Writing: looking backwards at 2013

Cover Latina Book Club

My debut novel Covering the Sun with My Hand was released in May of 2013 and it’s been a whirlwind for me ever since. My dream of being published with one of the “big” houses wasn’t realized and it was the best thing that could have happened for me. Instead I was invited into a small, new publishing company called Aignos Publishing. I thank my HP for that one.  Since I have no idea what might have happened had that dream come true, I’ll write about what did when my novel was born.

Aignos I know

I got a family. The entire group at Aignos Publishing has become very important to me. Since my first call from then Editor in Chief Jonathan Marcantoni, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and developing friendships with many new people.

My book is one of the 2013’s bestsellers at La Casa Azul Bookstore in NYC. Really. My book is wedged under Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize winner for 2008 and Ernesto Quinones, one of my literary heroes. Check out  http://luchalibrosnyc.blogspot.com/

Latina Book Club named my novel as one of its best for 2013. http://latinabookclub.com Believe me, I’m thrilled that “powerful, emotional, uplifting” are words that were used to describe my book!

Alan Weinberg, consultant to the NY Times, wrote that he was “looking” at me along with Junot Diaz and Lorena Fernandez. This rather heady piece of information can be found at the Latina book Club website in their December 21, 2013 post where he responded to their outcry for recognition of Latino authors. Talk about a Solstice surprise!

Being interviewed at Nuestra Palabra: Having Our Say with Bryan Parras and Liana Lopez reminded me of why I wrote it and for whom. The incredible work done by this organization astounds me. Please check them out and get involved if it sings to your heart or even makes a chirp.

Going to various events at La Casa Azul Bookstore, PRIDA Comite Noviembre’s gathering of artists and authors, Brooklyn Book Festival, amongst many others has helped me to meet readers, other authors and become a part of a group that, unfortunately, I didn’t really know existed sitting at my desk in front of my computer.

Where I’m moving in 2014 as a new author remains to be seen. This may seem like a brag blog. Maybe it is. One thing I’ve learned in 2013 is that it’s important to “Shine my shine!” I hope that you do the same.

See you in 2014!




Brooklyn Book Festival 2013- getting there

Author sign BBF

This was my first year participating in the Brooklyn Book Festival. Last year at the end of September I was feeling prickly that I didn’t have an editor yet. I certainly didn’t have a publisher. There was that brief luncheon in SoHo with an agent who assured me that she was interested in my work. After hearing me read one Sunday afternoon she invited me out and we chatted and got along famously. She asked me to forward my manuscript to her once more as somehow my manuscript was now a missing document in her files. I did. I never heard from her again.

A month later another agent who admitted she sat on the fence about my freshly revised manuscript decided that the project wasn’t for her. As writers we know that time-worn excuse, “I want whoever takes your project on to love it! As you do.” I agree but simply put rejection hurts.

A couple of days later, ending October, Aignos Publishing Managing Editor-In-Chief, Jonathan Marcantoni called me. He loved my story and how I told it. That is the beginning of the end of isolation in my writing process. Covering the Sun with My Hand was published in May. It has excellent reviews on Amazon and what I’ve heard by good old fashioned word of mouth.

This September not only was I part of the Brooklyn Book Festival as an Author but I was part of the NYC contingent of the Aignos Publishing author team. Our table celebrated Chris Campanioni, author of Going Down, Manuel Melendez, author of Where Angels Fall,  and me with my prized Covering the Sun with My Hand! We had a great time and met with other authors, readers and folks who are connected with the literary process. What a difference from a year ago!

Enjoy some pics. Maybe I’ll see you there next year. With a little work and a lotta hope, anything is possible!


Chris, Manny, me


Me, Manny, Chris (I have their profound attention)


Display for Feast of San Sebastian (Jon Marcantoni) and

Going Down (Chris Campanioni)


Us again


Me with Maria Aponte- Author of Transitions of a Nuyorican Cinderella


Me with Julia Abrantes of NYC Chapter of Las Comadres

Nuestra Palabra: Having our say

Nuestra Palabra cover photo

This is more than a brag blog. Sure, I like the look of Nuestra Palabra’s cover photo. In fact, I love it. Look closer.

