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

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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

Book Release Day!

It’s Book Release Day for A DECENT WOMAN!

Available Now on Amazon in ebook and paperback.

https://amzn.to/2TMjop9

_Deep with delicious detail, scrumptious characters, and full of folklore, this is a unique debut novel._ - Jack Remick, writer (1)

Cover Reveal: A DECENT WOMAN

I’m thrilled to share the new cover of A DECENT WOMAN!

A Decent Woman Flat (1)

The story of midwife Ana Belén, her lifelong friend Serafina Martínez, and the women of turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, is coming soon in paperback and e-book, republished by Winter Goose Publishing.

la jungla beach

I searched high and low for an image that reminded me of Ana, the heroine. To me, the image is not only how I envision Ana in her white tignon; it also expresses the mystery, loneliness, tenderness, sensuality, strength, courage, and mysticism that is Ana.

la receta y cosas de la botanica

I was grateful for the opportunity to reread my debut novel, which, of course, encouraged me to rewrite several chapters in the book. Encouraged? Who am I kidding? I can’t read anything without editing it.

As a special surprise, the new book will feature a wedding–a request from a kind reviewer. Thank you for the lovely idea!

I look forward to seeing A Decent Woman back in reader’s hands very soon, where it belongs.

Thank you, readers!

Eleanor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Greetings!

christmas tree coffee

Holiday greetings to you!

The time has come to reflect on the past year and to acknowledge events in my writing life and my personal life. There have been challenges and setbacks, and plenty of wonderful surprises and great book news with my first novel, A Decent Woman, and my work-in-progress, The Laments. I am grateful for it all!

Book News:

In early 2018, I finally “broke into” my Belgian writing desk with the missing key and discovered more than 30 poems I’d carefully stashed while finishing my first novel. It was a thrilling moment for me. Now I have a fun writing project in the wings, which I will tackle in 2019. I didn’t cause much damage to the keyhole, but the letter opener is kaput—a small price to pay for a stash of poems!

At the beginning of March, my second publisher, Scarlet River Press, closed their doors. I was thrilled for their new adventures but sad that A Decent Woman was no longer for sale on Amazon. Luckily for me, a friend and fellow author kindly offered me a tip and by August, I’d signed with Winter Goose Publishing. I’m happy to say they will republish A Decent Woman in early 2019 with a new book cover (my third).

winter goose publishing logo

I enjoyed rereading A Decent Woman and getting it ready for the editor. Although I didn’t make any changes to the story, I was grateful for the opportunity to fix typos and finesse sentences, and for visiting with my beloved characters, Ana and Serafina. I’m grateful Winter Goose Publishing will also publish my second novel, The Laments, in early Fall 2019. I look forward to receiving the editor’s changes and suggestions, as well as thinking about the new cover, which is always exciting. I very much look forward to working with WGP in the coming years.

Now, if you’re a writer and you’re like me, you’ll appreciate that while I was extremely happy to sign with a third publisher in such a short time, it was a stressful, anxious, and distracting period of time. My second historical novel, The Laments, still a work-in-progress, had to be put on hold a few times while things were sorted out. At that time, the WIP was two-thirds finished, right at the point where the words were flowing nicely, the research nearly complete, and I was getting into the writing groove. Unfortunately, I’ve never been great at multi-tasking when it comes to writing—when I’m writing, I’m writing. I write best with blinders on and distractions give my inner child a chance to binge-watch shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Guilty as charged. I’ve now finished Season One and Two of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Goliath, and I’m excited for The Crown to begin in January. It’s historical fiction, so I put that under ‘Research’.

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In October, the Center of Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, CUNY, kindly invited me to sit on a historical fiction panel. Despite a heavy downpour that evening, there was a full house and wonderful discussions about reaching/teaching new audiences for historical fiction; in this case, Puerto Rican history. I was proud to participate and happy to share the table with two talented and enthusiastic Puerto Rican authors–Dr. Virginia Sanchez-Korrol and Dr. Vanessa Perez-Rosario, who moderated the event.

From the flyer — “Two authors speak about their books using historical fiction to relate the female narrative in the 19th Century (one in NYC and the other in Puerto Rico). Dr. Virgina Sanchez-Korrol’s newest book “The Season of Rebels and Roses” is a historical novel for teens which follows women’s involvement in the nineteenth-century independence movements to free Puerto Rico and Cuba from Spain.  Eleanor Parker Sapia’s first novelA Decent Woman”, a 2016 & 2017 International Latino Book Award winner, is set against the combustive backdrop of 19th century Ponce, Puerto Rico. The book explores the battle of two women from different backgrounds who defend their dignity against the pain of betrayal in a male-dominated society resistant to change.”

