Skip to content

Writing the Mother Wound Online Class

logo_v2

Class Schedule: Class is 5 weeks
Week 1: April 23rd (Videoconference 4/25, 7-9pm EST)
Week 2: April 30th (Videoconference 5/2, 7-9pm EST)
Week 3: May 7th (Videoconference 5/9, 7-9pm EST)
Week 4: May 21st (Videoconference 5/23, 7-9pm EST)
Week 5: May 28th (Videoconference 5/30, 7-9pm EST)

Videoconferences: Attendance on the video-conferences while recommended is not required, as they will be recorded and shared with participants. Platform: zoom.us

Registration deadline: April 18

Price: $500 (see below for information on payment plans and need-based scholarships)

Registration requirements: a nonrefundable $75 deposit is required to reserve your seat. This $75 is deducted from the $500 tuition.  

To register, ask questions, etc., send an email to: writingourlivesworkshop@gmail.com.

.

Class Synopsis:

If you grew up like me, you were taught that mother is the holiest of holy. She is a saint. She is the altar you are to sacrifice yourself at, again and again and again.

But what about those of us for whom mother is abyss?

What about those of us for whom wasn’t encouraging or supportive?

What about those of us for whom mother was (and still is) neglectful and abusive?

What about those of us who know mother did the best she could but the child you still didn’t get what she needed?

Have you wanted to write about your antagonistic relationship with your mother but don’t know how? Have you found it difficult to dig into these memories? Do you not know how to even begin?

Have you dealt with backlash when you dared to talk or write about your relationship with your mother? Were you told: solo hay una madre (there is only one mother), called ungrateful, treasonous, a traitor? Or have you imagined the scenario and been paralyzed by it? Have you internalized this shame?

I created this class for you.

In the Writing the Mother Wound class, we will look at how writers have written about the mother wound. This is a multi-genre workshop. We will read fiction, nonfiction and poetry. We will read essays and poems, novel excerpts, memoirs and short stories. We will read excerpts of books by therapists and psychologists who’ve studied the longstanding effects of the mother wound and being the child of a narcissistic parent.

To be clear, this isn’t therapy. I am not a therapist. I am a writer who writes a great deal about her own mother wound, and has read obsessively about it in my own healing journey, so I know firsthand how difficult it is to broach this topic, and have found that reading the work of others who have dared to do so, has helped me write my own.

 

The goals of the class are:

* to read how other writers navigate and approach the mother wound through their writing;

* to look at this writing and discuss it through a critical lens;

* to use these writings as inspiration to write about our mother wounds;

* to work on freeing ourselves of the shame we carry over daring to want/need to write about our mothers and our relationships with our mothers in a realistic light;

* to share our writing in a safe space;

* to find community in our work and understand that despite how isolating this journey can be (as writers, as folks who navigate “not ideal” relationships with their mothers), we are not alone in it…

 

Why did I create the Writing the Mother Wound Class?

Because it was in literature that I found answers to so many of the questions I had about having an antagonistic relationship with my mother.

Because researching and devouring stories about strained mother-daughter relationships helped me believe that I could write my story too.

Because I have amassed so much information and knowledge in my journey that I know it’s time to share what I’ve learned in reading these countless books and poems and essays and short stories and studies.

Because it was in reading that I found the term “unmothered”, a term that described what I was, how I existed unanchored in the world, and what that meant to me. Finding this made me realize I wasn’t alone in my suffering, and made me seek out the work of people like me.

Because when I came up with the idea, it dawned on me that this was evidence that I could make something beautiful of my suffering, and it made me weep.

Because I know that this class is what I have been working towards. I just didn’t know it. I know it now.

 

Financial Aid:

Tuition for the class is $500.

Payment plans are available. If one is required, please send an email to writingourlivesworkshop@gmail.com. Payment plans must be arranged before class begins. Payment in full must be made by May 16th, 2018.

Need-based, partial scholarships are also available. See below for details on how to apply.

There are also two special scholarships available:

1. Scholarship of $250 for a VONA/Voices alum who:

* Is not traditionally educated (does not have nor is pursuing an MFA)

* Has not published a book with a major publisher

2. Scholarship of $250 for a single mother who would otherwise be unable to participate in the class.

 

How to apply:

Send a letter detailing:

* which scholarship you are applying to,

* how you are qualified for the scholarship,

* your financial need—i.e. unemployed, underemployed, etc.

