This is Huascar Medina. Huascar is a writer, an artist. Recently, his play “Theodore’s Love” was chosen for the 5th annual Ad Astra Homegrown Playwright Project. This is his story.
“I have this constant existential anxiety about my place in the world. I need to know that I’m not wasting my time and that my art is taken seriously. I want to be seen as an important voice, for whoever is reading my work. Whatever my “group” ends up being, whether that’s the Hispanic community, or lower-middle class American, first-generation immigrants, whatever those voices are that I’m speaking out of; I want them to hear it and be sincere about what they feel. I want them to pick up my work and say, ‘I’m about to experience something and I need to be ready for it.’ I want to create change with my work.
For me it’s always about significance. Does you work compel other people to do better in any aspect of their lives? Does it lift up their spirits or does it shed light on something that needs that light? Are you capable of creating a story that allows people to be vulnerable or to put themselves in someone else’s place?
We are limited with the day-to-day lives that we live with the number of experiences that we have and that’s where art comes in. It gives us those avenues of experience.
Art grounds me. Art keeps me in the place I need to be and I stay focused and the outside stressors don’t affect me as much because I’m creating something. I’m a maker. I’m a craftsman. I’m not just me. I’m not just a person. I’m not just a father, or a brother, or a son. I’m an artist. That’s a very safe place to be.”
“What’s one piece of advice you want the people reading this to know?”
“Write, feel, and create, at all costs. Do it because it’s who you are and what you want to do. Don’t let anyone deter you from that, ever. If it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, do it. Don’t just put it on a list. Set it as a destination or point to meet and get there.”
This is Dennis Etzel Jr. Dennis is a Washburn University English professor, a poet with multiple books and awards to his name, as well as a husband and father. He got a degree as a Computer Programmer Analyst, before finding his passion for teaching and writing, which led him to earning an MFA from the University of Kansas and a Graduate Certificate in women and gender studies from Kansas State University. He frequently advises students in the Black Student Union and Hispanic American Leadership Organization (HALO) on how to move forward with their education. He grew up with two mothers, something he wrote about a few years ago in a chapbook titled “The Sum of Two Mothers.” Sadly, his mother Sondra passed away recently. I’m really thankful for his time and friendship.
“My mothers both have nursing background. My biological mother Susan was an RN who worked for the state and at Saint Francis and Sondra worked as a psych nurse at Menninger’s, so I felt like I had the best of both worlds growing up, the mind and the body. When Sondra moved in she moved in with her books and music. I feel like I owe a lot to her. I was her son. This was the 80s, so having two moms wasn’t something people did. The neighbors thought she was an aunt, or whatever assumptions they had. I didn’t tell anybody growing up.
The one thing that made me really proud of the book ‘The Sum of Two Mothers’ was the feedback from the community. Poetry for me is like a high form of ethics. You can’t just write anything you want. If poetry is a reflection of our world and our experiences and those all have ethics, then we need to write ethically too. So, for example, I didn’t want to write a persona poem. I can’t write what it is to be a lesbian, but I can write what it is to be the son of one. So that’s what the writing is out of, it’s out of the observations and the experiences.
The great thing is that when I read poetry from that book at an open mic night, I had people come up to me who were either two mothers or two fathers raising kids that saw me as a success, that seeing me up there was a relief to them. I would have never even thought of that but it was great. Any of the poetry I write has to have some sort of activism in it. There’s always something I want to tackle, there’s always something I want to voice.
For example, one of the most heartbreaking moments was during the time of the Michael Brown shooting.The AME church had a vigil and we took our kids and Asmund at the time was five or six. He was on my shoulders and he said, ‘Is this about the boy who died?’ and I told him that yes, it was. It was really cold outside and then he said, ‘Can you feel my breath?’ It was heartbreaking, my own son breathing on the back of my neck while all of this was going on; it really brought home what had happened. Those moments are hard to put into words. Poetry allows us to express them. Metaphors try to find those words.”
(2/2) I want to thank Jorrie again for taking the time to speak to me. If you haven’t done so yet, I recommend you check out her page Close to Classy. It’s filled with funny and insightful content for parents.
“If you had to give just one piece of advice, what would that be?”
“There’s absolutely nothing that you can’t do. The sky is genuinely the limit. And even if someone tells you that you can’t do it, do it anyway. Prove them wrong. I was told that I wasn’t smart enough to go to college and I believed it for a while. I didn’t think I was smart enough to go to school for medicine. But I finally one day decided to go to school and I graduated summa cum laude. So believe in yourself. And even with my writing, I didn’t think I would be able to be in a book and do nursing at the same time, but I found a way to do both. Just keep trying. Put one foot in front of the other and the sky’s the limit.”
(1/2) This is Jorrie. She’s a wife, mom and a writer. Her humor and honesty have jettisoned her page Close to Classy to over 100,000 followers in a little over a year. Although mainly humorous, she often writes about serious topics that affect mothers. I had a really great time talking to her. Stay tuned and ‘like’ the page for part two later this evening.
“I’m trying to find this balance where I do this nursing career, which I also love, and my writing career. I’m a behavioral health nurse and I’m passionate about mental health. I often write about anxiety and depression because I think it’s really important for parents, especially mothers with the prevalence of postpartum depression, to reach them and let them know that it’s normal and it’s not something to be ashamed of. And I think this blog helps fuses it all together. I can reach the demographic that I want and write about something that I know.”
“What’s the most challenging thing about marriage?”
“I’m a control freak and I’m super type A and my husband’s very laid back. We’re like peanut butter and jelly. When you combine two people with two different mindsets it’s hard, but we complement each other really well. You can disagree a lot, but as long as you have those pillars, those foundations, those important things, it doesn’t matter how you take your coffee. So coming together and compromising, especially with kids, is important because they put a whole different twist on marriage. But one day is going to be just you two again, so you have to remember that you’re on the same team, especially with little kids. So when you’re driving each other crazy because you leave stuff on the floor, or when I leave my stuff all over the cabinet in the bathroom,you have to remember that. You’re in this together.
But I think it’s good to have that kind of relationship. Brent calls it ‘my worst case scenario.’ I’m always like, ‘there’s a candle up there and he’s going to catch something on fire, the house is going to burn down, then we’re going to be homeless and we’re going to end up living in a van down by the river, and we don’t even have a van. Do you see where this is going?
It’s a trip being married, I tell ya.”
This is Louise. She’s a professor at Washburn and she’s also a writer. Her two books are memoirs stemming from her two craniotomies in order to remove a cavernous angioma. Louise is also a wife and a mother. Her first book was dedicated to her family and her second to her husband, Nick.
“What’s the hardest thing about marriage?”
“Marriage is hard at times, but it’s also pretty great.
I remember that when we started dating he came to visit me after I had a facial nerve surgery at KU Med, and it was gross. The recovery is just gross. You’re all swollen and you’re kind of out it, but he was fine with it. I feel like we wouldn’t even have started dating if he hadn’t made me feel like I was okay, in any way that I was. And I don’t mean just physically, although that’s part of it, but also as a person when you’re at your worst.
I have a friend who’s in a wheelchair and I was talking to her about how hard it is to date when you’re somewhat different. And we were talking about how both of us had dated guys that were like, “Oh, but your disability, or whatever, it’s not what defines you.” And you’re like, ‘Well, no, but it’s definitely part of me.’
Everything that happens to you is part of you and I’m not going to deny that. So it’s important to find someone who’s able to see all the different dimensions and understands that sometimes you want to talk about it and it’s a big deal and other times it doesn’t matter.”