My 1st Published Poem

Earlier this month I was overcome with joy when my first published poem was released. It’s taken me a while to announce it because well, I’m just terrible that way. You can find it in Chaparral, an online literary arts journal featuring poetry from Southern California or in the link below.

Quick note about the poem:

Over the 2013 spring semester at CSUN I took English 309 (verse writing). I was really nervous because I hadn’t written a poem in many many years. For a long time I had closed myself off from writing especially towards poetry and I was afraid I would be laughed at for deplorable poetry. In the end, I loved the class and was very comfortable and excited to write more. As the semester went on, I was assigned to read Museum of Accidents, a book of poetry by Rachel Zucker. I then had the task of writing a poem inspired by her writing style. My professor loved the poem so much so that she wanted to publish it in the online poetry journal, Chaparral that she runs. I of course had to wait to officially submit it to the journal after my semester was over otherwise there would be a conflict of interest. Therefore once the semester had concluded I submitted the poem and it was accepted. So ready or not, here is my first published poem…

My Poem to You as Love Letter # 2

- AlessandraWrites

On the Radio whoa oh oh…

Hi everyone!

I am delighted to announce that my first piece “Hello America…” published by Drunken Boat was read aloud on the radio!!!!! Can you see me smiling? :)

Life has a way of surprising you when you least expect it. Now, I’m not saying that my life is perfect by any means (trust me, it’s far from perfection) or that I am some kind of superstar writer (only in my wildest dreams & stories can I say that) – but I am saying that just when questioning my goals and my ability to be a writer started to be a daily issue for me, I was suddenly swept up in a whirlwind of excitement to keep on trying and to live the dream rather than just dreaming it when I received a message from beyond the clouds.

It all started when I happened to check my Facebook (a feat I rarely remember to do) as I was taking a break from mopping some hardwood floors at my mom’s job – she’s a housekeeper and when I have the free time away from work or school I help her. Either way, just as I was making my way to the living room from the dining room I took a break to laze away on someone else’s couch and check my Facebook updates on my phone ( I know, I know – what a model employee, haha!).

Now here is where the story starts to move from blah blah blah to Holy Smokes!!!!! One of the messages waiting for me was from my former Drunken Boat corresponding nonfiction editor, Erin Wilcox. Her message explained that she was going to be on a radio show promoting the journals partnership with the Librotraficante movement. Have you heard of the Librotraficante movement taking place in AZ and TX and spreading across the country? It’s outstanding and in short, it is a New Latino Renaissance in literature and art born from the negative attitudes towards ethnic studies and the banning of books in certain areas around the country. Here are some links to check out, get acquainted with the movement Librotraficante (PW) and Librotraficante.com.

Together Erin Wilcox and the Drunken Boat team are collaborating with Librotraficante to create a special issue of the journal to help support the movement. Erin wrote me to ask if I wouldn’t mind if she could read my story, “Hello America, Hasta Luego Guatemala! 1969!” on the radio to help indicate the kind of submissions DB would be looking for.  EEEK! That came out of left field. I of course said YES!!!! :)

Erin went on the “Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say” radio show on 90.1 FM KPFT to announce the submission dates and info on the issue as well as to speak to Tony Diaz (founder of “Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say” and leader of Librotraficante). They discussed the urgency behind the creation of the momentous portfolio and what the mission and significance behind the issue is . Erin felt that my piece speaks to what they’re looking for and she read it on the May 28th broadcast.  Originally I was asked to be on air to read it, however, work got in the way so Erin just read it for me. Unfortunately, she was only allotted time to read an excerpt of the story, but it was still really AWESOME!!!! It was a very surreal moment to be able to hear it when I later tuned into the podcast. My mom cried listening to it, and to be honest, my eyes were wet too. Erin was really great to have gotten in touch with me about it.

I am very proud and honored and hope that I can keep up this momentum to produce more work that feeds my soul and perhaps the souls of some readers too. It is ironically fitting that my work was chosen to help promote the issue and more importantly the Latino writers voice within our society when I have so often doubted myself and my own writing. Now, all there is to do, is to keep writing! :)

-AlessandraWrites

*** The original broadcast on the radio website has expired, therefore I am trying to see if I can upload the audio file directly onto here. Unfortunately, I am having difficulties with linking and/or adding the audio file to the site since its a podcast (i’m not too tech savy). When I’ve finally figured it out, I will be sure to add it in so that those that are interested can listen to it. 

The Panel Experience

Guest Author Follow-Up

Hello everyone!

Previously on AlessandraWrites (to be more accurate – more than a year ago, yikes!), I gushed about how I was invited to be a “guest-author” of sorts to an LAVC college classroom for an informal discussion along with a Q&A session about one of my short stories along with some of my peers from a previous class at LAVC.