* why you think you need this class, what you expect to gain from it, and why you think you are deserving of the scholarship beyond your financial need.

Send the letter with “Writing the Mother Wound Scholarship” in the subject line to: writingourlivesworkshop@gmail.com. (Note: First dibs on scholarships go to students who have not received a scholarship in the past.)

Vanessa Mártir headshot

About the facilitator:

Vanessa Mártir is a NYC based writer, educator and mama. She is currently completing her memoir, A Dim Capacity for Wings, and chronicles the journey at vanessamartir.blog. A five-time VONA/Voices and two-time Tin House fellow, Vanessa’s work has appeared in The Butter, Smokelong Quarterly, Kweli Journal, As/Us Journal and the VONA/Voices Anthology, Dismantle, among others. She has essays forthcoming in Not That Bad, edited by Roxane Gay, and Connections: An Integrated Reader and Rhetoric for College Writing, edited by Kerry Beckford and Donald Jones. Vanessa is the founder of the #52essays2017 challenge, and creator of the Writing Our Lives Workshop, which she teaches in NYC and online. When she’s not writing, you can find her either on the dance floor, in a gym punching a bag or in the woods hugging a tree. Find out more about her relentless hustle on vanessamartir.com.

 

Writing the Mother Wound Class ~ A Writing Our Lives Production

 

logo_v2

Dates: February 17, 24, March 3, 17, 24, 31

Time: 12-5pm

Location: West Village, NYC

Price: $600 (see below for information on payment plans and need-based scholarships)

Registration requirements: a nonrefundable $75 deposit is required to reserve your seat. This $75 is deducted from the $600 tuition.  

To register, ask questions, etc., send an email to: writingourlivesworkshop@gmail.com. 

Note: This class is capped at 12 students.

 

Class Synopsis:

If you grew up like me, you were taught that mother is the holiest of holy. She is a saint. She is the altar you are to sacrifice yourself at, again and again and again.

But what about those of us for whom mother is abyss?

What about those of us for whom wasn’t encouraging or supportive?

What about those of us for whom mother was (and still is) neglectful and abusive?

What about those of us who know mother did the best she could but the child you still didn’t get what she needed?

Have you wanted to write about your antagonistic relationship with your mother but don’t know how? Have you found it difficult to dig into these memories? Do you not know how to even begin?

Have you dealt with backlash when you dared to talk or write about your relationship with your mother? Were you told: solo hay una madre (there is only one mother), called ungrateful, treasonous, a traitor? Or have you imagined the scenario and been paralyzed by it? Have you internalized this shame?

I created this class for you.

In the Writing the Mother Wound class, we will look at how writers have written about the mother wound. We will read essays and poems, novel excerpts, memoirs and short stories. We will read excerpts of books by therapists and psychologists who’ve studied the longstanding effects of the mother wound and being the child of a narcissistic parent.

This is a multi-genre workshop. We will read fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

To be clear, this isn’t therapy. I am not a therapist. I am a writer who writes a great deal about her own mother wound, and has read obsessively about it in my own healing journey, so I know firsthand how difficult it is to broach this topic, and have found that reading the work of others who have dared to do so, has helped me write my own.

 

The goals of the class are:

* to read how other writers navigate and approach the mother wound through their writing;

* to look at this writing and discuss it through a critical lens;

* to use these writings as inspiration to write about our mother wounds;

* to work on freeing ourselves of the shame we carry over daring to want/need to write about our mothers and our relationships with our mothers in a realistic light;

* to share our writing in a safe space

* to find community in our work and understand that despite how isolating this journey can be (as writers, as folks who navigate “not ideal” relationships with their mothers), we are not alone in it…

 

Why did I create the Writing the Mother Wound Class?

Because it was in literature that I found answers to so many of the questions I had about having an antagonistic relationship with my mother.

Because researching and devouring stories about strained mother-daughter relationships helped me believe that I could write my story too.

Because I have amassed so much information and knowledge in my journey that I know it’s time to share what I’ve learned in reading these countless books and poems and essays and short stories and studies.

Because it was in reading that I found the term “unmothered”, a term that described what I was, how I existed unanchored in the world, and what that meant to me. Finding this made me realize I wasn’t alone in my suffering, and made me seek out the work of people like me.

Because when I came up with the idea, it dawned on me that this was evidence that I could make something beautiful of my suffering, and it made me weep.

Because I know that this class is what I have been working towards. I just didn’t know it. I know it now.

