20 minutes.

Me at the Tintero Reading. Photo by Trevor Boffone

Dear Reader,

I wanted to recap something amazing that happened recently.

I’m really bad at self promotion. Yes, it’s such an ironic statement coming from a blogger and former journalist. I am getting better at it but I am very much a work in progress when it comes to promoting what I’m doing.

So…this happened!

I was the featured reading for the Tintero Readings monthly show.  I read 20 minutes of my stuff.



This is practically nothing but it’s not nothing. A year ago, 20 minutes would feel like an hour. In fact, I wasn’t sure I had the 20 minutes this year but when I started going through my work, I realized something amazing. I had enough stuff to seriously consider doing a chapbook. In fact, I maybe further along in that kind of project then Jennie Manning.

A chunk of the poems I have come from the memoir in progress, Debris. But then there are things that aren’t part of Debris that stands by itself.

It was such a fantastic process dwindling down what poems I would read for the 20 minutes. And I’m seeing a theme develop which is making me think there’s a chapbook here or even a small collection.

Then it was a matter of reading. I didn’t rush through it. Not one bit. And for the first time in a very long time, I felt confident about my work. I felt as if what I had to say was important and needed to float in the air and into people’s ears. It was empowering.

All in all, a good time was had by all (I hope) and I learned to have a bit more confidence in myself as a writer and as a poet. (POET!)

That’s it for now!


Write on,


Dear Goodreads: You’re missing out but I’m here to help.


Dear Goodreads,

Usually I address the readers of this blog. In fact, that’s the name of it, Dear Reader. But for this topic, I’m addressing you because, well, you need some help.

So this week you have proclaimed it Mystery and Thriller Week. YES! We all could use more thrills in our lives. And as a mystery-writer-in-progress (I’ll be a card carrying member of Mystery Writers Association sooner than I can fathom), I was interested in what I should be adding to my ever increasing, bottomless reading list.

And yes, I went through all your lists and even played the “name my mystery novel” game. The Body at the DMV was mine.

But something was missing. I didn’t see very many writers of color on your lists. I’m not sure if there are no authors of color at all because I didn’t click on every single name on your lists, so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that maybe there’s one or two.

But I clicked on enough to say…seriously…where are we? Where are the writers of color in these lists? We write mystery books too!

No, this isn’t a let’s blame Goodreads post. Seriously, the genre overall could use some help in this department. It’s a complaint I’ve had since I started reading mysteries when I was young (think Nancy Drew and Boxcar Children Mysteries young). Others have had that same complaint.

So, I will help  because I’ve had to hunt for mystery writers of colors for awhile now. And if you need more names than the ones below, the community has got your back. I’m sure we can come up with more.

Ready for the list? Let’s go!

Walter Mosley


I can NOT start a list about mystery writers of color without Walter Mosley’s name on it. Best known book: Devil in a Blue Dress. Hands down! But the prolific scribe has several mysteries series including Easy Rawlins, Charcoal Joe, and this new one released in February of this year, Down the River Unto the Sea.


Attica Locke

Of course I had to put Houston’s own Attica Locke! Her latest book Bluebird, Bluebird was released in September. It’s a first in a series but not her first mystery book. She’s been writing mystery novels for awhile and her first book Black Water Rising was nominated for an Edgar Award. However, she is best known for writing a t.v. called Empire.

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 10.35.32 PMI mean, they got their plot twists from somewhere.

Lucha Corpi

Personally, she’s not getting enough recognition for her books. Period. Her Chicana detective, Gloria Damasco, is life and when I first read one of her mystery novels it was a breath of fresh air.  A Chicana detective with a “dark gift”? I was in!

I’d start with Eulogy of a Brown Angel. There’s four in her Gloria Damasco mystery series. The final, Death at Solstice, won an International Latino Book Award for best mystery.

Chester Himes

Good Lord, have mercy! Give me a minute while I clutch my pearls!

