Saturday, December 22, 2012

FOR THE HOLIDAY BLOG TOUR: Christmas Carols in Old Town Pasadena & the Children of Newtown

I stand beside a 30-foot tall Christmas tree, a genuine spruce sparkling with large, clear bulbs in the center of One Colorado Plaza in Old Town Pasadena, California. The night is chill, but the hundred or so bundled parents and children filling the square are in high spirits, boosted by the dozens of elementary school children singing Christmas carols for them on the makeshift stage.

It’s an idyllic sight, one symbolically and geographically removed by more than 2,000 miles from the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. While the heart-breaking grieving and burying go on in Newtown, Pasadena is aglow tonight with our local pride, with the family closeness and joy that this annual event embodies. On the stage are fourth, fifth, and sixth-graders from Pasadena Christian School, fresh-faced angels that, in this holiday season more than ever, hold the promise and dreams of all of us standing under colored lights and in the shadow of the mammoth tree.

My granddaughter Lizzie is onstage, first row, far right. She’s a natural, and she smiles and be-bops at the right moments, makes hand and arm movements on cue, eyes glued on the choral director. Her little heart and soul are completely in this, this musical gift to us, the audience, the community that loves and supports these children more than we love ourselves.

I doubt that I’m the only one thinking of how all Sandy Hook parents could have had this type of night tonight, rubbing shoulders with neighbors under holiday garlands, beaming at their little boys and girls, celebrating underneath a velvet sky infinite in its tallness, stars gleaming and dancing above spires and treetops of the village. All Sandy Hook parents should be holding their children in their arms tonight, bundling them home, plying them with hot chocolate or cider before tucking them in bed with fairy tales, prayers, and kisses.

I tilt my head back and look long and hard at the big sky, big blackness. In fifteen minutes, Lizzie will come bounding down the stairs of the makeshift stage and head for me. I’ll hold her coat and ease her slender arms into it, then wrap the snowman scarf around her neck and chest. I’ll slide on her fuzzy gloves, hold tightly onto her hand, and hurry across the plaza into the warmth of Johnny Rockets for a snack and conversation. Little rituals, little pleasantries that are so second-nature to the two of us, we can’t imagine not doing these things, not embracing her or kissing her on the forehead when she reaches me in the audience. We hardly think of these.

But we must. The wrenching lessons from Sandy Hook will reverberate for generations. We as a society have so much to learn in this 21st century, where we’re theoretically so advanced, yet we aren’t. And the clearest lesson is the one embodied here in Old Town Pasadena tonight: Our greatest treasures, the golden legacies of earth, are children—all children. We start with our own and realize how no moment with them deserves to be taken for granted. We remind ourselves that our children need us at our best each day. We consider how nothing is guaranteed in life, how none of us has a lease that is honored. Life is cut short without notice. In two minutes, 20  Sandy Hook children perished. Two minutes! Let’s fill each minute of our children’s lives with love, reassurance, and nurturance.

Ancient sages supposedly predicted our world would end on December 21, 2012. How ironic in a month celebrating the most famous birth of all! The Sandy Hook deaths have very likely stirred a rebirth in our collective consciousness regarding the frailty and majesty of our children. May this Christmas be most memorable for this: That we commit ourselves to putting children first—all children—in our priorities. This would not be the end of the world, but the beginning of a much better one.

#          #          #          #

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

CATCHING UP WITH YOU: Updates on My Writing, and Some Fun Info About the "Holiday Blog Tour"

