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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Thoughts After The Women’s March on Washington

photo-by-andrew-caballero-reynolds-the-womens-march

Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Mission and Vision 

“We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”

Shared from The Women’s March on Washington website.

My experience of standing shoulder to shoulder and marching with thousands of women, men, and children at the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, January 21, 2017, was one of peace, inclusivity, unity, and respect. I am grateful to the women who marched with us in 600 sister marches in their respective countries, and I’m very grateful to the organizers and co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington, who worked hard to organize what turned out to be a massive, historic event.

The short speeches made by six-year-old immigrant rights activist, Sophie Cruz (who won my heart), America Ferrara, Amanda Nguyen, Scarlett Johansson, Angela Davis, Cynthia Hale, Rabbi Sharon Brous, Gloria Steinem, LaDonna Harris, each of the co-chairs of the March, and Ashley Judd reciting a poem written by 19-year-old Nina Donovan from Tennessee, and many others, left me feeling represented at the March—as a Latina, as a mother, as a sister, and as a woman. As a mother, my heart broke for the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, and Jordan Davis. The mothers and their sons were rightly remembered that day.

I took away nuggets of wisdom from all the speeches, heard the truth of each speaker, and felt fortunate to be part of a march that demanded unity and respect for ALL. My group left just before Madonna came on stage, so I can’t speak to her message.

What I can say is that women and men, from across the United States and Canada, carried signs with deeply personal messages on a wide range of issues. The signs around me included messages about the LGBTQ community, the Black Lives Matter movement, women’s rights, human rights, domestic violence, immigration, the environment, education, Pro-choice, Pro-life, keeping our young women safe on college campuses, unity, and respect, among many messages against Trump and his decisions. And no, not every woman at the March was pro-choice as I’ve read recently. I saw plenty of women carrying pro-life signs standing next to plenty of women carrying pro-choice signs. So to me, it is incorrect to say or assume that it was a women’s pro-choice march as it has been described; it was much more. I never thought it was a case of “us” versus “them” that day; not at all. That’s not how I choose to live, and it pains me that many women and men are painting the March in that divisive light. Maybe you had to be there?

We were single and married women, mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers, activists, members of the clergy, members of every denomination, faith, belief, and then some, standing together with our children, partners, and friends. The march wasn’t a dangerous, violent, hate-filled event, where you, your beliefs or your children were in danger of being trampled and hurt like I’ve read this week. I didn’t witness animosity or shaming of women by women; everyone simply spoke from their hearts as women do on matters that are important to them. Instead, it was a peaceful, rowdy, wonderful march with lots of respect, kindness, humor, and comradery among the marchers. I experienced patience, polite and kind behavior, and good humor, which was incredible, given the huge number of marchers, the long hours of standing, and the frustrating lack of large screens and microphones for thousands of our fellow marchers who weren’t close enough to the stage to see or hear. But who could have predicted the massive turnout?

I know women multi-task like nobody’s business, but on that day, we were physically limited to carrying one large sign, or two small signs as some did. I felt we were more than the signs we carried that day, as I would venture to say most women who participated (myself included), hold many, many issues close to our hearts. It was heartening to see the different messages around me; many that expressed my own feelings. I wished I’d had ten hands for ten different issues!

To say the Women’s March wasn’t focused, organized, or inclusive doesn’t describe the March I experienced—women have big hearts and we hold many issues close to our big hearts, and thank God for women—ALL women. Are we perfect? Will we always get it right? Will we always agree? No, and there is still plenty of work to do for future generations, and lots to learn.

Obviously, I can’t know if the March was a wonderful experience for all the marchers, but I pray it was. If it was less than a positive day for you, I’d certainly like to know how we can do better. I was proud to march with women for women’s rights, for respect, compassion, and for unity in this country. I certainly marched for the rights of my sisters, neighbors, and for children around the world—refugees most definitely included.

