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Books, Guest Posts, storytelling, Women, writing

Keeping the Faith through NaNoWriMo and Beyond

November 4, 2015

By Suzy Vitello

This is the month that many writers take the plunge and re-prioritize their lives to take part in National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo, in other words. Probably if you’re reading this article, you’re on a break from the marathon. Or you’re simply not doing it. It’s a huge commitment, this pledge to write 50k words in a month.

Huge.

Five years ago, I embarked on a failed NaNoWriMo adventure – and I say failed, because I didn’t come up with the whole 50, but, November, 2010 was the year I crystallized my obsession with the Empress Elizabeth of Austria, and the effort eventually produced two books. The first one was published by Diversion Books in September of last year.

The level of joy when your book find its way to the hands of readers is only matched by validation  you get when a New York publisher says, “Yes. We will invest in you. We believe in this book.”

But it was short-lived.

Over last winter, I continued the story (the book was always meant to be a series), and wrote the second Empress Chronicles book. I had it professionally edited, rewrote it, and sent it along to my agent in late spring. We both felt pretty confident that Diversion would put the sequel out, too.

But they passed.

Though claiming The Keepsake was “a delight from start to finish,” they felt they needed to focus on books with more robust sales numbers.

This is a polite way of saying: your first book tanked, and we’re moving on.

The level of self-doubt when your book gets rejected is only matched by frustration when a New York publisher says, “Show me the value.”

Because, value is subjective. Value is an abstraction. Value, my friends, should be tied to something intrinsic, but at the end of the day, value is tied to numbers. And consumers. And a system as random as a Las Vegas slot machine.

The hardest thing, for an artist, is to maintain belief in creation in the face of rejection.  It’s not just about tenacity. It’s not just about revision. It’s more than that.

It’s finding that audacious place inside you and pulling her out. Talking to her with tough love. Asking her the hard question: “What is standing in the way of success?” And then, “What do you really want?”

When I answered those questions, here’s what I came up with:

My tendency to value myself only if fancier people value me.

And:

Connection. All I have to give is my love of language, story and the dream that plays out on the page. 

And here’s where the miracle comes in. When you live inside a decision to find connection, you do.

I decided to put The Keepsake out myself, and I found an extremely talented and passionate street team to help me. Continue Reading…

Books, Guest Posts, writing

Scheherazade’s Call.

December 26, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Laraine Herring.

The Velveteen Rabbit was one of those magic stories that saved my life. I remember the line drawings of the Bunny all alone on the hill, splashes of muted pastel colors behind him. The Bunny was so loved by the Boy that his fur was rubbed away and he was no longer new and pretty, but it didn’t matter because the Boy loved him. But then the Boy got sick and he was taken away and the Bunny was left alone.

This was the part of the story that began to take root inside of me. My dad contracted polio in the 1940s when he was the same age as the Boy, and even though the diseases were different, the story helped awaken empathy in me for the experiences of another. How scared my dad must have been to have suddenly found himself so sick! What treasured toys of his were taken away? I empathized with both the Boy and the Bunny, and I wanted more than anything for the Bunny to become real—to become loved alive—and if that could happen, maybe—even though my father’s right leg was shorter than his left leg, and even though his gaze often rested on distant things I couldn’t see—I could love my dad back alive too.

That 1922 edition of Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit was my version of the book. My rabbit. My boy. My playroom and wise old Skin Horse. William Nicholson’s illustrations helped make it mine. When later editions hit the shelves, the new illustrations (lovely though they were) were jarring. That’s not my bunny! That’s not my story.

This seems ludicrous on the surface, but talk to a fan of a book when the movie comes out and you’ll get a step-by-step guide of what didn’t match up and how the actors didn’t fit the images the reader had put in her head. Readers claim ownership of the fictional worlds they inhabit, and rightfully so—they helped to create those worlds using the signposts the author provided through text. The reader’s experience with the story is so intimate and so real that it comes as a shock when another reader has a different relationship with the same story. No one can enter the web of words the same way, and no one comes out the other side unchanged either.

Why do books matter? Why do fiction writers matter? Why is fiction reading still relevant? The world changes, evolves, and by necessity leaves behind what no longer fits. The thing is, stories always fit. They take us by the hand and pull us into worlds we didn’t know existed—not the world of the writer, but the world that was within us. Our hidden interior world, on the trigger of a turn of phrase, can expand into new ways of being in and relating to the world. Our experiences with characters and adventures on the page make us move in surprising ways. They give us a window into a way of life we’d never know or a belief system that challenges us and stretches our capacity to care. The author might have been writing five hundred years ago or just yesterday. It doesn’t matter. The readers are the wild card. Each reader co-creates her own story and makes it personally relevant and then engages with the world from that new, changed place.

Our lives are very different from when that first edition of The Velveteen Rabbit captured hearts. Much of what fuels our economy is not a physical product that we can ship and store. Our productivity is intellectual. It’s artistic. It’s creative. And it doesn’t always sit on a shelf. It isn’t warehoused and it isn’t collecting dust. This is an economy of ideas and of inventions based not on a combustible engine, but rather a combustible spirit. As Seth Godin tells us in The Icarus Deception, this is the time of the creatives, the artists, the dreamers and imaginers. This is the time for magic. But it’s hard to put magic in a spreadsheet. It’s hard to make a pie chart or a PowerPoint slide about its benefits. But make no mistake. Our modern age runs on magic. It runs on someone alone in a room with an idea to make the world a little bit better. Innovation and invention start with imagination—the world of fiction.

Who would have thought we’d go to the moon, or store our documents in a cloud, or type a manuscript from across the room from the computer? Who would have thought, until someone did, and then what had once been purely fiction became the norm. Then the standard. But before it became the standard, it was inconceivable. It was impossible and then someone dreamed it. Someone shook the fairy dust and came up with an electric car, solar power, Apple computers, airplanes and stories. Continue Reading…

Anxiety, Books, Guest Posts, Meditation

How I Meditated My Way From Panic to Peace.

September 23, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

 By Priscilla Warner.

When I was fifteen years old, I suffered my first terrifying panic attack, while I was a “townie” working as a waitress at the Brown University cafeteria in Providence, Rhode Island.

I thought I was having a heart attack. One minute I was dishing out peas to hordes of bored young students, and then, suddenly, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My heart raced and flopped around in my chest, my lungs convulsed, I turned hot and cold, shaking head to toe, and my throat began to close.

Was I dying? I wasn’t sure.

Was I going crazy? That was possible.

Mental illness ran through my family like wildfire. My father had been diagnosed as manic depressive, his brother was in and out of mental hospitals all his life, and my namesake, a favorite cousin, grew up to become a homeless schizophrenic woman.

