wonderful nurse in Virginia I am fortunate to call a friend, who, along with some family members, is showing all the reported symptoms.

Then, I had a talk with myself. I’m fine. My children and my family are fine. In light of those who are at high risk for exposure and who are working nonstop for us–our doctors, nurses, health care workers, mental health therapists, and counselors–we are fine. I thought of other heroes on the front line, who are supporting us all during this frightening time–the people working in our grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, and testing sites. God bless them and keep them all safe and healthy.

Unfortunately, those good thoughts turned into anger. That’s how it is these days, my emotions are up and down, positive and negative, spiritual and open to closed and angry. I felt anger (rage) toward anyone who chooses the economy and the almighty dollar over the health and well-being of the American population. Trump needs to sign the coronavirus stimulus bill already and evoke the Defense Production Bill now. No one seems to know or is willing to tell the American public why he is dragging his feet?? Doctors and nurses need all the supplies they keep asking for (and more!) like yesterday, two months ago, for their fight to save American lives and keep themselves safe from this virus. What is the damn hold up?

Praying. Trying to remain calm and praying some more. And not freaking out when I feel a tiny ache in my shoulder, a cough out of nowhere, and do I feel a bit feverish? Shit.

***

March 27, 2020

Ever since my mother put a pencil, bond paper (as it was called in the olden days), and crayons in my hand, I was hooked on art. I’ve kept drawings that go back to my early teen years. After my beautiful mother passed away in 1992, I found several Mother’s Day cards I’d made for her over the years. They are precious to me.

As a young mother, I loved drawing and doing crafts with my kids, which kept up my drawing skills and fed my creative spirit. I imagine like most parents, I keep a few Rubbermaid containers in the attic with my kid’s early drawings, school papers, and art projects. Actually, I have way too much of their school stuff that includes their middle school, high school, and university sports gear, trophies, clothing, and diplomas. They really do need to collect this stuff one day. Who am I kidding, they’re both in their 30s; it’s not going anywhere unless I hold a major yard sale. When this is all over….nope, not going there with anything negative today. Hell, no.

When my children were in elementary school, I began to study with a local watercolor artist, who encouraged me to exhibit for the first time in my life and to sell my watercolor pieces. I did quite well. Two years later, my then-husband was offered a posting at NATO. We shipped everything, including our mud-brown Toyota minivan and arrived in Brussels, Belgium at the end of summer 1994. I’d lived in Europe twice before as a child and as a kid in middle school. That tour was my first time living abroad as a young mother of a young child and an infant.

A few years later, In 1995 or 1996, I joined a group of international and local artists and writers. Together, we formed the first English-speaking art guilds in Brussels, that’s still going strong today. In addition to holding different positions within the guild, I continued to paint and exhibit. I sold my work and began accepting commissions, which didn’t last long. I didn’t enjoy painting people’s homes or their pets; not because I don’t love architectural renderings or pet portraiture, I didn’t enjoy how picky and demanding people can be when they’re paying, smile.

I continued to sell my paintings and around the end of 1999, I added collage and pastel to my repertoire. In 2000, I read Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way”. In 2001, I organized my first creative cluster with six friends. By 2004, I’d facilitated three or four groups in Brussels (I can’t remember now for some reason), and in 2005, I finished the draft manuscript of my first novel called  “A Decent Woman”. I’ve written many blog posts about my writing journey, so I won’t repeat myself too much, but what happened is that writing overtook painting and it became my passion.

I don’t know why I wrote all that. I suppose it’s a reminder that I am a creative being and that’s what I do best. Creativity has always fed, inspired, led, and grounded me. That’s no different now, but cable TV is encroaching on my creative life. I want to know what’s going on, but I don’t need it all in my face 24/7.

Be well, be safe, stay home, be kind.

Eleanor x

***

March 28, 2020

I’ve been a writer for ten years and have lived in a hermit bubble without cable TV for the same amount of time, which is perfect for a writer. A month ago, I had but a few outside distractions (excluding family, they are not distractions; they are lovely), other than those I allowed into my life. I focused on writing, editing, and rewriting my work-in-progress called “The Laments”. Even when coronavirus reared its’ ugly head in Asia and I was worried as hell, I was able to gather up whatever writers need to keep themselves at the writing desk. It wasn’t easy. I did my best to keep writing through my fears and anxiety.