Personal News:

In April, I spent two fabulous weeks in Puerto Rico with my sister. We enjoyed three wonderful days in Old San Juan without our rental car being towed (very limited parking in OSJ!), and finally, I made it to Isla de Cabras, the setting of my second book, The Laments. What a thrill to explore the ruins of the old leprosarium, walk the islet, and to speak with an older gentleman, who shared fascinating historical tidbits with me, “For the book!”

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Sadly, the after-effects of Hurricane Maria were still evident on the islet and on the mainland as we drove along the coasts and through mountain towns with non-working traffic lights, piles of debris, abandoned homes, and hundreds of blue FEMA tarps. Everyone we met had a story. We listened with constricted hearts and tears, but there was also hope for better days and joy as we swam in beautiful waters and enjoyed wonderful meals. We made new memories with family and friends in Ponce, and as always, we missed Puerto Rico and our family as soon as we boarded our flight back to the DC area. It’s a horrible feeling to leave mi isla. I feel as if I’m leaving my mother, grandparents, my family, and ancestors, all over again, until the next visit.

In August, my intrepid son and his girlfriend decided to travel throughout Asia for a few months. They managed to escape the monsoons and heavy floods in India and two major typhoons in the Philippines and Taiwan before returning to Thailand, where they intend to stay for three more months. While I’m happy for them and I love the photographs and stories they’ve shared of their adventures, the stress levels are a bit higher than usual at home, smile. Before he left on his adventure, my brilliant son developed an app he says I won’t understand and still owns an IT company, so I know he won’t starve.

In a few months, my daughter, a brilliant therapist who lives and works in Northern Virginia, will receive her licensure after years of study (a Masters degree in Mental Health) and hard work. She is well-deserving and we couldn’t be happier for her or more proud of her. Her clients and supervisors love her and of course, I already knew they would, smile. My daughter is happy and in love, so the world looks rosy and hopeful. We look forward to our first trip to Thailand next year to visit my son and his girlfriend. I’m one proud Mama!

After seven years of living in this old house, I’m painting again, walls, that is. I’m tackling one room at a time and I stop when my shoulders tell me to quit. It’s slow going, but I’ll get there. And with winter in full swing and writing full-time, let’s face it; it’s the only exercise I get! My Chihuahua named Sophie still snoozes in a chair next to me as I write. I can’t imagine life without her.

Dear Reader, I wish you and your family a safe, happy, and blessed holiday season and all the best in 2019. This time of year is tough for many, so please reach out to others who might need a smiling face, a little conversation, or an invitation to share a holiday meal. I’ll be doing the same in my neck of the woods.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the “new” edition of A Decent Woman and the release of The Laments. I hope you’ll like my books as much as I enjoy writing them.

A tip: If you subscribe to my writing blog and my website, you’ll get new book news much quicker, smile. Thank you in advance.

Happy Holidays!

Eleanor x

16 Puerto Rican Woman and Non-Binary Writers Telling New Stories

16 Puerto Rican Women and Non-Binary Writers Telling New Stories

Dr. Ivelisse Rodriguez, author of Love War Stories, on the writers who are changing the topography of Puerto Rican literature

In 1916, Bernardo Vega boards a ship in San Juan, Puerto Rico to come to New York City — this journey, this life as a Puerto Rican in the pioneer phase of migration, where on average 2,000 Puerto Ricans were migrating to the continental U.S., is chronicled in theMemoirs of Bernardo Vega.

Purchase the book

In 1993, Esmeralda Santiago published When I Was Puerto Rican, an endearing memoir about a young girl’s life in Puerto Rico and her eventual migration to the U.S. Between Vega and Santiago, there are other canonical Puerto Rican texts published — what connects them all are ideas of migration, identity, belonging, and facing racism in the continental U.S.

As of 2013, approximately 5 million Puerto Ricans reside in the mainland U.S. and these 16 non-binary and women writers are adding new narratives to the history of Puerto Rican writing. Their fiction, essays, and poetry focuses on blackness and slavery, queerness, the sexual and romantic lives of women, racial passing, and African-based religions, and so much more. These are the writers to watch to see how they change the topography of Puerto Rican literature.

