Tuesday, November 15, 2011

BACK TO HIGH SCHOOL: THE BELMONT SENTINEL


All we writers dream of one person--just one; is that too much to ask?--who totally "gets" us and our work. For some, that happens through a review in the New York Times or a National Book Award or maybe even a Pulitzer. Me, I just got written up by Graciela Espinoza in the Belmont (L.A. High School) Sentinel.

I wouldn't trade this for a review in the New York Times for anything on earth. 
T h e S e n t i n e l

Volume 88, Issue 1 ...The View from the Hilltoppers October/November 2011

By Graciela Espinoza
Opinion Editor

Essayist Heather King made a special appearance in Brad Valdez’s Advanced Placement English class to guide students through their transcendentalist reading, September 15.

“I loved the way she was deep and offered great explanations that helped my group,” said junior Julissa De La Cruz. “I understand the work much easier now.” According to Valdez, he chose King to talk to his students because of her intellect and success as a published writer. Valdez knew she would be a meaningful guide for the students as they faced the challenge of transcendentalist essays.

King hails from the coast of New Hampshire and relocated to Los Angeles in 1990. “I watched the Beverly Hillbillies a bunch of times so I told my husband, ‘let’s load up the car and move to California,’ ” said King. After enduring her share of suffering over the years, King found sobriety and became a lawyer. “My parents were finally so proud of me. People would say ‘good for you’ or ‘congratulations,’ but I was dying inside and just knew this was not what I was put on earth for so I quit my job,” recalled King.

According to King, she felt she was destined to become a writer. “People come to L.A. in a sense to lose and find themselves and that’s what happened to me. I quit my job, became a Catholic, and a writer. I’ve been here since 1990 and I’ve not regretted it one bit,” said King.

The students in Valdez’s class respected King’s commitment to her true calling. “I admire her bravery to quit her job as a lawyer and follow her passion for writing,” said junior Dayana Reyes. Junior Richard Kent appreciated the chance to learn from her expertise. “I want to go into the law profession and it was helpful to get feedback from her because she was a lawyer,” said Kent.

According to King, she found refuge in books during her tumultuous years.“I just lost my way and all during that time, I always had a stack of books,” said King. Books made her realize that she wasn’t the only human being who was suffering. “Books really saved me from killing myself in the darkest years of my life,” said King.

King’s love for books and determination led to her first published work. “I remember I burst into tears when I got the [acceptance] letter,” said King. “I literally fell to my knees and just sobbed and realized that if I died tomorrow, I would die happy,” said King with tears in her eyes.

The students in Valdez’s class were curious about King’s writing. “She told us her new book comes out in less than three weeks and I’d like to know what her books are about,” said junior Keila Alexis. King has published three memoirs. According to King, her first memoir, Parched, serves as a reminder that suffering leads to pain, pain to redemption, and redemption to compassion for others.

Her second memoir is called Redeemed. The book follows King’s spiritual quest as she quits her job, becomes a Catholic, and a writer. King writes about the isolation and confliction of the human soul, her marriage, the breast cancer that brought her close to the Virgin Mary, the wreckage of divorce, and the death of her father.

King spent 2009 wandering around Koreatown, Los Angeles, inspiring her third memoir entitled Shirt of Flame. “This book is more about finding the transcendent in what we encounter during the day, or the moment when we’re angry at our friend and suddenly our hearts open one more time and say, ‘I love that person so much. Forget it, who cares’ and you’re reconciled again,” explained King.

King left Belmont’s aspiring writers with words of advice. “As a writer, you open yourself to tons of criticism and rejection, to failure and disappointment,” she said “…but life is a paradox. The suffering is there, yet how can we not avoid that?” concluded King.

Can we pull together here and all hope that Graciela Espinoza wins the National Book Award herself one day?

Thanks, too, to photographer Andy Sandoval, to all the smart, hard-working, welcoming students in Room 247 who asked the most intelligent questions about David Foster Wallace's "Federer as Religious Experience," and of course, to Brad Valdez--aka Mister--Belmont High AP English teacher extraordinaire 


BELMONT HIGH
photo credit

7 comments:

  1. How beautifully Ms Espinoza writes!

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  2. I could not be more proud of you. Even the Nobel Prize would not make me more proud. You are a light in this 'vale of tears.'

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  3. Such an amazing writer Ms. Espinoza is! A wonderful piece!

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  4. Ms Espinoza writes with the assurance of one who's known you and your work for years. Very impressive.

    Jack Webb, Ricardo Montalban, Anthony Quinn, Mort Sahl, and Odetta all attended Belmont High. It has quite a history.

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  5. You have inspired and made a difference.

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  6. Heather, you have a way of capturing the beauty in the mundane and inspire the potential from a quiet Ms. Espinoza to be unleashed through her words. You've moved a lot of writers to break free, including me. Blessings!

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I WELCOME your comments!!!