‘Respect my existence or expect my resistance’ was the message I chose to bring to the Women’s March. I wrote the message on my poster board in English and in Spanish. That message still resonates with me and my heart as I believe it includes the rights of all men, women, and children in this country and the world. I took home a lot more understanding of the human experience, and how we all do the best with what we’ve been dealt with in life. I am grateful for the eye-opening experience.

Thank you to the thousands of women who couldn’t march with us and who took the time to knit and donate the pink pussy hats most of us wore with pride on that historic day.

Lastly and most important of all: you may not like or agree that women marched and protested on Washington as is our right. You may not like or agree with the many messages women brought to the March, but please know women marched for YOU, too. And we will keep marching for you because we that’s important. Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights.

For a list of speakers and performers at The Women’s March on Washington:

https://qz.com/891175/the-full-lineup-of-the-many-many-speakers-and-performers-at-the-womens-march-on-washington/

About Eleanor: 

ellie

Former counselor and family support worker for immigrant and refugee families, 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, garnered 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 selection by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor 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, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.


Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

Wise Women, Fierce Sisters, Spiritual Healers

la receta y cosas de la botanica

Historically, women have moved in the world of spirits, remedies, healing, and protection for themselves and their loved ones. When their lives became difficult or frightening, and especially when their children’s future seemed threatened, they leaned on each other in prayer, tradition, and rituals. Women were in charge of hearth and home, but had little personal power outside the home in many male-dominated societies, and tragically, the same holds true today for millions of women around the world.

Women’s reliance on and connection to nature’s free pharmacy and the wisdom imparted from mother to daughter throughout the ages were a natural way of life. Many women employed an arsenal of spiritual armor against evil, danger, and the unknowns of the world in the form of prayers, the evil eye, and communion with God, goddesses, the Virgin Mary, and other deities. The spirit world and spirituality were ways in which women dealt with life’s uncertainties.

My maternal grandmother was a wise woman. Meme was a spiritist and a healer, who had a very close connection to the spirit world and to nature. She was an elegant, tender-hearted, fierce defender of her family and loyal to her many friends, who still speak about her with kind words and a smile. She had a quick wit, a ready smile, open arms, and she was a beauty. Meme’s mystical connection to the spirit world began at the tender age of nine when her beloved mother, Amancia died. As a Catholic, Meme was accustomed to the spirit world of the martyred saints and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who interceded on her behalf to keep her mother’s spirit close by, so it wasn’t a stretch to welcome spirits into her life.

My grandmother and my aunt, who married my mother’s brother, happened to have a lifelong friendship with a medium by the name of Doña Pina, whom I visited until her death. Pina, a kind-hearted, diminutive, dark-haired woman with the most piercing black eyes I’ve ever seen, had inherited her spiritual gifts as a child from her mother, another renowned medium in Ponce, Puerto Rico. I grew up hearing their stories, told in exquisite detail, of the spirit world and of those who inhabit ‘the other plane’, which exists near the world we know; kind of like the family who lives one flight up in your apartment building. Some you liked, others not so much. Some stories scared me witless, others offered comfort. I know now that many of the scary stories were meant to keep me on the straight and narrow path, and to keep me safe, alert, and aware as a child and as a young adult.

Thanksgiving and PR trip 2012 155

New Age spirituality was nothing new to Meme. She spent her life being watchful, alert, and sweeping the negative energy, spirits, from her home. She even swept a few unwanted female friends away from my grandfather, but that’s another story. Meme knew which plant, flower, and herb to use for certain ailments and was quick to send you on your way with a recipe and a little bag of plant cuttings, so you could grow your own ‘pharmacy’. She could tell you the best method for sweetening up a stale love life, how to read people, and especially, how to get rid of unwanted visitors. And what to do if you found a rotten egg in your front yard, which she said was clearly an hechizo, a curse,  from a jealous neighbor. Meme imparted much of her wisdom to her daughters and to the granddaughters who would listen, as I’ve done with my own daughter, an intuitive from a young age. My son just rolls his eyes when we broach the subject, but he listens to my dreams and stories of synchronicites because they happen in his life, as well.

