2017 International Latino Book Award Finalist – A Decent Woman

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Buenos días!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eleanor

ABOUT ELEANOR:

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

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

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

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The Writing Life Interviews: Silvio Sirias

Welcome to Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. This morning, I have the great pleasure of chatting with Silvio Sirias.

Silvio Sirias is the award-winning author of the novels Bernardo and the VirginMeet Me Under the CeibaThe Saint of Santa Fe, and The Season of Stories.

A late bloomer in the writing of fiction, Sirias was born in Los Angeles, California and grew up there until the age of eleven, when his family moved to Granada, Nicaragua, his parents’ country of origin. He considers this move the most significant milestone in his life as it shaped his bicultural and bilingual outlook. He returned to Los Angeles to attend college. Eventually, he received his doctorate in Spanish from the University of Arizona and worked as a professor of Spanish and U.S. Latino and Latina literature for several years before returning to live in Nicaragua in 1999.

In 2010, Silvio was named one of the “Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch (and Read).” The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature lists him among the handful of authors who are introducing Central American themes into the U.S. literary landscape.

He moved to Panama in 2002 where he lives with his wife and their dog, three cats, and parrot.

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Welcome, Silvio.

What is the genre(s) of your books?

Most reviewers, Eleanor, list my work as literary fiction. That categorization reflects my background as a reader. I labored for many years in the academic world, teaching literature. But if I were to label my novels, I’d file them under Latino titerature as my writing is a constant exploration of our shared Latino heritage.

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Please describe what your latest novel is about.

Two ideas for Young Adult novels had been bouncing inside of my head for years. One was a story loosely based on my experiences growing up in Los Angeles around the time my parents decided to move back to Nicaragua, their homeland. The second one was the story of the Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, his “discovery” of the Pacific Ocean, and his subsequent beheading. I decided to merge both ideas and have fun weaving these disparate stories together. The end result is The Season of Stories. 

I enjoyed the merging stories in The Season of Stories. How did you come up with the title?

Early on in the process I discovered that the act of storytelling would have to play a key role within the novel. Also, half of the narrative revolves around the 1961 Los Angeles Dodgers’ baseball season. Hence, The Season of Stories.

What is your favorite part of writing?

There are two stages of the process that are, by far, my favorite. The first is the research stage. That’s because it’s there that I get to “experience” the story. The second part is the revision stage. It took years, but eventually I learned to treasure the task of polishing a rough draft. The revision part has become, in my eyes, akin to working on a fun, yet demanding puzzle.

Great description of revision. I love both research and revision. Does your main character resemble you?

An easily identifiable alter ego appears in all of my novels. But only in The Season of Stories and Meet Me under the Ceiba is he a key player. That said, there is part of every novelist in their most important characters. As Gustave Flaubert said regarding his best known creation: Madame Bovary c’est moi.

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

Forcing myself to get started every morning. I tend to procrastinate until the idea that I’m wasting time becomes unbearable.

What authors have influenced you as a writer?

Whenever I’m faced with a challenge in the creation of a novel, I turn to writers who were successful at tackling similar dilemmas. In my first novel, Bernardo and the Virgin, I borrowed techniques from Juan Rulfo, a Mexican novelist, and Virgil Suárez, a Cuban-American author. But the structure of the novel was lifted directly from Julia Alvarez’s ¡Yo! in Meet Me under the Ceiba, I lifted the structure of Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez. For The Saint of Santa Fe, I borrowed several literary devices from Graham Greene and the Spanish novelist Miguel de Unamuno. And for The Season of Stories, I appropriated the structure of Mario Vargas Llosa’s Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter and the narrative tone of Scott O’Dell, who wrote Island of the Blue Dolphins. Does that make me a plagiarist? Not at all. I’m merely following the Aristotelian practice of imitatio, which the writers of the Renaissance embraced wholeheartedly. In other words, if writers follow great models, their own work will shine.

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Insightful answer, Silvio. You mentioned many great authors and a few personal favorites in your reply to the previous question. I found that I can’t read when writing the first draft manuscript of a novel, but of course, many favorite books remain in my subconscious. When feeling stuck or lost in a particular stage of revision, revisiting what the writer considers great works of literature can be helpful as a roadmap. 

Silvio, what do you hope readers will gain from your books?

The best compliment a reader can give me is “I really enjoyed reading that novel.” If readers experience a brief respite from the travails of everyday life while reading one of my books, then I did my job.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Don’t be in such a rush to see your work in print. These days it’s easier to get published than at any time in human history. That makes it all the more important for writers who are serious about the craft to work as long as it takes to deliver a manuscript that’s as perfect as possible. It would be a disservice to your written legacy to publish something that’s not ready just because you can’t wait to see your name on the cover of a book. If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, always put your best foot forward—and that takes a lot of work and patience.

Silvio, tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

Although I’ve taught countless creative writing classes, I’ve never taken one.

Please share your website and social media links.

My website: www.silviosirias.com

My Author’s Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/silviofans/ (Please excuse the name; it was a gift from an overzealous friend.)

And I share tutorials on writing on my YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/channel/UCjZH11xFwpjb6Hn1tzianYQ

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Where can we find your books?

All are available on Amazon. 

What’s next for you?

Like you, Eleanor, I’m a peregrino. We’ve both walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, and you well know what a powerful experience that is. At the moment, I’m writing a novel that weaves a medieval pilgrimage with a contemporary one. It’s still untitled and it has taken a lot of effort to get the narrative to take off. But it’s in full flight now and I hope to have a rough draft completed before June of 2017.

