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  • How to choose fiction names for characters

    It is a complex task to choose the right names for fictional characters. All the unique ones are hard to choose, especially if we want them to convey characteristics or special qualities. The names must carry a lot about the characters’ personalities, backgrounds, and the roles in the story. Here are some tips to help you choose fiction names for characters. Consider the Setting The story's setting will influence the names of your characters. If your story is set in a specific time or location, consider using the names that were popular during that time or in that place. For example: since our story Forged by light and fire is set before the creation of man, we used the former names of Satan or Shaitan like Iblis and Azazil. Satan is the antagonist to the Creator and dispatches the name of our protagonist and his gang. Azazel and Azazil as names are just a derivation from the same Semitic languages in the Middle East. In this case, the setting, the Garden of Eden, says a lot about the chosen names. Following our example, if your story is set in Medieval Europe or England, you might like to research the names that were used in that place and period, that is why plenty of stories with that setting have names like Arthur, Guinevere, or Lancelot. Match the Names with the Characters’ Backgrounds The characters’ Backgrounds could influence the choice of their names. You might consider their family history, community culture, religion or spiritual milieu and social status when choosing a name. For example, if your characters come from a wealthy family, you might choose a name culturally used to reflect their social status, such as Victoria or Alexander, which are names widely associated with a higher position because were names commonly used in royal families. Use the Meaning of their Names In our story, we chose the name of Alama as a doe-djinn to which we considered her to be a foundation in our series, so far. Her name truly carries what we want her to represent, because it means sign, and it is a name we took from the Swahili language. The names’ meaning can add an extra layer of depth to your character. Consider choosing a name that reflects your characters’ personalities or role in the story. For example, if your character is brave and strong, you might choose a name like Leo, which means “lion.” Get Creative Do not be afraid to get creative when choosing names for your fictional characters. You can combine names, use nicknames, or even make up your own names, if the story needs it, your character could be known more for his nickname, or even change his name according to the story. For instance, in Star Wars, Anakin Skywalker changes his name when his character passes through a major change and becomes Darth Vader. Think It Out The names must be from your carefully thought-out characters. Meaning, it could be the characters first or the name first, regardless, the characters names must come from your story as alive as possible and well thought-out. For example, we chose the name Aizra’eil which means Help from El (or Eil which means God) for one of our main characters. He guides and helps the characters, teaching them the histories and names in heaven and earth. Names Should Be Easy to Remember Alama is a name that is easy to learn. It also fits the character well – at least for her purpose in the story. Readers want to be able to remember the names of the characters they bond with. If you follow these tips, you can create a consistent story, because by doing so you will also go over the setting and the character’s background. Do not be afraid to get creative and have fun with the process as we did when we created Forged by light and fire, which is our first book, from a long series we are proud to be a part of. Now that you know the origin of Alama, Aizra’eil and Azazil’s name, you could read their stories, and see if they are up to their names.

  • Have you ever seen with your ears? If not, let us tell you about Japysaka

    Picture yourself in a place where no one speaks your language: all the people talking will be noise to you, and, since you do not understand them, you won’t be listening, but only hearing. The English language, and some others, have two verbs for the act of noticing sounds; one is for when you do it intentionally and the other is for when it incidentally happens. A similar thing happens in the Guaraní language, with “Hendu” and “Japysaka”; the difference is in the emphasis that “japysaka” carries. “Hendu” can, in some contexts, mean not just to hear, but also to intentionally listen; “japysaka” is to listen with care, is paying attention. The literal translation of japysaka is “to see with the ears” and it is a beautiful way to imply the level of attention the listener will have in the interaction. Being heard, being properly japysaka is a privilege most of the time, especially when the ones who should do it won’t be benefiting from it; that is why the Guaraní became an official language in Paraguay only after the ending of a long dictatorship. But even before its official status, it was an important language, mainly because the Guaraní people had a big settlement: they were in what now is known as Paraguay, parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. Thanks to the officiality beyond Paraguay and the politics it brought, the language could be preserved in such a way that its speakers can be people who do not identify or belong to the Guaranies. Being able to be understood, to be listened to that extend, gives all the members of the community, indigenous or not, better chances to get integrated, to preserve their rights, and to speak up. We all should practice this verb more. We should put all our senses into the interaction when we engage in meaningful conversations with others. This way, we will be able to see beyond our own ideas. The act of listening like this needs to go both ways, of course: that is how communities are constructed, from the understanding of those involved. Choosing this word is not random; Japysaka is an important word we want you to practice once the city of Kawitzin starts talking to you. We really hope you will use all your senses when you get immersed into the Bodies of Sand story, so you will be able to understand everything we are trying to say.

