April 3, 2013


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.   Enjoy!

by Yolanda A. Reid

Writing, for me, is like breathing air.

I always wrote little stories and poems as a child. We had lots of books in our home. My mom was a college professor, so during the summers she'd bring home boxes of books (literally) for us to read and have our fill. So in junior high and high school I read numerous books—especially in the summertime—as I wrote in my diaries. This, not surprisingly, turned out to be extremely beneficial for me as a writer. For that way, I practiced and fine-tuned my writing. Then, when I was about 19 years old, I wrote my first 'novel'.

I got as far as ten or so typed pages. The problem, I discovered, was that I did not know the direction of the story. The ‘novel’ opened with a young girl visiting an elderly woman. The old lady reflected my drawing of an old woman—with lots of dialogue between the crone and the girl. I also had a grand theme. But after ten or so pages, where was the story going? I had no idea.

Decades later, instead of a diary, I kept a journal. (Girls write diaries; women keep journals.) By writing my stories and poems and daily existence, I was doing as Virginia Woolf, Anais Nin, and Doris Lessing had done. I wrote down story ideas, novel ideas, synopses, chapters, essays, poems, and parts-of-novels.

Now, I think what a remarkable child and teen I was—to be writing so consistently with no visible reward (except that I wrote great, impressive essays for my classes, papers and book reports). But at the time, writing was the norm for me. My air. It was my clandestine life.

After I wrote my first novel, PORRIDGE & CUCU: MY CHILDHOOD, I began thinking of a larger more ambitious story. At the time I'd just finished reading Doris Lessing's THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK and, trying to emulate her, I had in mind a mixture of stories and folklore and family history.  I also wanted to include Panamanian history, as Isabel Allende—a writer I had read and admired—had embodied the history of Chile in some of her novels.

At the same time, I wanted to tell the story of a woman betrayed by her first love. I knew infidelity was a main theme, but I wanted her to survive and get stronger. Her name was Eulalia.

I had innumerable notes—written haphazardly when ideas came to me, and so I created a ten-page synopsis. I divided the synopsis into chapters. I tweaked the outline with a few changes. Then I began.

I took a long time writing Chapter 1, since I felt I had to cram so much into it. Theme. Foreshadowing the plot. Main characters. Also I wanted to use gorgeous language. So I went over the first page countless times, and the entire chapter at least a dozen times (probably more), tinkering with each word. That phase took about six weeks or more—after which I decided to split the chapter I'd been working on into two chapters.

I also decided to go forward. Chapters 3 and 5 basically flowed effortlessly; I was astonished that the characters took over their own fate. I had done some research into Panamanian and U.S. history—while writing the outline and synopsis, and beforehand. But, since I love doing research, I had to stop myself and just begin writing (and do the research intermittently, as needed).

In a sense, I’d been preparing to write THE HONEYEATER all of my life.

Surprisingly, I never felt overwhelmed as I wrote THE HONEYEATER.  Instead, I felt empowered.  I was, I felt, 'in the zone'. Certain sections—to this day—make me misty-eyed.  Part of the reason could be that I was crying as I wrote them.

THE HONEYEATER is very heartfelt. I loved writing it. I also love reading it, and I hope other readers will agree. ###

Yolanda A. Reid is the author of THE HONEYEATER, a contemporary women’s novel, and of PORRIDGE & CUCU: MY CHILDHOOD, a YA novel. To read a synopsis and excerpt, visit http://www.amazon.com/author/yolanda-a-reid.