15 Views of Miami by Jaquira Díaz

In the 1970s, Nicholasa Mohr captured Puerto Rican girlhood, and today the Southern Review has said “Jaquira Díaz illuminates the beauty and brutality of being a teenager.” She captures this in essays like “Girls, Monsters” about the awakening of sexual desire and the sexual threat all women experience and in “My Mother and Mercy” where Diaz recounts her estranged relationship with her mother and Mercy, her grandmother. She has also written about the Baby Lollipops murder case, belonging, and suicide. Diaz has been a fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and the Kenyon Review. Her work appears in Rolling StoneThe Guardian, and The Los Angeles Review of Books, among other publications. Her memoir Ordinary Girlsand a novel are forthcoming from Algonquin Books.

Lo Terciario / The Tertiary by Raquel Salas Rivera

Raquel Salas Rivera, the 2018–19 Poet Laureate of Philadelphia, is the writer of Caneca de anhelos turbios, oropel/tinsel,and tierra intermitente, along with five chapbooksTheir latest book, lo terciario/the tertiary, utilizes a “decolonial queer critique and reconsideration of Marx” to respond to the PROMESA bill (Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act) regarding the Puerto Rican debt crisis. Their poem “landscape of old san juan” illustrates another of Salas Rivera’s themes: colonialism. “In the center of your chest there is a treasure / if you move the flower pots you’ll find/ your enemy curled up like a snake / he is the gravedigger / that keeps throwing dirt / in the pan.”

Now We Will Be Happy by Amina Gautier

Dr. Amina Lolita Gautier is the winner of the 2018 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. Dr. Gautier has published over 100 stories in literary journals and has three award-winning short story collections: At-Riskand The Loss of All Lost Things. The third book, Now We Will Be Happy, won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction and highlights the lives of Afro-Puerto Ricans, those born on the mainland, and those who migrate to the US. The stories in the book cross “boundaries of comfort, culture, language, race, and tradition in unexpected ways, these characters struggle valiantly and doggedly to reconcile their fantasies of happiness with the realities of their existence.”

Stay With Me by Sandra Rodriguez Barron

Sandra Rodriguez Barron is the award-winning author of The Heiress of Water, a Borders Original Voices selection. The novel is about Monica Winters Borrero, a physical therapist who was raised in El Salvador until the death of her mother. In order to aid a comatose patient, Monica returns to El Salvador in search of a therapeutic treatment her mother had been researching. There, Monica will confront the past and the difficult relationship she had with her mother. Her second novel, Stay with Me, is about the life-long relationship between five kids who were abandoned in Puerto Rico and who forged their own family.

Unfinished Portrait: Poems by Luivette Resto

Luivette Resto tackles issues of identity, womanhood, motherhood, and romance. “No sucios for me! / No sucios for me! / No sucios for me!” one of the girls in her poems implores. Resto is the author of two books of poetry, Unfinished Portrait, a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize, and Ascension. She is also a CantoMundo Fellow. While in her poetry she reaches back to connect with Puerto Rican poets like Julia de Burgos and Pedro Pietri and contends with similar themes, she approaches these timeless issues with a present-day eye so that “women find a sense of freedom to embrace all of the nuances and complexities of feminism and mujerismo.”

Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism edited by Danielle Barnhart & Iris Mahan, featuring Denice Frohman

Denice Frohman’s work “focuses on identity, social change, disrupting notions of power, and celebrating the parts of ourselves deemed unworthy.” For example, in “A queer girl’s ode to the piraguero,” she writes, “Oh, Piraguero! My first lover. / The only man I ever wanted / anything from. I sprinted half blocks for you, got off / the bus two stops early, took the long way home / just to see: your rainbow umbrella.” Her poem “Dear Straight People” went viral with over 2 million views. She is one of the “Top 20 Emerging LGBT Leaders” according to the Philadelphia Gay Newspaper. She is also a CantoMundo Fellow, a Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion, and the recipient of many other accolades.