Two weeks ago, I realized if I want to keep in touch with the outside world and global news, and not risk my life going out for the daily newspaper, I had to act. It occurred to me that Comcast support might stop going to people’s homes to install cable, so I called. Two days later, I had cable.

Now I have mixed emotions about the wisdom of that decision. I spent nearly a week glued to the TV and what that did my anxiety was to shoot it up to unhealthy levels. Yes, I was caught up with minute by minute news alerts and breaking news, I watched good films on Amazon Prime and new series on Netflix, but dear God, it was too much for my hermit psyche. My body, my nervous system to be exact, was overloaded.

On Friday, I limited myself to only watching MSNBC in the evenings, starting at six in the evening until 11. That’s still a lot of television, but it also kept me at the writing desk and I began to plant seedlings for my vegetable and flower garden in trays and empty egg cartons and berry containers. By Saturday, I’d limited my television viewing to watching Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefing and I stopped watching the White House briefing for my sanity and to keep anger levels down…it worked.

Early this morning, a thunderstorm woke me up and it’s raining hard. No gardening today. When I turned up the volume on my cell phone, at least a dozen notifications popped up from the news channels–the 2$ Trillion Bill, the largest relief package in modern history passed and Trump signed it. Thank God. There is anger simmering, though. I try my best to squash it and to remain positive and hopeful.

Yesterday, I learned something new: stress can bring about low-grade fevers. I know stress can mess with our immune systems and cause disease, but the fever information was interesting.

There are reports of severe weather from northern Illinois to the Ohio Valley and in the south that brought (or is still bringing) tornadoes, damaging winds, and giant balls of hail. What the hell is going on with the planet? Pacha Mama is royally pissed off.

Many countries are reporting wildlife critters roaming in the cities: dolphins in Venice canals and on the island of Sardinia; pumas in Chile; wild boars in Italy and Spain, and a lone wolf was recently spotted in the mountains France. Animals are reclaiming our cities. You just can’t make this shit up. We are truly living in a new world.

Be safe, be calm, be kind, and big hugs. Prayers for the world.

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.

 

 

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

2016 International Latino Book Awards Finalists

Book Award LOGO & Image rgbI offer my heartfelt congratulations to all the Finalists of the 2016 International Latino Book Awards, and my gratitude to Latino Literacy Now for their continued dedication to Latino literature and to the Latino community. I’m deeply honored ‘A Decent Woman’ was selected as a Finalist for Best Historical Fiction, English.

“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 the largest Latino cultural Awards in the USA and with the 257 finalists this year, it has honored the greatness of 2,171 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 2016 Latinos will purchase over $675 million in books in English and Spanish. The 2016 Finalists for the 18th 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 nearly 200 judges. The judges glowed more than ever about the high quality of the entries and how many great books there were. The Awards celebrates books in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Finalists are from across the USA and from 17 countries.”

Click below for the complete list of Finalists.

https://app.box.com/s/si0noqeuz45an4e8yzo7jp3fg3b5ryna

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA

ellie

Award winning novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was born in Puerto Rico and raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s career paths as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker and refugee case worker, continue to inspire her stories.

Eleanor’s debut novel, ‘A Decent Woman, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, is published by Sixth Street River Press. The book is a finalist for Best Historical Fiction, English, in the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club. Eleanor is featured in the award winning anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani. Eleanor is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, The National Association of Professional Women, and the Historical Novel Society. She is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society.

When not writing, Eleanor loves facilitating creativity groups, reading, gardening, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time. She adores her two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is at work on her second novel, ‘The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada’ and thinking about the sequel to ‘A Decent Woman’ titled, ‘Mistress of Coffee’.

http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

 

Author Interview: Mayra Calvani

The Writing Life is very pleased to welcome the prolific and multi-talented writer, Mayra Calvani, my good friend for over ten years. Early in my writing journey, Mayra was a mentor and her kindness knows no bounds. I am proud and honored to host this talented lady today.

Mayra Calvani high resolution

Award-winning author Mayra Calvani has penned over ten books for children and adults in genres ranging from picture books to nonfiction to paranormal fantasy novels. She’s had over 300 articles, short stories, interviews and reviews published in magazines such as The WriterWriter’s Journal and Bloomsbury Review, among others. A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, she now resides in Brussels, Belgium.

Hello, Mayra!