  • That which devours you: Otesanek.

    Stop motion animation and Czech folklore is a winning combination that only Jan Svankmajer could think of. His movie Otesanek is not only a stop motion film; it also uses traditional film making and plays with the montage style. When it comes to animation it combines clay, pictures and even drawings, he used all that he knew when creating the film and its result is a well composed and unique movie. The plot is simple and yet powerful, like all folklore stories tend to be. If we resume it without giving spoilers it will go like this: A couple that is unable to conceive gets a trunk shaped like a baby, it becomes alive and starts demanding to be fed. The film is complex and has a lot of themes that got developed because of the yarning the couple has. It is a story that matches perfectly the style that Svankmajer is known for: gruesome and grotesque, even weird could be a word to describe it, with his dark palettes and an edition that makes the pacing of the movie not fall into the standard. At this point it must be clear that this is no fairy tale. A cautionary tale about desires and compulsions. Veronila Zilkova is the actress who plays the role of the mother, and she does an amazing job: her expressions, the way she talks and even moves gives her character what it needs to be perceived as a believable one. While in the traditional folklore tale, the couple gets happy when the trunk becomes alive, in the film Jan created, Bozena Haráková is the one who became obsessed about otesánek. Karel Horák, who is the husband and is played by Jan Hartl, takes this trunk to his wife as a playful token while they are on a small trip, and once she has it, she starts to treat it like a real child, concerning him. She elaborates a plan, to make the whole neighborhood believe that she is pregnant, so she can bring Otesánek to the house. In a way, Jan is telling us that the desire Bozena has and all what she does is what gives life to the piece of wood. Food, hunger, and even cannibalism are recurring themes in Jan’s works, and the ones that focus on it always show a desire for consumption that can’t be satisfied. It’s as if this desire were devouring the subjects instead of being the other way around. And that is precisely one of the main themes in this film, in which the female led is consumed by the desire of having children, a thing that is presented from the beginning with a montage that presents pictures of babies and sounds of them crying. Both parents desire this, we can see him imagining people in line with a street seller that sells babies by weight, and he sees himself in that fantasy thus comparing the infants with food. But not only the parents in the movie present compulsions, Jan uses the neighbors to add more layers into the message. Most of the main characters are driven by their desires which makes them get apart from reality in one way or another. We could say that Otesánek becomes a materialization of the real destruction this kind of behavior can cause and how this escalates. The message is so powerful that Svankjamer does not need to rely on the plot of the story, he reveals the ending before it happens through the daughter of the neighbors. She finds out Otesánek is not a human baby and remembers having read the actual folklore story so goes to her house and reads it to herself while reading it to the viewers. There shouldn't be surprises for the spectators after this; the fact that the wood baby will end up eating some of the characters must be expected, and it is, but the tension then relies on how everything will happen. Svankjamer understands how to use this element to his favor and plays with the viewers as much as he can, because he wants to take his characters to their limits before they meet their fate. In a way, he also plays with the audience's desire, because he knows it will appear as soon as he predicts the story's ending. If you haven’t seen Otesánek, and are willing to let him show you at what end can your desires take you, I strongly recommend you watch this amazing film.