A Decent Woman by Eleanor Parker Sapia

Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning, historical novel A Decent Woman, which is set in the late 1800s in Ponce, Puerto Rico and tells the story of the life-long friendship between midwife Ana and her friend Serafina. A class and racial division opens up between Ana and Serafina when Serafina marries into the upper echelons of Ponce society, and Ana remains in their impoverished neighborhood. Ana’s livelihood is jeopardized by the changing view that women should deliver in hospitals rather than at home with a midwife. This novel captures Ponce in a time of great advancement and exposes how all these shifts affect the lives of women.

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Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay, featuring Vanessa Mártir

Vanessa Mártir is an essayist who was most recently published in the New York Times bestseller Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Cultureedited by Roxane Gay, as well as in Bitch MagazineSmokelong Quarterly, and the VONA/Voices Anthology Dismantle. Martír is the creator of the Writing Our Lives Workshop. She has written about growing up in Bushwick with two mothers in the 1980s, writers of color, motherhood, grief, and other topics. She is currently completing her memoir, A Dim Capacity for Wings.

Kingdom of Women by Rosalie Morales Kearns

Rosalie Morales Kearns, a writer of Puerto Rican and Pennsylvania Dutch descent, is the founder of the feminist publishing house Shade Mountain Press. Her novel Kingdom of Women is about Averil Parnell, a female Roman Catholic priest who has to decide what advice she is going to offer to a group of vigilante women who go after murderers, rapists, and child abusers. Virgins and Tricksters is Morales Kearns’ magic-realist short story collection. The Small Press Book Review raved:“It’s not that the stories are comfortable — these worlds of virgins, tricksters, wives, daughters — are fraught with complication and searching. Nor do they lack surprise: by blending precise realism with wild magic, Kearns subverts our expectations in subtle yet astounding ways.”

Scar on/Scar Off by Jennifer Maritza McCauley

Jennifer Maritza McCauley is a 2018 National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship winner and an Academy of American Poets Award recipient. Her first book is Scar On/Scar Off, a cross-genre poetry and prose text. The theme of scarring runs through the book — the scarring from being a woman, from having dual ethnic identities, and from dealing with racism. She is the Contest Editor at The Missouri Review. Her work has been selected as a “Short Story of the Day” by The Seattle Review of Books and a “Poem of the Week” by Split this Rock. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles ReviewPuerto del SolThe Feminist Wire, among other outlets. She has finished a historical novel set during the Reconstruction era.

Fish Out of Agua: My Life On Neither Side of the (Subway) Tracks by Michele Carlo

Michele Carlo’s Fish Out Of Agua: My Life on Neither Side of the (Subway) Tracks is a memoir about growing up as a redheaded, freckle-faced Puerto Rican in the Bronx during the 1970s. Throughout her youth, Carlo had to contend with being seen as white and not Puerto Rican. The memoir also chronicle’s her mother’s mental illness, the secrets that her family keeps, and how she comes into her own and becomes the artist she had always wanted to be. Carlo is also a performer who has appeared across the US, including The Moth’s GrandSlam and MainStage storytelling shows in NYC. Her current project is a radio show on Radio Free Brooklyn, where she interviews artists, activists, and educators.

The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho by Anjanette Delgado

Anjanette Delgado is an award-winning novelist, speaker, and journalist who has written or produced for media outlets, such as NBC, CNN, NPR, Univision, HBO, Telemundo, and Vogue Magazine’s LatAm and Mexico divisions, among others. Her award-winning romance novel The Heartbreak Pill is about scientist Erika Luna who sets out to create a pill to undo heartbreak. Her latest novel, The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho, is about Mariela Estevez whose clairvoyance kicks in when her lover is found murdered. Delgado is “fascinated with heartbreak, the different ways in which it occurs, and the consequences it brings.”

Homenaje a las guerreras/Homage to the Warrior Women by Peggy Robles-Alvarado

Peggy Robles-Alvarado is a writer and editor of several projects. She is the author of Conversations With My Skin, which is about the transformation of a pregnant and abused 15-year old who learns to define herself, and Homenaje a las guerreras/Homage to the Warrior Women, which pays tribute to women who “carry several lifetimes and dimensions within one frame and [who] learn how to properly balance them.” She is also the editor of The Abuela Stories Project, an anthology of writing and photography by women that is meant to challenge the notion of abuelas and their stories as inconsequential. Her latest book Mujeres, The Magic, The Movement and The Muse is an anthology “inspired by Taino, Lukumi and Palo traditions where women make connections to their muses through body and spirit.”