Well, for those of you who know me, you can probably guess that I arrived late – I blame the parking. In the end however, I wasn’t the last one to arrive, ha! Either way, once I there I was introduced to the class along with a mention of my story “Lucero is Gone” – it was somewhat dreamlike when I saw some of the faces in the class light up and nod along to the mention of my piece.

As I took my seat I realized that I looked like most of the students in the class, still wet behind the ears in writing and felt supremely out of my league when compared to the rest of the panel. Although the other “guest-author’s” are my friends I found myself second-guessing the reasons why I was there. Nevertheless, as the discussion went on, I quickly recovered when I was asked about my story and what the driving force behind it that compelled me to write it was. Strangely enough I felt my eyes water a bit as I sought to find my voice to explain that most everything I write is very significant and singular to me because I write for family. My writings’ roots breach from deep within me, from a familial grasp, a sea of stories begging to be written whether they be tragic, happy or cosmic. On most days I write to live and others I live to write.

The experience became less heady as the Q&A relaxed with questions like how long had we been writing, what sorts of genres we write in and whether we had been published or not. The class was super attentive, respectful and very receptive as each one of the panel members took their moments to shine. The night ended with the opportunity for the students to speak to the panel members individually for a few moments before we made our way out of the classroom. I quickly noted that the students went straight to the “guest-authors” whose stories they had chosen to write their papers on. It dawned on me at that moment that perhaps no one had chosen mine and that perhaps it was a mistake to have come in the first place. And just as my baleful inner voice started to laugh, I took a step back as three students made their way to me. They had chosen my story to write their papers on and wanted to know more and to talk about what they loved most!!!!!!!!! A writer’s dream, to have a loving audience enthused and wanting more. This moment was unlike any other in my life. I know that I have much to grow as a writer and that I am no where near the likes of my idols such as Isabel Allende and Carlos Ruiz Zafón but it felt so good to receive such touching and heartfelt feedback and praise from strangers about my creation. One student told me that my story really touched him because of a similar situation in his family that he felt connected to my story. Wow! At this moment in my life, I can’t top that.

I’m just so grateful to have been apart of such a cool and rare opportunity that I am inspired to write more and to really dare myself to seek out new ways in telling my stories, to crush my fears and at times my menacing inner voice and to reach my goals, to one day be as talented as Allende and Zafón.

Happily, my night ended at Starbucks with some of the other panel members as we sipped on green tea lattes and caramel macchiato’s enjoying the evening breeze.  :)

-AlessandraWrites

“Guest Author”

I am NERVOUS! Why you ask? Today, I am thrilled to announce that I have been invited to be a “guest author” for an English Creative Writing class at the LAVC campus.

Okay, so your probably thinking how the hell did she get the title to be a guest author, she hasn’t even made a name for herself! Well, don’t worry I’m thinking the same thing too.

Let me give you the background story:

As mentioned in the previous entry “Finally Out Of Quicksand”, I had to attend LAVC in order to bring up my g.p.a. so that I could continue my education at CSUN once again. Well, DONE & DONE! :)

This last Fall semester 2011, I took a short story writing class at LAVC and loved it! I had one of the best professors ever ( Prof. M.) and I was able to really grow as a writer from the class and my peers. At the end of the semester I was invited by my peers to join a private writer’s workshop group taught/lead by our favorite Prof. M. Needless to say, I joined!

It’s almost like a secret society of writers (only thing is, it’s not a secret). We’re made up of five students and one professor. We meet once a month at the Robin Hood Bar/Restaurant on Burbank blvd. When we meet we either present new or “old” work and have the group discuss and critique our individual pieces and in turn we later decide if we want to use the suggestions or not – basic workshop.

The group had been going well. And just recently it got even better. Our professor felt that we had each improved very much and that we had each presented exemplary work that he asked each one of us if we wouldn’t mind if he used our work in one of the classes that he is teaching.

OMG! Use my work in a class?!?!?! He said that his students could benefit from what we had to offer and so that they could learn different styles of writing for crafting a short story.

I was blown away when he asked me. I of course said yes! And then as the shock dissipated I began to fret over the possibility that maybe he was going to use my story as a “How NOT to Write” type of lesson. I would be mortified had that been the case.

He later put my worries at ease and explained that he was going to have his student write a paper on my story along with the stories of my peers.

It’s definitely a strange notion to think that at this stage in my life my writing is being used as a teaching tool.

And to top it off, each one of us has been invited to the class tonight as “guest-authors” for an informal discussion and Q&A lead by my professor. So to say the least, I am super nervous. I worry that the class is going to slaughter me and my story and that I may never recover, ahhh!

One thing is for sure; this will be a good experience one that I can learn from. I don’t know the students in his class so there wont be any biases or any secret agendas hidden behind their notebooks. But still the artist in me is scared and anxious. I don’t know what to expect. Who knows, maybe the class will not have time to get to my story, ha!

