Wednesday, October 29, 2014

'You are a gift'

You never know what may inspire you to write. It could be a song, a photograph, a memory, something someone said. Recently, some writing came to me and I really don't know where it came from exactly but I may have a clue.

Let me begin. Two weeks ago, I was standing at the post office in Fort Lauderdale. I was feeling frustrated and helpless about a family issue. I wasn't feeling like my typical giddy self. My energy was dim.

And then I looked over to my right and a greeting card stared back at me.  It read You are a gift  with a big heart in the middle.

When I saw it, calmness enveloped me. It was as if a soothing light had come down on me, encircling me with a comforting positive energy. My frustration and helplessness faded away.

I looked down and smiled to myself.

As I left the post office with the new found energy, the following words popped into my head as if someone or some greater power planted them there. A mantra, if you will.

You are a gift,
You bring joy to other people's lives.
You are light,
You are loved,
You are well-loved.

The words replayed in my mind, almost like a verse in a song. Sometimes, it had a beat.

You are a gift (clap-clap!) You bring joy to other people's lives...You are light (quick clap). You are loved (fast clap). You are well-loved. (clap-clap!)  

And for some reason, I heard a Gospel-flavored version in my head:

You are a GIFT (mmm hmm) ....You bring joooooy to other people's LIVES....You are light (that's right)...You are loved, you are wellll-loooooooved (d-e-e-p bass voice in this part. I don't know why but it felt good)

No matter which way I recited or mentally heard the words while driving, clapping, mmm hmming in my Volkswagen despite the quizzical stares from other drivers at stop lights and pedestrians, the words have stayed with me since that afternoon.

Again, I don't know where they came from.  I shared this with an old friend of mine, a classy sage of a lady who knows a little something about intuition and advice. In her soothing voice, she smiled, leaned forward and told me  "Johnny, I think God and your mother were speaking to you, reminding you of something."

Since these words were a gift to me, I am posting them here. A regift.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Richard Blanco's Miami

"A Cuban 'Wonder Years' or like a 'Running with Mangoes,'' a la Augusten Burroughs. That's how Richard Blanco describes his new memoir The Prince of Los Cocuyos that he just published.

It's the latest from the gay, Cuban-American, Miami-raised writer who presented his "One Today'' poem for President Obama's inauguration in Jan. 2013.

The new book chronicles his coming of age (and coming out) while living in Miami's Westchester neighborhood in the 1970s and 80s. (Cocuyos means fireflies in Spanish, in case you were wondering.)

I interviewed Richard for my paper the Sun Sentinel. Here's my story on his book, why he chose to write in more long form than his traditional poetry such as Looking for the Gulf Motel collection and how he hopes his stories may help gay youth know that they're not alone in their struggles. The book is warm and sweet like a Cuban cafecito.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Latino List in Boston

Each year, the Boston Public Library creates a guide, a list of book titles that reflect the Hispanic experience for Hispanic Heritage Month.

I'm happy to report that my new novel, Looking for Providence, made the list under fiction this year (page 5 in the guide).  Thank you BPL!

To scroll through the guide, check out the digital version here.

Actually, this is just an excuse to post some photos from my recent readings at the Providence Public Library and the South End branch of the Boston Public library. A big thank you to the folks who came out on both nights.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The other Jonny Diaz

"I wish I could read all night - seriously one of the best books ever!!" Tweeted one young girl.

"Great show tonight!'' wrote another fan on Facebook.

I wish I could take credit for the compliments but it's not me they're talking about. It's the other Jonny Diaz. Over the years as his star has risen (and mine maybe just a little itty bit), people have confused us.

One commenter on Youtube for one of my readings wrote, "Is this jonny diaz the christian singer? Did he write a gay book? Is he gay?"  

I laughed when I saw that because the mix-ups keep happening. Jonny is my digital doppelganger. So much so that Wikipedia emphasizes that he's the American singer and I'm the American writer.  I remember one time while leaving the airport in Atlanta after a book reading, the security guy looked at my license, then looked at me and said "You're Jonny Diaz! My girlfriend loves your music." I grinned and responded, "Um, thanks but..."

Yet despite our differences (Jonny is a Christian country music singer who is married and I'm none of those things. He plays the guitar and I play with my curly hair), we do have some similarities if you take a closer look.

We're both from Florida. He of Lakeland. Me of Miami.

We went to college in the Sunshine State. Him, Florida State University. Me, Florida International University.

We both share a love of writing (him music, me gay romance novels and news feature stories.)

Most of all, we both enjoy connecting with others. We use our words to uplift people and to get closer to a universal truth.

Jonny broke out with an inspirational song called More Beautiful You which urges people, particularly young girls, that God made us beautiful just as we are and not to give into societal pressures. He also co-wrote a book based on that song.

I broke out with the song More Bootyful You. (Just kidding but that would make a good name for a song). Actually, I came out in the literary world with my debut novel Boston Boys Club, a fun, light-hearted book about three guys looking for love as newcomers to Boston. And I've since written four more books that focus on the power of friendship and love among 20, and 30something guys in Boston, Miami and Providence as they navigate their everyday lives.

Whenever someone has confused me for Jonny, I've smiled and responded to them, "Thank you for reaching out but you might be looking for Jonny Diaz. I'm a writer."   I'd like to think that Jonny has done the same for me over the years. Jonny, if you come across this post, I'd love to send you one of my books, maybe Looking for Providence. (The title alone is spiritual beyond the city.) And much continued success with your music!

By the way, heeere's Jonny in his own words!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Eat, Pray, Elizabeth Gilbert! 

"Be the hero of your own journey!"

"Go on a min-quest!"

"Ask yourself, what stirs you, what moves you, what interests you?... Point yourself in that direction, curiosity is going to lead you to your very own life."

Those are some of the nuggets from Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert that she shared for a story I wrote about her upcoming appearance. She's one of Oprah Winfrey's featured trailblazers on Oprah's The Life You Want tour which rolls into Miami this weekend.

 I had a chance to chat with Elizabeth during a stop in Miami. As expected, she was gregarious and gracious and had always something positive to share as she did in her book which I read mostly on my gym's ellypitcal machine when lived in Boston. I also remember being the only proud (and giddy) dude at the AMC movie theater in Braintree during a Sunday matinee screening of the movie in Aug. 2010. Welcome to Miami, Elizabeth!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Looking for Providence at Boston's Channel 7


A big thank you to Alberto Vasallo of El Mundo newspaper - Boston's oldest Spanish-language weekly - and to Boston's WHDH Channel 7 for having me on their Sunday morning show Urban Update this weekend. I got to talk about my new book Looking for Providence, my late mom Mily being my biggest fan, adjusting to a new job and Jamaica Plain!  Below is what I reference in the video.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hey cheapo, you're cool

Admit it, it's cool to be frugal these days. When people get a great deal or something free, they can't help but brag about it, flaunt it like a badge of honor via social media or in person.  Here's my Sun Sentinel story on how it's chic to be cheap.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book readings in Boston and Providence

To all my Boston and Providence peeps, I have two book readings next week for my latest novel Looking for Providence.

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday Sept. 30, I return to the South End branch of the Boston Public Library where I've always had a great enthusiastic turn out for my previous book readings.  I'll have some books for sale for $10 and there will be refreshments.  Stop by if you're in the neighborhood. 685 Tremont St., Boston.

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday Oct. 2, I'll have a reading at the Providence Public Library for Hispanic Heritage Month.  I'm so honored to read from my Providence book there because the book is set in this beautiful city that I am very fond of (in case you haven't noticed.)
There will be some books for sale there too. 150 Empire St., Providence.