Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Okay people, here I am, working diligently to set the initial foundations for the “Open Doors” project…all for the students…the youth…the future leaders, mothers and fathers of our community and in the background I am thinking of my son, Dominic. For those who don’t know him, Dominic is my clone—Mini Me—and he loves his father almost as much as I love him. And today was a special day for him. Why? All weekend long my son relayed the information that was presented in his (Kindergarten) class: Today was the Awards Ceremony and with this moment marks the passing of my son to the ever so tough, First Grade!

Now I understand and appreciate an elementary school graduation ceremony such as this doesn’t mean as much to adults because over time we lose interest, not because we became less humane, but more so because Life has a way of interfering and “getting in the way.” But try to image yourself 6 years-old again, sitting in an auditorium filled with your friends and classmates and family members and people you don’t know. Now picture the stage. Remember how big it was? Can you see it?Remember how exciting and terrifying it was to be called across that mass theatrical juncture, thousands, maybe millions of people watching you walk towards the principal with your best clothes on and hair that never stayed together as well as it had in the morning before you left for school? Remember what that felt like?Remember how good it felt to receive an award you could hardly read, except for possibly your own name in bold letters? Remember what it felt like to present that small token of your accomplishments to your parents? Of course you do. You remember because it was real and it was yours and for one small moment the world watched and sat silent as you walked across a stage.Remember that?Remember that feeling?Remember how good it felt to be included?

Now imagine yourself a 6 year-old child again, sitting amidst those same friends and classmates, curious and inquisitive, wondering what grand scheme the school may have concocted to honor those students who have obtained the essential knowledge to call themselves First Graders. See yourself there? You are sitting with all your friends and one by one each member of your class is called. They are smiling and they are waiving and one of them may trip and fall and the other is nervously biting their lip or fingernails, holding their head down so as not to be seen. You remember that moment. Now picture the ceremony coming to an end and as you realize this, you notice each of your friends has a paper in their hand, some special document written especially for them, possibly argued and debated by some special committee of scholars over the course of many days, writing and determining the right words to present as gifts of academic achievement. Then, as each student is called, one by one they file out of the row, their names shouted through the school intercom and microphone system and between each is a thunderous applause from bystanders and other would be scholars and spectators, for this is truly a grand event. But something happens then, an odd feeling overtakes you and you become somewhat uncomfortable. Out of place. It is then you realize and taste your first sip of bitter water from the well of life and understand that you have been overlooked, your name had not been called and no academic paper shall be passed into your tiny hands. You have ceased to exist as part of the grand scheme of honored scholars and academic achievers and instead you have slowly faded away until your face mingled in with the crowd and you became nothing more than audience.You have been excluded. You have been ignored. You receive no reward; no ten cent photocopy shall be presented to you, letting the world know that someone is proud of you. Nope…you receive nothing. You have to face the look of your friends and the questions you don’t wish to answer. The, “where is your award?” and “why didn’t you get one” question that hurt to much to answer.

Yes my friends, as I work to prepare the foundation for what will become a short-story anthology, designed to honor the future writers, poets and artists of my community, in a small school in North Richland Hills, my son sat in an auditorium today and received nothing….
As a parent it is hard to explain the feeling. The adult side of you wants to rationalize and say, oh well, it’s a stupid ceremony for Kindergarten that in the long run means absolutely nothing. And it’s true…we don’t become a success or failure based on accomplishments at this age nor do we fail to succeed because we may have had difficulty coloring inside the lines. But that is not the point. The point is people, you never exclude a child regardless of rules or agenda or budgets or time limitations. If we are to truly love our children and understand them, then often we have to put ourselves in their shoes and remember what it felt like to be left out. Remember what it felt like to “achieve” and be honored for trying our best before we ever understand as adults that sometimes, our best isn’t good enough. We owe that to them. We owe them the chance to believe.

