Am I Latina Enough? (Essay featured in Latina magazine’s May 2014 issue)

Please subscribe to my newsletter and read more of my writing on my personal blog, The Cookie Dough LifeThank you!

In May 2014, my essay “Am I Latina Enough?” was featured in the pages of Latina magazine. It was an honor to write this piece, which is very near and dear to my heart.

Below is an image of the story, followed by the full text in case that’s easier to read:

[Images FROM TOP: Writer Irina Gonzalez at age 3 in Cuba; as a bundled-up baby in Moscow.]

Am I Latina Enough?

After years of struggling with this question, a Russian Cubana comes to terms with her identity. 

I am a Russian Cubana, and proud of it—though most of my life I didn’t know what it meant to be Latina.

Born 28 years ago in Moscow to a Russian mother and Cuban father who fell in love in what was then the USSR, I grew up in a mostly wintry landscape, eating traditional beet-and-cabbage borscht and reading fairy tales written in the Cyrillic alphabet. And while my dad spoke to my brother and me in Spanish, it was Russian culture that predominated.

When I was 8, my parents moved us to the Cuban enclave of Hialeah, near Miami. And that’s when my identity crisis began. The swaying palm trees, the fast-talking Spanish all around and rice and beans on every dish made me feel out of my element. But what impacted me most was the machismo of Cuban men, always half joking that their women needed to cook, do the laundry and take care of the kids even after a full day’s work. Since I’d been raised by parents who were strong willed, independent and equally in charge, those sexist attitudes were an immediate turnoff to Latin culture. (And yes, Russian men are also known to be macho, but the men in my mom’s family were the antithesis to that.)

Coming to grips with my Latina identity became even more complicated when my parents relocated us to a predominantly white county in Florida, where I spent my teen years. The only exposure to my Latin roots happened at home, through language and food. But that was the extent of it; in school, the focus was American history, in which Cubans were merely a footnote. And since I didn’t have any Latino friends, I continued to feel like a transplanted Russian as I became more Americanized.

But I was also Latina: my last name, my curves and my weakness for bistec de palomilla told me so. Yet I didn’t go beyond the surface of what that meant until I moved to New York for college. It was in this multicultural metropolis that I started meeting young Latinos of different backgrounds—Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Salvadoreans—who shared my ideals of equality for all genders, races and sexual orientations. They taught me that Latinas come in all shapes, sizes and colors, including the multiracial variety.

That’s when I began to embrace every part of who I was. I soaked up as much Latin culture as I could, devouring books by Spanish poet Federico García Lorca and Chilean author Isabel Allende, and became obsessed with getting my hair done in a Dominican salons and perfecting my bachata steps. I also studied Cuban history, reading about the sugarcane boom in the 1800s and the events that led to Castro’s revolution.

These days, whenever I feel homesick, I ask my friends to join me at my favorite Russian restaurant to share a big bowl of pelmenyi dumplings with sour cream. Other times, those gatherings happen around a batch of abuelita’s ropa vieja (a recipe passed down from my mother, who learned how to make it from her suegra). And in the summer we get together and nosh on juicy burgers because, just like my food cravings, I’m a mix of different things—Russian, Cuban, American—and I want to share that with the world.

Want more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get writing news and updates on my memoir (Moscow Chica). Then check out my personal blog and find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

April 2017 Writer’s Life: My new blog & new gig at Romper [#yearofwriting]

Please subscribe to my newsletter and read more of my writing on my personal blog, The Cookie Dough LifeThank you!

Well, here we are! It’s April in my #yearofwriting adventures and I have not one but TWO big announcements, so let me start with those…

1. I started a new blog, The Cookie Dough Life!

The first week of April was not good for me. I hadn’t slept very well and I was increasingly frustrated about, to tell you the truth, I can’t even remember what. But out of my frustration was born a new blog that I have called The Cookie Dough Life.