I thought mental illness was contagious.

I rushed home from work and a family doctor was called to our house. He diagnosed me as being “a little bit nervous,” and prescribed Librium, the tranquilizer taken mostly by American housewives twice my age in the 1960s.

I thought I was a freak. The word “panic attack” wasn’t even used back in those days. It certainly wasn’t a term that girls my age had ever heard of. Neither was anxiety.

  Continue Reading…

Books, Guest Posts, Truth

Inventing the Truth.

September 15, 2014

By Suzy Vitello

I’m a wanderer. I was born that way, or so I thought. But lately, I wonder if “wandering” is simply a compensatory strategy for dealing with chaos. My young parents were barely old enough to vote when they married and immediately combined DNA to form me. On paper, it was sort of a fairy tale situation. They married in August, and honeymooned in Salzburg on their way to Vienna, where my father was enrolled in med school. Continue Reading…

Books, Guest Posts, Women

Marrying George Clooney.

September 14, 2014

By Amy Ferris.

The chapter that started it all…

Please raise your hand if you have ever had a fantasy of marrying George Clooney.

I have taken a poll among my many curiously deranged, off-balance girlfriends who very often find themselves dancing, or in some cases, swaying, to the beat of their own iPod in the middle of the night.

Each one, honest to god, has a similar fantasy. Mine goes like this. Continue Reading…

Books, Guest Posts, parenting

Lost. By David L. Ulin.

September 9, 2014

By David L. Ulin.

(From: The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time)

I decided I would help my son Noah with The Great Gatsby. He didn’t ask, not exactly, but neither did he say no. First, I showed him some of my annotations: a galley of a novel I was reviewing, the marked-up copy of a text I was preparing to teach. He stood just inside the door of my home office, thumbing through the pages, smiling closely to himself. “You’d fail if you were in my class,” he said.

Noah was right, of course, for I am a minimalist when it comes to marginalia … or maybe, it’s just that, at this point, I know what works for me. Either way, I’ve developed my own shorthand for note-taking, a system of slashes and asterisks and underlinings that take the place of language, that serve more as memory triggers — cite this — than as the component parts of any intellectual or critical frame. It’s not that I mind highlighting passages that move me; in fact, I’ve grown so used to reading with a pen in my hand that I miss it, an almost physical ache, when I read for pleasure, as if in the act of annotation, I can’t help but take a deeper plunge. And yet, like Noah, I don’t want to be distracted, don’t want to be pulled out of the flow. The sample annotations that he showed me, a series of page spreads covered with small, precise loops of writing, made my head hurt, not so much because of the denseness of the commentary as because of how it cluttered up the page. Too many notes and it can get overwhelming, interposing the reader’s sensibility on top of the writer’s until it is obscured. To me, this is antithetical to the nature of the process, which is (or should be) porous, an interweaving rather than a dissemination, a blending, not an imposition, of sensibilities. Continue Reading…

Books, Guest Posts, poetry

3 Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye.

August 25, 2014

By Naomi Shihab Nye 

Dear Jen, these 3 little poems all remind me of you in different ways because
you really make the most of your days!!!!  Love, your fan club prez. Naomi (arm-wrestling with 1,000 others who say they are also the Prez. Imposters, all!) xo Naomi Shihab Nye

From A MAZE ME (Poems for girls)

Freshly out in paperback 2014, first published 2005 (Greenwillow Books)

note from Jen: Naomi is one of my favorite people on the planet as well as one of the greatest living poets of our time!

Jen Pastiloff and Naomi Shihab Nye 2014

Jen Pastiloff and Naomi Shihab Nye 2014

Continue Reading…

Books, Converse-Station

The Converse-Station: Elizabeth Crane interviews Megan Stielstra.

July 21, 2014

Hey there, Jen Pastiloff here. I’m the founder of The Manifest-Station! Welcome to the newest installment- The Converse-Station: A place where writers interview writers. Today’s interview is between Elizabeth Crane (my good bud) and Megan Stielstra. 

If you are a writer and have someone you want to interview or have a pitch, please email Angela Patel.*

By Elizabeth Crane:

Megan Stielstra is my friend. Megan has a badass collection of essays out now from Curbside Splendor called Once I Was Cool, and she has sixteen or five jobs, something like that, as well as a husband and a kid and a dog, but I would advise against asking her how she juggles it. She juggles it like I juggle approximately a third of what she juggles, shit just gets juggled, and sometimes things drop, and that is why we are friends.

Continue Reading…

Book Excerpts, Books, Guest Posts

Excerpt of The Novel “Song Of The Golden Scorpion” by Alma Luz Villanueva.

February 18, 2014


9781609403461Excerpt of The Novel Song Of The Golden Scorpion by Alma Luz Villanueva. 

“Gamble everything for love if you’re a true human being.” Rumi

Someone was knocking just as she began to undress, “Shit,” Xochiquetzal muttered (friends called her Xochitzalita, and it wasn’t that hard to say once you got used to it, ‘Shweetzalita’). There was no eye-hole-peep to look through, “Fuck,” she breathed out. Her skin was salty, dry yet luxurious from la mar, and her hair was still wet, coiled on top of her head. Her dreaming, relaxed, exhausted from swimming in la mar head. She didn’t want to deal with a maid. She wanted to stay in this state of ocean dreaming; but the knock became louder.

“Quien es, who is it?” she hissed. Who the fuck is it, almost escaped her thirsty lips. She made a mental note to pour a full glass of bottled water; then the hottest shower, a nap, a dream. Later dinner. A slow walk on the sand to watch the full moon rise; one day after, waning. But still pregnant, full of clear erotic light. Her skin itched with salt, the Mexican sun.

Xochiquetzal thought of the handsome, very young, Mexican doctor she’d escaped, Like an idiota, she couldn’t help thinking. Brilliant, hermoso, but too damned young for me. Her body clenched involuntarily, with the memory of his confident eyes gazing into hers as they spoke of past lives, Kubler-Ross, his work in the ER- and when she told him it was her birthday, that she was old enough to be his mother, he said, “Maybe I’m your gift.” Those beautiful, clear, wise, young/old eyes staring into her. Into her. When he went to get drinks, she ran. She escaped.

There was laughter on the other side of the door- “Who the fregado is it?” she raised her voice.

“Es yo, tu amigo.”

El cabron, he followed me here, her mind flashed awake, he followed me here. Then, her body flashed awake.

“Go away!”

“No.” She heard the smile in his voice.

“I’ll call security!” She felt her thirsty lips wanting to curl into a smile. She forbade it.