  • Being akäts and other forms of identification for Mixe people

    If you are not a born and raised speaker of the language of the mountains, you are an akäts. This means that you could be from México, USA, Paris, or other places, and you will be the same for people of the Mixe community. The Mixes speak the language called ayuuk, which has many variants in the area where the community settles. Being identified as an akäts by the Mixes feels like a reflection of how we –the outsiders- named them. "Mixe" is a word that derives from the ayuuk "mixy," which means "men." The way they refer to themselves is "Ayuukjä’äy," which means "people that speak the language of the mountains." A way to identify the community members is by the language; they can be outside their community, and if they find someone who speaks it, they know it: they are Ayuukjäa’äy. All the other people in the world are akäts, which means "no mixe," as simple as that; with that word, they know we do not belong. This word does not have a negative meaning; it is just a way of identifying those who have the same language, practices, traditions, and beliefs and those who don't. Having a word for others that does not have bad implications is marvelous since it helps the community better approach the rest of the world; it talks about the ability to identify themselves and commute with others. Having a word to define others is the first way to try to understand and is the first bridge we build. After this step, we can start to find the differences between us, and if respect is part of the equation, then the opportunity to get to know new perspectives is open. We do not need to be the same, but we need to have the same amount of respect. History has let us know what happens when nations see the differences as something negative, and especially what happens when they believe that the other is lesser. Instead, the history of small nations that coexist and see the other simply as other, such as the Mixes do with the rest of the indigenous communities surrounding them in the two states where they are settled, gives us a different perspective. Being an akäts, being another, should be an invitation to get closer to the Mixe community, knowing that they have a different way of understanding and living life. This should also apply to all those other communities we are not a part of; we should approach them from a neutral perspective, not a negative one because they are all just others. We chose this word because this concept of the "other" will play an essential role in the Bodies of the Sand saga. The Kawistecos will have to encounter other nations, and from those encounters, they'll change. If you want to know how, don't miss out on this amazing series we are preparing.

  • Notes on the writing of Where Days Repeat Endlessly

    I'm still tempted to write "Butterfly Valley" instead of "Where Days Repeat Endlessly" because that was the name with which I developed the entire project. That title referenced the valley in which the town of Kawitzin was established. In the valley, life is born and dies around Azomalli, the rebellious angel of death who cannot resist helping humans even though it is forbidden. Azomalli's plot is one of my favorites of the entire saga, I developed it while writing the first issue. My process was conceptual since the story's order structure and construction were my most significant concerns during the development. For days, I had my window full of posts with features of the characters and possible episodes for the saga, linked with threads that established possible coincidences and conflicts. I turned to my research when I felt lost in this maze of little stories. I loved having to develop several narratives simultaneously. The part of the process that excited me the most was writing the utopian and futuristic sections of the story since I love science fiction. I am interested in creating possible worlds that inspire my readers to positively change their lives and the world. By establishing a circular narrative for the saga, I wanted to break with the apparent nihilism that many people have in front of the imminent climate crisis and invite readers to imagine everything we can achieve if we make a collective effort to change the customs and social values that have given us driven here. By writing about the ancient cultures of Mexico and America, I had the opportunity to use some of the knowledge I acquired in my degree and the courses I have taken in recent years. For example, many of the names of places and characters are words that I learned in my Nahuatl classes. I also paid a small tribute to Joy Harjo, my favorite poet for several years, whose poetry helped me connect with nature during my youth, guiding me toward the ecofeminism that has influenced several of my stories. Something that surprised me was that, during the part of the novel that takes place in the present, I used many references to Mexico, something that I do not usually do in most of my texts since I like to locate my stories in environments open to interpretation so more readers can identify. I have never wanted my nationality to be a limitation or a determinant of my writing style. Still, I genuinely enjoyed writing references that the PepperBerry team, who are primarily Mexican, could identify with and take advantage of to capture a festive and untamed atmosphere, which is how I perceive my country. For the first part of the story, which is what you will receive if you support our Kickstarter campaign, I sought to build myths and explain some possible ways in which myths are created. In Latin America and many other cultures, myths are part of collective and individual identity. In many cases, it is impossible to distinguish history from mythology. Myths are also my favorite way to approach cultures I don't know. There is something fun in creating and interpreting ancient myths from a current perspective that responds to different values than those that existed at the birth of the original ones. It is a way to rewrite history and choose new paths for humanity. I wrote this story with the love and optimism I decided to put in all my stories quite some time ago. The response from the visual and editorial team has been significant in encouraging me to continue writing, even though production is stopped at the moment. I have put a lot of care into ensuring that each of the characters has a unique dilemma, virtues, and desires, and this fuels my hope that I can continue building this universe full of stories.