I was interviewed on NP radio the other evening about my book Covering the Sun with My Hand. I’m humbled (yes, I’ve used that same word twice in two weeks) to be interviewed on the subject matter of my novel. Instead of sugar and spice and everything nice, my debut novel is about first generation Latinas and all the gritty strength we’re made of. It’s about a family dealing with the devastating mental illness of a son who was going to change the destiny of one family. The family that hangs together by the tenacious strings of love. The kind of family that I grew up in.

When I look more closely at this cover photo I see the link to Librotraficante. Man, oh man. Imagine depositing banned books to areas where states have attempted to stop the celebration of Latino voices and storytelling. The work of this organization is not only for this week’s recognition of book banning but takes place all the time. Imagine that a child can never open a book and read about someone like his or her grandma and her soft rich brown skin. Or who never sees the word cuchifrito in print?  One who never learns about the truths of slavery but only some whitewashed job? I don’t have to imagine it. That child was me in the early sixties. I am that child who, along with my fellow storytellers, grew up to tell the tales that were almost squashed. I remember being brought to my knees by the stories of Piri Thomas who rocked me in rhythm with his words. Once I got up and became able to claim my own voice I began writing some of the stories that tell of our Latino experience.

Being interviewed for this radio show by Liana Lopez and Bryan Parras  brought me to where I needed to dig down deep and reflect on not only what I write but for whom I am writing. Because its a matter of survival.

This is the link to my interview. I hope you tune in. There’s some groovy music on this too! Enjoy!


Writing: stopping to breathe

Theresa's inner child writing

My inclination to post this pic is because I need to get back to basics. Within the last six weeks, I’ve had a book launch at La Casa Azul Bookstore.


The experience was surreal and beautiful. My friends surrounding me, my family beaming at me, my fellow authors reading pieces new to me and pieces that I’ve loved for a long while, the sounds of the no. 6 train making its way through East Harlem on a balmy Friday evening. All were blessings.


Me smiling. I remember when all of my adult pictures showed a cynical smirk. I’m not that woman anymore and haven’t been for a long time. Signing copies of a novel that I swear I channeled. This story was spiritually ‘given’ to me to tell- a gift that I’m proud to have taken care of and cherish.

fire escape

My novel’s back cover. The fire escape I played on with my cousins. This was the fire escape I envisioned in my novel. The same one my cousin Mike, Uncle Louie and I ate lunch under realizing that the restaurant was Mike’s apartment when we were kids. The same lunch where I received a call and put my phone aside not realizing it was the call I’d been praying for many months from my soon to be editor- Jon Marcantoni from Aignos Publishing. Serendipitous you say? Me too.

Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble- where I read last night with Women of Color Writers’ Community. Thank you, Sister Bisi and all the very talented readers that took part in this event.

La Marqueta

On Sunday the 18th of August I will be sitting at a table selling copies of my book at La Marqueta in East Harlem as created by Maria Aponte- writer, performer, poeta who is gifted with inexhaustible energy with others all equally creative!


So, tonight I will sit at my little table and write. Keeping it simple. Going within where it all begins.




Book Release: The Morning After…

I’m finding it really hard to sit down to blog after the release of my book “Covering the Sun with My Hand.”  The last couple of months have been whirlwind.   I’ve had all sorts of plans to post pics and describe the enormous joy I felt around my book launch at La Casa Azul Bookstore in East Harlem in late June. Instead, a story I began and set aside while completing revisions on my debut novel has just about consumed me. If I’m not writing, I’m thinking about it. I’m talking about it. In fact, I attended a training at my day job and was handed a packet of information that would have taken me hours to research. The training evoked a memory of something I’d quite forgotten that has to be placed in the novel. Yes, I’m immersed in it.

