Rick Najera

 

A few years ago, I had an idea for a book and a blog come to me while I was trying to fall asleep. Any writer will tell you that ideas are fleeting — and that sleep is optional– so I quietly slipped out of bed, tip-toed out of the room as to not wake the sleeping husband, and promptly grabbed my purse and my credit card before sitting down at the computer.

I had URLs to buy, dammit.

That’s the night I launched Aspiring Mama and started working on the memoir I hope to publish one day. I didn’t know any successful writers personally. I didn’t even know any Pretty Shitty But Determined to Make it Happen writers. Hell, this was five years ago, people. That’s a lifetime in the digital age. Twitter was a verb describing that noise birds make and Facebook was MySpace’s slightly more respectable older cousin I didn’t feel like wasting my time with.

It’s okay. Obviously, I smartened up.

Back then, though, me and my Blackberry only knew how to make phone calls and I was still trying to figure out how to wash the used car salesman smell away from my soul after my previously brief (but highly convenient and yet utterly soul-sucking) foray into the world of blogging. The blog written from my dog’s point of view was brilliant but I don’t think the world was quite ready for that kind of genius. And the baby product review blogging phase means we scored free things like expensive car seats, but I walked away from it because I knew I needed the break to clear my head. My writing “voice”, the one I had honed in the newsroom, had been lost in the free baby-carrier and teething jewelry carnage, you see.

Six months later, I was awake at 3 a.m. buying Aspiringmama.com and began working on the memoir I had titled “Baby Fat: Adventures in Motherhood, Weight Loss, & Trying to Stay Sane.” (Think Erma Bombeck but with more “F” bombs.) It was this manuscript, coincidentally, that led me to Rick Najera and why I’m talking about his new book  — Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood.

Buy it on principal, y'all. Because the title alone is fucking hilarious and that needs to be recognized.

This one wins for Best Title.

 

Also important? I’ll be speaking at Rick’s April 3 reception celebrating his book launch in New York. Because that’s not the kind of thing you almost forget to mention when writing about the event at which you happen to be speaking. But I digress…

I attended the National Latino Writer’s Conference in New Mexico the following year and had been smart enough to sign up for a chance at a critique of the first 15 pages by two of the conference workshop teachers. I was already signed up for Rick Naerja’s comedy writing workshop — not because I knew who he was, mind you, but because comedy has always been a part of what I do — so I figured, “What the hell? This guy might know something about being funny.” And a few months later, there I was, sitting before Rick in our on-on-one session discussing my manuscript…and something amazing happened.

This Hollywood writer who, it turns out, is actually quite the big deal, told me I had a voice. And that it was a good one. Rick told me I was funny and more importantly, that I could write. I remember texting my husband frantically after my critique session to tell him that I had the potential to go mainstream … because RICK NAJERA SAID SO.

I could feel The Husband smiling back as I read his response. He said he liked this Rick guy. He said Rick was smart.

I read between the lines. My husband was thanking Rick for giving me something he couldn’t because This is GREAT, honey! is always suspect when sex is the end goal. While The Husband has told me from the beginning he believes in me and my words, the creative spirit in me needed the validation of an objective party. I needed to know the sleepless nights pounding away at the keyboard, the rejections, and the days where I kicked myself in the ass for thinking I could make something of this little dream, were all worth it.

It is worth it, by the way. I’m proud to be able to say to Rick that I listened, mainly because I don’t do that very often. But this time, I did and I can say I’m Latina Magazine’s Dimelo advice columnist because I kept at it. And y’all? Did you know you can actually get paid for telling people what to do while sitting on your couch without a bra on?  You can thank Rick for that visual, because he told me I had potential.

But I’m not the only one. Rick has played a crucial role in not only encouraging fellow Latino writers, actors, and comedians to not only fight for their dream, but also in creating opportunities focused on showcasing their talents. While picking up honors like earning a spot on Hispanic Business’s 100 Most Influential Latinos in America, an Alma Award for Best Writer for the 2008 film Nothing Like the Holidays, and most recently, a nod from Latin Teen Heat Entertainment for being a Hot Hollywood Dad, Rick also has helped launch the careers of countless performers in his role as director of the CBS Diversity Comedy Showcase. The 2014 Showcase alone delivered three writers to Saturday Night Live and 16 series regulars to TV. I’m sure, of course, that Rick also serving as coach, mentor, and teacher during the four months of preparation has something to do with that.

