Category Archives: Writing

Short Stories and Updates

In Other Words: Mérida

I have not been blogging too regularly as of late… there has been SO MUCH going on…

A couple of weeks ago, I met with Cher Bibler, the content editor of “In Other Words: Mérida” (IOW:M) This bi-monthly e-zine (an online literary magazine) offers a publishing opportunity for writers living in and around Mérida

Cher has been a resident of Mérida for several years now and has multiple creative pursuits, including theater and music. She exemplifies the ageless maxim: “Pursuing one creative outlet opens the door to the next.”

In the e-zine’s first post, Cher says:

“Bubbling under the surface of this colonial city in Mexico is a teeming mass of creative minds, some of whom create in the English language. So many, in fact, we thought it a movement that needed to be recorded as it progressed. Our steely tentacles have reached out beyond the city into the surrounding countryside and collected up the best fiction and poetry that we can find, and we encapsulate it for your perusal. And plan to continue to do so, on a roughly bimonthly basis, as long as the tentacles survive. Our reach grows ever larger – is no one safe? We look forward to the adventure, and we hope you do, too.”

In Other Words Mérida accepts submissions in the English or Spanish language. They welcome: fiction, poetry,        editorials, essays and interviews from Mérida area writers. The e-zine also showcases photographers and other artists. You can view the May 2012 issue: http://www.inotherwordsmerida.com There you’ll also find the guidelines for having your work included in a future issue.

Some new writers worry that they aren’t “ready” but… you have to be published to get published some more! Cher urges you to send your material.

The team at “In Other Words – Merida” includes:

Cher Bibler – content editor (English language)

Katie Brewer – managing editor

Fer de la Cruz – content editor (Spanish language)

Julie Stewart – interviews

*** The three images that accompany the text of this post are from the IOW:M website.

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The Young People

I am honored that Elena Poniatowska has given me permission to translate and print an article she wrote for the Mexico City newspaper “La Jornada.”

You may or may not know that Elena Poniatowska is Mexico’s premier writer and journalist. She has won countless national and international awards but she claims her greatest joy is her family. On her 80th birthday she was asked if she would keep writing, “Oh yes, I have to…” she said,” I want to dedicate a book to each of my grandchildren!”

 Elena is the author of “Massacre in Mexico”, the chronicle that gave voice to the victims of the 1968 tragedy at Tlatelolco. She loves Mexico and says that the spontaneous student movement, begun on May 11,th  has filled her with new hope and energy.

 She wrote this article: “The Young People” for all the #Yo soy 132 supporters – those who are young and those who are young at heart.

 ¡Viva México!

THE YOUNG PEOPLE

 BY:   ELENA PONIATOWSKA

One Sunday, fifty years ago, I went to Los Remedios with my son Mane and the engraver Alberto Beltran. We had to climb over a small hill and I could see that for 5 year old Mane, this required a great effort. I stretched out my hand. “Leave him alone, he has to learn to do it on his own,” said Alberto Beltran. At the time I worried that my son would fall. I didn’t get it then, but now I understand and I am thankful.

I am telling this little story because of the student movement that began on May 11th with  jeering, whistling and yelling aimed at the PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto.

This movement has released the spirit of Mexican people, and for this very reason, it is important that we not take advantage of the young people. They must not be used, and what they had the ability to start – all on their own, without help from any political party or figurehead, must not be taken away from them.

The #Yo soy 132 movement has already won some victories:

  • They have been heard throughout the country and no one has shut them down.
  • They have forced the national television stations to comply with Article 62 of the Federal Radio & Television laws and commit to broadcasting the second presidential debate.
  • The students have obliged the Secretariat of State and Immigration to remove the barricades that impeded public access.
  • They have demanded that Televisa and TV Azteca answer their questions.
  • Their actions caused Enrique Peña Nieto to declare that he will not speak at any more universities.
  • The students have asked for political charges to be leveled against Calderon, Peña Nieto and Elba Ester Gordillo.
  • But perhaps in the long run, their greatest achievement will have been to unite the private and public university students.

Working class guys from the public high schools and stylish girls from exclusive Ibero are all # 132.

