Welcome to Malu & You, a weekly newsletter where I share my unfiltered and intimate ways of living life on the front lines as a journalist, mom, and compañera.
I write all the time, but I still don't consider myself a “writer”. Some days I do, and it's affirmed, like this morning when I opened Twitter and saw this tweet:
Or when Margaret Atwood, a phenomenal well-established writer, reached out to me. She asked if I would contribute an essay to a collection of creative fiction stories that take place in the time of a pandemic. And I have another short work of fiction coming out soon.
So there are some brief moments where I truly believe I’m a writer.
It's not imposter syndrome, which I have written about extensively. It's more the fact that I don't primarily make my living writing books.
Today, I am forcing myself to believe that I am a writer and I have empiric proof. I like to recommend the use of the word empiric when counseling people on confronting imposter syndrome. Look at the facts in front of you. Situate yourself in the empirical reality of all you have done. Open your eyes and see it.
I am being empirical.
Earlier this week, rsion of The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway was published, and guess who’s name is on the cover next to Hemingway’s? Me!!!
I don’t think the editors knew that I had a deep backstory with Ernest Hemingway when they asked me to write the intro. Actually, this backstory is kind of wonderful, and I want to share a condensed version with you all.
As a kid, I grew up bilingual, but there weren’t that many English language books in my house. I often felt like my family's library was deficient compared to the ones I saw at my friends’ houses. When I wrote in English, I felt this need to include long complicated sentences with lots of commas and pepper in profound multisyllabic words…like I am right now 😅.
I often felt less than (not more) because I was bilingual, and those insecurities were coupled with me going to an elite and competitive private high school. My classmates had parents with doctorates and houses in Aspen. They commanded speaking and writing in English. Not me.
We were assigned Hemingway in my sophomore year and I fell in love with him as a writer and storyteller. His stories were about human drama (very telenovela-like); he wrote about Spain and Cuba, about pescadores, periodistas, and being an aficionado. And he wrote in clear and concise sentences.
I became obsessed with Hemingway and proceeded to read through all of his books: The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and of course, The Sun Also Rises. To be clear, it was a different time and I was much younger so the sexism in these books didn’t seem as blatant to me as we understand it now.
Still, I’d never felt this kind of relationship with a writer before. I dug deeper into his work and read through his biographies. And with those came a beautiful realization, a shock that helped me understand why I felt such a strong tie to Hemingway. Ernest Hemingway took his life on the same day and year I was born: July 2, 1961. I don't know the time he died, but I’m convinced of our connection, no matter how absurd it may sound to others… that somehow, our spirits are intertwined.
I felt this connection help me during the times that I doubted myself. The voice of a dead white man from Illinois I’d never met was telling me “You can do this. You can write.” Encouraging me. Letting me know that it was ok for my sentences to be short. It was ok to use only a few multisyllabic words.
Of course, I was not sharing these thoughts at the time. People would have looked at me like I was a loca if I told them I thought Hemingway and I were cosmically connected.
But then, decades later, my literary agent calls: Would I want to write the introduction for the new reprint of The Sun Also Rises, By Ernest Hemingway? I said yes, though while writing it, I suffered from a lot of doubt. I even questioned why I agreed to do it in the first place. But I pushed on.
A few weeks ago I finally saw the cover and there it was. The empirical reality of my writing skills. My name, right there, next to mi querido Ernesto’s.
You never know who will be your biggest teacher in life. Maybe it’s the voice in your head of a white man from Illinois, or anything that sounds a little strange to someone else. But if that voice encourages you and pushes you on, then it’s a powerful connection you should hold close to your heart.