Receiving Certificates of Registration in the mail for my written work is thrilling
Continuum” is a story that has been in my head since I was thirteen years old, and which I have been writing.
It amazes me how every single time I read it I find myself making changes. With each change I feel as if I’m getting closer to getting it off my chest. I don’t regret that it’s taking this long because as I evolve as a human being the story becomes a worthier read. As time goes by, I’m able to see mistakes that were not obvious to me before, and I always absorb each paragraph at a time and ask myself how I can make it better. A writing project can be the work of a lifetime. That brings me peace. Clearly, I have abandoned urgency. It will be ready when it’s ready.
For now, I enjoy Otis and imagine he’s singing (Sittin’ On) The Deck of the Bay to me, and we take turns being the sail boat below.
I’m… “Sitting here resting my bones”…
He sings and I feel understood.
It seems nothing changes until one day you open your eyes and wonder if the new world is still your world.
Paula Rodriguez © 2013
When I think of love I think of my mother’s arroz con leche, a traditional dessert from Mexico.
The Mexican version is more fluid and more of a beverage rather than the creamy rice pudding sold here in the United States. When mom made it, our apartment smelled of warm milk and cinnamon. Those were happy times. We played records on the record player, danced for hours and infuriated our downstairs neighbor who claimed he worked nights and needed to sleep during the day. There were two problems with his story. One, he had noisy children who irritated his downstairs neighbors; and two, he was lying about working nights, and we knew it.
The apartment building my sisters and I grew up in was far from luxurious. It was a pretty badly kept building, but the rent was reasonable and it was exactly in between a great neighborhood, Brooklyn Heights, and a less desirable one, Cobble Hill. Cobble Hill wasn’t what it is today – trendy and full of young professionals. When we were growing up you could always find older men in front of the corner bodegas sitting on milk crates, and playing dominos or cards while blasting their radios and drinking beer. They could be intimidating, but if you grew up there you walked around with a bit of an attitude, which basically said, “don’t fuck with me”. And they read your body language and knew that you would leave them alone and they, in turn, would leave you alone. Many parts of my life swim to shore from my subconscious. I welcome them like old friends who sometimes show up with problems you can not fix. All you can do is listen. That is enough.
The thought of arroz con leche reminds me of being in Mexico. My sisters and I were so young we were not enrolled in school yet. This particular memory is of us at our aunt’s house playing on the patio. An older little girl gathered all the children and we sang the following song, which rhymes in Spanish and basically says that a boy wants to marry a girl from the city who knows how to dance, knows how to sew, knows how to iron. Most importantly, she knows how to open the door to go play. Children! They are beautiful and simple. There’s nothing complicated. They know exactly what they want. Does knowledge complicate life as we get older? Probably. My personal big question today is, how do I get back to simplicity?
Arroz con leche me quiero casar
con una señorita de la capital
que sepa bailar
que sepa coser
que sepa planchar
que sepa abrir la puerta para ir a jugar
Sometimes I can escape you when I finally surrender to sleep
I get lucky
There are nights when I do not even dream and my body and mind simply rejuvenate
But then I wake up
And it seems that
Every Second of Every Minute
Of Every Hour of Every Day
Of Every Week of Every Month
Of Every Year of Every Decade
Of Every Century of Every Millennium
Begins to slowly flood back in my mind
And it’s all you
Paula Rodriguez ©
I bet every single writer has, at one point or another, wished they had the Best Seller’s formula. How does Stephen King do it? How did Hemingway? How do screenwriters like Tyler Perry come up with such in depth characters. Some people claim to have the formula? I believe there is NO formula other than the writer committing to write from an honest place. Writing has to be natural in order to sound natural and be credible. This is what differentiates good writing from bad writing. If the writer is not honest, the reader will sense that and will not buy into the story. A trick to honest writing is to write in the voice of a character. In order to achieve this the writer himself has to become the character. How else would he be able to really bring the character to life?
If you research your favorite author’s you will find that a lot of things that happened in their lives resurface in their novels. Their characters are morphed from real people with some differences including their names. For instance in King’s Carrie (p. 11) he describes her as “always smelling sweaty, not able to catch up; catching poison ivy from urinating in the bushes and everyone finding out (hey, scratch-ass, you bum itch?)”. That was something that happened to him. He describes in his book Stephen King On Writing (p. 29-31) that when he was in the second grade they moved to Stratford, Connecticut. There was an area of wilderness very close to their apartment, which he says, keeps showing up again and again in his books. One day they were in that playground exploring when Stephen had to push. David, his older brother, not wanting to return to their apartment told him to do it in the woods and to use leaves in place of toilet paper. Can you guess what happened next? Well those leaves were, you guessed it, poison ivy. Two days later, Stephen describes being bright red from the backs of his knees to his shoulder blades. The hand which he wiped with was also affected. Ha-ha! Yes, it was not fun then, BUT it was an unforgettable experience and it has been meat in his stories.
I wonder Which past experiences have shown up in your own writing. If none have, you may want to begin by writing what your inner voice dictates—without thinking—because you may edit afterwards. If you are able, try and dedicate one hour a day to your writing passion. Spend the first half hour reading something that inspires you. Spend the second half writing. Write anything; even if you have nothing to say write about that. It’s a way to exercise your brain and before you know it, you may find yourself on to something.
