Monday, August 6th, 2012
I was only eight years old, and spending the summer at my grandmother’s house in a small Dominican town, when I wrote my first story. It was about a hummingbird that came to sing by my window whose nest had fallen.
To understand August Member of the Month Manuela Josefina Hernández Sánchez’s (Amapola) writing life, you have to understand her immigration story. Hernández, who is one of a growing number of SMITH’s international contributors, was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. In the early ’90s, she became active in the Dominican literary movement “Movimiento Interiorista” under the auspices of Dominican literary critic Bruno Rosalio Candelier. But when Hernández immigrated to the Netherlands in 1994 to pursue a graduate degree in Women & Development Studies, she lost her writing voice for a time. “You could call it writer’s block,” says Hernández, “but to me it felt as if my creative space belonged in my bedroom back at my parents’ place in the Dominican Republic and not in the moody weather and the language of the Netherlands.”
When Hernández began writing again, she chose to do so in English. “Though my mother tongue is Spanish, I feel at ease writing in English,” says Hernández. “English allows me to communicate with a diverse range of nationalities and feel more globally connected.”
Hernández connected with SMITH’s global community on Valentine’s Day of 2011. Since then, she has contributed over 1,400 Six-Word Memoirs. “SMITH has become my writing community,” says Hernández. “The wit, the humor, and the candid and sometimes brutal honesty of other SMITH members inspires me. It’s a community of beautiful minds and genuine souls.”
Recently, Hernández graciously took time out from her life as an educator in The Hague to answer six questions from SMITH.
Name: Manuela Josefina Hernández Sánchez
Town: The Hague, The Netherlands
SMITH Member Since: February 14, 2011
Why did you join SMITH Magazine on Valentine’s Day of last year?
On the night of Valentine’s Day, I was getting a little frustrated about a man. I had an absurd crush on him. He wasn’t sending me any Valentine’s Day signals, and it was already past 9 at night. As you can imagine, I was feeling like a complete idiot about it. Updating my Facebook profile about my romantic delusions wasn’t an option! I was browsing the internet when I came across SMITH, and it was such a blessing. I felt free to vent, to play with my frustration and move beyond it. And from then on, I was hooked.
The guy in question (who is now a very dear friend) ended up texting me before midnight, but SMITH came in first. That was the beginning of my steady romance with SMITH.
Have you formed writerly relationships with other contributors to the SMITH community?
I sometimes correspond with some of the other SMITH memoirists, and there are many whom I’d love to have over for dinner.
My first live SMITH encounter was last December with the very man, founder of SMITH Magazine, Larry Smith. Yes. I met Larry in person while I was in New York, and we hugged! He said I deserved it for having written more than 1,000 memoirs. That was so awesome!
It’s hard to explain to non-Six-Word memoirists why this community is so important to me. Contrary to what many non-sixers think, it’s not a replacement for “real life” contact with people, but a meaningful, intense extension of it. It is, by great lengths, more interesting and inspiring than any other virtual community I’ve been a part of.
What is your writing life like?
I was only eight years old, and spending the summer at my grandmother’s house in a small Dominican town, when I wrote my first story. It was about a hummingbird that came to sing by my window whose nest had fallen. In the story, I rescued her from death. That was how I discovered my writing bubble and ever since, I have cherished that space. [Check out Hernández's Six-Word Memoir about her Dominican grandmother, which includes a photo and backstory.]
As a result of my involvement in the literary movement “Movimiento Interiorista” in the early ‘90s, my poems were published in a few collective publications. I was on the road to achieving my childhood dream of becoming a writer. But leaving my home country simply shifted my inspiration, and it took me many long years to find it again.
I publish poetry and other things, mostly on my blog. I call it my virtual lung. And as I’ve said, SMITH has added this great dimension to my creative expression. Lately, I find myself writing more sixes than poems. Some sixes are encapsulated poems, which I intend to develop later.
Which authors inspire you and why?
Gabriel García Márquez brought the amazement of magic realism in my life. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry made me aware of the importance and beauty of seeing life like a child through his Little Prince (I still re-read it after all these years). Franklin Mieses Burgos, a Dominican poet, showed me how to explore my spirituality through poetry. I also love Gioconda Belli, whose book Una Mujer Inhabitada (The Inhabited Woman) made me realize my womanhood and need for rebellion in my late teens. One of my published poems is inspired by it.
If we’re in The Hague, in addition to stopping by your place for dinner, where else should we go?
The American Book Center, a small cozy bookstore, which now features an amazing (and very tempting) printing machine for DYI print-by-order books.
Finally, Manuela Josefina Hernández Sánchez, what’s your Six-Word Memoir today?
I belong here. Every single day.