It’s because he makes us laugh. You know that, right? Comedic writers wield a power like no other, because it is through laughter that so many of us are able to process and discuss controversial or difficult subject matter. If you’ve watched one episode of In Living Color, you know what I mean. Rick Najera is a master of comedic timing and knows exactly which buttons to push so that when we get to the punchline, we aren’t just laughing…we’re thinking, too.

Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood”. I’ll give you the short version because I know you’re already planning on buying the book — which — by the way, was just nominated for Most Inspirational Non Fiction Book by Int’l Latino Book Awards. Basically, Rick says dream big or go home. The focus, of course, is on the Dreaming Big part, because Rick is inspiring and not an asshole. When you want something, you make it happen.

Since we’re talking about change and forging our own paths, let’s talk about diversity and Latino representation in Hollywood. I’ve always subscribed to the Write What You Know philosophy. For a long time I think I had convinced myself that every writer thinks like this, but the truth is that white males dominate in the writer’s rooms. Without real world experience from which to draw upon when creating the Latino characters and culturally-themed story-lines the public is calling for, their attempts fall flat and are oftentimes stereotypical and offensive.

Jesenia, Co-Creator of The Comedy Girls (and apparently too fancy for a last name) is another Latino fighting for more diversity. She’s made it her personal mission to get a Latin American FEMALE cast member on SNL. She says, and I quote, “Because Latin Americans are only represented accurately when we are representing ourselves, we need to not only continue creating high quality, non-stereotype content – we also need to step out of constantly boxing ourselves into the Latino category, and instead create work that speaks to all audiences of every race.”
I’ll high five you Jesenia for that one later. Because what she says here is that the responsibility in how we are portrayed in the media is not one we can just pass off on Hollywood. And that, my friends, leads us right back to Rick, being Almost White in Hollywood, and encouraging Latin American writers to keep knocking on those closed doors. If it never opens, we knock a new hole in another wall, pull up a table and some chairs, and write the stories that we know need to be told.
***If you’re in New York, I’d love to see you there! Click here for ticket information. I’m driving four hours to the closest train station so I can not have to think for the remaining 6 hours of the trip, so I don’t want to hear bitching about how traffic in the city is a nightmare. Suck it up, show up, and a good time shall be had by all.

 

 

Follow the words, y'all

 

Sometimes I like to look up the search terms that lead people to Aspiring Mama. Usually this happens after a random conversation I have with a real person like The Husband or my kid or the one neighbor who’s house I can see from the end of my drive (as opposed to the pretend people that live inside of my iPhone).

Today’s foray into RandomSearchTermLandia was spurred on by Monday’s blog post showcasing my girl and her daddy in their kilts and The Husband muttering something about his legs being all over the internet again. When I called him Kilt Daddy and told him to show me his Irish, he totally thought he was getting lucky later and, sadly, I had to tell him that was gonna have to wait for me to finish writing for the day. It took him a minute before he was all Who is this Kilt Daddy?

Reason # 9,487 I usually write nonfiction

So I showed him. Since publishing the original post two years ago, that very term has been one of the most popular internet searches leading readers directly to Aspiring Mama. Other winners include

*Advice Columns of Satire

* Funny Stories About Maine

* Pictures of Finger Monkeys

* Do Cats Blink

* Multiple Women Naked Bodies

* How Much is a Baby Finger Monkey?

*Autosucking

and

* Broken Legs or Sprain Ankles of Famous Persons

 

Just remember, y’all, while Google may be telling you the truth when it shows you The Husband’s sexy legs when you ask it for the Kilt Daddy, Google is a damned liar about the finger monkey expert thing. That, my friends, was one blog post from way back when that was the first thing ever pinned by a reader and how I learned Pinterest had been invented.

Oh, and that one about the broken ankle? In my defense, there was a lot of meat on that sandwich.

 

 

 

 

I’m doing something a bit different today. The always wonderful Kate Sluiter of Sluiter Nation invited me to participate in the My Writing Process Blog Tour. Obviously, I said yes.

Kate even said some very pretty words about me so I need to buy her some fancy chocolate, I think.

Now I get to answer a few questions about how I put words on the screen and you get to stop by Kate’s post (and leave a comment because they are sparkly and shiny and we writer blogger people love sparkly shiny comments) and then you get to read mine (and leave some sparkly shiny stuff over here, too.)

Ready? Good…

1 – What am I working on?