  • How to become a comet: The journey as an illustrator of Estela Cen

    Some decades ago, on the Peninsula of Yucatan, a young woman had to make the biggest choice of her life: what career to study. She had only one certainty back then: she wanted to draw, to create characters, landscapes, worlds. She chose a path that makes us happy and lucky since it led her to Pepperberry Publishing, where she would become the illustrator behind Bodies of Sand, our upcoming production. And since we think she is an actual comet, we invite you to see her shine. Illustration 101: The first steps to becoming an illustrator Choosing a career is hard, but it is harder if you don’t know what you want to do. Estela always knew what she wanted; the problem was that she didn’t know if there was a career in that. When she had to choose, the options were limited, and researching was challenging: the internet was still a starting thing; she remembers the days when connecting it caused the phone to stop working. Something she was sure of was that she didn’t want to study visual arts because she already knew what that environment was like in the city. Among all the options, she decided to enroll in graphic design, which was closest to what she wanted to do. During her time in college, she finally found out the name of what she wanted to do, illustrating, and she started to practice on her own. The portfolio she started found a house thanks to an assignment in class, she was asked to create her own brand. Cometa Estelar: a way to be seen Curvy bodies, all kinds of colorful characters, non-hegemonic physical traits, commissions, and fanarts of her favorite shows, that’s what you can find when you scroll through the Instagram account of Cometa Estelar (Stellar Comet). This is the brand Estela decided to keep since college; she says that there are people who don’t even know her name and call her Cometa. The brand became a serious project for her the day she decided to make it her illustrator account. Before that, she had done not only illustrations but also graphic design, so the account was already a portfolio, but it wasn’t as defined as it is today. Thanks to her portfolio she was able to start working on illustration projects; at first most of them were small, but she took all the projects she could. In this way, she started making a name for herself in the city, and this motivated her to keep doing illustrations, learning, and improving her skills. Thanks to all the efforts she has made, she has been asked to make murals for campaigns, and she is well known when she goes to events in the city Illustrating in Merida? What? Like is hard? Being an artist is not easy anywhere, but when Estela was starting, people in Merida used to call the illustrations “drawings”. Not knowing about illustration, about its process and all the work behind it is a problem artists must deal with, and it affects even their incomes. The joy that illustration gives her is so big that she never stopped despite all the bad experiences. Because at the beginning of her career, when there were just a few illustrators, people used to want their work almost for free; it all seemed an effortless activity for them. That’s why Estela had to find steady jobs as a designer in different companies for a while to sustain herself. But since these works weren’t enough to make her feel fulfilled, she would take all the time she could to keep going on with her solo project. And even though mixing both activities was exhausting, she didn’t stop because she was determined to reach the point in life at which she could become solely an illustrator. The big jump: Pepperberry Publishing enters the chat Before joining Pepperberry, Estela had one thing in mind: to stop working as a designer. She felt ready to take that step after the rejection of a project she wanted to be a part of. In this project, she was supposed to be a concept artist for a short film that was going to be sent to a film festival; she sent the portfolio, which she prepared the best she could. She passed the first filter, which made her picture herself not having to be a designer anymore; sadly, the art director didn’t choose her, but the seed was planted, she knew the moment to leave behind the profession as a designer had arrived. It was at that moment that the job opening in Pepperberry appeared. After the first interview Estela was offered a designer position because she didn’t have enough English proficiency, and she could have taken it, but her goal was set so she rejected it. It was the best decision because her talent was so big that the producer and the project manager decided not to let her go: the language barrier could be solved in other ways. An illustrator’s gotta do, what an illustrator’s gotta do Being an illustrator is being a communicator. Because, according to Estela an illustrator is someone who gives a message through a visual representation. But, unlike other forms of art, this should not be interpretative, it should be clear. Maybe this is the reason why, of all the possible branches, such as marketing, posters, packaging, to name a few, what Estela likes the most are the ones that are needed to create graphic narratives; concept art, character development, worldbuilding. In those departments her specialty is color because she dares to play with it, it is what gives her the biggest joy. One can look at Estela’s work and understand its message just by the colors she uses; because with them she sets the tone of the scenes, she gives personality to the characters, she lets you know what kind of story you are about to embark on. If you look at her Instagram account again, you’ll understand she likes vibrant stories, full of magic, of fantasy, and that will give you the first clue of why she was the perfect fit to our Bodies of Sand saga. But Estela’s style is not the main reason for her to become the artist behind the project; she feels identify with the story itself because it talks about people like her: fighters that endure because they have strong beliefs. Estela loves that the characters in Bodies of Sand are from Latin America because she knows that, historically, graphic narratives have had mostly hegemonic protagonists, and she is tired of that. In her opinion, even when some stories are set in less common locations, the characters’ traits tend to belong to canons that are unreal. So, when she read the story, she gladly jumped into the project because she could already picture the kind of characters she would be able to create. If you, like her, like seeing multicultural and diverse stories, we can assure you that Bodies of Sand: Where Days Repeat Endlessly will become one of your favorite graphic novels from 2024.

