Archive for Writing

Dream come true

The first time I remember articulating this dream was in a purple hard bound journal 11 years ago.  I wanted to teach in the Corrections System.  Writing.  I wanted to bring the process of writing to the jails, to be part of the process of encouraging people to find their voice.  I wanted to be able to share the empowering and healing process of taking pen to paper, to share the sheer joy of self-expression, the critical self-discovery and critical exploration of social conditions that influence our lives.

I came close a few times but had never actually had the chance to do it.  And now, here I am, my name signed with a flair on the contract with Inside Out Writers.  I am going through the process of getting security clearance and doing observations before getting started and I’m so excited and honored.

I know this is going to be a difficult process, I’m not coming in this unrealistically and I’m well aware of the challenges the youth and the system will present, and aware that there are some challenges I’ll face that I can’t even imagine yet.  The biggest difficulty for me coming into this lies in dealing with the Juvenile Corrections System.  I have serious issues with the so-called justice system.

Recently I was given a chance to articulate some of these views in a documentary on the Lawrence King murder in Oxnard, CA.

Brandon McInerney, the young man who shot him, is being tried as an adult and faces the possibility of life in prison.  I was asked how I felt about that development.  That question made me pause.  I had come to the interview with a lot to say about education, schools, including my own experiences of homophobia as an adult within high schools.  That question made the already complicated discussion about education and the responsibility of schools even more difficult.  Ultimately my answer is that I don’t believe in the current system of corrections.  I don’t feel like locking McInerney up serves justice, nor does it serve community or the life of a young man who, having committed a heinous crime, is still alive.  Nothing can bring Lawrence King back and while the murder was a hateful horrible act, McInerney’s life is also valuable (he was 14!) and the pain, ignorance, fear, that led to his actions is also real.  I can’t just think in terms of good and bad.  Nothing excuses violence against another human being.  But a lot of circumstances can condone, and even encourage it.  The crime was a reflection of the inaction of the school, community, society.  It’s easy to try a 14 year old and lock him up.  It’s not as easy to confront the root of the problem, which we all participate in.  Which is one of my major problems with the so called justice system.  It’s not about rehabilitation, education, empowerment.  While we should all be held accountable for our actions on an individual level, punishing the individual makes it easy to leave larger social problems unexamined and to forget that a human life has been affected by social conditions that we all share responsibility for.

I’m not just vehemently against capital punishment, I’m also highly critical of a system that simply throws human beings into an institution where systems of oppression and dysfunction are reenacted and fundamental.  The answers can’t exist outside of larger community, which is affected in unacknowledged way by the incarceration and systemic abuse of our children, our mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors, friends.

So knowing that in addition to my reactions to cops, guards, military and generally all figures of authority in a system of violence and oppression I also have a problem with the construct of the system.  Yet I enter it eagerly more than willingly. Why?  Because I believe n the youth and in my ability to have a positive impact, to empower and to participate in their growth.  It’s worth it to me as a way to challenge the system, even as I enter into an agreement to abide by its rules.  Whether I agree with them (no gang colors or script) or not (cursing is not allowed in the institution, although it is not censored out of their writing).  The young people can’t even keep the pens that they use in class because they can be used as weapons or as pipes.  The idea of not being able to have a writing implement makes my skin crawl.  More than the consideration of other restrictions on freedom– not being able to decide what or when to eat, when to get up, no privacy even when going to the bathroom– more than all of the restrictions, the idea of not having a pen makes my heart ache.

Incarcerated AND silenced.

I am eager to get in there and start the work.  I know it’s something I’m called to do and part of a larger journey.  This is spiritual work to me.  It’s a blessing and an honor to be able to finally act on this dream.  For a few hours a week I will be of service and be an instrument of change.  And for a few hours a week these young people will be able to unlock their voice and be heard, be seen, I’ll be a witness.

SOFFA Anthology

My essay “Wonderful Queers” has been accepted for publication in a Significant Others, Friends, Family and Allies of Transgender or Non gender conforming Anthology!

Fabulous news in my world, and more fabulousness on the way.

Details forthcoming for your book wishlist.

Talk to Santa Claus…

because!

my story was accepted for publication in Best Lesbian Erotica 2009 from Cleis Press, edited by Tristan Taormino.

It will be hitting the shelves around Thanksgiving, just in time for holiday naughtiness!

Confessions of a Nerd

If you’ve followed the story of my suspension, it will come as no big surprise that I’m depressed. I’m really down in the dumps and I’m trying to cope.

