Tonight we read out of love for La Loba.
Vanessa Martir is a teacher, novelist, single mom, dream weaver and ground shaker and she's is going to VONA/Voices Summer Writing Workshops at UC Berkeley to work on her first memoir, A Dim Capacity for Wings. I've found that what we do for Vanessa, we do for our community as what she learns, she shares. I had an opportunity to learn from her at the Spring session of her Writing Our Lives Workshop at Hunter College and am definitely a better writer for it.
In her words:
For those of you that don’t know, for the third year in a row, I’ve been accepted to a workshop at the esteemed VONA/Voices Summer Writing Workshops in California (http://www.voicesatvona.org/). This year I’ll be participating in the Memoir Workshop with Staceyann Chin…
*gimme a second while I do the excited Kermit dance (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khMpnsPPFeg). Let me explain.
I’ve been working on my first memoir, A Dim Capacity for Wings (thank you Emily Dickinson (http://www.bartleby.com/113/4006.html), for over a decade now. I’m finally ready to go in, stare my life down, relive it, write it, release it…but that story comes a little later.
My first trip to VONA was in ’09. At that point, I was a book in (Woman’s Cry, 2007) but I was feeling stuck and unsure of myself and my next step. VONA was just the mirror I needed to snap out of that paralysis. There, I didn’t have to explain why I write what I write, and I found a faith in my voice and stories that eluded me and kept me from writing for most of my life.
There, I was embraced and loved for all that I am, with the traits I’d hampered since childhood “porque las niñas no se portan así!” My boisterousness, my loud, my excitability and silliness, my inclination to bust into dance and song at random moments, my devilmaycarelaughsmile&embraceyourcrazycraziness—all that was encouraged and loved at VONA. There, I found the courage to be all that I am, beautiful and flawed and overemotive at times, quick to cry and just as quick to sass. At VONA I learned that fear is not the issue, but how you react to fear. You have a choice to let it paralyze or catalyze, no matter, it’s still your choice. And so I left VONA having attached wings to my fears, and I promised myself that before returning the following year (because I knew I would return) I had to:
- move to Inwood in uptown Manhattan to facilitate my new writing life,
- quit the safety net of my fulltime job,
- start teaching writing to urban youth and emerging writers,
- dive into the literary and performance scene of NYC because this maddening energy belongs on stage.
I moved back to Inwood in December of that same year. Days later I started curating the La Loba Poetry Series at Lolita in LES. (By then I’d already started performing around the city.) And in May of 2010, I resigned from my full time editing job and threw myself heart first into my dream. Somewhere in the midst of that I finished my second novel (I’m currently completing the ninth and final draft) and co-wrote Do Something: A Handbook for Young Activists. I’ve become a teaching artist, facilitating writing and theater workshops at public schools around the city through such organizations as Sing for Hope, KIPP and the Association for Hispanic Arts. I even created my very own workshop, Writing Our Lives, where I teach emerging writers how to use their life experience as fodder to write fiction, autobiography and essays.
And, now, I am ready to stop running. I’m ready to take on this memoir, write it raw and real, tragic at moments but always magical. The story of this Brooklyn girl, the youngest of three, raised in a lesbian relationship during the 80s crack epidemic, granted a scholarship at 13 to attend an elite boarding program in upper class, white America, & was told, “Si te vas, te cuidas.” And, so I’ve been doing just that since. This girl whose journey to writing began in her junior year when she was given “How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents,” and for the first time thought, “shit, maybe I can do this, too.” A girl who lost her father at eight, and has been haunted by his absence since. The tale of becoming a woman by myself, through trial and error, and all the dumb shit I’ve done along the way, including dating a drug dealer as an undergrad at Columbia University, but somehow still managing to complete my four years.
I am ready to go in on this memoir and the autobiographical one woman show, Millie’s girl, that I'm working on simultaneously. That’s why I’m heading to UC Berkeley to work with the magnificent Staceyann Chin, who I’ve been a fan of since I saw her perform live at the taping of an HBO Def Poetry episode way back in 98 or 99. The author of “The Other Side of Paradise”, Staceyann is one of the revolutionary writers whose bravery has given me permission to grab my ovaries and run into the page!
And so, all this is to say that I need help, your help. As a single parent, emerging writer and educator, I’m still not rolling in cake (though financial security is definitely a goal). That’s where you come in. I need help getting to VONA. I’m aiming to raise $1500 to cover travel and fees pertaining to the workshop including room and board.
What do you get in return? My eternal gratitude, the warmth that comes from helping out a go.get.it.dreamer, and, yes, a few pages of my memoir for your enjoyment (a story entitled Rainbow Bike Butch, and, yes, the story is as good as the title!).
How can you donate/help:
- Paypal -- find me under email@example.com
- Send me a $ order or check (message me for my address)
- And if you can’t help monetarily (hey, it’s a rough time for us all), send me some prayers, forward this to friends, and/or post this note on your page.
Thank you familia for all that you are!
V aka Loba!
Normally La Loba Poetry is free, but tonight there’s a cover charge of $10 (that includes a raffle ticket) which will be used entirely for her trip.
Please join us tonight if you can. I look forward to seeing familiar adored friends and new faces tonight coming together to support our path. If you cannot, please send a paypal donation of any amount. Remember, what we do for each other, we do for ourselves.
~ Jani Rose