The first time I read a Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones mystery it snatched all my edges.  That means I figured out that my life without both of these characters was bleak and mundane.  I have since corrected that.

These characters are part of Himes’ Harlem Detective series. Coffin Ed and Grave Digger are police detectives in this ultra noir series.

My first book was The Real Cool Killers, and I heard the audiobook. Considering that these books published in the late 1950s through the late 1960s made them radical for the time as they dealt with issues we’re seeing today in communities of color. I am definitely coming back to this series soon.

Carolina Garcia Aguilera

972916And this is the author who started everything for me. Her Lupe Solano series made me think that one day I could write a mystery novel. This was the first time I saw a character that was in anyway similar to me — a smart Cuban female who dared to make the world her own.

What’s also cool about this author is that she’s a private detective so she could write her novels more accurately. How’s that for dedication?

There are seven books in the Lupe Solano series. If I had to pick a favorite I’d go with Bitter Sugar.

When my own detective, Jennie Manning, comes out, you may see some influences from this author.

Barbara Neely, Franky Y Bailey, and Alexia Gordon

I grouped these three authors together because I am not as familiar with their work. As I was doing research for this post, I came across their books and I am adding them to my to reading list, ironically on Goodreads. Just wanted to mention them in this listing.

Karen Grisby Bates


Of course this name should be familiar. She’s a correspondent for NPR. I hear her often on the podcast CodeSwitch. But when I was doing the research for this post, I realized that I knew who she was in another capacity.

She is the author of the Alex Powell mysteries. In particular of Plain Brown Wrapper. I read this novel when I was an intern in Detroit. I was jonesing for something to read that summer and I picked up this at Borders (y’all remember Borders?).

Turns out that store took a large chunk of my money that summer. East Houston didn’t have a bookstore at the time. Actually, it still really doesn’t. And so when I saw this book and that the investigator is BLACK? AND FEMALE? Yes, I picked it up. I think about this book often and wondered why it didn’t get the attention it deserved.

Chris Abani

IMG_8428Yes, the Chris Abani. Chris Abani wrote a mystery novel. And OF COURSE The Secret History of Las Vegas won an Edgar Award.

Of course.

Yes, that’s my picture to the left and NO, I haven’t read it yet. So I can’t give a recommendation but, if he did with mysteries what he does with fiction or poetry, then this will be a great read…once I get to it on my list.

It’s a crazy list, guys.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

El Maestro Gabo wrote may things in his life but one of my favorite is actually a mystery novel, Chronicle of a Death Foretold. It’s not a who-done-it but a how-done-it.  It’s one of my favorites of his novellas. Worth picking up. It’s a quick read too.

Rudolfo Anaya

Another Chicano writer! Anaya is known for Bless Mi Ultima, which isn’t a mystery 341971novel. That’s important to know because after what would be his best know and seminal work, Anaya turned his pen to writing mysteries and let me tell you I’m so glad he did.

There are four novels in his Sonny Becca series. The one I read and loved the most was Rio Grande Fall. Why? I fell in love with the opening paragraph:

“Sonny felt the soft pressure of the eagle feather across his chest. The soft voice from the healer was calling him back from his vision. He smelled the sweet aroma of the burning copal in the room, and he struggled to rise out of the dark shadows where he had be running with a family of coyotes.”

I mean…come on! I was here for it after that paragraph. This was your lead investigator in a mystery novel. Done and done. I wanted more after that.


Here here you go, Goodreads! A full dozen mystery writers of color. There are more but I wanted to give a good round number.  There are more out there!

I love Goodreads and I don’t dare make a book purchase without consulting it first. And although there aren’t many writers of color in the genre, we exist and our books are every bit as thrilling.

Yes, you did happen to notice that I used the word we. One day I’ll join my fellow rebel rousers on the list. In fact, I’ll have a project coming out soon where I’ll be anthologized with other writer’s of color playing with the noir genre. I hope by the time my novel does come out and that my detective Jennie Manning makes her debut, that we’re welcomed during that year’s Mystery and Thriller week.