“I’ll show them my medical credentials and tell them you’re my patient,” he said with his charming, way too charming, accent (he made English sound inviting, warm). “Here in Mexico they’ll believe me, el doctor.” Then he laughed again, that sense of confidence he exuded. That magnet. She loved his accent when he spoke English, though he spoke mainly Spanish from their conversation on the beach, switching back and forth. Spanglish.  Right now it was English for her pocha benefit; he wanted her to understand every word.

“Sinverguenza,” the word escaped her mouth, making her smile (one without any shame, nada, zero, zilch…shameless).

“Si, es yo, Javier.” More laughter. She put her face to the coolness of the door (the AC was on at seventy degrees), and she thought she heard him breathing.

“What do you want?”

“Tu sabes, you know.”

“You’re old enough to be mi hijo…”

“Que rica,” he laughed, the ‘r’ rolling in ‘rica,’ conveying pleasure to her ears. Senses. “I am not your son, let me show you, Xochitzalita,” he nearly sang to her.

His voice penetrated her in a stream of clear, erotic, full moon light, or the muy caliente Mexican sun; her body flushed with sudden longing. I’ll probably regret this, she warned herself as she opened the door to find him standing there in his still wet trunks, bare chested, slim like a boy, flared shoulders of a man, and smiling with that unwavering confidence. A doctor, a god, she thought briefly- is there a fucking difference? She wanted to laugh, but firmly refused to.

“I was about to take a shower, Javier, before your rude knock…” Xochiquetzal realized she was smiling, in spite of her inner command to be irritated, to stay in charge.

He stared directly into her eyes- large, dark pools of wonder that have witnessed birth, life, death in the ER. His eyes held no age, only wonder, terror, endless curiosity. He was a small boy of six; he was the eighty-eight-year-old man whose life he’d saved the day before. The infusion of energy that had made him pack a few things, drive directly to Vallarta, swim in la mar at 4am, cradled by the clear, streaming light of the sensual warm waves. Always a woman’s body, her secret salt on his tongue.

“This is my fifty-eighth birthday,” Xochiquetzal almost whispered.

“What magic potion do you take, mamacita, you look in your forties, and you know what they say about older woman, younger man,” Javier paused, smiling como un sinverguenza, shamelessly, into her eyes. “You know I’m your gift, Xochitzalita.”

“It must be the yoga,” she laughed weakly. “My son’s close to your age, he’s thirty, you’re thirty-four, as I remember.”

Que rica, let’s wash this salt off.” Now he spoke Spanish, that beautiful Spanish that entered hidden childhood sections of her brain: trust.

Xochiquetzal turned on the hot water, the way she liked it, almost unbearable. “What do they say about older women, younger men?” Her body flushed open like the ripest, red rose, so suddenly, she almost fell to her knees (red, fleshy petals floated so slowly). She was embarrassed. She was surprised. She was trembling.

“Are you trying to cook me?” he laughed deep in his throat. “Let me show you what they say.” Javier gently took the pins out of her coiled, wet hair, and it fell past her firm shoulders, damp with curls. She held her kimono closed, but her hair was past her small, still girlish breasts, and the tips of the curls on her back reached the deep purple lotus blossom tattoo at the sacrum, the very small of her back (where the kundalini serpents slept). No man, except for the tattoo guy, had ever seen it. She felt ridiculously like a virgin- five years of celibacy- and the yellow/red tongues of fire leaping from the center of the lotus, etched on her flesh, danced.

“Mamacita,” he laughed with joy, “your hair is so beautiful!”

He laughs like a boy, like my son laughs, still laughs, the boy still alive in the man. Xochiquetzal held her breath as the flames danced higher (as the serpents began to stir).

Javier took her hand and led her into the shower. “Make it cooler, por favor.” Then, he did it himself.  He took off his trunks. He was perfectly brown. Beautiful. Erect.

I can’t talk or I’ll weep, I’ll start crying and scare the shit out of him, she thought, staying silent, gazing directly back into his eyes. And he saw the same thing- pools of wonder that have witnessed birth, life, death. No age, only wonder, terror, endless curiosity.

Xochiquetzal let her kimono fall to the tiles, and she walked the one step into his boyish arms. Their strength surprised her as they enclosed her forcefully, gently. As they began to kiss- his thirsty lips on her thirsty lips- it was such a gift, just this long, sweet, deep in her mouth, kiss. She began to weep, but it didn’t matter, as the water encircled them, their joyful, melting bodies.

“This is what they mean, Xochitzalita, this is what they mean.” Javier lifted her body slightly from the tiled floor, and she surrendered to his hands, his arms, his chest, his lips, his tongue that sent jolts of lightning to her tongue. This is the deepest play, she heard- did he say it, did she say it, it didn’t matter.

He lowered her to the cool tile floor, the warm water caressing them. “Fuck me,” she wept, “fuck me.”

“Don’t you want an orgasm first, I know my anatomy,” Javier smiled gently, provocatively.

“No, no, fuck me.”

“This is what they mean.” His soft, commanding mouth found her breasts, left and right, caressing each nipple with his tongue until she reached the edge of orgasm (With my breasts, she wondered, weeping). She wanted to touch, to hold, to stroke his lovely brown penis, but he wouldn’t let her. Then he tasted her secret, salty/sweet place, smiling to himself- the engorged, erect clitoris. This woman has orgasms, he noted with pleasure, and she has pubic hair like a woman, not shaved like a girl, yes… And he heard her, “Please please please fuck me now please Javier please…”

He held himself up on his hands over her, lowering himself so his erect serpent stroked her belly. “Please please please…” she chanted, lifting herself up to meet him.

“Am I your son?” He stared into her eyes, waiting for an answer.

Xochiquetzal stopped undulating, moving, chanting, her eyes flashing anger, and his serpent stroked her again, slowly. “No,” she wept, “no.”

“No what, tell me.”

“You’re not my son, cabron…” As he entered her it felt like a membrane gave way, a boundary she’d created to protect herself against the world- and she heard it again, This is the deepest play. As he entered her to the tip of her tender womb (now pulsing with a life of its own…birth, life, death, birth), she remembered his eyes from a dream. And then she forgot as the dance of the living filled her, convulsing her with ripples of orgasms like birth from her womb. This is the balance of labor, giving birth, multiple orgasms, she thought suddenly, seeing her womb filled with her unspilled monthly blood.

As he began to convulse within her, filling her with so much joy, his orgasm, joy, her rational self wanted to shout, “Do you have AIDS, herpes, I forgot to ask…” Then she remembered he was a doctor, didn’t he pledge to do no harm, him and his beautiful uncircumcised serpent. She let it go, she just let it go- At least I won’t get pregnant, the thought flashed across her mind almost making her laugh out loud. And these womb orgasms, is this new or what. Now she was smiling.

