On Family Visits, Author Interviews, and New Babies

April 14, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

 

***

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

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

On the writing front:

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

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

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

I hope you and yours are well.

Be safe, stay healthy.

Eleanor x

 

ABOUT ELEANOR:

Me in March 2020

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

 

 

Thoughts on Writing, Loneliness, and Morning Pages

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“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.” – Henry David Thoreau
After enjoying my daily hot water and meditation session, I realized I’ll celebrate a milestone in July. I’ve lived in this old house for a decade. A decade. That’s hard to believe. I have a lot to say today, smile.
While I love my period home and the life I created that allows me to write and to paint full time, West Virginia has never felt like home, certainly not my forever home. Virginia felt like home. Puerto Rico always feels like home, as well as Belgium and France. My kind neighbors were born in this city, and unlike me, their children and most of their family members live nearby. I have no family here. My children live in Northern Virginia and Thailand (which I visited last November), and my sister and her family live in Maryland. Close friends are scattered throughout the country and overseas, so in the summer months, I take a few road trips to visit friends and family, which I always enjoy. This summer will be no different. I’m looking forward to more happy times, creating new memories, and enjoying new adventures.
From my experience, fifteen years of experience as it turns out, writing books isn’t a life path conducive to a busy social life. I’ve become a happy loner, who enjoys working from home and loves writing books. No matter how lonely and isolated it may feel during the winter months, I wouldn’t change a thing about my decision to live a creative life. In the past, friends have urged me to move back to the DC area and return to my job in social services. Though I love the DC area and the availability of great restaurants, museums, and cultural events, my friend’s urgency to “fix my problem” was met with much resistance. No way, I’m staying put. My life may be a quiet life, but it’s my life and I love it.
In January 2020, I realized it wasn’t necessary to subtract from my life in any way to feel happier–I needed to add. I acknowledged I’d become a homebody and less active in winter. I don’t want to meet for lunch dates or to date for that matter. I want to share evenings with like-minded folks and other creative people. What I needed was a creative tribe. Bingo. I ordered my fifth copy of Julia Cameron’s seminal book on creativity called The Artist’s Way (TAW) and then I called two friends to join me in forming a new group. They passed the word along in their social circles, and I created my first Facebook event.
Why do I purchase a new copy of TAW for each group? Because each time I “do” the book, I’m a different person in a different stage of my life, and I view each group as a fresh start. Who doesn’t love a fresh start? I also write in the margins. A lot. I highlight passages and quotes that speak to me.
During the years I facilitated the first four creative clusters, I was an exhibiting painter, a founding member of the first English-speaking art guild in Brussels, Belgium, and I wrote poetry no one read. I was a married ex-pat with two children in high school. We owned a vacation home in the South of France and traveled extensively. I had a large circle of international friends and loved my life. Then, in a flash, it changed dramatically and before I knew it, my children were studying in the US and I shut the doors of my homes in France and Belgium. My idyllic life and European lifestyle had vanished.
In 2006, I moved back to the US, went back to school, worked full time, and put the rough draft manuscript of A Decent Woman, which I’d finished in Brussels during the fourth TAW group, in a box. I got on with my new life as a single, working Mom, but that didn’t last long. I felt like a fish out of water in more ways than one. From 2006 to 2010, I lived and worked in New York, Maryland, and Virginia, searching for my forever home and a way to return to my creative life, but to no avail. I wasn’t unhappy, just unsettled, and I didn’t have a free moment to do anything creative.
In 2010, I jumped off a cliff and bought a beautiful period home in West Virginia. I finally opened the box that contained my manuscript and went to work. A Decent Woman was first published in 2015 and republished in 2017. I painted on the side, but writing became my new passion, my obsession. It still is.
Earlier this month, my fifth creative cluster met for the first time at a local coffee shop. The five women were new to the book, which I’ve always credited for completely changing my life because it did. Actually, walking El Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain changed my life. I went on that journey with my children, weeks after my husband left our home–a pilgrimage of the soul that utterly changed me and consequently, my life. I kept a nightly journal during that challenging walk and after my current work-in-progress, The Laments, is published this year (I hope!), I’ll begin working on the El Camino memoir of the most enlightening time of my life. I think I’ll call it, Saving Grace.
Back to the new TAW group. Sadly or just right, only one out of the five participants was able to brave the elements that evening. As always, it was a wonderful experience. I’d forgotten how much I love the book, the exercises, and how much I glean from Cameron’s special and intuitive wisdom. Since then, the participants have shared how much they’re enjoying the book and I can’t wait to meet them next month.
While I read and work with Week Two of TAW, I’m diligent about writing my Morning Pages and hard at work on The Laments, my second novel set in turn of the century Puerto Rico, 1927 to be exact. I haven’t written as many blog posts this year because I’m usually dealing with similar issues and thoughts in my Morning Pages. I don’t know why it’s an either-or situation for me; it just is. And I’m okay with that. The Laments is coming along nicely, and again, I am in love with my story and the unique characters.
During one of my February Artist Dates, I bought a sleek, black Waterman fountain pen (my second) and beautiful, cold-pressed D’Arche watercolor paper. The sun is shining today and Spring will arrive on March 19, at 11:50 pm. I’ve purchased my airline tickets for Puerto Rico and our Airbnb reservations on the island are secured. I’m happy. I hope you are, too.
I guess I did have a lot to say today. Happy creating!
Eleanor x

