DVPit: An Emotional Journey

Motivation & Inspiration
1. Wait, there’s a Twitter Pitch contest just for marginalized creators?
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2. Someone actually thinks we’re important enough to be given a spotlight, to take up space within this community, to create a loving vibrant community of our own?
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3. Who is Beth? Beth is an angel. Beth is a warrior. Beth will save us all.
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4. Oooh look at all these success stories! I will now print photos of the legendary DVPit squad and put them up around my house so I can absorb their big book energy.
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5. And pictures of their book covers, which I will roll around in to absorb their word magic.
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6. Now my expectations are sky high. I will win DVPit (even though there is no winning/losing because we’re all in this together) and I will get an agent and sell my book and make that sweet white-man-money that will definitely be illegal soon.
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7. Okay, six pitches…six pitches…I can definitely distill my 86,000 word novel into a series of 280-character tweets that show the characters, the world, and the emotional stakes. Es muy fácil.
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8. No es fácil.
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9. Okay, WWTDSD? What Would The DVPit Squad Do? Oh, look there’s a video where Claribel explains exactly what she would do. And one from Kat Cho. And articles from Kayla Whaley, and Jalissa Corrie, and this Resources page is BOMB!
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10. Crisis averted. I got this. Now let’s draft these bitches. I mean pitches.
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11. These are shit.
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12. Maybe I should meditate and the perfect pitch will just come to me. That’s how visualization works, right?
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13. Oh shit, I fell asleep.
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14. That’s okay, everything looks better in the morning ligh–oh no! What are these? Vomit. Word vomit. All over my good pajamas.
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15. No worries. Writing is re-writing. Writing is re-writing.
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16. Okay, these aren’t bad.
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17. And look, there’s so many awesome publishing people offering to critique pitches for free. All I have to do is slide into their DMs. No big deal. Just talk to a total stranger. I can do that. I can talk to strangers. I kan tok to stran ears.

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18. I can’t talk to strangers.

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19. Okay, so this is just gonna be a hail mary, then. No one has seen these pitches but me, which means they could be terrible. I could be about to embarrass myself in front of the entire publishing community. Immediately made an outcast. Put to death.

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20. The night before DVPit. Better get some good sleep. Big day tomorrow. Like the biggest day. The most important day of your life is tomorrow why are you sleeping you must stay awake and agonize over this great unknown until it consumes you whole and then picks its teeth with your shoe laces. You’re not wearing shoes? Who goes to bed without shoes? What are you going to do if the zombie apocalypse comes or nuclear war breaks out?

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21. It’s 5 AM. 3 more hours until DVPit.

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22. Wait a minute. DVPit starts on east coast time. NOW I ONLY HAVE TWO MORE HOURS TO BECOME THE BEST WRITER I’VE EVER BEEN AND THE MOST PERFECT VERSION OF MYSELF.

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23. Let me just re-read my pitches.

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24. And re-read them again.

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25. And re-read them eight hundred times until the letters are melting off the page and I’m late for my day job that actually pays my bills. Oh shit, I forgot to pay the electric bill. $145? How can something invisible be $145? I must immediately search every door and window seal for cracks.

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26. Okay, time to open Twitter. Annnnd the party has already started without me. Everyone’s having so much fun. So much more fun than before I got here. I’ll just…leave.

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27. No. I’m here on a mission. I. CAN. DO. THIS.

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28. What should I post first? This pitch has a nice rhythm to it but this one really highlights the emotional stakes. But this other one is really funny and shows off my personality. Forget it. Just eeny-meeny-miney-moe this shit.

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29. Copy. Paste. Po–

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30. Breathe. Do it for Beth. Do it for Beth.

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31. POST.

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32. *Refresh* the DVPit hashtag. *Refresh* again. Where the hell is it?

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33. *Scrolls down* Oh, it was just buried under these other fifty tweets that were posted in the same millisecond as mine. It’ll totally be easy to find.

