In a mere two weeks, I will be on a plane to Oakland for VONA at UC Berkeley. VONA is a week long writing workshop for writers of color. This will be my fourth VONA.
My first VONA experience with writing guru Faith Adiele (who wrote the memoir "Meeting Faith: the Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun") changed my life. Faith and my writing group at VONA encouraged me and motivated me to focus. They gave me the push I needed. After that first VONA, I gave my notice and left my corporate law firm job to become a public defender. And, I started concentrating on memorializing my childhood memories, many of which were fragmented narrative poems but with persistence and patience these fragments became full stories.
My second VONA with Andrew Pham, who wrote the magnificent memoir Catfish and Mandala, solidified my quest to become to become a writer. He is a Jedi master of writing and he helped me believe in myself and my writing.
Last year's workshop with Minal Hajratwala (of "Leaving India" memoir fame) made me positive that I was on the right writing track. She gently challenged me to leave it all on the page.
At VONA, I had the chance to work with some of the finest nonfiction writers in the country and I found a community that accepted me and made friends for life. In the writing classes, I never felt judged. I felt supported.
This year, I am taking a writing residency with David Mura. He appears to be a Rennaisance man/writer and writes poetry, performance pieces and memoir. The residency is different from a workshop as it is more focused on finishing one's book. Thus, there are no workshop classes, but instead you work one on one with the teacher. I am reading Mura's memoir "Turning Japanese: Memories of a Sansei" and so many things in his book are resonating with me. His quest for an identity mirrors my own and I am shaking with anticipation as I write this blog. (Maybe it is the double expresso but I doubt it).
This year, I know I have it in me to finish the memoir I started more than six years ago. There has to be an end date for this project because there are so many other projects I want to start. And, I know I have it in me.
VONA 2013 here I come.