By Ines Rodrigues
I always had dreams of becoming a writer, but not even my prolific imagination could have pictured me doing it in a language that is not my native Portuguese. I had to move from Brazil to New York and wait ten years, until the point where I was dreaming and cursing in English, just to start calling myself a writer. Why didn’t I start writing fiction while I was still in Brazil? Of course, I found all the possible excuses, pretending the call didn’t exist: I partied, traveled and dated a lot, avoiding silence and concentration in my free time. I could always write later, in the next year, decade, or in the next lifetime. I worked as a journalist to exercise my fingers, always eager to find a keyboard to type the words that were longing to escape the confinement of my own thoughts.
I’ve always been passionate about different languages, places and people. They ignited something inside me I couldn’t quite identify; I always wanted to write when I was on the move. I traveled as much my pockets and my time allowed me to. I fell in love with Italy when I was still a child and lived there in my twenties. I thought I was going to marry an Italian guy and stay there forever, but I ended up returning to Brazil, just in time to meet my future Irish husband in São Paulo. That short work assignment became a three-year stay. We later moved to New York, where I had my children, and was then forced to face reality.
Stuck in a suburban house, raising kids, and distant from my bohemian life in South America, I was compelled to grow up and plan the rest of my life. I started teaching languages because the hours were great. I took care of my family almost full time, but there was still a little room in my mind for reading and dreaming. I started to realize there were a lot of people writing and publishing, and that was not a work of fiction as I had always imagined.
I started to take writing classes online, being too ashamed of showing my foreign face and accent in a classroom. What would people think of me? Who’s that pretentious Brazilian woman with all those grammatical mistakes on her pages? What is she thinking? She has a lot of nerve…coming here to write in English…although the more I wrote and learned about the craft the more I wanted to do it. I couldn’t spend a day without thinking about writing. Finally I decided to take a weekend workshop, and then another, and another.
In the fall of 2010, I was sitting around my dining room table, in front of my laptop, with papers scattered all over. My kids were both in elementary school full time, and I had to start doing something. My husband had recommended the safety of a secretarial job, teaching in a public school, or going back to college. I instead wanted to jump into a semester of a fiction writing course. I had a novel in my mind and I had to learn how to discipline myself to write it. Of course I was scared. ”They won’t accept me because I am Brazilian,” I thought.
I called my best friend to commiserate. He didn’t any waste time.
“Sign up immediately!”
He stayed on the phone while I registered online. “I want to make sure you don’t bury your head in the ground again,” he said.
A week later I was starting my novel. I met teachers, friends, and amazing writers who became guardian angels of my craft. I never stopped. My kids still point out my (not so bad now) grammar mistakes and call me “Gloria,” referring to Sofia Vergara’s Colombian character in Modern Family. I reply, saying that all I want is to have her looks… In three years my first novel was done and I felt proud of my accent. As soon as I finish this post I am starting the second one.
Ines Rodrigues is a Brazilian writer and Italian teacher, living in Westchester, NY with an Irish husband, two American children and two American cats. Her favorite authors are Gabriel Garcìa Marquez, Claudio Magris and Orhan Pamuk. She is currently seeking publication for her first novel, Days of Bossa Nova, a family saga set in her hometown, São Paulo. Her fiction work has been included in public readings at Sarah Lawrence College (Bronxville, NY) and at the Journée du Monde in Paris, France. She wrote non-fiction articles for newspapers and magazines such as Elle and Marie Claire in Brazil, and short stories for the website Webamigos (2002-2003). Her writer’s blog is www.aplaceinmymind.weebly.com.