My wish and hope for you parents, grand parents, uncles and aunts is this: During this time of celebration, when our children pass on from one grade to the next….don’t be so quick to overlook the little things that honor their accomplishments. Because as well as we know and understand one day they will be adults….we can appreciate what it feels like to have our efforts go unnoticed…and be just another child in the crowd watching our friends receive something we did not…

For my son Dominic and his little empty hand……and for his sister Elizabeth and his brother Lazaro who both now pass on to the 6th grade…and to his baby brother Damian who is yet to understand the simple degrading acts of those less willing to pay attention to the tiny voices within our lives…This is for you.
Daddy loves you and I am PROUD of each of you!!!

"Open Doors"

It has been at least one week since I posted a blog and during this time my mind has been racing, trying to determine and isolate which moments within my days I want to share. So much has transpired within the past two weeks, I honestly don’t know where to begin. So, to get off the subject of my writing for a moment, I would like to share something new and exciting with my fan base—the Ozuna Publications “Open Doors” project.

Last week I had the privilege of meeting students from Fort Worth’s Tech and North Side High School. A vast majority of these students were graduating seniors, a week away from taking their first steps into adulthood and Life. With the help and support of Ms. Priscilla Lancarte (Tech High School) and Mr. Kenneth Polito (North Side High School), I was able to meet over 100+ students and discuss not only my novel, “Proud Souls” but the concept of pursuing and following dreams. I am a firm believer that everyone has a gift, a special characteristic or trait unique only to them. I also believe that once we discover this gift, it is our responsibility to offer it back to humanity for the betterment of those around us. And I believe if you dare pursue that dream, and attentively listen to the whispers of your own soul, you will be amazed at the support, the encouragement from those around us who long to have something good to believe in and the amount of doors that begin to open. To quote one of my favorite authors—Paulo Coelho—the universe will [begin] to conspire in your favor.

So, what’s my contribution back to humanity??? Great question! The “Open Doors” project will be my gift back to those who have a passion for writing and creativity. I have already taken the initial steps in contacting the appropriate people to help spread the word and stir enough curiosity and enthusiasm about this project. With the vast array of material our students are now responsible for, I believe a creative break is in order. With the help of people from the Fort Worth Independent School District and (possibly) other creative and supportive groups, I will publish an anthology of short stories, created entirely by students of the Fort Worth ISD high schools.

My vision is to have every (high school) English teacher within the ISD announce the contest in the early part of the next school year (‘07/’08) and then press the students and encourage them to submit their would be winning submissions to me on or before the winter break. I would also like to see the same support from the art instructors, as the cover design will be a painting or drawing, also done by a Fort Worth high school student. Then, I will rally supporters and volunteers to help read the submissions, narrowing the finalist down to somewhere between 15~25 students. It is then I will call upon more volunteers, those with a knack for editing and critiquing documents. We will publish the winners and honor them with a certificate of achievement, a t-shirt depicting the cover art and list of authors and stories on the back, and one free copy of the anthology. My hopes are to provide a ceremony where the award winner authors can read their submissions before a crowd of supporters—family and friends—and receive enough encouragement to continue pressing onward and offering their creativity, talents and skills back to the world.

Please stay tuned, as I will publish more information about the “Open Doors” project on my website, including contact information for those people local to Ft. Worth and the surrounding cities, looking to offer their time to see this project through to completion. I will make donations possible via snail mail (directly to my PO Box) or on the web using PayPal. My long-term goal is to see this project gain enough momentum and excitement to encourage neighboring school districts to jump on board, because if we truly believe the children of our communities are the future, then we must do what we can to encourage creative thought, not only in poem and prose, but in voice, in action and in love.

Sincerely,

~Bobby Ozuna

Sunday, May 6, 2007

"And just like that...a new story"

Lately I have realized something--I am becoming a bore! I noticed the other day, after talking to a very good friend of mine, that I have NOTHING to talk about, that's worth discussing, apart from my book!!! I have become so consumed with "Proud Souls" that I honestly have nothing new to bring to the table, apart from writing (and the publishing process).

