remembering orlando

one year later...

How do I begin to talk about Orlando? Or about this last year? It hasn’t been an easy one. It has been a year of waking up in the challenge, a year of marching and leaning forward enough to maintain momentum. No longer necessary to seek the journey, it has rushed into our faces. We must become the journey if we want to go forward in this political climate. We must embody our path.

So to speak of Orlando is to speak of self. And as a queer Chicana when I speak of self I must also speak of love. I must carry my own supply, because this world has little for me. Orlando made that clear, again.

And my love, even my self love, I know is not mine, but part of the greater flow. As I love my self, I send love to the families. As I love my self, I send love to the lost. As I love my self, I change the world in which a massacre like the one at Pulse can happen.

I must hold self love up high enough to see through the lies of this land and keep my self alive, embodied.
Moving forward.
This is the revolution.
This is the epitome of being queer to me.

Creativity has always been my modes operandi. When the going gets tough and the going is definitely  tough, the creative start making art! The portraits of those lost are most moving. They serve not only as a memorial, but also as an act of respect. Art is a way to commune with a subject. As artists, we take them in and then express out how they move us. They literally move through us. Through our eyes, our heart and finally out our hands onto the canvas or page. Artists re-embody their subjects through themselves. And again I come to love.

The more we love ourselves, the more we express love through everything we create, the more creativity is an act of love both self and communal. Self. Community. Creativity. Love. This is life to me. This is political. Our creativity is within to heal us and those around us. That’s why it’s suppressed.

To unleash our creative power is one of the strongest acts of self love there is.

In April, I spontaneously began writing my first YA novella, Ma Llorona. It hit hard and fast. Unexpected, even disruptive. I got the main body of it but eventually learned that what I thought I knew I didn’t. Numerous times I thought it was ready for final edits, but as I do with my creative work, I prayed into it instead of looking for closure. I asked for insight and healing every step of the way, especially since I had never done anything like this before. And in perfect order, my creative prayers delivered again and again and the story expanded, deepened, healed more and more of me. I didn’t know how much of me would be held or healed by this story. I didn’t know that I had the ability to let something like this pass through me. I’m still rattled, still a bit shaky.

By the time the manuscript was complete, and I’ll be honest I’m still on final edits, Orlando had become part of the story. It wasn’t my initial intention. It was a deeper, intuitive healing. The kind that sneaks up on you because it’s so deep it can’t be consciously courted. As I worked through the timeline with the calendar I realized that Orlando occurred at a key moment. It was there, embedded in the story already, waiting to be included. When I looked at why it would be there, it fit perfectly. It made sense. It was only a matter of me opening my eyes and accepting it.

So today as I actively work on completing and submitting the second proof to my printer, as I love my self and send deep love to the families and those lost in Orlando, I howl out to our ancestors and I howl into the power of creativity to heal us through these times.

I HOWL LOVE.
I HOWL THE POWER TO CREATE.
I HOWL THE POWER TO HEAL.

 The ancient river ghost, La Llorona guides me to speak however messy, to step forward however clumsy, to lean into my own ghosts both personal and ancient and find a way through the shadows.

I reclaim La Llorona as an indigenous, queer, MesoAmerican reflection. She is ours now. She belongs to us queers. We need her to howl with us, to teach us about grief. But more than one ghost, I claim all of our ghosts. I claim all of our stories as valuable, all of our history as necessary, I call out all the healing waiting to be unleashed through the power of our voices. As queer Latinx/Chicanx we can heal. We can change the world. We can paint, write, express. With love we can re-embody and transform this world. It’s ours. I claim this world as queer. Now.

It makes sense that Orlando is a part of Ma Llorona. Orlando is very deep for us as queer Latinx/Chicanx. It is part of our story now. It is ours to heal. It is ours to see that it rides not only on the moment it happened, but on everything that led to that moment. From MesoAmerica to Mexico City to San Francisco to Orlando, the ghosts are calling.

Tonight, like last year we will gather in the Castro and fill the sky with our love, and our grief. We will stand with the ghosts and we will tell their stories. Our stories.

Tonight, we will change the world, the way queers always do.
By loving ourselves and using our voices.

Tonight we stand with Orlando.

Blessings OUT on this one year anniversary. Queer Eternal.

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The time is now

Let's flood the world with our voices

The act of telling our own stories is a radical act.

I continue to stand humbled by the power of creativity and its ability to heal us and change the world we live in. It’s with a sense of urgency that creativity flows through me these days. Sometimes it feels like the only realness in a mad, mad world. I know for myself going through my own personal challenges, creativity has been the anchor, the teacher, the expression I needed to heal and further myself on the path of life. I have said for many years that I sit at the feet of the creative force, a devotee open to learn. Unleashing the creative force within myself and allowing it to flow with greater and greater power is one of my primary goals in life. From this all else flows.