 

Financial Aid:

Tuition for the class is $600. Payment plans are available. If one is required, please send an email to writingourlivesworkshop@gmail.com.

Need-based, partial scholarships are also available. See below for details on how to apply.

There are also two scholarships available, funded by a Writing Our Lives repeat offender “who knows this class will change your writing and your life.”:

1. Scholarship of $300 for a VONA/Voices alum who:
* Is not traditionally educated (does not have nor is pursuing an MFA)
* Has not published a book with a major publisher

2. Scholarship of $300 for a single mother who would otherwise be unable to attend the workshop.

How to apply: 

Send a letter detailing:
* which class and scholarship you are applying to,
* how you are qualified for the scholarship,
* your financial need—i.e. unemployed, underemployed, etc.
* why you think you need this class, what you expect to gain from it, and why you think you are deserving of the scholarship beyond your financial need.

Send the letter with “Writing Our Lives Scholarship” in the subject line to: writingourlivesworkshop@gmail.com. (Note: First dibs on scholarships go to students who have not received a scholarship in the past.)

 

Vanessa Mártir headshot

About the facilitator:

Vanessa Mártir is a NYC based writer, educator and mama. She is currently completing her memoir, A Dim Capacity for Wings, and chronicles the journey at vanessamartir.blog. A five-time VONA/Voices and two-time Tin House fellow, Vanessa’s work has appeared in The Butter, Smokelong Quarterly, Kweli Journal, As/Us Journal and the VONA/Voices Anthology, Dismantle, among others. She has essays forthcoming in Not That Bad, edited by Roxane Gay, and Connections: An Integrated Reader and Rhetoric for College Writing, edited by Kerry Beckford and Donald Jones. Vanessa is the founder of the #52essays2017 challenge, and creator of the Writing Our Lives Workshop, which she teaches in NYC and online. When she’s not writing, you can find her either on the dance floor, in a gym punching a bag or in the woods hugging a tree. Find out more about her relentless hustle on vanessamartir.com.

 

Announcement: Special Scholarships for Winter/Spring 2018 Writing Our Lives Classes

logo_v2

Have you wanted to take a class or workshop with Vanessa Mártir but haven’t had the funds? Here’s your chance! Announcing two anonymously funded, need based scholarships for upcoming Writing Our Lives classes!

Introduction to the Personal Essay (Online Class)  

Dates: 1/31, 2/7, 21, 28, 3/14

1. Scholarship ($100) for a VONA/Voices alum who:
* Is not traditionally educated (does not have nor is pursuing an MFA)
Has not published a book with a major publisher

2. Scholarship ($100) for a single mother who would otherwise be unable to attend the workshop.

 
How to apply: 

Send a letter detailing:
* which class and scholarship you are applying to,
* how you are qualified for the scholarship,
* your financial need—i.e. unemployed, underemployed, etc.
* why you think you need this class, what you expect to gain from it, and why you think you are deserving of the scholarship beyond your financial need.

Send the letter with “Writing Our Lives Scholarship” in the subject line to: writingourlivesworkshop@gmail.com. (Note: First dibs on scholarships go to students who have not received a scholarship in the past.)
Interested in sponsoring a scholarship?  

I created Writing Our Lives for writers of color who come from marginalized and underserved neighborhoods like me. That sometimes means that people can’t afford to take my classes. In the past, I’ve offered a free five hour class every semester as a gift to my community and to pay it forward, along with scholarships and payment plans for classes. I am now looking for ways to subsidize tuition for even more writers. Scholarship sponsorship is one way to do this. If you are interested in sponsoring a scholarship for a writer, please reach out to me at writingourlivesworkshop@gmail.com. Join me in helping more people write their stories.

New Date: FREE One Day Writing Our Lives Class in NYC on 1/27/18

logo_v2
When:
January 27th, 12pm-5pm (NEW DATE)
Where: West Village, NYCRegistration required. Send an email to writingourlivesworkshop@gmail.com with “Free One Day Class” in the Subject Line. There is homework so register in advance to get the details, location, etc.


Why:
Because I believe in paying it forward.

Because while the studies and the statistics and the numbers play their part, they do not give face to people and meaning to their struggles. Story does. Your story. Let me give you some tools to help you write yours.

Because I created this class for us: people who come from where I come from and look like me, and often these are marginalized folks who are just making ends meet. This is my gift to you. This is me telling you that your story deserves to be out in the world too.

