by Erika Ayón
From: Women Who Submit
It began 12 years ago, the concept for my poetry collection Orange Lady. It was 2006, that summer I had gone to VONA (Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation) in San Francisco, where I had taken a writing workshop with Chris Abani. At VONA, I connected with writers who also lived in Los Angeles, and upon my return, through them, I learned about Ruth Forman’s poetry workshops. It was in these workshops held at Ruth’s home in Los Angeles surrounded by willow trees and included Tai Chi lessons taught by her that the poetry collection came to me. Ruth always showed immense compassion toward our writing process and lovingly gave us permission to just write. That permission to just write sparked this emotional surge in me, and I wrote without care or judgment, with pure reckless abandonment. It was in these workshops that I began compiling the poems that would ultimately become part of my first poetry collection Orange Lady.
After theses workshops, which I took for about three years, I sought different opportunities available to me to further my writing. The fact remains that as writers of color, we sometimes have to forge our own way because of lack of resources, financial limitations, and accessibility. It’s not as easy as saying I want to write, and the world opens up. At that time I was single, supporting myself, and worked jobs where I couldn’t always take time off to go to writing retreats, and residencies, plus taking time off meant I would have less financial resources to pay for these opportunities. I sought out opportunities that were available and accessible to me. I joined a writing group. We met once a month and shared our work with each other. I would always be grateful to my writing group because they were veteran writers, and I came in with my raw, unfinished work but a huge desire to become a better writer. I will always be grateful to Deirdre Harris, Olga García Echeverría, and Liz González for taking me in, and giving me the support and guidance I needed.
With the help of the writing workshops and my writing group, I applied and participated in the PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship in 2009. The fellowship showed me a different part of the literary world. The one that included talks with agents, authors, and a mentor. Working closely with Suzanne Lummis, Donna Hilbert, and my poetry cohort, who were amazing poets, allowed me to focus on editing. To take the work I had and smooth out all the creases. I quit my job and lived off my savings for most of the fellowship. I felt I needed to absorb everything, to not have any distractions, to simply be a writer. It was one of the greatest times in my writing life. My relationship with writing deepened, because I was able to dedicate all my time to it. It no longer felt like I was neglecting it. Read Rest of Article Here