So, I thought I would share the news (naturally, it's about writing as well) that I have reached the final steps in publishing "Proud Souls" and I have picked up the pen to begin my next story, one that I will call "Tin Boxes."

I thought this would be an excellent opportunity (to talk about writing Bobby???) to talk about HOW I actually create a novel length manuscript. This is not the only way to create a story, but the manner in which has worked for me so far. As I have said, the final leg of the race with regards to publishing "Proud Souls" is here. On Sunday the 13th I will get together (one final time!!!) with my web-developer and graphic artist to finalize the cover to "PS." We will make sure the back cover photo is properly aligned and the ISBN/barcode are formatted within the appropriate specifications and review the text one last time, to make sure it's catchy enough to make people (YOU) want to read it. Then, it's all a matter of waiting...waiting on a scheduled date for my first Podcast interview...my first radio interview this summer on 95.9 The Ranch...waiting on confirmation that I do have a location to hold my first book-signing...and then waiting (as patiently as I can) for July 1st to roll around as "Proud Souls" then becomes available to the mass market via the Internet.

So, since there is almost NOTHING left to do, apart from waiting...I thought I would write.

I won't share too much information (right now) about the personal insight into this new story, one that I presumed originally would be nothing more than a short-story, but has ALL the tendencies to become a full length manuscript. What I will share is this: I believe this next story will be the VERY story I can use, to incorporate some of my personal experiences growing up in the North Side of Ft. Worth, Texas and my wonderful relationship with my father, Robert Joe Ozuna. I have been very fortunate in my life to have a father as strong, loving and committed to his children and family as my dad. I have always wanted to write a story about my relationship to my father and life within the neighborhood where I was born--without actually writing a story about my relationship with my father or life within the neighborhood where I was born.

See, I have said many times before, all fiction stems from some form of truth within the author. And in order to capture and captivate true human form on paper, a writer has to study humanity, the characteristics within all life and the flaws that make each person an individual, whether they are emotional, physical or spiritual. And to take that concept a bit further, I believe a writer should experience those aspects of humanity, incorporate those flaws within his or her life and allow themselves to be used, abused and forgotten, so we can better write the pains of our lives within the characters of our pages. That is where I believe "Tin Boxes" will take its readers. It will be a character driven story, one that presses the story forward based on the emotions and reactions of the characters.

Now, to answer the question of how do you take the concept of a story, and make it a full length manuscript???

You have to commit to writing, first and foremost. I get a one-hour lunch, the same as most people. I go home because I live so close to my job, but you could easily go to a library, a quiet break room or bookstore and do the same. I write ALL my drafts for stories on paper first, then after I have the basis of the story, the creative portion down and out of my mind, I then begin the grueling process of transferring that information to typed text. It is then that I begin backfilling the story with history's of each character, add more depth to the scenery and start acting out the dialogue to ensure it flows true. But, until then it’s all about the handwritten draft. You have to first let the story develop WITHOUT killing your creative flow by editing your mistakes and proofreading grammatical and structure flaws. Just write!

I started "Tin Boxes" at the end of April and already I have over 20 pages of text. The story is beginning to grow within my mind; as I sleep and drive down the road or sit quietly alone, I discover more and more about each character. Everyday I go home, write anywhere from 2~4 new pages of free-flowing draft and at this pace, by or before September 1st, I will have close to a novel length draft. It will take me anywhere from 1~3 months to type up the text and add more "fluff" to the story and another 6 months to proofread, edit and critique. And the finished product, some 12 months from now, will be a second novel.

So, no more excuses...get out the paper, find 15 minutes to yourself and write! I PROMISE, if you commit to this simple task, you will amaze yourself by what you have accomplished and what you have completed, all before school starts in the fall.
~Ozuna

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