What: In this workshop I will provide an overview of the tools that are necessary to writing a personal narrative. My approach is to focus on the micro (the short personal essay) because you can take this into the writing of a longer piece, i.e. a memoir. In this class we will discuss craft, character and scene development, sensory writing, digging into memory, etc.

Upcoming Writing Our Lives Classes (click on title for more information): 

* Introduction to the Personal Essay – online class begins on January 31st
* The Narcissist’s Guide to the Personal Essay – in-person class begins on January 27th

 

Vanessa Mártir headshot

About the facilitator: Vanessa Mártir is a NYC based writer, educator and mama. She is currently completing her memoir, A Dim Capacity for Wings, and chronicles the journey at vanessamartir.blog. A five-time VONA/Voices and two-time Tin House fellow, Vanessa’s work has appeared in The Butter, Smokelong Quarterly, Kweli Journal, As/Us Journal and the VONA/Voices Anthology, Dismantle, among others. She has essays forthcoming in Not That Bad, edited by Roxane Gay, and Connections: An Integrated Reader and Rhetoric for College Writing, edited by Kerry Beckford and Donald Jones. Vanessa is the founder of the #52essays2017 challenge, and creator of the Writing Our Lives Workshop, which she teaches in NYC and online. When she’s not writing, you can find her either on the dance floor, in a gym punching a bag or in the woods hugging a tree. Find out more about her relentless hustle on vanessamartir.com.

Online Class: Introduction to the Personal Essay ~ A Writing Our Lives Production

logo_v2

Class Dates: January 31, February 7, 21, 28, March 14

Class Time: 7-9pm EST

Platform: via videoconference using Zoom.us (sessions will be recorded)

Tuition: $300 including a nonrefundable $60 deposit (Note: payment plans are available)

 

Personal essays are everywhere these days. There are sites and entire sections of magazines and papers dedicated to personal stories–hello NYTimes Modern Love and Lives sections, Narratively, The Rumpus, Hippocampus, and the list goes on and on. Essay collections and anthologies are also booming. The fact is that personal stories are everywhere, and yours should be too.

In addition to having written and published several books and dozens of essays, I love teaching. I created the Writing Our Lives Workshop in 2010, and have since taught hundreds of writers how to write the personal essay. This is the first time I am bringing this work online. Why? Because it’s time. Because folks have asked for it. Because I want to make this class available to folks outside of the NYC area. Because I believe your stories matter and should be out in the world, and I want to help you make that happen. 

 

What you need to know:

* This class is an introductory class designed for people who are new or fairly new to the personal essay/memoir, and know they want to take on the challenge.

* This is generative class, not a workshop. As such, your work will not be workshopped, but you will be given the opportunity to share your work with writers taking the class.

* If you’re interested in writing a memoir, personal essay is a great way to get your feet wet. As a memoir writer myself, I can tell you that the personal essay is the micro of the macro that is memoir.

* In the class we will dig into the fundamentals of writing personal essays: how to decide on a topic, how to start, how to read essays like writers (because reading like a writer and reading like a reader are not the same thing), how to build well-developed characters, how to write and develop scenes, etc.

* We will be reading essays (lots of them) and dissecting them; analyzing why the author made the decision(s) he/she/they made. We’ll also be doing tons of writing. You will have weekly writing and reading assignments. What I’m saying is you must be willing and able to do the work. The writing life you envision requires it.

* Participants will also be given a slew of resources including extensive suggested readings lists, podcasts, etc. created specifically for writers of personal story.

 

Still not sure if this class is for you? Ask yourself this:

* Have you read essays and wanted to write your own but the thoughts get lost in translation, somewhere between your brain and your fingertips?

* Have you tried to write essays but find them hard to finish?

* Have you wondered how writers write their amazing essays but think you just don’t have the chops and wish you did? (Side note: you do have the chops!)

* Do you write religiously or sporadically in your journal and wish (maybe even know) you could make those streams of consciousness into essays?

* Have you heard some great things about the Writing Our Lives Workshop and want to see Vanessa in action?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, this class is for you. Email writingourlivesworkshop@gmail.com for information on registration, payment plans, etc.

 

If you’re in NYC and want to take an in-person class with Vanessa, check out the Narcissist’s Guide to the Personal Essay starting on January 27th.

