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The First Steps

February 15, 2011

I was a competitive child. The first “significant” piece I wrote was a poem in Spanish, at the age of eleven (no, I wasn’t any kind of genius; Spanish is my first language). That poem was inspired by another poem, written by one of my mother’s students. I wish I could say I was inspired by his beautiful imagery, but if I’m being honest with you, I was a little jealous at how much my mother liked his poem. She didn’t intentionally cause my jealousy—she is a writer, and she likes poetry. Still, I wanted to brag to my mommy and say “Look what I wrote!”  And to myself I wanted to say, “See, I can write too!”

Of course, I never told my mother of my secret intentions. I simply handed her my poem. She loved it.  I have written so many since then I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t remember that first poem. Like every supportive mother, still she continues to read every single piece I give her.

I grew out of that little competitive obsession—for the most part at least. However, I never grew out of writing. Instead I grew into it. After years of poetry I switched to prose in English, and became passionate about fiction. Since then, I have written in the genres of mainstream, slipstream and speculative fiction. I began with young adult fiction, and then I wrote adult fiction too.

While my passion grew, I went through that natural process of “I want to do this with my life. No. Wait. I want to do that.”  That process is not yet finished, but I have arrived at a conclusion of sorts: I don’t know exactly how I want to do things in life, but I know I want to write.

That one realization was enough to spur me forward. I sent out short stories to magazines and anthologies. I began doing research, and the research made me confident enough to start Zora’s Writing, a blog where I share writing advice and updates about my own writing. Somehow, I also managed to get an internship in the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics and Writers (ALSCW) during my freshman year of college. Then, after reading Write Anything for two years and randomly participating in Fiction Friday, I am now a columnist here.

I am here to write about what I have learned so far, and about what I am slowly discovering. I will write about dialogue, because it is one of the most wonderful but difficult elements of prose fiction. And I will certainly write about how the rules of writing are meant to be learned, and how they can be broken. My opinions may differ from those of others, but I am always willing to listen and I love getting feedback.

I am a young writer, and a beginning writer; but for being 18 years old my experience isn’t bad. Is it?

  1. February 15, 2011 12:21 am

    Welcome Zora!


    I am jealous. I knew I wanted to write at 18, but without the opportunities present today (how I’d kill for the internet and to start all over) I got lost along the way. Sounds like your feet are firmly on the path.

    Welcome… cannot wait to hear more from you and to have a fresh, young voice on our team of writers.

  2. February 15, 2011 12:32 am

    Welcome Zora! Ditto to what Jodi said, but then again, if I were 18 again, who KNOWS what sorts of trouble I’d be up to? I doubt it would be stuck behind a screen and writing.

  3. February 15, 2011 8:14 am

    Pleasure to meet you Zora! 🙂

    Great to see another young face here and share the same passions as everyone else.

  4. February 15, 2011 10:10 am

    Hey Zoraida!

    I am so happy that you’ve had so many experiences with writing already! I am sooo jealous. I am applying for two internships this summer; let’s see how that goes. I am currently working with the online magazine Synchronized Chaos (; if you want to publish something with us let me know! Writing so much fun, I hope we will change people’s minds about it. Correction: we will! Hope everything’s cool in college and hope we can see each other soon!

    Nicole Arocho

  5. February 15, 2011 10:14 am

    Thanks Zora, always good to get both a youthful perspective and a different opinion. As for the Internet, I’m honestly glad I was relying on dial-up AOL when writing my first novel – if I’d had the distractions of broadband at the time, I doubt I’d ever have finished the darn book. The Internet provides opportunities for communicating and self-expression, but I think it also tempts us into short-cuts and bad habits that can hinder our development as writers.

  6. Zoraida Cabrera permalink
    February 15, 2011 6:47 pm

    Thanks everyone for the warm welcome!
    Nicole, I would love to publish something in Synchronized Chaos.
    Hamishmf, I completely agree with you, the internet is wonderful but can be very distracting.

  7. February 16, 2011 8:49 am

    So good to meet you!

    When I was your age (I know, that’s what all of us old people start sentences with), I was writing every day. It was before computers, really, so I was writing on an old, manual typewriter. Computers, as much as I hate them, have certainly made this a lot easier!

    I was wondering — what was it like for you to start writing in English?

    One of my goals is to one day write a short story in Spanish. I am not a native Spanish speaker; honestly, I can’t speak a lick of Spanish. But I find the Spanish language to be fascinatingly beautiful. I can read it and I used to be able to write it well. One of my favorite short stories I’ve ever read is “El Nacimiento de la Col” by Rubén Darío. It is a rich and powerful story that has stuck with me since the first day I read it 21 years ago. While I hold no pretense that I could ever write something that powerful in a second language, I certainly want to give it a try some time.

  8. February 17, 2011 4:46 am

    Hi Zoraida and welcome. I’m certainly glad that this is not only an international team but also a multilingual one. I’d love to hear your writing in Spanish. I’m sure it would be very melodious. But I’m afraid I wouldn’t understand a word of it. I am actually going to Spain next week to visit my son who’s studying Spanish. So who knows, on our return…

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