“What’s so funny, I see your smile,” Javier smiled into her eyes.

“I forgot to ask if you have any sexually transmitted diseases, you know like AIDS, herpes,” she murmured.

“Ayy Xochitzalita, soy un doctor, no te preocupes, don’t worry, te quiero otra vez, I want you again, this is what they mean by older woman, younger man, Xochitzalita, after this I’m going to give you an orgasm directly upon your sweet, engorged clitoris…”

“Ohmygoddess it sounds like a fucking prescription,” she murmured, giggling like a teenager.

“Pues it is, it is,” he laughed with her, picking her up in his strong, boyish, man arms, turning her around to face the cool tile, the waterfall of lukewarm water that enveloped them, steam rising from their bodies. “Que hermosa tattoo, un lotus muy caliente,” Javier laughed softly, lowering himself to his knees. “I’m licking your lotus, your fire, Xochitzalita..” And he did until he nearly drove her loca.

This is the deepest play.

She clutched the cool tiles as he entered her from behind so deeply, so suddenly, so perfectly, she wanted to scream at the top of her lungs like a wild animal, a tiger, a lion, no, a female jaguar. The sheer pleasure, the sheerest of pleasures- This is why we live, this moment, this moment, now, her silent scream. She photographed this moment in her mind, the tiny blue butterflies floating in the tile at her fingertips.

“I’m so glad I found you, Xochitzalita, I’m so glad I found you,” and he meant it, in that moment, every atom of his body, his mind, his soul, meant it. Javier remembered her eyes from a dream, and then he denied it.

“I feel like screaming, I want to let you know, but I’ll rouse the dead.” She tried to laugh but instead she began to weep again, with joy, this moment, this is why we live, now, this joy.

“Rouse the dead, let me hear it, I’m your gift, you’re my gift, que los chingan,” and he thrust deeper, if that were possible.

Deep, inhuman, or truly human, the first human sounds escaped her mouth, and he joined her in that song.

“Quiero ver tu cara, tu cara hermosa…I want to see your face, your beautiful face,” Javier sang to her, turning her around to face him.

“I’m not perfect, I’m not twenty-five, I don’t think I was ever perfect but now I’m fifty-eight.” Xochiquetzal couldn’t bear to meet his perfect eyes, not a wrinkle. She looked down at his lovely serpent and missed it, him, inside of her, that sweet dance of the living.

“Look at me, hermosa, look at me.” Javier waited until she met his eyes, and it made him want her more because she was weeping. He entered her blindly as though he’d die, that moment, if he couldn’t feel the tender tip of her womb. He entered her fevered, pulsing, pushing, pulling birth canal, and he saw the fine lines of living in her face, and a rush of tenderness filled him.

“I’ve held the still born, Xochitzalita, I’ve seen death in the faces of teenagers, the very young, and what I see in you is life, perfect life, give birth to me, Xochitzalita,” Javier wept openly, sobbing in that hoarse masculine way, clutching her to him, kissing her eyes, her cheeks, filling her open mouth with his tongue.

And they gave birth to each other- his moans, her moans, his tears, her tears, his death, her death, his life, her life, that moment of birth.

This is the deepest play.

They fell asleep in each other’s still wet arms, the AC blowing its cool wind across their naked, damp bodies. Just birthed. He was thirty-four. She was fifty-eight. Just birthed. Timeless. His mouth sought her flesh, her trusting neck, as he dreamed, as she dreamed. They dreamt of miracles which they would forget the moment they opened their eyes. Yet the miracle would remain. Alive. Just birthed.

This is the deepest play.

Xochiquetzal woke up first. It was almost dark but she could see Javier’s face. “Diosa, eres tan hermoso, Goddess, you’re so beautiful,” she whispered. She carefully disengaged herself from his strong, sweet limbs. “I’m so fucking hungry,” she murmured, wondering if she should wake him, but he looked like a trusting boy sleeping (reminding her of her son, Justin). She didn’t have the heart to wake him. His eyelids trembled as he dreamt. She wanted to enter his dreams.

“Who is this boy/man who’s a doctor?” Xochiquetzal asked the violet twilight. And then she remembered El Nino Doctorcito, the little boy doll saint, in her favorite church in San Miguel de Allende. Surrounded by his toys, a stethoscope around his neck, a small black doctor bag in his right hand (with the tiny, sensual angel milagro, miracle, pinned to it). The healer. She thought of the candle she’d lit before her journey, placing it in front of El Nino Doctorcito. As she’d stared at him, the little boy doll saint, for a moment she saw his tiny, pink lips smiling. And now, she remembered what she’d whispered to him as her candle burned in front of him, with all the other lit candles, and the photos of the healed at his doll feet wrapped in black cloth shoes.

“Heal me, Nino Doctorcito, heal my hidden, almost fifty-eight-year-old, beat-up, bitter, wounded, untrusting heart that I may love again, heal me.”

This is the deepest play..

As she dressed in the bathroom, putting on the last of her make-up, she decided to leave him a note telling him to meet her at dinner.

“A donde vas…Where are you going, Xochitzalita?” Javier’s voice was husky with sleep and satisfaction, making her womb contract involuntarily.

“El Nino Doctorcito,” she murmured, smiling. “I’m starving so I was going to leave you a note to meet me…”

“Oh no you don’t, you can’t leave this room without your physician, mujer,” he laughed languidly.

“Okay then, quick, get up, where are your clothes anyway?”

“In my truck, and how are you able to walk around after what we just did, I’m still in paradise, Xochitzalita, ayyy… Come here, dame un besito, no mas uno… give me a kiss, just one.”

She laughed, “I’m not falling for that trick, Javier, so I’m going to the far end dining place, where we met at the end of the resort’s beach.” Just met, she reminded herself, her body still glowing.. “Meet me there when you get dressed.”

“How can you walk, I can barely lift my head, estas Amazon. See you there, Xochitzalita, but you’re mine after we replenish our bodies.” His voice was soft, satisfied.

“It’s a deal, see you there.”

“Un beso, mamacita, no mas una.”

“I don’t trust you, estas malo,” she laughed.

“Es la verdad, Xochitzalita.”

This is the deepest play.

She made a delicious salad with every vegetable in the buffet and ordered a vino tinto, waiting for him to join her. Did I make him up, this Nino Doctorcito, this beautiful man who tells me he’s my birth day gift, younger man, older woman, maybe I did make him up. Except her humming body kept singing its new song, yes this was a new song.

    This is the deepest play.