Happy reading,






Death or a reclaiming: Danez Smith’s Don’t Call Us Dead


Dear Reader,

It’s National Poetry Month! This is an awesome month when we can read poetry, appreciate it, and learn from it.

Well, actually, every month is poetry month in my world.

So, I was actually reading two collection before poetry month and just finished one them in time for the celebrations. Danez Smith’s collection, “Don’t Call Us Dead” is unapologetically existing on bookshelves challenging what poetry is, what being black in America is and has become, and what being a gay, black man means — both the glory and the tragedy.

Frankly, when I was done reading this collection, I felt like I was sucker-punched into creating art. But I digress… here’s the summary thanks to the fine folks at Amazon.

Award-winning poet Danez Smith is a groundbreaking force, celebrated for deft lyrics, urgent subjects, and performative power. Don’t Call Us Dead opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they deserved here on earth. Smith turns then to desire, mortality—the dangers experienced in skin and body and blood—and a diagnosis of HIV positive. “Some of us are killed / in pieces,” Smith writes, “some of us all at once.” Don’t Call Us Dead is an astonishing and ambitious collection, one that confronts, praises, and rebukes America—“Dear White America”—where every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle.

The metaphor of death — sometimes literal–is weaved all through this collection. There is  death in places that are sweet and nostalgic. For example, in the poem summer, somewhere some of the lines beat like an exposed nerve.

“history is what it is. it know what it did./bad dog/ bad blood. bad day to be a boy/color of a July well spent. but here, not earth, /not heaven, we can’t recall our white shirts turned ruby gowns.”

The poem continues into the collection’s title.

“if snow fell, it’d fall black. please, don’t call/us dead, call us alive someplace better.”

The images here between heaven and death are visceral–the white of snow turning black, the darkness of a sort of purity or the pieces of black that fall from the perviously fallen. The ruby of gowns, stained from white. Black and red and white all interlocked into a vicious circle. From white comes red and the falling of black, previous historical sins coming to reclaim the earth, even if for a moment. But the death in this case means “alive someplace better.” So it is really death or a reclaiming?

These lines have much to unpack. Smith does this often and it’s easy to read over the mastery of what is on the page.  This is most true when Smith writes about being gay and black, a taboo. Smith plays with the idea of purity not only visually but with allusion as well.

In 1 in 2, Smith starts the poem with a CDC report about HIV and the statistics for black men. The news of the disease was as devastating as the statistic.

“you went in for /a routine test and they told you what you were made of:/-honey spoiled into mead/-lemon mold/-broken proofs/-traffic tickets/-unindentified shard/-a shy, red moon/-a book of antonyms/-the book of job/-a lost child unaware of its name/you knew it would come to this, but then it actually came.”

The order of the list here is telling; it starts with something sweet and ordinarily pure like honey and it’s turned counterpart – mead. Moldy lemon is next, with the item turning from bright, optimistic yellow to a dark moldy, shriveled thing. The list continues through various “sins” like traffic tickets and the outcomes of battles like “unidentified shard”. The reader finally lands on the allusion, the Book of Job, the most poetic book in the Bible, a work of purity in some circles. The theme of Job is divine justice and asks why do the righteous of  humanity suffer. And so again he plays with purity — everything was great until it wasn’t.  I was fine and okay and without fault until the news came, and now I am to suffer.

Smith, in just these lines asks “why” but alas it’s been answered with statistic, “1 in 2 “black men who have sex with men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime.”

And again, is this a death or a reclaiming?

There was so much in this book that I eventually stopped highlighting passages and defaulted highlighting titles to entire poems. Seriously guys, this collection is a much welcomed kick in the head for any poet and reader. This is one collection I will be returning to if only to unlock further mysteries.