The young people have put our election in the world’s eyes. Now we are seen as more than news about the drug wars. The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc. are all watching Mexico’s youth.

The letter written by the Rector of the Ibero, José Morales Orozco, stipulates that he will protect his students because they are free, intelligent beings.

At conferences I am commonly asked about the differences between the young people of 1968 and those of today. I perpetually answer that youth is always the same. Now they have shown that this is true.

Today’s students, like those of ’68 are willing to stand up for Mexico, and they don’t need anyone to tell them how to do so.

PS: I am doubly pleased to print this article today because it is my 400th post. I did not plan it this way, it just happened… one of México’s lovely serendipitous surprises.

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Writing Your Life

I received a call today from my friend Maricarmen Perez, of the Secretariat of Culture for the State of Yucatan. She wanted to tell me about a very interesting course in memoir writing that will be held every Tuesday for the next eight weeks.

The course is called “Writing Your Life” and is actually for Spanish language writers, but Maricarmen told me that even if you write in English as long as you have a good knowledge of Spanish, you can take the workshop.

The instructor will be Celia Pedrero. Ms. Pedrero was born in Mérida. She is a journalist and she also writes for radio. She is the founder of the Yucatecan Writers´Center.

The first day will be Tuesday June 5th, and as I mentioned, the workshop will be held every Tuesday for 8 weeks. There are both morning and afternoon classes. You can elect to go from 9 – 11 am or from 7 – 9 pm.

The cost is 350 pesos per month; 700 pesos for the whole course

The class will be held in the Writers’ School at the Bellas Artes complex on Avenida Itzaes.

You can reserve your place in the group by calling:  930-7449 extension: 54007 7 or  54017 7

I will be attending and I hope to see you there…

Images: Poster advertising the course. The instructor, the Bellas Artes complex

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Calling all writers…

Our city has always been known as the cultural capital of south-eastern Mexico.  Mind you, until a few decades ago Mérida alone had a sizable population. Cancun could barely be called a ranchito, and Villa Hermosa looked like a frontier town if you ever saw one. Back in the day, Campeche (yawn-n-n-n) could not be described as a place you’d want to write home about.

Now Mérida is no longer the largest city on the peninsula  (it’s still bigger than Campeche) but culturally, it has them all beat – Hands down in my humble opinion.

Meeting other writers has become a common experience in la ciudad blanca. They write about everything. Mystery, romance, self help, history, memoir, travel and every other genre out there! There are bloggers, playwrights, and poets too.

I am compiling a list of Spanish language writers and English language writers living in the area (full or part time) I will share the names and contacts with the participants and we could use it to distribute information about upcoming conferences, workshops, book releases and signings, open mic locations and the like.

Most writers I know want two things: exposure and information. If you’d like to be in the directory, please send me:

Your full name

Your email address and blog address, if you have one

The language you write in

A short description of what you like to write about

My email is: writingfrommerida@gmail.com

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Past, Present and Future

My paternal grandfather’s family in Amsterdam about 1900

This is a photograph of my great grandparents: Walther Simon Joseph van Waterschoot van der Gracht and Maria Cornelia Adriana Josepha van der Does de Willebois. You will note they had three sons and one daughter.

My next writing project will tell the story of my family, beginning with Walter Simon and Maria Cornelia’s marriage about 1870. I will illustrate daily life in the Netherlands and then follow my grandfather all over the globe… to Arabia, Borneo, Indonesia, Australia, Antarctica and everywhere in between.

Joseph was trained as a geologist. He was also an accomplished painter and learned many other skills during his lifetime. He and his brother Willem, also a geologist, traveled to San Francisco in about 1915 to explore oil reserves in the southern USA. My grandmother, a suffragette, soon arrived on the scene to sweep him off his feet.

A small pretty woman, Florence Ross had a powerful persona. It was she who asked her husband to shorten the family moniker from “van Waterschoot van der Gracht” to a more manageable “van der Gracht.” Joseph never returned to Holland, and his large family (about 100 descendents) lives primarily in Canada.