While you’re totally welcome to read the full story of why I started the blog (and I hope you do!), here’s the main thing you need to know: Being cookie dough is the realization that I’m not done baking yet… Meaning that I haven’t figured it all out, and maybe that’s okay. Living The Cookie Dough Life is about embracing the fact that life is constantly changing and evolving, and so am I.

And, of course, I am going to take you on that journey. Really, it’s going to replace me writing random stuff on this site, which I am keeping as more of a portfolio site going forward. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, here is my favorite post so far: A year ago, I was single, unemployed, homeless, broke, fat and drunk.

2. I’m a Lifestyle Writer at Romper as of May 1st! 

In even MORE exciting news, I am happy to (finally) announce that I am joining Romper as a PT Lifestyle Writer starting Monday, May 1st! WOO HOO!

I will be covering various topics but, for those that don’t know Romper: They are a parenting site for millennial moms and are the sister site of Bustle (which is for millennial women in general). I’ve been a huge fan and follower of both since their launch, and am absolutely thrilled to be joining the team.

I realize that’s not really an April writing thing, but I did apply, interview for and get the job in the month of April, so I think it should count. Oh, and in case you’re wondering: No, I’m not a mom (yet, in fact, I write about that here) but I know I will be someday and I have plenty of experience writing about mom topics previously. So, needless to say, I am just OH SO EXCITED!

And now on to the rest of the month…

What was published: 

Breaking into three new publications has been pretty fun this month, especially because they were all posts that were very personal to me: The first about being bisexual (even though I plan to marry a man), the second about my fertility fears (a subject near and dear to my heart) and the third about how to party sober (since I’m in recovery).

All of those stories were written last month, with the fertility fears story actually being written in January. Can you believe how long I had to wait for it to publish?! But this happens, and it was still thrilling to see the story live… FINALLY!

How much I wrote: 23,487 words

How much I made: $1750

This has been my most successful writing month BY FAR, I have to say. I basically wrote double of what I had in February and March, and made as much money as I did in January (except that two stories back then were on spec, which didn’t get picked up).

Part of the reason that I wrote so much was also because I am counting my words for The Cookie Dough Life. Maybe that’s a little bit unfair because I’m not getting paid for that so, at first glance, it seems as if I am getting paid less to write more… but that’s not the case, because this writing is personal and just for me.

Pitches sent out in April: 5
Pitch rejections: 0
Pitch non-replies: 3
Pitch acceptances: 2 (sort of)
Pitch reply with question: 0

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 6
Pitch rejections: 1
Pitch non-replies: 5
Pitch acceptances: 0

Of course, the story gets a little bit more complicated when you look at the pitches I sent out this past month. Basically, let’s face it: they suck. I barely pitched, and most of it wasn’t until the very end of the month (last week, in fact) and that’s that.

I don’t love the way that looks, to be honest, but part of the reason is because I’ve been busy this month, my organization has recently gone to shit and I was actually doing a lot more writing than usual (as you saw above) which obviously meant a lot less time for pitching.

I don’t love this, but I will say that I wrote four brand-new-to-me freelance pieces in January, two in February, two in March and six in April. I’m pretty proud of those numbers and I guess I just have to live with the fact that in a month where you freelance more than before, are in the middle of a job application (as I was for a while) AND also start a new blog, you just won’t be able to fit everything in. And that’s okay.

Want more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get writing news and updates on my memoir (Moscow Chica). Then check out my personal blog and find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

March 2017 Writer’s Life: My piece for VICE and Q1 totals [#yearofwriting]

Please subscribe to my newsletter and read more of my writing on my personal blog, The Cookie Dough LifeThank you!

If you’ve been following my #yearofwriting post here for the months of January and February, then you know that I am determined to do a LOT more writing this year and I’m also determined to track everything.

This month, to be honest, hasn’t gone quite as smoothly as the rest. I had a pretty big spurt of pitching in the very beginning of the month, which was VERY exciting… and then my birthday came. Now, don’t judge, but I am one of those people who LOVES their birthdays and so of course that distracted me during the end of the month. But oh well! Moving on.

