Ten Writing Tips In Celebration of The Flower Sun

This week I was recalling the recent discovery of a Mayan Warrior Queen in Guatemala named Lady Ka’bel.  I am fascinated that thousands of years later she has emerged to tell her story through Mayan hieroglyphics and sculpture.

During her time, she was the supreme ruler of the region with more power than even her hubby. I wanted to share that nugget of Pre-Columbian history to encourage you to reign supreme over your own creativity. On Friday, December 21 we close out the Mayan era of 13 Bak’tun. I’m excited for us collectively and individually to shift into a new era of creativity and transformation because we are mujeres de tinta y papel amate; urban scribes tapping into our higher selves and telling stories in primera voz.

According to poet Francisco X. Alarcon the “Nahuatl calendar corresponds to the date “Four Flower” (Nahui Xochitl). In the Nahuatl tradition this new era is identified as the “Flower Sun” (Xochitonatiuh).” We all have stories to tell and it’s just a matter of digging deep and listening to our inner writing warrior queen to get our stories on the page. As we enter this new cycle, I’m looking forward to reading and hearing your stories in whatever medium they appear. Lastly, below are some quick tips to kick start your writing endeavors. Feliz Flower Sun!

Ten tips in celebration of the Flower Sun:

  • Prioritize your writing or risk becoming your own creative apocalypse
  • Writer’s block? Shake it off and keep writing.
  • Get out of your own way and own your story
  • Take responsibility for your writing life
  • Participate in writing meet ups or create your own
  • Take creative risk and get out of your comfort zone
  • Read things that nurture your creative spirit
  • Support a reading series or start your own reading series
  • Encourage other writers to write
  • Ask yourself, “How am I walking in this world as a writer?”

Stay tuned for Proyecto Latina writing meet ups in the New Year.






On Critics and Creating Work

On Critics and Creating Work

On December 3rd, I opened a new show called TOUR GUIDES. The piece, a collaboration between 10 poets from different neighborhoods across the city, is an ode to everything we love and hate about living in Chicago. We talk about big things (segregation, gang violence, gentrification) and little things (beer, parades, germs on the CTA). Performed by (most of) the poets who wrote it, TOUR GUIDES is often a raw experience, an act of poetic truth-telling from people who are not seasoned or polished performers but who love their city in the way it seems only Chicagoans do: protectively, fiercely, and cynically, bracing against harsh weather and even harsher racism but warmed by summer and the beautiful sight of city lights reflected in the lake. As the director of the piece, I’m proud of the work the poets involved have done. But beyond that, I genuinely love the show. I find myself remembering lines from TOUR GUIDES as I move about the city, “whispering to myself that so much is still unknown.”

Critical reception of the show, however, has been decidedly mixed.

One critic accused us of trotting out “musty white-people-are-like-this, people-of-color-are-like-that setups,” while another argued that our take on Chicago neighborhoods is clichéd and “blatantly reductive.” Both complain that we take cheap shots at Lincoln Park, a criticism I find baffling, if only because we talk about Lincoln Park for less than a minute of a show that lasts 90 minutes, and in the context of a piece that trashes neighborhoods ranging from Rogers Park (smells like pee) to Back of the Yards (smells like smoked meat). Though I disagree with both of these critics’ assessments of the show, I don’t bring up these reviews to defend myself against them.  I bring them up because many of the people who read/come to Proyecto Latina are trying to figure out how make their way as Latina writers, artists, and performers. Proyecto Latina has long served as both a platform and a forum for emerging Latina artists, and a space to discuss the ins and outs of making work as mujeres y Latinas.

There was a point in my career when reviews like this would have made me cry. I remember reading a review of S-e-x-Oh! (a show I created with Teatro Luna) that called the piece “incomprehensible.” Despite sell-out houses and rave reviews elsewhere, this review made me sob for an hour, hunched over the steering wheel of my car.  Even today, I can’t remember a single nice thing a critic wrote about S-e-x-Oh! but that review (written, incidentally, by the same critic who called TOUR GUIDES “musty”) is burned into my brain. When I went to one of my mentors for advice on how to handle bad reviews, she told me to handle them the same way I would handle a good review: “not at all.” She warned me that if a review could change what you think of your own work, you aren’t creating from a place of confidence or certitude. To be an artist, you have to have a vision of what you want to make; you have to believe in what you set out to do.  This is not to say that you shouldn’t be open to criticism—indeed, as artists there is little more valuable than friends and collaborators who offer us the kind of feedback on our work that pushes it to a better place. But that kind of commentary is rarely found in a newspaper, a facebook status, or twitter feed. It is developed through community and relationship with people who are rooting for you, who want you to be the best artist you can be. (It is developed in spaces like Proyecto Latina!)

Now, when someone criticizes my work, I do pay attention. I look for patterns (are lots of people saying the same thing? Maybe there’s some truth to it.) I look for point of view (Who is saying this? What social position—race, class, gender, nationality—is driving their opinion?)  But most of all, I ask myself if any of it rings true? On a fundamental level, do I agree? If so, I challenge myself to do better next time. And if not, I let it go.

This time, I’m letting it go. I think TOUR GUIDES is a beautiful piece. But you don’t have to take my word for it. See it for yourself December 10, 11, 17, or 18th at 7:30 pm at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets and info at www.guildcomplex.org And then, tell me what you think. I promise, I’ll listen…

Domingo Newsbytes: weekly Latina news

Domingo Newsbytes: weekly Latina news

Welcome to the new Proyecto Latina website. We are still ironing out a few crinkles but we feel that this new platform is going to better serve our needs. So, go ahead and explore and if you got a thought on something, drop us a line. Also, we want to re-connect with all our friends–new and old–so before you leave join us on Google Friend Connect.