But… I do want to share some of the pictures taken of the evening I began preparing for when I first put pen to paper for a story called “The Eviction.” The story that went no where and was hidden in my drawer until one of the characters woke me up and said, “The story is about me and my family.” A friend who read my book said she was sad to separate from Julia Acevedo, the protagonist, after a few days of hanging out with her. She tried not to finish the book too quickly. She empathized with me and commiserated about my separating from Julia after about three years. Julia is my BFF and now I have my new protagonist, Maggie Fuentes, of Coney Island Siren. Did I actually just do that? Write my new main character’s name and title of the novel? Yes, I did. It will be awhile but I can’t help but introduce my new friend.

Here is a pic of the book release. I’ll do a run down on details and post more pics soon…as soon as Maggie stops talking in my ear.

Here are some of my favorite writers- Maria Aponte, Karina Guardiola-Lopez, Manny Melendez, and Raquel Penzo. My friend Rachel Griffin is peeking out there too. Thanks to Karina for this picture!

My Literary Community

Covering the Sun with My Hand

My novel is published. Now what?  My book launch for Covering the Sun with My Hand will be at La Casa Azul Bookstore in East Harlem, NYC. I’m counting down the days. June 28th  from 6-8pm! Wait, what? East Harlem? An acquaintance was quite intrigued about the prospect of attending the book launch until she heard the name of the neighborhood where it will be located.

This woman is a reader and would be writer. She emphatically advised me that I should have a signing at my community bookstore. I agree. Good idea. Great idea. More books, more signings, more marketing potential. Then I realized she had no intention of leaving the neighborhood by taking a train ride uptown. Community means different things to different people.

I’m a member of many different communities. La Casa Azul Bookstore happens to be a mainstay in terms of my literary community. I’ve done readings in Bed-Stuy, Washington Heights, the Lower East Side, and Spanish Harlem. These are the areas where my fellow readers and writers hang out, read, listen, and partake of the richness of Latino Art and Literature. It’s where I can speak in English, Spanish, or Spanglish and everyone gets it. They get the idea of old culture mores that may have moved mountains but made it difficult for me to stay out after 9pm during my female adolescence.

The store’s owner is Aurora Anaya-Cerda and she has, amongst many other honors, been recognized as a Champion of Change by The White House as an entrepreneur who is pioneering the use of crowdfunding. The Champions of Change program highlights the stories and examples of citizens across the country who are “Winning the Future” with projects and initiatives that move their communities forward.

If you are interested in celebrating the colorful diversity of literature, come on up to La Casa Azul Bookstore. You’ll be glad you did!


You can also pick up my book at



Jon Marcantoni: The power and potential of literature

Jon Marcantoni


What is literature to me? I think every art has its distinct advantage in the way it chooses to express itself. Art is based on the senses, can we feel it, touch it, taste it? Art has to excite has to excite us, it has to move us, not only to enjoy the experience, but to be challenge by it, to act in accordance with the message of that particular work. Painting is pure visuals, same with still photography, it tells the story of mankind through a still life that speaks not only to that moment but to that particular state of being. Moving photography, film or video, is the great visual representation of God that exists. There is something holy in film, it not only captures a still life, but an entire movement. It creates worlds, characters, in real and imagined time. Filmmaking is truly an act of God, that is, creating man and nature and space and time, all to suit a story. Music, by using sounds, can manipulate my mind in such a way that I time travel, to my past, to my daydreams, to moods and moments that defy linguistic expression. Music is the primal scream, communication without words, that much like a painting or a photograph, captures a moment and analyzes the emotional weight of it. Dance is the manifestation of music, it is the joining of the audible and the physical, giving form to the sounds that captivate us, that we wish to understand but also kind of fear, and through the dances that emotional turmoil resolves itself by taking the chaos of sound and controlling it in movement.

What then, is literature?

