Freedom and Writing


Yesterday, I went to the Freedom Tower for a literary social called First Draft.  It is put on by The Center of literature and theatre at Miami Dade College.

Freedom Tower Nov 2012

Freedom Tower Nov 2012


The Freedom Tower is Miami’s Ellis Island for the Cuban’s fleeing the island in the 60s. I see the tower almost everyday but I had not been in its doors in several years. I am always struck by the 1920s architecture and design.

Freedom Tower lobby/elevators

Freedom Tower lobby/elevators

But what struck me even more was the Pedro Pan exhibit that is on the first floor and free to the public. I am Cuban on my father’s side. He was not part of the child exodus of 61 & 62 that is called Pedro Pan. He left Cuba with his parents a little before that panicked exodus to send unaccompanied children to freedom in the United States. Even though I am not directly connected to Pedro Pan the exhibit spoke to me. It filled my eyes with tears and my throat with sobs. It spoke to me as a child of exile in a way I was not expecting.

Pedro sin Pan

Pedro sin Pan

There was a guest book near the poster pictured above. It was for families of Pedro Pan. It asked when they left Cuba, what US camp they came to for processing, and if they were ever reunited with their loved ones. After I choked my tears back for all those left sin pan “without bread” and all those never reunited I left the exhibit and headed to the literary social.

The event hadn’t set-up fully yet and so I took a walk around the graduate and alumni art show that was on the second floor gallery. It gave me a moment to center myself and abandon the emotion of the other exhibit. Once First Draft was ready to begin I too was ready and re-focused. Our MDC facilitator was Nick Garnett.  After brief introductions by the mixed group of novices and professionals attending, he gave us a writing prompt and a theme, Endless Summer. There were three 15 minute writing sessions.  After each we had the opportunity to read our work out loud if we desired. We, also, got to the social part of the event which was to pour a glass of wine, have some nosh and converse with our table mates. Nick gave the group leads and insights as to how to improve what we’d written —- such as “circle all the adjectives and adverbs” , “show don’t tell”, and “use a sense you have yet to explore”. He had prompted us to begin with a personal recollection of an Endless Summer.

After the first round of writing, I abandoned the non-fiction for fiction. Here is what I wrote:

Mildred loved the sun and she hated her name. “Mildred is a name form 1940 not 2014.” She preferred to be called Milly or better yet, Red. When Mildred found the flyer for a summer biology internship in Florida she decided to go and go as Red.

The flight from Oregon took forever. The Miami landing was at night and it was magical. The approach over the black, flat ocean was like a science fiction movie opener. It was dark, bleak, and then the sparkle of lights. The city twinkled underneath the wings of the giant bird coming for the season.

The sun drummed on her neck — drummed like a jackhammer, loud, relentless, muscle pulverizing. And the mosquitoes — like popcorn when it got going, oil sizzling out and scalding the skin, bites blistering — so many the pot over flowed to the point that one stopped trying to contain it’s flying zings.

Why had she signed up for a summer internship in Florida? It was not the ocean and sand she had expected. It was not the ride on a speed boat to a coral reef to snorkel over manta rays. It was razor grass swamp, alligator ambush, loud airboats, and wading through silt and frogs and fish to take ph samples.

Her sweat no longer had salt. Her tongue could no longer lick her lips to taste the waterfall of perspiration. The sun had cracked all parts of her. The edge between lip and skin was swollen like a cut that had had lemon squirted into it. She had become her new name. She was burnt red and saw no end in sight.

First Draft was a fun exercise. I don’t think I will pursue my Endless Summer story but I enjoyed being back in the creative writing classroom. This classroom was much more fun than the ones I had in college. I don’t ever remember being encouraged to have a glass of wine by my UNM profs. Thanks, Nick!




The Magic City


I am not sure why Miami is called the MAGIC CITY.  Sure, we get blown away about every 20-30 years and we rebuild ourselves. Sure, if you were to approach by boat in the dead of night and see our glittery lights and neon it might seem magical. Sure, money is disappears and manifests like a magic trick. (Think fraud capital of the world! Thank your higher insurance rates on Miami-Dade county!) But, but, but . . . that does not make it the fabulous kind of magical.

But I tell you what does —

The view of the bay this morning:

Biscayne BayThe fact that people come here from around the world. We are a destination city. And sometimes, if you are lucky, it happens to be a friend that you have known for 13 years but have never met in person. I am talking about the lovely, talented and delightful Candace Walsh.

Candace Walsh RV Reyes WynwoodI got to give her and her family a quick tour of Wynwood our Street Art/Hipster district after Sunday brunch. She is working on a novel after the success of her memoir Licking the Spoon. If you haven’t read it I highly suggest you do. It is the story of her coming of age in the editor world of NYC, moving to New Mexico, working for Mothering magazine, coming out, falling in love with a woman, and FOOD. Gourmets take note you will LOVE her memoir.

In case this is not enough magic for you I give you these notes from the universe that are stenciled on the sidewalks of Wynwood.

P1070401 P1070402Back to editing and writing my soon to be e-published short stories. FYI — I have learned that I should always go opposite of instinct when it comes to hyphens. What I think should be hyphenated should not and vice versa.



Why have I been so quiet? I have been working my fingers to the bone : listening,  researching, plotting, scheming, investing, and writing. I, also, strong armed someone into my service. Sounds like a story arc for a mystery almost.

So, the listening has been to a fabulous podcast about the business of being an author. Over the last few weeks the maxim “invest in your business” has hit me over the head like an iron skillet. The interviewees on The Author Biz podcast have all preached it, as well. Publishing has shifted to being more about what the author does for themselves than about what the publishing house can do for the author. If you get a Big 5 contract, you will still be doing most if not all of your own PR and promoting. To be an author today you have got to treat your writing/book like a business. You have to be an entrepreneur.

The researching and plotting has been on going for about 6 months. I have been researching e-publishing. The logistics are overwhelming and so you plot. For a bookkeeper and former events planner that means spreadsheets. It is about the details. You want to do it right. You also question yourself as to if you are just being impatient. There is an agent out there for you if only you send the right query to the right agent. FYI- average reply from an agent to a writer’s query  is three months. Average book takes 18 months to 2 yrs to go from deal to print.

The scheming is late development. It has more to do with world domination, book launch parties,and Twitter.  It by far is the funner part of this whole process.

The investing is hard for a budget minded girl like myself. Do it wisely but just make sure you do it. And so I have hired a professional editor. She edits both English and Español. Which is important since my main characters are Latina and they throw around the Spanish like salt over your shoulder. I have also joined Mystery Writers of America with tons of benefits including mentorship and critique  opportunities.

The writing is well, duh, . . . writing stories! In this case a short story with my Puerto Rican Private Investigator character. I have one story complete and will have a second done shortly. The tone is soft boil. Why am I focusing on short stories instead of my “Diamond Gigi” cozy series? Well, the cozy series is still out on the dating circuit with agents. (3 months is a long wait for the doorbell to ring but that’s the way it goes.) So , I have decided to test the e-pub waters with a novella. Not the soap opera kind but the shorter than a novel kind.  Within the next month I will be e-publishing my PI stories.

Here is where the strong arming comes in. I enlisted the help of my artist/designer Significant Other to whip me up a simple cover. I found a great DIY book cover tutorial with size specs. I would have blown a gasket trying to do it alone but SO has Photoshop and CAD knowledge so managed it in a Saturday morning. Bonus, he takes direction from me very well. Combine the two and you get this fabulous cover:

RVR_OssiePI_storiescoverSo, that’s your teaser. Tell me what you think of it and leave me some encouragement as I dip my toe into the big waters of e-publishing.

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