Writing: being in the middle

Social media forums such as Facebook and Twitter have me thinking about all the books I haven’t written and all the planned creative work that sits on the shelves in my mind and office. I curl up my toes at the photos of people who are seemingly doing it all. They are guest appearing and guest blogging all over America, while getting their writing published. On my good days, I cheer the completed projects and am contented to be connected with such illustrious  people. On gloomy days, I ponder all I haven’t done yet.

I remember being taken aback when I went to Julia Alvarez’s website that showed the covers of her published books and a note that said something to the effect of ‘I’m not blogging because I’m writing.’ Boo-yah! This was on the heels of being advised of the necessity of blogging to connect with readers and writers alike. I’m told my writing career depends on it.

If you take a good look at my blog post dates you’ll see I don’t blog all that often. People haven’t swarmed to read every word and make insightful and inciteful comments. On a day of light, I congratulate myself on the creative work I’ve offered to the Universe and on a somber day, think it’s never enough and possibly, I’m not enough. Being in the middle is a perfect reminder that ‘shoulds ‘and ‘coulds’ are to be avoided in my vocabulary of words.

As a ‘literati’ (dubbed years ago by my doctoral dissertation chair) which can be defined as one of the educated class or one interested in literature (I like the second definition better, yup) I must be true to the rhythm of the words that flow through me and to the ever changing patterns of life. I’m well aware that to compare is to despair.

I’m proud of the creative work I’ve completed and birthed into the world and excited about the new creations waiting to be born. Gestation periods vary, some creations are birthed rather quickly, others are high risk and need extra help, while others are endured and enjoyed simultaneously. It’s essential for me as a writer to ‘be in the middle’ and do my part just for today.

Blogging has helped me to develop the muscle of not ruminating over a brief written piece, to happily realize I can change my mind about my opinions, and to continue developing my voice on paper. I also get the pleasure of sharing myself with others and that is something that is often missing in the isolation of writing as a practice. So for today, I will blog, as well as continue digging into my other projects. A few are standing in the wings, readying to take their places on stage.

Happy writing!

Mental Illness is not a ‘Novel’ Idea

René Acevedo, Julia’s twin, is diagnosed with Schizophrenia during his first year of college. This severe and persistent mental illness becomes the backdrop for the changes that rock the lives of each member of  the Acevedo family in my first novel Covering the Sun with My Hand.  As I was immersed in creating the play inspired by this novel, workshop members wondered how the psychiatrist would so easily make this diagnosis without tests or procedures. The story takes place in the mid seventies before the advent of many of today’s diagnostic tools and treatments but many of the same problems exist today.

I’ve had many private emails from  readers who were strangers and also talks with friends alike who shared similar stories they too experienced with family members who were struck with signs and symptoms of various mental illnesses. The overwhelming message I received was that these loving family members shared in the plight of coping with the often devastating effects.

My work as a psychiatric nurse practitioner has shown me that the more things change, the more they stay the same. There is still bountiful ignorance and stigma regarding mental health and this is an unfortunate fact.  The ill person may be expected to  pull it together because those who lack education may believe that they can get better if they really want to improve. Try getting rid of high blood pressure through intention. Sure, medication, good nutrition, excercise, and meditation help but doesn’t eradicate certain types of hypertension. This is similar to mental illness.

Family members who provide care for their loved ones must make hard decisions. One of them is how much of their own lives do they place aside in the hopes they could affect powerful change by being present and giving of themselves. I’ve heard vastly different reactions. One early beta reader found my book revolting and informed me there was no real problem. The protagonist could have easily gone on with her life and not entertain the notion that she should stay home in hopes of helping her family. Other readers were grateful to see what could very well have been their own narratives filled with conflict in print.

If you or someone you know is flailing while swimming in the thick soup of mental illness here are some links for support that might be helpful. Check them out:

National Alliance on Mental Illness


For friends and family members


Supporting a family member with mental illness


Covering the Sun with My Hand is the second place winner of the International Latino Book Awards 2015 Best First Novel Category. The novel is currently available only on this website. It will soon be available via Amazon as I’m in the process of transitioning publishers. Click the Paypal button on this site if you would like to purchase a signed copy.

I am visible within the invisible

Scrolling on social media I read that having expectations is like having premeditated resentments. I can relate to that, not so much that I’m resentful but that I’m in a place of questioning my creative and professional lives again. The last time I posted was over a month ago. When I wrote that last one I promised myself that I would post more regularly but then life, of course, yet again, interjected itself into my grand plan.