Literature is the ultimate art. It uses language to manipulate time and capture humanity and nature, and to create, literature creates in the same way that film does, it lingers on moments like a painting, it creates rhythm and then contains it through grammar, it uses language to define the undefinable. It also, and here is where literature has the real advantage, not only creates worlds but it creates personalized worlds. Whereas the world created on film is definitive, literature creates an experience that changes according to whomever is reading it. It is a representation of the scientific theory that states that for every choice there are multiple realities where a person has selected each choice. The book you and I read may have the same blueprint, but the characters, the locations, the meaning, means different things to us. No art is as fluid as literature, as undefinable, because it is an experience that relies on your personal experience and preferences to influence the world it creates.

And this is why I feel it is important that we as writers not limit ourselves. It is very easy to get in the mindset of being safe or generic in order to attract publishers. I’ve certainly done it, and it is a tendency I fight against. There is a difference between adhering to a style and the rules of that style and altering your very voice to fit a supposed expectation imposed upon on us through literary journals and interviews with publishing professionals about what they look for in a book. Art cannot breathe in this environment. Literature has the potential to inspire, to engage, to change the world, why settle for mediocrity just because it might help you sell a book?

But the desire is clear and logical, we want to be successful, financially and artistically. We want this crazy habit of writing to support us and our families so we can dedicate every day to it. But maybe, just maybe, if you let yourself be yourself, and write what you love the way you want to write it, someone will like it enough to publish it. And if you promote it hard enough, it could be successful, you never know.

While the commercial needs and artistic needs of creating art are unavoidable, we should never lose sight of the great weapon we have at our disposal. To create worlds, to create relationships that inspire, that cause movements, the writers of history have often been associated with revolutionaries and with good reason, because if a book can imagine a better world, then why shouldn’t we? Literature is a weapon, and we should wield it with discern

Interview with Author Chris Campanioni

chris Campanioni1

It’s a great pleasure to interview Chris who is a fellow author at Aignos Publishing!

Welcome, Chris! Tell us a bit about your background.

I was born in New York City to a Cuban father and a Polish mother, and I was raised in New Jersey. I wrote a trilogy of novels about media, communication, tourism, and terrorism, which are now being published by Aignos Publishing (Going Down, my most recent novel, is the first). I worked as a journalist–as a reporter and a copy editor–at the Star-Ledger, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Bergen Record, and at the same time, found work as an actor and model, spending the morning on location photo shoots and the evening on deadlines, putting out one of the largest daily newspapers in the country. I just received my Master’s in English literature at Fordham University and this past spring, was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize for 2013. I am sending out query letters for my first poetry book, In Conversation, now.

Congratulations on your award, Chris. What is your genre and your intended audience?

Because of my cultural background and the characters and settings in the novel, I think there is a strong Latino crossover. Readers who gravitate toward coming-of-age, multicultural, contemporary, and literary genres are among my target audience, as well as readers who are interested in celebrity culture and the world of fashion. I have had discussions with university professors in various English literature programs, and I very much look forward to the possibility of my work being included in their future syllabi.

That prospect sounds so exciting! What are you currently writing?

I am right now finishing the revisions on my second novel, Fashion of the Seasons. This story, which is a companion to Going Down, is divided into five books that correspond with the seasons of the year. I take the normal conception of temporal order and invert it; the narrative is linear in terms of the seasons but non-linear in terms of time. The illusion that the fashion industry wishes to engender about constant change is also turned on its head. Each season’s chapters move from various points in the characters’ lives, hopscotching years while staying in the same season until we reach the end of the Winter—the end of the world, really—and discover “Out of Season”—a book that exists in dead time, a collapse of memory and events that manifests in fragments.

The polyphonic narrative is told from a variety of perspectives that diverge and collide. Fashion is used both literally and metaphorically; the stories revolve around a fashioning of the self, and how we fashion others in our gaze. Identity and contact—physical or otherwise—is what converges the various plots.

