I’m writing this from the plane as I head home to Austin after a whirlwind of a trip to NY. It’s funny how each time I’ve got gone back, it feels less like a city I barely know and more like a place where I recognize pieces of myself and friends who make it feel like a home.
This trip was a mixture of the planned and the spontaneous. Dinners and tea breaks I made a point to schedule with writers I’d met online, only to surprisingly lose track of time as we chatted the evenings away like old friends. A last-minute lunch with a classmate from my undergrad creative writing days, during which we spoke for hours about writing and getting MFAs and not getting MFAs and freelancing and the identities that tug at us as we work on our fiction. Spending an afternoon with my agent, editor, and marketing manager, solidifying what I already knew: that I’m extremely lucky to be working with them. And the Las Comadres & Compadres Latino Writers Conference, which is only in its 2nd year but was one of the most vibrant, information- and community-rich events I’ve been to.
It’s all a bit too much to explain here. But I’ll try, in pictures and takeaways:
On life’s plans and our life plans: I wandered a bit around Columbia University—it always makes me feel as if I’ve folded a map of my life, connecting two places I’d never imagined were related. As a high school senior, I spent a couple days at Columbia for a journalism conference. At one point, I ended up in a one-hour creative writing workshop, and it was the first time in my life that I realized studying writing as a craft was something I wanted to do. Now I give a silent thank you each time I walk through Columbia’s beautiful campus.
On MFA vs no MFA: There are things all writers need: feedback, community, and space and time to write. Where we each find these things is up to us and our life circumstances.
On things email can’t do: This is me and my agent, after lunch with the team at Amazon Publishing. They’re even more amazing than I always imagined they’d be based on our phone calls and emails.
On stories that win our hearts: In true NY fashion and publishing legend, I missed my subway stop because of this book.
On book publicity as parenthood: Reyna Grande, author of The Distance Between us, was the keynote speaker at the Las Compadres & Compadres Latino Writer’s Conference. During the Q&A she compared promoting all her books—not just her most recent one—to having kids: just because you have another child doesn’t mean you stop raising the older one.
On identity and all that we are: This panel on fiction with Mario Alberto Zambrano, author of Lotería, and David Unger, author of The Price of Escape, was full of so many amazing insights. But one comment by Mario Alberto struck a chord in me. Asked about how we should bring our identity into our work, he mentioned that we all have multiple backgrounds, identities and obsessions. Lotería made him pull from his Mexican-American experience. His next book, set in Paris and about a dancer, connects to his past as a professional ballet dancer. We are so many things, but not every story will have room for all our identities, and we should be okay with that.
You all remember he was September’s Fresh Ink interview, right? Here I am getting my book signed.
On the state of publishing and diversity: This:
“The business can’t succeed if it doesn’t look like the society around it.” — Johnny Temple, publisher of Akashic Books (second from the left)
— LasComadresBook (@LasComadresBook) October 5, 2013
On a quiet moment on the subway: A pause, and gratitude in every moment. May it always be like breathing.
On finding pieces of autumn and wishing I could take it home with me: (My mom used to tell me to look up when I walk, but every once in a while I feel like I might miss something if I don’t watch my footing.)