We also had illness and death make a visit to our family. These are the times that the Universe in all of its wisdom tells us that we must take pause. In other words, I am encouraged to “take a chill pill, Theresa.” That is welcome but it is also challenging. Social media happily reminds me that I’m not doing enough and that if I don’t promote, promote, promote, that I will wallow in the land of the lost, the uncelebrated, the alone. When I entertain these thoughts I am glad that the Universe has reminded me to sit instead in the land of the loved, in the stillness of life, and that I’m never alone.

Balancing my creative work and professional life is a tricky business.  It might not be this way if I didn’t also take time to pray, meditate, exercise, and make healthy tasty dishes. My family, friendships, and fellowships are also as important as my spiritual relationships. Did I leave anyone or anything out? A mentally ill client of mine who spoke in tongues during a session told me that my office is “lonely” and a “place to meditate.” These concepts may have been oddly shared but I believe it is a place of stillness where I can gather myself to me when I need to in a very chaotic atmosphere. So, there are gifts in my challenges.

My play, my next novel,  my poetry verses, and all of my creative enterprises are not floundering but actually flowering and I must remind myself of that when I am in the pause mode. The Explicit Order has always been integral with the Implicit Order. We all take time to be in the still of creation with the eventual sharing with others. For today, I will be still and then the Universes will shift and give me the message when it is time for me to shift too. For today, I will remind myself that the quiet is as important as the loud. For today, I will remind myself that there are seasons for all.



When the story changes…

In real life we all change whether we want to or not. We try new foods, get involved in new jobs and relationships and basically do things that may seem different to our persona. Usually though, unless it’s to an extreme, we aren’t kicking and screaming.

But what happens when it’s one or more of our beloved characters that changes? I’m in the midst of experiencing this as I ‘adapt’ my novel Covering the Sun with My Hand to a play. I guess you can say that I’m in the acceptance phase now. Based on all the changes in the story, I’m now calling the project ‘inspired by’ rather than ‘adapted’ and have also thought about changing the title.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s still Julia and René Acevedo as our leads. Mami and Ana are major characters. Papi has unfortunately crossed over. There are characters at the forefront who weren’t mentioned in the novel but who are germane to the story.

It’s still going to be a while before they take their places on stage. I need time to get used to this changes. I’ll be writing more about these as I move forward in the play. The one thing that hasn’t changed in the writing of this version of the Acevedo family tale is that I love each character so much and I’m getting to know more about each as you will. Looking forward to sitting with you in the theatre.

Writing: Timing, distance, and target

I was briefly a martial arts student at the age of twelve and returned to training when I was in my thirties. My first instructor, Mr. Aaron, was a great storyteller. He told tales of how he could kick as high as his head but when I attended his Saturday classes he couldn’t quite reach that height anymore. I stopped attending because he thought I should be able to “handle” dressing in the room with the boys. The other girls in the class had already stopped taking the classes. I eventually figured out why they left one by one. I tend to hold onto things tenaciously-most times that quality is a strength of mine.

The second time I began training was because my children were taking classes and my friend, another mom, and I decided that we could do more than sit and wait for hours on end for them on Saturdays. The style was Okinawan Go Ju Ryu. I learned about the nuances of walking the warrior path between hard and soft ways-which is what Go Ju means. I ended the training just shy of testing for my black belt. It was a tough decision to stop a discipline that I’d become committed to over the years. I guess, ultimately, I learned that I’m a warrior that leans toward a peaceful way of life from a different path. There were several things that I learned through the years of learning Karate that have changed my life forever. One of them was the concept of ‘timing, distance, and target.’ This concept shows up every now and again and I experienced one in my writing life.

Being a quasi social media junkie, I was in full glee mode when I shared on Facebook that I was changing the title of my new mystery, Nights of Indigo Blue, that was published in September of 2015. Facebook did what it does best and I quickly received several ‘likes.’ I also received a private message from an acquaintance who advised me ‘writer to writer’ that I should employ the help of a proof reader for my book. She made it clear that this would help me to avoid my previous issue of having multiple editing errors as in my first book, ‘Covering the Sun with My Hand.’ I must admit that the message quickly put me in a funk. I  know how important it is to have the ability to self reflect and self critique and I try my best with that. What smarts is that I think it was meant to ‘take me down a peg.’ The message is that while I’m being published that my work is not quite good enough. The person’s spouse had already confided to me that there were glaring errors in my book that should have been avoided when we met for lunch about a week after that particular book launch- a time that I was pleased as punch after a fantabulous event for my beloved book. Sigh.