She’d never had multiple orgasms like this- from her breasts, from her nipples, from her no longer bleeding womb (there was a new depth, song). He hasn’t gotten to my clitoris yet, she realized, sipping her vino tinto, el prescripcion. This made her smile like an idiota, but she didn’t care. Maybe I made el doctorcito up…

“Did you miss me?” Javier was in jeans, a soccer t-shirt, sandals, and his boy eyes were fastened on her, laughing.

“Do you really work in Emergency?”

“Do you have something that needs fixing, Xochitzalita?”

She blushed in the darkness as he sat down opposite her. They both turned simultaneously to face la mar, her undulating waves making love to the sand in the darkness. From the northern tip of Alaska to the southern tip of Brazil, each endless wave making love to the willing, thirsty land mass.

“I think you already did that, doctorcito,” she said loud enough, only for his ears.

“Como no,” he laughed, “and there’s more to come, mamacita, let’s eat, I need fuel for the healing.”

She put the salad between them, laughing with him. Ayyy Diosa, he’s read my mind, the healing, and I’m healing him, something in him, el nino doctorcito. “Why do you call me mamacita, I used to call mi abuela, my grandmother, mamacita…”

“I certainly don’t mean it in the way you meant con tu abuelita. Here in Mexico, there’s mama, and then there’s mamacita.” He smiled into her eyes so intimately she became instantly wet, ready for him. Now.

What is he doing to me? she asked herself, enjoying every single moment. Something’s burning up in me, something’s melting away, something’s becoming so soft, soft, soft…

“What are you doing to me, Xochitzalita?” he murmured, taking her hands in his. People turned to stare for a moment, then looked away, smiling at their palpable intimacy.

Yes oh yes this is the deepest play.

She watched him load two plates full of chicken mole, tortillas, sliced fruit and more, handing her one when he returned. “Clean your plate, pochita,” Javier teased as he ate with obvious joy. She was aware of people stealing looks at them from time to time, curious.

“Are you embarrassed because I’m twenty-four years older, tell me the truth, Javier.” Xochiquetzal faced la mar as she asked. She couldn’t bear to look at him, yet she had to know. The truth.

“Look at me, Xochitzalita, look at me right now.” The softness of his voice held an edge of command. She heard the steel in his voice, and it soothed her. The man rose to meet her. Equal.

She met his eyes. He x-rayed her soul. Where have I seen those eyes? she asked herself, I’ve seen them before.

Javier stood up so suddenly, she almost knocked her wine glass over in surprise. “I’ve missed this,” he murmured, kneeling next to her. He kissed her deeply, sucking her breath away, his soft, full lips, his hands firmly around her back, holding her to him, refusing her efforts to pull away.

So she surrendered. To his sweet, caliente, unrelenting kiss. His unyielding, tender  hands on her back, holding her to him. In public. And she didn’t care that people were staring.

Slowly he pulled away, keeping his eyes on her, still kneeling. “Does that answer your question, mi locita?” He smiled shamelessly into her eyes, her ripening womb, as soft applause reached their ears, and people went back to their dinners.

“Mamacita,” she laughed, tears filling her eyes. “You’re the first man, in my life, to meet my gaze,” she whispered.

“Quieres mas vino?” a waiter asked, smiling down at them. He filled their glasses to the brim.

“As I was telling you on the beach when we met, when I forced you to talk to me,” Javier smiled mischievously, making her wet, making her want him this moment, now, again, now. “I feel I’ve known you before, another life. I wasn’t just saying that as a, tu sabes, a pick-up line. Something about your eyes, Xochitzalita.”

She thought of the flash of dream she was trying to remember- I’ll find it in my dream journals, almost as old as him, she reminded herself. “I think I’ve dreamt you, so I know the feeling, yes something about your eyes, tu hermoso, tan malo ojos…your beautiful, very wicked eyes.” Xochiquetzal looked directly into them (Most men turn away, most men…), and saw they held the candle’s flame right in their dark centers. “And don’t you dare leap up and kiss me again,” she laughed.

“I’ll try not to, Xochitzalita,” Javier smiled threateningly.

Three young, handsome waiters appeared with a large piece of chocolate cake with one candle burning. Am I in fregado paradise? she wondered. Am I on the same fregado planet, Earth? And where do they find all this eye candy ayyy… They began to sing, “Happy birthday to you…” in their lovely Spanglish, and Javier joined them, laughing at her surprise. “Blow it out, senorita, blow it out, make a wish, esta momento,” the waiters urged her.

Xochiquetzal was momentarily frozen to the spot, each young, handsome face laughing, urging her to blow out the candle- and Javier’s face was the most handsome of all, his. The knowledge it held. The play. She looked into his young/ancient eyes and blew out the single flame. In that flame, she knew him centuries ago; if only she could remember the dream. You will, she told herself, in your dream journals, maybe in the last one, yes.

“Que bien, feliz cumpleanos, happy birthday,” the waiters said in unison (in their beautiful, sexy Spanglish voices), as one took the dinner plates away, the second poured them coffee with a full shot of kahlua, and the third sliced the cake in half, serving them both. Javier gave the third waiter some pesos, “Por todos, gracias.”

“How do you know I love kahlua in my coffee? How do you know I love chocolate cake? And how did you tell them to do this wonderful thing…” she began to weep, with joy/sorrow/joy.

“I know pues todo, everything, Xochitzalita, and if you start crying I’m going to have to kiss you again.” He threatened to stand, placing his palms on the table to push himself up. Smiling.

“Don’t you dare, Javier, no more applause from my fellow diners…”

Instead, he stood up, leaned over to reach her lips with his, licking her slowly, softly, making her wet, making her want him. Now.

“Vaya el cuarto!…Go to your room!” someone yelled to much laughter, and then another, louder round of applause. Then someone gave a grito (a loud, Mexican cry of joy and sorrow that sends shivers up a human’s spine), and Javier gave one in return to more laughter. “Cuarto cuarto cuarto cuarto,” they sang in unsion.

This is the deepest play.

Finally, as they stood up to leave- after another coffee and kahlua, some creamy flan, two more vino tintos for Javier- a round of gritos pierced the air. A man shouted, “El regalo de cumpleanos para la senorita…The birthday gift for the young woman!” to loud laughter. (Young woman, Xochiquetzal smiled…maybe I do look in my forties, Javier in his mid-late thirties, young woman, she kept smiling.) “Regalo regalo regalo regalo…” voices echoed with play. Before Javier could join in with his grito, come-back, Xochiquetzal ran away, down the steps toward la mar. Loud male whoops followed her, laughter.

“How do they know he’s my gift?” she began to laugh.