  • Hózó: words that contain entire cultures?

    This week, our word is Hózó, the Navajo word for "balance and beauty". Between one language and another, some words can often be translated as entire sentences, others may even have concepts that are difficult or almost impossible to translate. Through these types of terms, we can introduce ourselves to the cosmology of entire cultures, and they can be an excellent way to get closer to new languages and ways of thinking that are different from ours. This is the case of the word Hózó, from the Navajo language. The most common translation of Hózó is "balance and beauty." For its particular meaning, this simple phrase has been admired by many linguists and people interested in the customs of the Dine people. It is said that Hózó does not simply speak of the balance and beauty that are so celebrated with such strict rules in Western culture. Instead of being easy to perceive through sight and easy to define through conventions based on physical presence, the beauty of this concept refers to the inner harmony of a person that is also manifested through his actions. Some people have pointed out that this can be seen in the art, poetry, and weaving of the Dine people: creations in which each element has its harmony, forming part of a larger scheme that shares the same balance. Because of this, Hózó is said to be the most important word in the Navajo language, as it unites individuals in the community who seek personal ways to mean and manifest this concept. Hózó applies not only to people and groups or collectives but also to the harmony between all living organisms and the natural world, and, according to some sources, it even applies to concepts such as time, space, and the universe. Hózó can also be understood as a philosophy that involves "walking in beauty," seeking to understand and care for spiritual, physical, and mental balance in life, and can be applied to individuals and entire systems. This complex term can invite us to research more about the Navajo language and listen to its speakers directly since no one can explain these ideas better than people who grow up understanding and practicing them. In our novel, Where the Days Repeat Endlessly, you will find our interpretation of a Navajo myth popularized by the book Women Who Run with the Wolves. Discover other mythologies that inspire us to continue creating and continue learning enriching words with us.

  • Donadagohvi: from a language without a goodbye

    Did you know that some languages don't have a word for "goodbye"? This is the case for many indigenous languages, such as Nahuatl and Navajo. This is also the case for the one of our post today: Cherokee. In Cherokee, the word "donadagohvi" means "Until we meet again." Although this phrase is a farewell, it does not have the notion or feeling of an absolute end to a relationship or an encounter, as the word "goodbye" does. This warm and friendly farewell implies that there will be a reunion again. It is worth mentioning that Cherokee is a language in which words are made up of syllables and can contain entire sentences in their meaning. Although this may sound complicated for beginners, donadagohvi contrasts with Spanish and English, in which we can find a similar history for the word: "Goodbye" which is an abbreviation that arose over time for the phrase "God be with you." While the importance of the Christian god is emphasized in both languages derived from Latin, in the Cherokee language, the essence of the spirit of individuals is rescued. Thus, we can see how each language offers an example of the cosmology of its culture in such a simple and everyday word. With this, we can also see languages as tools that allow speakers to find new communication methods. To create our Sand Bodies saga, legends, and myths from many Native American cultures were investigated. One of the main characters, Ageya, was named after a tale in which it is said that this was the name of the first woman ever created. If you want to learn more about the different cultures that inspired us, don't miss our content and follow us to be the first to read the first novel in the saga, Where the Days Repeat Endlessly.