What was published: 

My proudest moment BY FAR this month was the publication of How Willow from ‘Buffy’ Helped Me Come Out on VICE. In fact, one of the coolest things that happened on the day of the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that my piece appeared on the front page of VICE and remained there all day. That’s a HUGE deal, trust me!

Otherwise, I had fun writing a couple of freelance pieces that will be published next month. It’s too bad that I can’t brag about them yet… That’s honestly the most frustrating part of being a freelance writer. Sometimes you’re waiting for weeks and sometimes even MONTHS before your stories are published.

And I’m talking about digital, where things typically move quickly. I can’t even imagine how magazine writers or book authors deal with the wait. Needless to say, I’m not the most patient person and that’s served me very well as a digital-focused freelance writer and editor. But anyway, you probably also want to know how much I got done this month, right?

How much I wrote: 12,982 words

How much I made: $1000

Funnily enough, I wrote almost 1000 words more this month than last month but made a bit less money. Primarily that’s because I wrote a couple more blog posts (which don’t cost any money, but up my total word count) and wrote a high priced story (that was the same word count as I usually do, but the pay was better). January remains my best month, and I’m sure it had a lot to do with being deep in working with my writing coach to push my career forward.

Pitches sent out in March: 28
Pitch rejections: 14
Pitch non-replies: 10
Pitch acceptances: 4
Pitch reply with question: 1

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 6
Pitch rejections: 1
Pitch non-replies: 4
Pitch acceptances: 0
Pitch reply with question: 1

Following up on old pitches is always a bit of a crap-shoot, but I might as well keep going, right? I don’t feel discouraged by my results and it’s nice to see what is happening. In fact, I wanted to total it all up…

Quarter 1 totals: 

How much I wrote: 41,495 words
How much I made: $3550*
Pitches sent out: 66
Pitch acceptances: 10**

*I wrote two pieces on spec in the month of January, and they weren’t ultimately accepted… so that’s $300 I didn’t get, but one of those stories turned into another piece that got published and the other piece I am still hopeful will get published soon as well.

**I’m not counting pitch rejections or non-replies here, because I think the math is pretty simple. Plus, some of those may still materialize… so well shall see! But, you know, I have to say: Having a 15% success rate isn’t too terrible. I’m definitely learning a lot in this process, and I feel confident that things will get better and better as I do more freelancing.

The truth really does seem to be that the more pitches you send out, the more acceptances you will get. And while I haven’t mastered everything that I hope to master in the freelance world, I’m feeling pretty good about my results so far.

Besides, when VICE puts your story on the front page… Well, that’s definitely something to be excited about!

Want more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get writing news and updates on my memoir (Moscow Chica). Then check out my personal blog and find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

Thoughts on turning 31… and the
future of Map Your 30s blog

Please subscribe to my newsletter and read more of my writing on my personal blog, The Cookie Dough LifeThank you!

When I first started writing about turning 30 years old and decided to create the Map Your 30s Blog, my idea was simple: I wanted to write about all of the changes happening in my life and I wanted to make the point that life doesn’t end when you’re 30.

In fact, in my very first post after turning the big 3-0, I said that “my goal with the Map Your 30s blog is to prove that turning this momentous decade doesn’t have to be the end of your journey.” I wanted to write about how it’s okay not to have everything figured out, because I still didn’t and because I knew plenty of people who were stressed because it felt like being 30 meant SO MUCH.

It doesn’t.

Or, at least, it doesn’t have to.

Yesterday, I turned 31 years old and, let me tell you, a LOT of stuff has happened in my life since. If you’ve been following me at all (on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram), then you might have noticed quite a few changes… Starting with the biggest one of all: At 30, I was living in New York City, the place I had chosen to call my home since I went to college there at 18 years old, and am now a happy resident of Southwest Florida, where I am actually originally from and never thought I would end up in again.

But there’s more. And since I had very specific categories I wanted to grow in, talk about and generally work towards bettering in my 30s, here it is.