And now to our weekly round-up of Latinas in the news:

Araceli Hurtado. Image via Chicago News Cooperative.

For Many Latina Teens, Gang Life adds to Stress A profile of  Araceli Hurtado, outreach worker at a violence prevention agency in Little Village, and 13 year-old “April”–a young Latina and part of the largest segment of minority girls in the U.S.–who is working on overcoming some heartbreaking obstacles.

Latinas in Oscar Designer Challenge include Elda De La Rosa, well know in Chicago for her elegant designs.  Growing up her grandmother, mother and aunts all sewed and inspired her to learn at a very young age. Via Extra–a link to vote for De La Rosa’s design to be featured at the Oscar’s by on-stage award escorts.

Also via Extra this week, a quick look at Celena Roldán, new executive director for Erie Neighborhood House, a social service organization that serves primarily low-income, Latino families.

Cast of Afro-Caribbean Latinas populate Sofia Maldonado’s upcoming 42nd St. mural Visual artist, Sofia Maldonado, hopes to stop traffic and describes the women featured in her mural as, “Mujeres que luchan pa’echar pa’lante.”  Women fighting to get ahead.

A fine balance Author of The Dirty Girls Social Club, Alisa Valdes-Rodrigues wonders, Has the mainstream U.S. Latina arrived in fiction? Alisa also explains that, “While many Latina characters in mainstream fiction by non-Latina authors painted us as stereotypical in the past, I am pleased to see that the new wave of novels by non-Latinas but featuring Latina protagonists present us a whole, well-rounded, interesting and unique individual human beings who are American everywomen. This is a major step forward, and one we should all support!”   We say, yes but proceed with caution–and we’re going to refer  you to our archives–because Latina playwright, Migdalia Cruz also states, “write your own story—or someone else will write it and get it all wrong.”

On that note we do want to share the opportunity submit your written work. Achy Obejas and Megan Bayles, via a fellowship, have founded Partner Dance Press and placed a call for submissions to, “self-identified women writers, composers, performers and text-based artists under 40 currently living in Chicago to submit work for consideration in a new online text-based anthology.” Deadline is June 15, 2010. View submission guidelines here.

From Knitting To Photography

From Knitting To Photography

We wanted to take a moment to formally welcome our newest Proyecto Latina team member Thelma Uranga. Last year, we featured her and now she is back as our photographer. She’s getting ready to take off to Guadalajara, MX for some fun and photography and will return with a photo narrative of her trip.

Thelma Uranga is a photographer interested in the tensions inherent when looking at cultural identity within contemporary American society. Thelma received a BA in Studio Art/Photography from Illinois State University in 2008. During her time in Bloomington-Normal, her photographic work focused on the area’s youth and their cultural duality as children of immigrant parents living in America. In 2008, Thelma was recognized by the Center for Visual Arts at Illinois State University when she received the University Galleries Award in Photography at the Student Annual. In 2007, she participated in the Pilsen Open Studio and in the summer of 2009, Thelma served on the teaching staff at Yollocalli Arts Reach, a youth initiative of the National Museum of Mexican Art. Thelma is also an avid knitter; she is the co-founder and main organizer of El Stitch y Bitch: a multi-cultural knitting circle that collectively creates large-scale projects and public works. Currently, Thelma is exploring cultural identity on a personal level through fiber-based installation works and is also interested in documenting the current state of her hometown Cicero, IL, a bustling Latino community.

Contact info:

Proyecto Latina Recap – Ruth On The Rocks

Proyecto Latina Recap – Ruth On The Rocks

If you didn’t get a chance to come to Proyecto Latina this past Monday here is a visual snippet of a hilarious evening with our feature Ruth Guerra. She brought us everything from stories about the tooth fairy to blind dates.

We had a fabulous audience full of great chismes including this one anonymous one:

My acupuncturist says that my uterus is angry because I have not had a baby yet. I think my uterus is being a little unfair.

If you were at Proyecto Latina that evening or at other Proyecto Latina events and had a blast at our event let us know. Send us your comments or feedback at info@proyectolatina.org

Ruth recounting the time she ended up calling the calling the Columbia College radio station and ending up on a hilarious blind date. As I was sitting there watching Ruth do her thing I could help think, “Wow! What a wonderful storyteller Ruth is!”

Ruth Guerra is all smiles with Irasema Gonzalez (left) and myself at Cedahlia’s Café.

If you have suggestions for features you would like to see us present we’d love to hear from you.

Send us in a 100 words or less what makes your feature suggestion so awesome to info@proyectolatina.org

Domingo Newsbytes

Happy Sunday Everyone! Hope you are done doing laundry, grocery shopping and now relaxing. Here is a little recap of Latinas in the news for your reading pleasure. As always, if you see a story in the news about or impacting Latinas please share the link with us at info@proyectolatina.org. Last call for news link is every Saturday by noon.

Here is our round up:


The largets study ever of breast cancer in Latin American women is being launched in a unique multi-country, public/private partnership with $1 million in additional funding from the world’s largest breast cancer organization, Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

More than one in four Latinas is a mother by the age of 19, was included in a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Every year there is a growing epidemic of teenage Latinas attempting to commit suicide. Find out about a teen suicide prevention program for Latina teenagers and their family. The program is run by Dr. Rosa Gil.

Many undocumented women fail to report domestic violence because they fear deportation. Help is available through the Violence Intervention Program, a nationally recognized Latina organization that provides services to women of domestic violence.