My favorite poem is “dream where every black person is standing by the ocean”. While it’s the final one in this heavy collection, Smith manages to uplift and give hope. But I won’t steal Smith’s thunder. You can read it here. 


Read on,


Watching black bodies move

Dear Reader,

There is a saying that has circulated around social media and public discourse — representation matters. And it does. Seeing yourself reflected back at you is affirming. It tells you, shows you, that you are not alone and that you are okay.

After the turbulent 2017, I needed to see that. I needed a piece of alright and I usually find that at yoga.

I love yoga. It is my zen and my focus. Every time I step on the mat, I repeatedly prove to myself how strong I am and how much stronger I am becoming. During the darkest part of my life, the mat was where I proved everyone and everything wrong. I’ve cried on the mat, came to realizations on the mat, resolved on the mat.

But when black bodies were pushed on the ground or fell after gunshots ripped through their bodies, sometimes on a weekly basis, I didn’t want to be on a mat for a while.

For a long while. Even when I needed it the most.

But then I found out that a black yogi leads a couple of classes at a studio near me, I jumped at the chance, even if I had forgotten how to breathe.

Houston has a couple of well known black yogis and I’ve wanted to take a class with them for awhile. There’s the Awkward Yoga Girl, Alicia Tillman, who’s TrapYoga classes, I’ve heard, are the most legit thing on this planet. There’s also Davina Davidson who is inversion goals. But both of these ladies are too far from home and work to make it a regular thing.

Fall Creek Yoga is 20 minutes away and Jennifer Brown was leading a yin yoga class.  I read what it was (I’m a heated vinyasa girl) but I didn’t care. I wanted to know what it was like to be lead by someone who looked like me.

Let’s say it now — yin yoga was difficult for me. Staying in the same position for five minutes is more challenging than you would think, especially if you’re used to flowing from one pose to the next. Despite that, that was the most comfortable I have felt in a yoga class.



Usually, this is what happens when I attend a yoga class.

  • I’m the biggest person in the room
  • I’m the darkest person in the room
  • And before I take out my mat, people assume I don’t know what I’m doing.
  • The yoga instructor may or may not pay attention to me (as far as making sure I’m positioned correctly)

Essentially, I have to be perfect as I can at yoga to be taken seriously as a yogi.  Sound familiar.

But this class was no judgment. I needed to get out of a position? Go for it. I needed to adjust a yoga position to fit my body? Yup, go for it.

I felt welcomed and sometimes I’m not in a yoga class. Jennifer made sure I felt welcomed before and after class. The fellow yogis in the room also made me feel welcomed.

This is what it was like to see yourself reflected back. It means acceptance.

This is a small thing probably. But it’s a big thing for me as I find my way back to the mat and back to what I love.



How redemption continues even after death


When I talk about my father and when I write stories about him, I chose my words carefully. His is a story of redemption. The success of that redemption depends on who you ask.

My dad was Osiris Fernández y Ferrer. That was his full name according to his Cuban passport. I say that with trepidation because I know that the age is wrong; he’s younger than the age shown. In order to leave Cuba in the 1960s, my grandmother lied about the birth date of her third oldest. It was like her gift to him, the opportunity to escape Fidel Castro’s Cuba as it began.

He wasn’t a nice man, my father. I know that now 15 years after his death. My dad wasn’t a nice man but he was always nice to me and I always sought his approval. I always had it. My life wasn’t as difficult.

My life wasn’t as difficult as my sister’s. My dad wasn’t a nice man to her. I wasn’t a nice sister to her either, a regret that I have asked for forgiveness for. My sister, I believe, has forgiven me. I haven’t.

And, if truth be told, I haven’t forgiven him either. See, in his world, there’s no way that he could have produced a child who was gay. In his world, he couldn’t have a brother who enjoyed the company of men. In his world, anything different wasn’t quite right. So my beautiful blood sister wasn’t quite right. She was a problem to be fixed. What we couldn’t see at the time was that she wanted a family and wasn’t getting it.