In that flow, I just spent the last 3 weeks writing my first novella. It was unexpected, and overwhelming at times. As I step away and begin final reads and edits, I find I am more committed to the power of voice as a revolution to heal us, to reclaim our history, to change the vision we hold of ourselves… I could go on forever! Instead I’ll land on this.

WE NEED YOUR VOICE. WE NEED YOUR STORIES. The weight of silence is very real. It has affected our hearts and our minds. The world has changed without our voices in it. We must find a way to step forward and reclaim storytelling.

For over 20 years I have been citing CCBC’s statistics to portray the sobering vision of silence for POC and Indigenous people. But the last few years I began focusing on what else those statistics are telling us. When we look at them from a creator’s perspective, we see how many more books we need to make to step forward into our voice in the world. We see the power that is ours to rise into, the spaces where our voices are needed.

Look at the graphics below. See where your community stands. I follow the BLUE statistics to see where Latinx like me stand. Our numbers are stunning. Looking at the enormous silence and invisibility we live with as a community. I can literally feel the courage it has taken me to step into voice. It’s been a deep and healing challenge, a 40 year journey, ever since I was 13 when I first decided I would write.

Statistics from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC).

Where we stand as of 2016 in U.S. Children’s Book Industry:

Where we should be if POC&Indigenous authors were telling our own stories:

How the last 11 years (& beyond) has impacted us:

What can we do about it now?

Voice is a revolution. For you. For me. For all of us. We need your voice. We need your story. Now more than ever.
There is an urgency to step forward and a knowing now that we must do it for ourselves.

I’ve provided everything I know along the way through School of the Free Mind and will continue to share stories, book templates, statistics and everything imaginable on our collective journey toward presence and voice.
In that spirit,
Reflection Press will be releasing my next book, a ghost story novella, fabulously soon! And several other children’s books are in the works. We also have plans to offer anthology submission opportunities and are preparing to open up scholarships again for School of the Free Mind.
Join our Mailing List to stay in the loop!
More details coming soon. Stay tuned!
BLESSINGS OUT,
xomaya
The Time is Now
(Note about the statistics above: Simplifying statistics helps us identify overall trends but does not represent the nuance of our communities. Also every effort has been made to show accurate numbers, however our goal is not to get caught up in the specificity of the numbers but bring awareness to the reality of the situation and inspire effective action.)
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Releasing for President’s Day: When a Bully is President: Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times

Seeding the journey out

When a Bully is President: Truth and Creativity for Oppressive TimesToday is the official release of my new children’s book, When a Bully is President: Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times.

Decolonization. De-escalation. Disengagement.
True power. Resilience. Creative force.
Equity. Inner authority. Self-care.
Community respect.
Self love.

I didn’t pause. I sat down and wrote the truth book as soon as Matthew suggested I create something in response to the 2016 election, because I know. I know what it’s like to be bullied in big and small ways. I know what it’s like to feel like you don’t have any power in a situation. I knew this is how kids were feeling. Not because I was hearing it on my social media, but because I know.

I immediately wrote the book because in my imagination I could see the faces of all the kids I’ve worked with over the last 20 years. I reached toward them like I always do, because I know. I recognize myself in them which is why I continue to share what I use to strengthen myself and firm my own resilience in a larger framework that does not want or welcome me.

This book is not your usual children’s book. It’s more of a self-care book for kids using truth and creativity as tools to deal with bullying. You might say this is the heart of social justice. The inner work, but for kids.

As social justice activists know, burn out is real. Actively engaging with the world at large about our own oppression takes a toll. Coming face to face with the words they call us, the things they think about us, the eternally clever ways they sidestep equity and perpetuate power over us instead of true power rising can be exhausting and sometimes just heartbreaking. Microaggressions or massive legislation. How do we mediate this for ourselves let alone for our kids? How do we support their education and activism without burdening them with their own oppression, but instead enlivening them to become more true to their selves?

Rising from a Holistic frame instead of a Western one, When a Bully is President does not focus on fighting and resisting, although ACTION and ACTIVISM are supported. It’s about what makes us strong from the inside out. Truth and creativity. Tools like these call in our full self and are often dismissed or diminutized precisely because of their power and ability to make us more resilient and stronger for the long haul.

When a Bully is President is about reclaiming that inner journey for our kids as they participate in today’s activism with the hope that as they develop discernment and self-love, the work toward social justice will continue and evolve tomorrow. True power rises. From the lowest up and from the inside OUT!

