Maria Cotera takes on Literati Bookstore

At Sweetland’s Word Squared: Writer to Writer, I heard Maria Cotera, a professor in Women’s Studies, American Culture, and Latino Studies, speak about her own writing practices and beginning of writing. The event was held at Literati Bookstore, and I thought it was the perfect place to have it. It was definitely fitting to have an event about writing at the bookstore, but the small, close knit environment made me feel closer to Professor Cotera as a writer, even though she is a lot more published than me.

Professor Cotera started off with the spark of what started her interest in writing. For her, it was her mother. By sharing this experience, it made me realize that most people have this inspiration and certain moment that made them realize that they like writing. Like her, the thing that made me realize I liked writing was also someone in my life.

I liked the point that she mentioned about how she likes giving voices to subjects that don’t have any which is why she chooses to write about historical things. This further shows how writing can be empowering and beneficial to not only the writer, but people outside of that who may not have had a voice in the past. Writing can be seen as a solitary and sometimes selfish act, but by writing about people in history she is able to empower them because certain people or groups were overlooked.

The one thing that I felt kept coming up was the importance of finding a passion in something, so it can be reflected in writing. The passion is usually developed from own experiences just as how Cotera spent time working in a Chicano foundation. When people find that passion, I can see it and feel it when I read it. The piece becomes more lively and genuine, and that is when the best writing pieces are delivered. Like she said, people have to be invested in the piece which I can think can be hard to do if it is an assignment that you do not care about at all. In order to remedy that, I think students need to find something in a broad topic that they are interested in and write about that. It might take a little effort in researching that topic of interest, but it will pay off when the words just flow on the page during the drafting process.

There was one point when she mentioned there were academics who did creative writing. This shocked me a little because I can’t imagine Ph.D. candidates or professors dabbling in poetry or fiction. Most research papers are dry (sorry, it can be) and written in a very academic prose, but I am sure that these writers are not one dimensional and like other aspects of writing as well. The thought just never occurred to me. Maybe the reason most students find research papers to be dry is because people are not present in their writing, as Professor Cotera says. It is true because I have seen abstracts that say “This dissertation will argue…” and like Professor Cotera says, a dissertation can’t argue anything because it’s not alive! The problem is that in research papers or dissertations, it is against to norm to bring yourself in the paper, so this has to do with what is generally accepted. I would say that this is something that is hard to change.

Maria Cotera speaking as an experienced and published author reminds me that she is similar to the rest of established writers and aspiring writers. There was that inspiration that ignited in her head and the passion that she found. I think people who have writer’s block should search for that passion and dive into the crevices of their mind. Writers all start somewhere and sometime, so why not look for that passion now?

Melody Ng

Melody is currently a senior studying business.

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