Panorama of San Bernardino

Monday, February 19, 2024

Writing time

It's 4:47 am when I start writing this. I've been a tad obsessed with time lately. I feel as if time is moving fast. They say as you get older, and I might have even mentioned this before, that time moves fast because there's less of it left in your life. Meaning, we are all crouching our way towards death, minute by minute, hour by hour. Despite this, I plan on living my life to the fullest in the time I have left. 

Yesterday, however, time moved kind of slow. We watched television, Adrian cooked, and I cuddled Chewbacca who is having a good week. There was no task list or running around. I sat on the couch and chilled out. I even left my homework because of the Monday holiday. 

We're reading Othello in my Shakespeare class. Othello is an example of letting a toxic person, namely Iago in the case of Othello, into your brain and life and the damage and havoc it can cause. Desdemona and Othello could have been happy but for Iago. I know it's only a play, a contrived construct and story, but what I find most interesting in my recent study of Shakespeare is the psychological issues in all of his plays. 

If I can take anything away from it, I would say trust yourself, trust those you love, and most of all, trust the happiness life brings. It is too easy to always be looking for the next shoe to fall, or focusing on the latest catastrophe, as opposed to looking at one's own life and what one has.

The rain just started to fall. I put the phone down to take a break from writing for a few and when I picked it back up, the sky was pouring out buckets of water. That's how time works you see. Everything changes in the moments that pass. 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Make believe

There is a lot of make believe in life. Pretending is part of life. We all play roles. We must. Punk rock girl Juanita, the writer aka JEM, is not who I am at work. At work, I'm a different person. Not really me I'm realizing. And that's because I can't be me there. I'm a version of me for work. And that's okay. I've reconciled myself to that. 

Yet, even outside of work, it's a struggle to be me sometimes. It's probably because I don't always know who I am or who I want to be. I'm 52 people and I'm still struggling to find myself. 

On the page, things are different. Thank goodness. The words flow. I'm here. I'm me. I'm open. I'm honest. I try to be true and kind. I have a mean side. I have a dark side. I am ambitious and crave recognition and accolades more than I ever want to admit.

Truth be told, the real me is still that little girl squinting at the chalkboard in class, waving her hand, aching to be called on.  

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

AWP Kansas City: the magic

I like to pretend I have it all together. I'm organized. I'm strong. I'm efficient. I'm motivated. But I'm also anxious and very bad with directions and get frustrated easily. 

When I drove into Kansas City for a writing conference, from my sister's house in Raymore who we were staying with, I couldn't find the Convention Center. I drove in circles. My navigation kept telling me I had arrived. I thought, okay one of these big buildings has to be it. So I parked at the Lowe's hotel downtown so at least I would know where my car was parked. I looked across the street. Was that it? I asked the universe for help and kissed my black and silver Bowie bolt necklace. 

I decided to find someone for directions. A man walked by. He was white, good looking, had a beard and was carrying a tote bag so he was obviously a writer. He was nice but abrupt and just pointed across the street at a door. I went across the street and pulled at the door but it was locked. Then I saw another person, a young Indian man, walking right where I had been. I yelled across the lanes of street, "Hey, are you a writer?" 

He yelled back, "What?" I screamed back, "Where's AWP?" 

He held up a hand then ran across the street. He had a kind face and once he was close, he told me his name was Kiran Bhat and that he was a writer. He told me he was on his way to AWP too and had been by yesterday to find it and that he was happy to help guide me. We talked and walked. 

It turns out that I had been trying to open a door on the wrong side of the convention center. He had a panel at nine as well, one about using innovative ways to get writing out in the world for people of color. He told me he was serializing his novel on a site with a paywall. I told him he had to come on my podcast and gave him a card. He was so sweet and walked me all the way to registration. 

That's why sometimes even one's struggles can lead to gold and a chance encounter with another writing soul. I may have been lost but I asked the universe for help and found my way there along with a new writing friend. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

330 am

It's 330 am and I can't sleep. I often get a topsy turvy stomach when I plan to travel and today is no exception. We are getting on a plane this morning to Kansas City and I just hope I settle down. 

At least I fell asleep early, around 8 pm, or was it 7? It's hard not to fall asleep early when you've been going since 5 am. 

When I was a kid, fifty-two seemed so far away. Eons. Yet, here I am. I don't feel my age most days, except when I try to get my overpacked Eiffel Tower patterned suitcase down the stairs and wreck my back. My mom's menthol rub helped. 

Age is a number is something people say. But it's also a signifier. It denotes what generation you're from. I'm Gen X of course, and it also denotes how much life you've lived and have left to live. 

In some ways, I wish I'd known how much I would yearn for my youth when I was older. My younger years were spent trying to get where I am and yes I am glad I'm here. I've done quite a lot, but I wish I'd appreciated my twenties and thirties more. I feel like all I did was rush around working at this or that. Trying to get here or there or everywhere.

Now that I'm in my fifties, I have some space and stability to really think about what I want out of the next decades to come. I suppose what I want most is to just be happy and content and most of all, well. 

