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.






Putting It On The Page At A Sports Bar

Do you ever have days when nothing could possibly go wrong and then it does? I was peacefully sipping on a vanilla latte at the Julius Meniel Café when suddenly I overhear the waitress say they are closing the café at 7pm to wax the floors. Gulp!  As an event organizer (and control freak) this is the last thing I want to hear because  we were supposed to be having the writing meet up at this location. Glad accidental Proyecto Latina attendee Claudia Martinez was there to help me laugh my way through this venue snafu!

What to do?

Well, when in doubt, pray to St. D’Augstino patron saint of pizza and beer. Before I knew it, we were across the street surrounded by a basket of fries, laptops and giant TV screens showing the White Sox game. After we settled in, I looked up from my notebook and saw everyone writing in their laptops and notebooks. Maybe it was the blaring music but everyone was diving deep into the cenote of their writing. I watched the waiters give us curious looks as they walked past with people’s orders. There is something very powerful about coming into a space like D’Augustinos and showing up to the page regardless of what’s going on around you.

So who showed up to write?

Christina Rodriguez ended up writing two blog posts; one on the importance of your teeth and diabetes  and the other on Latino identity. Stephanie Diaz Reppen found herself  working on a piece that she had been opening, reading, putting away and hadn’t revisited since her Hedgebrook residency. She is also working on a piece about a Guatemalan Saint named San Pascualito Rey.

Maribel Mares came all the way from the Bridgeportzlan neighborhood to move some of her writing forward. Funny lady Ruth Guerra is writing 45 pages of creative writing for a fiction class she is taking at Morton College.

Cristina Correa almost went home upon seeing the venue change. Glad she stayed because she divulged a wonderful writing secret that will be made public soon. She began to work on her Axolotl salamander story.  Jessica Mondres was working on a story/collage on the theme of women, tapestry and faith. I was excited to see Jazmin Corona (writer, dancer, photographer) come out and work on some of her own writing.

What do these women have in common besides being writers? At one point the majority of them have all been Proyecto Latina features and have powerful stories to tell.  Afterwards, Ruth shared her pitcher of sangria with us and we dreamed up a Proyecto Latina field trip next year to New Mexico for the Latino Writers Conference and possibly a holiday clothes/jewelry swap.

Lastly, mil gracias to everyone that came out and for being flexible and most of all setting aside time to write. For those that didn’t come out remember whether you are writing with us or on your own carve out the time to write and tell your story.

The next writing meet up will be in Pilsen at Effebinas. Time TBA and in November we will be back on the north side somewhere. If you have any suggestions of places on the north side please let me know.


Did You Know We Made the Top-Ten Referring Sites?

Did you know that Proyecto Latina made the top ten list in Linking Audiences To News II Report? Well happy news we did! So what does this mean?

In a nut shell, we are cyber chingonas in Chicago linking to other sites and providing resources to our community. If you look at the list of virtual colleagues that made the list below you will notice that we are the only Latina led site mentioned. I think it’s important that we support other local Latino online sites and encourage new ones to crop up.

The flip side of this is there is always room for improvement on our site and we hope in the next few months continue to enhance this virtual space we’ve created. Special thanks to Rich Gordon, Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University for including us in the report.

We also wanted to give a shout-out of congrats to the other top referring sites in the report that include:










Make sure you check out and support these sites by following them on Twitter or liking their Fan page.

To learn more about these rankings you can go to www.communitynewsmatters.org. Also, make sure you

get your free download of the 2012 New News Report that is also ranking Chicago’s online news scene.

To download a copy of the report go to Linking Audiences To News Report. 

Both reports were funded by The Chicago Community Trust and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Does Your Inner Writer Crave A Creative Cluster?

Last month, Proyecto Latina turned the Bridgeport Coffeehouse into a temple of Mujeres Maravillosas. This gathering of urban scribes brought out writers of all genres. I would’ve never imagined this creative cluster of Latinas coming together in the Bridgeport neighborhood to crank out new writing or wrap up work in progress. Having grown up in this neighborhood there were never any Latina writers  living here and working on their craft. Happy to say this is the first of many, as we alternate our writing meet-ups between the south and north side once a month.