  • Women writing for a change: Andrea González, the voice behind Bodies of Sand

    In this post series, we've been sharing many details about our saga, Bodies of Sand, but not about who is behind them. We think it is about time the world starts acknowledging Andrea’s name because if the message is the key, Andrea is our locksmith. By the time she had the first interview to join PepperBerry, we knew that we needed her: she was confident in her concept of writing as a problem-solving skill, as a tool for facing challenges and adapting to the themes and requirements of our formats. In that conversation, we discovered that she started writing in her youth, which made us consider her a focused person. Now, after around half a year working with her, we are glad for the decision to make her part of our team, and we want you to get to know her as well as we do. Dancing to the tune of the literary mermaids: introduction to the Mexican literary world Andrea started writing when she was young, but the decision to become a writer had yet to be made; she had heard that writers' lives were doomed for the low income they perceive in Mexico. In high school, she took a creative writing course, and the teachers she had saw potential in her and her classmates; they published her and even gave her the opportunity to take new lessons in the Claustro de Sor Juana, a private school in Mexico City. In that way, she had the chance to get to know more about the literary environment; the writer Ricardo Bernal and the poet Roxana Elvridge-Thomas, along with other creatives, became her teachers, and she got access to books and publications of contemporary authors; Andrea even got to know in person some authors, being Amparo Davila the one that brought her to be more impressed, since she has been one of the most famous writers in Mexico, and, like Andrea herself, Amparo's practice was centered on fantastic literature. Being surrounded by writers, as teachers, guests at events she attended, and classmates, Andrea realized that being a writer was not what she was told, that a good life could be possible as a writer. The moment was perfect since she had to choose a major, and the chosen one was Hispanic Language and Literature at UNAM. A young Andrea decided to find out what was behind the mermaids' melody. "Real writers": what does that mean? Suppose you ask Andrea what a writer's labor is. In that case, she answers that she likes to see it in the least romantic way possible. So, a writer's work is to have a clear message and share it in the best way possible. But to conclude, she went a long way, learning that all those romantic ideas about what a writer was and did weren’t the reality. "I think the hardest thing when I started was to romanticize reading and writing because that made it impossible to reach the expectations I put on myself. It made me try to follow others' path, and later, I understood that is not how it should be." Because of the experiences at the beginning of her career, Andrea had the idea of a division between people who had a "day job" and wrote on the side and the "real writers" who were exclusively writing. However, she grew and learned that the time dedicated to practice doesn't define someone's value as a writer. That's why she says that she is privileged to reach that point at which her only job is to write and to make that possible, she took all the tools life had to offer. All work and no play... Is it difficult to make a living as a writer? Following a path requires a strong will; Andrea knows and practices it. Since college, she took all the subjects related to improving and knowing all she could about how to write. Understanding the techniques, the structures, the tone, and learning how to shape the words to make the message clear to the readers was what she aimed for during all her professional formative years. "Being a writer is hard work," says Andrea, and the effort includes investing time and money in courses because she decided she wanted to know how to write all kinds of texts, not just narrative ones, and that’s why she has the formation to write for children, to make both theater and movie scripts, and blogs for marketing. All this practice led her to understand what kind of writer she was: a conceptual writer, meaning she can take concepts and build the text needed around them. Knowing who you write for is fundamental to deciding how to portray the message. Once Andrea understood the technique, she felt a lack of contact with them, with the readers. During the pandemic, she found workshops focusing on the purpose of the texts, what the readers felt, and how the message could be interpreted. Especulativas was one of them: an important space for women focused on sci-fi, which Andrea confides to us is her favorite genre. These groups helped her explore her writing more: to write more for herself since she could do what she wanted without being judged as corny, something she considered a disadvantage in the past and now understands as a vital quality due to the possibility the workshop offered her. Thanks to this experience, she could grow as an author, connecting both as something needed because the technique should not be all a writer looks for; the ethics behind writing and behind the messages should also be an essential part of the labor of a writer. Season with pepper: Writing for PepperBerry Publishing Language is a communication tool; hence, it is no different from writing; that's why learning English, the language you can find anywhere, came from a place of joy for Andrea. Thanks to this approach, which made her learn more intuitively and playfully, she downloaded an app to make pen pals. Writing to them eventually made her start writing another kind of text in this language. All this, the connections made in the workshops, and the learning of a different language created a domino effect that brought her to Pepperberry because she found out about the job through a friend she made in Especulativas, submitted her resume, got interviewed, and got the job. Working as a writer implies learning to distance oneself from the job; that’s another thing Andrea had learned. It is a hard truth, and it is because most of the time, the message belongs to others: "If I don't establish a distance between what I believe and what I'm told to write, this job becomes impossible," she told us when talking about her past experiences as a writer. In PepperBerry Publishing, she got the chance to pitch her story; the company values aligned with hers, which granted her approval for her idea. The green light came with a blank check, resulting in the first saga she has worked on. Writing for a change: writing a utopia Knowing why we do what we do helps us keep focused: "The only thing I can do is try to inspire through what I write," says Andrea. That’s why every time she has the opportunity, she writes not only sci-fi but utopias. She believes in the possibility of a better future if we leave behind cynicism, pessimism, and nihilism and start acting and being responsible for our actions. That is why her story talks about a utopia resulting from a long history of learning and improving: we see how it’s constructed and where it comes from, and it all seems so organic because it had a lot of work and research behind it. Andrea's work, all her preparation, all the courses, all of it shows how the story develops to not just tell but show the message. Stories are powerful; they can transmit messages better than pamphlets because it’s easier to empathize and see the concepts grounded in some sort of reality; that is what Andrea did in this first issue. The future could be brighter than some make it seem; it means a lot of work; let’s start with finding hope Andrea imprints into Bodies of Sand.