By well I mean physically. It's time to focus on that too. It's easy to just sit and write all weekend, and read, you know how much I adore a good book, but I need to move. The chips and dips (some people eat bon bons but I prefer a salty chip and a creamy onion dill dip) are delicious but only in moderation. So my goal this next six months is to find a happy medium where I work, read, sit and move. Move it sister! It's time. You may not have all the time in the world to get there, but you have now. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

5 am again and AWP

It's 5 am. The rain is pounding the roof. Hard and fast, like a rock song. The beating of the drops has a nice rat a tat tat rhythm. 

Chewie snores in unison with the sound of the raindrops. I am leaving for Kansas City tomorrow so I'm hoping it stops soon.

On Thursday and Saturday, I am reading, signing and presenting at a conference in Kansas City called AWP. It is the largest writer's conference in the United States and it happens yearly. 

AWP takes place in a different city every year. I first went years back when it was in Los Angeles. Since then, I've been to AWPs in Florida, San Antonio and Seattle. I even did a reading in Oregon virtually. 

I'm lucky I suppose. I usually get on a panel discussion or a reading at the conference. I always like to pitch at least one myself and my own panels have been accepted twice now and I've appeared in other people's lineups both on site and off site. This year, I'm so honored to read and present with some amazing writers and people. It's a dream come true.

I've been rejected of course. We all have. But I just keep on trucking. I try to never let the "nays" get me down because they're just a way to eventually get a yes. 

The best year was Florida, when I appeared on a reading about witches. I met a woman there who has since become a close friend. That's the magic of AWP. You meet the coolest people, and they're all writers. Another year, in San Antonio, my friend Samuel and I were in line to get in and we met a well known writer who asked us to be in her panel, on site for Samuel and off site for me. 

Last year, in Seattle, hubby came along. He was a good sport because I had pledged to work the Inlandia table and had a number of commitments at AWP, both on site and off. I tried to balance it all but it was difficult. Yet, I'm glad he went. He met a few of my writer friends he didn't know and we hung out after hours with a few he did know. I had kept my writing world compartmentalized from the rest of my life and it was nice to merge my worlds into one universe.

This year, because AWP is in Kansas City, my focus is split between the conference and visiting my big sister Roberta who lives right outside Kansas City. I'm looking forward to spending time with Roberta and her family. We're both getting older and it's so important to make the time for one another. I'm happy to say that Adrian is coming along. So my priority is the family time.  

I've learned in the last few years that love and family is what matters. It's what sustains me. (Plus, it's material for the next memoir or essay percolating in my brain.)

The writing accolades and experiences are nice, yes they are, but it's also important to live in the moment. As a memoir writer, being present can be hard. It's too easy to live in your memories rather than creating new ones. 

This year, I'll be reading, presenting and signing, but I'll also be living life to the fullest, making those memories that matter most of all. 

Sunday, February 4, 2024

The Doors

There is an old saying, that when one door closes another opens. I know it's a trite saying attributed to the man who invented the telephone. So I acknowledge the cliche, but it's true. 

Recently, I pulled back on a few boards deciding that I need to focus on my writing in my free time. After work, I was spending my evenings in non work related meetings, mostly on Zoom, and it was just too much. And a lot of my lunchtime too, forcing me to eat fast and ugly which I have begun to refrain from doing. 

Plus, have I ever told you that I abhor meetings? Truth be told, I am not my best self in them. I am a very efficient yet also very impatient person. I can barely handle waiting in line at the store. These traits don't transfer to chilling out in a meeting for two hours. I acknowledge in my work life, they're a necessary evil. But that's work, which pays the bills. 

(Note: This is different from my podcast which I do record virtually, but I consider it more of a performative conversation between two people. Thus, it's not a meeting, it's more of a meet up. And I love me a meetup.)

So I pulled back. Plus, I'm revving up in school trying to finish my MFA and I'd decided to take a Shakespeare course. It's a lot. In fact, it's 330 am on a Sunday and after I write this blog, I'm going to listen to a podcast about Twelfth Night and then we're on to Othello and Macbeth, and then King Lear.

I've also decided to finish my YA novel this year, a book tentatively titled "The Runaways" so I've got to get going on that. 

Plus, I love spending time with my husband. He really is so kind and loving. He's handy too (he just fixed our washer!) and a great cook. No one tells you when you decide to become a writer that balance will be the hardest part. You can't just write in your room all weekend, even though you may want to. You have to still live and love. So I do. I really do. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

I know

It's 230 am and I'm up with Chewbacca. He's having a rough night. My life just fades away in these moments. It's just me and him. I comfort him, then myself. I know the time is coming. I hug him close. He licks my face and I stare into his eyes. "Go to sleep buddy," I tell him. "I'm right here."

This is not a blog I will boost. If someone reads it okay, you've got my broken heart on the page, but this blog is just me telling you, and by you I mean myself, that I'm just so sad.

The sadness is deep. It's in my heart. Inside of it. It's in my bones. They ache with the anticipation of grief. My grief will know no bounds. I'm already preparing. 

Damn it. Why does everything beautiful have to end? I know that it's because there is a pattern to all of this. A hand is drawing the story somehow. It's not my hand. I do believe. On my best days, I do. I do. I promise. So I pray. And ask for some more days. For some more good times. However short they are. For some more moments. 

And then I try and go back to sleep.