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34. Okay, I’ve got another hour until I can post another pitch that hopefully doesn’t suck as much as the first one and *oh* what’s this? A notification? It’s been thirty minutes and I thought my tweet had been swallowed into the bowels of Twitter. I thought that’s where it belonged. But *oh* another notification. Two notifications. Three notifications. Four. Five. Whaaaaat?

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35. I should check out the top DVPit tweets because mine is absolutely blowing up and you know I really never expected this. I can’t believe my idea is resonating with people so much. I guess I just have this special gift and, you know, come to think of it, I’ve always known I was extraordinary but sometimes it just takes opportunities like these to really see how–

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36. Oh. Someone else has like…177 likes.

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37. That’s cool.

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38. I hate myself.

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39. Four more notifications.

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40. I love myself.

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41. I finally stop refreshing my notifications and explore the DVPit feed.

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42. All my friends are here! (Well, all of the people I wish were my friends)

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43. Everyone is beautiful and magical and so insanely talented. We are what is right with the world. We are who will save it from total ruin.

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44. I breathe a sigh of relief. I am here and no one told me to leave, that I didn’t belong here. Or that I could come in but I’d have to close the door behind me so no one else could join us. Because one was enough.

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45. I breathe another sigh of relief. I am here and I feel like we have staked some kind of claim to this proverbial place that once had walls we could only peer through.

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46. It’s 8:00PM eastern time. My adrenal system is a total shit show. I am scared and I am happy. I am worried and I am excited. I am full of doubt and I am full of hope.

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When was the Last Time You Felt Like a Failure?

Mental Health

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I never answer the door. I never answer the phone. Why? Because I never know what to expect on the other end. I don’t like surprises. Surprises are for people with a false sense of security because they have never suffered a real tragedy their entire lives.

But, unfortunately for me, my front door has an oval glass center, which allows anyone on my front porch to see directly inside and to the exact spot where I am usually sitting on the couch watching Bravo. If I’m caught in this sacred spot when the doorbell rings, I really have no choice but to get up and answer. I don’t want to be rude, after all.

Six months ago the doorbell rang. An elderly man and I made eye contact through the glass. I opened the door.

It turned out he’d already been by and this was his second attempt because our address had been randomly selected to participate in the U.S. census survey. Now, normally I would decline to participate in things like this because I’m a millennial and do not like to be uncomfortable or inconvenienced and I sure as heck don’t like having strangers in my home. But I had also spent that morning block-walking for Beto O’Rourke’s senate campaign and the sting of having doors slammed in my face was still fresh.

So I let him inside.

He asked some preliminary questions to see whether I or my boyfriend would be chosen for the survey. It was me, of course.

At first, the questions were pretty generic, but the surveyor said they would adjust based on my answers. Boy did they. Once we got into the section on medical care the questions got really real, really fast.

In the last six months have you forgone medical care due to cost? Yes.

In the last six months have you forgone mental health care due to cost? Yes.

In the last six months have you needed to see a therapist but did not go due to cost? Yes.

On a scale of all the time, most of the time, some of the time, or never, how often do you feel anxious? Most of the time.

When was the last time you felt like a failure?

Yes, that was an actual census question generated by my previous responses. I looked across the table at my boyfriend. His eyes crinkled. He wanted to laugh. So did I. But I also wanted to cry.

See, just that week I had been in the midst of an existential crisis. I felt uncertain about my future, about my purpose, about my goals and dreams and whether or not all of my hard work would ever amount to anything. I was feeling lost. I was feeling scared. I looked at my boyfriend and said, “I feel like a failure.”

We commiserated about approaching thirty while still feeling so clueless about life. So clueless about everything. I think we may even have pulled up some of those depressing videos about space and the impossible size of the universe. You know the ones that zoom out to show the infinite number of galaxies neighboring us and as a result also show how pointless this all is; how alone we really are.

Feeling like a “failure” was strange because I didn’t even really know what that meant. What measuring stick was I using exactly? Because by all accounts, I’ve been adulting for over ten years and actually have a lot to show for it. I have my own home, a fairly new and working vehicle, a meaningful job with a steady paycheck, health insurance, an Emergency fund, a dog.