When I was initially workshopping Fashion, a number of people suggested I include the fashion industry in every chapter and associate it with every character, and I was disappointed, because I felt as if my whole point had been lost in translation. I already wrote a novel about the fashion industry; it’s called Going Down … but by calling this novel Fashion and setting it in the “everyday” world, I believe I am forcing people to look at the implicit processes of the fashion industry, and how this cultural production affects our day-to-day lives, almost on the unconscious level.

Chris Campanioni2

When do you make time to write?

I mostly write during my commute. A lot of that means eventually typing out the notes and fragments I have recorded on my cell phone, and sometimes, in my old reporter’s notebook—like the one Chris Selden is always carrying with him in Going Down.

What would you have done differently in your writing life? If anything at all?

It sounds trite, but I really do believe everything happens for a reason. I don’t think I would have changed anything. One of the most valuable lessons that came out of my experience in the Master’s of English program at Fordham University was the discovery of certain cultural and literary traditions that I saw in my own writing. It gave me a theoretical grounding I did not have before, and ironically, helped me understand my own work long after I had written it. Also, I do believe the best editor is time, and any good story—or any good stories—need that necessary time to simmer, especially since the material I drew from, at least in this trilogy, was very autobiographical.

Does your spiritual or political life influence your writing? If so, how?

I think the influence of spiritual and political elements are unavoidable for any writer. There is a segment in my third novel, Tourist Trap, in which an interview with the author interrupts the narrative (the chapter, “What Else He Said”) and perhaps the best way to answer your question is to quote the author’s answer to the interviewer’s question, “So you’re a political writer?”:

“To be a writer and political is a dangerous thing. To be a writer and apolitical is even more dangerous. Art is right, left; in truth, it has only one direction and that is forward.”

I think that notion of progress, of moving forward, is our responsibility as artists.

Do you have a particular theoretical foundation that keeps you afloat?

Without simply repeating what you wrote in your excellent piece on Latino themes, I would only add this: Latin America is so far-reaching, and so diverse, that there are innumerable “Latino themes”—so many that the very idea of Latino themes becomes irrelevant, if not also dangerously reductive. I would only say that I believe the reverberating, ever-present Latino theme is one of displacement, because that is our history. How do I react to this in my own work? With the iteration of scenes, stories, the lines themselves; by a love of words that manifests in double entendres; through narratives that are inherently fragmented and re-fashioned; and with interruptions and mistranslations that become revelatory—a dosplacement of language—narrative space as utopic possibility.

In my work—as well as in my own life—there can never be binaries, positive and negative relationships, either/or; there is only possibility, imagination, truth, which is always multiple, contradictory, and open-ended.

When I Googled my name, I discovered that people who have read my work have associated me with Latin American neo-Surrealism (what is Latin American neo-Surrealism? I ask myself) and the Dada movement in the early twentieth century. I am very hesitant—and generally averse—to allow my self or my work to be categorized, but I find a lot more in common with the neo-Baroque—also known as the American Baroque—Cuban writers like Lezama Lima, Sarduy, and especially, Cabrera Infante, whom all took language to its threshold, and did not discover content, but rather, a form devoid of content. They found ellipsis, the space between words, the blank space, which is not death, but the possibility of life. This is what I try to reenact in my work to date. The text has become organic; the moment one reads Going Down is the moment I am writing it.

In terms of other themes that I think pervade my work, there is the fixation on memory and a recovery of the past, the sensual pleasures of food, an emphasis on the body, and the euphoria of music. Is it Cuban? Is it human? I have no conception of how to categorize these themes, but I also think it’s important–and I know we have discussed this together before–to always be cognizant of never consciously writing about anything, except the story you are creating on the page. That sounds almost paradoxical, but it’s not. The moment you are aware of an aesthetic is the moment that aesthetic escapes you.

Writing should always—at its most fundamental level—be a means of pleasure. Sensibilities, aesthetics, academics, money—all of these things must remain suppressed during the creative process of the work of art. Another Cuban artist at Aignos Publishing, Carlos Aleman, understands and emphasizes this point very well, I think.

