Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2019  Vol. 18 No. 1
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back Jose M. Martinez

Tapping into Roots

If I were to say anything about the creative process behind my stories, it’s that I always try my hardest to start with the characters, the people at the heart of the story. As I have realized my identity as an artist, as I have become better aware of the kind of stories I tend to gravitate toward and want to write, I have also become aware of the areas of those stories where I place the most focus. Tapping into the Mexican part of my Mexican-American roots, I want to say that my storytelling abilities have been fully realized. I mean, I would be disappointed to have been Latin American all my life and not be a capable storyteller, at the very least. I think you can say that is but one way I view the stories I write—tales I would tell family or friends, tales I have shared many times before, that I just so happened to have also put down on paper.

Of course, “Mariana” is not just a mere “tale” told in this vein of culturally aware and culturally sensitive storytelling. It’s a story grounded heavily in realism; it’s a story heavily rooted in very modern-day history. Mariana’s story is one that is all too familiar, especially having heard it from those incredibly close to me. And in such delicate situations, characters like Mariana, like her children, like her father, it was imperative that I fully fleshed out these characters, that they were well-developed, that they were more than just tokens of symbolism. As a writer, you always want to shoot for the audience engaging with your work, to be invested in the goings-on of the characters that they will follow. And perhaps it was the sensitive matter that this story touched on that was as serious as it was, but in such a case, it was especially crucial to me that the story stuck the landing on all these aforementioned fronts.  

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