The book is available NOW through most online retailers and can be ordered by bookstores through Ingram.

We’re also taking book orders at my press which I’ll sign and ship out next week along with a sticker.

In the makes is the reader’s guide and how to stage a community project. I’ll share those later this week along with a short reading list about few of the pieces at the core of my work if anyone is interested in their own study.

Want to explore creating your own children’s book like When a Bully is President? DO IT! We are in deep need!
Go here to learn more.

The revolution is always now, because darling, you are the revolution! Love you. xomaya

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Mother, America

Now I Know

Mother, America

America.
Like my mother
I can never be fully separated
from you.
Born here.
This is where I learned to breathe,
to walk the earth,
love the people.
I know the seasons and the sun,
the way the clouds come
and where the winds go.

American.
You named me a name
I cannot take off
even if I go away.

I cannot deny you.

But
America
every minute
you show that you don’t want me,
that your love is conditional
if at all.
And although we are
forever tied
name to name
you
cannot claim me
as your own.

Without you Mother, America
I had to
learn
to
love
the curve of my own face,
the tone of my own voice,
the power of my own hands.

Without you Mother, America
I taught myself
my own love.
Until
now I am
my own mother,
my own country.

So Blessings Mother!

I finally know
your gift.

I will survive.

Because
only a mother’s hate
can prepare you for
America.
2/2017xomaya

 

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VIDEO and DRAWING PAGE for When A Bully Is President, Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times

the revolution is allways NOW

It is with fierce love that I share a reading and arte of my children’s book When a Bully Is President, Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times for today’s inauguration.

In the days ahead we must know the truth of who we are and that we are pure creative power.

Go slowly and carry your pen. Document your life and experiences, your thoughts, your children, the people you know. Write. When you don’t have words, draw. Use your creative power to guide you and know yourself. Let it flow through these days and through your heart.

Because if we’re going to make it through, and we will, we’re going to have to open new paths, dream new worlds, write a whole new story.

Download coloring page for When a Bully is PresidentWe need our creativity more than ever.

Take care today. And tomorrow. Take care during all of these days.

They will test our love, for ourselves, for each other. These days will test our love for truth and our love for humanity.

But through everything, creativity will guide us back to the truth of ourselves.

Voice is a revolution. The time is now.

Blessings OUT,

xomaya

Pre-orders available through Reflection Press.

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Update on When a Bully Is President, Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times

Flying Truth from When a Bully Is President

UPDATE 2017:

As I had hoped my IndieGoGo campaign and private contributions helped jump start some of the big shifts we’re making in 2017:

 from When a Bully is President

We are focused on making books in a big way right now, but even so Matthew and I will continue to share everything we learn about having an indie-press and using children’s books as a radical act. The bigger lessons will be added to the school over time. And I’ll use my blog to give an inside look into some of the more mundane lessons along the way.

First off is a look into our first children’s book.  One of the limitations of traditional publishing is the long, slow turn-around time. It generally takes anywhere from 1-2-3 years to get a book published. In terms of current events, the momentum and depth of a story could be lost in a trek that long. If we are to see and use children’s books as a radical tool, we need to be able to document and tell current stories in real time. Having a faster turn-around time expands our opportunities exponentially by allowing us to be more responsive and relevant in the moment. This gives us the chance to build on current events, activist movements and social lessons through children’s books. In books we can contextualize these current events with larger historical frames so that we have tools to help our kids develop critical thinking and other skills to deal with what’s going on in their lives right now.

The Walk Away from When a Bully is President

The idea to create a children’s book in response to the 2016 election was conceived on November 9. My pie in the sky fantasy was to have it in folks’ hands by inauguration day, January 20. Through life and holidays and travel and all three of us getting fabulously sick and a whole bunch of other stuff, the reality looks more like it will be in hand by the end of February.

Having never done anything like this before it’s super cool to know how fast you can actually get a book out. But this isn’t just a standard picture book. This is a bilingual 48 page book that includes tons of definitions and resources and references in the back matter. This is a hefty piece loaded with truth and creativity. And from conception to completion it will have taken 4 months. That’s radical.

So where are things at right now?

Feeling Through from When a Bully is President

Here’s what’s done:

  • Text written
  • Text translated—thanks Marta!!!
  • Layout designed
  • 9 pcs of arte complete
  • 14 pcs of arte in various stages of completion
  • 4 pps back matter in process

Even though When a Bully Is President, Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times won’t be in hand on January 20 for inauguration day, we will be sharing a video of me reading the full text and showing some of the arte. We will also have a downloadable coloring page related to the book.

