My mom was the godmother of my father’s brother and his wife’s first son. My little cousin. Sound confusing? Not as easy as Baby Daddy, is it? My mom and my aunt called each other “Coma’e”- the Puerto Ricanized short version of the word Comadre. Comadre is the word that explains that complicated sounding but very close chosen relationship between women.
Summer evenings. A breeze flutters through the thin cotton curtains. Two women sit at a kitchen table drinking fresh cups of Bustelo. Laughter wafts through the railroad rooms. A little girl sits upright and puts her doll aside. Ears strain to make out the low voices. Stories being told.
My delight in stories told started out way back. Eavesdropping on my mom and her coma’e as they shared tales and listening to my mother read stories to us at the same kitchen table lit the candela of my own story telling. I started speaking through my beloved paper dolls and, eventually, through my research papers at doctoral school. Today, my voice weaves stories through poetry and fiction.
Most recently, I had the honor of attending the Comadres y Compadres Writers Conference in Brooklyn, NY. Nora de Hoyos Comstock is the President and CEO of Las Comadres para las Americas, an international organization of Latinas. In conjunction with the Association of American Publishers, Las Comadres sponsors a national book club to promote the work of Latino authors.
Seeing Nora standing on stage with Marcela Landres, the author of the e-book How Editors Think: The Real Reason They Rejected You, and publisher of the award-winning e-zine Latinidad, and Adriana Dominguez, Literary Agent at Full Circle Literary, all blue jeans and smiles, let me know that I was home.
During the conference, well known authors, agents and editors sat on panels and in ‘one-on-one’s’ and spoke of their experiences in the publishing industry. They did this with the hope of helping other Latina/o writers come to the forefront to tell their stories in the most creative and supported way possible. A slam-pitch brought the opportunity to share the compelling twists of one’s tale. The writing journey is rigorous and sometimes seemingly impossible. This conference, while realistic, also evoked the image of one person helping the other- the image of two women sitting across the kitchen table.
Aurora Anaya-Cerda, owner of La Casa Azul– an independent bookstore in Spanish Harlem- set up well stocked tables of books written from rich Latino-culturally based traditions. Many of the authors were available to chat and, yes, give autographs.
There’s no end to the benefits of sitting with like and unlike minded people sharing thoughts, experiences and hopes on the writing experience. I will be on the lookout for other events such as these. I suggest you be on the lookout too. There’s no turning back.