When I was in high school, I worked as an apprentice and advanced apprentice at Gallery37 with Columbia College through After School Matters. Along with getting paid for taking a college course and getting published after 10 weeks, we were encouraged to read and write dream stories, how-to’s, letter stories, etc. Every single day, we would gather in a circle on the 5th floor of Gallery and find out what genre we would be focusing on for that day. After the genre was announced, our program managers would read a section from a story that was similar to the ones we would be writing and the story would be passed around and the apprentices and intern would be asked to read a paragraph out loud. After which, we begin thinking of ideas for the short story we would begin writing and we would share the idea with the group before writing that idea down on paper.
It was July in 2011, the last summer I would be at Gallery37. I had created THE BEST How-To story titled: “How To Make Chicken Tacos in a blizzard.” I had gotten the idea from the blizzard we had that February. My instructors told me that the story would be perfect for the anthology. Along with great instruction, the story I weaved into the How-to was witty, comedic, and original. So, I started buffing out the story so it would be it’s best for the reading we would have at the end of the program. However, I was also wanting to write something else. That summer, I got the idea for the book that I am currently writing, Ostacoli della Vita.
This book is about a young woman who finds out that her ex is in a huge financial crisis, but when her fiance figures out that she wants to help her ex, he gets upset. They end up getting into an argument and she eventually leaves to catch her breath. She finds herself at her older brother’s house and discovers the box of diaries that she wrote in high school and college. As she reads the diaries, she rediscovers why she had to get a divorce in the first place.
I was excited about writing this and sharing it with the world. My family was supportive, but my program managers weren’t and this still confuses me to this day. Every now and then, after writing a new part to the book, I would bring it into Gallery and ask my instructors to read it so I could get feedback. Every time, they turned their noses up at what I wrote for my book. Every time, they stated that I should only focus on the piece that I was reading at the end of the 10 weeks. It eventually got to the point where saying no 100% of the time discouraged me from writing the book. I felt like no one would want to read it. I read the How-to piece at the end of the program and hid the journal I began writing my book in somewhere where I wouldn’t be able to find it because I had an inkling that my family would eventually tell me that I had to focus on goals that would benefit me.
Yes, I have found that journal since I hid it away and I am currently writing the book under my pen name, Lourdes del Toro, but I always wonder what the circumstances would be like if my program managers encouraged me to take a break from the short story I was writing to let my creative wings soar. Right now, I only have the prologue and part of the first chapter written. I have a feeling that it would have been finished and published had I not stopped writing when I first began.