Seeing as I’ve been making healthier choices, many of my tried and true dysfunctional coping strategies are out. Nicotine, alcohol and chocolate are all ruled out. I can’t resort to workaholism for obvious reasons. Of course I’m putting into practice healthier habits, like exercising (and contemplating a lawsuit against the cabrón that lied and said exercise worked better than medications to treat depression), writing, petting the whining dogs for stress relief… but I’ve recently discovered a source of comfort which I had not anticipated. Before you imagine naughty nerd confessions get your mind out of the gutter (or the dungeon).

In a fit of optimism (or delusion) I decided I’d work on some thesis research and spent a few hours downloading articles and reading policy legalese. I took notes, perused citations, looked up more articles… and guess what? I felt much better. Then I was looking up some other stuff, not school related but rather curiousity driven and BEHOLD, again, it was comforting.

Mind you, I am still wrestling with my fear and a mighty army of ‘what if’s but research really does make me feel better.

Which leads to me acceptance of the label pinned on me in 1st grade when I first walked in with glasses (I was so CUTE!) and which stuck since all the way through grad school. I’ve fought my inner NERD too long. I must embrace her. (No, it’s not the naughty part now either)

Even as a child, I think I understood pretty well what the label nerd meant. It meant Other. It was often coupled with weird, and ultimately it just drove home the point–you are not one of us. Nerds are not the majority. Such is life.

Even in College, where I naively thought people attended school to learn and grow and question, I have been constantly accused of caring too much, thinking too much and knowing too much. So, I shifted the focus to become more of a bohemian intellectual. But, ultimately, it’s the same shit. Maybe I wore cooler clothes but still, a nerd is a nerd. Whether I am at a poetry reading or at home under a desk light, fact is I’m a nerd.

I love reading. I love thinking about what I read, whether it be a potboiler I pick up in the grocery store line to distract myself, a goopy girly magazine, a textbook, one of the ‘classics’, or the advertisement on a flyer. I love to write. I enjoy writing papers. I actually like it. I enjoy doing research. I even enjoy such menial tasks as transcribing interviews. I like it. I still get the excitement I remember from kindergarten when I discover a pattern, read something clever, learn a new word. And, as logical extension I guess, I also love teaching and somehow trying to transmit the enthusiasm I feel.

I am never without a book. I am never without writing implements. Few things give me more joy than staying up all hours of the night with an entrancing book. I care about learning, I care very much about learning, whether in or out of the classroom. I invest time and energy into my schoolwork, not because of grades, but because of pride in my work, and because I care. This is also true of the work I’ve done in various fields. I face tasks with enthusiasm and commitment.

So, I guess I’m a nerd. Now that my academic career is in temporary flux, I take great comfort in that.

—-
Mandatory update: Are we there yet????

Rejection

Well, I got turned down for the reggaeton anthology I’d submitted to. And I’m actually glad. My deadline would have been way too tight and would have conflicted with my deadline for FELAFACS and all the other work I have to do.

After going to a training on a computer program that helps you to work with qualitative data this morning I feel like I can actually redesign my research project and get it ready to send off to some journals. I’ll post more on the program later when I’ve had time to play with the demo some more!

Ejercicio creativo

Esto lo escribí para mi clase “Detectives: pesquisas y metodologías para el estudio de textos (literarios)” como un ejercicio que buscaba romper algunas de las reglas de la fórmula clásica del género detectivesco. Y pues, me gustó así es que lo comparto aquí para su deleite.

Cualquier comentario es bienvenido. 🙂

“Señores y señoras, patos y patas, locas y buchas les presento en esta noche la única, la espectacular, la sensual, directamente desde China para su deleite: la estrella del oriente, Li Mon!”

G contempla con interés la visión en seda amarilla que sale al escenario: alta y delgada, con un pelo largo, negro, lacio, que brilla en las luces del escenario. Procede a cantar en un registro espeluznante mientras remenea sus curvas sintéticas.

De repente se escucha el ruido estridente de vidrio rompiéndose. Las miradas de todos los presentes se dirigen simultáneamente a la barra. ¿Qué ha pasado?

Primera en acercarse al área es Li Mon, seguida de cerca por G, quien hace pausa para darle un cumplido “¡Me encanta tu canto!” Luego, de manera asertiva y autoritaria se asoma a la barra donde ve, tendida en el suelo la imagen símbolo del lugar, el santo patrón del lugar y de toda una comunidad. La estatua se encuentra hecha trizas en el suelo mezclada con la cerveza pegajosa y las colillas de cigarrillo. Se escucha a lo largo del bar un gemido colectivo de indignación.

