Monday, May 30, 2011

My Bio-Memoir in 3-D (in 250 words or less)

I vowed to myself I would never exploit the thirty-seven years I spent in education for the sake of a byline. Why would my life as a secondary language arts teacher be any more interesting than one authored by an accountant or penned by a pediatrician?

My life didn’t merit an after-school special or a big screen movie played by some famous actor.  Sadly I look more like Morgan Freeman, Edward James Olmos, and Matthew Perry, than Michelle Pfieffer, Hilary Swank, or Meryl Streep.

My kids didn’t bend the bell curve on national exams, learn to play violins like virtuosos, or yield to bat-wielding discipline.  I didn’t buck the system during my first two years of teaching, so I could retire immediately after to pen my lengthy and sage memoirs about the ills of modern education. 

Oprah did not declare me a modern hero, donate to my new and improved charter school, or boost my book sales. My calendar is not booked with lucrative speaking engagements, and the local retired teachers' group could care less that a celebrity lives among them (- they rarely even invite me to their chicken-salad luncheons).

I taught thousands of students, who are now grown men and women, the joy of accomplishment, the discipline of work, and the respect one human owes another.  

That may not merit my life in 3-D, but it was a full and rewarding life.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

Writing in the Company of Geniuses

Learning to write in the company of geniuses, I have writing experts for professors and my classmates are on bestseller lists. 

And guess who is struggling to keep up?

There is no secret formula, no succinct cheat notes, no clever apps to get from Novice Writer to Published Author. I read books on craft, highlighting and trying out suggestions.  I read best sellers and old favorites with a writer’s eye and emulate in bites and samples.

Getting into Character by Brandilyn Collins has changed my writing the most since I started on this quest. If you KNOW your characters well, everything else falls into place – plotting, dialogue, pacing, details.

The novel The Book Thief by Markus Zusak has influenced me with its lyrical language - indescribable and enviable. I also have to give kudos to The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs.  A gymnast in sentence structure, this novelist does strange and courageous things to compound complex sentences.  

I figure among all those words, I will find my voice, my niche, my courage. I need to trust in those who know more about the craft than I do, but the only route to writing well is good, old-fashioned pen to paper. I have to trust in my own genius and write.

I am open to suggestions.  Which craft book or fiction novel would you suggest and why?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Aging Sucks

I have removed all reflective surfaces in my house, drawn the shades against the sunlight, and use only low-wattage bulbs. I buy skin lotions by the vat (Fed-Ex delivers!) and refuse to go outside during peak ultraviolet hours. I wear only loose, dark-colored clothes, long sleeves (even in summer), and high necklines.

I foster a symbiotic relationship with my internist and dentist, contemplating in secret over intimate and, heretofore, chaste body parts (especially commiserating over my blood count and eroding incisors). I have a love-hate relationship with elastic – love how it makes clothes easier to slip on and off, especially in emergencies; hate how my skin and muscles seem to be losing it by the nanosecond (nothing “perks” anymore!).

No, I am not a vampire.

I am a Boomer and I am aging, and like Dylan Thomas once advised, I am not going gently into this phase of my life.

My lenses are getting thicker along with my waist and behind. My skin is thinning along with my hair and temper. My once sexy voice has slowed to a slower RPM and there is distinct catch in my cadence.

Instead of “cute,” people dare to call me “spry;" instead of "hot," men call me "cute."

The worst part of all of this, I have what I call the "Betty White Curse" which is a lot worse than anything Dracula could have bestowed on his victims. On any given day and any given time, I am usually the oldest person around.
 (Isn't she cute?  Here, let me get the door for you.)

This isn't exactly how I wanted to end my time on earth.  Vampires get more respect.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Xochi - My Alter Ego

Once upon a time, not very long ago, there lived a little girl named Xochi who loved to read, write, and do her multiplication tables.
Whenever she played “Pretend,” she claimed the starring role and her black and white dog Zorro tagged along as her trusty sidekick.
Her love of Story grew with her through the years, embellishing the entries in her teenage diary (which often threw her dear mama into a fit and frightened her dear old-fashioned daddy) and making sense of her life as she championed through better ever-afters.
Xochi discovered her story became a series of novels, each a different genre - sometimes a silly comedy or a quiet memoir, at other times a tragic drama or a heart pounding mystery, but always, in each one, Xochitl triumphed in the end.
As for her trusty companion, who better than her new best friend Prince HoneyBunch? Together they set off in daily adventures – they read, write, and do multiplication tables, and occasionally, they hold hands and giggle.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hispana or Latina?

Mexicana: Named after my grandmother because we shared the same birthday, I was surprised when my 1st grade teacher screwed up her face and spit my name out like a curse on the first day of school.  No one I knew had trouble saying my name, so I felt sorry for her.
Mexican American: I went home and asked my parents to make it easier for her, and they went with me the next day to okay a name change - Rachel, a good solid Biblical name.  I thought nothing about it back then.
Over the years, I gave away my identity in little tiny bits and pieces.
Raquel Martína Martínez shortened into Rachel Martínez, then when I married I became Rachel M. Hulsey and it too soon shortened to Rachel Hulsey. Others could say my name easily, without making a face or choking on the “rrrr’s,” and it was handier to file and alphabetize, but easy and handy aren’t always right.
The name lasted longer than the marriage.  Once again I kept it for convenience and out of consideration for others.
Latina: I found my way back slowly. I reclaimed Rachel Martínez Hulsey first, then decided my birth name - Raquel Martína Martínez – is beautiful and distinctive and melodious. 
And so here I am once again.
Hispana:  Of Mexican and Spanish descent, I am more Hispana than Latina, so basta, this is for me.  This is who I am.