The Writer’s Desk features the desks and writing practices of Gemini Ink faculty, visiting authors, teaching artists, volunteers, students, interns, staff, partners and more. Receive new posts in your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter at bit.ly/geminiinknewsletter.
Join Xelena González on Saturday, August 27, from 1-6pm CST, for her workshop: Picture Books That Pop! We’ll share ideas and feedback in the story circle. Along the way, we’ll enjoy generative writing exercises to spark new stories. Finally, we will discuss how to get started in the industry – from writing and editing to finding an agent or illustrator.
- Do you have any habits or routines that you follow before writing?
Before writing, I try to clear my mental and physical space. If there is clutter in my working environment (which is quite often my home) then it tends to clutter my mindscape as well. So even though it might seem like a procrastination method, it really is part of my ritual to clean sometimes. Another writing routine of mine is to journal every night. It’s my standing date with myself, and if I miss that date for several nights, I know it’s a sign to slow down in my work or social activities.
- What is your secret talent? Does it ever pop up in your writing?
It’s not a huge secret, but I do have a talent for movement and dance. I’ve taught belly dance for many years and practice other world dance forms like African, Latin, hip hop, modern, and ballet. I’ve infused some of these dance forms in self-healing workshops that focus on balancing the chakras. Before the pandemic, I began experimenting with ways to incorporate writing into these workshops. Hopefully one day I’ll have a chance to return to this practice because it really can change our writing when we unlock parts of our energetic space that may hold blockages.
- What is the one piece of writing advice that you value most?
I once took a fiction writing workshop with Bob Flynn here at Gemini Ink. He’s not only talented but hilarious and straightforward. At the end of our time together he said, “You’re good. Stop trying so hard.” When I think of how I can easily lose myself to dance, I remember that I must try to bring this same sense of abandon to the page. At the end of the day, it is art after all, and it should be playful, at least in the beginning stages.
- What is your favorite podcast and why?
Spooked is the podcast I probably listen to most often. It is my lunchtime companion on the days I work from home. I enjoy listening to various methods of storytelling and being able to move about my space while engaging with story (versus the sedentary act of reading). The subject matter is also intriguing because these are real people who have experienced the unexplained or encountered ghosts in various places all over the world. Because I have encountered this phenomenon myself, it helps me to feel more normal to know that I am not alone.
- What theme or symbol often emerges in your work? Why are you drawn to this theme/symbol?
Self-love and self-healing are undercurrents in all my work. These are skills we are not taught in schools, yet they are the most vital if we are to thrive and improve not only our own quality of life but our closest relationships and eventually, the world around us. I truly believe that this gentle act can, over time, revolutionize thought patterns and power structures.
- What is your motto? Does it also apply to your writing?
I have several personal mottos, but there are two commonly recurring ones. “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” reminds me to balance my ambitions with my realistic, daily stores of energy as well as my family obligations. Sometimes tackling our dreams too fast/soon or overcommitting ourselves to work or social circles can leave us utterly drained or even ill over time. My second major motto and piece of parenting advice is: “We’re all gonna die.” So, stop taking yourself so seriously and worrying about what others will think. Just do whatever you came here to do. ☺
- What is your next project?
I’m currently working on a sequel to my independent project LOTERIA REMEDIOS, which will be published as a fully-illustrated deck with an accompanying book in 2024 by Hay House. There is a long-forgotten second series of Loteria cards that have not been printed since the 1960s. This deck, which I’m calling “the B Side,” includes cards such as La Piñata, El Accordion, La Bruja, and more. With the help of an Individual Artist Grant from the City of San Antonio, I began writing remedios for a third of this deck, and I’ll be presenting those in a public program this October.
- If people want to learn more about your work, where should they go?
My website is a great landing space for a glimpse of my writing projects and upcoming events. The shop includes books and merch. And there are interviews that contain more information than anyone would ever want to know about me. Hahaha! I’m also on Facebook as Xelena Gonzalez and on IG as xfactor.live
Xelena González is a storyteller, poet, and visiting author who centers self-love in her multi-disciplinary workshops. Her picture books include the recently-released Where Wonder Grows and the award-winning All Around Us. Her third collaboration with friend/muralist Adriana Garcia is forthcoming by Simon & Schuster (2023). Xelena’s storytelling skills were honed as a public librarian in her hometown of Yanaguana/San Antonio and in Guangzhou, China, where she served as head librarian for an international school. Xelena began writing picture books while working with incarcerated youth through a Gemini Ink Writers in Communities program (now called Partner Classes). Her writing for adults includes poetry, essays, screenwriting, and her independent project Loteria Remedios.