“Correle, hombre, se fue…Run, man, she’s gone!” Everyone laughing, echoing, “Correle, correle, correle, correle…” Then she heard a piercing grito- “Javier, I bet, oh my Goddess,” Xochiquetzal couldn’t help giggling like a senorita. “Senorita,” she sighed, walking into the warm, erotic, moon-filled waves. They reached her ankles, her knees, finally her blissful fifty-eight-year-old thighs, as she pulled the already short bandeau-style, black with fuchsia, beach dress, higher (made in Bali, her favorite place on Earth). The wet warmth of la mar soothed her; cooler than the day but still warm, and a sudden night breeze licked her flesh, lovely.

Suddenly she wanted to give a grito to la mar, to the night sky, the stars raining down their ancient light, the erotic, full moon that bathed her, everyone, in her translucent, glowing, pregnant path.

Javier grabbed her from behind so forcefully she cried out. He put his lips on her neck, kissing her hard, then softly like small butterflies landing one by one. “Don’t run away from me, Xochitzalita, you know I’ll always find you.” His voice was soft, firm, playful. She felt his swelling, his man’s warmth. His gift, el regalo.

“But I want to run away…”

“Porque, mi Xochitzalita, tan mala…”

“So you can find me, Javier.”

He slowly turned her around to face him, grinding himself into her, her mouth finding his, his tongue finding hers. “I’ll always find you, Xochitzalita,” he murmured, and then a large, moon-filled wave covered them. Laughing, spitting la mar, she opened her mouth wide and gave a grito to the Mexican night.   “Mamacita, que pasa?” Javier laughed, picking her up in his strong, boyish arms. El doctorcito. The healer.

Yes oh yes this is the deepest play, el regalo.

A bottle of chilled champagne waited in a sweating, metal bucket, surrounded by sliced mangoes, papayas, pineapples. And a plate of chocolate truffles, hand-made in the hotel kitchen. Someone had turned on the lamp that Xochiquetzal’s deep purple, fringed, traveling shawl was wrapped around. It glowed its soft, purple light that made her feel at home anywhere she traveled in the world.

“How did you get them to do this, how?” she laughed with delight.

“I’m an upper class Mexican doctor at home in his own country,” he smiled so confidently. That unwavering confidence that wouldn’t let her ignore him as she tried to on the beach, at first. She was taken aback by his response, for a moment- her innate aversion to any class system (the ‘all men are created equal’ theory she’d heard all her life in the USA, but rarely saw in daily living, politics, the news). Here was this man, this thirty-four-year-old Mexican doctor, simply saying the truth… upper class and at home in his own country.

“I guess you know, from your travels to my country, el otro lado (the other side), that I have a hard time with any class system.”

“Xochitzalita, in Mexico you are automatically upper class.” Javier popped the cork smoothly. “But I know estas una pochita del otro lado, you can’t help it,” he laughed.

“A Yaqui Indian pochita,” she shot back.

“Ayy, estas una India tambien, que bien, you’re my pochita Yaqui.” He gave an intimate version of his more public grito, pouring her a glass of champagne. “Dame la boca…Give me your mouth,” Javier commanded, kissing her. “El regalo,” he murmured into her open mouth.

“And how do all those Mexicans know you, regalo regalo regalo?” Her voice was jagged, her breath catching on his soft lips, his words, “El regalo.”

Another intimate grito; it went right up her spine, the kundalini, from her lotus on fire. This guy makes me wet, want him, with a grito, his soft mouth, tongue, the words, el regalo- I’m road kill, she sighed inwardly. Foreboding and delight in equal measure, and she knew…You can’t pick your gift, your gift picks you, el regalo.

“We’re all Mexicans at home in our own country, Xochitzalita, this is how we play, it was in our honor, this new love.” Javier paused, looking into her eyes. “In this moment, right now, I’m so happy, I love you,” he said in English. He waited, then said, “Tell me you love me, Xochitzalita.”

She was shocked, she wasn’t ready to say those words…I love you.

“Tell me you love me, Xochitzalita.” His gaze was unwavering. He waited. And what she saw at the center of his dark pools of endless curiosity, wonder: faith. The kind she’d had at thirty-four; to believe. In the impossible.

“In this moment, this very moment, right now, I love you,” she whispered, tears filling her fifty-eight-year-old eyes of new wonder.

“Ayy Xochitzalita, besa me, un besito, un regalo,” he laughed softly. “Did you see those pobrecito, confused gringos, yet I think they enjoyed it, the Natives enacting some strange ritual, now for el prescripcion…”

“I want more champagne, some mangoes, those truffles, por favor,” she giggled.

“You want champagne more than this?” He softly, so slowly, grazed his wet tongue over the inside of her lips. “A woman’s labia, her lips, so similar, let me lick tu mango, mi amor,” he smiled playfully, intimately.

“You’d better stop that…”

“Que…What?”

“Your words make me want you, what in el fregado are you doing to me, el regalo, gritos, mangoes y mas…”

“Primero el prescripcion, then el regalo, and yes I can make you want me with my words, just with my words, Xochitzalita, y mi lengua…my tongue.” Javier gently lowered her black bandeau top with the fuchsia flowers, and slowly kissed her breasts, each one, butterflies landing, covering her, making her wild. New.

This is the deepest play, el regalo, the gift.

She lit the large, cinnamon scented candle she’d bought in the hotel shop with two, huge bottles of water, chocolate bars, cartons of juice, for in-room-emergencies. They didn’t offer room service as the resort was all-inclusive, but they had the store. How did he get them to deliver the champagne feast? she wondered, with fresh pleasure, as she watched him sleep. “Hermoso hombre sonando en mi cama…beautiful man dreaming in my bed,” she whispered. How does he know how to make love to my clitoris, like an old lover, an experienced lover, an upper class Mexican doctor at home in his own country, yes… Xochiquetzal smiled at the peace in his open, dreaming face.

She’d begged him to stop, she wasn’t capable of one more orgasm, she’d fly apart, she’d cease to exist as flesh and blood, she’d become random pleasure bliss molecules merging with sea air moon light star light his breath, he’d breathe her in… Is this how it is when you leave your body, when you die, does everyone simply breathe you in? she wondered, deeply wondered, as her body pulsed with its own strange and private joy, separate from her persistent rational self, yet claiming her for its own. The body, spirit, soul. One blissful human being. That moment. That very moment. As she gazed at his open, dreaming face- his lips wet, parted, as though he wanted to tell her his dreams.

They dreamt in separate bodies, separate dreams, but they dreamt suspended in the same sky, the same timeless sky, where their souls simply knew each other. Timeless. They laughed as shooting stars pierced their dreaming bodies, as they remembered their endless preparation for death, for birth, always death, birth. Endless curiosity. Endless wonder. They dreamt. Side by side. His leg wrapped around her hip. Her arm flung over his chest, his heart. That pulsed. With life. Her heart. That pulsed. With life. El regalo, the gift. Endless wonder. They laughed. Suspended in the same timeless sky. Where their souls simply knew. Each other. Timeless.