Daughters of the Stone by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa

Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa’s debut novel is Daughters of the Stone. Author Cristina Garcia enthuses, “Rejoice! Here is a novel you’ve never read before: the story of a long line of extraordinary Afro-Puerto Rican women silenced by history…Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa rescues them from oblivion.” Llanos-Figueroa’s novel follows the lives of five generation of women starting from Africa, moving to Puerto Rico, and ending in New York City. The novel was shortlisted for the 2010 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. Daughters of the Stone is the first novel in a series of five, and Llanos-Figueroa has completed her second novel, A Woman of Endurance, and is now working on her third novel.

Outside the Bones by Lyn Di Lorio

Dr. Lyn Di Lorio is a professor and was a consultant on Puerto Rican cultural matters for Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir, My Beloved WorldIn her book, Outside the Bones, protagonist Fina Mata unwittingly unleashes a powerful Palo spirit when she attempts to make her neighbor Chico fall in love with her. Outside the Bones is the first English language novel about Palo Monte, an Afro-Caribbean religion that stems from the Bantu-speaking people and their Caribbean descendants.

The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

For decades, young readers of color did not find themselves in the literature they read. But now, representation of Latinxs in young adult literature is on the rise. A recent book to fill this niche is Lilliam Rivera’s The Education of Margot Sanchez, which tells the story of Margot who is caught between her Puerto Rican world and the world of her prep school. Rivera was named a “2017 Face to Watch” by the Los Angeles Times.

Her next book, Dealing in Dreams, is forthcoming in March 2019; it’s a futuristic story about girl gangs and the leader’s desire to get off the streets and move up in the world.

About the Author

Born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Ivelisse Rodriguez earned a PhD in English and creative writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an MFA from Emerson College. She has published fiction in All about Skin: Short Fiction by Women of Color, the Boston Review, the Bilingual Review, and others. She was a senior fiction editor at Kweli, a Kimbilio fellow, and a VONA/Voices alum.

Thoughts on Writing Novels in the Trump Era

In the summer of 2015, after the publication of my debut novel, A Decent Woman, a comment on a writing blog got my attention. It encouraged writers to focus on writing and marketing their books and refrain from sharing strong opinions and political views on social media platforms. The reasoning? So as to not alienate readers and potential readers; in essence, to limit their opinions and dialogue to discussions with friends and family. Good to know, I thought. The advice made sense to me at the time–nothing can turn a lovely dinner party into a school food fight quicker than heated debates about religion, politics, or other family members–but what about that business of writers potentially courting disaster with future book sales and alienating readers by speaking out on public forums? Was there any truth to that? I tucked that nugget away.

I kept my focus on learning the ropes of marketing a book. Little did I know marketing my novel would turn into an intense year of written interviews, podcast interviews, writing blog posts, participating in book fairs, and encouraging readers to post book reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble. That same year, I set up an author page on Facebook, opened a Goodreads author page and set up a Twitter account–lots of moving parts in addition to keeping up with a writing blog, interviewing fellow authors, and paying attention to my author website! And of course, I was thinking about writing a second book. A brief text exchange with my friend Wayne sparked an idea and I ran with it.

In early 2016, I began the preliminary research for my second book, as yet untitled. On June 16, 2016, Donald Trump officially announced his plan to seek the presidency. I started writing The Laments of Sister Maria Immaculada, now titled, The Laments of Forgotten Souls. From June to November October 2016, I watched the presidential campaign/sideshow on my laptop (I haven’t had cable TV since 2011). I kept writing and diligently researching the lives of nuns in 1927 Puerto Rico, the history of Old San Juan, and the little known (to me) islet of Isla de Cabras, five miles off the coast of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the ruins of a Spanish-built leprosarium remain. I kept writing and became increasingly distracted by politics. How could anyone possibly avoid it? I began to think about a writing retreat, away from home where I was buying the Washington Post on a daily basis and New York Times, when I could find a copy in my adopted West Virginia town.

In January 2017, I licked my wounds along with millions of Americans and participated in the now-historic Women’s March in Washington, DC. The political attacks and distractions from the White House began immediately and were unrelenting. I kept up with Rachel Maddow’s informative and timely blog posts for political analysis and information and watched MSNBC videos on Youtube. I learned a lot from Maddow, and for the first time in my life, I knew the names of all the key players in Washington, DC and their positions. I was paying attention. It also occurred to me how much my antagonist reminded me of Trump. A light bulb moment. What a strange and interesting twist. I zoomed in on Trump’s behavior and mannerisms, the way he speaks, and what his base sees in him.