Base of Love I AM from When a Bully is President

It has been a heart strengthening exercise creating this book. I feel stronger and bolder in a way I was ready for but had never felt before. I’ve also learned a great deal about both limitation and drive. And I continue to come to terms with how silence and invisibility have always impacted me and continue to create shapes and patterns in my life. Through every step I think about the kids and the adults who will hold this book. I send you love and reflection through these pages.

You are gorgeous.

You belong here.

You are the revolution and truth.

xomaya

Pre-orders for When a Bully is President will re-open at the end of January.

To join our mailing list go here

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School of the Free Mind Goes Independent

Dreams, Rain and Waking Up in 2017

Right now, the last 3 ½ years feel more like a dream than anything else. 

Matthew and I dropped into an engaged, active, productive, on task mode with materials and community. Creating School of the Free Mind was a fantastic experience that rose from our desire to share everything we know with our communities. It’s pure heart and soul with lots of brass tack info from my 20+ years in the children’s book industry and our journey into creating our own indie press.

The process was intense, a huge undertaking that taught both of us immense amounts. Focused, structured, driven, social—ALL in service to getting the materials down. It’s a strange feeling to realize you did something out of the ordinary for a very long time, and now it’s done. Maybe we had to enter some kind of altered state to pull this school thing off! I don’t know but I’m laughing my taco off the more I feel like myself.

Instead of putting yet another story aside that was haunting me, 2017 opened with work on a book of my own, and nothing but more of my own books in the cue. As much as I LOVED teaching and especially the supercoolfolks I got to groove with, it was a relief not to fill my head with new class materials, essays, videos, calendars, schedules, interviews, sessions, outreach and so much more. Just me and my books. Nada mas.

It’s a comfort with so much change and unknown coming on in the world. Obama gives his farewell address tonight ushering in the next president elect. If ever these are the days to come into ourselves, our power, our true voice. These are our days. I am claiming these days as my own.

We are inviting you to do the same.

As we release the school to independent study the focus of the artistauthor journey becomes more personal. Taking responsibility for not only ones self but also for one’s creative power and expression becomes key. All of the teaching is geared to support what you know and you coming into voice from an inner authority. Your confidence and power. Your true voice and story. That’s all that’s important. I know once creativity is explored, owned, claimed and engaged with as one wants and needs, the flow can be profound. Having a holistic framework supports your heart and spirit in coming into greater strength so you can hold your own power and expand your creative flow now and forever. School of the Free Mind is full on. It is meant for days like these.

As I continue to wake up and return more wholly to the creative life, my desire to learn about the power of our creative flow grows. This is my lifelong practice and what the school is based on. It’s time to return as a new me to my old ways. I feel this is the strongest position for me to share from. ‘Living the creative life’ is something that is foreign to most of us.

In a world that aligns success with self-sacrifice and submission, School of the Free Mind calls out independence, heart’s desire and true power for PoC, Indigenous and Queer peoples.

I still have so much to learn.

There’s a heavy rain in San Francisco. I’ve been keeping the candles lit, turning inward. My body has been rebalancing, always a sign of spirit calling. I’m taking this turn to deepen my practice, go back to my visions and stories, listening from the inside. Starting a new fire at 53 in 2017. I’m extremely excited for the walk ahead. I sense rocks and rivers. I imagine myself a boat and star at the same time waking up.

Learn more about School of the Free Mind here.

Scholarships now available.

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The Rainbow Alphabet and The Girl in the Library

Finding Voice In a World of Silence

Two books that support kids: an LGBTQ intro for littles and a story about a girl coming into voice

The Rainbow Alphabet with Mami Q and The Girl in the Library, The Library in the Girl will be published in 2017 by Reflection Press.

Written and illustrated by me, The Rainbow Alphabet with Mami Q is a playful take on the Mother Goose tradition that respectfully centers and celebrates LGBTQ experiences and stories for kids. Rooted in the concept that as we center LGBTQ kids we center folks from ALL our communities, Mami Q sings us through a simple understanding of queer identities. Even with so many letters in the rainbow alphabet, Mami suggests that one day we will need more words or maybe better words to speak the truths of more people.

Colorfully illustrated, fully inclusive, this book will serve as an easy place to speak the words for educators, parents and caregivers of what LGBTQIA2S means. Help kids find their own confidence in understanding themselves, their families and the world.