Was this the deepest play? Yes

XochiquetzalI speak to a beautiful man with no words, only a stream of light flows from my mouth and he understands. He opens his mouth, a stream of light,  and I understand. Joy.

JavierI fly across the impossible ocean to meet my love, I can’t reach her, her long blonde hair hides her from me. I return to my own country. To dark haired women. Or I will. Die. Again. To the light. I see the light. A wise woman. Give birth to me, I’ve held so much death.

She woke up to him inside her, so gently, from behind, stroking her gently, his arms, his hands, holding her to him as though she might try to escape, but she had no desire to escape. No Desire. To escape. They made love without words, only sounds of joy, ecstasy, searing pain/pleasure, as though in a dream.

“Let’s go to town, I don’t think I can bear to face our fan club,” Xochiquetzal laughed from somewhere so deep inside her body, her still pulsing womb- a place she’d forgotten to remember, until now.

Javier frowned with disapproval, and for a moment she thought he was serious until he smiled at her.  The smile of the boy in the man, beautiful. As he watched sunlight fill the room, her eyes, he felt happy like a boy on a summer morning with a day of play in his wide open hands. “I have to warn you, my truck is a disaster, I clean it out once a month maybe. My car I save for formal occasions, my truck es para jugar…for play.”

El Nino Doctorcito and his toy cars and trucks, of course, she smiled at him. “I don’t care if we go by burro, I just want to go to a strange place for desayuno… breakfast, walk around like tourists…”

“My truck is a burro,” he laughed softly. “And you can be the pochita tourist, I’ll be your Mexican guide,” he murmured, kissing her, making her wet in spite of herself.

“No, I mean it, no, you’ll have to roll me around in a fucking wheel chair, Javier, I’m not kidding, no, no, I mean it…”

They walked to the end of the resort’s beach where his burro waited, and she laughed when she saw his teenage burro full of dents, scratches. Proof of many joyful, and probably muy loco, adventures. When he opened the door for her, a machete fell to the ground, as well as beer, juice and water containers. She leapt backwards, laughing. “What in el fregado is a machete doing in your burro, Javier, ayyy Diosa y Dios tambien!”

“I told you it was a disaster,” he smiled happily. “Every Mexican travels with one, just like the gabachos travel with their pistolas. At least ours is hand to hand combat, mi pochita Yaqui.”

“Woman hacked to death in Vallarta by insane physician!” Xochiquetzal stood, watching him pick up all the cans and bottles, placing them in a large plastic bag in the back of his burro. He slid the large machete under her seat, smoothly.

“Here, it’s your weapon in case your lips drive me absolutely insane,” Javier said in a serious tone, his eyes conveying concern for her safety. There didn’t seem to be any shocks in his burro, which made her laugh out loud with irrational joy. And he laughed with her.

“I have one more day, Xochitzalita, then I’m expected back in the Emergency.”

“Only tomorrow?”

“I’ll come to see you in San Miguel at the end of the month, te juro…I promise… if I can stand it to the end of the month that is. You’d better get the machete to protect yourself, I think I’m going insane right now.”

She gazed at his face, his mouth, as he said this, and her joy didn’t leave her. Then she kissed him, meeting his tongue with her own, quickly. “Maybe you need your machete, doctorcito, maybe I’m going insane,” Xochiquetzal laughed. Like she used to laugh so long ago.

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www.almaluzvillanueva.com

Alma Luz Villanueva’s fourth, newest novel is Song of the Golden Scorpion. Eighth book of poetry, Gracias, to be published in 2014. Teaches at Antioch University’s MFA in creative writing program, Los Angeles. Lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, the past eight years.

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer based in Los Angeles. She is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen will be leading a Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and her annual retreat to Tuscany is in July 2014. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October.

Beating Fear with a Stick, beauty, Books, cancer, courage, funny, Guest Posts, healing

Shit Happens. To Everybody.

February 13, 2014

My Road Trip to Kripalu by Joules Evans.

A few months ago I was up late counting sheep, when some shit I’d been dealing with must’ve hit the ceiling fan over my bed and started splatting all over the sheep, spotting them like 101 Dalmatians. Which kinda felt like a spoiler alert to the sleeping game I was trying to win. So I stopped counting shitty sheep and I prayed a little. Which is probably what I should’ve been doing about my shit in the first place instead of kicking it around a bit, and then, kicking myself for making such a mess. I’m assuming we all know how messy metaphorical shit can get when you kick it around. Now, I know I’m not supposed to go assuming, but I figure it’s legit in this case, since there’s no such thing as a shit vaccine. I don’t think there is a sequel or grown-up version of the children’s book, Everyone Poops. But I could see it being called something like, Everybody is Full of Shit. Well, at least, I know I am, on a pretty “regular” basis.

Anyway, after all of that ruckus I sort of pulled it together a bit. I wasn’t in the mood to go back to counting sheep quite yet so I woke up my computer, and Googled: “yoga, writing, cancer, retreat” to see where it would lead. Yeah, that third word is some of the shit I was dealing with. The first two are a couple of ways I try to deal. And the last word sounded like a good thing to do when you’re up to your sleepy eyeballs dealing with your own shit.

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poster by Jen’s friend Karen Salmansohn. Click to connect with Karen.

Google threw down an article Jen wrote for LIVESTRONG called “7 Reasons To Go On A Yoga Retreat”.  No shit.  This was my introduction Jen Pastiloff and her Manifestation Retreats. It didn’t take me long, after falling head over heels into the lovely vortex that is Jen’s tribe, from the Gateway of that LIVESTRONG article, to Facebook stalking her, and then staying up all night watching her YouTube channel, to realize (become enlightened;) that Manifesting is aka Making Shit Happen, in Jen speak. Which, translated, meant that of course I had to go. I hadn’t tried manifesting my shit before so I thought I’d give it a “swirly”.

I’d already practically nodded my head off, agreeing with her 7 reasons I should go on a yoga retreat. As if, in fact, my body was, literally, saying YES. So I booked the next available Manifestation retreat, which meant packing up my shit for a road-trip to Kripalu in January. I don’t usually buy gifts for myself but this was a gift I needed to give myself. I saw it as the perfect diving board into 2014—a gift, which, 5 years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer, I never even imagined. It was time to re-imagine, cast a vision, set course, and dive in. Head first. No tiptoeing about it.

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When I first walked in the door, I had a pretty intense moment of truth. I didn’t know anybody. And, I’m actually super shy. Luckily I have blue hair, so I don’t think anybody noticed my knees shaking like green Jell-O when I walked across the room like Gumby and plopped down to join the tribe 40 women sitting in a circle, like lotuses blooming. As bold a display as it was a beautiful bouquet.

