Published? Maybe…

Hello Friends,

I hope everyone is doing well. I’m thrilled to announce that one of my short-stories, “Uncle Carlos’s Liberty Avenue,” has been published on the La Galería Magazine. Click on the link and check out my contribution. Let me know what you think!

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Best,
Steph

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Thoughts About Writing: Learning from Television

Stories, in general, fascinate me. It doesn’t matter which medium they are told in. Stories are a huge part of my life, so it’s not a surprise that I’m a big movie buff.

Recently, I watched People Places Thing, which was directed and written by James Strouse. It stars Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement and The Daily Show’s Jessica Williams. The movie was both plot-driven and dialogue-driven. The script stood out, at times, shadowing the acting. The dialogue was witty, strong, and at times, sarcastic. I loved it! I’m into that kind of storytelling.

The movie made me think about all the things I have learned about storytelling from television. Movies are all about “showing,” a vital skill and method for writers. The old “show – don’t tell” advice is real; very real.

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Movies and television can also teach us about story structures. One of my favorite romance writers, Nalini Singh, often talks about how she learned about world-building from authors like Anne McCaffrey and about creating “series arcs” from watching television shows like Heroes. So far, Nalini has written a series of successful and intriguing paranormal and romance books, the Psy-Changelings series.

Movies like Amélie, The Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, and American Beauty can teach us plenty about “showing” versus “telling.” Have you ever read a screenplay? Read one, and also, try writing one. Successful scripts are all about the “showing.” Once in a while, I give myself the challenge of writing a small script to exercise the “writing muscles.” Yes, I’m convinced that the brain is muscle, and we can train it.

As if it were the business of destiny, I walked onto the college campus and right through the doors of the media department. I received the opportunity to make four student short films (or movies). The shorts were terrible, but I learned plenty about what making a film entails. I also had the chance to write, direct, and edit all of those. It was an enjoyable experience.

I learned that editing was my favorite part of filmmaking. The editing was the moment when and where the story came together. I got to reshape and form the story guided by the strength of the acting and the quality of the writing. Now, when I write something bad, I’m comforted by the possibilities of editing.

I’m curious about you guys. What inspires you to write?

Best,

Steph

Creating a Space (Part 1): Diversity and Diverse Books

The Conversation about Creating a Space for Diversity and Diverse Books

All art, I believe, is a reflection of our times and experiences within the society. The race, gender, sexual orientation, and able-bodied politics that rule our world are reshaped and recorded, repeatedly, in countless mediums of art.

The art we create today will be inherited by the next generation. The possibility of it, alone, makes it invaluable that we become conscious about what we leave behind and whose voices will represent our generation of creators. The reality is that there’s a lack of representation of ethnicities, sexuality and individuals living with disabilities in the media.

The English-speaking publishing world has tied itself in a knot in the attempt to address the need for diverse books in the last decade. It’s a topic of interest to me, as a person of color, as an avid reader, and as a consumer of art. Honestly, there is something gratifying about picking up a book or watching a movie in which the characters and I share the same culture, food, and stories. It’s the familiarity of the characters’ worlds that makes me feel at home and less alone. Many of us find solace in stories; it’s one of the reasons why stories are important. It is also equally exciting to learn about cultures that are different from my own.

The movement for diverse books has hit a wall of controversy, a small wall, but a wall, nevertheless. When the topic of diversity and books comes up, I’ve heard those of the opinion that pushing diversity in books would only perpetuate the same stereotypes that many hope to combat and that, at the end of the day, the human stories are the ones captivating us and moving us to tears or making us burst into laughter, regardless of the character’s background.

I agree with the later statement, but I also feel that these feelings stem from our personal experiences and fears. It’s also the reason we need diverse books and authors in the first place.

Diversity in books is not the same thing as “diverse books.” Diversity in books refers to diversity in the cast of characters starring in a book or books. I believe there’s value in encouraging authors to think outside of the box and give a thought to the possibility of writing three-dimensional characters living with disabilities, of different sexual orientations, religions or racial backgrounds. It all only takes a bit of imagination and a bit of research.

Nonetheless, it’s not enough to encourage authors to add three-dimensional minority characters to their stories. We need more minority authors to write and publish. And I know they exist because I know a few of them.

The term “diverse books” implies a wider selection of books to read and a bigger pool of authors to pick from. I read all types of books, a myriad of the genres, characters, and styles, and I sense that there is a craving out there for diverse stories and authors. I can feel this craving.

Art holds a lot of influence in our society. As readers and writers, we should also be open-minded about reading books from different authors, genres, and countries in the English publishing world. My heart aches to think about all the great books out there waiting to be read, and yet not translated. We shouldn’t be afraid to get out of our comfort zones. We should write a reflection of the whole world, not just our own.