A stroke? A brain aneurysm? Setting a world record for the least amount of recorded sleep in a lifetime? Possibly all of the above. But I’m also trying to keep my blog slightly relevant by occasionally remembering it actually exists. That’s important. I’ve also got the weekly Dimelo column online and my monthly column for the Latina Magazine. That, and digging through my column inbox, takes up a fair amount of my time. Of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m also working on deciding if I should selfpublish a memoir that got me agented once upon a time (we’ve since broken up — on good terms, y’all –  and agreed to see other people) or if I should just let it go. Many a writer has many a manuscript written and revised and polished to perfection that will never see the light of day. For some, it’s the book that got them the agent. For others, it’s the book that was written to prove to themselves they could, in fact, write a book. I’ll let you know when I figure out which way I’m going with this one.

The main reason I don’t sleep right now is because the paying gigs (hello #Dimelo) come first and the Wanna Do’s come after. My current Wanna Do is my new novel. It’s tentatively titled Diary of a Mexican-American Teenager and follows Mina, a 15-year-old Mexican-America eating-disordered girl, as she struggles to find herself in a culture that prefers to save face rather than bring disgrace upon the family. It’s very much based on my own experiences, but like any fiction piece based on real events, I have a lot of room to address topics I wouldn’t otherwise be able to touch in a non-fiction piece, seeing as how my family knows what the internet is. I’m still in the early writing stages, but I’m finishing this thing it kills me, dammit.

2- How Does My Work Differ from Others of this Genre?

Lots of Spanglish typos.

Okay, seriously, I think it’s my lack of filter and my ability to turn the filter completely off and tackle the hard stuff. I’m sarcastic and self-deprecating and inappropriate and like to use the word “fuck” like most use salt and pepper in the kitchen — add just the right amount and what tasted good before now takes fucking fantastic with just a few shakes of the right seasoning. But add too much and Perfect turns into an episode of Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsey minus the bleeps.

I also am proud of my ability to capture fatalistic humor — a trait Latinos are known for — in my writing. I once wrote about the moment my father died and those who’ve read it have cried and then laughed and then laugh-cried. And in all the right places, too. I think my dad would be proud.

All of these traits are going into Diary. And yes, even the F-bombs. I was 15 once, after all. And so were you.

3- Why Do I Write What I Do?

Because I’d be in a padded room otherwise. Writing is my release. They say to write what you know and I was doing that before I knew “they” were a thing and that what I was doing was a saying.

I talk about motherhood and body image and eating disorders and self-confidence and self-perception and growing up balancing the tightrope of a hyphen between two cultures because this is what I have lived (and and am living). Too many of us are raised to internalize. To not rock the boat.

I hate that.

From my blog to my journals to my books (written and yet to be) I am the happy accident rocking the boat and ignoring the grumbles and glares from the crowd. I’m the one with the sailor-worthy language cheering on the chingonas while people who know me in real life secretly hope I just shut up for once. I won’t. Because I say what I need to hear and write what I need to read in the hopes of connecting with others searching for the same.

4 – How Does Your Writing Process Work?

BUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA!

Oh that’s rich. *wipes tears*

Let’s see if I can capture this accurately.

* Wake up at 10 a.m.

* Curse the sun

* Drag myself out of bed

* Feed self & child with food items that do not require actual thought

* Check email, twitter, Facebook, and grumble about the lack of book deal offers in any of my social media channels

* Work on homeschool lessons

* Open laptop for quick writing session while the child reads independently

* Close laptop to take care of the dishes, the laundry, bill-paying

* Open laptop to write and get lost in Pinterest-hell instead

* Open Word to write when Latina editor texts for a We Need it NOW revision

* Finish revision about the time the child finishes reading time

* Tell myself I’ll write after dinner

* Tell myself I’ll write after book, bath, bed routine

* Tell myself I’ll write after the dishes are done. Again.

* Tell myself I’ll write after The Husband gets his happy time

* Cross “sex” off the To-Do list

* Tell myself I’ll write after I pack his lunch for work the next day

* Tell myself I’ll write now because it’s 11:30 p.m. and my writing process is going exactly as planned

* Open laptop

* Stare at blinking cursor

* Say the words “You are totally my bitch” to the cursor.