What is your book’s genre/category?

Nonfiction/Anthology

Final book cover Latina Authors and Their Muses

Mayra, please describe what the anthology is about.

Latina Authors and Their Muses is a very dear, love project of mine which began its long journey several years ago. As you know, since you’re part of it, it is an anthology of interviews with 40 Latina authors living in the States and writing primarily in English, authors writing in various genres from literary to fantasy to paranormal to romance, and then some. It is a celebration of creativity and the artist’s soul, but it also offers savvy advice on the business of publishing and book promotion. I hope that my book will serve to inspire and inform the Latina authors of the future. One thing I should mention, though, is that while the book is especially focused on Latina writers, the topics discussed are of interest to all women writers.

Thank you for inviting me to be a part of the anthology, Mayra! I am honored to be among the talented Latina writers featured in ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’. How did you come up with the title?

The title came to me early on and in a flash, way before I actually started working on the book. I usually must have a title before I can comfortably start writing.

Why did you decide to put together this amazing anthology?

I think it’s important to bring to light the excellent books Latina authors are producing these days, as well as to showcase Hispanic American literature in general. I’d also like to inspire aspiring writers, the Latina authors of the future.

It’s a very inspirational book. What is your favorite part of writing?

Getting into the zone and immersing myself into the world of my characters. It’s an adventure.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

To stay disciplined and keep a regular writing schedule. We depend totally on ourselves to work. We don’t have a boss threatening to fire us if we don’t get the job done. Struggling with the inner critic can be very challenging at times.

Mayra, who are some of your favorite authors?

In my teens, I loved Agatha Christie and Stephen King. In college, I couldn’t get enough of Tama Janowitz’s quirky satiric books. In my late twenties and thirties, it was Anne Rice. Nowadays, my favorite author is Donna Tartt, though I have eclectic tastes and read across a wide range of genres. Lately I’ve been discovering the work of Virginia Woolf, as well as the female Gothic writers of the 19th century.  

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

All the authors I just mentioned have influenced me in various degrees. Anne Rice has probably been the most influential.

Favorite place to write?

I love to write in quiet libraries, but also in noisy cafes. My absolute favorite time to write is when I go to 3-day retreats with my local SCBWI group. It’s incredibly intense and I can get about 4,000 words a day done, which is huge for me. We go on these retreats twice a year. Mostly, though, I write in the quiet of my office, headphones to atmospheric music thunderstorm nature sounds.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know? 

Hmm…I can speak in 4 languages, one of them Turkish.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

I can’t think of anything specific, but it’s been a long, long process, with learning experiences in every step of the way. The publishing world is so dynamic, there’s always something new to learn.

So true. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

Staying organized!

You are one of the most organized people I know! Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Don’t let anyone deter you from achieving your dream. Stay focused and stay persistent. If you work hard, and you want to become and author so badly that you can taste it on your tongue, you’ll get published. Of course, always keep improving your craft.

Great advice, Mayra. Website and social media links:

www.MayraCalvani.com, and I’d love to invite your readers to join my mailing list.

Connect with Mayra on the Web:

Website: www.MayraCalvani.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mcalvani

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Author-Mayra-Calvani-162383023775888/

Where can we find the anthology?

On Amazon, B&N, and most online retailers. It can also be ordered from any brick & mortar bookstore.

Final book cover Latina Authors and Their Muses

What’s next for you, Mayra?

I have several. I recently terminated with an agent and I’m in search of another agent for a YA psychological thriller set in Puerto Rico in the 1970s. I’m also self-publishing a series of novels under a pen name.

On the nonfiction front, I just got an offer for a contract for another anthology titled, Born to Write: Honoring Your Gift When Your Partner Doesn’t Support Your Writing. This will be a collection of essays from different authors to be published in the spring of 2017.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk about my book, Ellie!

It’s always a great pleasure when you visit, Mayra! Best of luck with ‘Latina Authors and their Muses’ and in finding an agent for your new book. I look forward to reading it!