Our family story is full of interesting characters, migration between continents, adventure and no small share of mystery and intrigue. The research alone is taking a great deal of sleuthing – thank God for Google Search and the assistance of a couple of historians that I am in touch with. I am looking for the recommendation of a book about 19th century Western Europe. Anyone who can point me in the right direction will have my eternal gratitude.

So if I don’t post for a few consecutive days… just assume I am digging through the past, comparing it with the present and wondering how it will affect the future…

Me with my grandparents in 1953

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DOT . COM (IV)

Molly licked her lips… she had landed ‘the big one’ this time. Three weeks ago, the long leisurely lunch at “Las Mañanitas had been the prelude to an unexpectedly ‘delicious’ afternoon. She decided she’d handle Peter a bit differently than the other two. The payoff could wait… she deserved to enjoy herself a little.

His suntanned torso glistened with sweat as they headed up the trail behind the ski hills. He said he enjoyed nothing more than a good brisk hike on a clear afternoon. She had to agree. When they reached the entrance to the chairlifts, he suggested they sit off to one side and rest amongst the trees. He took his pack off and brought out two delicate acrylic wine flutes along with a bottle of Pinot Grigio in a thermal pack.

“Wine?” asked Molly, “We still have to get back down…”

“But this is a special occasion…” Peter said as he rummaged around again in his pack and brought out a black velvet     pouch. He withdrew a two carat solitaire. “Marry me Molly. Make me the happiest man in the world.”

Caught off guard, she wondered if this could be the real thing. Had she found true love? Looking into his aqua eyes, she said, “Yes Peter, of course I’ll marry you!”

Her bridegroom reached for her, and wrapped in his arms she didn’t see him activate the tiny microphone that had been sewn into the seam of his day pack. She talked on and on about the wedding she wanted, the honeymoon and of course, the ‘Happy Ever After.’ The wine seemed to be loosening her tongue more than she’d ever allowed. He kept pouring more…

“I’ve never been married Molly. You’ve been widowed twice; can you tell me about your husbands?” He wondered if he’d gone too far when he saw the dark look cross her features. Her mouth turned down and her eyes narrowed. “Have another glass Darling, this is a day to be festive.” She drank up…

“My first husband had a heart condition and the second was a drug addict.”

Peter’s eyes glistened. “Why did you marry them?” he asked her.

She needed to be careful; the wine threatened to spill years of pent-up secrets. But she wanted to keep his trust and so she began an edited version of her ‘tormented life.’ Husband Number One’s health deteriorated before her eyes; Number Two had deceived her from the get-go. She had never dreamed he would debase himself as he did.

‘Now we’re getting somewhere,’ thought Peter. He continued to discretely pry details from her, and she kept drinking wine. “How did you stand it my Angel; two terrible marriages. I hope there was some compensation…”

“I suffered greatly; I felt relief when they passed on – especially the second one. But at least I inherited from both, and I have my jewelry.”

Peter knew he’d almost collected enough information to convict her. “Come on Molly, we’ve got to get back.” He needed to carry her almost all the way, but while draped across his shoulder, her incoherent mind verbalized still more details of her life with Lalo.

“He forced me to get the drugs for him. He threatened to hurt me if I didn’t. One night, I accidently left his bottle of “OxyContin”  on the bedside table… she shrugged and rolled her eyes: “I guess he took too much.”

“Did you try to revive him?” Peter asked.

“No I could see he was a gonner.” She told her fiancé she’d actually seen Lalo take his last ragged breath. “It was for the best. I put the pills away, and straightened up. Then I called his brother.”

Bingo! Peter lifted Molly into the car, and drove her to his home. Once inside he pried the ring from her finger and got   her into the shower. When she’d sobered up, he played the tape of her drunken confession. “I work for Mauricio, and unless you give me everything you own, I’m giving him this tape. The police will lock you up and you’ll never get out.”

Molly recognized the steel in his eyes; she saw the same thing in the mirror each and every morning. She had to think fast. “We’ll go to the bank in the morning.”