“¿Quién es el responsable de éste crimen?” el vibrante falsetto de Li Mon clama por justicia.

“Que no funda el pánico, soy detective profesional.” G saca del bolsillo de su chaqueta de cuero un carnet con apariencia antigua y trastornada y lo guarda acto seguido con movimiento fluido y confiado. “Que no salga nadie, el culpable debe estar aquí.” Hace señal al alto y fornido bouncer para que evite el éxodo de clientes.

Ya pasado el momento de tensión, todo el mundo regresa a sus bebidas y sus rapeos mongos. El dj provee música de misterio para ambientar.

Los espejos del fondo de la barra reflejan el brillo de las luces de discoteca que han sido nuevamente encendidas. Se nota en la expresión de G una repentina lucidez y una sonrisa irónica pasa por sus labios.

Li Mon mientras tanto se ha acercado al bar y arrodillada ante los restos recoge con ternura los fragmentos irreconocibles de la estatua. Mira con emoción los pedazos y de repente levanta su mirada y mira a su alrededor. Su mirada reposa sobre G.
“¡Fuiste tú!” con un dedo manicurado señala de manera acusatoria.

“¿Yo? No, yo no fui. Yo soy detective. ¡Ni modo que sea criminal a la vez!”

Los sollozos de Li Mon penetran los corazones alcoholizados de todos los que la rodean. “¿Quién ha sido capaz de semejante sacrilegio entonces?”

G se acerca a un caballero que se encuentra sentado solo, callado en la esquina del bar. “Fue él.”

“¡Maldito!” grita Li Mon.

El hombre mira a su alrededor nervioso al verse rodeado de personas que lo miran con cara de pocos amigos.
“Yo estoy aquí tranquilo, tomándome mi cerveza.”

Se nota nervioso, casi asustado, particularmente cuando Li Mon le acerca los trozos de la estatuilla de manera violenta, lanzando su manicure a la cara del caballero. “Mira lo que haz hecho.”

“Sé que fue él” dice G de manera arrogante aunque nadie se lo ha preguntado. “Lo supe por el reflejo en el espejo. Junto antes de que Li Mon comenzara a cantar vi el reflejo de su pantalla de cubic zirconio. Si mi amor porque diamante no es. Me llamó la atención y justo cuando Li Mon nos deslumbraba con su registro vocal vi un movimiento extraño. Y aquí tengo la prueba.” G muestra de manera dramática un limón que ha recogido detrás de la barra. “Este caballero le lanzó el limón a la estatuilla y de esa manera la hizo caer y ha quedado destruída. Lo sé todo.”

El caballero toca su pantalla, nervioso y evita mirar a G. El dj ha variado la música y en un ritmo trance a bajo volumen se percibe la intensidad de la escena. El alto y fornido bouncer flexiona sus pectorales debajo de su apretada camisa de Security. Los patronos agarran sus celulares para contar el notición.

“Si, confiezo, lo hice. ¡No pude resistir!” El caballero coloca su cabeza sobre sus brazos y solloza de manera sincera y melodramática. “Pero fue G quien me apostó que no lo hacía. Me apostó 20 pesos que no acertaba a darle. Fue culpa de G.”
El caballero se apoya en el hombro de la mujer que está sentado a su lado quien lo consuela como quien espanta a un mosquito con gesto incómodo y abrupto.

La multitud marca desesperadamente sus celulares mientras Li Mon gira hacia G. Con dolor en sus ojos, pregunta en voz baja, muy baja “¿Por qué?”

G mira al suelo y examina sus zapatos. Da un paso hacia atrás y apoyándose de una banqueta salta tras la barra, y desaparece por un pasaje secreto que sale del local.

Nunca más se le vio a G.

Los patronos hicieron un serrucho para comprar una nueva estatuilla de Ru Paul.

Se celebró la colocación de la nueva estatua con un gran espectáculo de Li Mon y Mao Tais por la casa.

From First Drafts

Please do visit the collaborative writing blog I am part of. But in the meanwhile, this is one of the stories I contributed in response to the prompt “changed mind.”
Feedback is welcome.

Changed Mind

Her severely distended belly precedes her into the office, where she sets down her bag imperiously. She rings the bell to summon the receptionist who is a very distant three feet away from her.
“”Yoooo hooo,”” she calls out waving a manicured hand.

He enters meekly, sits in a chair in the corner, and proceeds to make himself invisible.

“”Can I help you ma’’am?”” the young receptionist asks, smiling to disguise the hint of an edge in her voice.