Chris Campanioni

Go check out Chris’ website and learn more about his writing and projects at  http://chriscampanioni.co

Thanks for visiting, Chris!






Patrick Neal- Author and Singer/Songwriter


Patrick Neal is a freelance author and singer/songwriter. A self-taught guitarist, he saw how the music tells a story. Over the years, he became influenced by dreams of themed scenarios, taking part in merging them with a unique writing style, as each novel unravels it’s own mystery. The stories he crafts begin to take on a life of their own, as he leaves a glimpse of personal life experiences in each one.

Please help to welcome Patrick!

Hello, my name is Patrick Neal. My first book, Control Factor, was released by Aignos Publishing as of January 28th, 2013 . First and foremost, I have always sought out new music and influences, to further learn the intricacies of the guitar. I feel that Spanish classical music has always been in my heart, for example, the music of Andres Segovia called out to me. Now it is the base of my guitar style, from composing freestyle solos, to learning to play the most difficult of songs (in my opinion, the harder, the better). At first, I found that the connection between the mind and the hands was the most difficult, only after years of practice and long hours of translating classical music, piano and guitar, to my guitar; this is something I have achieved, and always is a work in progress.

Years ago I wrote a particular classical piece, based on simultaneous ascending and descending notes, in the key of E Minor. I since left it on a mental shelf, to use with appropriate vocals at a later time.

I then began writing a song entitled, “Mi Corazon”, that I needed to be translated to Spanish. I asked Jon Marcantoni, a colleague and mentor of mine, to translate the song to Spanish. Because English doesn’t always translate to Spanish clearly, Jon was able to revise and edit my version into one that would capture the same message, without losing meaning. If anything, his revised version has defined the meaning. My vision for the song is for the lyrics to be sung by a woman in Spanish, preferably with Valerie Fernandez, as I play my classical piece. I am happy with the finished product. This song represents a love that can bridge the gap between different cultures and languages. I am including both sets of lyrics with a sample of the song, “Mi Corazon.”

My English version started out this way:
Mi Corazon-

My heart alone
Cannot decide
Between truth
And disguise
Is this a dream?
Behold beautiful scenes
The true measure
Sharing earthly pleasures
Beating in my chest
Savoring the best
Your confusion is yours alone
Feel it to the bone
Mi amore siempre vida

Within my heart
Secrets locked away
Dreaming of love
And passions unreal
Craving affections
From a love so true
Losing myself into you
Fearing the day
I can no longer feel
Give it time to heal
Your seductive infection

Jon’s revised-revised edition:

Mi Corazón
Patrick Cummings

Hombre (pause)
de burlas
Dime si es sueño este amor
Algo de espuma
O algo duro
Dime si las vistas bonitas
Lo’ placeres
Y las promesas
Son mentiras

Quedas confundido
Pero soy cierto
Que mi amor es sincero
Hasta mis huesos
Que alcanzan hacia la eternidad

Lo’ secretos entre mi corazón
Que sueñan de amor y pasione’
Anhelan los cariños
De tu amor verdadero
Y yo pierdo el miedo,
El control de mis emocione’
Y sin dudo grito a lo’ cielos
Que te quiero

Dime, dime corazón
Que no llegara el día
Cuando vas a acabar
Este amor enfermo (2x)

I’m most excited to share his music, sung by Valerie Fernandez. I have found it quite haunting and lovely. You can watch this wonderful and fresh live recording by clicking on the link below:



Control factor book cover

This is a description of Control Factor. It can be found at Amazon. The link is below the description.
A sparse human population, in this well-detailed future post-apocalyptic novel, nervously co-exist with the saurian, the decendents of biologically modified super soldiers engineered during the unwinding of our world. It is against this strange backdrop that an unlikely hero, Joe Flannigan, rescues Eva from a cult commune, and invokes the rage roiling inside of its mystical and messianic leader. Follow Joe and Eva’s journey, as the man possessed with a supernatural affliction pursues them, controlling all who would dare block his own will or the evil that controls him.