Relationships: When I turned 30 years old, I was single and kind of starting to be miserable about it. I hadn’t had a longterm relationship in six years and, even worse, the relationships I had before were pretty freaking horrible. But in my first Map Your 30s blog post (which was written exactly 3 months after turning 30), I wrote about finally finding the relationship I have always dreamed of. And well, we’re about to near our one year anniversary and are happily planning for 57 more to come.

Career: This is probably the place where I’ve grown the most, besides relationships. At 30, I had just accepted a job that very quickly turned out to be the wrong move for me and spurned me to go back to Florida, with my tail between my legs, to live with my parents and figure out the next step. In my update last June, I had thankfully gone back to being the Food Editor at Brit+Co and started writing again for MamásLatinas. Since then, I also started being a regular contributor to Mom.me and am hoping to find another PT writing gig soon. Beyond that, though, I also am freelancing a ton since the start of 2017 (after hiring a writing coach) and am very optimistic that I will hit my goal of being published in 17 publications this year… and very soon, I expect!

Home: My home situation obviously changed quite dramatically from being 30 to being 31, since I moved states and settled back in Southwest Florida (for now, anyway). I used to believe that New York City was the place where I belonged and the only city that I could live in, but that’s no longer true. It ironically probably took 10 years of living in the city (the official time you can start calling yourself a “New Yorker,” which I very much consider myself to be) before I realized that I could live elsewhere too. Right now I am happy to be in SW FL but I know that my life is going to take me elsewhere, and possibly before turning 32. That’s meant that my physical home, as in the apartment we live in, is a bit in flux. But that’s okay because, as we all know, I don’t have to have it all figured out just yet.

Finances: This area is a tricky one but, I have to say, I think I am finally starting to get to a better place. At 30, I had no savings to speak of at all. And shortly after starting this blog and moving to Florida, I realized that I might have to save for a car and who knows what else. It’s been tricky, too, because Adam and I traveled a bunch towards the end of 2016 and that ran up our credit cards a bit higher than we’d like. However, with my stable editor and contributor jobs, extra income from freelance writing and some hard-ass budgeting, I am very confident we will be able to pay it all off by the time I turn 32 next year.

Health: I have to admit: At 30, I was definitely not the weight I was hoping to be. Although that didn’t stop me from taking the boudoir photos I had always wanted, it didn’t exactly make me feel good to be eating unhealthy food 80% of the time and only focusing on healthy food 20% of the time. As I wrote in my first Map Your 30s blog post, I wanted to switch those numbers and start to really focus on my health. Although I still haven’t figured out a good gym routine, I am happy to report that I now eat vegetarian or vegan about 80% of the time and have lost about 20 pounds since my 30th birthday. And I wasn’t even trying to!

Confidence: Here is where things get a little tricky… You see, “confidence” was my secret keyword for writing about recovery, which was something that I was not yet comfortable sharing with the world this time last year. I had gone into rehab in July 2015, relapsed in April 2016 (yes, a month after turning 30) and finally confessed to my journey last September, the same month that I celebrated my half-birthday. I also wanted to talk about mental health in this space, and I haven’t done much of that. But from being 30 and on the edge of a relapse to being 31 and almost a whole year sober, I am feeling pretty good and (dare I say it?) more confident than ever.

So, all in all, I would say that the 30th year of my birth was a pretty good one. I met the love of my life, started a full-time freelance writing career, moved from NYC to SW FL, set up a good budget to pay off debts, lost weight as a result of healthier eating and finally figured out life as a sober person.

It’s been quite a rollercoaster and, although I haven’t written about it as much as I initially thought, it’s been a good check-in for myself to see how I have been doing on the bigger life goals.

Here’s the thing though: Although in my head, I kind of want to do more of Map Your 30s, in my heart I know that this is totally unrealistic. The truth is that I have other writing goals right now and no time to focus on this. Beyond that, I want to do something different with my personal writing… and I haven’t quite figured out yet. But I’ll definitely let you know once I do.

