Yesterday, I was in a panel called "Growing Up Latina" at Santa Ana College. With me were fellow Latina writers, Sarah Rafael Garcia, author of Las Ninas: A collection of childhood memories, and Jamie Martinez Wood, author of Rogelia's House of Magic.
The event was in honor for the first book of the year, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.
It all begin with a brief introduction and a video clip of Sandra Cisneros. Then they introduced the authors (us.) We discussed "growing up latina" in Santa Ana, Orange County, and Hawaiian Gardens. Then we proceeded with how we got started in the writing biz by talking about our books. There was a Q&A by the moderator and the audience; then we read excerpts from our books.
We began with Sarah, who read an excerpt called, "Chair, Chair, Chair," and it detailed all about her experience in elementary school when she was trying to pronounce the word "chair" with her Spanish accent. It explained how humilated she was when she couldn't pronounce it correctly and how she felt singled-out by the whole ordeal.
Then came Jamie, who read a little bio of Sandra Cisneros and a chapter from her wiccan novel. Her story is about three young girls finding the inner magic with the help of their curandera.
Then came the closing act: ME. I read the short paragraph that outlined Esperanza's first life drawing class AKA the first time she saw a naked man; then I went on to read about how she sees herself everday--as a tall, fat, ugly freak. Of course, that's just her own opinion; other people would beg to differ.
People have often told me that I have a real gift for dialog.
"What's your secret?" they ask.
"I hear the voices in my head," I tell them.
And it's true. Each character's voice just screamed in my head, and the dialog took a life of its own. Really, I had no control over it. I was pocessed by my own work.
I love to read from my book. For me, it's like I'm reading it for the very first time (even though i know what happens.) I especially like to read the dialog because, for a moment, the character completely takes over my body and re-enacts the scene at hand, so it literally plays out in front of the audience. And they love it! They bust out laughing so hard.
When this happens, I know I've done a great job and keeping the audience entertained. Like an old English teacher once said (over and over again), "grab the readers attention and keep it there." I'm so glad I'm able to do that.