“”Yes. Well. I’ve changed my mind,”” says the woman with a dismissive gesture.

“”Beg your pardon?”” perplexed, the receptionist looks at the woman, trying to understand her meaning. She changed her mind about wanting service? About the color of her manicured nails? About?

“”You heard me! I’’ve changed my mind,”” she repeated drumming red lacquered fingernails on the countertop and dropping her eyes meaningfully to her huge abdomen.

The receptionist’’s jaw dropped and mouth gaping open she manages to collect herself long enough to say “”just a sec”” before running out to get Dottie, the matronly head nurse who could handle anything.

Meanwhile, the lady shifted her considerable bulk onto her other hip and sighed irritably.
Dottie appeared behind the counter, the receptionist in the background plainly listening; not even bothering to pretend not to be eavesdropping.

“”How can I help you dear?”” Dottie asked amiably, her shiny gray hair tucked into a graceful braid.

“”I already told her,”” she waves a ringed finger imperiously in the direction of the receptionist. “”I’’ve changed my mind.””

Dottie laughed heartily. “”Yes, I’’m sure dear,”” she said, still chuckling.

“”No, really. I don’’t see what’’s so funny. I want to see Dr. Cabrera. Right now!”” She goes so far as to stomp one high-heeled foot on the ground.

“”Okay dear, just a sec,”” Dottie chuckles and shakes her head as her silent-soled white shoes carry her back to the Doctor.

The woman sighs. Her face shows the strain of the last 8.5 months. Despite her carefully applied makeup she looks tired, strained. Her ankles and feet are swelling out of her fashionable heels, her waist has disappeared and her roots are showing.

Dottie returns to open the door for the woman.
“”Come on back. Dr. Cabrera will see you now. Let me just check your vitals first.”” Dottie leads her back at a slow pace suited for waddling.

“”Can’’t we just skip all that? I’’ve changed my mind and that’’s all there is to it!””
“”I’’m afraid not dear. Let’’s see how much you are weighing now.”” Dottie points at the digital scale and the woman stands on it with an air of resignation.
“”189, okay. Let’’s check your blood pressure.””
Dottie leads her into the examining room where she fastens the cuff on her arm and pumps.
“”120 over 90. A little high, we’ll mention that to the doctor. And your temperature.”” Dottie keeps up a stream of comforting chatter while she notes everything on the woman’’s chart and gets her ready for the Doctor.

The woman sighs as she examines her feet, dangling from the examination table. She thinks about all the times she’’s been in this same room, all the many bodies she has dragged in here: her slim self torn between fear and trepidation on the table. Her growing bulk. Her questions about bladders and heartburn and vomit. She thinks about all the dreams she has dreamt on the examination table while staring at the silly stickers on the ceiling invoking nurseries everywhere.

Dr. Cabrera enters, her long dark ponytail swaying as she turns to close the door behind her. She smiles kindly at the woman on the examining table.
“”So, what’’s going on? What can I do for you today?””

“”I changed my mind Dr. Cabrera.””

“”I’’m not sure I understand what you mean.”” the Doctor crosses her legs and looks patiently at the woman in distress.

“”I can’’t do this. I’’ve changed my mind. I don’’t want to do this!”” Her voice is rising in pitch and volume as she talks. Her eyes are starting to look suspiciously shiny.

“”What can’t you do?””

“”This. This whole thing,”” she pokes her belly angrily. “”I can’’t paint the nursery yellow and I can’’t pick out toys that won’’t be choking hazards, and I can’’t stay in a boring marriage for its sake and I can’’t give up my life and I can’’t wipe butts and I just can’’t. I can’’t give a shit everytime it smiles or gets a new tooth or goes down the slide. I can’’t! I changed my mind! I don’’t know what the hell I was thinking!”” She is starting to cry now. She wrings her hands and talks on as mascara dark tears stream down her cheeks. “”Just undo it. It’’s my body. I changed my mind. Take it out. Take it. I can’’t!””

Dr. Cabrera hands her the box of Kleenex and rubs her shoulder. ““You’’re doing a great job already and you’’re almost done.””

””No! I don’’t want it!””

Two days later you were born.

Scribbling Women

Self promotion time:

I will be reading at the Estación Literaria next week.

The theme is “Scribbling Women” featuring women from the faculty who will be reading unpublished work. I am very much looking forward to hearing everyone’s work as well as reading a lil sumpin.

We’ll be at Borders from 7:30-10:00 on Thursday the 20th of April.