By Matilda Stolte || Contributing Writer
When the opportunity arose to learn from Sandra Cisneros, the world-renowned author of The House on Mango Street, I nearly fainted from excitement. Her revolutionary bildungsroman novel about a young Latina navigating the titular street and the characters that inhabit it has become a staple in classrooms across the world. In the master class, Cisneros proved to be both bubbly and down to earth. Her energy saturated the entire lecture hall. She spoke similarly to her beautiful poetic prose that fills the pages of The House on Mango Street.
To start, Cisneros explained the origins of her dream to become a writer. As a child reading was her form of escapism as she would sit in the library for hours and just read. Cisneros would find a book in the library catalog cabinet not by title, but by texture. She would search for the thinnest, most delicate card, describing it as so soft she could blow her nose on it. At 12, she would never tell anybody that her dream was to be that author on the softest card with the most read book.
Cisneros made it clear that ‘success’ is not immediate or easy. Writing within itself is challenging, especially finding the right topic to write about. She described finding a topic as an endoscopy, a painful procedure to look at the interior of the body. Despite the discomfort, the endoscopy has the power to reveal your spirit and the demons that haunt it.
To her, “writing transforms demons into light” and without expressing your trauma properly “the demons transform you.” Cisneros notes that society doesn’t teach people how to feel. We are all living in our own feelings, some with an inability to express themselves. She describes the ability to transform your own demons as a gift.
A gift that comes with the consequence of hypersensitivity. A hypersensitivity to both living and nonliving entities, for Cisneros believes everything has a spirit, a soul.
Besides searching for a subject to write about, Cisneros gave advice about working as a writer. She gave us 3 musts:
Earn your own money. Being financially independent gives you ability to control your destiny.
Control your fertility. As a teacher, Cisneros’ witnessed young mothers and fathers sacrifice their education and dreams to support their families.
Solitude is sacred. It’s important to nurture both yourself and your creativity. Solitude is your time to understand yourself and your needs.
She added that the most important thing to remember to ‘succeed’ is that if you make anything with love, on behalf of those you love, with no personal agenda, you will succeed. She redefines that success is not purely money, but the ability to make your dreams and your ancestors proud.
At the end of the lecture, I gave myself a little pep talk to go and talk to her. I tucked away the introvert that arises in every big social setting and asked for an autograph. Her signature, full of energy, marked up half of my page with the only pep talk I will ever need: ¡Adelante con esperanza!
Sophomore Matilda Stolte is a Contributing Writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.