But…I don’t want to measure my life in stuff. In markers of adulthood that someone else told me were important. I want to measure my life in meaning. All of those awesome things that are the result of my hard work and determination, what do they all mean?

What do I mean? What does anything mean?

I was spiraling.

But there was also some good news. The good news was that, all those nights when I lay awake, on the verge of tears, thinking about whether or not I mattered, I wasn’t wrestling with the darkness alone. The Universe was listening. The little old man who asked me when was the last time I’d felt like a failure was proof.

These feelings, these questions tend to come and go. Every 2-3 years they come hurtling at me like a train. But the collision isn’t to knock me off course. It’s to wake me up. To help me see that going through the motions is not living. That every moment of every day I can be intentional about how I’m spending my time and with who, that I can be intentional about choosing joy, or at least curiosity on days when joy is too far away. I can be intentional about what I create and consume. I can make choices in a split second that will plunge me deeper into my own fears or liberate me from them.

I can live in the questions, be crushed under their weight, or I can stop waiting for someone else to give me the answers and give them to myself. I can give meaning to my life in ways big and small. I can decide that I matter. I matter. I matter.

Getting to the End

Writing Process

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I’ve spent the past six weeks cutting over 30,000 words from my restaurant book MS. I changed the antagonist, cut out several characters, and majorly altered one of my MC’s story arcs. But I’d been picking at the last two chapters for several days, trying to figure out how to tie everything together, and nothing felt quite right.

Because the ending I was writing, the one full of hope and triumph and restorative justice was not real.

Specifically, the bad guy getting brought to justice by a working criminal justice system…was bullshit.

I wanted it to be real. I wanted every problem to have a solution. Every thread to be neatly tied up in a bow. But that feeling that was nagging at me, gnawing at me and driving me nuts, was the stronger desire to tell the truth.

This story does end on a hopeful note but it’s not because these characters and this community were rescued by the police or the government or a more powerful “white savior” character. It’s hopeful because, after everything we see these characters go through, all of the pain and injustice and every day prejudice that exhausts the mind, body, and spirit, that beats it down to dust, we also get to see them rise. We see them save themselves and each other.

One of the characters tells my male MC that “resiliency is its own reward.”

It’s not what the MC wants to hear. It’s not what any of us want to hear. We want to hear that when you work hard, when you do the right thing, you have earned the right to happiness, to safety, to the bare basics of a beautiful life in this country. But that is not the truth. And this story does not lie and say that it is.

That is why I love the ending of this book so much more than I loved the previous fifty versions. Because it does not lie. It is heartfelt. It is heroic. But most importantly, it is honest.

Sorry, We Already Have One of Those

Motivation & Inspiration

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It’s been a few weeks since I sent off a query for the latest version of the restaurant book. 30K slimmer with a new antagonist and new ending, I am completely confident that this is it. I wrote a good book. Dare I say, a great book. It is ready. I am ready.

And yet, one nagging thought has been tormenting me, clawing its way out of the depths of my own psyche and whispering in my ear: Sorry, we already have one of those.

In other words…

We already have one Latinx author. We don’t need another one.

We already have a book featuring Latinx characters. We don’t need another one.

We already have a POC book about a restaurant. We don’t need another one.

I’ve gotten much better at recognizing my own irrational fears and using facts and other context to talk myself out of them. But this fear, no matter how irrelevant it is at certain agencies or publishers, is still not elusive enough to land it on my crazy list. Because the truth is, it does happen. The same way it happens in every other industry.

If you’re a POC and you’re the only one in your entire department or the only one in your entire company, you know what I mean. Tokenism is celebrated as “diversity” but only by the ignorant. Tokenism is still racism. Patting yourself on the back because you have one marginalized person on your team and therefore have met some socially imposed “quota” is not social justice. It’s lazy. It’s cruel.

So my fear this time of…lets’ face it, not mattering, is not entirely in my head. I feel like educationally and socially I have been conditioned to believe that there is only ever one spot for a POC. And worse, that the person who gets that spot is the one who can best adapt to whiteness.

