So I showed chapters 2 and 3 to the writers’ workshop. (Well, not three, some later chapter, but whatever.) Went over very well. People liked the family dynamic, the warmth, lots of things I hoped they would like.
In a very amusing couple minutes, some people thought some stuff that happened in a funeral scene was too over-the-top, like I was trying to be wacky and people wouldn’t act like that. Of course, the things they were talking about were things that literally happened at my grandfather’s funeral two summers ago. That’s not to say the critique wasn’t important. A reader’s got to buy into what’s happening, and they won’t have you there to explain that it really COULD happen like that. I just laughed a little bit.
I got a lot out of the workshop, but I can’t really be in it anymore, because my clinic sort of blew up this semester, and after all the New Bedford post-raid stuff, it turns out both of my asylum clients have their interviews in the next three or four weeks.
This semester has been terrible for writing pages. Just terrible. It didn’t work out like I thought at all, and things usually do. But what can you do? On the other hand, I got all the first-person insight into the asylum process that I hoped I would, and was a witness to the aftermath of an immigration tragedy here in the state. I’m still trying to figure out how I want to write about that, because there’s so much to tell. But I know I will be writing about it, and soon.
I won’t forget Mike and Mili and the Garzas. I’m not going to let their hundred-plus pages just linger around. I just now have people’s families and safety to worry about in an immediate way, and then? Finals. I hope they understand.
I became Mili’s voice for the first time in April, back when she was just another intake at the Refugee Center. It was my first week as legal clinic interpreter, a sticky week in Los Angeles, when the heat and the dirt sat thinly over the city and soaked into your head and made your clothes all feel too tight. The moment I met her wasn’t anything special. Earlier that day I’d done my first interpretation for a full political asylum interview with a client, and broken out in a sticky sweat in the men’s staff bathroom afterward. That was the real event of the day.
The new Chapter 1 got finished and sent out to a dozen law students tonight. Scary. But it did require me to do some good edits and write a new 2-3 pages. Will report back on Wed. with how they took it.
I had the idea that Winter term would be less work than usual, instead of three times as much. Besides the trial advocacy workshop, I had journal work, an issue of the paper, and a looming moot court brief I haven’t written a word of. I haven’t written a word on the novel since my last post.
And I’m disappointed, but I still feel optimistic about the whole thing. I look forward to getting back to my family and story. I wish that were now, but I like what I’m doing, and I KNOW I’ll be writing again soon. I wish I had been a shining beacon of reliability, churning out 5 pages a week, but life happens, and I’m hardly defeated.
I’m in an immigration clinic this semester that will have me working on real asylum cases like Mili’s – I know a lot intellectually about asylum, and I’ve worked with asylees in intake and after they’ve already won, but never on the case itself. I have the feeling this is going to give me something amazing for Mili’s story. And maybe it’s good to soak in that information BEFORE I write 50 pages of factually incorrect stuff about her and have to go back and change it.
Hope I’ll have plenty of page counts to post here in the coming month.
Feeling better. I’m giving myself a break – hopefully I can write some this weekend, but you know, if I don’t write anything until after finals are over (12/18), the world will go on. And I’ll return to Mike and Mili and Becky and Esther and ‘Ama and ‘Apa and even Cousin Mando with a little bit of distance and a less busy mind. I’ve still written 120+ pages of something, and that’s something to feel good about.
So I recently assigned an important supporting character, Emiliane (Mili), the nationality of Cameroonian. She needed to be applying for political asylum in the U.S. (not arriving as a refugee), and she needed to be French-speaking, Christian, and clearly non-Mexican looking. After looking at a chart of who applies most for asylum, I switched from my first idea of Congo to Cameroon. But I didn’t know anything about the politics of Cameroon. And I had to construct her story of persecution, as my main character meets her translating for her at the community organization representing her, and her asylum interview and hearing would figure in the story.
Two Fridays ago, I got a very last-minute opportunity to go to the Boston DOJ Immigration Court for a training on appearing before the court and a mock asylum hearing. The night before the training, the HLS contact emailed us the mock affidavit of the client, stating his entire story of persecution, and mock direct and cross-examination questions for him.
Are you ready? The pretend client was from Cameroon. Of all things. I was literally handed the life story, family and geographic details, and tale of political persecution of a person from this small and unknown country. City names, names of opposition groups. Hard to believe.
I couldn’t think anything but that, I better keep writing this book. Mili is very pleased that she’ll get a strong and accurate story.