Transformative Creativity

vincent-van-gogh-famous-quote

Over several weeks during the spring and summer of 2015, I saw a group of high school students from Puerto Rico embrace Van Gogh’s message. But instead of painting, they acted. Not one of them had any previous training or experience. They had no money for costumes, props, or sets. All they had was some inspiration from a book they had read in their AP English class, a talented young director, and an enthusiastic cast. Meeting several days after school, early mornings in the summer (I’m talking really early, like 6 am) they created art: a theatrical trailer for the young adult book DANTE’S KISS. The result is what some might call “Transformative Art.”

According to the experts, Transformative Art uses creativity and art to create a shift in the way an individual or a community views and experiences an issue or themselves. I am not a counselor or therapist, but I am a story teller and the story I see in these before and after pictures of the young actors who wrote, performed, and produced “Dante’s Kiss, the Trailer” is like a coming-of-age tale. Formerly shy young people find their confidence and their esteem through the characters they assume.

Anthony becomes Adriel
Anthony becomes Adriel

 

Bobby becomes Armando
Bobby becomes Armando
Jossiel becomes Dante
Jossiel becomes Dante
Tamika becomes Gia
Tamika becomes Gia
Kenisha becomes Kiriela
Kenisha becomes Kiriela
Roberto becomes Malakiy
Roberto becomes Malakiy
Ivan becomes Pedro
Ivan becomes Pedro

Has art either inspired or transformed you? If so, share your story.

 

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Creative Inspiration

As writers, we often work long hours for what seems like almost non-existent rewards. But then one day something wonderful happens: we see people inspired by our words and we thank our lucky stars that God made us writers. I had one of those moments when I watched a group of high school students from Leonides Morales Rodriguez in Lajas, Puerto Rico practice for a live trailer they are making inspired by my novel, Dante’s Kiss.

DANTE'S KISS: a supernatural love story set in a painfully real world
DANTE’S KISS: a supernatural love story set in a painfully real world

A group of students wrote, performed, and produced an original adapted screenplay–with zero budget. Imagine what they could do with a little more …

 

Jossiel as Dante and Tamika as Gia listen to instructions from the director
Jossiel as Dante and Tamika as Gia listen to instructions from the director
Luis Torres as Jadiel
Luis Torres as Jadiel

 

 Kenisha García as Kiriela
Kenisha García as Kiriela

 

Two boys want the same girl
Two boys want the same girl

 

Only one can have her
Only one can have her

I’m glad I’m a writer. How about you?

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It’s Cool to be a Nerd

johnnydepp reading croppedWe all know that reading is amazing, right? Those of us who love books already know how awesome reading is. But, did you know that reading is now the new “cool?” Thanks to a growing number of celebrity bookworms being photographed reading a book–either between scenes on a movie set, in the locker room, or in private libraries full of vintage collections–reading is no longer the exclusive territory of our much loved but too often maligned “nerds” or “geeks.” Here’re some of the celebrities who are making reading look incredibly cool:

Johnny Depp loves to read and collects rare first editions of his favorite books.

Jennifer Lawrence Reading

Jennifer Lawrence enjoys reading on set between takes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Le Bron James readingLe Bron James says, “reading strengthens my mind and instills in me a pre-game calm.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Channing Tatem and Emma Watson are never with out a good book.

emma watson readingchanning tatum reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there’s Robert Pattinson, who has famously said, “When you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2:00 a.m. clutching a book and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours [as she’s immersed in her story] but she’ll always come back to you.”

Robert Pattinson reading

“Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.” Robert Pattinson

Robert Pattinson 2

So young readers, nerds and geeks, enjoy your wonderful, colorful life.

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Meet Aisscha Rivera

Aisscha 3Meet Aisscha Rivera, a twenty-one-year-old from Lajas, Puerto Rico. Aisscha, like our hero Dante of DANTE’S KISS, feels like she doesn’t always fit in with Puerto Rican society but finds her way in the world through books, Buddhism, and the martial arts. Read on as Aisscha shares her thoughts.

SN: Describe yourself, first as you see yourself, and then as you think others see you.

AR: Honestly, I haven’t found one single word to describe me fully. People tend to describe me most of the time as reserved, quiet, or shy. A small percentage of people may describe me as sweet, caring, respectful and maybe even strong.

SN: What has it been like for you growing up in Puerto Rico? Do you fit in with the rest of society, or do you feel like an outsider?

AR: Puerto Rico is my identity; it’s what runs through my veins; that mix of Taíno, African and Spanish blood. I love Puerto Rico, don’t get me wrong, but I have always felt like an outsider. Whether it’s because of my music and fashion likes or the way I live, Puerto Rican society has always made me feel restrained. And when I try to show who I really am, it’s as if everyone takes me for granted or, in simple English, pushes me away.

SN: In the novel DANTE’S KISS, with which character did you most identify with and why?

