Friday, August 17, 2018

Listening to Many Voices and None of Them in My Head

I haven't visited this blog in a long while. My adventures have been of the nerdish variety -- teaching writing, math, research methods, professional chit chat, social media managment and overusing the gerund. I quit teaching as a full-time gig and decided to do other things as I keep up what makes me me. I know life is about experimentation and a slip into fantasy is part of that experiementation. I just ordered E.F. Benson books from Amazon because my local bookstore hasn't been built yet, and I ordered the books to do research on my childhood. These books allowed me escape from a culture that always seemed foreign to me. My childhood was full of noise and unexpected catastrophe. Benton allowed me to slip through a secret escape hatch to daydream about being a 1920s woman whose only concerns were the guest list for a party, what flowers to put on the table and to whom she should send 'thank you' notes. Without having looked at the books in decades, I may have forgotten any allusions to World War I, its suffering, privations and aftermath. But, the human memory is always convenient like that. I finished a novel, mainly by hand, and like a sweater, I unraveled it -- I pulled a string of words and changed its direction. I plucked a character out of some cruel troubles and placed him on stable ground. How magical to be able to pluck someone out of a landfill, allowing him to shake off the gruffness of experiences I put him through to start again down another road with a new pair of shoes, a new suit, a new past and a new trajectory. I love the power of us powerless little writers to make magic even if for an audience of two.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Mermaids, sparkle and the Parade of Humanity

By Odilia Rivera-Santos He caught my eye because he was shirtless, his chest covered in blue sparkle that matched his pants and winged shoes; his skin was rosy and beautiful. "Mermaid Parade?" He smiled wide. "Yes! My first time!" He let me take his picture. And others asked. Jostled together, different races, ages,and foci. Workers, shoppers, parents, marrieds, sinks and dinks. NYC has been appearing too crowded as of late. People walk down the streets trying to capture someone's attention and the disruption of someone else's flow.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Writing a novel by hand... how novel! by Odilia Rivera-Santos

I started a new novel or novela and will write the whole thing by hand. There is something about pen and paper early in the morning that jives with the sinews of my brain and the brawn of my intellect. It is 4:30 in the morning and the swish of traffic is sluggish and not as oceanic as it gets at around six, the small lamps are on illuminating bits of wall here and there, and the drip of the faucett -- which seems to be like the building passing gas -- is steady. I get up to tweak it and make the drip stop, it stops, I sit and it starts, another building fart.
The coffee is here to my right and a new collage devoted to ambition, stakes its claim, stares back at me, and tells my mind to write something commercial... no more La Diana-inspired ephemera, no birds'nests of urban blight.
Although birds'nest, urban blight, pastoral novels and fantasy are at the tip of my tongue. No, I resist the un-being of me. And I wrestle with ambition and pin it to the linoleum floor. The novel is being written in the wee and I'm good. Be-ware peaks and valleys and surprises and ellipsis to fill in spaces for yourself for your own self. 
Right now, I am feeling the cool breeze between my toes from the terrace. And the novel?
There are two women named María, one Mexican and one Puerto Rican to be played by a Mexican and a Puerto Rican in the film, and there is an elderly Chinese lesbian, an alcoholic super/carpenter/electrician, and the Jewish surrogate grandmother of course. It is set in New York City. 

I will be reading from this new novel, new poetry and new short stories at Uptown Roasters on September 27th from 3 to 6 along with some other very talented women writers/performers
Uptown Roasters
135 East 110th St between Park and Lexington Ave

Friday, July 31, 2015

Do you 'suffer' from writer's block? by Odilia Rivera-Santos

There is no need to mourn those days when writing is in the foreground. IT is like a leopard held back by a well-groomed trainer -- the strength, power and agility ready at the swoop of the trainer's arm. Suffering is such a part of the Artist's backstory that comfortable people crave a bit of sympathy... 

