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Literally back on the mic

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Though I began writing fiction at 9, I started writing personal reflections in my monthly column in La Voz de Berkeley when I was at Cal. I then created a blog, Mujer Hollering, inspired by that column, and more recently, my blog, Mujer Evolving. While writing fiction is a long-term goal, my #40blogsfor40days challenge is a great opportunity to share my work and honor my voice.

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I have suffered from writer’s block for many years partly due to time management. So am I going to complete this writing during Lent?  I decided to solve the problem this year by beginning my blogs as voice recordings. During my morning commute, I have been recording five minute voice memos to capture my thoughts. There’s plenty of writing material whether it’s personal experiences, music, TV, or themes I have pondered.  The commute has allowed me time to do some uncensored reflecting. When I’m at the computer, I get stifled by the desire to wordsmith or produce a clear and concise piece in a short amount of time.  Drafting differently gives me a chance to voice my ideas.

Then it is time to transcribe. I don’t type it word for word. I do some revision as I go. Sometimes I stop the playback as I tend to speak quickly.  I don’t want to lose any key ideas. Once it’s transcribed, I read it. I start the editing process. I take out repetitious phrases. I rearrange paragraphs. I add topic sentences, details, commentary, and transitions. I was an English teacher for thirteen years so I have those skills to help me produce a polished piece of writing. The verbal rough draft and more intense editing process has allowed me to produce work that is much more coherent. I’m excited that this may be an opportunity to fully commit to writing on a more regular basis.

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Beyond bling: the politics of Carnavalesco costuming

For those of you who think feathers, beads, and bright colors when Carnaval costumes are mentioned, you are only getting about 15% of the experience. In my contingent, Oakland’s SambaFunk, our yearly theme has current political undertones and overtones. The theme is visually presented through graphic art, discussed in class to explain the choreographies to guide our movements, and pondered for those of us who want to take a more method acting approach to our characters.  Heady stuff if you were expecting that we simply focus on shaking our tail feathers.  And shake we do but always with a message.  This year, however, the villains in the epic battle between good and evil would be portrayed by the dancers.  Given all the time I have spent analyzing and strategizing about the real villains I have known in my personal life(When you have to go bad )as well as the real-life bad guys aiming for increased power, I was immediately drawn to playing a Janker.
A Janker is a cross between Batman’s Joker and a banker.
Jack Nicholson’s Joker was the inspiration for our characters
Jankers are the international(and domestic) bankers who have exploited communities for their own personal gain. They are currently above the law but the whole point of our presentation this year was that Jankers could be brought to justice.  In my mind, I began to think about Jankers in popular culture.
Damn Jankers
I also thought about an individual I know who I feel has demonstrated the manipulative and self-aggrandizing tendencies of a Janker. My character was created.
With character in process, it was time to focus on costuming.  Costuming is hands-on work. While seamstresses may sew some pieces of the costume, dancers must individualize and “bling” their costume.  As a “freshman” in my samba school, I was clueless about this process. I didn’t help with costume construction and only attended one “blinging” party. When I arrived on Carnaval morning, I realized how generic my costume looked beside others.  As with Carnaval makeup, the Carnaval costume can express character and theme. Four seasons later, I knew to be purposeful in finishing my Carnaval look.
The Janker colors were green, royal purple, and iridescent or clear. I was responsible for decorating my cane, top hat, vest, and pants.  After a tedious process in which M and I sorted several bags of acrylic gems by color, shape, and size, I chose specific gem styles to use in varying patterns.  I chose green circles to represent global domination.
Clear and irisdescent gems would represent wealth as in diamonds. Purple and green gems would literally represent jewels like emeralds and amethysts. The teardrop became my symbol of choice.
Top of my top hat
Back of my top hat reveals the purpose of a Janker
Purple rain of tears
What does that mirror reveal?
Striping on pants
As a result of Janker thievery and trickery, many have shed tears of anger, grief, and hopelessness.  So teardrops are the shape you see all over my costume.  I even placed teardrops near my eyes as part of this year’s makeup.

So while Jankers  as characters and symbols are bad, we sure did look good.

2016 Jankers: Making bad look good
Janker Dance at Oakland Carnival 2016

As I have stated before, Carnaval is a creative process that has allowed me opportunities to grapple with experiences and thoughts that are challenging in a way that is ultimately empowering.  Viva Carnaval!

Homecoming

Ms. Dorothy Parker, one of the greats and one of my idols

I first began to write when I was nine. I was given an assignment by my 4th grade teacher, Mr. Lang, and I wrote a fanciful short story based on the Greek myths showcased in the now-campy Clash of the Titans. My best friend would draw the pictures and I would write the text and we’d publish a book someday. I continued writing novellas and novels until nearly 10 years ago. After that, it was exercises with my students, poetry, and yes, blogs.

My relationship to writing is not unlike my real-life relationships. Sometimes, I want and need to telenovela proportions. Other times I’m aloof and distant. Writing and I break to make up. We play is-you-is-or-is-you-ain’t. Sometimes, we don’t speak for years, months, weeks. I miss writing as if it were my best friend or my family when it’s not in my life. Still, I do a damn good job of placing it on the back burner when the mood suits me. I have a lot to learn.

These past months have been a time of silence. My voice and mind have been going, going, going but have not been captured on paper or in cyberspace. My job and my schedule have taken precedence over reflection and creation. I have lost my dog, one of my best friends, my naivete about the educational system, and my hopes over a crush gone bad. Fortunately, I haven’t lost my sense of humor or genuine need to express myself. I have often thought of my third novel, how a thorough revision and kick-ass query letter may get it off the ground. I want to write a new villanelle or maybe even a spoken word poem.

The other night, I told a friend that I seek to control. So much of my energy is spent planning, second-guessing, analyzing, trying to gain control of situations and my own emotions. It’s time to walk off the proverbial diving board, back into hope and back into the written word. It’s what I am.