Writing Meet Up  Snapshot

Here is who showed up and what they were working on to inspire you to write and come out to the next writer meet-up. The lovely and talented Coya Paz was putting the finishing touches on the script for Unnatural Spaces and Maria Zamudio left the investigative journalist at home to channel her inner fiction writer.

Paloma Martinez Cruz is ready to conquer the world with her writing!

Paloma Martinez Cruz was working on a review of Cherríe Moraga’s A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness for Letras Femeninas journal while Irasema Gonzalez had her writer face on. Later, I discovered instead of writing she was working on something else rather than focusing on writing. However, in her defense she’s been working hard as one of the writers for Unnatural Spaces opening in October. Writer and neighborhood resident, Latienda Williams came out and was working on her screenwriting project. We were excited Janet Garcia came to the gathering. She is our literary cheerleader and we hope to jump start her own writing soon.

I was also excited to reconnect with writer Maribel Mares. I met Maribel when Irasema and I snuck out of an AWP Avant Guard Latino Poetry panel. Okay, we did a lousy job sneaking out because Maribel came chasing after us to connect. She came to the gathering because after a long writing hiatus she is now writing again and has an interest in sharing stories about 56th and Kedzie.
Cristina Correa, Amalia Ortiz and Ivonne Canelleda also showed up and I can’t wait to follow up with them to see what they accomplished during the writing session.

So how was I impacted by this writing meet-up?

Well, I find my own writing is like shattered glass; it’s everywhere, little bits and pieces scattered here and there, sharp to the touch. I wrote 3,000 words during the session. Out of those 3,000 words I’m pretty sure only 50 of those words were any good but I will keep mining the good stuff because sooner or later I’m bound to strike gold.

After the writing meet-up, we sashayed across the street to Maria’s Community Bar and chatted about everything from creative writing MFA’s, zombies on Archer Avenue and the element of water as a writing prompt. Lastly, if your inner writer is craving a creative cluster of writers to create and collaborate with come to the next gathering and sip some coffee, write and walk away inspired.

Maribel Mares is all smiles after the writing meet-up.


Here are the details for the next writer’s gathering. Mark it on your calendars and happy writings!

Thursday, Sept. 27th 6:30pm to 8:30pm

@ Julius Meniel Café  

3601 North Southport (Corner of Southport and Addison)

Chicago, IL

CTA – Brown line Southport stop or Red line Addison stop

Street parking only.

Ten Steps For Making The Most of Writing Meet-Ups

Recently, I ran into someone who told me, “If you’re a writer, act like one.” I felt like someone had slapped me in the face. It made me realize the writer in me needed some tough love. With this in mind, I created guidelines for our writing meet-ups to make sure you walk away with something tangible.

Writing Meet-Up Guidelines

1. PRIORITIZE YOUR WRITING - Mark your calendar and carve out the time to attend a writing meet up or start your own.

2. WRITING TOOL BOX - Bring a laptop, journal, notebook whatever your tool of the trade is bring it.

3. WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO BE DOING? It’s a writing meet-up. Just Write.

4. STUCK? If you or someone from the group has no idea where to begin, bring writing prompts for attendees.

5. FOCUS - Bring focus to your writing by having a writing goal for the evening. This is a new concept for me. The first time Paloma asked me what my writing goal was I stared at her stumped. What did she mean by writing goal?

Here are examples of writing goals:

Write a total word count of 2,000 words

New scene for a play

Sketch out a new blog post

Start something new / wrap up an old writing project or revisit it

6. CIERRA EL PICO - I am a total chatterbox and can yap away into oblivion. However, at a writing meet up, unless the café is burning to the ground I won’t talk to you or expect you to talk to me. Why? We are here to write. Let’s socialize and talk about our projects over some beers after the writing session is done.

7. EMBOBADA - Whether it’s the loud mouth that comes in to place his order, the girl with the annoying Woody Wood Pecker laugh or the sound of someone eating their chips too loudly I get distracted easily. If this happens to you bring headphones, listen to some music and focus on writing.

8. SOCIAL MEDIA SABATOGE – Don’t let Twitter or Facebook foil your writing efforts. I too love to read status updates on Facebook and read Oprah tweets.  Disconnecting for two hours will help you zoom in on your writing. Don’t worry, if you do go into convulsions because your not online we will have the cute barista give you mouth-to-mouth.