I’m not perfect and don’t do any of this alone. I have a great team and we work together well. This message had already been shared. I think her advice was a definite case of poor timing, distance, and target. It reminded me of standing in the dojo, training place, with a fellow student who should have been trading taps to the ab region. Instead, after the fifth or so repetition he somehow punched me right in the face. It was wrong in every way but he shrugged and said he hadn’t meant to hurt me. The timing, for me, was awful. The ‘writer to writer’ message could have been shared during a more neutral time. The distance was too close to home in terms of my default state of negative thinking of “not being good enough.” The target was perfect for the messenger but, alas, not for me.

Writing helps me to make sense of my world. Talking things out do too. When I shared this with my editor she reminded me we worked together on the book and the publisher was on the team too. It reminded me that I hadn’t done this alone and there was nothing to feel shame about or to hide. Being part of a writing team is awesome. There will be messages given in a poor manner. I don’t have to wait for a sucker punch, there will always be someone there who will be happy to do the honors. If and when a punch does come sailing toward me and I don’t duck in time, I know that it may smart for a while and then I’ll be okay.

Happy writing (and editing)! Go in confidence of who you are and the knowledge that life can be challenging just as we are simultaneously rewarded.

How not to sell a book.

As an author I have the terrific opportunity to meet other authors, writers, and artists. I love sharing notes on my phase of development in my writings and to hear others’ processes too. One of my favorite things to do is to buy books at events and have the authors sign their treasured works. I recently found myself in the situation where I was interested in buying a couple of books from an author and then changed my mind. The author really made it hard for me to support him and I’ll tell you why.

The author not only began telling me about his process, he basically steamrolled me and didn’t let me get a word in edgewise. He kept talking and talking. Whenever I did open my mouth to speak, I noticed that his eyes immediately went to the door to see who else was walking into the room. This was a clear indicator to me that he wanted to be sure to spot a more important customer than me. That’s not a good idea if you want to sell your book.

The rest of us exchanged cards. This guy gave me his card and had absolutely no interest in my card. When I began looking through his pretty wonderful looking book, he still wouldn’t stop talking. I was definitely turned off when he gave me the price (after I asked), looked at me, and added, ‘or whatever you can pay.’ Grrr.   What made him think I couldn’t afford his book? That type of thing, I understand, has nothing to do with me and all to do with him but I really didn’t appreciate it.

I’ve noticed the authors who never buy other authors’ books at events. I like to support. Maybe others don’t have the money. I get that. But not to even come over to a table to say hello, I just don’t get. So, this may sound like a rant and maybe it is. But how do expect the public to support our books when we won’t even support each other? Being part of the author community means coming out of one’s comfort zone and speaking with a stranger, maybe even someone that writes in an entirely different genre. It’s nice to stick to the members of an already established supportive writers network but we never know what a new one will offer us or what we can offer it.

These are just my musings, in other words, “Just wondering.” Maybe I should write to Dear Abby.


The Holidays…

While acknowledging that not everyone celebrates this end of year trifecta of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year, I must say that I do. Every year it’s different but depending on my spiritual condition it can be great or devastating. I’m not talking about how often I went to church but of how I treated myself and those around me. It also depends on whether I’ve been connected to my Higher Power. 

I’m not one of those who wears my religion on the outside. That’s for no particular reason, it just is. It’s more of an inside job. When I get together with others in my spiritual community it sustains to a certain degree. The wholeness I seek comes in the forms of meditation, prayer, and walking the good road. It’s easy to forget but I try to engage in at least one of these on a daily basis.

My spiritual practice allows others to be who they are meant to be. That sounds awfully big of me as I write that down but the truth is that I often think I know everything and especially what’s best for others. Luckily, my HP usually gives me reminders when I’m a bit off and not keeping my side of the sidewalk clean while pointing out the litter across the street or down the block.

Personal reflection during the holiday season comes with the territory of my life. I look back, while not staring for too long and contemplate my future while not forgetting my feet are planted in today. Past holidays, for me, were filled with ‘is it good enough?’ That translated to ‘am I good enough?’ Not great thoughts to wrestle with while barraged with advertisements depicting ‘more, more, and more.’

I’ll be in the quiet for this holiday. I’ll gift a few people and know that I’m an okay person who has moved from the material closer toward the spiritual. I’m in a state of gratitude for the people I’ve come in contact with during 2015 and looking forward to forging new relationships in 2016. I know that if I tend to my spirit as I would my garden that beautiful flowers will grow. I will not be in a constant state of ‘want’ and know that my HP has provided me with everything I need. 

Happy Holidays!

Writing: Growing with your favorite author

My mother was an Agatha Christie junkie. I still have her collection that proves it. I’m an addict of sorts too. If I like something, I want more and more of it. The problem is that seconds and thirds are never quite like the first.