This year has flown, and I'm noticing how long I've been away from this blog now. For those of you who've stopped by and didn't see anything new, my apologies. I hope you won't give up on me, and please drop by again. For new readers of this blog, thanks for dropping by. I hope to keep you engaged and up-to-date. Let me update you first on what I've been doing since my last posting here a year ago.
  • Three of my short stories have been published in books or literary journals: Pha'titude Literary Magazine; PALABRA Literary Magazine; and the new anthology just issued, Soul Vomit.
  • About 7 new poems have been published in the San Gabriel Valley Poets Quarterly, and the Poetry and Cookies Annual Anthology.
  • I expanded and revised my new book of short stories (as yet unpublished) by adding new stories. The book is tentatively titled Liar, Liar & Other Stories and includes 15 works, which is longer than my first award-winning short story collection, The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories (2009).
  • I've launched a new series of book reviews for the awesome website, , hosted by talented author and filmmaker, Jesus Trevino. The series focuses on iconic Hispanic-American women authors who made history with their award-winning books in the 20th century, from 1972-1996. So far, 7 books have been reviewed, with 5 remaining (about one per month).
  • I've written essays for (hosted by Aurelia Flores) and some of these have been cross-posted in the award-winning blog, (hosted by vaunted authors Daniel Olivas, Michael Sedano, et al.).
  • I am preparing my new poetry chapbook, Hearts in Common--which was deemed a semi-finalist in a national poetry chapbook competition, and which will be published by Kentucky's Finishing Line Press in June 2013--to go to press.
  • I've completed a new nonfiction book that I plan to publish in early 2013. The book is a compilation of excerpts from my writings over the years, commentary and mini-essays on vital issues we all care about and that came to the fore particularly strongly in our presidential campaign season and during the elections in November, and which are still issues challenging us as we speak: education, women's rights, family, equality for all, politics and power...and the things we most care about on individual levels: parenting, love, friendship, death of loved ones, appreciating our world, nature, and beauty. The book is tentatively titled Life & Other Important Things and is illustrated throughout with about 25 full-color oil paintings by California artist and author, Victor Cass.
Whew! I feel less guilty now for having been very remiss in keeping up this blog. I'll keep you updated on all the above, but you can also visit my:
  • Facebook page, Author Thelma Reyna's Fan Club, for the most current information about my writing and publishing.
  • My other blog, 
  • The other blogs noted above,  for which I am a guest blogger (Powerful Latinas and Latinopia) or an occasional guest blogger (La Bloga).
Thanks for your supportiveness of us authors. Now, speaking of other's the best part of today's posting: LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THE "HOLIDAY BLOG TOUR" THAT ELEVEN OF MY COLLEAGUES ARE DOING ESPECIALLY FOR THE HOLIDAYS.

The 2012 Holiday Blog Tour...Creativity Galore!

Beginning on December 7, a group of dynamic women authors have been writing special poems, memoirs, stories, or essays about the spirit of Christmas: what it means to them, memorable ones they've had, what they hope for us, etc. These commemorative writings have been posted day by day on each author's own website. The "tour" is thus our daily visiting of each website in turn, until the 2012 tour ends on Christmas Eve.

So far, 12 authors have posted their holiday blogs. These are still up, so stop by their sites to enjoy them:

DEC. 7--Jasmine Clemente,
DEC. 8--Gwendolyn Jerris,
DEC. 9--Natasha Oliver,
DEC. 11--Caridad Pineiro,
DEC. 12--Teresa Carbajal Ravet,
DEC. 13--Natasha Alvarez,
DEC. 14--Stephanie Dorman,
DEC. 15--Karen La Beau,
DEC. 16--Annette Santos,
DEC. 17--Zoraida Cordova,
DEC. 18--Kristy Harding,

The rest of the lineup is as follows. Please join me in keeping up with these very talented, insightful authors!

DEC. 19--Nikki Kallio,
DEC. 20--Sujeiry Gonzalez,
DEC. 21--Samantha Kolber,
DEC. 22--Me, Thelma, right
DEC. 23--Julia Amante,
DEC. 24--Icess Fernandez Rojas (the creator of Holiday Blog Tour),

Looking Forward to 2013...

As we prepare for the new year, let us continue to support one another. Being an author is very hard work done in solitary fashion. For most of us, the monetary rewards are slight or nonexistent. Most of us do not support our families on our earnings from writing. We engage in it because each of our "literary selves" tugs at our hearts and compels us to write. We write because it is as natural an occurrence to us as breathing, eating, or brushing our teeth. It's a daily event, whether we pen emails to friends, or post opinions on online newspapers like the Huffington Post and New York Times, or whether we compose a poem, or write a story, or create a new chapter for our novel-in-progress--or (heavens!) any combination of these. Shakespeare said, "The play's the thing." For the rest of us authors working in obscurity, "Writing's the thing"...the point, the act which is its own reward for being. In short, we write because...we are.

Thanks for dropping by, and please keep coming back. Happy holidays to each of you, and a prosperous, peaceful, healthy New Year.

#   #   #   #   #