Capturing Our Stories

Dear Friends,

The six-month memoir writing course I began in May is coming to a close, and I am feeling apprehensive. While I have a clear view of the end, my memoir is far from complete. I’ll need to create for myself the encouragement, community, and accountability the course and its excellent instructors provide. Even though they are preparing us for this transition, I am nervous.

My final coaching consultation is coming up soon, and I want to take full advantage of my coach’s time and expertise. To prepare, I read my intake form – a series of questions they asked us to complete at the beginning – to remind myself why I chose to take the course and, more importantly, why I need to write my coming-of-age story. In the form, I found a letter I forgot I had written. I wrote the letter to my future self, who, throughout the course, would likely be drowning in self-doubt and the range of emotions writers often feel when they expose themselves to the page.

As keepers of our family’s stories, it’s lovely to capture these memories in a journal to pass on to our children and younger relatives. Our unique journeys are tied to our ancestors and our bloodline and inform us who we are. We can learn so much about ourselves by looking back. We have the opportunity to immortalize the memories that live in us.

Thank you for reading. xo

Dear Nancy,

You are finally embarking on a creative journey to write your coming-of-age story. You thought it was over when you released La Mariposa to the world. I mean, what a challenging pushed-you-to-the-very- fucking-edge experience that was! And you did it. Remember how that perpetually dark month kicked your ass, girl? Sweden in November, especially when the brief sunshine didn’t penetrate the thick, wooly clouds for seven entire weeks, is no joke. Yet, you worked tirelessly through the depression to cross the finish line and accomplish what you believe was your calling on this earth. But after two years of soul-searching for what’s next, you found there is still more to do. The piece of the puzzle needed to complete that mission is your story – the one that led you to create La Mariposa in the first place.

Long gone are your abuelitos and abuelitas whose songs and stories link you to your Puerto Rican tierra and ancestry. Your parents, constantly overwhelmed, never learned them or wrote them down. Soon they will take all remnants of their past with them, save a few photographs that survived the divorce. Your journey, as unique to theirs as it has been, is tied to them and your bloodline. It’s now up to you to preserve what you can for the next generation, lest they forget who they are.
You also vowed to help someone like you along their journey so they wouldn’t feel as alone and invisible as you did, abandoned at the dilapidated bridge between cultures. You succeeded in adding a new link to the family chain, but it came at a steep, arguably unnecessary cost.

Expect Imposter to show up at the door often. When it does, tell it to fuck off. We both know it’s not truly going to vanish. But trust that you will do what you always do to forge ahead: remind yourself that you intend to be helpful, that the work is what really matters, not the lies that will inevitably pop up in your head.
Silencer will undoubtedly be there, too. It will try to cover up what needs to be said to protect the familia. Take comfort in knowing that you will focus on all dimensions of your characters, including the good, and focus on the reason for the chosen behaviors. That’s where truth rests.

You’ve chosen to work alongside Brooke and Linda Joy because you’ve taken many of their classes, and you believe they want to help memoirists bring their stories to life. You know they will do their part to support and nudge you ahead, but it is up to you
to face the intimidating page alone. Take comfort that you will grow as a writer and find your voice with each page you write.

I hope you stretch wide outside your comfort zone and create something you are proud of.



This Thanksgiving, I felt the urgency to take a picture of Papi’s hands. He’s a can-fix-anything kind of person, and I never want to forget what his capable hands look like.

Published by

Nancy Roldán Johnson

Author of La Mariposa: An Empowerment Program for Adolescent Latinas, Co-Founder of Together for Latinas, Inc., Co-Chair of the One Circle Foundation

6 thoughts on “Capturing Our Stories”

  1. Chica, as always, thank you for your vulnerability. You have come all this way. The finish line is right in front of you and you will cross it with grace. If you have done what, you, yourself, in your letter, said you will and can do, you are successful. From what I have read of your work, you have stretched outside of your comfort zone. So proud you should be. Not long now my friend. You’ve got this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.