 

About the facilitator: Vanessa Mártir is a NYC based writer, educator and mama. She is currently completing her memoir, A Dim Capacity for Wings, and chronicles the journey at vanessamartir.blog. A five-time VONA/Voices and two-time Tin House fellow, Vanessa’s work has appeared in The Butter, Smokelong Quarterly, Kweli Journal, As/Us Journal and the VONA/Voices Anthology, Dismantle, among others. She has essays forthcoming in Not That Bad, edited by Roxane Gay, and Connections: An Integrated Reader and Rhetoric for College Writing, edited by Kerry Beckford and Donald Jones. Vanessa is the founder of the #52essays2017 challenge, and creator of the Writing Our Lives Workshop, which she teaches in NYC, and is bringing online in the fall. Find out more about Vanessa’s relentless hustle at vanessamartir.com.

 

Reflecting on 2017

15697865_10154257875752993_7791925298091066685_n

This year was hard for numerous reasons: politically, it was a shit show, but we all know that. But this reflection isn’t about that. This is personal. It is me looking at this year. What I’ve learned. What the messages were. Where I got lost. Where I was found. What it all comes down to for me, on this 31st of December.

This was the year my daughter turned 13, the age I was when I left everything and everyone I knew and loved to make my way out in the world. The 28th anniversary of that departure was in August, around the time my daughter turned 13. I was triggered, worried about how I would mother her–I have no model, how can I do this?

The truth is, she didn’t feel compelled to leave like I did. In fact, she started the boarding school process then decided to stop mid-way, saying: “I don’t wanna leave, mommy.” I broke the cycle, and really, that’s been one of my greatest accomplishments by far.

This was also the year that I turned 42. My brother didn’t make it to 42. The weeks leading up to my birthday on December 9th and the holidays were especially hard. And then the day came, and I felt something lift off of me. A weight. A burden. Something I didn’t have to carry anymore.

***

What did I do this year?

I started the #52essays2017 challenge, inviting people on the journey I took in 2016, writing an essay a week that I dubbed The Relentless Files. Hundreds joined me. At last count, the FB page had more than 730 members. There were some who submitted regularly. Others who did it on their own. There are thousands more essays in the world due to that challenge, and that’s something I’m sitting with today… Who knew I could inspire such beauty? I can’t say I always did.

And that was a lot of what this year was for me: really seeing who I am and how my work moves in the world, the ricochet effects it has, I have…

I didn’t produce as much this year. It’s not that I didn’t write. It’s that I shared less of it. It’s that I instead chose to submit it to lit journals and mags. It’s that I worked on my memoir more and that work I’m keeping close for a spell.

I did write 17 essays as part of the #52essays2017 challenge. I stopped participating in the challenge because I’d already gotten out of it what I needed (after writing 53 essays in 2016 and then 17 this year, plus a few I wrote after and posted on my blog). I produced. I got out of my own way. I learned to trust my thoughts and surrender to the subconscious and, in turn, the page. I was still participating out of obligation. To show that I could, but I’d already proven that to myself, and the weekly essays were getting in the way of other writing that was important to me, so I bowed out, while continuing to hold space for others participating in the challenge. I posted weekly. I checked in on writers. And I worked on my own stuff.

I traveled a bit this year. I ran the regional VONA at Minneapolis’s The Loft Literary Center on MLK Weekend. Less than two weeks later, I went to Tin House where I worked with Lidia Yuknavitch, who is phenomenal and will be one of my favorite writing teachers for eternity. In February, I facilitated a craft talk and writing class at the Center for Women Writers in North Carolina, then in March I headed to DC for AWP where I was on my first panel. In June I went to my tenth consecutive VONA, where I led the team that ran two weeks of workshops at UPenn. This fall I went to Grub Street for a one day intensive on essay forms.

I also traveled with my family to the woods of northern Michigan, where I broke bread and sang songs and sat around fires with women I will remember forever. I watched dozens of falling stars in the Perseid meteor shower and the moon rise over the hill. I watched my daughter sing her heart out during a talent show in the woods, and I saw again what a star she really is. It was glorious.