AR: In the novel, I feel a connection with Dante, not only because of his unique name (like mine) but also because of the way he is: wanting to “fit in,” looking for ways to defend himself, being madly in love in the teen years, and expressing himself through a type of art. Also, Kiriela is the good side of me while Jadiel is (in a way) my alter ego … I’m not saying that I’m a bad influence, but at some points in my teen years, I was a rebel child and well, I’m still so-so in the rebellious department!

SN: Do you prefer to read in Spanish or in English?

I love reading in both languages! But here’s the thing, if I start reading a novel or a series of books in one or the other language, I must finish the book in the same language. Some stories lose their essence in the process of translation.

SN: What is your favorite book and why?

AR: This is a hard one! I’ll go with THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton. The reason why I love this book so much is because I can identify with the social aspect of being either accepted or rejected by the people around you. The emotions evoked by these teens are mind blowing to the point where it makes you question how hard these teen years actually are.

SN: What emotions ran through you as you were reading DANTE’S KISS?

AR: Can I just say that I went back to my teenage years? It was amazing how this book made me go through everything I felt at that time in my life. I felt love, anger, jealousy, etc. I felt the need to protect Dante the way I wanted to be protected at that time.

SN: What is your biggest source of inspiration in life?

AR: Many things inspire me, many things spark my imagination; but my biggest source of inspiration in life is my “Life Philosophy,” which is a 50% Buddhism and 50% Martial Arts lifestyle. This lifestyle brings me peace, clarity and inspires me to give the best of me and through it I have discovered my strength.

SN: What hurts you most in the world?

AR: Beside unfairness, lies, gossip, broken trusts, the winner is conflict. Like in English class when the teacher asks you the types of conflict the main character can have, it all boils down to Person vs. Person. It hurts me to see how people give up on themselves, to see how they don’t love themselves enough to say no to things or yes, to speak up or stand up for themselves.

SN: What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a young adult?

AR: So far, it’s independence. I still don’t know what independence is and I know why I’m having trouble with this, but I guess that I’m having problems like any other young adult.

SN: If you could live one day as another person, who would that person be and why?

AR: I would definitely live as Shakira, what’s not to love about her? Her knowledge, her passion for music and dance, her organization in Colombia named Pies Descalzos… This woman is the epitome of what I want to achieve in my life!

SN: What’s the last song you listened to from your music library?

AR: “Believe” by the amazing and iconic superstar Cher.

SN: Finish the sentence, I most want my father/mother/parents to understand that …

AR: I’m a strong woman…

Aisscha

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Meet Maranyalie Torres

MaritaMeet, Maranyalie Torres, a sixteen-year-old from Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. Marita—as she prefers to be called—is creative, fun-loving, and is inspired by music. She is an accomplished singer and guitarist and recently wowed audiences in the female lead role, playing Dulcinea in her high school musical Man of La Mancha.

Read on as Marita shares her thoughts on being young and Puerto Rican, and on the new novel DANTE’S KISS, set in her island home.

​Hey! My Name is Maranyalie Torres and I am a sixteen year old Puerto Rican. I consider myself to be a creative person and always look forward to doing new things that involve music, theater or creative writing. My friends think I’m a little goofy and crazy but that’s just part of my personality and the main reason we get along so good.

Being born Puerto Rican for me has been a blessing. I live close to the beach, and often visit the surroundings of my beautiful island. The society here comes in all shapes and sizes but I fit in perfectly with the teenagers in my school. Most of us just like to create our own ways of having fun, and enjoy seeing life with another type of vision.

I prefer to read in English and that’s how I found out about this book DANTE’S KISS. If I were to identify myself with a character from the book I’d have to choose Salena. She is the kind of teenager that acts like the crowd but at the end of the day she has her own personality and talents to share with the world. She also has built these sentimental walls for her not to get hurt, and even though my situation is different, I can identify with that part of her.

Marita 4My favorite scene in DANTE’S KISS was when Dante got accepted into the music school. I felt like I knew right away the sensation because I am in a music school too and trust me it is not that easy to pass an audition. Other scenes I enjoyed a lot were whenever Dante was with his little sister. It showed the soft side of him and I thought that was very sweet.

​As a Puerto Rican teen one of the biggest challenges I have faced is the people with no morality and a cold heart. These people usually have low self-esteem and always find a way to blame others for it. Just like Jadiel when he got jealous and tried to mess up Dante’s life. Another challenge is growing up knowing that the world thinks so wrongly about us Puerto Ricans, just because some decide to get violent and ruin our Puerto Rican reputation whenever they lose control of themselves.

From this book (DANTE’S KISS) I feel teenagers can understand that we all go through similar situations but that with the right choices we can survive. We can also learn about the value of love and sacrifice, which is so important now-a-days. I hope this is never lost. These values are what Kiriela let us feel throughout the book.

If I were to complain about one thing about my parents it would be that they could be very over protective sometimes and that gets me extremely mad. It seems like they don’t understand how tough being a teenager can be. We go through so many changes and emotions. It’s not easy to deal with all of them at once. That’s why it hurts me when people judge us. Everybody has a story behind their actions but it’s the understanding that might make a difference in all of us. This is just like the feeling that Kiriela had of protecting people, she knew that understanding could mean change.