9. OH, THE HORROR – Stephen King says, “You must not come lightly to the page…If you can take it seriously, we can do business.”

10. SO YOU ARE A WRITER? Once I ran into acclaimed poet Alurista in a hotel lobby in New Mexico. He asked me, “So you’re a writer? Before I could respond he said, “Prove it.” Thankfully, I was able to dig through my luggage and pull out a slightly tattered draft of my unpublished chapbook.  All this to say, take advantage of writer meet-ups to generate new work.

The next writing meet-up is on:

Thursday, Sept. 27th 6:30pm to 8:30pm

@ Julius Meniel Café  

3601 North Southport (Corner of Southport and Addison)

Chicago, IL

CTA – Brown line Southport stop or Red line Addison stop

Street parking only.

Do you have a writing meet-up tip that isn’t on the list? Post it in the comment section.

If you have a venue suggestion for future writing meet-ups, writing resources or writing field trips post them in the comment section, email them to info@proyectolatina.org or post them on our Facebook page.



Excavating Women and Knowledge in Mesoamerica

Photo courtesy of Thelma Uranga

 I pray for your book, the way I pray for my people.  -Doña Augustina, Oaxacan Healer

At the beginning of the year, writer and Renaissance woman Paloma Martinez-Cruz kicked off our Proyecto Latina Reading Series. Her book Women and Knowledge In Mesoamerica: From East L.A. to Anahuac had just been published. In this long over due interview, I’m happy to have finally carved out the time to revisit my conversation with Paloma about the importance of her book and share it with you.

Whether you’ve seen Paloma read her writing, doing a performance piece or whipping out her guitar and singing at Proyecto Latina there is no doubt she is a blazing creative bonfire and her book is a reflection of this.

Paloma is originally from North East Los Angeles and resides in the Pilsen neighborhood and has always been drawn to philosophy and letters. When she was a student at the university she wanted access to ideas and theoretical work on Mesoamerican knowledge traditions but couldn’t find a place for it within her educational experience. Writing the book according to Paloma is, “a way to decolonize who I am.”

The book’s focus is on Mesoamerican knowledge traditions and why don’t we have access to them? “It’s important to know ourselves as knowers and not always having to cut and paste from European traditions and values. It helps us find our alignment and have a connection to our past,” says Paloma.

Photo courtesy of Mike Travis

In school, she didn’t want to study a body of Mesoamerican people in an anthropological way where traditions are categorized as folkloric or as Paloma says sarcastically, “Oh, how neat that they do that or let’s look at how they are different from us.” Paloma wanted to look beyond that narrative and she says, “ I don’t want to learn about them, I wanted to learn from them, about their philosophical traditions and ways knowledge is communicated and shared.”

Through performance studies she was able to begin exploring this idea of knowledge traditions. Her chapter Women Healers of Tenochtitlan was born in a performance and conquest class led by professor Diana Taylor at New York University. She then traveled from New York to the highlands of Oaxaca to research and study with Oaxacan healer Doña Augustina. On one particular visit Doña Augustina gave Paloma’s book a blessing by saying, “I pray for your book, the way I pray for my people.”

What Paloma discovered in her research was that in Mesoamerican knowledge traditions there is a different way to value knowledge and share it with the community. The spiritual connection to nature is put in higher esteem than the self.  Things like ambition and ego are considered pathology within these communities.

I asked Paloma how she manages being a professor, a writer and a mom and with that marvelous laugh of hers she says, “I managed it como loca!” Having a son you are always a mother even if your child is not in the room. It’s the same when you’re working on a book.  You’re always working on a book even if the book isn’t in the room with you, you’re always kind of processing it,” says Paloma.

Academically the book paves the way for other Latinas in higher education trying to document and create conversation of knowledge traditions along with its impact on today’s generation. It’s a must have for anyone an interest in gender, Chicana, Latinas, Women, Mesoamerican traditions. Read more on Women and Knowledge In Mesoamerica: From East L.A. to Anahuac.

(Also, in the interest of full disclosure, Paloma is now part of the Proyecto Latina team! She is taking the lead on a special project that she will be telling you about herself in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!) Read more on Paloma…