First, to all teachers, especially those striking and/or fighting for educational justice, Happy Teacher Appreciation Day! Under a different society, with different economic priorities, you would be national heroes. I applaud all you do, and send you a warm solidarity hug from Chicago.
This morning, I worked on new scenes to humanize the main character, Elisa, in my novella "La Bruja del Barrio Loco" which you can sample in the Antojitos section; that is the second revision, and I am working on the final version now.
These new additions came at the request of my awesome editor, Elizabeth Marino, who thinks the main character is fundamentally unlikable. My other poet friend, Eric Allen Yankee, disagrees, but I think Elizabeth is onto something. Sadly.
See, the backstory is in my head, and I know how much Elisa loves her son Alexander, but the story starts off with her in an intensely angry place, in prison, accused of killing her boyfriend. Her son is also missing, and what mother would not devolve into a hateful creature if that happened to her? Or any parent, for that matter?
Below, is the first draft of that scene. I would love some constructive comments below in the comment section. Otherwise, if you've got nothing nice to say, shut your stranger mouth.
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The last time she had taken him to the park, which she did every chance she could between exams and assignments, he had made all of the moms laugh. They were a group of Lincoln Park Trixies, most of them, with their perfect blonde hair and designer outdoor wear. One woman always wore what Elisa thought was a Swedish name brand with the emblem of the light blue and yellow flag, tastefully placed on the shoulder. They always had their Starbucks latte mocha-whatevers in their shiny steel cups, a fancy phone in the other hand, while their children played on their own.
Elisa and Alexander had been playing for hours, mostly by Elisa chasing him around, barking like a high-pitched dog in heat.
His chubby little legs made Alexander look like a bobbing troll doll with a big curly mop that moved with the rhythm of his joy. It had been Elisa’s delight to hear him laugh, his laugh, that laugh that was so contagious it brought the most reserved stranger to crack a smile.
She had scooped him up and given him a long raspberry. He had said, “No doggie! Bad doggie.” He had run around greeting all the flowers, which Elisa thought was funny. Some of them even seemed to turn their heads toward him.
But when then had to leave, his face had contorted into what she was sure was a going to be an epic tantrum. Instead, he had run to the middle of the mommy coffee latch, dead center. He had stuck up his little finger in the air, an emperor of justice. Then, he started going round and round to each of the moms wagging his fingers, saying an angry litany of gibberish, peppered with “bad mommy” between random breaths. The moms had laughed so hard, they cracked their perfect foundation, and Elisa thought she would never go back to that park.
Instead, she scooped him up in her arms, settled him in his stroller, and walked home with a bounce in her step, barking every now and then.
Alexander clapped and continued with his gibberish making sure to acknowledge all the flowers on the way home.
Keep revising, even if it hurts your fragile ego. #Resist
Dr. Jesú Estrada,