Join the Vessels Team

Writing in Oaxaca, Henry Rael

When I wrote Malinche’s Daughter, I was living in Oaxaca and pursuing my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Vermont College. I had spent the previous year on a Fulbright Fellowship, developing a curriculum and teaching “Writing to Heal” workshops for women survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and was now turning that experience into a collection of lyric essays to be published by Momotombo Press. I would wake at six-thirty or seven to the bells at La Iglesia de la Merced, and go for a quick run up and down the steps leading to Guelaguetza stadium or walk over to Casa de Angel for silent meditation or to Los Cuiles for a café con leche and some journal writing. Then I would walk back to my apartment, eat a simple breakfast of yogurt, granola, and papaya and start writing. I had no internet access at the apartment. I wrote and read and walked circles around the little table in my living room until one o’clock, then showered, got dressed and ventured out to start the second–the public–part of my day, which included working with my former students to help them lead Writing to Heal workshops and meeting one on one with women writers.

My life is more complicated now. Back then, time was time, and nothing else. Though I fantasized about someday having a partner and children, I deeply appreciated living alone, having to worry only about me and my writing. I could say yes to teaching and volunteer gigs, could stay up late dancing at the Central or listening to poetry at La Nueva Babel.

Today my life is bigger than me and my writing. Today time is money, and my choices about what I will take on and what I will let go are guided by a more complex set of factors. There are non-negotiables. I will be there for P. & K., to make art projects and do homework and eat dinner and play ninjas in the backyard. I will continue building a healthy relationship with Henry. I will be a good friend. I will invest in my community by spending time with the elders. And I will write.

Now is the time to ask my community for support in finishing a draft of Vessels, my memoir-in-progress, based on the aftermath of my grandfather’s experience as an infantryman in World War II. Set along the U.S.-Mexico border in Deming, New Mexico, the book explores the borders between life and death, the past and the present, and sanity and madness.

I am working together with ArtSpark to connect more to you, my community of friends, family, colleagues, and fellow artists, to raise funds via online social media channels, such as Facebook and my blog, including microfunding or crowd-funding (i.e. lots of people giving a little bit makes a huge difference!).

I have already received an in-kind donation of $800 from Suzanne Sbarge and Rufus Cohen, and a $200 in-kind donation from Marisa Silva, for use of their studios as writing space. As an individual or small group you can contribute to my writing Vessels by:

Making a financial contribution

A gift, large or small, toward the following would support me in the writing and “pitching” of Vessels:

$2400            Income/commission for full-time writing for December and January

Because I am committed to completing the manuscript in time for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual conference in early February, my only work is to write. I am not taking on paid contractual or teaching work until after the conference.

$200            Coaching with Demetria Martinez (4 sessions @ $50/session)

In the past, Demetria and I have worked out a barter system, trading her coaching for my help with household and other tasks. (I am a master at clutter removal!) When my apartment was destroyed by fire, Demetria donated three coaching sessions to help me find my way back to writing. Time is more precious now than ever. An hour that I do not spend “paying” for coaching with my labor is an hour I can spend writing.

$350 or a donation of frequent flier miles to cover round trip airfare to Washington D.C. for Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference

This is one of the biggest literary gatherings in North America, attracting more than 8,000 attendees and more than 500 publishers.

$581            Lodging for AWP conference at conference hotel

$250            Meals for AWP conference

$3781            TOTAL

Making an in-kind contribution

Help rebuild my library.

I am in the process of setting up a “registry” through Bookworks to replace the books I lost in the fire. Stay tuned for details on how to replenish my bookcase.

Making a devotion

I have pledged to abstain from chocolate until I complete a solid draft of Vessels. You don’t have to renounce chocolate in order to join the Vessels team. Simply commit to something you can do every day (except Christmas) from now until January 31. Yoga, painting, keeping a journal, taking a walk, clearing clutter. Signing up is easy. Simply post a comment on my blog.


Coordinate the chocolate party (see below &/or read my 11/30/10 post) and reading to celebrate the completion of my manuscript.

Coordinator duties can be split amongst a small group of people and include securing a venue, designing an invitation, ordering chairs, planning the menu, and handling publicity.

In return, you will receive…

All financial supporters, in-kind donors, volunteers, and devotees will receive:

  • one sentence per day from the manuscript-in-progress via email
  • an invitation to a Chocolate Party and private reading in late February from the completed manuscript

If you cannot attend the party and private reading, you will be the first to receive electronic links to party/reading photos and youtube video.

Financial and in-kind contributors of $50 or more will receive, in addition to the above:

  • an 8½ x 11” broadside of one of five prose poems from Vessels

How to Give

Contributing financially to the writing of Vessels is easy. Choose the method that works best for you:

  • Click the PayPal link below
  • Please note that PayPal charges a fee of 2.9% + 30 cents for each transaction.

  • Send a check made out to Michelle Otero to:

Michelle Otero

P.O. Box 26263

Albuquerque, NM 87125

Please write “Vessels” in the memo line

  • To make a tax-deductible contribution, send a check made out to Center of Southwest Culture to:

Center of Southwest Culture

500 Copper Avenue NW,
Suite 103

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102

Please write “Vessels” or “Michelle Otero” in the memo line

For updates on our progress, check the blog every Tuesday, visit my Facebook page, and visit ArtSpark.

Published in: on December 16, 2010 at 8:26 pm  Comments (10)  

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Michelle! I’m not sure how I started getting your posts, but I have been enjoying them and want to read your book Malinche’s Daughter. Can I buy it locally?
    Good luck with the writing, and keep at it! I hope to send a contribution in the new year.
    All the best,

    • Thanks, Giovanna, and welcome to the blog! You can purchase a copy of Malinche’s Daughter directly from me. I’ll send you the info via a Facebook message. In the meantime, thanks for your good wishes and your support.
      Happy New Year!

  2. Michelle, this is the first time I got the picture on the whole Vessels team, community effort. En solidaridad, I am making a devotion to do my deep tension releasing exercises every day in January, and to weave at least two different times/week (one chunk is big). More later!

    xoxox Hilary

  3. Dear Michelle,
    The devotional aspect of your endeavor is touching my soul! What an inspiring way to make this happen, and a brilliant vision for all. A book is on the way…I will abstain from TV for one year and make an offering of my time to you.
    Just let me know how I might help with the chocolate party or anything else you may need.

    • Welcome to the Vessels team, Deborah!
      Your gift of time is just what I need as I look toward to the chocolate party. I’ll be in touch with you via email. Thank you!
      I look forward to supporting your ArtSpark project.

  4. Dear Michelle,
    I am inspired by your words, your efforts, and your generosity in sharing your process and output with multiple communities! You can be sure that I will be dedicating my daily yoga practice (especially the handstands!) to you, turning myself upside-down and inside-out as I imagine you do, at least figuratively, when writing.
    Because time and money are in short supply at the moment, I am sorry I can’t make a bigger donation; however, I would like to offer you a private yoga session (with a little Thai Massage blended in!) to be redeemed whenever the deadlines loom too large, the chocolate withdrawal too difficult, the breath capacity too constricted. I’d be honored! All the best to you.

    • Dear Erin,
      I am honored to be on the receiving end of your daily yoga practice and incredibly grateful to you for offering a private session. Thank you!
      Your year-end class helped me to make room for the courage and endurance I need to make this final push to a complete draft.
      Yo te agradezco.

  5. Hey Michelle- I will volunteer to make a flourless chocolate cake and chocolate torte for your Party

    • Thank you, Frances! It’s worth holding out just to try your yummy baking.

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