When it comes to my own book interests I’ve become a devotee of certain authors. Everyone knows that I adore everything written by Joyce Carol Oates. Both Oates and Christie have written over different decades and they’ve changed just like me.

There was a time that if I read a book and didn’t care for it in an ‘over the top’ way I never bought another book from that particular author.  Now that I’m an author, I’m aware of the changes writers experience. The life of each character and each storyline are so different that as a writer I can’t expect to offer the same book within different book covers.

As a reader, I love to explore various genres and subtypes within the genre. I may want to read a ‘cozy’ mystery one day and a ‘chiller’ the next. I’ve learned not to compare one as better than the other. They should be enjoyed within the context of what they are meant to be.

I hope to continue to grow along with my favorite authors and enjoy each new book as a ‘first’ and not in some preconceived notion of what I think it should be. Read on folks, read on… 


Writing: …and then there’s the book celebration!

It was two weeks ago that I shared an amazing celebration for the launch of my novel, Nights of Indigo Blue, at La Casa Azul Bookstore in New York City. Having so many family and friends, new and old, gather for the party was thrilling for me. Aurora Anaya-Cerda, the owner of our beloved bookstore and her staff, could probably open another business on teaching professionalism with genuine warmth. I could not have asked for a better night!

I send hugs and thanks to Maria Aponte-Gonzalez, Bobby Gonzalez, Manuel Williams, and Anwar Uhuru who are amazing performers. Their poetry and performances reminds me of the talent that Spirit gifts us with and how we as artists and authors share with others bringing smiles and tears to our eyes. I’d especially like to thank Albert TainoImage  Areizaga for his wonderful photo shots! I also want to thank my daughter, Mara Cordova, who trekked uptown on the train with me hauling food and other things we couldn’t do without. The Pope hadn’t gotten my message that I planned to drive so the streets were pretty much on lock down. And for those of you who don’t know, my spouse, Patricia Dornelles, is the very fabulous photographer who captured the book cover at Prospect Park lake at dawn about a year ago! Thank you!

Each person who was there is special to me in very different ways.  Thank you all for making the celebration one I will hold treasured in my heart forever. There are so many pictures that I don’t have of so many people who came out to show love and support. I wish I had them all! If any one else has photos of that evening, send them this way please!



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Writing: Me, a co-dependent author?

Suffice it to say that last week I’d been walking around in a cloud of free floating anxiety. I have no idea what other authors go through when their newly pressed novels take their places on public shelves but I can be pretty sure that everyone deals with this stress in some shape or form. My subject matter will soon be up for scrutiny… wait… it is already out in the world.

I can’t help but get consumed about ‘what will the neighbors think?’ or in my case, ‘what will my readers think?’, but censoring my characters would be a travesty to the development of their stories. There will be readers who get the characters, the stories, and the backstories and there are some who won’t. This all reminds me of a creative course I took where several students and teachers told me they ‘didn’t get’ my writing. That, I believe is a mask for the inability to articulate what may be ‘wrong’ with how a story is told. Maybe it’s the style or the POV that needs some fixing but it may be difficult for some people to utilize the tools of critiquing adequately. But truthfully speaking, I didn’t get the teacher’s, aka Editor for a Magazine, decision to encourage a fellow student to submit her piece for publishing. The story was about a couple who rolled down hills together in a deep pile of crunchy autumn leaves. Pretty, but what was the story? I guess I’ll never know.

It’s possible that a writer’s subject matter is taboo to certain people. Taboo- that’s not a word that I experience in my world often. Every day I’m made aware that the line in the sand is pushed a little further all the time and it is washed away by the waves of the Universe. We carry our personal lines in the sand deep within us. Many of us don’t allow others to witness how far we’ve ventured with that line on that stretch of sand and never will.

Reading is certainly not a passive act, it is an action. I cannot be fed by the author but if I open myself to what he or she wrote I may be able to identify and not compare and see the humanism in the story.  Just in the same way, I cannot expect my work to be all for everyone. That’s an impossibility but in the bigger picture, we are all more alike than different. I’ve read many books in my lifetime and I’ve loved many and not so many. Different readers will click with different types of writings. Hashing these thoughts and feelings out with supportive people has brought me to another place- one where I can be free of the anxiety of what others think to a place of enjoying the process that being a writer brings.

I’m quite taken with my new creative piece. When the box arrived and I opened it, I thought of how much I’d like to read it. The book is exactly one that I would pick up from a public shelf. A mystery, starring a Latina, who is full of zeal for life and the beauty it brings, is my kind of story. That’s what counts the most. Yes, I care. But I also know that life is large and what is today may not be tomorrow. That makes everything all right. So for today, I’ll stay in today. What a great place to be.