does not describe me fully
it is where to start
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
A Short Story or How The Family Business Launched Me As a Published Writer
After writing about my family's religious influence, posting this short story seems appropriate. I harbor no illusions that it is New Yorker worthy, but it holds special meaning for me. Not only is it fitting in light of my previous post, but it was also the first of my stories to be published. I can still remember when the editor called to say he wanted to publish it. I burst out laughing and then quickly had to explain that I wasn’t laughing at him, that my laughter was one of sheer joy. I was going to be a published writer!
Reader reactions to this story fascinate me. It is interesting that, of all my stories, this the only one that more than one review wanted to publish. Originally, I had not even intended to submit it for publication. I did so only after, in my critique group, the atheist loved it because it made him laugh and the evangelical Christian asked me to share it with her women's group. I must be doing something right, I thought, if I can engage both ends of the spectrum. Incidentally, my husband swears this is a true story. It is not, though the incident could well have happened, given my family background.
Here is the beginning of the story. You can read the rest of it at my other blog.
This is what happened between the amen and the hallelujah. It was a stormy Sunday morning, not one for venturing out to church, certainly not in a foreign country where we didn't even know where to go. It's not that we were faithful about attending services back home. We went barely once or twice a year, but it became a church morning despite the inclement weather.
The amen came in a thunderclap. I was still in bed, half asleep, not quite awake, when the skies split open and spewed out damnation.
"Amen!" my father would have said.
He was a Pentecostal minister, the kind who breathed fire and then salved the pain by the laying of hands. He was a dancing preacher man. Got up in that pulpit and, Lord, he was gone. Something took him over—I won't say the devil got to him because that's what he was preaching against—but his voice strummed like a bass guitar strutting out a beat or a howling banjo stringing out a scream. It was all jumbled up together and in between came the hush. Like a singer dropping to pianissimo, he pleaded with sinners to come up and fall on their knees….
My writing frequently explores multicultural themes. Born in Puerto Rico, I moved at a young age to the U.S., where my parents became Pentecostal ministers. Early immersion in Latino and religious cultures preceded later experiences as a businesswoman, a White House Fellow, and life aboard a trawler cruising from Martha’s Vineyard to South America. These sometimes incompatible worlds have given me a respectful outlook toward differing points of view. My short stories, poems, and essays reflect my own inclusive, yet sharply defined, journey across cultural and socioeconomic boundaries. I recently published Peace on the Journey, a poetry collection which explores the theme of renewal in the face of adversity.
The defining image of this blog is a waterfall. Its inspiration comes from a scene in one of my novels in which the infant protagonist escapes her mother’s attention and wanders off to a nearby waterfall. While there, she experiences a mysterious sense of wellbeing, which she yearns to replicate for the rest of her life.
"I have made love to my writing and am now in the afterglow."
"Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession... Do that which is assigned to you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
About his fictional town Macondo, widely acknowledged to be inspired by his real home town of Aracataca, Colombia. “Macondo is not so much a place as it is a state of mind.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
"The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers fear."
"The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing."
Blaise Pascal, Pensées
"There is vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and, because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly... to keep the channel open."