January 27, 2011

Introducing a Teacher and a Writer

Let me introduce you to two new friends, both bright and talented Latinas. I enjoyed lunch with each of them while we were at NCTE in Orlando last year. First, congratulations to Dr. Carol Brochín Ceballos for recently receiving the Outstanding University English Language Arts Educator Award from the Texas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts. Yea, Carol! Carol is a faculty member in the English Department at UT El Paso, the department I studied in for my Bachelors and Masters degrees. The program she's in didn't exist when I was a student in my home city. How the campus has changed, and Carol is a wonderful addition. Carol and I share the pleasure and perspectives of being from the Texas border.

Now let me introduce you to a new writer from Florida, Christina Díaz Gonzalez, who has published her first book, The Red Umbrella. How exciting! Her book is published by Knopf, a division of Random House that has been very supportive of my work including my work on Día. Christina, a lawyer, is teaching me about the Cuban experience in the U.S., especially in Florida. I'm wishing Christina a long and rewarding writing life.

1. Tell us about yourself.
CDG: I am the author of The Red Umbrella, a young adult novel that is loosely based on my parents’ and mother-in-law’s experience in coming to the U.S. from Cuba through the historic Operation Pedro Pan (the largest exodus of unaccompanied minors in the Western hemisphere---over 14,000 Cuban children were sent to the US by themselves during 1960-62). Having my debut novel published was a dream come true. I remember getting the call from my editor at Random House and how I literally did a "happy dance" when I realized people everywhere would be reading what I wrote. What made it made even more special was the fact that this book was a tribute to what my parents and the over 14,000 Cuban children experienced during Operation Pedro Pan. I was going to get to tell a version of the immigrant story and showcase that incredible spirit of American generosity. I couldn't have asked for more!

2. Do you think of yourself as creative?
CDG: This is an interesting question because I’ve never considered myself to be creative…I was just a girl with a very vivid imagination who loved to read and write. However, the more I think about it, I suppose all writers are creative… so yes, I guess I am creative!

3. How do you nurture your creativity?
CDG: I am inspired by so many things. Sometimes it’s art, music, books, movies, tv or just observing the world around me. I try to stay open to all ideas…wherever they come from.

4. What are your challenges in your creativity practices? Is fear an element?
CDG: Oh my, fear is ALWAYS something to be reckoned with and overcome. Self-doubt tries to rear its ugly head while I’m writing and it is a battle to ignore it. Then, when the book is done, there are the nagging questions of whether others will love it. I’ve found that the only way I can move forward is to focus on the story itself and trust that others will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.
5. Do you have a space that helps you be more creative?
CDG: I don’t have one particular spot for creativity. It all depends on the book I’m writing. It seems that certain books call for me to be in a bright, sunny spot and other require a more gloomy setting.

6. How do you find time to be creative; to develop your creative life? Do you set aside a regular time each day or go on a retreat, etc?
CDG: I am always thinking of different stories and scenes for the book I may be writing, but I sometimes have to force myself to set aside time to put it all down on paper (or in my case type it on my laptop) because life (and laundry) seem to get in the way. Thankfully, I have a critique partner (similar to a gym partner) and we check-in with each other to make sure the writing gets done!

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