REVIEW: CSUSM professor shares how to write through self-identity at virtual event

Angelica Cervantes, Staff Writer

The Cross-Cultural Center held an online event called “Writing as a Tool of Resistance” on April 13.

Cross-Cultural Center programs specialist Karla May introduced Sonia Gutierrez, who led and discussed the necessary elements in creating a story. Gutierrez teaches critical thinking and writing, gender and sexuality studies and multicultural studies at CSUSM. 

In addition to being a professor, Gutierrez is a writer. Her pieces include a bilingual poem called “The Spider Woman/ La Mujer Araña” and a novel called Dreaming with Mariposas.

This event proved to be very informative and interactive with the audience members. Gutierrez provided some fresh insight on artistic writing and how our individuality and experiences can heavily influence the way our story is told. 

She began by asking attendees, “Who are you?” and “What do you represent?” These questions laid out a multifaceted field for responses. For many of us, our identity comes from our culture, gender, ethnicity, etc. With this information, she asked us to apply it to our writing, and then she proceeded to have us write about an unforgettable experience, good or bad. 

By Gutierrez having the audience analyze their identity and a memorable experience, we then begin with a story. She gave the audience some time to write and asked if anyone wanted to share. A few individuals presented their stories ranging between the length of a few sentences to a whole paragraph. 

These exercises proved to be therapeutic, as our experiences can be good materials for writing.They are also outlets of self-expression that allow people to release a weight that has had a positive or negative impact on them.

Gutierrez then went on to give examples of characteristics for an effective narrative and brilliant opening sentences. She advised students who want to write and publish that we must have memorable opening sentences. If the first few sentences do not deliver something unique or provocative, editors may brush past it. 

One example of a brilliant opening sentence is a song. Gutierrez sang the first verse of “El Gran Varón” by Willie Colon as a way to introduce her piece. The examples she provided tied back to the earlier questions of self-identity and a memorable experience. She reminds us that we become historians and our voices magnify when we write.

This event and the exercises within the event allowed for a safe space of self-expression and emotional relief. 

Though writing can be quite intimidating and demanding, Gutierrez reminds us that we can derive inspiration from who we are, what we represent and our personal experiences.

Angelica Cervantes is a recent transfer to CSUSM and is now a staff writer for The Cougar Chronicle. She enjoys writing her own stories as well as watching various types of films. She aspires to become a screenwriter and to have an influence in cinema.