* Wonder if anyone else is convinced the cursor is actually telling them to “go fuck themselves” with every blink back

* Grit teeth

* Glare at the cursor for being so…judgmental

* Grit teeth again

* Dive in to the words already written for reference

* Because I totally pantsed the first three chapters

* Just like I did the first book I wrote that was never published

* Because I’m ADHD and planning and outlining are super cute

* Plus? I’m a realist

* Find myself staring at the bitchy cursor again

* My brain is formulating

* Because I can’t type a word until the entire scene (or blog post, column, news piece) has written itself in my head

* EUREKA!

* Tell myself I am FUCKING BRILLIANT as I furiously type and type

* Plan my first extravagant purchase to celebrate hitting the NYT bestseller list

*Re-read what I just wrote, grumble, delete, start over

* Type furiously some more

* Gasp, spent, when the jumble of words being channeled from brain to fingers has come to an end

* Swear profusely when I realize it is now 3:30 a.m.

* Close laptop

* Doubt everything

* Talk myself out of not sharing because

* If it needed to be written, it’s meant to be shared

* Brush teeth

* Utilize ninja-like skills as to not wake The Warden as I sneak into bed

* Fall asleep almost instantly because the words I needed to get out have been written

* Rinse, lather, repeat.

And there you have it. The not-so-structured writing life I lead. If madness is a process, I’ve got this.

 

Now for the next stop on the Writing Process Blog Tour.

Megan Jordan of Veleveteen Mind is the brilliance behind Story Bleed Magazine, a knife-juggler (or so she says), host of the BlogHer People’s Party, and writes for Babble. Basically, she’s all that and a bag of really good chips. Plus? Megan has a way with words I can only describe as magical.

Robin O’Bryant of Robin’s Chicks is a syndicated humor columnist and the author of Ketchup is a Vegetable (and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves) . This woman busted her ass, took her self-published book to the NYT bestseller list on her own, and scored a two-book deal because THAT’S HOW YOU DO IT,  BITCHES.

 

The. End.

 

 

 
You know those stories that are never funny when it’s happening but always hilarious later? Yeah, that happens to me all the time. Here’s a little gem from an incident from way long ago. The Husband and I were a shiny-new married couple and I was still in the early stages of learning how to cook because I love my mother but I came into this marriage with zero culinary skills. Trust me on this one, y’all.
***
“It tastes like pureed fire ants,” I said, dropping the pizza slice I had been trying to force myself to eat. “Just throw it away. You don’t have to eat it to make me feel better.”
He blinked, not unlike a deer looking into a fast approaching set of headlights. If he stayed still long enough would the car not see him?
“Are you sure?” He was understandably hesitant. Who could blame him? Before him sat his new 20-something wife who had just spent hours in the kitchen working on a homemade pizza with a made from scratch sauce recipe that had gone horribly wrong. The look of doubt on his face when I told him he was off the hook told me he was pretty sure he had signed something legally obligating himself to pretending to like anything I set down in front of him…at least until I gained 10 pounds and the pressure was off.
“Yes, I’m sure,” I said. I refused to let myself cry. Just because I had baked a pie so God-awful that I couldn’t even swallow a bite without wanting to vomit didn’t mean I couldn’t hold on to a bit of dignity, right? “It sucks. Just throw it away.”
He didn’t have to be asked a third time. The garbage disposal was erasing any remnants of the nightmare I had prepared and the plates washed before I could wipe away the tear that was dangling from my bottom lashes. Instead of breaking into hysterics, I threw back a glass of wine and poured another.
Seeing me visibly relaxed, my husband decided it was safe to speak. Specifically, he wanted to know what the hell had happened in the kitchen. I wasn’t in the running for my own cooking show based on my culinary talents, but I knew how to follow a recipe.
I leaned back against the kitchen counter to think where I had gone wrong while sipping my wine. I compared my shopping list against the ingredients listed in the recipe. I went over my steps and the recipe directions. It all checked out.
Except…
“This is probably what did it,” I squeaked out, realizing my mistake.
“This” was my mother-in-law’s homemade dehydrated habanero peppers, more affectionately known as Death Dust. A little goes a long way in a stockpot full of chili and a lot makes a single batch of pizza sauce taste like, well, pureed fire ants.
“How much did you use?” He asked. “You know you’re only supposed to throw a pinch of that stuff into anything if you want to add some heat, right? A pinch.
He demonstrated for effect.
“Well, I started with a pinch. Then I thought a inch was for pansies so I added more,” my voice breaking. “And now I’m a horrible failure and can’t cook and please don’t tell anyone about this ever because Oh My God did that pizza taste like…like…”
“Pureed fire ants?”  What a good husband. Thanks for reminding me. 
“Yeah, that.”
He laughed. I cried.
And then we called for take out.

