Cover art!

When I started writing what would eventually become Magical Realism for Non-Believers, the idea of finishing it, much less publishing it, much less seeing it on bookshelves, couldn’t have been further from my mind.

When the press started talking about a cover, I had no idea what the process would be like or what a designer would come up with for my little memoir. I’m so thrilled with the design; to me, it captures both the beauty of Colombia and the strangeness and vibrancy of life.

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In the spring, when the snow is (hopefully) gone and the flowers are starting to peek out, this book —with it’s lovely cover—will be in the world.

Anika FajardoComment
Motivation

The local Twin Cities public libraries, in partnership with the Loft Literary Center, offer free writing classes (thanks, Minnesota State Arts Board). First Pages, as this program is known, allows community members to taste-test writing classes taught by Loft teaching artists. I love teaching in this program because the students are grateful for a free class and are usually ready to explore writing. It’s fun to be the teacher watching beginning (or returning) writers find the bug. Teaching these students the basics of essay writing gives me renewed motivation to write and read essays. Today I shared this gem from Brevity: “Twofold” by Renee Branum.

Anika FajardoComment
The Truest Stories

In a wonderful interview with the “father of creative nonfiction” recently released on Soundcloud, Lee Gutkind talks about the division between the genres. The interviewer asked Gutkind if he starts out knowing whether he’s writing fiction or nonfiction. Gutkind’s answer is that he writes to tell stories, the truest stories he can. Depending on the situation, a true story might be best told in a novel or, in another, in an essay.

As I work on both final edits for my forthcoming memoir and rewrites for a novel (details coming soon), I have been switching back and forth between creative nonfiction and fiction. The two projects have similar themes of family and identity and belonging. Listening to Gutkind, I realized that I’m writing true stories in both cases. For the memoir, everything is true as I remember it. For the novel, everything is true as I understand the world to be. For one there are fictional characters, for the other there are previously existing characters. Either way, they’re true stories.

Anika FajardoComment
Dreams coming true...after a lot of work and heartache

Today the "official" announcement of the sale of my memoir to University of Minnesota Press was released in Publishers Weekly. This little blurb makes everything that's happened in the last few months real and it also culminates the work I put into this manuscript over the past nine years.

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I began writing the essays that eventually became the backbone of this book while in the Loft Literary Center's Mentor Series. This competitive program admits twelve writers who work with eight local and national authors over the course of a year. I was so fortunate to get to learn from Shannon Olson, Pablo Medina, Gene Yang, JC Hallman, Dinah Lenney, and Phil Bryant. 

Of course, that was only the beginning.

Anika FajardoComment
Representation Matters

There are a lot of movements lately that are attempting to diversify publishing (#latinolit is the one I'm most familiar with). These initiatives have included lists of writers and agents of color; publishing houses dedicating imprints to non-white voices; and an attempt to diversify internships, the position from which many publishing careers are launched.

The need for this kind of overt action became apparent to me last night when I asked the students in my creative nonfiction writing class to bring in their favorite or most influential books. While many mentioned childhood favorites, most cited books they'd read recently that really resonated for them.

As I listened and wrote down titles, I noticed something. A pattern, one that sometimes varied but emerged nonetheless. White men brought in books by white men; black women listed books by black women; gay men brought in dogeared copies of books by gay men. As a half-Colombian woman, my go-to is Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende. Books by authors that have had similar experiences to ours are, obviously, going to most resonate with us. There is nothing wrong with this. This is the human condition.

However, this phenomenon makes it clear why representation in publishing (along the whole pipeline from writers to publishers to librarians and booksellers) matters. We need representatives in all stops along the way to advocate for the books we, as readers, need.

Here's last night's list of books:

  • The 12 Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
  • 4-3-2-1 by Paul Oster
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • All the Strange Hours by Loren Eiseley
  • Cane River by Lalita Tademy
  • Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
  • Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher
  • The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maas
  • Hans Christian Anderson: The Complete Fairy Tales
  • Kindred by Octavia Butler
  • LaRose by Louise Erdrich
  • Nixonland by Rick Perlstein
  • A Passage to Ararat by Michael Arlen
  • Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Real and Unreal by Ursula Le Guin
  • Spark Your Dreams by Candelaria and Herman Zapp
  • Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
  • Wild Embers by Nikita Grill
Anika FajardoComment
Balance

Last night I asked my students to write about their memories surrounding a public event such as September 11th, the Challenger explosion, the 35W bridge collapse, or other event. The writing was raw and tender. Most people linked the public event with an intensely personal one. Overall, the mood dropped as we discussed these life-altering events and memories. In the midst of this darkness, however, a few writers read a funny line or a surprising anecdote. The class's laughter was tentative and then overt. We needed to laugh, to smile. It reminded me about the importance of letting off some steam, opening the pressure valve in writing, the importance of balance.

Balance is something lacking in our political/social culture right now and so it's good to remember this even if it's just on the page.

Anika FajardoComment