“No, no, no… a girl like you has a safe; take me to see it.” Peter whistled when she brought out the large attaché case filled with cash and jewels. There had to be $5,000,000 in there. Much more than he figured on… why get greedy? “I’m going to drive you home, but don’t you ever forget about the tape.

“Thank God,” thought Molly; she was down but not broke. There was still the bank safety deposit box.

She practically jumped from the car… “Never again!” she told him, “Never again will I let this happen!”

Ever cynical, Peter blew her a kiss: “Win some, lose some Sugar.” His Porsche tires spun on the gravel as he raced off. Once home again, he poured a large glass of single malt. He dialed Mauricio’s number. “I´m sorry,” Mr. Panadini… the resemblance was uncanny but the girl is not Monica.

“What about the drug she put in your drink?”

“It didn’t really happen like that; I have to confess I simply drank too much and my imagination got the better of me.” He spent a whole hour convincing the disappointed man that there would be no point in keeping up the chase. He hung up, poured another Scotch, walked to his computer and went on line… ‘Let’s see what we come across this evening?’

Six miles away, Monica-Molly settled into her bed with her HP on her lap. She booted up and typed: ‘Marry-Me-Dot-Com

Visuals: from Google Images

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DOT . COM (III)

“Are you absolutely sure?” asked the voice on the phone. “How long have you been searching the on-line dating sites in hopes of finding her?”

“It’s been over a year now Mauricio. I knew she’d look for a new way to meet her next victim, and an internet hook-up would provide the anonymous identity she requires. Remember that the detective from Cleveland is also anxious to question her about the suspicious death of one of his city’s wealthy older men.”

Peter continued, “Even though she’s slimmer and wears a different hairstyle, when I saw her picture, I recognized Monica from the videos and photographs you gave me. She calls herself Molly now.”

“Well I’d call her by an altogether different name! Stay on track Peter. I want my brother Lalo’s death to be avenged. I want her behind bars.

The Panadini brothers had always been close. Growing up poor, they’d had to hustle since boyhood and their determination to see the family safe from poverty had been all-consuming. Neither of them had married but the two men felt content knowing that they’d made a rousing success of their restaurant chain. Their twelve large bistros had a steady local clientele and tourists also flocked to the “Bella Vita” locations close to the ski hills.

The opening of a high-end tavern had been the beginning of the end. Lalo had told Mauricio, “We need a classy gal to manage the new place… someone who can handle the snooty tourists from upstate.” Both brothers looked ecstatic when Monica sashayed into their office and applied for the position.

Every day Mauricio asked himself how he had failed to see that his brother had fallen like a stone for the long-legged opportunist. Lalo married Monica and almost immediately, his health began to decline. She put who knows what kind of drugs into his food and drink until poor the besotted fool was a hopeless addict. He died of an overdose and of course, his wife inherited half of the family holdings. Mauricio gave Monica a lump settlement and “the grieving widow” quickly disappeared.

Two months after she had been long-gone, Mauricio put two and two together. He hired Peter, who tracked down Monica’s dealer and collected other incriminating evidence. They had a case now, but no perpetrator! The search began… “Don’t let her slip away,” the distraught man begged. “I dare not,” the private investigator told him, “I didn’t want to tell you but she shook something into my wine last night, if I don’t stay on my toes, I’ll also be lying six feet under.”

The next morning, as Molly stretched and twisted herself into a Yoga pretzel, the phone    rang. She jumped up to answer… she knew it would be last night’s sexy suitor. Peter Brown was a handsome man… maybe she’d hang onto him a little longer than the other two?

“Molly, I feel so stupid for falling asleep in my cups last night; how can I make it up to you?”

“No need to feel bad; it happens. But here’s an idea… why don’t I meet you for lunch and maybe a drive afterwards? “Las Mañanitas” is a favorite of mine.” She knew just where she’d take him afterwards… to the mountains. he’d be excited… and she’d let one thing need to the next.

“Where do you live Molly, I’ll pick you up.”

“Not necessary Peter, I have some errands in town. I’ll meet you at “Las Mañanitas” at 1:00 pm.

They both rang off, and Molly smiled in anticipation of the game about to unfold…  But Peter held the trump…she had no idea that he was a player too.

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