If the sins of the past come back to haunt, then they came back the first time I met my brother a couple of years ago.

Continue reading “How redemption continues even after death”

The Act of Patience in the New Normal

The first ray of sunshine I saw after Harvey

Dear Reader,

The weeks after Harvey has been, let’s say, a crash course in patience.

Patience in and with FEMA.

Patience in myself and my own healing.

Patience in the new normal.

Patience. So much of it.

And then, without warning, or maybe with some warning, my sister in Cuba dies. She dies after the hurricane it but her death was a long time coming. As most Fernandez do, she suffered from high blood pressure and there was no medicine on the island.

Let me repeat that, an island with the best doctors in the world, the same that found treatment for a specific type of cancer, did not have blood pressure medicine for my sister. So she died after not being able to take her blood pressure medicine. She’s buried in Havana.

This was my Harvey aftermath. At first, I was mourning in private and then when I couldn’t anymore, I went to my Facebook page and announced her death.

They say, when you are mourning, it’s important to take time and mourn. It’s important to have a routine so you take comfort in it once you are done mourning enough.

Mourning enough? Who says what is enough? How do you mourn when a piece of your flesh and blood is in the ground?

I’ve cried enough tears to flood Houston all over again. I’ve yelled enough to make ears bleed. But I feel like it’s not enough.

So I go about my business, teaching my online classes, grading, running errands only because they have to get done. And when I drive around, I remember something I want to tell my sister. I begin to make a mental note to tell her the next time I call and then I remember. There’s no one to call.

When those times happen, I open up my bullet journal for the week she died. In the to-do list, my guilt is marked in black ink, the proof of how bad of a sister I truly was. I was supposed to email her the Monday before she died. But I scratched it out and moved it further in the week. But I didn’t end up emailing her. I was busy…with other people’s shit. Busy enough not to take 20 minutes to email her. Busy enough, just enough, to put her on my to-do list right next to “FEMA” and “finalize beginning online lessons”. Busy enough to write the words on paper but not do the action.

I had moved my sister’s return email three times that week — Monday, Tuesday, Friday — remembering her last email “Everything is fine. We’re okay. Don’t worry. Write me back.”  

That’s when I cry the most. When I remember how bad of a person I was to her.  

But patience. In this new normal. I live with regrets like boulders. They sit on my chest.  They crush me in the moments that I forget. Forgiveness right now is just a word in the dictionary, as foreign a concept as I have ever encountered.

But patience. This passes slowly, this grief, this guilt. These flashbacks of the one and only time I met my sister in Cuba. She was so happy to meet us (my blood sister and I). Hermanas. She always called us that. Not Icess. Not Leslie. But her hermanas. No names needed. Blood recognized blood.

But patience. When I hear her voice still in my ear. The Skype call surprisingly clear. Her reminding me she was an old woman. Me reminding her that we were ageless.

But patience. When I place my fingers on the keyboard and nothing comes out. I want to write about her, immortalize her in words with a poem, a story, a memory. My fingers freeze. My mind punishes me with blankness. Bad sisters don’t deserve to use their gifts.

But patience. Hiding my tears from my own mother, who is afraid I’ll go into a depressive state again. Mourning but not fully mourning. The agony of keeping it hidden is a kind of atonement.

My dad and my sister. The last time they saw each other. 

But patience. Adding my beautiful sister to our family altar. The act of buying her flowers. The act of lighting her white candle. The sucker punch to your throat and you yelling to God and all the Saints how it was too early. The candle is too early. The white roses are too early. Her picture next to dad’s is too early. Not getting a response back.

But patience. A message. Dad, please take care of my sister. Watch out for her in the hereafter. Tell her that I love her. Tell her that I’m sorry.

But patience. Opening windows to sunlight is a kind of unexpected healing, just like the first time I saw the sun after Harvey. The world continues but in a different way and yet somehow you’re grateful.