Note: Writing is a job, and it’s already hard enough. My reason for writing this entry was only to start a dialogue about the types of books we read and the characters we write. I was also happily informed by my fourteen year old sister that changes are happening within YA, and it’s great news! She’ll have more choices than me at her age.

Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts.

Best,

Steph

Note: Writing is a job, and it’s already hard enough. My reason for writing this entry was only to start a dialogue about the types of books we read and the characters we write.

A Shameless Call to Writers…

Hello! I hope everyone is doing well. This is my shameless attempt to build some sort of writers’ support group. Are you a writer? Do you love to write? Please send me a note.

Last year, early in December, I had a conversation with a dear friend, and she kindly pointed out that I’m letting my fears dictate my actions. My fears focused on whether I could combine all my interests together. Could even call any of them my passion?

Those of you familiar with my blog know that I’m interested in film and media studies, women’s issues and that I love reading. I started this blog so I could practice my English while writing about the subjects I love the most. I often worried that my interests were too scattered. I feared that I wasn’t as persistent or as dedicated to these subjects to feel proud about them.

Did you ever have a passion that you desperately wanted to deny? Perhaps because pursuing such passion would be a difficult task or a huge risk? These were the feelings I shared with my friend during a heart to heart section over dinner. I never called myself a writer. In my heart, I felt that my writing was not good enough, my grammar was (still is) outrageous, and that I had nothing good to say anyway.

It didn’t matter that I was always writing short stories. It didn’t matter if a respected institution ever thought one of my stories was good enough for an honorary mention. I wrote and directed a couple of  student films in college. I had my share of criticism (good and bad), but I had made up my mind. I didn’t have it, whatever it meant. I didn’t understand that writing is a skill that can be learned. The it factor is the moment we become skilled.

At times I felt like my ethnicity alienated me. English is not my first language, so I thought my writing wouldn’t appeal to anyone. My obsession with grammar (read adventures of a rookie blogger) kept me in place. I also wrote a lot of fanfiction, but I never even called myself a fan fiction writer, which I am.

So, today I accept the tittle. I’m a writer. I love reading. I would like to engage with other writers, improve as a writer, and have fun while doing it. Yes, I love film/filmmaking and media studies, and I’m passionate about women’s rights and education around the word. These days, I don’t see a reason why I should define myself by only one thing. In fact, nobody can.

Thanks for reading!

Best, Steph

Adventures of a Rookie Blogger

I’m a rookie blogger. 😦 

I decided to start my blog about four years ago. At first, this idea wasn’t quite appealing. Perhaps, it wasn’t alluring at the time because my idea of blogs consisted of only one type: personal dairies. A few friends and mentors advised me to get a personal journal instead.

Nonetheless, after checking out a few blogs and speaking to bloggers– I decided to start one. A blog, I thought, would give me the opportunity to practice my writing, improve my grammar and editing skills. (English is not my first). At the time, I also thought that it would give me the opportunities to write about the topics that interested me, such as education, women’s issues, writing, film, and books.

My first tries at blogging looked like this: Link.

These are embarrassing to read now. I look back and realized that my attempts were poor at best. Granted, I still think my attempts at blogging are poor. I don’t update often, and my topics are quite scattered. I’ve written attempts at film and book reviews, on trending news about women, and written personal observation on random topics. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was doing everything wrong. After doing some research, I learned that most popular blogs concentrate on one topic. These are often about specific music or books genres, travel journals/guides, writing, photography, etc. Sometimes blogging actually feels like writing a journal. I started to wonder if those friends I mentioned were right after all.

Regardless, here are the five things I learned from my adventures as a rookie blogger:

Grammar/Editing. As mentioned, English is not my first language. I started writing a blog to hone my writing and editing skills. Why? If I’m putting my writing online for the world to read, then this means I need to put more effort into my writing and editing.

It’s not a secret that grammar and editing are essential when it comes to blogging (writing anything actually). Communication is a great factor of our lives and our careers. It’s the way in which we engage with others and present ourselves to the world (in whichever language we speak). Readers might be put off by poor grammar. It’s essential to write as clearly as possible. After all, writing is rewriting, and practice is the only way to become skilled at those things.

Book Reviews.  In the beginning, writing reviews for me consisted on writing only positive reviews and withholding my negative opinions of what I read. My reluctance on writing negatively about books comes from the knowledge that writers put a lot of work into these books. My first reviews were short and badly edited. Although I have not mastered the skill of writing book reviews, I understand that these should not be mean, but honest. Readers like to read honest reviews. If they believe to share the same feelings about a book reviewed on my blog, these readers will likely come back for more reviews. This type of blogs are wonderful for avid readers. It’s also a great way to exercise critical thinking. Again, all of this is partly an observation.

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