The pitfalls of publishing a book as an ESL writer
When people find out I speak English as a second language, they are curious about which language I used to think in. This is a fair question to be curious about. After all, the litmus test for language learning proficiency is when you finally have that first dream in your target language.
I think and explore life in English, which is weird since it is not my native language. I still use Grammarly to find my grammar mistakes, and without it, I probably wouldn’t even know they were happening.
How can I think in a language when I still make grammar mistakes when writing and speaking it?
I don’t know. I just do.
I love English. I love Spanish, too. I love other languages, as well. I guess I am linguistically polyamorous as long as the languages are Romance languages. No, I’m not trying to discriminate. It’s just what it is. Some of my best friends are not Romance languages. If you need to point a finger, blame Romance languages; they are designed to romance you.
I do love Spanish. I just don’t write or think about it. Sometimes people suggest I translate my material to Spanish, tell stories in Spanish, or write in Spanish, and I don’t know how confident I would feel doing that.
I have already chosen a language to create and perform in, and that language is English. I don’t want to spend time translating; I don’t want to spend doing things for the sake of casting a wider net on the LatAm market.
It makes me wonder if it is the most sensible thing to base my entire writing career on a language that is not my native language.
I met for dinner with a friend from my hometown visiting the Bay area. Out of curiosity, I asked him if he thought I still had the accent from where we grew up, and he said I didn’t. He told me my accent was now a cross between a Dominican and a Venezuelan.
I have no sense of pride in the accent from my region; I’m also not ashamed of it. It is funny to think the same language I used growing up is not there anymore, or at least not in the way it used to be. It just vanished as I vanished from the region where I was raised when I emigrated.
Immigrants and people speaking the dominant language of a region as a second language always comes to this point where they are the most comfortable with the target language they acquired.
What does that mean when you are creating in that language?
Well, for me, it means I have to make a conscious effort to keep pushing forward, to keep creating even if I will forever have linguistic shortcomings.
It happened when I first published my collection of essays, A Kick on the Balls.
When you are creating art in the mornings, right before you go to work to support your family, everything happens in a rush. You write in a rush; you edit in a rush; you publish in a rush. If, for some reason, you decide that you now want to put some of those essays into a collection, then that happens in a rush, too.
That’s what happened with my book.
I wanted to get a collection of essays that were thematically related and humorous in the world. It was important for me to publish this book because many of the people I know don’t have access to the paywall-protected platforms I write in.
I got it in my head that I would push forward and publish a collection of my essays. I worked on selecting my essays, giving them a final edit, then proceeded to upload them into the software that turned them into a book, created a book cover, and placed them in Kindle Direct for people to download them as a kindle.
The book came out as Kindle-only at first because I wanted to make sure I was hitting milestones and making progress.
When I got the email that it was published, I was so excited. I had a sense of accomplishment and pride like no other. There it was. My book was on a platform, ready for hordes of people to come from their dark corners of the world and buy my work. The money, awards, and recognition will start coming now.
I turned to my wife, sitting next to me on our couch while we played Nintendo switch. I showed her the cover of my book, and she beamed with pride for my accomplishment, too.
Then she asked, “Is that an inside joke you talk about on the essays?”
“The title — is that an inside joke?”
“No…um, what do you mean?”
“Well, it says ‘a kick on the balls’, and the proper way to say is ‘a kick in the balls.’”
There you have, ladies and gentlemen, I had published my first book, and in a rush to publish, I published it with a grammar mistake right there in the title and cover of it.
I knew there would be grammar mistakes, but I didn’t anticipate those mistakes would be right there in the title. And just like my title, I felt like I had been kicked in the balls of my budding career as a published author.
As an artist, I subscribe to the idea that the first experience of the work should always tell you what the work is going to be about.
It happens in La La Land.https://beyondpigeons.wordpress.com/media/e472b70d356a1864200d6288953fc50b
The opening scene in La La Land is boisterous, magical, full of music and dance. It sets up the tone for the rest of the movie.
When I write the titles of my essays, I make sure that the reader knows what the essays are going to be about, so no one comes expecting a nostalgic take on a relationship and then finds my off-the-beaten-path jokes about joggling a marriage, parenting girls, and the immigrant experience.
They are a bit shocking at times, but they are not clickbait. They are just an amuse-bouche of what is to come. Like when I recently wrote “I shit on your mother.”I Shit on Your Mother
Lessons from Spanish culturemedium.com
If you are offended by the Spanish insult ‘me cago en tu madre’, then you shouldn’t be reading the rest of this essay, and that’s what I call a fair warning.
It wasn’t my intention to advertise my grammatical limitations in the title so the reader would know they would probably run into grammar mistakes throughout the book.
Learning English is an ongoing process for me. For example, I learned today that it is Goodie Two-Shoes and not Goodie Tissues like I initially thought.
Maybe the grammar mistakes will always be part of my writing, so you get a sense of the accent you will encounter when you meet me in person. A written accent, if you will.
But I keep on learning and keep on moving forward.
Since then, I’ve updated the title to read properly and gave the rest of the essays another edit to boot. I have played with the idea of changing the title to something that will not be censored by Amazon’s Search engine like it is now, but it doesn’t feel right to do so.
After all, A Kick in the Balls is not even about a kick in the balls but about the need for people to openly talk about things considered taboo.
I know the book is imperfect in so many ways, but so am I.
I do want to give something perfect with no mistakes, but sometimes communication is not perfect, and I’d rather keep pursuing communication over perfection.
If you prefer perfection over communication, I might not be the person to communicate with. You can find perfection in all the listicles inundating the world that will clearly lay out for you how to live a perfect life if you are already perfect.
They won’t feel like a kick in or on or around the balls, and sometimes we all need one of those.
If you are ready for your kick in the balls, then buy my book. This is not an affiliate link; it’s just my book.
A Kick in the Balls!! Because you deserve one, you beautiful bastard!
Subscribe to my YouTube channel to watch my spoken word pieces and rants.
Consider supporting my artistic journey through my Patreon.
Or buy my book on Amazon, A Kick in the Balls.