The new normal is a reminder that life starts over again and again. Usually without warning. Always in the most inconvenient of times. And even here you must have patience. You must move in the world slowly but deliberately.  You must take care of yourself if only just enough. Your moments are deliberate. Your anger will subside. Your bargaining will stop. Acceptance? Only when you’re ready. You will know when. To hell with the world, you will know when.

The lesson is to be present beyond mindfulness. It’s the small things that bring you the most comfort. A message from a friend. Time with a loved one. The invites to attend events, even if you can’t, even if you’re still dying on the inside. The first time you smile or laugh is the biggest relief. The second biggest is, of course, remembering to breathe.

All this requires patience. And it will come, as it always does, when you least expect.

Like in a simple ray of sunshine after a storm.

The rain, the flood, the trauma

Dear Reader,

I wasn’t going to write, not anymore. I promised myself that this week. I was prepared to end my love affair with the writing life, not out of frustration but of trauma.

My words, they failed me and the energy wasn’t there to pursue them.

Since Harvey sucker punched Houston, I wasn’t interested in putting my experiences out into the world. Outside of my morning journal pages, I was not interested in pushing myself. But I did try. As soon as we returned from evacuation, I opened up my computer and put some words down but they weren’t right. I waited more days. Tweaked the words. They still weren’t quite right.


When a writer friend led a Harvey recovery writing workshop, I thought this was my chance to write the words that would convey what I was feeling.

But I didn’t want to talk to anyone.

I still don’t. I don’t want to see my friends. I don’t want to see strangers. I don’t have the energy to answer the “how are you” question.

Not great, I want to scream.  I just want to sit still.

I’m faking my smiles. My bright eyes. I dance when people ask. I laugh at jokes, even if they are not very good.  I have a horrible poker face until it’s important to have one. That’s when I’m a beast at faking it.

Since the waters receded, I have kept myself together by diving into work. It’s a superpower, to throw myself into work like it was an emergency. That’s how I was prepared to evacuate–one duffle bag, priceless things in Ziplocks, to know what exactly to pack — antibacterial wipes, flashlights, ibuprofen, and know what to leave behind–my beloved memories only worth a breath in between sobs.

Then, today, it started to rain. Three weeks of dry since Harvey and now it’s pouring. And I cannot look at rain the same. Thunder is a warning, not a signal of a lazy summer storm. Rainwater is acid on my skin. The shiver in my bones originates from ghost droplets of Harvey rains scraping my back like the Devil’s fingernail.


Images from Harvey and Irma (and what will be Maria) have carved themselves into the gray matter of my brain and I am scared in places only I know about or can access.  Rain now is a trigger. Where I have used it to relax from long, hard days or as soothing background noise to the writing, it is now a cause for concern. Rain sounds force me to look out my front window, mentally measuring puddles against ticking minutes. How fast do they grow? Will it flood? Can the drainage system handle it?

The bright yellow duffle that held my clothes and provisions during evacuation have yet to be unpacked. I’ve dug in there for some things but the big things like t-shirts and pants are still there, just in case.. Because hurricane season is not over.  Because I saw the image of five twisted hurricanes on the monitor today. Because people have lost everything and me very little and the next time it will be my turn. Because everything was taken away from me once before so I should be able to handle it a second time. Or a third. Or a fourth. Because I fake strength. Because I am good at lying when it counts. Because, because, because…

I don’t know what compelled me to write today. I’m not even sure how to end this thing, whatever it is. It feels like I’m rambling like my thoughts are shooting out of me because they don’t have anywhere else to go.

Or maybe this is the only way I know how to process and old habits die hard.

Or maybe I wanted to answer the how are you doing question without seeing people’s reactions. I can’t bare it. Not now. Maybe next week.

Or maybe it’s the rain triggering me in the way it used to, a signal that it is time to sit down, create, and share.