However, that’s doesn’t mean that Map Your 30s is totally dead. What it means is that it’s on the back burner and possibly something I just check in with once a year or so. I’m not sure yet, to be honest, but what I do know is that I was right all along: Turning 30 doesn’t mean the end of your life and it doesn’t mean that you have to have everything figured out by then.

If I’ve learned anything over and over in the past year, it’s that life changes and evolves in ways that we imagine, ways that we plan for, ways that we expect… and so many more ways that were definitely not the plan, not what we expected, and not what we could have imagined.

Would I have imagined this time last year that I would be a full-time freelance writer and editor, living with an amazing partner, in Southwest Florida of all places? Absolutely not! But this has brought new adventure, excitement, stability, love, career advances and so much more to my life. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

And I wouldn’t trade turning 30 for anything either. Or 31, for that matter.

Want more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get writing news and updates on my memoir (Moscow Chica). Then check out my personal blog and find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

February 2017 Writer’s Life: What I wrote, how I pitched & money I made [#yearofwriting]

Please subscribe to my newsletter and read more of my writing on my personal blog, The Cookie Dough LifeThank you!

Last month, I decided to write about what it is really like to be a freelance writer these days… As part of my commitment to the #yearofwriting, my January 2017 Writer’s Life post included all of the hard numbers (meaning how many words I actually wrote and how much money I actually made).

I also posted links to everything of mine that was published, and talked a little bit about how everything is going. This month, I have a confession to make: February did NOT go nearly as well as January.

You see, I started the new year by working with a fabulous writing coach, Mridu Khullar Relph (who runs The International Freelancer) and she helped me get my career to this next level: Pitching more, making more money and spending more time on my personal projects too. This month, however, I have been largely on my own.

So what happened? Well, as you will see… Less work! I am still trying to find the motivation I had when I was responsible to telling someone else just how much I got done very day, and it’s not easy. I learned a few extra things about myself this month than I had last month.

But anyway… Let’s get to it, shall we?

What was published: 

I still have a couple stories in the works from last month, but I will say that WITHOUT A DOUBT the proudest story I wrote and had published was Ravishly’s I Didn’t Need A Partner Or A ‘Perfect’ Body For Boudoir Photos — And Neither Do You. This is one that I have been thinking about ever since I took the photos almost a year ago, so I am beyond thrilled to finally have it all out there.

The other exciting thing I did this month was that I decided to start a Medium publication (aka blog) titled Moscow Chica – the same title as my memoir and newsletter. In fact, not only did I do an intro post on this site but I also wrote about how My “A Day Without Immigrants” Protest Is To Be Louder Than Ever.

But I know what you REALLY want to hear about are the solid numbers, right?

How much I wrote: 12,038 words

How much I made: $1125

In comparison, I wrote 4,437 less words in February than I did in January. And that honestly wasn’t because I didn’t have as many days… It was fully because I just wasn’t feeling as motivated and was letting my mood get in the way of my writing.

Money-wise, I also made $300 less. Well, $600 less because two pieces in January were on-spec (but ultimately not accepted). No surprise there! It’s almost simple, isn’t it? I pitched less, I wrote less, and I made less money.

Pitches sent out in February: 11
Pitch rejections: 1
Pitch non-replies: 8
Pitch acceptances: 1
Pitch reply with question: 1

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 7
Pitch rejections: 3
Pitch non-replies: 4
Pitch acceptances: 0

Look at that! I sent 27 pitches in January, spurned by my writing coach, and this month has been a LOT less… In fact, I sent almost none in the middle of the month. Most of the pitches sent were at the beginning of the month when I was still working with Mridu, and then a few at the end of the month when I realized I was far from what I did before.

My goal is to be sending a pitch every day during the work week (except for Fridays), so I should be sending about 16-20 pitches every week.

Despite my less-than-stellar February, I did learn something: I learned that motivation can get in the way when I’m not working with someone who is pushing me. But I also learned that I *can* do it on my own, and I can push myself. The pitches I sent at the end of the month were all fun and exciting, and I feel pumped for March to start.

Want more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get writing news and updates on my memoir (Moscow Chica). Then check out my personal blog and find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...