Marita 3I want the world to know that Puerto Rican teens are just like any normal teens in the world. We have our own weird styles, we feel, we fall in love and we get our hearts broken to just fall in love once again. Not many of us like reading but there’s a low percent that makes the difference, just like me.

Read DANTE’S KISS. It was incredible. At the end it gives the opportunity to reflect and think about the things that really matter the most: our families, our sacrifices and our love.

Thanks, Marita, for sharing your thoughts. I hope that through your words the world will come to know the real Puerto Rico and the beauty of it’s people.

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Meet Geilimar Garcia

This is the first in a series of interviews with Puerto Rican teen readers. And in case you had any doubt, let me assure you: there’s a lot we can learn from these interesting young people.

GeilimarMeet Geilimar García, a nineteen-year-old from Bayamón, Puerto Rico. Geilimar, like our hero Dante of DANTE’S KISS, feels out of place in school but finds her way in the world through books and art. She is inspired by the author Neil Gaiman and says that the last line of her autobiography will be: “No matter what happens, let go of hate and love with all your might.”

Read on as Geilimar shares her thoughts.

SN: Describe yourself, first as you see yourself, and then as you think others see you.

Geilimar: I think I’m pretty average. I’m an introvert and I enjoy doing introvert things, art, reading and writing being at the top of my list.  I guess I’m intelligent to some extent. I taught myself most of the English I know if that amounts to anything. People often say than I’m respectful and I try my best to be. They also say I’m kind. I care for animals very much and four years ago became a vegetarian. As for the bad, I guess I lack social skills. I’ve had people in the past assume that I think I’m better than them just because it’s difficult for me to talk to them. There’s also this thing I do in which I sabotage myself knowingly.

SN: What has it been like for you growing up in Puerto Rico? Do you fit in with the rest of society, or do you feel like an outsider?

Geilimar: Growing up in this island has been harsh for the most part. I’m not sure if outsider would be the word I would use since it had to do more with the kind of people I surrounded myself with. Not that they were exactly bad people but I settled for them rather than surrounding myself with better people. I just wanted to make the best of things and settled for so little. Now that I am older I get to see a kinder side of the world so I like to think back on bad experiences as something to prepare me so I would be able to appreciate things in the future.

SN: In the novel DANTE’S KISS, with which character did you most identify with and why?

Geilimar: That’s a difficult question because I’m very empathic and I could relate to most of them. I guess I would have to pick Dante because I can relate to his experiences the most.  Like with the bullying and feeling out of place. Also not wanting to be in school and the resentment towards a parent. In those aspects I feel particularly close to him. I too made bad decisions choosing my friends at that age.

SN: What is your favorite book and why?

good-omens-1Geilimar: GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Up to now that is. I guess it has to do more with the time in my life when I first read it. Somehow it helped me understand things about the world, about good and evil. Or maybe it was just something that kept me busy at a time I needed it. For whatever reason, that book is really important to me.

SN: What details of the story told in DANTE’S KISS could you identify with and why?

Geilimar: One of the things I could relate to the most was Dante’s despair in school. Since very young I adored learning and I looked forward to it but thanks to the other kids in school I often prayed for days off so I wouldn’t have to deal with them. I could also relate to Kiriela in the sense that often I’ve wanted to help people even when it’s beyond my power and like her it has brought me a lot of trouble. Another thing was when Dante was admitted into the music school. It reminded me a lot of when I began studying art and I finally felt like I belonged somewhere.

SN: What emotions ran through you as you were reading DANTE’S KISS?

Geilimar: Oh, wow so many.  It was so interesting, thrilling, frustrating at times. It felt so real to me. I suppose this has to do with the fact that I’ve lived several experiences narrated in the book. I can’t say I know exactly how those things felt because everyone feels things differently but I feel very close to the characters.

SN: What hurts you most in the world?

Geilimar: Lies, hypocrisy. But more than that the fact that I actually believe people I know I shouldn’t trust. I just want everyone to have a fair chance but I’m let down a lot.

SN: If you could live one day as another person, who would that person be and why?

Geilimar: I haven’t really thought about it much but if there is someone I truly admire it is Angelina Jolie. There are so many things I could say about her as to why I admire her but in short, I’m baffled with the love and passion that goes into everything she does. Every interview, every speech. She is so famous, so beautiful, so rich, and yet you see her in a refugee camp helping the less fortunate. I really have so much respect for her as a person.

SN: If you were to write your autobiography, what would the last line be?

Geilimar:  I’m not sure as to what the exact line would be but I would like it to be something that encourages people to be less hateful. Or rather, that it encourages them to spend more time and energy on things they love rather than focusing on what they hate because really, nothing good comes from that. I guess it would be something like,” No matter what happens, let go of hate and love with all your might.”

Wise words from a girl not yet out of her teens. Thanks, Geilimar, for sharing your experiences with our readers. Can any of you relate to this young woman? Tell us how in a comment below.

 

 

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