My girlfriends from Iran, the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, Virginia, West Virginia, Greece, Jamaica, and El Salvador, have shared similar stories with me told to them by their mothers and grandmothers. When I shared my friend’s stories with my grandmother, she just nodded. When I told her about Deepak Chopra, the third eye of intuition, and Eckhart Tolle, she grinned and said, “Ay nena, eso no es nada nuevo”, meaning “My girl, that is nothing new”. She was right, of course.

Meme’s stories fed my already vivid, childhood imagination and pushed forward, full throttle, my love of oral and written storytelling. Although a few tales of spirits frightened me, I couldn’t get enough of Meme’s stories. They are with me when I write my books about humble, yet extraordinary women doing extraordinary things in difficult times.

I’ve been known to cleanse a home with Catholic prayers, sage, and incense. I still say the rosary with a lit candle. Much like my ancestors, I perform these rituals in faith, for they are a personal source of comfort and clarity during times of personal and familial troubles, and global unrest.

Peace to you.

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.

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

 

 

 

 

First 2016 Author Interview: K J Dixon

Happy Three Kings’ Day!

Welcome to The Writing Life and our first author interview of 2016!

Today I am very pleased to welcome the lovely and talented Kristen “KJ” Dixon, author of the newly released novel, ‘The Trouble with Red Lipstick’.

Profile pic Karen Dixon

Originally from Atlanta, Kristen “KJ” Dixon-Barnes was born the youngest daughter of a school teacher and a social worker. After receiving her undergraduate degree from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, she began working in the field of one of her many passions-women’s health. Her experiences while taking care of others during their most fragile and vulnerable moments taught her to respect and appreciate the many different paths and perspectives that help to grow, shape and sharpen women.

It wasn’t until she completed her Master’s program in Public Administration from Troy University and began writing policies and procedures for health care agencies and facilities that she started to write fiction.

To family and close friends, it’s no surprise that KJ Dixon began writing The Trouble With Red Lipstick after being inspired by several discussions with women through book clubs, women’s groups and personal friendships. Although it is a work of fiction, its themes surrounding self-love, mother-daughter relationships and self-actualization in the black community are familiar to many.

In her spare time, KJ Dixon actively participates in outreach events sponsored by her beloved sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated; hosts Tiny Tales (a book club for children developed to promote and improve children’s literacy rates); conducts events for underserved health care populations; and tries anything else she finds fun and rewarding. She lives in Atlanta with her family and is busy at work on her next novel.

Welcome, Kristen!

the-trouble-with-red-lipstick

What genre/category does ‘The Trouble with Red Lipstick’ fall under?

I know this is supposed to be an easy question but I still struggle with it! By most folks’ standards, ‘The Trouble With Red Lipstick’ is probably best considered Women’s Contemporary Fiction. The main characters in this story are black women but their issues, challenges and struggles are universal. It definitely has some elements of both humor and chick-lit too.

 

Please describe what your story/book is about.

It’s about a mother and her three adult daughters—so four women in total—and all of them are attempting to fix their brokenness. They’ve always done everything they believed they were supposed to do, and they’re now trying to figure out what’s still missing and why happiness continues to elude them. Then throw in a family secret that rocks everybody’s world and voila! The drama unfolds!

Oh, those family secrets! Love it. How did you come up with the intriguing title?

That’s a funny question. I wrote the whole book without even having one. Then I sat down and read it one day and I realized how much a particular line—one including the book’s title—was central to the entire book’s theme. I tried it and it just worked immediately. Besides, I love red lipstick. And maybe I like a little trouble, too.

Your catchy title makes me wonder what the trouble with red lipstick is! What inspired you to write this book?

Both everything and nothing. I started writing a scene one day with Karen—one of the book’s main characters—where she was falling in love with Tim, the truck driver. I wondered what would happen once Karen realized that she wasn’t feeling love at all—but that she was really just in need of a good orgasm and was confusing the two! Then I realized that Karen had a mother and a couple sisters and before I knew it, they were begging me to write their stories too.