Until next time,



Reading the Relentless Files

Dear Reader,

Good Sunday morning! I hope you’re doing well and that the writing is flowing as well as the coffee and that you’re doing the work you’ve always wanted to do.

It’s been a busy week for me and this upcoming week will be even busier. But I wanted to share this essay with you from my friend Vanessa Martir’s website, Digging into Memory. She is an essayist, poet, fiction writer, and all around badass. This year, she’s pledged to write an essay a week and man, she is sticking to it! Great job, Vanessa!

This particular essay I’m sharing from her series has so many truth bombs. Love me a good truth bomb. The first sentence alone drips with truth and feeling. Here’s another section that jolted some truth in me, when she talked to writer Chris Abani about self-care:

“Then he got serious and said that I will come up with ways to take care of myself, like the boxing I was doing at that time and my walks in the forest. But there will come a time when those things won’t work and I will have to reinvent my methods of self-care. ‘You will always have to reinvent those ways, Vanessa.'”

I haven’t written much about self-care on this site but I’ve hinted at it. (This will be something I’ll be correcting real soon.) Part of the writer’s life is to dig deep with your work (yes, even genre writers have to do this. Especially genre writers, I’d say.)

Sometimes, while digging some emotions/feelings/thoughts bubble up that you don’t want to deal with. We have to pick at the scabs and pour alcohol on them to re-bleed on the page. It isn’t pleasant. It’s not supposed to be. But the craft is empty if it isn’t followed by the emotional work. That’s what makes it authentic.

I’ll write more about this soon. In the meantime, read Vanessa’s essay and her Relentless Files for more truth bombs. Definitely worth the read and the time invested.

Doing the work,


Vanessa Mártir's Blog


*An essay a week in 2016*

Here’s the thing no one tells you about digging into memory and writing about the ghosts that haunt you: you will have to relive those moments and it will leave you reeling and you will carry that reeling in your chest and you won’t know what to do with it or yourself, and you will snap at people, the people you love most, who hold you when you’re heaving, and you won’t know what to do with that pain so you lash out and you can’t help yourself…in the moment, you will blame those people, say it is them, their nagging, their demands…and only later, when you’ve had time to calm fuck down will you see that it wasn’t them, it was you and your shit coming up…and you will be so fucking sorry but sorry doesn’t heal the pain you already caused…so what…

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Why do I love teaching writing?

Dear Reader,

Someone recently posed a question to me. When you think about teaching creative writing, what does that mean?

The answer was easy and came to me quickly. This is all about empowerment. Writing, especially creatively, is about being empowered and empowering others.

This is why I love teaching writers. In my career, I’ve taught children, college students, and adults.

Me teaching

And each time I’ve taught, no matter what the age group, something magical happens. Students’ opinion toward writing change and, while they may or may not get into it, they start appreciating it and writing becomes accessible.

Accessible: (adjective) easy to approach, reach, enter, speak with, or use.

For me, English wasn’t always accessible. That’s because another language came off my tongue first.  My first language was Spanish. I went to kindergarten not knowing that much English, just whatever I heard on Sesame Street and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. I remember a teacher thinking I wasn’t very smart when I first started school. Surprise, surprise, East Harris County in the 80s was not nice to daughters of immigrants.  My mom, with her limited English, complained to the point that the teacher was fired.

I was put in ESL classes and had to have extra tutoring in English. My mom would read to me every night in her broken English until I practically memorized books.

And then, in 5th grade, something amazing happened. I skipped a reading level. Now I was one level away from the gifted kids. That’s when I made a promise to myself. I was going to do this English thing — reading and writing —  better than the smart kids. If being able to command this language in the written form was seen as  a magic trick, I was going to do that magic trick better than anyone else.

By high school, I was in English honors courses and taking AP English classes. For me, writing was empowerment. It meant that I could write and understand the world around me in a way that other people couldn’t. And that meant, if I got really good, I could write my own ticket in life.