Baby got backstory?
You worked on an oil rig, someone stole your laundry, you broke your key off in the lock, you dated an exact replica of your mother, you dated an exact replica of your father, an eighty-year-old beat you in a race, you lost your new water bottle at the gym, you dropped your phone on the subway tracks, you forgot to mind your business, there was no ring in the box just in the apartment in which you sparred, etc.
Every writer has at least one really good, dramatic backstory and this is a theme we can use as a unifying thread sewn through all our work.... a profound authenticity that bespeaks of a memory. Leaving out the particulars gives the re-telling legs and the strength to leap at the swoop of my arm or yours if you're writing. 
This colossal salt lick of a memory we return to when we're low or low on creativity and intellectual electrolytes is everpresent. My salt lick is the journey from there to here, a gray, dark gray, medium gray void --- devoid of green and the closing of that exit wound. 

"As the curtain slowly rose, I had the feeling that throughout the ages man had always been mysteriously stilled by this brief moment which preludes the spectacle."
- Henry Miller (On Writing)

Monday, March 9, 2015

the silence is eclectic by Odilia Rivera-Santos

I have been on a long sabbatical from blogposting. .. watching the whirlwind of social media activity from a safe distance and racing through winter as I overuse the gerund. 
I've been teaching four completely different groups of students, which served my writing well. 
There are new voices added to the tidy collection of voice possibilities.
I've worked with students from Kazakhstan, Brazil, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, France, and the Dominican Republic. 
In-between the busyness of working with human beings, I have continued work on creative projects -- on the bus, in bed right before falling into the magical realms of sleep and on the elliptical.

In-between snippets of Frida and other movies I'd never seen, I painted my apartment gallery white, imagining the sketches I will draw to decorate the walls. 
For some reason, after so many thousands of words, I've begun to crave an exploration into visual art. 
I want gray ink and gray pencil to draw on bright white paper to see what else is rattling inside this brain. 
It is a sleepy afternoon in Manhattan with the faraway sound of ambulance and cart and child and honk and squeak from a faulty faucett. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Artists loose in the World by Odilia Rivera-Santos

If you are an Artist and you enjoy utilizing your creativity in everything you do, beware the non-creatives who will label you as strange. You are strange to those who've had a steady bu·reau·crat·ic education -- professional-filers-of-papers who hold the direct deposit form in their hands. Once you've said your poetry has been published, your paintings have been shown somewheres or you've acted in a play, the brutocrat will be suspicious. Wear monochromatic suits and use monochromatic language and ignore the condescencion of those who don't understand why you would mix the real world of the real world and the real world of art. But engagement with a world beyond one's self has great value -- to not be in an environment where every 'artistic' bit of whimsy is not appreciated has the power to shape parts of the mind necessary for discipline and timing in art or in Art. I am on my bed where I do a lot of writing and reading since my insomnia was resolved by my Chinese TCM Doctor years ago. I am drinking a delicious cup of organic coffee and just finished a bowl of eight-grain cereal and there are a couple of birds swishing their wings and a car or two rolling by and I started to think about how important it is for Artists to engage with the everyday world so as to avoid a drift into the nothingness of doing only for ourselves and our need to produce something with the creative impulse beating inside of us. To be disconnected from those who are unlike us and from those who suffer or struggle in different ways than us would be to disengage from social responsibility. What kind of art could one create without a sense of responsibility toward others? Did Proust ever leave his bedroom to give away stale madeleines to local peasants?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Should we ask those who appropriate Black culture to be activists? by Odilia Rivera-Santos

American culture is Black culture. 
White Content Creators appropriate ideas from Black Communities and earn billions. And everyone wants to be Black until it's time to look for a job or deal with police.
The demarcations of cultural appropriation are set so that Content Creators and Performers, who aim to loot the stores of Black brilliance for their own gain, can keep walking when shit gets real.

Appropriation and protest.
Black kids imitate White performers who got their ideas from Black kids. Ironic, no?
This points to the lack of understanding Black kids have regarding their own value and the intrinsic and monetary value of the culture they help create.

Do White Performers and White Content Creators owe the Black community some recompense?
Do these people who have the inner resources to take ideas from our 'hoods' and run with them owe the families of murdered Black kids something?

What are inner resources?
The belief you deserve to earn a lot of money from ideas.
The belief you can change the trajectory of your life.
The belief that family and friends will offer you support in success and in failure.
The belief you can ask for help without being labeled stupid or weak.
The belief that asking for help in completing a project is a sign of strength and intelligence, not weakness and incompetence.
The belief that YOUR culture, YOUR ideas and YOUR vision all have value . .. even if you're Black.