“If you knew who walked beside you at all times on this path which you have chosen, you would never experience fear or doubt.” Jen kept repeating this quote as we went around the circle introducing ourselves to one another. Over the weekend we got to know who walked beside us. We unrolled our mats, unpacked our shit, turned it on its smelly ear in down dog, wrote down the bones, made them dance, shared our stories and our dreams, tore up our excuses, became friends, and each other’s fans. We spent the weekend as beauty hunters, making lists and lists of our #5mostbeautifulthings. This is one of the most. fun. games. EVER. We shared our beautiful things, but we also shared our shit—because love is messy like that sometimes, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

Shit happens. To everybody.  Except when you’re constipated. And then you just sit on the toilet reading Leaves of Grass for what feels like forever; meanwhile shit’s just taking its own sweet time while you’re sitting there waiting for the shit to go down. Oh, shit’s gonna go down. And sometimes it’s going to hit the fan.

Shit happens. But so does beauty, and what if it hits the fan? Does it leave a beauty mark or make a beautiful mess? Sometimes you get dealt a shitty hand but sometimes you double down or play a wildcard and beat the dealer. Sometimes you’re up shit creek but at least you’re on a boat. You may not have a paddle, but at least you’re sipping red wine in your flippie-floppies with your girls on deck. Anything is possible. Even making good shit happen. Which is pretty much what a Manifestation Retreat, what Jen Pastiloff, is all about.

Post road trip to Kripalu, I’d have to say, that the shit that drove me there, and the beauty I came away with, are two sides of the same coin. I put so much pressure on myself to not waste this gift of life, but to hopefully leave a beauty mark—that I was here. This is what keeps me up in the middle of the night. I put so much pressure on myself not to waste a second of the gift of time that I’ve been given, but to spend myself, paying forward the gratitude I feel all the way down to my yoga toes—by making it count that I was here. This is what keeps me up in the middle of the night. I don’t ever want to take for granted the gift of a single breath, but sometimes I forget to breathe. This is why I drove to Kripalu. I don’t ever want to take for granted the gift of a heart that beats, or forget what it beats for. This is why I drove to Kripalu.

Jen summed it up best when she wrapped up our time together with these words, this mantra: “At the end of your life, when you say one final ‘What have I done?’ let your answer be, I have done love.”

#iamlove

That’s all.

(Except for the part where I express my gratitude to Jen, Kripalu, and the tribe. Peace, love, and namaste. *bows to your unapologetic awesomeness. Xoxo.)

About Joules: I’m a Christ follower. I wear a pink bracelet that says survivor. I think cancer is a bitch. Been there. Done that. Had to buy a new t-shirt. But… I also think God is good. He’s been good to me. I just finished writing a book: SHAKEN NOT STIRRED… A CHEMO COCKTAIL about the cancer chapter in my life. Right now I’m in the midst of editing it and pursuing publication. I’m having the time of my life. I am an INFP. My hub is an INTP (also Buzz Light-year by day.) We have three ridiculous amazing kids who wake up and make me feel blessed. We call them “the Redheads”. After 16 years of homeschooling, we’ve all graduated and I’ve since retired my red pencil and grade-book. Between college, mission trips, internships and world travels, are three all in the process of divebombing out of our cozy little nest aka “the Evanshire” and stretching my apron strings till they snap. Next fall we will singlehandedly be keeping afloat the University of Cincinnati. I love my fam, Vineyard Cincy, writing, red wine, black coffee, good books, cooking, the smells of my hub’s pipe and freshly cut grass, star-gazing (clouds and sunsets too), peanut butter and chocolate, Shakespeare plays, long walks, long talks, playing Scrabble and tennis, popcorn and a movie, traveling, following my Redheads following their dreams…. I don’t like anything besmirching my peanut butter.

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Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer based in Los Angeles. She is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen will be leading a retreat to Ojai Calif (where Joules will also be!) over Labor DayAll retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. A lot. Next up is a workshop in London, England on July 6. Book here.

Books, Guest Posts, Things I Love

Who Doesn’t Love a Ninja?

September 18, 2013

I, for one, am obsessed with ninjas.

I am also obsessed with my friend Leza Lowitz. Leza is one of the great modern poets of our time, in my opinion. I take her books with me to my classes and workshops and constantly read aloud from them. Check out an earlier post I did on her here. I also highly recommend her books of poetry. But enough poetry…

It’s time for Jet Black and The Ninja Wind…

In Leza’s own words:

I’m really excited that one of my favourite people in the entire world, fellow yogini and writer Jen Pastiloff, is letting me visit her blog to to tell you about Jet Black and the Ninja Wind, my debut Young Adult novel.

It’s been over a decade in the making, so that makes the launch all the more sweet.
As a yogini, mother, and business owner, it hasn’t been easy to find the time to write. But we felt that this is a story that needed to be told. So in between life and the laundry, we channeled a female ninja and wrote down her tale.

Why did we write a book for teenagers about a ninja?  I love Japan. But I got tired of reading about girls in kimonos trailing behind boys. Where were the female warriors? They were hidden. They were ninja.

You might imagine ninja as the B-Grade, black-clad assassins of Hollywood, but they were not. Ninja were tribal people who developed secret arts to protect themselves against invading forces. Women were skilled fighters, too.

I was interested in that history; my life and writing partner Shogo loved Native American culture. We connected Japanese tribal lore with the story of some special modern warriors–the Navajo Code Talkers.

We wanted to tell a story about a strong Asian heroine, so it’s an action-adventure tale about the last living female ninja. But it’s really about Japan’s indigenous Emishi tribes and their fight to save their land.

The two tribes(Navajo and Emishi) come together to save an ancient treasure and keep the past alive,  with lots of spin-kicking ninja adventure along the way.

It’s “Crouching Dragon, Hidden Tiger” crossed with “Indiana Jones” and a bit of “The Da Vinci Code.” Of course there’s a steamy love story and a dog-lovers’ bonus: a ninja Akita helps save the day.

A very cool Jet Black and the Ninja Wind Book Trailer just went live on Youtube. Directed by Chris Mauch (storyboard artist for DIVERGENT), CJ Gardella (Director of Shunka), and their crackerjack ninja team.

The novel will be out in late October but is up on Simon & Schuster’s Carousel already.

Through Jet’s multicultural adventure, we hope you’ll learn more about these American heroes while discovering the real face of the ninja.

With a throw of a shuriken star–

Leza Lowitz and Shogo Oketani

P.S. Our first review of Jet  is out, here. Don’t you love the name of this Blog- Girls in Capes?