Okay, I’ve got to jet to the class anyhow. So stay tuned for a follow-up post on how my first guest-author experience went. :)

-AlessandraWrites

Finally Out of Quicksand!

Hi everyone! I know it’s been a while since I’ve written. Been swamped with nothing and too much all at once. Today I write to you from the hipster/lazy boy setting of a Starbucks. Ha, a writer writing at a coffee shop, what a novel idea!! -Note undertones of sarcasm ooze from my fingertips and onto the keys ;)

Today I am writing about Me. Okay, when have I not written about Me? Today I write a little more seriously about Me; delving into the secrets behind my maybe missed disappearance from the lives of many and the plights that I have faced as well as my more recent successes.

Some of you may have noticed a lack of Ale in your lives, or maybe not, either way for quite some time I have been drowning in sorrow. And for those of you that have noticed a slight absence, let me be the first to say Sorry and I miss YOU!

I haven’t been living under a rock, but I have been lingering in the shadows. Why you ask? Embarrassment and Shame! Don’t worry, I haven’t killed anybody or said something mean about my friends that keeps me in hiding. It’s quite the opposite actually. Here it comes, and the awful truth – I-I-I-I (imagine me stuttering) have not graduated yet (I am still an undergrad in limbo).  Whew! Finally I got that off my chest!!!!

Okay. So maybe that wasn’t too bad of an admission. But believe me, it had been plaguing me for some time. And I am now just coming to terms with it. Let me give you the 411 on the subject.

At the end of Spring 2008 I was disqualified from school because I had fallen into a cave of depression. I lost my way and lost sight of my priorities. I ended up putting all I had into everything but my studies and before I knew it, I was occasionally thinking of “a way out” of my problems and life (definitely a low point) and then I flunked out of school.

Now, sometimes I look back and ask myself how did I get here? Well, here is a small snippet of the journey that is my life.

Finishing high school in 2003 (wow, so long ago) I left trying to stamp out my passion for writing and entered university (CSUN) embracing my new obsession, Philosophy. I took one class in high school and all of a sudden I was married to it. Well, that turned out to be just a fling. A fling that lasted longer than it should have and I regretted deeply because I began to earn mediocre grades and really just not giving school my all. Sitting in class one day, I was struck with an epiphany; that I needed to feel passionate about my major the way the dude next to me was about philosophy. I had no idea what he was talking about but the way he practically spit all over the class with his enthusiasm for his major, I knew that that was what I needed in order to be happy too.

So I set off on a crusade to find the right major. Along the way I fell into different classes that made me happy.

I briefly considered my childhood dream of being a pediatrician but then I remembered that I hated math and science and I fear when people vomit – and kids vomit all the time especially at the doctor’s office. So that was a NO.

Sociology made me think and I loved my interviewing the homeless project but when it came down to it, I knew I was never going to pass statistics nor was I even going to try. So, that too was a NO.

Next came Psychology which was fun in a class setting however when I tried making a difference early on via the CSUN helpline I ended up realizing that I was too vulnerable and fragile to help others (I would be the type to bring my work home with me – and I wouldn’t handle it well). So that was a bust.

Next came Political Science. I got an A in one Poli Sci class and all of a sudden I had declared it as my major. I was going to be a politician. HA!!! What a delusional girl I was. I later realized that I don’t really care about politics (its important but its not my cup of tea and it’s not on my radar).

Now realize that all the time that I was busy trying any and every class I was still taking English classes and loving them. Finally I realized what I should have known the whole time – I was meant to be a writer; my major needed to be English Creative Writing. However by the time this fact registered and I was ready to make a change it was too late and I was slapped in the face by reality – I was flunking out of school ;( I was in quicksand and had no way out. :(

So in order to get back into CSUN I needed to attend a community college (LAVC), get good grades and prove to CSUN that I could come back. Only problem was that I hadn’t taken the time to take care of me and the ever-present depression, so I as expected did just as bad at LAVC.

It occurred to me to finally get help and I made progress. Beautiful progress. I can officially and honestly say that I am no longer depressed and can actually see and taste the future and all that I will eventually accomplish.

However, before I knew it, spring 2011 was upon me and still I had not returned to CSUN to finish my degree. So this past fall 2011 semester I got my as* in gear and worked the hardest I have ever done and passed with 3 A’s and one C at LAVC.

With this I applied to CSUN once more and I have been accepted back!!!!! I start this summer (in a couple of weeks, yay!) I ended up doing so well at LAVC that I even made it onto the Deans Scholar List! Wow, who would have seen that coming!!! :)

In addition to this I even managed to get two short stories of mine published :) fueling the fire within me to finish my undergrad and then go fourth to earn my MFA in creative writing.

