Writing and Mourning
I tried to give birth to this book seven years ago but the darn thing refused to come out. I had had it in me way too long, it had run its due gestation course. It had reached full term. Yet, I couldn’t write the last chapter and the thing remained unborn for a long time. It wasn’t a simple case of writer’s block, or disinterest, or lack of time. I mean, I have been chasing an undocumented woman, with a compelling story of loss, up and down the Florida peninsula for almost two years. Along the way, I found other undocumented women, other equally compelling stories, who also lived extraordinary lives in the underbelly of the Sunshine state. I thought, dreamed, breathed, read and wrote about nothing but women. Soon after finding Esperanza, my mother died and that was it. I hit a wall and my project became rapidly stale. I lost hope in having the book finished, let alone published; I lost confidence as a writer and purpose as an anthropologist. Continuing my research, focusing on other women seemed an act of betrayal, a disloyal negation of her death, an insult to the memory of the bravest woman I’d known: a single mother of six after my Dad walked out on us when I was seven. I would sit in front of my laptop, heaps of hand-written interviews on each side of it, cups of half-drunk Colombian coffee on my desk and window sills, our dogs lying somewhere at my feet. I waited for the nagging feeling to finish the project. Instead, I would get sucked into a cosmos of trivialities. I listened to the kitchen faucet; it had been leaking for weeks. I wrote down on a post-it: Plumber’s tape for kitchen. One of our dogs developed a rash on her tummy. She licked and scratched uncontrollably. Another post-it: Get Hot Spot for Honey. I turned the computer off. Saw my reflection in the black screen and noticed two forming folds on each side of my nose running down to the corners of my mouth. I turned the computer back on and Googled, Is Botox safe? One day, I opened the manuscript and searched for the word Esperanza. It appeared 263 times. I have never liked odd numbers. I went to the last line and wrote Esperanza, once more. There. That’s better. 264 times. I felt accomplished. I treated myself to a tall glass of Riesling. Went back to the laptop and I stayed with my fingers hovering above the keyboard until it was obvious that I would not write a single word. I turned the TV on, tuned in to the Cartoon Channel and watched two and a half hours of The Roadrunner. And I laughed. I did this for days which turned into weeks. I would not finish the project.
In the midst of this creativity stalemate, I started to write about Mom and growing up as the youngest in a household of women back in my homeland, Colombia: a country that in memory never changes, a country I can’t go back to because it exists only in a corner of my heart. It was only after “My Mother’s Funeral,” my manuscript about Mom, had been accepted for publication that I dared turn my attention again to the undocumented women. It would be fair to say that mourning’s rude edges were softened and humanized by the subtle grace of acceptance. I finished the manuscript, revised it, rewrote the whole thing and submitted it to the Social Justice and Equity Award in Creative Nonfiction organized by Benu Press, an indie publisher. And it won the contest, which meant, it was accepted for publication. “Looking for Esperanza,” is now available in print and as an ebook. It is a happy story with a humbling end. Once I received my copies and held this stubborn baby in my arms, after I went around doing a celebratory dance and kissed my husband, once the high was over, I was left with the million dollar question: now what? How does a new writer sell copies of her books about suffering women?
Who wants to read stories of deprivation, loss and pyrrhic victories? For those who do, here is the press release: http://www2.dmpemail5.com/jenkins/dsc/collateral/Chappell_PR.pdf, the link to amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Looking-Esperanza-Story-Mother-Matter/dp/0984462988/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1350313405&sr=1-1&keywords=looking+for+esperanza
Professional website: www.paramoadriana.com