***

This past May marked the seven year anniversary of having resigned from a full-time editing job to write and teach. I felt that seven year itch hard. I get anxious and depressed when I feel myself getting complacent or stagnant. I always need to be doing something risky, challenging myself in different ways, and I wasn’t feeling that this past spring. I needed to do something as drastic and as nurturing to my work as I had back in 2010, so I decided to take a sabbatical from most of my teaching gigs to write and expand the Writing Our Lives Workshops. And that’s exactly what I did. I expanded the Essentials to the Personal Essay class to nine weeks and just a few weeks ago completed the class with nine wonderful writers. I also taught an eight week workshop through the Sackett Street Workshop. I brought my classes online, starting with two three-week classes: Writing Fiction from Real Life and Reclaiming Your Voice. This coming January, I start a five week online introduction to the personal essay class. I’m working on some new classes (in person and on-line) including the Narcissist’s Guide to the Personal Essay (which also starts at the end of January), Experimenting with Essay Forms, Writing the Self as a Character and one that I’ve spent much of my life preparing for and building towards: Writing the Mother Wound. I also start teaching online for Boston’s Grub Street in January.

My spring is already jam packed with magic, including taking an essay class with Marwa Helal in February (I must always be a student, at least once or twice a year). I’m traveling to AWP in Tampa in March, where I’ll be on two panels. I’m taking the train to and fro, with the idea that perhaps it can serve as a DIY residency. I’ve done some of my best writing on the train. In fact, I wrote my second novel commuting two and from work, so I’m doing this to see if I can channel that same energy into my now fourth book (FOURTH?!), my memoir.

In April, I’m heading up to Boston for Muse and the Marketplace, Grub Street’s literary conference, where I’ll be facilitating a craft talk. In May I’m heading to Chicago to facilitate a workshop, and later in the month, I’ll be facilitating again at the fourth annual Sankofa Sisterhood Weekend Retreat. All the while, I’m writing and teaching and making this life happen for me. I think a lot of the work I did this year was to give myself permission to do what I need and want: to give myself in 2018 what I’ve given the world over these many years of service.

***

So much of this year was the universe making me slow down, to see and witness who I am and what I’ve done. I started documenting it after VONA.

On July 6th, I wrote:

There was the young writer who grabbed my hand and said, “I’ve been wanting to say this to you…” Then she shared how when she was in Palestine in 2016, she and her friend would read my essays aloud to one another, sitting cross legged on their livingroom floor. She said, “They helped me get through.” She thanked and hugged me. Later said she wanted to take a selfie with me to send to her friend. We never did get to take that photo, but I’m carrying her with me today as I write this.

There was the writer who after the open mic I emceed the second week said, “I know your voice from somewhere.” He asked for my last name, searched on his phone, then gasped, looked at me wide-eyed, then back to his phone. Pushed the phone towards me. Said, “You wrote this?” On the screen was my essay, “Writers of Color: Your Voice Matters.” He said my essay is the reason he started writing again. He said he’s shared it with tons of his friends.

There was the writer who described herself as a “Vanessa groupie.” She said my writing gave her courage and strength. She said she considers me one of her teachers.

There was the writer who said, “I read your essay ‘Millie’s Girl’ and feel like I know her. I can’t wait for your book.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about how hard it is to receive praise. I listen. I smile. I thank them. And all the while, in my head, I am wondering how this happened. How is it that my words are being read across the world? How is it this unmothered Bushwick girl with stories to tell is touching people just by sharing her truth? I am working on receiving this kind of praise. It is, after all, another form of love, and we can never have enough love. I am working on being gentle with that voice in me that sometimes rages and sometimes whispers: “Who the fuck do you think you are?” Today, I am whispering back: “I am Vanessa and I am enough. I am Vanessa and I am enough. I am Vanessa and I am enough.”

Another lesson: this book isn’t just for you, V. There are worlds of folks that need it. You are enough. You are ready. It’s time. It’s time. It’s time. And your community will hold you through it.

Universe to Vanessa: Work on this praise thing you have. Stare at how your work has held and inspired people. This is who you are. This is what you do. It’s time to start owning and embracing this truth. Not doing so does not serve you or anyone. Es tiempo, Vanessa.

Universe to Vanessa: What if you gave to yourself what you give the world? What if you loved and took care of yourself with the same intensity? What could you do if…?

***

I didn’t write as much publicly in 2017 as I did in 2016. In fact, I haven’t written an essay in months. I have written though. I write every morning as part of my daily ritual. And I’ve written on the train, memories at first that lead to revelations and connections that always surprise me and remind me that the book is there, simmering, brewing, calling me. This year was so much about becoming.

Becoming the writer who could finish the essay I’ve been working on for 7 years, the hardest and most vulnerable one to date. The one that I submitted to Roxane Gay’s anthology Not That Bad. It’s called “What I Told Myself” and it’s coming out in the anthology in May of 2018. Oh shit!

