Weaving Truth and the Imagined: A Guest Post by Author Jenny Torres Sanchez



Top: My grandmother Elena (left) and my mother Miriam (right) Bottom: My mother in law Martha (left) and my grandmother Zoila (right)


By Jenny Torres Sanchez

I visited New Mexico for the first time about twelve years ago. My in-laws live right on the border of Columbus, New Mexico and Palomas, Mexico. I was there for a funeral and it was a sad, somber time. Maybe that was part of the reason why it seemed such a lonely place to me, so desolate and bare.

On our way to the graveyard, I remember much walking and dust. There were rocks on tombstones to cover graves because there is no grass. And my husband’s family members took turns, while weeping, to shovel dirt upon their loved one’s grave. I felt then that I had come to a place of great despair. But also of great beauty. And I knew I would someday write a story that took place there.

Because of the Sun CoverYears later, a story did come to me about a boy named Paulo living on that border. I tried writing it, but it never panned out and I abandoned the idea. Years later, another story came to me about an empty and unfeeling girl named Dani. Her story merged with that long ago abandoned one about Paulo. They meet as Dani is walking in the desert. He sees in her something he knows well: tragedy. And he feels drawn to her in that way we sometimes are to those who might share a similar pain. So he helps Dani and introduces her to his grandmother, who also helps her.

Paulo’s grandmother is an interesting character to me because she is someone I have always known. In her I see my mother who came to the United States all alone after her mother died. I see my grandmothers, women whose faces I have imagined in those hot, dusty countries where they were born and lived unimaginably hard lives. And I see my mother in-law, an immigrant from Mexico, with her own share of stories of a hard life. She is the one who introduced me to teas and instilled in me a belief that different ones can cure different ailments and remedy almost anything.

I’ve been raised, nurtured, and surrounded by these strong women, women who are equal parts hard and loving. They’ve had to survive great hardships, broken dreams and tragedies. But they survived, thrived even. And I’ve elevated them to goddess-like statures. To me, they are magical in that there is nothing they can’t do, nothing they can’t endure and overcome. Paulo’s grandmother is a culmination of the women I love. She is someone who has survived and helps others survive, who can bring back the dead even. She is always there, appearing even in dreams. Just like the women in my life.

I think it’s interesting how stories are woven, how truth becomes inspiration that merges with lies and the imagined. I love seeing that thin thread of the real in my stories. I love seeing the people in my life, in some way, in some form or transformation, make their way into my stories. And while their stories are not the focus of mine, their influence is never far.


JENNY TORRES SANCHEZ is a full-time writer and former English teacher. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, but has lived on the border of two worlds her whole life. She lives in Orlando, Florida, with her husband and children. She is the author of The Downside of Being Charlie, Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia, and Because of the Sun.

Writers and Cantantes: How Music Inspires While Writing

By Zoraida Córdova

My least favorite feeling is the moment I dig in my purse and realize I left my headphones at home. ARGH! Not only is it a terrible thing because I hate the sound of the busker butchering Wonderwall on acoustic, but it’s because I love music. No Bella Swans up in here.

This is not to say that my taste in music is great. I will never understand Lana Del Rey and sometimes I like country songs (I hope you can still accept me as a friend.) But music, like all things we invest our love into, is a matter of personal taste.

One of my favorite stories my grandmother tells me about my childhood is that when I was a baby, the only way to get me to shut up was to put a radio beside my hammock (crib? What you think I am, a Queen?). So for as long as I can remember, I’ve been listening to the smooth stylings of Lisandro Mesa, Oscar D’Leon, Ruben Blades, and because I’m Ecuadorian, Julio Jaramillo.

Zoraida pic1How many of you need playlists when you’re writing? I certainly do. Music has always gotten my creativity flowing, and I especially love Latin music because it always tells a STORY. (Sometimes it makes me sad that younger generations don’t get the Salsa greats and instead get “I LUH YA PAPI” by JLo, but that’s a different story.)

When I was 5 , I didn’t understand that “No Le Pegue La Negra” by Joe Arroyo told the story of how African slaves were brought to Colombia in the 1600s and started intermarrying with the Natives. The Spaniards would beat the African women and then people would rebel. While that’s kind of a morbid thing to be listening to when you’re little, these were the songs I grew up with.

Most Latin pop ballads by Christian Castro and Chayanne are about how they can’t be with the girl, but they’re in so much love, oh my god. Shakira’s original Rock Latino songs were a mix of Colombian vallenato instruments and electric guitars and all of her words used to be pure poetry. The other day I felt really moody on my train ride to work, so I put on Selena’s greatest hits and a bidi bidi bom bom later, I was in a perfectly good mood. See, my grandmother had a good idea all those years ago.

These are the sounds, I realize, I have had in all my writing playlists. My Maná is mixed in with my Red Hot Chili Peppers and my Celia Cruz is mixed in with my Goo Goo Dolls. Whether I’m writing about mermaids in Coney Island or I’m working on a contemporary romance set in Boston.

I leave you with a random sampling of the last songs I listened to on iTunes.

Zoraida Pic2

What do you listen to when you write? What was your favorite song growing up? Share with us in the comments!