My parents had sheltered me so much when I was in high school in Puerto Rico that by the time I got to college I had never dated. Although I didn’t plan it that way, I met my first boyfriend in my first week at Harvard, so my first semester was focused on love instead of academics. The B’s and A-’s of my first semester didn’t make me happy, so I studied harder in my second term. By my sophomore year, I also wrote a fair amount of short stories, and one won an honorable mention in one of the school’s writing contests.
I was very shy in my classes at Harvard; and didn’t speak up much. Maybe this was due to my background as the sheltered only child of parents who were poor. My father worked for a timesharing resort in Fajardo, Puerto Rico as “outside public contact.” These were fancy words to say that my dad worked on the streets of the Condado; he would walk up to tourists, and try to get them to go hear his sales pitches. My dad was good at it, but it didn’t pay well. I only ended up going to college because I received generous financial aid that included a fellowship.
In college, I wrote for the Harvard Crimson as a book and movie reviewer. Later, after college, I did summer internships at newspapers in Boston and Monterey. California. But when it came time to choosing between journalism and creative writing for what I would pursue after college, I chose a creative writing program. Stanford’s program offered me a full fellowship, and I set off for the West Coast with high hopes.
Unfortunately, one of the features of the Stanford creative writing program at that time was its snarky mouthed and mean spirited director. This man had apparently been on leave the year before when author Gil Sorrentino chose me and the other small group of about 8 or 9 writers. He only liked 2 of Sorrentino’s choices, we all found out shortly, and I wasn’t one of them.
I used to and still get migraines, and would miss classes when I had one. This man, who was narcissistic and lacking in empathy, informed me at one point that he felt I should leave the program because of my migraines. I was shocked. Since I was clueless at the time that it’s illegal to try to kick somebody out of school for a disability, and that migraines can be considered to be a disability, I didn’t answer the man. I simply broke down in private and grew very depressed. I stayed in the program but my migraines increased.
By the time I left the program, I had a major writing block.
Lyn Di Iorio is the author of the novel Outside the Bones (2011), which won ForeWord Review’s 2011 Silver award in the category of literary fiction, was “Best Debut Novel on the 2011 Latinidad List,” and was a finalist for the John Gardner Fiction Prize, and other awards. She has also written scholarly books on Latino/a literature, and has published short stories and essays in other venues. She is Professor of English at the City College of New York and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she teaches Caribbean and U.S. Latino/a literatures, magical realism, Gothic literature, creative writing, and other topics. Currently at work on a second novel called The Sound of Falling Darkness, she is number two on the 2012 Top Ten “New” Latino Authors to Watch (and Read) list compiled by LatinoStories.com.