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’. 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 Literary Society, 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. 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 adores her two 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://www.amazon.com/Decent-Woman-Eleanor-Parker-Sapia-ebook/dp/B00TUP47W

Livin’ La Vida Latina: Q&A with Eleanor Parker Sapia

Reblogged, October 7, 2015

http://livinlavidalatina.blogspot.com/2015/10/q-with-eleanor-parker-sapia.html

ellie

Historical novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia was born in Puerto Rico and raised as an Army brat in the United States, Puerto Rico, and several European cities. As a child, she could be found drawing, writing short stories, and reading Nancy Drew books sitting on a tree branch. Eleanor’s life experiences as a painter, counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker, continue to inspire her writing. Eleanor loves introducing readers to strong, courageous Caribbean and Latin American women who lead humble yet extraordinary lives in extraordinary times. Her debut historical novel, A Decent Woman, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico, has garnered praise and international acclaim. She is a proud member of PENAmerica and the Historical Novel Society. A Decent Woman is July 2015 Book of the Month for Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club.

Eleanor is currently writing her second historical novel titled, The Island of Goats, set in Puerto Rico, Spain, and Southern France. When Eleanor is not writing, she loves facilitating creativity groups, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago a second time. Eleanor has two loving grown children, and currently lives in wild and wonderful West Virginia.

Synopsis: A DECENT WOMAN

Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older, wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.

Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change

BOOK COVER SEPT 2014 (2) (1)

  1. What inspired you to write A Decent Woman?
    I was initially inspired by a tribute I wrote on the occasion of my maternal grandmother’s 90th birthday, and by my grandmother’s stories about her midwife, Ana, who caught my mother, two aunts, and an uncle. I’ve always said Ana whispered her story in my ear. She was an Afro-Caribbean midwife of unknown origins, who my relatives said liked her rum and a cigar after every birth—a very colorful woman. Ultimately, Ana’s story was the inspiration. I wish I’d met her.

After writing the tribute for my Puerto Rican grandmother, which included stories about her childhood and adulthood on the island, I realized how much I knew about the daily lives of women in the 1900’s. Through my research, I was further inspired by the extraordinary lives of ordinary women during a complex and tempestuous time in the island’s history. There are many books written about Puerto Rican women’s experiences after leaving the island, but I wasn’t aware of any books in English with stories such as mine, about the women who stayed behind. I wrote what I wanted to read.

  1. How do Ana and Serafina relate to each other in the story?

In chapter one, midwife Ana Belén catches sixteen-year old, Serafina Martinez’ first child as a tropical storm threatens the little Martínez house. The women immediately bond, especially Serafina to Ana as her mother died in Hurricane San Ciriaco two years prior. Ana is very fond of Serafina, but she is afraid of getting too close to the young woman for many reasons: her childhood as a slave; Serafina’s young age; Ana’s place in society; and because of the secret Ana brought to Puerto Rico from Cuba twenty years before, which if discovered, could destroy all Ana has worked for.

Through sharing life experiences, despite their different places in society, and after a crime against Serafina that brings them together in an ill-conceived plan to avenge Serafina’s honor and protect her marriage, the women become close friends, close as sisters. Not only was Ana the young woman’s confidante andcomadre, midwife, they are comadres of the heart. Their friendship continues until the end of the book.

  1. What are some of the main socio-economic issues that you explore in this book and why did you explore them?

I explored the issues of racism, misogyny, and elitism, as well as crimes against women and abuse within marriage and relationships. I thought it was important to portray life as it was for women of all socio-economic levels—the rich and the poor, white and black, the educated and uneducated.

Women suffered abuse at the hands of men at home, in the workplace, and in the street. Women struggled to feed their children and make ends meet at home with low-paying jobs, often going hungry themselves. They fought other women, vying for male attention, which at the time, was the only way a woman could survive in the world—with a man’s protection and money. Consequently, women were pitted one against the other. In some places in the world, this continues.

And finally, the US Department of Health sterilized hundreds of Puerto Rican women (more women in later years), against their will and by not telling them what procedures were being done on them. I believe once you know a truth—and this truth, a shocking truth in our history as a colony—you must tell it. If we deny or ignore a truth, it will revisit us. I didn’t and I don’t shy away from the ugly bits of life or the past. The women of 1900 Puerto Rico needed a voice.

  1. What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

As with viewing a work of art, what the viewer/reader ‘sees’ is subjective. We filter our life experiences through everything we read, hear, observe, and experience, and come to an understanding. We each take what we need and discard what we don’t need in most situations. It’s no different with books. So, it’s tough to say what I hope readers will gain from my book. However, I do hope readers who usually shy away from historical novels will see through my story that people of the past weren’t that different from us. Our ancestors dealt with the same pains, tragedies, and joys in life as we do today. Life was harder, of course, because people had few modern conveniences and fewer opportunities, especially  women, and that is still true of many people around the world today.