The Girl In the Library, The Library In the Girl is my story. The one I’ve been telling kids in schools for the last 20 years. I grew up during a time when I did NOT see ANY books that looked or sounded like me and my family or folks I knew. I think because of that, I used to draw my big, round Chicana face into the blank page in the backs of books! Eventually I began drawing a whole series of characters and later writing poems and stories. As a child I couldn’t find books that looked and sounded like me in the library, now the library has books written, illustrated, even published by me!

Having books that are ours in the library helps the library feel more like home. I hope these new books support more and more kids in feeling like the library is theirs to enjoy and is theirs to fill up with books written, illustrated, even published by them too!

PRE-ORDER these books and more and support my work with Reflection Press and School of the Free Mind, through my Indiegogo campaign: www.reflectionpress.com/radicalact

I’ve also added another book to my list of 6 in case you missed it, When a Bully is President/Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times. You can read more about it in my last blog post.

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When a Bully is President/Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times

A children’s book to support kids and adults in the wake of the 2016 US election.
Pre-Order When a Bully is President through Indiegogo

The book can be used as a way to talk about oppression in society or as a straight up tool to talk about the current political climate and the next 4 years with your kids.

When a Bully is President/Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times will be published by Reflection Press January 2017 (ideal for ages 7-10, bilingual English/Spanish)

As stories surface near and far about increased harassment in the schools and on the streets, we know how important it is for our kids to see us center and value our lives and communities. This book is an opportunity to talk more about what’s going on, how it fits into the history of bullying in the US and what we can do about it, while providing a structure to use our creative power to stay strong and focused on ourselves.

The imagery and text centers, celebrates and respects
American Indians
African Americans
Mexican and Latinx Americans
LGBTQIA2S Americans
Muslim Americans
Asian Americans
Disabled Americans
Americans who ID as women or girls

Join me in developing/continuing traditions that teach our kids expressive, creative skills and self esteem to continue negotiating life in the US. Rooted in the Claiming Face curriculum I’ve been teaching for the last 20 years, When a Bully is President/Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times supports our families and communities in becoming stronger by investing in our own identity, creative power and self love. *Includes extra pages in the back with definitions, projects, resources and support materials.

This book was conceived on November 9th . Matthew and I are challenging ourselves to get it out to our communities within the US in time for inauguration on Jan 20th.

As radical indie-publishers we want to be responsive to our communities and push the limits of what’s possible in publishing. We believe our kids can’t wait for books about the things affecting their lives right now.  Owning our own press is an important step towards mobility, #ownvoices and true creative power rising.

Honing our skills alongside our hearts and spirits helps us produce strong, deep children’s books quickly and effectively for our communities and support the flow of truth, respect and love that we need in these days.Pre-Order When a Bully is President through Indiegogo

PRE-ORDER this “emergency response” book through my current Indiegogo campaign

and/or

Learn how to hone your voice and art and start your own press and publish children’s books too. Go to School of the Free Mind, an independent online learning environment centering PoC, Queer and Indigenous people (reduced 2017 membership also available through my current Indiegogo campaign)

Voice is a revolution. xomaya

Standing Together in Truth

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The Case of the Missing Books/10 years of data

#ownvoices in Children’s Books: A State of Emergency/ Blog Series 1 of 3

The graph below shows the children’s books that were missing by POC and Indigenous people in the children’s book industry over the last 10 years. That is if we were creating an equitable number of books per year to white Americans.

It can be challenging to wrap our minds around the reality of the publishing industry even though most parents, educators and librarians know it’s hard to find books that reflect our communities.

Visuals like this help us understand the extent of silence and invisibility we live with.

Books missing from PoC/Indigenous Authors

We know what’s at the heart of this kind of absence and we know how it impacts our children. The need for inclusive children’s books is not news to many of us, but it is finally in the news. For the thousands of folks who have worked for decades to move this conversation forward this is an important step.

But I want to talk about what’s not in the news. In fact, it may not reach the news. I want to talk about how this silence and invisibility has affected us as adults and the impact it’s had on our #ownvoices in children’s books and our lives.

I estimate with authors, artists, editors, designers and publishers, we need more than 5000 skilled people every year to create these missing children’s books and that’s only the beginning. This a HUGE untapped resource in our communities. But for many of us like me, it’s more than just learning skills, the real work is becoming strong enough within ourselves to be heard in the world. This is the real impact of living in a world of silence and invisibility. Negotiating the inner journey.

Through creating children’s books we have the opportunity to negotiate not only our own silence but change the kind of voice our children and our communities live with. Everyone has a story.

Read PART 2 of this series about what I learned teaching how to create children’s books these last three years.

or check out my Indiegogo campaign for 6 books that push the boundaries of publishing and support POC, indigenous and queer voices rising.

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