I have written since I could hold a pen, but almost never shared my stories. I’ve always been reserved with friends and family. The pandemic made me think about trying to grow a bit, learning to share a little of myself while I could. And so one day I sat up, turned to my husband and said, “I’m going to write a novel.”

I’m organized and stubborn, so there was never a question that this book would be completed and published. Doing it “right,” though, meant I needed to learn from others. I joined writing groups and associations, read how-to books, and listened to seminars. I paid for editing and coaching—an expense I would never have entertained before! I also met so many other people who wanted to express their story. I wasn’t alone! In fact, I was extremely typical—a place that has always comforted me.

When I began writing, I was a woman dabbling in expressing herself through art. Celia, who feels the same, was a natural character to write as she and I could explore the topic together. I was truly shocked when I found her leaning in to the art community and choosing to support others’ creative expressions with Incubadora. Was this really our end game?

Celia creates a sanctuary designed to support and empower emerging artists. I looked around to find I was already doing the same with other artists I had met, like the self-publishing and website work I do for my friend Sulima Malzin. The natural next step for me was to incorporate Lingua Ink Media, a publishing company devoted to nurturing local poets and authors in Portland. Just like Incubadora, Lingua Ink serves as a platform where emerging talents can find their voice and audience, providing them with the tools and support necessary to flourish. I have the skills to make it happen, and Celia and I do like to organize!

Before you decide “well, Celia is just Maya,” I must mention León. He’s another part of me. An artist who grapples with his identity through his paintings, León represents the part of me that is compelled to express and explore. His role as Celia’s mentor, nurturing her fledgling attempts at art, reflects my own desires to help others tell their stories. I’m excited to find out what other characters live inside me!

Writing this book allowed me to explore the transformative power of art. I literally grew and changed because I wrote it! Art and self-expression are not merely acts of creation, but vital for personal growth and understanding. They allow each of us to explore and articulate complex feelings, ideas, and identities. This exploration is crucial, not just for personal fulfillment and connection with friends and family, but for enriching our community’s cultural landscape. How many stories were lost in the pandemic because they weren’t told in time?

Just as this book was going to happen, so is Lingua Ink. I will continue to build and expand, learning the best practices from others. I still work at and enjoy my day job, but my future is in local publishing. I believe now in the importance of community and collective support in the arts. Each of us has a story to be told—multitudes, really—and the world is a better place when they are released into it.

If you have begun telling your stories, you can submit them at the Lingua Ink website, or just contact me to start a discussion.

As for Celia and León, they launch into the world in one week! Are you coming to the party? If not, please pre order a 99¢ ebook at Amazon. It raises the profile of the book, putting it in front of more readers. Telling a story is wonderful, but so is getting it heard! Come listen to mine, then let me listen to yours.