So why did I just share this with you all? I don’t really know – I just needed honesty and I wanted to boast about the fact that I am back!!! Now, I know that this wasn’t the ideal journey – most of my friends graduated years ago – but this was just the way it was supposed to be for me. I am a stronger woman because of it all and I have definitely learned from my mistakes. I now go back to CSUN smarter and with more “life experience” I don’t need to wipe the slate clean because all that’s happened has made me who I am today.

So look for me this summer and fall at the CSUN campus, I’ll be the one studying and enjoying life. Graduation is this much closer and I know I can get there. :)

-AlessandraWrites

My invitation back!

Cowboy & Gato, A Quiet Weekend of Writing – Alone

Desiring thunder, I found myself sitting in a friend’s house this weekend writing the story of another soul’s’ past and I was all alone. Well, not completely alone — my furry buddy Ru was there too. In fact I was cat sitting. I enjoy taking care of Ru. He has a passionate disposition — he loves to cuddle and follow me around but when he is mad, he lets me know. Together we sat at the dining table listening to the rain showering the left-side porch. When suddenly Ru was overcome with the need for classic feline seclusion and left me alone to fend for myself against the several drafts of my short story. Each draft with pencil and purple pen markings — each highlighting an area of *needs attention* or *fix immediately* — gawked back at me as I decided my next move. My stories have the tendency to mock me and all my efforts to feel accomplished.

Sitting alone with my feet bare (I like when my toes feel icy) and dangling from the chair, I wondered why is it that this story is so difficult for me to write. I am actually in the polishing stage. Yet, the more I polish the further I back peddle in my effort to finish the story. It’s not that I don’t like writing it. It’s actually one of my favorites so far, however I find it very difficult to finish. And what makes it even more unnerving is that my English professor from a previous semester whom has seen the story wants the latest revised/reworked version so that he can use it to teach his students about short story writing. He says that he is going to assign his students to write a paper about my story. I was stunned when he told me. It’s thrilling and my heart swells with pride for such an honor to be bestowed upon me and my work, but it definitely puts the pressure on EXTRA HEAVY to create a masterpiece, that the students wont shred to pieces.

It’s a story about a cowboy (a classy man) and his family who suffer through life’s quintessential afflictions to the body, mind and soul. I suppose it’s such an intricate and fatiguing process for me to write it because, its too personal and intimate and just the same it is too ancient and distant for me to fully grasp what it is that I am even trying to write. Ha! My paramour — my need to create literature/art — forsakes me sometimes. It slaps me around, crushes my feelings, disorients my mind and above all makes me happy.

After an hour or so of satisfied concealment, Ru appeared again and just in time too. I had just collided with the self-realization that my instincts about the story were flipped upside down and inside out. And with no one to coddle me and tell me that I would eventually figure it out, I was about to give up and stash my various devious drafts back into the manila folder I have designated for this specific story and shut down my computer and possibly slink myself away towards the t.v. or better yet to the seclusion of the bed so I could wrap myself up in my comforter (I always bring my own bedding when I house sit and towels too– its too intimate of a thing for me not to) Either way Ru had probably sensed my insecurities from his hiding place and had been watching me from the hallway — who knows for how long. Eyes glimmering and fur rustled, he sauntered towards the table and jumped up. Taking his time to sip some water and nibble on cat treats I had laid out for him earlier I could feel that he was a bit vexed with me. That’s when he strode towards me and began to caress his face against my computer. I smirked and he stared me down. I knew what he thought. He wanted to know why I hadn’t finished working. He knew that I had set a deadline to finish the piece and I was nowhere near thinking about finishing. I was about to explain myself to him, when clarity struck!!

I broke away from his secretive stare and began to type. I kept on typing for two more hours till my boyfriend called and broke my concentration — Its okay, I needed a break anyways. Ru looked at me almost satisfied and then dropped down to the floor and away he disappeared into the bedroom to bathe himself.

I love GATO’S, they always calm my nerves and if I’m paying attention they usually murmur into my fingers, shoulders and ears secrets of the universe. Afterwards, we lounged around sipping iced tea together. He ensnared his fangs into my mane whispering adventurous stories from his past. Sitting up, he braided my hair weaving in beautiful poetry that my skull soaked up.

Now if only I could finish my story ;)

Beware & Wrap-Up Your Hair: El Duende Is On The Loose!!!

Have you ever wondered why your hair is beyond repair some mornings? Or why the horses at the stables that children visit have braids in their tails? It may be nothing, however on the off chance that it is something, you should read my short story “El Duende and the Persimmon Tree” — published in Prick of the Spindle, a literary arts journal — it will be sure to give you a heads up and the facts about a maniacally creepy little man known as El Duende. Click on the link or go to PrickoftheSpindle.com and you can find me in the Fiction section! El Duende is on the loose and headed straight for your head!

El Duende and the Persimmon Tree

Here is a Raw Sketch of El Duende close up sans his sombrero de charro by Armando Castellanos

Got Hair?