I also wrote my first long form essay this year. I interviewed 20+ women and transcribed pages and pages of those interviews (last count was about 60 pages), wrote several drafts, working with a wonderful editor, Lisa Factora-Borchers. She reached out to me to write this essay on the fragility of motherhood. She left it up to me to pick the angle. She said she knew I was the perfect fit, and though I didn’t believe that to be true at first, she helped me see that I was. The essay “Can You See Me Now?: The Fragilty of Maternal Transition” went live on August 31st, and did so well (was viewed and shared thousands of times) that they decided to also publish it in their print edition: The Devotion Issue for Winter 2018. I just got my copy. It’s fuckin beautiful!

That essay made me finally write about the traumatic experience that was pregnancy and child birth. I realize that I’m still carrying that in my body…how I had to clean my open wound from a cesarean gone wrong. How my daughter’s father said we couldn’t afford to pay the visiting nurse who was assigned to come in every day to do just that: clean my wound. How she taught me to do it and didn’t look at my daughter’s father when she left that last time. How I’d clean it when he was away at work. How I cried hard and longed for my mother as I did it. How fuckin brutal that was…How that memory still makes me tear up…

One of the highlights of this year was when my daughter read that essay. She walked away because she knew I was trying to read her facial expressions. Then she came back and said: “I’m sorry you went through that, but I was worth it, right?” She smiled with her whole face and hugged me. Then she said: “I’m proud of you, mom,” squeezed me and walked away. And of course I was left a pile of blubbering tears.

***

I got some big blows this fall. I submitted an essay to an Australian Magazine. An essay they commissioned me for. The theme was family and they were sure I could write something stellar about being an unmothered woman and how that’s shaped me, but when push came to shove, the editor in chief said she couldn’t publish it as it was. She talked about Australian laws that sounded a lot like protecting predators and leaving victims unprotected and unable to write their stories. The edits they wanted to make would leave out so much, and portray my mother in a way that wasn’t fair. Yes, she was cruel in many ways and she didn’t mother me the way I needed, but there’s more to that story. My mother has suffered. She has endured violence and hunger that hardened her and made her into the woman she is today and the mother she was to me. To not include that in the story was (and still is) something I can’t and won’t do. It would only show one side of this very complicated woman. A woman that I love and am not trying to hurt with my writing. I couldn’t in good conscience let that essay go out into the world like that, so I withdrew it, though that too was very sad for me.

I didn’t get an NEA. Honestly, I didn’t expect to, and was really okay about not getting it, but that was just the first of a slew of rejections that hit me real hard. It was the Hedgebrook rejection that hit me the hardest, because I really wanted that one, and no, hearing that I’d made it to the final 103 applicants but not the final 40 who got the residencies didn’t help. I wanted time to work on my book. Time where I didn’t have to worry about cooking or cleaning the house or helping Vasia with homework or holding space for anyone but me and my stories. Hedgebrook didn’t give me that, and yes, that was hard. I’m still hoping to get that space somehow in 2018. Let’s see how.

As the holidays came, I reeled. My brother loved the holidays, and here I am, 42 years old, the age he never made it to. I was so very triggered.  

All of these hits and triggers made me pause, to sit with myself and listen to the lessons the universe was sending me… That I am ready. That I have become the writer who can do this work, who can listen to and receive the praise (because as my brujermana Lizz reminded me: “giving is control, receiving is surrender”), and I can keep doing the work and writing the stories and yes, I can and will finish A Dim Capacity for Wings.

So, my challenge to myself is personal this year. It’s not one I’m sharing with the world. Yes, there are some essays that I’m working on for publishing, and that’s something I will continue to do because I love it and it’s important to establishing a platform as a writer, but this challenge I’m speaking of is for me and my work, and I’m keeping it close. Sharing it only with a select few of chosen familia.

I ended friendships this year and started new ones. I cried a lot and laughed even more. And I got loved up on beautifully by a partner who supports all my whims and crazy risk taking. Who says yes when I’m wondering if I should do something like take a sabbatical from my steady money making gigs to expand my heart work: Writing Our Lives. Who when I was asked to write that long form essay for Bitch Media was like, “Of course they chose you. You can do this.” Who spent the afternoon with me singing old school Spanish ballads by José José, Rocio Jurado, El Puma, Juan Gabriel and more, while we reminisced about who we were and how we got here.