Empower: (verb) give (someone) the authority or power to do something.

Fast forward to my first adjunct English class. I started my college teaching career in Louisiana.  And in my class, I had students who were parents, adults who worked, folks who returned to college after being gone for awhile. For all of them, English was the subject that they couldn’t pass. They weren’t good at it. I didn’t understand. They grew up speaking this and reading this language, why was it so difficult?


Because no one told them that this space was for them and that they’ve already succeeded just by showing up. No one told them that this is how they make a mark in the world and that these words are just building blocks to create the thoughts in their heads.

No one told them that their voices matter.

And my existence tells them the opposite of what they’ve have been lead to believe. If that’s not empowering, I don’t know what is.

In life, as I’m learning, you get a microphone, a chance to do or say things that help impact the world. The size of the microphone depends on popularity, I’m sure. For example, Beyonce’s mic is bigger and has a longer reach than this website. But this is MY microphone, my change to change the world. While Queen B does it with music and concerts, I do it one student at a time, one word at a time, one class at a time.

When you make something that was formerly non-accessible completely approachable and relatable, you’ve just empowered someone. That’s why I teach writing.

So here’s my new motto: Empower to elevate.

Eso mero.


Feeling like She-Ra,





Don’t call me brave. Call me chingona

Dear Reader,

I’ve been thinking a lot about bravery recently, what it actually means and what it takes to be brave. This bravery thing seems like a simple thing to figure out but I’m not quite so sure.

I’ve been called brave once. About a year ago. See, I did something that most people wish they could and I’ve been fortunate to be able to do. After working in journalism most of my adult life, I walked away from a career and a stable paycheck and decided to start over. All the way over and do what is in my heart to do. That means not taking opportunities unless they fulfill me in some way.

That is why I was called brave.

But is that bravery? That act of drawing a line in the sand and saying, “Here. I want to stop with this ridiculous merry-go-round here.” Is that brave or is that just being fed up?

Listen, I don’t want you walking away from this post thinking that I left the evil mass media. Yes, I have my opinion about what happens inside America’s newsrooms and they are strong opinions, but it was the best gig for a long time. It was a gig that allowed me to go on assignment in Mexico twice. I knew the news before the rest of the city. It allow me to impact the world in a substainal way and for that I’m grateful. But I want more. I want to write and write well and write books. It was kinda my thing for a long time, something I had to keep hidden at times.

This writing thing, this gave me my voice and empowered me to be a journalist in the first place. See that sentence. That’s an important sentence, reader. The order of it is so telling. WRITING came first, not journalism. For some people it’s the other way around.

Yes, I stepped off the merry-go-round a year ago. Not an easy year but I still wouldn’t call myself brave. I didn’t run into a burning building to save a baby. I didn’t fight in a war. I didn’t put on a uniform and swore an oath to protect. I didn’t stare down the barrel of a gun so others wouldn’t. That’s brave. All of that is so much bravery. No, all I did was demand more for myself and my life.

All I did was try to live the life I always wanted.

Actually, when you see it on the screen like that it reads a bit selfish. Who am I to demand that of the universe? To be happy, to live my waking hours doing something I love and to help humanity in that way? That’s selfish! That’s … audacious.

Yes, that’s what I am. I am audacious. I am a high clearance level chingona who defied textbook definitions of things a long time ago. I am a chingona who is learning her lessons from the university of hard knocks with a major in I do what I want. And yes it comes with bumps, hill sized bumps, headaches and heartaches, but love is like that sometimes – worth the fight and being fulfilled up to the brim.

Please, don’t call me brave. What I am doing isn’t bravery.  I want more for my life than what I settled for originally. I’ve chosen that road Robert Frost talked about. I don’t know if it’s made all the difference because I’m still creating it as I go.

Bravery means there was fear to overcome but I was too busy wanting to live a life (and keep it) to live it in fear.


La Chingona,