Tag Archives: la jolla

The First “First Friday” – Dominic Carrillo

Exploring the life of a new novelist one Friday at a time.

So, in an effort to inspire and encourage awesomeness, I have been keen to interview other writers, specifically first-time novelists, in order to probe their process from page to publication.  For me, the sticking-with-it-ness is always a challenge, so I’m amazed when one of my peers has the tenacity to sit down and write a few hundred pages.  I, for one, can’t get through composing a mere blog post without checking Facebook 28 times.  How in the world will I ever finish a novel?  But that’s the struggle up for dissection within these pages, hence, I bring you a glance into the life of someone who has actually done said deed. – TT


La Jolla, CA.  Dominic Carrillo saunters into the brew house, fresh from a seminar on publishing which he was hoping would give him some new marketing tricks.  You see, he has a dilemma:  He is trying to figure out how to promote his self-published bow into the world of fiction successfully in the few weeks he has left stateside before taking up a year-long teaching position in Bulgaria.  I mean, doesn’t everyone have these issues?  Ahem.

He orders something dark and smiles easily, his neatly trimmed beard announcing his Jack Kerouac tendencies, his polite eyes signaling that he finds the stories of others much more interesting than his own.  No wonder his blog gets so much action.  And now with his first book, To Be Frank Diego, hitting the virtual shelves via Amazon, the fact that he can write just as adeptly about his hometown of San Diego as he can about sitting at the head table in a Nigerian village almost doesn’t seem fair.

Carrillo began his blog, Americano Abroad,  about ten months ago, during a teaching assignment in Italia after receiving encouragement from a blogger friend who thrived on writing about travel.  Also encouraging: an incident involving some travel buddies and a sudden lack of reading material.  When Carrillo’s journal, freely shared, became an intriguing enough substitute for a “real book,” he began to see his writing as perhaps not only interesting for others to read, but also full of stories that were actually meant to be shared.

Thus began his foray into the blogosphere, where he has cast himself as a newbie explorer immersed in foreign culture, astutely chronicling his experiences with a wry sense of self-deprecation that quickly endears a reader to his words.

But soon, the seed of another story began to emerge, one that had been marinating for a while in the back of his mind.  Finally, during a long bout of illness in Guatemala that left him pretty much house-bound, he began to write it down – mostly to distract himself from all he was missing outdoors.  80 pages later, he thought that maybe he was onto something.  To Be Frank Diego emerged.

A bit about the book:  Frank Diego is a San Diego native who is forced to navigate the city’s public transportation system – a rare feat for most locals.  On his day-long journey, he meets a variety of characters, faces challenging issues about his own ethnic identity, contemplates a recent relationship, and pulls no punches when offering his opinions about “America’s Finest City.”

Publishing the novel, once completed, was a daunting task.  After tapping as many connections as he could, Carrillo soon discovered that the traditional publishing route would require time and patience.  With his next itinerary looming, he decided to take matters into his own hands.  Createspace was happy to provide the means.  Fast forward six months and a few hundred people are gathered at the Starlite Lounge in Little Italy for his first book signing.

He admits he has received enormous support from friends and family.  The challenge, he says, universal among self-published novelists, is to reach a larger audience.  He is exploring social media, bumping up the Frank Diego website, and looking for reviews and exposure on local San Diego media.  The fact that the novel explores a particular city is a definite plus, even if the impressions offered by the main character can be slightly scathing at times.  He has just a few weeks to make it all work before the next adventure sets in.

Will the continual online promotion of Frank Diego be on his mind as he settles into life in Bulgaria later this month?  Perhaps.  But Americano Abroad will be up and running again as well, and therefore his attention will be more focused where he prefers it – on the stories of others and, like Frank Diego, what new ruminations on this crazy world lie around the next corner.

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Surfing Is Life

summer sunsets in san diego
photo: moi!

So, I’ve recently taken up surfing. Yes, I know what you are thinking. “Tiffany, didn’t you grow up in San Diego? Why are you only starting to learn how to surf now?” Because I didn’t grow up a walking stereotype, people! Just because I grew up here doesn’t mean that I spent all of my time growing out my long blonde beach hair and surfing every morning and going to work/school with sand in my shoes and retreating to the beach every summer for bonfires and saying words like “rad” on a regular basis. Geez!

So, anyway, the waves were so rad this morning (passionately flips long blonde hair over her shoulder). I think this was technically my fourth time out as a “serious surfing student” under the tutelage of Kevin Olson Six. Apparently, there is a fourth lesson breaking point, which I totally hit. This is the point when you know enough about the mechanics of surfing but not quite enough to actually do it well. So, there I was, on the “inside” of the break (surfing lingo: closer to the shore and not out where the crazy waves are) and basically getting pummeled over and over again by the completely ungentle ferocity that is the Pacific Ocean.

And so, there’s a point. And, I think this happens in writing as well. The point when nothing seems to be working, you know you’re in the middle of the learning curve and you’ve realized to your own horror that there is something in this world that you’re not completely  brilliant at right from the get. (Insert future post about being a Type A overachiever). All you see is the hours and hours of time stretching between where you are now and where you want to be. Like at the end of a novel. Or surfing Pipeline. What to do now?

After the fourth or fifth time my shoulder was raked across the ocean floor, my hands flailing out in front of me to protect my head from my surfboard which was now flying through the air, bouncing on foamy ocean break, I knew I had to make a decision. Either paddle farther out to where about twenty surfers waited, sitting on their boards in the calm “outside,” waiting for the Maverick waves that would probably only reach about six feet but still felt gigantic to me, or beat it back to the shore.

Again, I know what you’re thinking. A pivotal life lesson moment! Find your inner awesome, Tiffany! Channel Blue Crush and get out there with the big guys and prove something to yourself!

Hell. No.

Five minutes later, sitting on the shore and contemplating life, I had a minor epiphany. And it went something like this:

I don’t have to be a badass everyday.

Because, truthfully, I am quite often a badass. They say that you should do something every day that scares you? I quite frequently feel like my entire life is one scary moment after another. (That might have come out wrong, but I think you know what I mean.)

But just…not today. Today, perhaps in an instinctual lunge of self-preservation, perhaps because I was still really frickin’ sore from booty boot camp the day before, or perhaps because I have spent the last two months being a badass in so many ways…today was the day to declare Mother Sea the winner, enjoy the warm sand for a moment, watch the other badasses catch the big waves, and gain some perspective.

When I am in the thick of something, I have a hard time seeing the goal. Enter perspective. Time to step back. Absorb the lessons. Choose the next path. Reaffirm the goal: This is how I want to be able to surf. This is the kind of book I want to write.

So, the morning was spent watching the pros tear it up on the outside. The afternoon was spent writing down the first lines of the first books ever published by my favorite authors and tacking them to the bulletin board in front of my computer.  (“Lily heard the shot at seventeen minutes to one.“)

Because this is a marathon, and not a sprint. Choosing to be a writer is choosing a lifestyle. And sometimes the most important part of choosing something is how you get yourself through the times when you just don’t want to do it anymore. It’s okay to beat it back to the beach. Just make sure you’re out there again the next morning. Cowabunga.

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