It's our great pleasure to host Linda Rodriguez, author of Every Last Secret (Minotaur Books), which won the St. Martin's/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Competition. The second book in the Skeet Bannion series, Every Broken Trust, will be published in spring of 2013. Welcome Linda!
10 Things Still on My To-Do in Life List
Many of the things I wanted to do in my life, I’ve done. I’ve long been a believer in visualization and often find that, after years of visualizing something or other, it happens. Still, on my list of things I want to do before I die—though many are crossed off—plenty are left to be accomplished.
1. Become a fluent Cherokee speaker
My grandmother spoke some Cherokee when she was around other native speakers. My aunt, her daughter, could understand it but not speak it fluently. Late in Aunt Joan’s life, I promised, along with my grown cousins, to learn to speak Tsalagi, of which I know only bits and pieces. I’m working on this promise. I have Cherokee language books and tapes and am taking an online course in the language. I’ve even written a whole poem in Tsalagi with English translation. It’s a beautiful but difficult language, and my life is so busy that I don’t practice my lessons the way I should, but I’m moving in the right direction. Nvtsoasesgvna! Patience!
2. Write my big novel about the Vietnam war
The Devil’s Bargain (from the song “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell) is the title of a big, complex novel I’ve been researching and planning for some time now. The war in Vietnam was the defining event of my generation. It left a slash across our world with brothers and classmates killed or fled to other countries. It deeply affected those who went, those who stayed home, those in favor of it, and those who fought against it. In my novel, I want to look at the war experienced by those sent to Southeast Asia and by those at home who fought for and against it, as well as at its aftermath in the later lives of my generation. This is the big, multifaceted book I’ve been trying to find the money and time to write, not to mention the courage it will take since it’s so ambitious.
3. Write a memoir
People are always telling me I should write a memoir. I tended to brush that suggestion off. My life only seems interesting to people who didn’t grow up in melodramatic chaos. I couldn’t imagine a whole book of that would appeal to anyone. Reliving it certainly didn’t appeal to me. Then a conversation I had with my agent about redemption and hope changed the way I looked at the concept of a memoir. (Yes, my agent and I have those kinds of conversation—I’m a lucky writer!) I’m making notes for this memoir now, to my own surprise.
4. Recover my Spanish
I read Spanish fairly fluently, using a dictionary for some of the more formal words and phrases used in written Spanish. I can write similarly—but much more slowly and haltingly since so much vocabulary lies dormant in my memory. When I’m surrounded by fluent Spanish speakers speaking only Spanish, I pick back up enough spoken Spanish to understand everything they say and even translate for others. I don’t speak it, though my accent’s good for an American. (It might surprise people up here to know that in Mexico, they call visiting Mexican-Americans gringos, just as they do Anglos. Even when they’re still fluent, their accents are always off from years of speaking English.) I lack confidence to speak. It’s that dormant vocabulary again. A dear friend told me to throw myself into living in Mexico for a few months surrounded by native speakers. She did that, and her Spanish returned fully. So before I die, I want to spend some months in Mexico or another Latin American country and recover my Spanish.
5. Visit the Crownpoint rug auction
Most months of the year, a rug auction is held in Crownpoint, New Mexico, on the Diné (Navajo) reservation. Hundreds of handwoven Navajo rugs are auctioned off, many for surprisingly low prices, with the money going directly to the weaver. No two rugs are alike. Some are woven from commercial yarn, and some are woven from handspun, dyed with either commercial or natural dyestuffs. Many reservation residents bring handmade jewelry and other crafts to sell, as well. For someone like me, who loves weaving—and especially the magnificent Navajo weaving—this event would be heaven just to walk through and examine all the rugs. One day, I want to attend and be able to afford to buy one of these treasures.
6. Write a book of my mother’s story in verse or prose
My mother lived a difficult life and died young. She made many mistakes and was definitely not a candidate for any mothering awards. I’ve written about this aspect of her in poems and stories. There was much more to my mother than her role as mother, though, and as I grow older, I see it more and more. Many of her failings were due to the mores and rules for women at the time. I’m older now than my mother ever lived to be, and I want to explore her life in my writing and learn the truth of this complicated woman, a truth beyond that a child knows. Sometimes, I think I want to do it in a series of essays. Sometimes, I think I want to write it as a book of poetry. At other times, I believe I’ll only be able to capture the truth about her life in a novel. Still, I want to tell my mother’s story, one way or another.
7. Weave a handspun rug
After reading Number Six on my list, you’ll not be surprised to find this one. I am a weaver in a small way. I’ve woven bags, purses, placemats, and other small things. A good-sized rug is a massive undertaking. My big floor loom was made for weaving rugs. I’m also a spinner. I own two spinning wheels and any number of hand spindles. I have fleeces stored away that would make excellent rugs, once carded, spun, and woven. I don’t have much time to spin or weave anymore, unfortunately. Writing novels and then trying to promote them once they’re published takes up more and more of my time. When you add in the freelance writing I must do since I’m not self-supporting as a novelist yet, there’s very little time for spinning or weaving or knitting or sewing. And a handspun, hand-woven rug is a lot of spinning and weaving. But I’m determined to re-order my life to make time again for these activities that help fill the creative well for the writing, I believe.
8. Return to San Diego
As a small child, I traveled with my family around the country, dragging behind my Navy father like a tail. Two spots to which we constantly returned felt like home. One was in Oklahoma where my father’s family lived—we kids were often left with them. The other place was San Diego. My father taught at the Naval Training Center there, so we always came back to San Diego. As an adult, I’ve returned to Oklahoma and seen those places again, but I’ve never been back to San Diego. I’d like to return and visit the neighborhoods where we lived, like La Jolla and Clairemont, to see Balboa Park again and so many landmarks of my youth. I’ve heard from friends who live there that San Diego has changed a great deal, but still I’d like to see what’s left from my childhood days running wild in the canyons full of Indian paintbrush.
9. Visit Ireland and Scotland
I have Irish and Scottish heritage, and I’ve never been to either country. I would like to tour these two places of so much history and myth while I’m still able to walk the hills and old pathways. I want to call in on the Highlands and the Scottish and Irish islands in the North Sea. I hope I’ll have the money to be able to make an extended visit that will allow me to see the whole of each country. If I could, I’d learn Scots Gaelic and Irish before going, but my plate’s already pretty full when it comes to languages. I’ll settle for listening to the brogue of the people I meet along my journey.
10. Visit London
Every time I’ve been to Britain, I’ve stayed in Oxford and traveled around from that central point, seeing many parts of England. London’s an easy day-trip from Oxford, but since I’ve only been there in the summer, I avoided London due to the hordes of tourists. I would like to travel to London, stay in London, and explore London. The city of Dickens and Virginia Woolf, the natural heart-home of all Anglophiles, calls to my heart. I have this love-hate relationship with England. I hate the great harm the English have done in their colonizing period. I love the culture of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Spenser, Dunne, Austen, Brontë, Eliot, Trollope, and so many more. I want to wander London streets for days, totally conflicted.
I’m visualizing these desires as actively completed in my life and working toward them in the practical grit of daily life. What are some of your remaining goals in life? Surely, you must have some more colorful ambitions than mine, which seem to center on learning languages and writing with a little travel thrown in as an afterthought.
Linda is the author of two award-winning books of poetry, a cookbook, and the recipient of several writing awards. She swears she’ll shoo the cat off and warp the big loom just as soon as she finishes her book tour and the edits on her second novel in the Skeet Bannion series and the first draft of her third and…
To learn more, visit www.LindaRodriguezWrites.blogspot.com