One reader loved that I showed how important women friendships are throughout a woman’s life. I agree. Women should continue uplifting their fellow women when they can. There’s plenty to go around.

  1. What inspired you to be a writer?

I was an exhibiting artist for over twenty-five years before discovering my passion for writing books. One day, the paint brush and canvas weren’t ‘saying’ what I wanted to convey. I began writing on the dry, painted canvas with a colored pencil. Soon, I wrote personal thoughts and quotes, on the painted images. Words appeared on the side of painted images, around the edges, until finally making their way inside the piece. It was then the little light illuminated in my brain—I needed words as well as paint to tell my stories; to express what I had in my heart and soul. I believe I inspired myself. It was then my inner world opened up, making connections where up until that point, I’d kept separate.

After a few years, writing took over, and I wrote the first draft manuscript of A Decent Woman. Looking back, however, I see my artist side revealed in how I describe settings, characters, and objects in my stories; the play or light and color and texture—that all comes from an art background. I now paint to relax, as a reminder that I am a creative person, when inspiration strikes, and when I get stuck during the writing process. Writing has become an obsession, and I am happy when I visit with my old friend, painting.

  1. What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?

I love being alone in my head with my characters, and seeing where they lead me and the story. What I like least is when I must be on social media instead of writing. I understand the importance of social media to an author and love getting to know my readers, I really do, but I much prefer sitting at my writing desk. I came to writing in my late forties—I feel the urgency to get my stories to readers before it’s too late!

  1. Who are some of your favorite authors?

A few of my favorites are, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Jack Remick, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Milan Kundera, and Cormac McCarthy.

  1. If your book would be turned into a movie, who would you imagine playing the part of the main character? (Actor can be ANYONE, living or dead.)

I love this question! I’ve always thought A Decent Woman would make a great film. The incredible actress Viola Davis would be perfect to play adult Ana and Selma Hayak as the adult Serafina. For the younger Ana, I would love to see Lupita Nyong’o and Melanie Iglesias as young Serafina.

  1. Are you working on anything right now?

Yes, thanks for asking. I’m currently writing a novel called The Island of Goats, which begins in 1920 Puerto Rico, and moves to the pilgrimage path of El Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and then to Southern France. It is the story of two young women, Magdalena and Nadya, who will meet and forge an unlikely friendship on the medieval pilgrimage route, while trying to make sense of a new world before WWII.

My first published novel, A Decent Woman will always have a special place in my heart, but I am very excited about the second book.

  1. And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?

Latino literature has evolved for hundreds of years, and will continue to evolve as Latinos in the United States continue writing culturally-rich stories in Spanish and in English, or begin writing books in genres where there are few Latino writers. I’ve read comments from Latino writers who are tired of reading stories of one more Latino/a drug addict, prostitutes, or another story of coming into the United States. I say just write. Tell whatever story is in your heart.

What comes to mind when I think of the future of Latino literature is the need for more Latinos in publishing and more Latino agents, who specialize in Latino literature. It’s difficult for all writers to get published, and my personal experience was that I had an extra hurdle to get over—writing a historical novel about a diverse heroine in 1900 Puerto Rico—not easy to sell, but as it turned out, Ana’s journey has been embraced by readers. I’m glad I didn’t give up, and I still need an agent!

I’d like to think that the future of Latino literature looks bright and promising.

Thank you for the opportunity to share with your readers. Happy writing to all!

A DECENT WOMAN is available on Amazon

amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M

and at La Casa Azul Bookstore,143 E. 103rd Street  New York, NY 10029 (212) 426-2626 http://www.lacasaazulbookstore.com/

Website: http://www.eleanorparkersapia.com

Author Blog: http://www.thewritinglifeeparker.wordpress.com

Twitter: @eleanorparkerwv

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/eleanorparkersapia

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=252952928&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile_pic

Author Interview with Graciela Limon

I love offering author interviews at The Writing Life, and I especially enjoy sharing great writers with my readers. Today I’m very pleased  to introduce you to Graciela Limón.