 

 

What does one buy her husband to make up for the general craziness of the writing/blogging/freelancing life putting the sex life on the back burner when Important Things Are Happening that Must Be Attended to Right This Minute? I’m thinking the man-equivalent to Something Shiny and Sparkly.

Don’t say a Ferrari. I’m freelancing. That Writer-Speak for “Looks Good On Paper Only” with “Fucking Broke” understood to be the most accepted translation. Besides, it’s not like I came home smelling like another man’s cologne or something. That, my friends, would require what normal people tend to refer to as “Free Time”.  I have been told this “Free Time” is something one can only find outside of The Internet and requires the separation, if only temporary, mind you, of self and laptop. Always interesting, this learning about the habits of the Non-Writer.

The other night, after a frantic nod to, um, Quality Time, (and a “Was That Good For You? Yes? Good!,” exchange as I bolted out of the room and into my email to reply to a revision request from my editor, I realized I’m married to a saint. I mean, I knew that before Oh Husband Whom I Know is Reading These Words, but sometimes, the little Aha! Moments tend to jump out and say You Have No Idea How Difficult You Are to Live With Sometimes and Why is Pinterest Giving His Penis a Complex?

Let’s discuss, shall we? Or would it be easier to just get a calendar and a Sharpie and circle the other days of the month indicating:

  • Deadlines
  • Twitter parties
  • Sherlock
  • That blog post I REALLY need to write about that thing that just went viral that I’ll go to my grave swearing a tiny part of me wasn’t convinced my brilliant response would go viral, too
  • General stabbiness because ten different bloggers TOLD me I’m a much better writer than that two-bit hack that went viral only because she got lucky (after I asked them, of course)
  • My fictional characters in that novel I’m writing just acted out the next scene inside my head I have to write RIGHT now or I lose it all
  • The kid drove me nuts all day
  • PINTEREST
  • Live-tweeting Downton Abby
  • I got in a phone fight with his mom
  • I got in a phone fight with my mom
  • We’re out of chocolate
  • We’re out of wine
  • We’re out of chocolate-flavored wine
  • The hours I need to comb through blog archives in search of THE PERFECT PIECE of literary wit to submit to –
  • A) Listen To Your Mother
  • B) Blogher Voices of the Year
  • That Facebook quiz I need to take to figure out what character I’m most like in Harry Potter, which leads me to the one about what kind of French cheese I am
  • The dishes in the sink that aren’t gonna do themselves
  • The fifteenth online book launch party this month for yet another friend I can’t let down
  • The twitter argument I have to finish with this idiot who has no fucking clue who they’re messing with
  • The planets are out of alignment
  • Mercury is in retrograde …. Again
  • File another invoice while secretly cursing the chick with the 300 Sandwiches and the book deal
  • I’m busy buying 19 more URL’s for ideas I’ll never get to…just in case
  • Frantic text conversations with the online friends I’ve yet to meet in person discussing Important Things like how many pairs of shoes to pack for that conference none of us have actually purchased tickets for yet
  • My 1,000 word goal for the day is still 989 words short
  • The NEED to Google my blog Alexa rank RIGHT NOW even though I still have no idea what it means
  • Which, obviously, is to be followed up by checking my Klout score
  • *Googling “Does Klout Matter to People who don’t think in 140?
  • I haven’t yet taken 30 selfies from different angles, narrowed it down to the perfect one, and thought up a witty caption for that #365feministselfie thing and posted it EVERYWHERE before I even THINK of getting naked
  • That important email I’m waiting for that will show up right now if I keep hitting refresh
  • The conference call I’m waiting on in east coast time with everybody else in west coast time
  • The kid drove me nuts all day & we’re out of chocolate-flavored wine
  • The writing and scheduling of next week’s blog posts
  • When I was frisky while he was at work and I was home alone and I took care of it myself already because I was being proactive and really should be congratulated for thinking ahead to free up my night to …
  • Pick any of the above

Damn. Poor guy puts up with a lot, doesn’t he?

We writers are a special bunch. And the people who are nuts enough to love us deserve their own reality shows, I think. Because when we make it big? That’s when we make it up to them and they can proudly tell the world they knew marrying the crazy lady would totally pay off in the end.

Just let me finish up this chapter so I can write this blog post and hit Publish because dammit, this one’s gonna go viral.

I just know it.

 

Social links powered by Ecreative Internet Marketing