Biography Writing Teaching Appearances  

Recently in writing the memoir Category

Memoirist and fiction writer, Nancy Agabian, who teaches creative writing at NYU Gallatin and also leads her own writing group has generously invited me to join the "Blog Hop." Nancy calls blog hopping "an internet, chain mail, Q&A dance." 

Writer, Nancy Agabian

All of the following writers have answered questions about their present book projects:  Nancy Agabian, Gint Aras, Beth Neff, Ryka Aoki, and I.  At the end of my Q&A, I invite you to "blog hop" to the other writers listed to read their answers!  

Amelia M.L. Montes---

Q: What is the working title of your book?
A: The Diabetes Chronicles (a "very" "working" title because I don't think such a title will sell). I'm hoping that a different title will come to me as I continue revising. 

Q: Where did the idea come from for the book?
A: During the summer of 2010, I was diagnosed with Diabetes. I had already been researching Diabetes in my family and that of other immigrant Mexican families--weaving in fictional scenes (imagining the moment various family members were told they had Diabetes) with non-fiction (medical information and medical history having to do with Diabetes). Later, when I was diagnosed, I experienced an entirely new learning curve.  I have observed the disease from "outside" of diagnosis and now from being directly affected by it. The responses I've received when I read excerpts or post mini-sections on my blog tells me that people are interested and hungry for this information because this disease is affecting so many people.

Q: What genre does your book fall under?
A: Creative non-fiction: medical information weaved into a one-act play, memoir, journal entries, poetry, newspaper articles, recipes . . .

Q: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A:The Diabetes Chronicles is about a woman's coming to terms with diabetes, a disease created by multiple histories/multiple nations and various people (lovers, relatives, friends) around her who either have it or are affected by it. 

 Q: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
A: --represented by an agency

Q: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A: The problem in answering this question is that I don't remember when the first draft ended and the second draft began because it's now in so many advanced stages.  Wow--difficult question to answer.  I will guess and say that the first draft lived for about a year--from 2010-2011. 

 Q: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
A: Lately I've been reading a number of memoirs that are working with broad societal issues as well as personal.  Kristen Iversen's book, Full Body Burden:  Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats is a good example of the genre.  Her book focuses on the Rocky Flats nuclear site near where she grew up in Colorado.  The families who lived in that area (which included Kristen's family) were not told about the dangers of radiation that were present in the water they played in and drank.  As well, there were secrets in her family too. Iversen is looking at a serious national/global issue while also delving into her own individual family.  This is what I'm doing with "The Diabetes Chronicles."

 Q: Who or What inspired you to write this book?
A: Diabetes inspired me to write this book!  I am passionately interested in researching the history of Diabetes, taking classes on Diabetes management, and I'm so glad I formed my own Diabetes Support Book Group with women who are very willing to talk about the disease.  I also have realized that there is a lot of misinformation out there.  I want to help others with this chronic ailment.  People are very interested in finding out how to prevent or manage the disease.

Q: What else about your book might piqué the reader's interest?
A: It's a book about love--learning to love every aspect of yourself, learning to love others despite disease, dysfunctional family histories, and a society that continually places profit over truth which then leads to serious illness in the population. 

I also post excerpts or pieces I may or may not include in the book that work well for a blog post.  Here's a piece I just posted recently:  CLICK HERE

Continue the "Blog Hop" by checking out: 

Nancy Agabian

Gint Aras

Beth Neff

Ryka Aoki


An Angle of Vision is OUT!!

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Angle of Vision:  Women Writers on Their Poor and Working-Class Roots
Edited by Lorraine M. Lopez
University of Michigan Press, 2009

My mother appeared on the 1950s "Queen for a Day" show.  My piece in this anthology is about trying to find the TV footage of the show.  Last year one of my colleagues, Barbara DiBernard, had her students read the final draft and then invited me to come to class to speak about it.  I'd been to her class before.  In fact, I'm usually visiting her class once a semester because Barbara will teach my academic work or my creative writing.  (Thank you Barbara!)  I very much enjoy finding out what college students think about my stories or my academic work but I never have my own students read my work.  I would find that too awkward.  But I don't mind visiting other classes who are reading my work.  However, walking into Barbara's class regarding this particular writing, I felt different.  It was the first time that students had read something I wrote which was not fiction, not academic but biographical.  I was nervous and uncomfortable at first.  Fiction is just fine because even when students ask, "how true is this?," I can remain the detached one--explaining that scenes or characters are bits and pieces of real life stitched back together in a different order.  But nonfiction/memoir is completely different.  One is still writing to get at a "bigger truth" but using ones life as the medium.  

On that day, I felt naked walking into the class.  I also had an urge to ask them about their lives right away so we could relate on an even exchange.  And there were moments when I felt worried that they would take these scenes, this portrait of my mother and misinterpret or denigrate her.  I suddenly was feeling very protective about my family. I began to think that they wouldn't understand because (a) they did not grow up in working class Los Angeles (the majority were from Nebraska), (b) how could students born after 1980 really get this world I draw, or (c) they may not relate at all to anyone I write about.  In the end, my worries were unfounded--really unfounded.  They spent time sharing their experiences, asking such thought provoking questions about my relationship with my mother, my sister, the way I crafted the piece.  They wanted to know because they could see connections between my family and theirs, because they wanted to write about their own family struggles.  

When I visited California State University San Francisco, my good friend and colega Catriona Esquibel, asked me to read this piece.  I read it to an audience of primarily Latina and Latino students--not from Los Angeles but primarily from the Bay Area.  We found connections here too, surprising ones like meeting Araceli Leyva who came up to me after the reading and told me she has familia in Lexington, Nebraska. One student remarked on the piece being universal--how most people could relate.  

I don't intend to control what I put out there in the publishing world.  Usually when I publish something, I think of the piece like a balloon floating up into the sky--don't know where it's going to end up, who will enjoy its colors, its shape, the way it moves.  While I have been writing this, my mother called me.  I said to her in Spanish, "I just published the piece about you when you were on Queen for a Day."  She laughed.  "Send it to me.  I want to see what it looks like in the book."  She's only seen these words typed on a page.  I imagine her holding the book, feeling the pages, seeing her name.  

I also want to send a shout-out to the talented editor, writer, profesora Lorraine Lopez!  What an amazing line-up of writers she collected for this anthology one of which is Joy Castro!  The title of the book is the title of Joy's piece, and what a wonderfully poignant writing it is.  Thank you Joy--for your generous and important work.