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 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…

12 Ways To Mother Your Inner Writer

My mom all smiles with me on her lap

Feliz día de las madres to all of you that are moms or soon-to-be moms! This mother’s day, I’m reflecting on how we can mother our writing self and nurture our creative writing pursuits.

Here is my top ten list on how to mother our inner writers

1. Carve out time for writing

2. Create writing meet ups with other writers

3. Disconnect from Facebook, Twitter and other social media

4. Evaluate your writing goals

5. Get out of your comfort zone and explore other creative genres

6. Take creative risks

7. Treat yourself to a new journal or packet of pens

8. Indulge in a good book! One of my favorites is “The Sound of Pen on Paper,” by Julia Cameron.

9. Organize a reading of your work

10. Treat your inner writer to a prickly pear margarita

11. Find new writing nooks in the city where you can plop down and crank it out. Here is one of my most recent finds…

12.  Pick up Poetry & Writer’s magazine and enter a writing contest

What are some ways that you spoil your inner writer? Let us know in the comment section.




Maria Hinojosa On Media & Mentorship – Interview Part 2

Journalist Maria Hinojosa

Last month, journalist Maria Hinojosa was generous enough with her time to let us interview her about being a Latina in media. In case you missed the first part of her interview, you can still read the post Meet Media Maker Maria Hinojosa on our site.

At some point, you may have heard or seen Maria on National Public Radio’s Latino USA, CNN or PBS Frontline.  I am excited to share this interview with you is because Maria is a media trailblazer opening doors for the next generation of Latinas in media.

A decade ago, if you had asked me to name Latinas in Chicago media I would probably have shrugged and not have been able to name any. Today, I’m happy to say that I’m noticing more Latinas in media telling stories using a variety of platforms ranging from print, radio to blogging. This week we are happy share part two of our interview with Maria Hinojosa. If you enjoy the interview let us know or please share it to your networks on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin.


DP: What was the moment you realized you were going to be a journalist?

MH: I think it was when I got hired at National Public Radio in 1985 and being the first Latina hired to work at a network. Probably six months into that when I realized I’m at these editorial meetings and I’m coming up with ideas and people like what I’m saying and I’m producing this stuff yeah I think I can do this and that really was the moment when I said I need to have my own voice because at the point I was producing for other people and when I realized I wanted to be a journalist and could be I also Around that time when I realized I needed to own my own voice and tell my own stories.

DP: What are your tips for emerging Latinas in media?

MH: They should trust their voices, not give up and find their elders and mentors because they will need them but more than anything. I want them to honor and hold on to their experience as Americans, immigrants, and Latinas because this is in fact one of these crucial moments where how we define ourselves and who defines us is so important.  I also want them to keep on believing that they have the power, words and tools to define themselves and to tell these stories.

DP: What role has mentorship played in your life and how has it impacted you?

MH: Well I wouldn’t say I’ve had an actual mentor. Maybe, I wish I would have. I didn’t find the right person to be a “mentor.” What I do have are elders, some are Latinas and some aren’t, who have come before me and who I turn to for support. I take very seriously the notion of what a mentor is and the role that requires and consistency and I haven’t really had that officially.  What I’ve had is “sistahs” who’ve been there for me and who are there to pick me up when times are bad and who allow me to understand historical context.

Without them I could not do it there’s no doubt about that because there are lots of ups and lots of downs. You have to have people who have a cool head and see the forest through the woods. I’m a little jealous of younger women who can actually have mentors because there wasn’t anyone doing this for me.  I was the first Latina at NPR, CNN and just five years ago the first Latina correspondent on PBS and just recently the first Latina to anchor Frontline. Even now, I’m still trying to break through because there haven’t been many Latinas who I could turn to and say guide the way. This is why I take the role of mentoring so seriously and imparting information and experience to young Latinas as often and authentically as I can.

DP: What trends are you seeing in terms of women and media?

MH: I think it’s another one of these moments where there is struggle around media because more women are stepping forward in the mainstream media or outside of the mainstream media pushing to have these stories told. We are kind of building our own space both within the mainstream media and outside of it. The reason why I sound hesitant, is because while we are doing amazing things like websites and information but at the same time we are still in the process of this shift where more of the mainstream media needs to understand that reporting on gender issues really matters but I don’t think a lot of the mainstream media sees it that way.  Like with Latinos we are in the same kind of space it’s a struggle right now it’s not an easy one and there is resistance because everything in our country right now is changing.

DP: Do you think Latinos continue to be invisible in media, politics and different sectors despite the increase in population released by the U.S. Census?

MH: Unfortunately yes, but that is our challenge for the next decade. It’s really important to understand at what point do we stop being invisible? I was giving a speech to educators and we were at a downtown hotel at a breakfast and I said to them “you know the people you walked by as they cleaned your room or served us breakfast and you didn’t really look at them, well all of their kids are the ones going to your community colleges so actually you really need to see them and need to talk to them and understand who they are because they are here. There’s that part of it and I think the other part of it is Latinos themselves need have to be willing themselves to see other Latinos and they have to be able to put other Latinos forward and point out the ones that are invisible and not be afraid to say those kinds of things.

DP: Final thoughts you would like to share?

MH: We really have to support each other as Latinas and find ways to do it in small or big ways because we really need each other. I  also think that we have to be the spirit of hope because we have a tendency to be very blue but what we don’t’ recognize is that we can also be very hopeful and joyous. in the midst of the struggle coming in the next decade we must find the joy because it’s something we should be happily adding to the mix of this country.

Listen to Maria Hinojosa on National Public Radio’s Latino USA

Watch Maria Hinojosa on One-on-One

Watch Maria’s Hinojosa’s Lost In Detention

Follow Maria on Twitter @Maria_Hinojosa

Keep the conversation going and tell us what you thought of this interview with Maria by posting in the comments section.

This project is supported by the Local Reporting Awards