So, what am I reading today. That’s easy. I’m reading “Carrie”.
Once in a while you read a book that is so special it imprints on you forever. One evening while I was home I saw a movie entitled, “Angela’s Ashes“. It’s the story of a family suffering the worst of poverty in New York and later in Ireland. It is narrated in the voice of young, Frank McCourt.
Through McCourt’s innocent voice, one follows the extreme lifestyle they endure due to conditions in Ireland, McCourt’s father, Malachy, being a drunk and spending all his wages in bars, and his mother, Angela, having one baby after another with no way to feed them other than by relying on charity. There are so many beautiful scenes that one is left with an open wound once one finishes watching the movie.
It is very rare that one wants to read a book after watching a movie. In all due respect, once the story has been revealed one has to wonder why in the world would they now spend further time reading the story. The answer is simple. One has been given the fruit, has smelled its perfume, but one is interested in the flesh that lies beneath the peel and one must endure the emotional tug and pull—again!
The babies were nursed with sweet water because there was nothing else to give them, the older ones mostly fed on fried sweet bread. There was rarely enough food for everyone, and still it is shocking when McCourt presents us with the infant deaths of his siblings. Even in Limerick, Ireland, where most people went without, there were others who had much more than they did. At one point, the McCourt’s begin tearing down the wall and floor boards to feed them to the fire to keep warm. When the manager stops by he realizes there is an entire room missing. They are quickly thrown out. Angela having nowhere to go moves in with a cousin of hers who is abusive, and the family suffers further degradation.
Angela’s Ashes is a gift, which may have been lost forever if McCourt had not put it in writing and shared his life with the world. As they say, the world is full of sad stories, but some are exceptionally sad and inexplicably uplifting at the same time. McCourt clawed his way out of poverty and came back to America. He became a teacher in New York High School’s and colleges.
And when did I decide to pickup the book and actually read it? Well, only a few month’s ago. I remember the movie re-entering my mind on a rainy night. I needed to see it—no, I needed to read it. The next day, I secured a copy of the book and my mind was able to visit Franky in his young travels. I felt as if I were there beside him, quietly being a witness to all the tribulations he and his family endured. I finally Google’d him and do you know what I found to my sad dismay? Mr. McCourt died on July 19, 2009. He was 78 years old. Wikipedia has him listed as a Memoirist, writer and teacher. He was so much more. When I find pictures of McCourt, he is smiling and full of life. He survived. He knew it. I’m sure that’s why he smiled.
If you ever become enamored by someone’s writing; hypnotized by the way they tell their story—or any story—you will realize you wish to meet them, wish they were your friend. My one regret as a lover of language is that I did not read McCourt’s book earlier, that I did not look him up earlier and that I did not sign-up to be one of his students.
McCourt is the author of several books. If you have not read them yet, why not give Angela’s Ashes a try? You may find yourself in love with his work as I am.
(McCourt received the Pulitzer Prize (1997) and National Book Critics Circle Award (1996) for Angela’s Ashes.)
How awesome isn’t it that on this particular month I decided to share the poems I’ve written and collected since I was 14 years old with the world.
April is a very exciting month. Whether you are a poetry writer or a lover of poetry there are many ways to participate. For instance, during the Renaissance period readers copied their favorite poems and quotes into their own commonplace notebooks. It was their way of making their own anthologies. It’s pretty cool how many of us do this digitally. We collect our favorites pics, websites, and stories. However, for those of us who also like to peruse through hard copies, consider creating your own notebook. Get out your scissors and glue sticks and begin adding cool printouts of things you love from your favorite quotes and poems.
The most recent poem, which keeps swirling about in my mind is Pablo Neruda’s “If You Forget Me”. How wonderful it must be to love that way and to decide that one can only reciprocate what is given to us. If only life were that simple and we could turn it on and off, but Love has a mind of its own and it does as it pleases. Find a copy of Neruda’s poem below. Happy reading!
If You Forget Me
(By: Pablo Neruda)
I want you to know
You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.
If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.
if each day,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.
Outside of Pablo Neruda’s House
I Love you By Pablo Neruda
Who would have known just how cool this cat is. The next time you hear someone say they have swag try and remember that it was Shakespeare who first used the word swagger. It first showed up in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream“. Here are a few more facts about him. He was 18 when he first got married and his wife was 26. Yes, England’s National Poet knew that women are indeed like wine. The man was a genius, LOL.
Here’s something interesting about him. During the time when he died in the 1600′s it was not unusual to dig up bones from graves to make room for others. He, however, put a curse on anyone daring to move his bones. His epitaph was:
Good friend for Jesus’ sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here:
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.
*************His Bones remain undisturbed*************
Four centuries after his death there are 157 million pages referring to him on Google and 132 million for God. What? That’s just crazy!
His birthday is worthy of celebration. William, or Bill as he would have been called if he lived today, is unforgettable.
Welcome to my new home. Sit back. Have a nice cold lemonade, or a frothy cappuccino, and enjoy.