Graciela Limón is a Latina writer, educator and activist. She is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and a native of Los Angeles. She received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish Literature from Marymount College Los Angeles, a Master of Arts Degree in the same field from the University of the Americas Mexico City, followed by a PhD in Latin American Literature from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Prior to retirement, Limón was a professor of U.S. Hispanic Literature, as well as Chair of the Department of Chicana/o Studies at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California.  She is now Professor Emeritus of that University.

Graciela Limón (1)Graciela has written critical work on Mexican, Latin American and Caribbean Literature.  However, she now concentrates her writing efforts on creative fiction that is germane to her areas of interest:  feminism, social justice and cultural identity.  Her body of work includes In Search of Bernabé that won The Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award (1994). Limón also published The Memories of Ana Calderón (1994), Song of the Hummingbird (1996) and The Day of the Moon (1999).   Erased Faces, which was awarded the 2002 Gustavus Myers Book Award, was published in 2001, Left Alive was released in 2005, The River Flows North, 2009, followed by The Madness of Mamá Carlota, 2012. Her latest publication is The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy, 2015.

Much of Graciela’s work has been widely anthologized. She was honored with the prestigious Luis Leal Literary Award (University of California at Santa Barbara), 2009. Her Publishers are Arte Público Press (University of Houston) and Café Con Leche (Koehler Book Publishers). www.gracielalimon.com

ximena

Welcome Graciela! What is your book’s genre/category?

The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy is historical fiction.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy is the story of a woman told from age eight years to its end when she is fifty-two years old.  It’s a tale that begins with a crime and ends with its punishment, all during the first half of the 20th Century.  In between those two critical moments of Ximena’s story, her life intersects with the Revolution in Mexico, followed by the terrible times that bring world epidemic, deportations, and the American Prohibition and Depression that happen simultaneously with the unbridled life in Juárez, Mexico.  Throughout those years, Ximena Godoy grows, loves, achieves, stumbles, grieves and finds her identity only to succumb to the insurmountable flaws that are part of her nature.

How did you come up with the title?

I chose the name Ximena (with an X instead of J or H) because I find the name intriguing.  After that I chose the other parts of the title because I feel it reflects the life of my character.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

Stories that deal with strong, determined independent women always captivate my interest.  When that story deals with a woman who shatters the Latina “mold”, meaning that she is unconventional and untraditional, then I have all the reasons I need to write a book.  This is why I wrote The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I think that my favorite part of writing is when I come to the crafting of my characters.  Choosing their names is a particularly interesting and fascinating part for me.  I go through cycles of names, changing, combining, and even inventing names that I hope in the end reflect the nature and reality of each character.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

I find the danger of falling into crafting stereotypes the greatest challenge of writing.  I find that it’s dangerous because my head is swarming with what are really stereotypes.  I don’t know if others suffer from this, but it could be that we are flooded by an abundance of stereotypes:  in film, on TV, on the Internet.  So when I begin to create a character with her story, I have to be super careful to beware of simply producing cookie-cutter, flat, predictable characters.  This is hard and challenging.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

There are many.  Among Mexican novelists is Juan Rulfo.  In the English language I especially admire John Steinbeck, and biographers such as Antonia Fraser and Hilary Mantel.  There are also so many mystery writers that I admire, but I’ll mention only Agatha Christie.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

John Steinbeck and Juan Rulfo.

Favorite place to write?

I need solitude to write, so if I have that luxury, then that place is a favorite.  As a pattern, I find that solitude in my home.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

People may be surprised to know that I’m extremely introverted.  I say this may surprise those who know me because they see a person (me) who interacts freely, enjoys other people and is talkative and relaxed in a group.  What people don’t know is that I need to be solitary afterwards in order re-energize.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

Since I’ve been lucky enough to have nine novels published (including my latest), there are few surprises that come to me with the publishing process.  However, I will say that the experience of getting negative, even brutal criticism (which still happens) is something I will never be able to get used to.  The difference now is that I expect those barbs and try to prepare myself.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

The best thing I did with this latest novel is having signed on with Leticia Gómez (literary agent/publisher), and John Koehler (publisher).  Being with them has opened up an entirely new view of the publishing process.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

I advise having a lot of patience especially when those rejections start rolling in.  Above all, I advise a new writer to have unshakable faith and confidence in her/his work.  Never doubt that your work is meritorious.

Website?   

www.gracielalimon.com

Where can we find your book?

www.cafeconlechebooks.com

http://www.authorcentral.amazon.com

What’s next for you?

