March 6, 2013

WRITERS WEDNESDAY: Eleanor Parker

The Latina Book Club's mission is to promote Latina / Latino authors, which we do through book reviews, author interviews, publicity announcements, book of the month selections, etc.  A new feature we are adding is "Writers Wednesdays."  The first Wednesday of each month we will feature a Latina / Latino writer talking about .....writing.   We welcome published and pre-published writers.  The Latina Book Club thanks Ellie Parker for being our first guest.



Eleanor Parker Sapia
If you’re like me, questions pop into your head before you begin reading a new book. I wonder what the author is like, how their story came to be and who the characters in their story are based on.

My novel-length manuscript, A DECENT WOMAN, began as a five-page tribute to my Puerto Rican grandmother on her 90th birthday. I was living in Belgium at the time, so the tribute was my gift to Meme.When I called my grandmother, she said, “You listened well, nena.” I could see her big grin in my mind’s eye as we spoke.

I was the kid who sat at Meme’s feet, urging her for one more story and she had many of growing up poor in the Playa de Ponce and marrying well. I knew Meme’s stories by heart and could always tell when she embellished or left out juicy details! My grandmother was a master storyteller and it came as no surprise that one of my protagonists, Isabél, is based on her life. Meme's life could have been viewed as a Puerto Rican fairy tale, but it was also laced with much pain and sadness. However, the character of Ana came as a surprise.

My mother, her siblings and my aunt were delivered into the world with the help of a local midwife, a comadrona named Doña Ana. No one remembered where Doña Ana was from but, all the women spoke of her with respect and reverence. My aunt thought Ana had come from the island of Martinique and Meme thought she was Cuban. Both remembered that Ana smoked a cigar after every birth.

Before my first child was born, Meme presented me with a rag doll. I immediately knew who it was – it was Doña Ana. Meme fashioned the doll’s body out of black cotton fabric, used white fabric for a turban and a white peasant blouse and a bright floral fabric for the doll’s long skirt. My grandmother added white buttons for eyes and even added tiny gold hoop earrings, argollas. I still have that doll and wonder if my grandmother, who was very spiritual, had given me an enchanted doll.

Ten years later, I wrote my novel and included Ana in my story. Ana grew more and more interesting as a character until finally, she became the main character. At times, I felt as if Ana whispered in my ear as I wrote. Although I never met Ana nor are there any known photographs of her, I felt connected to her and gave her life.

My novel is about the friendship of Ana and Isabél from 1900 to 1960 in Puerto Rico. It is a story of stark contrasts because of the different lives they lead, but in the end, the commonalities the women share make them comadres, in the literal sense of the word.###



BIO:  Ellie Parker Sapia is a writer, poet, artist and blogger who lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Originally from Alexandria, Virginia and born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Ellie is the author of A DECENT WOMAN, her novel-length manuscript that is ready for representation and publication. Ellie is mother to two fantastic young adults, a Pug and a kitten that adopted her when her nest should have remained empty, but she wouldn't have it any other way! She writes books in her quirky 106-year old house with the drafty windows and at her place on the Potomac River in West Virginia when the weather is good. Ellie loves fountain pens, nature, and is blessed to do what she loves.