Tag Archive for: Crazy Chicana in Catholic City

The Reason I Judge Writing Contests by Juliana Aragon Fatula


Dear Reader,

I have been asked to judge writing contests and I always accept and this year I’m reading three books and judging the three finalists for the chance to be the winner for this year’s award in… I can’t tell you the name of the contest or the genre or the names of the finalists but soon after the ceremony I will announce the winner in my blog. It’s a secret until then. 

my chicana garden poppies 2020

The reason I accept the task of reading books and judging for awards is simple. It makes me a better writer. I read the finalists’ books and determine what made them so good. I learn how to write award winning books. 

Mind you, I don’t write to win awards, or fame, or money. They are nice perks but the reason I write is I’d go crazy if I didn’t tell my stories. I love to perform on stage and I love telling stories to an audience, but I love reading stories even more. I get lost in a good book and all my troubles fall away. 

my chicana aspen grove fall 2016ish

I was reading a book and it was so juicy and tantalizing and my husband asked me a question and I closed the book, gave him the look, and opened the book and continued reading. Don’t disturb me when I’m reading. If I want to have a conversation with you, I’ll close my book and listen to what you have to say, if its important I’ll put my book away, but if you interrupt me for a question like have you seen my car key, glasses, wallet, hammer… Watchale. 

my living room before the remodel of 2021 new kitchen new paint

So I’m reading this book and it’s so good I make a sandwich and continue reading. I read all day and into the night and the next day and the next night it’s midnight and I have to finish the book or I won’t be able to sleep. So I read the book in two days and I’m ready to take on the world. I’ve got the story in my head and I’m evaluating why I couldn’t put it down and stop reading. I read for enjoyment but sometimes I read to learn. When I read for enjoyment, it takes me away from reality and into the story and I escape into the words on the page and my imagination. It keeps me sane.

my bridging borders students in a group hug my favorite photo 2019

I’m not being paid to write reviews or judge writing contests. Maybe someday I will get paid, but that’s not why I do it. I enjoy it and it makes me grow as a writer. I learn from other writers how to be a better writer. I’ve been told by my mentors why bother to write if it’s not going to be a great book. Don’t write a good book. Write a great book. And that is what I strive to do. To write a great story and leave my mark in literary history as a writer who gave my best. 

Santa Cruz, Cali authors Aimee Medina Carr and Juliana Aragon Fatula

So if you see me in a bookstore, library, book bar and I’m reading, give me a nod and keep moving. I’m not really there. It’s an illusion. I’m lost in my book and don’t want to be anywhere else. If I judge a book you’ve written and you win the contest, just know that I chose your book because you are the best and your story is not good, it’s great. 

my favorite photo by investigative journalist/photographer, Tracy Harmon
location Red Canyon in Southern Colorado 

coleus and roses from mi chicana garden 2020

My Chicana Garden Juliana Aragón Fatula, author of Crazy Chicana in Catholic City, Red Canyon Falling On Churches, and The Road I Ride Bleeds.

I’m home enjoying the hot gardening days of July; my back
yard is an oasis. Some call it the Garden of Eden.  I call it my Chicana Garden. I sit in my
sunroom/moon room and watch the birds as they dive bomb the grasshoppers. I
have a clothes line next to one of the birdhouses.
A couple of bluebirds moved in this spring and
they are busy feeding their young. When I hang laundry, the male attacks me.
The female watches and guards the nest; the male hunts for food. We feed the
birds and have two birdfeeders, but I’ve never seen the bluebirds eat there;
they prefer to keep to themselves and prefer bugs, I guess.
I prefer to keep to myself too, I guess. I like
it when my husband leaves for hunting trips and goes in the high country to
find elk. He loves hunting. I love reading and writing.
So sometimes, I go away and leave home to
write. I’ve stayed a weekend at a hotel in el valle and just written until I
dropped. I’ve gone to writing conferences and workshops where my only job is to
attend seminars by excellent master writers and to finish my manuscript.  
Some nights I toss and turn until I give up and
sit down to write. I’m happiest when I’m allowed to write or read and no one
bothers me. I quit answering my phone, texts, emails and concentrated on
writing. I forgot to pay bills, I missed dentist appointments and alienated
myself from my family and friends. I had to train them to leave a message if it’s
important. They no longer pop in unexpected, expecting me to serve coffee and
cookies. I meet them at the door and tell them I’m working.
My son says I’ve forgotten about him; not true.
But he has forgiven me for neglecting to keep in touch. He’s going on 44 years
old this year and I’m turning 60 next April. My life has been about him. Now it’s
about me. Not my husband, not my son, not my mom, friends, me. Me. Me. Me.
I went to college in 2004. Graduated in 2008. I
wrote and published two books of poetry and a chapbook since then. I’ve written
my memoirs, Gathering Momentum and
put it away for the time being. It was kind of depressing revisiting all of my
haunts and ghosts. I decided to do what I love. I’m writing my first murder
At first, I was consumed. I did my first and
probably last NANOWRIMO, national novel writing in a month, in November last
year and jumpstarted my manuscript. I had to write 50,000 words or more in 30
days. I wrote morning, night, day, I wrote in my head while I was in the
shower, while I was doing the laundry, cooking dinner, I wrote nonstop. I
burned out. I had to take a break. So I began working on another project, my
One Woman Show.
My idea is that if I just keep writing, I’ll
retain my sanity. So much for that idea. I’ve gone mad several times in my
drive to finish projects. But I finish. I am so close to finishing my novel, it
hurts. I want to just go away and write and finish the story. 
So, I started printing sections and came up
with seven sections in my manuscript. I revised part I, the intro to the
characters, Atlanta, the Love Shack, the Owl Cigar Store, the crime scene, the
homicide division, and it went quickly.
I’m working on section II, the investigation.
This is where all of those nights reading mysteries and nights watching CSI
comes in play. I had no idea that I have such a devious mind. I love leaving
clues, dropping red herrings, and solving crimes.
I researched prostitution, genocide, murder. I
enlisted the help of my transgender friends to guide me on the intricacies of
creating a realistic character that was a transgender woman. I contacted a
couple of friends from high school. One a detective, the other a criminal
investigator for their expertise. I listened to hours of music and used it to
motivate me. I went through a couple of printers and laptops.
The result of my hard work is that now I have a
rough draft to polish. When I read through to revise and edit, I say to myself,
“Who is a writer? Huh? Who has three books of poetry published? Huh? Me, that’s
who.” Then I say, “This isn’t bad, but you don’t want it to be good; you want
it to be great.”
My mentor Sandra Cisneros gives lots of great
advice. She told me, tell great stories. She holds me to a higher standard than
I had for myself. I thought I could skate being a good writer. Now, I know, I
have to be a great writer, or why bother. I don’t want to be famous. I just
want to die someday knowing I gave my best. I want to live forever in my words.