I love when a character leads me into their inner world. It’s exciting to become a voyeur to their secrets and inner struggles. What is your favorite part of writing?

All of it. It’s thrilling for me to explore issues that I don’t fully understand by writing about them. It reminds me of solving a math problem. It might not make sense in my head at first, but as I start to work it out on paper the answers begin to slowly unfold. Real life is tricky like that sometimes. These characters have problems that they’re trying to solve just like everyone else.

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

Editing. Enough said. But wait. Let me erase that period and replace it with an exclamation point.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Maya Angelou may be my absolute favorite. I’m also obsessed with James Patterson and John Grisham. Michael Connelly, Terry McMillan, Steven King and Amy Tan are pretty high up on my list as well. I’ll read anything by Mary B. Morrison, Lee Child, Dan Brown and Dr. Suess. And then Eleanor Parker Sapia stole my heart with A Decent Woman…

Great list and thank you for the mention, Kristen! I’m so pleased you enjoyed Ana and Serafina’s journeys.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

As a writer? That’s easy. Angelou. Patterson. Maybe even Beverly Cleary from my childhood days of reading Ramona books for all those hours at a time. As a person? There really are too many to name. Let’s say my family, my friends, and a dash of everyone else on planet Earth.

I wholeheartedly agree with your last sentence. Do you have a favorite place to write?

My kitchen table. Don’t you dare laugh.

No laughing here! The kitchen is the most important place in the home; it’s where a lot of living and sharing happens. Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I had four or five moles as a child and now I’m up to nine, plus a new set of freckles across my cheeks. I’m terrified of spiders. And I never thought I’d end up a writer. I loved writing stories as a child, but I took several detours on my way here. Before going to college, I sold shoes and perfume, did make-up, was an actor in local plays, and tried several other things that seemed really exciting. At least they did at the time.

Our paths to the writing life are always so interesting to me. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

Prayed really hard.

For real, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t get this book published because I did everything right. I just tried my best to listen in the characters’ voices in my head and to write their stories down in a way that most women could identify with. I’m surprised each time someone tells me that they’ve purchased and read the book. It’s hard to believe that anyone can take a story from their head and place it in the mind of someone else who they’ve never even met. It’s an amazing gift for which I’m very thankful.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Keep writing until you get good at it. Stay true to yourself and to your characters. And as much as this part is always much easier said than done, try not to get discouraged when people tell you ‘no’. You persevere, you get better, and eventually you get matched with the person or group that you’re supposed to have your book baby with. It works out better for you in the end.

Great advice. Website?

Of course. Please hit me up at www.thekjdixonexperience.com. I love interacting with readers and other writers.

Twitter: @Dixon01K
Facebook: K.J. Dixon
website: www.thekjdixonexperience.com

Where can we find ‘The Trouble with Red Lipstick’, Kristen?

Amazon, Barnes and Noble’s online website, iTunes and a few local bookstores. If you don’t see it, please ask for it!

What’s next for you?

Another book. It’s untitled right now too, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun so far. Stay tuned.

Thanks for visiting with us at The Writing Life, Kristen. I wish you a world of happiness and happy writing in 2016!

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’. Book clubs across the United States continue to enjoy A Decent Woman. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani. She is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society, and she is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

Eleanor is the mother of two wonderful adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel and a collection of short stories.

http://amzn.to/1kzKdGq

 

Character Interview with Ana Belen from A Decent Woman

CHARACTER INTERVIEW with Ana Opaku Belén from Eleanor Parker Sapia’s historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN. Part of the Historical Novel Tour, hosted by the fabulous author, Tiffani Burnett-Velez. https://tiffaniburnettvelez.wordpress.com/ Thank you for having me,Tiffani!

BOOK COVER SEPT 2014 (3) (1)

Welcome, Ana.

When and where were you born?

My Nigerian-born parents were captured and sent to the new world on one the last African slave ships that landed in Cuba. I was born a slave on a sugar plantation in Camaguey Province, Cuba in 1860.

