Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Nuestras Voces, Our Voices: Emerging Latina writers talk about their work - Ezzy Guerrero-Languzzi

Editor's note: this is the 11th in a monthly (sometimes twice-monthly) series of guest blog posts in which emerging Latina writers talk about their work, their process and what inspires them.

Ezzy Guerrero-Languzzi  received her B.S from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, is currently completing her MEd in School Guidance at Cambridge College, and plans to pursue a CAGS in Trauma Studies. She believes in the curative effects of bibliotherapy. She is a writer who is strongly influenced by the sciences, and is currently working on a YA novel with the working title, Where Hazard Meets New Hope. She also blogs at Sincerely, Ezzy. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, son, dog, and two chickens.

Writing authentically

I didn’t grow up wanting to be a writer. A doctor, nurse, biologist, or astronomer, maybe, but a writer? Never. In fact, the thought didn’t occur to me until 2008, when I enrolled in an online grammar course through the Writer’s Digest. Something came alive in me during that grammar course ... a compulsion to continue enrolling in workshops. One class led to another, until I’d taken courses in the essentials: voice and viewpoint, dialogue, creativity and expression, plot and structure, and 12 weeks to a novel’s first draft —yeah, right— twice.
It’s also around then that I started to read books written by diverse authors, not necessarily ones you’d immediately find on the bestseller’s tables at Barnes and Noble. Imagine at my age, reading in print for the first time, thoughts I’d never shared with anyone, thinking that as the daughter of immigrant parents my feelings were unique. I’ve discovered voices I wish I’d read 20 years ago.

With each book I’ve read, I’ve also, realized how much I have yet to learn about storytelling. Certainly the workshops helped me hone my writing skills, but no workshop could teach me how to write authentically. This probably explains why, when friends ask about my work in progress, I change the subject and ask them what books they’re reading. First, because I love to talk about books, but second, because I’m superstitious. They remain unfinished.

Some (un)writerly quirks about me …

• I spend more time thinking about my story than I do actually writing it.

• My WIP is a cloud that follows me everywhere I go.

• For every four hundred pages I read, I’ll write maybe four.

• The best ideas come to me at the worst times.

• The main character in my current novel is who I wish I could’ve been.

• I’m structured about most everything, except for my writing.

• I both love and hate to write – simultaneously.

• Being focused on the journey, rather than the finished product, helps me keep my sanity.

My current novel’s narrator is a 13-year-old Mexican-American girl, who attends private school on a scholarship with her two younger sisters. The story is set in Southern California and takes place during her spring break, when a series of events and tragedies change her life. Sibling rivalry, family secrets, and cultural drama are a few of the topics I tackle, sometime, with a bit of dry humor. 

Here’s a glimpse into one of the novel's scene:
A tricked-out, neon purple car crawled low to the ground toward us, like a cat ready to pounce. Had it not been for the synthesized music turned low I might not have heard it until it was too late. It wasn’t until the car pulled up under the street lamp that I made out the silhouette of El Flaco sitting in the back seat of the car. Amber flecks lit up behind him like fireflies. Somebody smoked in the seat next to him.  
Fear ran through me, covered me like a sheet of ice. I couldn’t move and sensed Celeste had taken a step back.
El Flaco leaned out of the open back window, looking like he did every day, without a care in the world. The hazy street lamp barely illuminated his dark features. “You ladies wanna party?” 
Somehow I knew that my kind of party, the kind with balloons, a cake, and piƱata, was not the kind of party this gangbanger had in mind. 
“You better get out of here before my papi comes out,” I said with an uneven voice. Then the words just spilled out. “Can I ask you something?” I might as well have started digging my own grave. 
El Flaco laughed and motioned to me with his chin. “Shoot.” I could barely make out his black eyes under the bandana he wore. He’d rested his arm on the side of the car. That’s when I saw for the first time that he had a tattoo of the Virgin Mary running the entire length of his upper arm, from his elbow to his shoulder. He wasn’t all that flaco, either, had some meat on those bones after all. 
“Why’d you have to burn my parents’ shop?” 
“That wasn’t us, morenita.” 
“You’re a liar. I don’t believe you. You did it to get back at my father.” 
“I don’t care what you believe,” he said, settling back inside the dark vehicle. “Maybe you should check with your old man." 

© Ezzy Guerrero-Languzzi, 9/3/2013. No part of this excerpt may be used for any purpose without Ezzy Guerrero-Languzzi's express, written permission.  

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