  • Xalli: the Aztec soil of the death

    Word of the week: xalli (sand in Náhuatl) Xalli is the Nahuatl word for sand. "Xalli iteuhyan," or spread the sand in Nahuatl, was a method for purification of the bodies of people who died sacrificed: this seems to be the reason why researchers found sand in the ceremonial offerings of the ancient Templo Mayor in Mexico City. Biologists and anthropologists agree that sand has cleanser properties and may have been used to clean up sacred places. The pre-Hispanic cultures in Mexico gave so much importance to soil that they had at least ten different names to classify it depending on its fertility to grow food. They had poems and prayers dedicated to the ground, mountains made of soil, and the life that lived and grew in them. They had uses for every kind of soil and valued them equally, using the dryest types for building and crafting tools. Xalli, or sand, was so crucial that it was present in many names of cities and towns in Mexico. Jalisco, one of the biggest cities in the country, gets its name from Xalli (sand), ixtli (face or surface), and co (place). In some areas, xalentli means beach, although this can change from one place to another since it's said that Nahuatl has 30 different variants. Whether by coincidence or because sand holds deep meaning in many cultures, this element appears in the poem "She Had Some Horses" by author Joy Harjo of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. The first verse, "She had horses who were bodies of sand," gives name to PepperBerry's new series: Bodies of Sand. The verse evokes the ephemeral sensation of sand flying on the wind or being moved by water. That there is life emerging from death is one of the topics you can find in the first novel of the series, Where the days repeat themselves endlessly. Follow us on our social networks and find out other details of this saga.

