Thursday, March 6, 2014

Guest Blogger:RASHAAN ALEXIS MENESES shares her "Themes of Love & Labor"

Our March Guest Blogger is Rashaan Alexis Meneses!


            The more I write, the more I want to write. It’s a curse in some ways. The backyard outside is blooming. Calla lilies pushing buds through furled green leaves, purple mallows spilling with their hibiscus-like flowers, birds scratching messes into the mulch that needs to be raked and swept, and still I can’t pull myself away from the desk, even with the sun streaming in obscene, full California force. 

            I like to think this work ethic is a genetic trait. My maternal grandfather couldn’t sit still. My maternal grandmother was always cooking, gardening, coordinating meetings for her community. I am their restless heir. They came to California to work, and work they did until the very end. This legacy I carry couldn’t have been possible in any other part of the world, so I find the more I think about my artistic journey, the more indebted I am to this golden state. I see my writing shaped intrinsically by this volatile and changing landscape. Like the place that has claimed me as native, I have spells of drought. Last year was full of creative productivity. Two residencies, one in New Hampshire, the other nestled in a small Midlothian town in Scotland, yet not a single word came to print, not a story to see the light of the day. This year, those seemingly endless months of drafting and revising will finally show themselves on the page with two short stories soon to be published. Both extreme departures in their own ways from how I typically write and what I usually write about, experimental in style and form, I wonder is this some sign of solidification? Have I come into what others call a “voice”? Or am I like the shifting terrain where I’ve grown up? Am I simply mirroring my homeland’s transitory nature? I don’t think any of the stories I’ve wrestled with and written could have been conceived without careful observation of the multi-verses California comprises. 
Poly-lingual, contradictory, as quixotic as she is a complex snarl of concrete freeways, she is my muse of love and labor.

No matter where I am, I find myself still circling around these same themes, which I’ve been privileged to witness and live out daily myself. I may forever be obsessed with the idea that how we commit our hours, how we sacrifice our bodies, is how we live a life. The forty or sixty-plus hours a week we devote ourselves to, for better or worse, indelibly shape our capacity to love and to fear. Though the style and form may be departures, I am always chasing some ephemeral truth about how labor builds or breaks a person and how a single person can build or break a universe--that is the universe contained within a grain of sand, which is the short story. 

My hope is that you might be able to catch a glimpse of these people and their tiny universes, inspired by places and people I’ve encountered abroad and at home. Try a taste with a very short excerpt from the story “The Others Are Strangers” to be included in April’s issue of New Letters ( 

      Ewan could remember lots of things. Robert the Bruce was crowned king in 1306. James the Fourth signed for peace with Henry the Sixth in 1502, and the new Parliament Building was opened in October 2009. The last one was easy because Ewan wanted to go to the Queen’s inauguration, but the divorce was just being finalized and everyone said family needed to be together. 

      Despite all these dates that floated in his head, a constellation of facts with no clear order, Ewan could remember but a faint memory long, long ago, of himself, Callum, Mum, and Dad there at that rickety kitchen table, the same humming refrigerator knocking noise into their Friday dinner, as Dad kept shadow-boxing, showing Ewan how to throw a punch. Was it what Callum said or his father’s reaction that made all four practically spit out their food in hysteria? It was a belly-holding kind of laugh, a giggle-fever going round and round the table in fits. Ewan didn’t know the kitchen light could get so bright. He hadn’t seen cheeks so red from humor. Now he wanted that ache more than anything. A feel good stomach-stitched ache that pinched his cheeks and made him almost tear up.

For fellow writers, please consider submitting to New Letters’ upcoming Literary Awards Contests: Prize for Poetry, Dorothy Cappon Prize for Best Essay and Alexander Cappon Prize for Fiction, deadline May 18, 2014, details found here:

To read more of my stories, please check out and check out New Letters April Issue (

Rashaan Alexis Meneses earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College of California, where she was named a Jacob K. Javits Fellow. Recently awarded 2013 fellowships at The MacDowell Colony and The International Retreat for Writers at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland, in 2009 she was named a finalist for A Room of Her Own Foundation’s The Gift of Freedom Award.

Nominated for a Sundress Best of the Net Prize, current publications include upcoming fiction in New Letters April 20134 issue and Kartika Review, a personal essay in Doveglion Press, short stories in the Australia based literary journal Kurungabaa, UC Riverside’s The Coachella Review, University of North Carolina’s Pembroke Magazine, and the anthology Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults. She currently teaches as Adjunct Professor for Liberal & Civic Studies at Saint Mary’s College of California.

She is the founder of  Ruelle Electrique and tumbles at The Quarry.

Rashaan and Cecilia at the Filipino American Book Festival in San Francisco, Oct. 2013
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tags: Philippine, Philippine American, author, writer, literature, book, novelist, poet, author
All for now,

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