El Camino was indeed a powerful, unforgettable experience for myself and my then-teenage children. I kept a daily journal on my walk, and of course, my experiences will feature in a future novel I have in mind. How could they not, right? Good for you, fellow peregrino!

Thank you, Silvio, for chatting with us today. It was a pleasure getting to know more about you and your books. All the best!

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA: 

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is a writer, artist, and photographer, who is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

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PLEASE VISIT ELEANOR AT HER WEBSITE: HTTP://WWW.ELEANORPARKERSAPIA.COM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Gifts: Small and Large #MondayBlogs

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It is not unusual for me to briefly return to painting or drawing after a particularly long writing session, or if I feel stuck in a chapter or a paragraph of my work in progress. Yes, you could say I reward myself for a good writing session with my first passion—painting, and you’d also be correct if you thought I return to what I know best and did for most of my adult life when things get tough. You see, I came to writing late in life–at age 50 to be exact.

Usually, I force myself to remain seated in my writing chair by trying out different phrases, grabbing the thesaurus, breathing in and out, and visualizing the scene, because I know writers must travel through dark valleys, alleys, and around corners to get to the other side, to the light. It has happened to me—beautiful prose doesn’t always flow on demand because we have time, the inclination, or even if the muse is willing.

I am blessed to have many wonderful avenues of expression—all creative outlets—and I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t paint. I thought of this last week and came to a realization—everything we do is a creative outlet; no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to us…or others. Our creative outlets are blessings, and I am grateful for them.

How grateful am I?

My artistic gifts have always nourished and sustained me. My gifts of writing and painting keep me grounded, and make me feel vital, energized, and relevant. I do not, however, have other gifts which others might take for granted if they don’t view them as gifts and creative outlets. For example, I cannot sing a note without sounding off-key, and I don’t have the breath necessary to really belt out a song, which I’ve always wanted to do! I am not good at math, so my checking account is usually a bit messy, and I’m not a great organized, so my writing desk isn’t neat and tidy–I was absent the day God handed out those gifts.

I am, however, highly intuitive and creative; always have been. When I was growing up, my father turned his head at the gift of intuition, as well as my gifts of creativity and imagination. His feet were firmly planted on the ground and growing up poor only led to his deeply-rooted belief that everyone should earn their way in life; hobbies were silly. When I was ready for college, my father was adamant that studying art and painting would lead me nowhere and that I would die of starvation. I wanted to pursue art and English Literature in college, but he forced me to study business, which I did. I pursued art and writing on my own while working as a secretary for seven years before I married and had children of my own.

Of course as is life when you are a creative person (and a stubborn woman), I ended up painting, writing, and exhibiting my paintings as an adult. I now use my gifts every day, and so do you. You might bake, make beautiful flower arrangements or wreaths, decorate a beautiful room, and have a garden that people admire. You might make furniture, work on cars, cross stitch, write short stories, make beautiful scrap books or invitations, or write poetry. I never took my gifts for granted because I had to fight for them all my life.

But how grateful am I for my creative gifts?

Last week, during my first book festival as a participating author, I met a tall, lanky young man who approached my author table, pushing a stroller that held an adorable infant who was rubbing her eyes, flanked by two little girls who held onto the sides of the stroller. The young man introduced himself as William and then he introduced his daughters, which I thought was beautiful. As it turned out, soft-spoken William and his brood were looking for a gift for his wife/their mother for Mother’s Day.

I answered his questions about my historical novel, A Decent Woman, and he said the book sounded right for his wife. He went on to tell me how strongly he felt about introducing his young daughters to women who are living their passions in life. I was entirely charmed by William, and my sister and I agreed that he was an amazing father.

Then William told us a moving story about his battle with brain cancer after a youth spent on drugs, playing basketball for his university only to fall and injure his knee, and about getting in trouble most of his young life. He said it was time to share his story. Well, it has been a long time since I taught creative writing, but I encouraged him and without thinking, I said I’d help him as a writing coach and I’d edit his manuscript free of charge. The words rolled off my tongue and felt right.

William thanked me, reached across the author table, and shook my hand. I handed him my business card, and asked him to send me an outline of his story. He was overjoyed and when he left, I whispered to my sister, “What have I done? I’m writing and researching my second novel. I don’t have time for this!” My sister smiled and reminded me of the question I’d posed to myself the week before, “How grateful am I?” Was I willing to give back for writing an historical novel that has so far been well received? Was I serious about being grateful? It would have certainly been easier if I’d offered to read to his daughters or even babysit! Writing takes time, energy, and lots more energy. I’m 57…I don’t have all the time in the world, but I’d committed. And I always keep my word.

On Monday morning, I had a long email from William with an outline attached. I was blown away by what I read—his life had indeed been a struggle from childhood to the present. It’s a wonderfully inspirational story, and the outline will need a lot of fleshing out, but the bones are there. I will learn a lot while coaching and editing for William, and I have a feeling William will teach me more than I could ever imagine.

I know it will take us some time to write William’s inspirational memoir because he is a new writer, but we’re on the path. One chapter at a time.

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

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. She is a member of PEN America and Historical Novel Society. 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 Eleanor’s debut historical novel, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club, Book of the Month. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and she currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M

Sometimes a visit to crazy town is necessary.

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 an 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 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 visit crazy town to find peace and sanity 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, 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 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.

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