  • Welcome to Kawtizin, a magical Latin American city

    -Hey, you, have you heard of a place called Kawitzin? -Come along, sit with me, I’ll tell you about it, but be patient, because it’s a long story. I like to share it because it makes me remember my own village, I think that –in a way- everyone should know it, so we all can learn about them. And pay attention because I’m sure you’ll probably end up telling this story to someone else... We would like to have this kind of face-to-face conversations with all the readers of our saga Bodies of Sand, especially because oral tradition is important to the identity of the American cultures; sharing the histories and advice through a story told out loud is something that is still done. We have talked about the whole saga before, so you may already know it is about nature, identity, and community. Now, we’ll show where the journey will begin, taking you to Kawitzin, the heart of our saga. Our first issue is a poem about a city, like Homero's Iliad, which was his way of mythologizing the foundation of Rome. We also like to compare it to Neil Gaiman's A Tale of Two Cities" in which he wonders about the sleeping cities and their dreams, since, like him, we believe cities have memories and life, as long as people inhabit them. As living beings, cities have their own personalities, as we learned on the Invisible Cities of Italo Calvino; they can have bad sides like in Frank Miller’s Sin City, and they can hide secrets as we see in Más allá de las ciudades by Alejandra Gámez. Cities are characters in stories because they shape us as much as we shape them. Their history is the history of communities, and the way they are built, and their secrets become part of us. Sometimes, people can tell where you are from just by the way you do certain things, such as how we prepare food, how small or big is the personal space, if we use shoes inside the house, how much amount of traffic makes us desperate, all of this is an inheritance of the multiple interchanges of all the cultures and ideas that got mixed during the history of the place you came from. When Andrea Gonzalez gave us the first version of the manuscript, we were delighted to have in our hands the history of a magical Latin American city in which the whole saga will be developed. She is the historian of Kawitzin, and she loves it so much that she was willing to let us move through it as explorers. Our first close-up starts before there even was a city: we became spectators of a defining moment that encapsulates the main theme, which is the eternal cycle of life and death. We get to know Azomalli, a supernatural being who takes care of Kawitzin because he marvels at living beings and wants to see everything that they can achieve. It is due to its intervention and Xacayatl's, another supernatural being whose agenda is opposite, that the city is founded by a nomad tribe. The origin and history of places talks to us about communities and the decisions they make based on the context they are living in. This goes beyond cities, it can be about villages, small towns... any place where human groups decide to establish has a history! Where and how to distribute houses, public spaces, and what we know as services, all of that has a reasoning and tells a story on its own. Beyond the magical reasons, Kawitzin, like many cities in the pre-colonial era, was built in a place nearby a water supplier, in this case a river, and the place was chosen not just for that, but because of the natural richness of the area. The same goes for all the changes the city will endure. Magic is involved, but it is not going to be the main factor, because the decisions will always be made by the community. The first volume of the series had to be split into 2 issues, so the foundation of Kawitzin is divided. In the second one, we will know about the present and future of the city, which will give us hope when we get to read their struggles, because we'll know that somehow things will find a way to be resolved. Issue by issue, while the full story will be unfolded in the town, we hope for you to feel as Ageya, Yolo, Ome and the rest of the characters, and to feel as we do: as kawisteco.

  • The muuk' of resistance and the persistence of Mayan language

    Word of the week: muuk' (resistance in Mayan) Muuk' is a Mayan word for strength or force. Habitants of Yucatán hear Mayan words in a daily context. Some are so common that people who only speak Spanish know and use them regularly. They are used in ads from local businesses, as names of neighborhoods, in souvenirs for foreigners, and even a lot of last names from people of the region came from it. For some people, this is their first contact with the language, and they tend to mispronounce the words by trying to use Spanish phonetics. For others, the first contact with words in the language is made more recreational: -The regional theater, in which the actors use Mayan words or expressions when they are in character. -Events made by the government to preserve traditions. -Music concerts: some bands are using Maya to make their music because it is their first language. -Turn on the radio because some stations and programs are made in this language.} Students in public colleges in Yucatán have it as a mandatory subject, depending on their chosen career. People in the area organically learn more than one word just by getting involved in the community. The Mayan community is big and strong enough to fight to preserve their language and traditions. They have the Muuk' to keep passing on their language to the newest generations, to keep talking it, creating with it, dreaming in it with joy, despite all the hate and racism they have endured in a society that still now matches speaking Maya as being low class or even poor. They have the Muuk' to claim justice when their rights are violated because there are no interpreters when they find themselves in front of the authorities, such as in the case of Evelia, a woman who ended up in jail because of the prejudice of doctors. Muuk' is the feeling that moves them to ensure public hospitals and other essential places have the needed signage for Mayan speakers. This is also why they have successfully demanded that the government develop a program for anyone who wants to learn their language. Muuk' is what moves them as it moves all of us. That's why they have a big speaking community, even when the language has a lot of variants depending on where the speakers are from, so there is not only one Mayan language but multiples that are spoken through Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and even in the state of San Francisco in the USA. Musicians you may like if you want to learn more about this language: -Pat boy -Yaalen K'uj -ADN Maya colectivo -Chan Santa Roots -Juumil Moots

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