This time, with this story and these characters, I am not watering things down or slipping on that mask I know so well. I am not apologizing for being another Latinx author who wants to break into publishing even though the gatekeepers just let one in last month and isn’t that enough diversity already?

But choosing to be defiant, to believe in myself despite the odds doesn’t get rid of the fear. It’s not something I can talk myself out of with facts and figures. It’s something that, if I want to keep going, to keep trying at this, I have to accept. I have to accept that I may experience rejection simply for being me. But in the midst of that fear I am also allowed to hope. That the industry is changing and that I myself can be a part of that positive change. I am allowed to celebrate the authors, agents, editors, and other industry professionals who are already doing that work.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I am allowed to reach for it with everything I have. But that doesn’t change the long trek through the darkness that I have to make first. Luckily, I am not alone in this. The more of us there are moving through the darkness the more ground we cover, the stronger and braver we become, the more light we cast in the other direction. Light that might inspire someone else to reach for what they want most, to believe that they deserve to get it.

Your Heart’s Desire

Mental Health, Motivation & Inspiration, Self Publishing

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About four years ago I was working in a public library, earning $12 an hour, all while cultivating this secret online identity as a self-published author. I was writing and creating constantly but something didn’t feel right.

Writing books was challenging but it had been a long time since I’d experienced a creative growth spurt and the itch to stretch myself, to learn, to grow became agonizing. So I did the only thing I knew how to do and I went back to school.

That’s the place where you learn new things, right?

I enrolled in a graduate program, stupidly took out student loans, and studied my ass off thinking that by graduation day I’d feel like a new me. A better me.

And it worked. At least for a little while. I completed my courses, survived student teaching, and got my first teaching job. That first year was a whirlwind. Every day, I showed up an hour early and stayed an hour late. I worked in the evenings and on weekends. I truly did stretch myself, learning so much about my content area, language learners, and the public education system.

Year two was also difficult. I was never short on challenges, on opportunities to grow.

Year three and the itch returned.

What am I doing here? I mean really doing? I’m not making an impact. I’m not even making a dent. The public education system is so broken. It’s so broken that no matter who you are–teacher, student, admin–no one enters this system and comes out unscathed. We are all hurt by it. Broken in ways we can’t even see.

I was starting to feel it. The weight of all of those systemic problems I would never be able to solve. The guilt and regret of allowing fear to choose this career for me. The work I do is meaningful and I’m grateful for this experience. But I’ve learned something about this feeling–this itch for something more. It doesn’t go away just because we want it to. Just because we’re living a life that is socially acceptable, adulting on a level comparable to our peers.

That feeling doesn’t go away until we ask in earnest: who am I and why am I here? And we open ourselves up to the reality, to the truth that the answers will be much bigger and much scarier than we want them to be.

But we don’t get to choose. The second we slipped into this skin we made an agreement to have the human experience.

This is the human experience–a million acts of bravery in the direction of our soul’s desire. And maybe we don’t get to decide that either–what our soul wants. But we can’t ignore that it wants. And it will continue to want, that desire beating, throbbing like a second pulse, until we give in and listen. Then follow.

And if we don’t, that spiritual nagging doesn’t just intensify. It hurts. In the places where we are supposed to be growing and changing we will begin to atrophy. We will begin to disappear.

I don’t want to disappear.

So I’m not just seeking out opportunities to be brave. I’m creating them. That means committing to a half-baked idea on a massive scale, telling people about my plans so they can hold me accountable, and creating my own curriculum for artistic growth. I’m acknowledging old fear-based patterns and disrupting them every chance I get. I’m speaking my mind more but also listening and I’m throwing money at opportunities I don’t yet feel good enough or worthy of taking advantage of.

I am following this ache like a siren song.

But even though I’m still not certain of where it leads, I must let it lead. Because the destination is my heart’s desire. It doesn’t matter if I don’t even know what that is yet. It doesn’t matter if I don’t think I deserve it yet. All I need to know is that it is mine.

Mine.