Me in March 2020

 

About Eleanor:
Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning novel, A Decent Woman, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Her best-selling 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, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club. 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 Old San Juan and Isla de Cabras, Puerto Rico. Look for The Laments in 2020.
BUY THE BOOK:

A Decent Woman Flat (1)

https://www.amazon.com/Decent-Woman-Eleanor-Parker-Sapia/dp/1941058876/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?keywords=a+decent+woman+by+eleanor+parker+sepia&qid=1576099888&sr=8-1-fkmr0

 

 

 

Urgency in Getting it All Down

I believe we all have many stories that should see the light of day. I believe that many of us will never write those stories down and that saddens me because I want to read those stories. At funerals, I’ve often wondered if the deceased accomplished what he or she set out to do in life. I think of all the wonderful untold life stories that go with that person.

We all wake up, most of us get ready for work or school, we spend our day doing our jobs and if we have families, we come home to make dinner, do homework with our children, talk to our significant others, perhaps eat it in front of the television and fall asleep. We wake up and do it all over again. That’s not all we do, of course, but you get the picture-we live our lives. We live the lives we’ve been taught to live or we do our own thing. Most of us follow routines that make our lives and the lives of our loved ones manageable and for some of us, that is enough and we are happy. Others, however, develop an urgency deep inside that whispers, “Time waits for no one, do that thing.”

Only you know what that “thing” is. That thing for me turned into two things–to write books and paint in between my books.

I believe that fear, excuses and our busy lives stop us from writing our stories. I am of the belief that you should fake it until you make it. Just write it all down. Write a daily journal, blog, keep a notebook with you at all times, or type out the stories of your life. Don’t worry about grammar or the right words, for now, just write.

As the granddaughter and daughter of oral storytellers, I had a wealth of information, details and storylines by the time I was in my 30’s. My memory and the repetition of these stories kept them alive for me as well as telling my kids the stories, but I didn’t write them down.

Soon after my mother’s death in 1992 at the young age of 57, I began to keep a journal. Her death shook my family and her friends to the core. Again, I wondered whether my beautiful mother had left things too late. Had she left unfinished business and did she live all her dreams? Or even one? She was the epitome of a great mother and grandmother, but I wasn’t sure.

My mother’s death was the kick in the pants and in the gut that I needed. I began a journal, written long-hand for over ten years in beautifully bound, unlined books. I took those bulky journals everywhere I went. I wrote during trips, vacations and even on walks because my entries also included photographs I’d taken along the way and small drawings done in interesting places. I wrote down pieces of conversations I heard on the Metro, in small cafes, and on ferry boat rides. I jotted down descriptions of people, of corner bodegas, and the tiniest flower. I began to see and write down what I saw and heard and how it made me feel. I also kept a notebook by my bed to record dreams.

During those years, the book, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron arrived as a Christmas gift from my father’s new wife, Rebecca. That was when I started my journey toward doing “that thing” and her book changed my life. I read the book alone, did the homework and went out on my Artist’s Dates and soon, I was sharing the book with girlfriends. We met once a month for a year and soon, another group was formed and I was facilitating. I began to write poetry and a year later, I wrote my book, A Decent Woman.

It is not surprising that through helping others with their creativity, I found my own.

Blogs have long replaced my journal. Julia might not agree and I understand that she may be right. I might go back to writing in my journal, just maybe…

Ellie