I kept up with Twitter, Facebook, and I wrote a blog post about my experience at the Women’s March, always thinking about the advice to writers I’d read the year before: keep your opinions off social media. But how? I mused that might have been a popular opinion before the last Presidential election campaign. Before Trump became President. Before the march in Charlottesville. Before the brutal attacks on the protestors of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Before Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the island of my birth, and Trump callously threw paper towel rolls at Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico after the hurricane. Before 20 shootings took place on American school campuses. Before Trump brought us to the brink of nuclear war by antagonizing Kim Jong-un. Before Trump ordered the barbaric directive to separate children from their asylum-seeking parents at US borders. Before our planet was threatened by Trump directives and decisions. Before, before, before. I’ve left out dozens and dozens of events, I know. My apologies, this is what immediately comes to mind as I write this blog post. Fill in the blanks, please.

The attacks from the Trump White House seemed endless, unrelenting, and more cruel with each passing day. Then I remembered–our country, Americans, have suffered and endured cruel directives that go back to the founding fathers. Our history is full of racism, white privilege, misogyny, bad decisions, and crazy makers. Had we learned anything? Apparently not. I was reminded of the old French saying, “The more things changes, the more they stay the same.” But I was changing–as a woman, as a proud Puerto Rican, and as an American who’d lived overseas for over 25 years. As a novelist, I was wide awake. History was repeating itself before my very eyes and I was outraged.

You see, before January 2017, I’d never marched in protest, never held a placard, and had never called my elected officials. I had voted, of course, and in my previous jobs as a refugee caseworker, Spanish language Family Support Worker, and as a counselor working in Brussels, Belgium, I’d worked with and tried my best to assist and support those less fortunate in my community. To walk hand in hand with those who were hurting and needed help—that came easily to me. I was a mom. But to be a vocal activist? To be outraged and shocked enough to say what I felt in a public forum, on social media? That didn’t come easy. I was raised to be polite, fair, and to be diplomatic, whenever possible. But I found it increasingly difficult to remain silent. I kept writing and in my continuing research, I kept digging deeper into the dark corners of religion, faith, and humanity. World events were certainly changing my work in progress. How could the story not be affected? How could I remain unchanged? As I saw it, it was imperative to remain informed, but to also strike a balance–I needed to turn away from the news in the evening and force myself to remain in my writing chair. I was losing discipline and valuable time, but with each new event in the US and abroad, I gleaned valuable research material. I felt like a literary vampire.

What I came to understand was that in many ways, art and the making of art and literature is a political act.

Among the early reviews of my first published novel, A Decent Woman, two respected writer friends called my first novel a political statement, a feminist novel. After my initial surprise and feeling so grateful for their generous book reviews, I realized the two men were absolutely correct. In the early stages of writing A Decent Woman, (and in my newbie writing mind), I’d simply set about to tell a story about the lives of women in 1900 Puerto Rico. Then I remembered. Just before the manuscript went in for the final edits, I came across documents and a book about the rounding up of prostitutes in Ponce, Puerto Rico (the setting of the novel) and about the forced sterilization of thousands of Puerto Rican women by the US government. The book had to change. I had to change. It was necessary to grow a thicker skin in the public arena and speak my truths, instead of opting to remain in the shallow end of the pool. So I wrote that book.

Interestingly enough, the same thing is happening with my second book, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, which explores faith, religion, and the Catholic Church in 1927 Puerto Rico, with all its’ ugliness and scandals, community works and good intentions. Once again, I’ve had to dig deep, record history, and speak my truths as I discover them in my research and from my memory. I’m still reading several online newspapers and calling my elected officials. I buy newspapers and still watch Rachel Maddow during the day. I write at night like I always did, with less fear than before. The balancing act of being ‘woke’ and finishing this book is easier these days; I’m not as reactive to the news. I use it all.

In the telling of a story, writers stand, exposed and raw, for all to see. So be it.

Will President Trump and this White House stop the unrelenting attacks on Americans, on the poor and the marginalized, on our democracy? Will Trump be impeached? All that remains to be seen. We have no choice but to soldier on, persist, and resist when the need arises. And as writers, we must keep writing. Lord knows there’s a plethora of material out there for novelists these days.

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA:

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Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the 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, and Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

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