I’m ending the year hopeful. And I’m bringing in 2018 with some big manifesting and dreaming and risk taking. I’m announcing my classes in the coming days, and there’s some writing happening that I’ll be sharing and some that I won’t be sharing. Just know that I’m making moves, and I appreciate y’all for following and supporting and encouraging and loving up on me. I believe in you and I believe in your stories. Do the work, fam, and stay beautiful while you’re doing it. 

***

As I was writing this, my mother texted to tell me that today marks 47 years since she came to this country from Honduras. It’s a bittersweet memory for her. She calls her immigration a desgracia. A curse. “I came to this country to suffer,” she’s said. I can honor and hold space for that, and can also be grateful for her sacrifices and how that’s brought me here.

I am thinking about that GQ essay about Stephen Colbert, where he shares some wisdom he got early in his career (“You gotta learn to love the bomb.”), and that he connected to the greatest bomb of his life: his father and two of his brothers, Peter and Paul, the two closest to him in age, were killed in a plane crash when he was 10.

I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.

I asked him if he could help me understand that better, and he described a letter from Tolkien in response to a priest who had questioned whether Tolkien’s mythos was sufficiently doctrinaire, since it treated death not as a punishment for the sin of the fall but as a gift. “Tolkien says, in a letter back: ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” Colbert knocked his knuckles on the table. “ ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” he said again. His eyes were filled with tears.

“So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude. It doesn’t mean you want it. I can hold both of those ideas in my head.”

He was 35, he said, before he could really feel the truth of that. He was walking down the street, and it “stopped me dead. I went, ‘Oh, I’m grateful. Oh, I feel terrible.’ I felt so guilty to be grateful. But I knew it was true.“It’s not the same thing as wanting it to have happened,” he said. “But you can’t change everything about the world. You certainly can’t change things that have already happened.”

I don’t yet love the bombs, but this year I got closer to loving them than I ever have.
This year I became the woman my brother always said I was. His loss was a nuclear bomb.
This year I realized that I wouldn’t be the woman I am today had my mother mothered me the way I longed for. That is my greatest bomb. The seismic one. I am holding that bomb close and marveling at it. And in doing so, I’ve made space for something I never thought possible: some healing is happening with my mother. I am listening. She is talking. We are communicating, and if that ain’t beautiful, and evidence that my healing is making space for growth, I don’t know what is.
The Seven Generation Healing principal taught by Native Americans, says that when you heal yourself, you make healing possible for seven generations before you arrived and the seven generations that will come after. If you need more reason to work on your healing, here it is. Look at me as evidence.
I can’t say what is going to happen between us. I have no expectations, really. But I am doing something I haven’t been capable of doing, because trauma exists in the body: I am listening. I am asking questions. And I am receiving it all. Because in receiving, I surrender. And so it is.

Mucho amor, always,
Loba

happy-new-year-wallpaper

Postponed! The Narcissist’s Guide to the Personal Essay ~ A Writing Our Lives Production 

logo_v2

*** This class has been postponed indefinitely. ***

Dates: January 27, February 3, 10, 17, 24, March 3, 17

Time: 12pm-5pm

Location: West Village, NY

Price: $620 (including a $75 nonrefundable registration fee)*

If you’re a writer of creative nonfiction, chances are you’re a wee bit (or a lot) narcissistic, and that’s okay, but how can you push yourself to connect your story to the world—to current events, pop culture, sports, literature, history, etc? In other words, how can you deepen your personal writing? The subconscious makes connections that we often don’t understand or trust, and as a result don’t make it onto the page.

In this generative workshop, we will:
– explore how we can follow and surrender to the connections;
– do exercises to help us learn to open ourselves up to and trust our train of thoughts, no matter how random and odd;
– analyze and deconstruct nontraditional essay forms to explore how we can tell our stories in surprising and moving ways;
– read essays that have done this successfully;
– write and workshop our essays.

Final Project: A 1500 word essay that we will workshop on the last day of class.

Financial Aid: Partial scholarships and payment plans are available. Note on scholarships –
– A limited number of partial, need based scholarships are available on a first come, first serve basis.
– A special partial need-based scholarship is available to a VONA/Voices alum who does not have an MFA and has not published a book with a major publisher.
– Scholarships cannot be combined and are not transferrable.

For more information on the workshop and/or scholarships, send an email to writingourlivesworkshop@gmail.com.

 

More information coming on on-line and in-person classes coming in the Spring of 2018:
– Writing the Mother Wound
– Experimenting with Essay Forms
– Writing the Self as a Character