I’ve always wanted to write a mystery. This is what is now rolling around in my head.  The story line could depict a murder or a series of murders that happen in the distant past, such as in viceregal Mexico, in a convent, with the Inquisition snooping around. Of course, there will have to be a detective to solve the crime.  What do you think?

I think the story line rolling around in your head would be a great read, Graciela!

Thanks so much for visiting us at The Writing Life, and much success with The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy!

About Eleanor

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s work as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon 

Sometimes You Must Lose Yourself to Find Yourself

Earlier this week, nearly twenty days after my debut historical novel, A Decent Woman was published, I set about creating a to-do list that included, answering emails, writing articles for ezines, replying to author interview questions, and trying to keep up on social media sites I’m part of. The list of what I needed to accomplish post-publication seemed overwhelming, and I didn’t expect to feel new, strange emotions–I was a bit disoriented, and felt flustered and overwhelmed. The book I’d worked on for five years was no longer in my hands–it was in readers’ hands. All I could do was stand on the sidelines and watch my protagonists, Ana and Serafina, take over–it’s their story. At this point, my book, the story, must stand alone. I just happened to write it. But, of course, I got in my own way.

When A Decent Woman first came out, I was overwhelmed with feelings of pride and joy, much like a parent when their firstborn goes off to school. I was grateful to Booktrope Publishing for taking a chance on a historical novel about an Afro-Cuban midwife, who lives and works in Puerto Rico and thankful to my publishing team, who were a dream to work with on this project. I was thrilled and grateful when readers left wonderful comments and reviews. I was humbled and felt dizzy. Much like my experiences when my adult kids left the nest, who are doing wonderful things in the world, by the way, I knew post-publication that it was time to get a life.

I realized I had to write another book, but how? I couldn’t concentrate, and in the first ten days, I obsessively checked Amazon, looking for new reviews so I could thank the kind reader (if I knew them). Checking my rankings on Amazon was a daily ritual, which I didn’t know how to do until my marketing guru, Anne told me where to look. Then, I realized being a best selling author is an hourly thing, and I soon gave that up. I now look weekly and hope that stops. During the first ten days, I found it difficult to have ‘normal’ conversations, and discovered it was extremely difficult not to mention my debut novel to the mailman, the guy at the post office as I mailed out copies of my book, and to the guy behind the deli counter, who loves historical fiction. I went a bit nutty reminding my very kind and tolerant family members and friends not to forget to post an honest review for A Decent Woman on Amazon. Sheesh.

I was sick of me, and this isn’t me. Although I know how important social media is, and how very important reviews are to an author, I lived alone for five years, writing and rewriting a story that loved. In the pre-publication days when I was writing, I wouldn’t speak to a soul for days on end, save for a quick phone call, emails and texts to family and friends to catch up and let them know I was alive. I did talk with my cat and my Chihuahua Sophie, who as it turns out, is an extremely good listener if you don’t mind her licking your face. I knew how to do all that. I just didn’t know how to be humble and a social animal, when all I wanted to do was write more books. Life is all about balance, and I wasn’t feeling particularly balanced right after publication.

So, I wrote an email to my friend and writing mentor to many writers, including myself, the master storyteller, Jack Remick. Sensing that I was experiencing, as he calls it, “Firstitis”, he kindly wrote back with a diagnosis that was spot on. He gave me the definition of this curable illness and the cure–get back to writing. Immediately. He was absolutely right. It was sage and timely advice from an incredibly talented writer and a composed, generous man to a discombobulated, but well-meaning, new author.

Thank you, Jack. The craziness has diminished. I’m getting down to the business at hand-writing on my second book–and I’m at peace. I should have written sooner, but I learned valuable lessons, and I’ve always learned the hard way.

Ana Belén, you are on your own, my love. I’m onto The Island of Goats, my second historical novel set in 1920 Puerto Rico and Spain. I’m getting to know my characters, Alta Gracia and India Meath, and accessing my experiences on the medieval route of El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, The Way of St. James, in Spain, which I walked with my then-teenage children.

But, I’ll see Ana and Serafina again when I get to writing the sequel to A Decent Woman called Mistress of Coffee.

Sometimes, you must lose yourself to find yourself again.

About Eleanor

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, an alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon 

Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her 25-year career as the only midwife in La Playa.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.

Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.

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