Friday, November 25, 2011


by Melinda Palacio

This year I have so much to be grateful for, especially that a young woman named Blanca blessed me with enough love and confidence to carry with me after her premature death at age 44. I tell the story of my mother often, especially when discussing my novel, Ocotillo Dreams, something else to be grateful for this year. This is the year when call myself an author and meet with students, book clubs and readers across the country. I couldn’t help but give my main character Isola the characteristic of having lost her mother at about the same age I did. Everything that happens to Isola is fiction as is her estranged relationship with her mother, Marina. Unlike Isola, I was fortunate to have a close relationship with my mother. I didn’t want to write an autobiography and call it a novel. The autobiography might come much later, after I get the stories kicking around in my head out into the world.

The important lesson I’ve learned in the past ten years is to do what I love and to appreciate all life has to offer. This would seem like a manageable, if not easy task. However, when my mother died I spent so many years wallowing in self-pity. Although I took several years to recover from a deep sense of loss and depression, in Ocotillo Dreams, Isola does not have the luxury of time. The events in the novel are compressed in order to keep the action and narrative moving forward. In hindsight, I would’ve taken a page from Michele Serros who learned how to use poetry and writing as a way of upholding her mother’s memory. However, I appreciate and accept that different people don’t learn life’s tough lessons at the same speed.

Whenever I take a chance and accomplish something new, I always think of Blanca. I used to be embarrassed by how proud she was of me. She bragged about me even though I was an average ballet dancer, an average actress, an average daughter. I may have been an above average student, but that was necessary in order to get into UC Berkeley, and then UC Santa Cruz for graduate school in Comparative Literature. Now I do all the bragging myself. Talking about myself and my writing is second nature because I had a great example on how to do it.

Last Tuesday, I spoke to a literature class at Santa Barbara City College. The Chicano Studies course, The Chicana and Other Latina Women in the US, was taught by Magda Torres, an instructor who was instrumental in making sure I participated in next year’s Santa Barbara Women’s Literary Festival, along with Michele Serros. Last Thursday, I met with a Santa Barbara book club at the invitation of Leslie Dinaberg, editor of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine. The praise and support I received last week will fuel me through the holiday season. I am encouraged to work on my new novel, new poems and posts for La Bloga.

Ernest Hogan reminds us what a blessing it is to be published. I sure am grateful for the opportunity to share my work with people far away from me and even more so when someone takes the initiative to make sure I visit their university or book group. I am grateful for my recent publications in PALABRA, Hinchas #5, A Bird As Black as the Sun, and acceptances in Eleven Eleven, Phati’tude Literary Magazine, San Diego Poetry Annual, and The Mas Tequila Review. If you have any questions about how to get published, see Marcela Landres’s offer to answer questions on Rudy’s post last Saturday. Also, the current online issue of Hinchas #5, publishes a review of Ocotillo Dreams by Bojan Louis. Thank you to everyone who has made it possible for me to call myself an author.


Camila said...

We are all proud of you now! Keep following your dreams!

leslie dinaberg said...

Aww! Thanks so much for including our book club in your post, Melinda. We loved having you!