I say I was born twice—once when my mother gave birth to me, and the second time when I fled Cuba under mysterious circumstances in 1880 on a freight ship that landed at the Port of Ponce, in Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico in the middle of the night. It was a second chance for me; a rebirth.

In 1860, Cuba produced nearly one-third of the world’s sugar, and my parents worked in the sugar cane fields of a Spanish-owned sugar plantation between Las Minas and the port of Nuevitas. Near the end of my mother’s pregnancy with me, she was sent to work in the land owner’s house kitchen.

Abraham Lincoln became President of the United States the year I was born, but of course I didn’t know who he was, or what he would do for those born into slavery until many years later.

What was Playa de Ponce like during the first ten years after you arrived?

The last half of the 19th century was marked by the Puerto Rican struggle for independence and the abolition of slavery, which was abolished in Puerto Rico by the Spanish National Assembly on March 22, 1873.  The owners were given 35 million pesetas, and slaves were forced to continue working for three more years. I arrived in Puerto Rico in 1880 as a free woman and lucky for me, I met a midwife who trained me as a midwife. When Doña Milagro (her name means, miracle) passed away, I took over her business and became the only midwife in Playa de Ponce. I was very fortunate.

At that time, the main currency was the Puerto Rican peso, and the US dollar was appearing as well as foreign currency from merchants doing business on the island. Although Barrio Playa was a bustling port town with many grand homes and mansions owned by wealthy merchants, and many government buildings, I lived in relative poverty in a little, wooden house near the Caribbean Sea. I was illiterate until the early 1900’s when I met my friend, Serafina, another character in Eleanor’s book whose baby I caught, taught me to read.

In 1898, all Spanish-born governors were appointed by the Spanish crown, and the population was a mix of white, black, mulatto, and criollo, creole. There was an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with Spanish rule, and the Puerto Rican educated elite were making their voices heard, but their efforts were always squashed and silenced by the Spaniards. There was talk of the Americans fighting the Spanish crown for possession of Cuba and Puerto Rico, and it came to pass—in 1898, the United States declared war under President William McKinley, and soon afterward, Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States at the end of the Spanish American War. The Americans invaded Puerto Rico on the shores of the town of Guánica on July 25, 1898 under the command of General Nelson Miles.

When Hurricane San Ciriaco nearly decimated the island two months later with twenty eight days of rain and high winds, I wondered if the Americans regretted their decision to invade and control Puerto Rico. The hurricane claimed 3,433 lives, and caused widespread disease, poverty, famine, and left millions of dollars of crop damage. It was a miracle I survived, and there were many more hurricanes and tropical storms to come, and an earthquake in 1918.

What was the situation for women in Ponce, Puerto Rico in your time period?

For me and many poor, uneducated, black and mulatto women, the situation was dismal, but I managed to keep a roof over my head and food in my cooking pot because I caught babies. But many times, I didn’t charge for my services as I knew most of my clients couldn’t afford to pay me. We used a barter system, which was how I survived.

Women had few rights in those days, and even the high class women had a difficult time as is life in a male-dominated society. Women’s first obligation was to their husbands, who kept them and their children protected and safe. It became difficult for women to keep other women away from their men, as all women looked for the same protection and good futures for themselves and their children. Men pit woman against woman, which was a shame in my eyes, but I understood the battle of these women.

What advice in life might you give to young women today?

In my advanced age, my advice to young women is simple—live your life with integrity, compassion for others, strong faith, and strength of character. Our character and integrity should be impeccable, and never choose a bad man over a good girlfriend. Women need a strong village in life, and that is why in Puerto Rico, women refer to each other as ‘comadre’, which has many meanings. A comadre could be your midwife, the godmother of your child, and it is often used to refer to a very close person to the family, a best friend.

Serafina and I are comadres in every sense of the word.

Thanks so much for the creative interview questions and for inviting me on the Historical Novel Blog Tour, Tiffani! I enjoyed sitting in Ana Belen’s chair today! All the best to you!

A DECENT WOMAN is coming early March, 2015 with Booktrope Books.

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