WHM Writing Contest Winner

“There is a resemblance between men and women, not a contrast. When a man begins to recognize his feelings,
the two unite. When men accept the sensitive side of themselves, they come alive”
Anais Nin, In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays

My Journey through Hostos
Alma Cayasso

Two days before the Women’s History Month Essay Contest I had the delightful pleasure of bumping into Professor Jerilyn Fisher on my way to class. We quickly said our hellos and asked one another how we had been when she casually mentioned that the Woman’s History Month essay contest was taking place in just a couple of days. Surprised, I asked where exactly it would be held and at what time. Professor Fisher said, “Wednesday and Thursday afternoon from 3:30-5:30 in room 508.” I smiled and told Professor Fisher that even though I’ve just found about the event I would do my best to go. She wished me good luck and we parted ways.

Two days later after a shift at Continuing Education, I walked into the classroom on the fifth floor where Professor Fabrizio was proctoring. As I walked in and said hello she smiled and welcomed me. Then she asked me what my English level was. I told her that I’m part of the elective level. She passed me the contact list and asked me to add my name, email, and the name of the professor who referred me.  Afterwards, I took a seat in the front row and Professor Fabrizio told me that the cart to my left was filled with laptops and I could help myself. I smiled and told her thank you but I brought my own laptop for the occasion.

Throughout those two hours I experienced what I always do when writing, as soon as I got the general idea in my head I just dove deep and kept on going. Free writing is my tried and true method of writing.  When free writing there isn’t much planning that goes into it aside from getting that general idea. I don’t make an outline and because of this I don’t waste any time planning just writing. I write until the well runs dry. When I do decide to take a break I use that time to look over what I have written and check what I missed and add it. The quotes to pick from this year were all powerful but the one that called to me was the one by Anais Nin.  I picked it because it spoke to me about issues regarding masculinity and boys and men in our society. I believe all that is expected out of both genders is unrealistic and that the social construction of gender does more harm than good. The quote also expressed a very progressive point of view, surprising for a woman to have back then. It’s insightful and still a reality years later.  Nin was a woman way ahead of her time.  I felt empowered writing about her idea during those two hours. This brings me back to what Hostos has also given me besides the opportunity to showcase my writing.

Back in fall 2014 Hostos gave me hope and opportunity and plenty of inspiration.  Hostos has given me hope through positive feedback and helpful professors and faculty members. Without them I wouldn’t have improved upon my skills so rapidly and thoroughly. I came to Hostos on the vague concept of becoming a writer and didn’t think the process would show so quickly. I didn’t think I would receive recognition or praise. But regardless, I have and it has been the best I could ever hope for.  Being at Hostos has given me hope in my writing and also in myself.

Opportunities have come to me in various ways, one of them being through my participation in the Hostos English Club. I became involved in the club through my Science Fiction Literature Professor Maya Sharma.  Professor Sharma informed me of how proud she was of the club and how she founded it.  She also told me of the events the club sponsors and arranges with the help of Professor Christie Hutchins. Back then the club was hosting the Readings of Hostos’s student poets. The readings read would be the work of the students themselves. Professor Sharma wanted me to be one of the students participating. Initially, I was intimidated at the prospect I never claimed to be a poet myself so the idea of having to read my own work when initially having no experience turned me off. I remember thinking that the event was way out of my league and that the idea of reciting poetry out loud to an audience made me want to run in the opposite direction. So when it came down to the wire it’s no surprise that I didn’t participate. So fall came and went and at the start of spring semester Professor Hutchins reached out to me and told me about the upcoming club registration openings.  After a couple of weeks I was officially a member of the English Club and my first position as a club officer was secretary. Unknown to me the English Club holds another Dramatic Reading in the fall but during this reading students read poetry from published authors. Professor Hutchins was determined to have me recite poetry. Surprisingly, I caved and decided that the dark works of Sylvia Plath was perfect for my first experience reciting. I recited, “Mad Girl’s Love Song” and lived to tell the tale. Before I read the poem aloud, I was anxious. Afterwards I felt proud and empowered. I decided to treat the event as a learning experience. I had faced my anxiety head-on instead of letting it conquer me. I remember justifying my decision to read at the event as an opportunity to grow and start getting used to reading in front of crowds. Reading in front of audience is important to get comfortable with now because if I plan to become a published author I will be expected to make appearances in public and many of those social events will include doing readings. So every time I participate in these events I am working on getting used to the experience and used to the idea that I am actively pursuing a career in writing.

From there the journey only got better. I worked my first freelance job interviewing veterans who receive assistance through Continuing Education’s H.E.R.O 4.V. program at Hostos. I was offered this job through a coordinator at Continuing Education. She already knew my love for writing and hopes of becoming published. I felt positively elated at the prospect of getting paid for my actual writing instead of the usual jobs. On top of this experience I also started receiving more and more A’s and less B’s on my papers. Moreover, I was getting encouraging remarks on my informal and formal papers from various professors in English. Around these new developments, I was devouring articles and books on writing and improving writing. One of the new habits I picked up was blogging.

When blogging I wrote and posted about things that mattered to me, links about all my passions in life: writing, reading, feminism and human rights. The more I continued to blog the more I developed the daily habit of writing frequently and freely not worrying about what I put to paper; I religiously save my work. Whenever I found time or got the strongest sensation to write I did. It didn’t matter where I was or in what medium. If I didn’t have my moleskine and pen, I would use my cell phone’s memo pad, or just my laptop. I didn’t deny myself my desire to write and haven’t in years.

Throughout all these moments I became more enamored with writing. And thankfully, writing is cathartic and has seen me through many issues and difficult times.  I walked away better and stronger because of it. Ever since I started writing my life has gotten better. If it wasn’t for my constant writing and interest in it, I wouldn’t have received a recommendation to tutor and the Hostos Academic Learning Center’s Writing Center. I was recommended by two of my current English professors, Heidi Bollinger and Michelle Y. Burke. Without all of their support and belief in me as a writer, I wouldn’t be the writer that I am today. Being announced the winner for the Adrienne Weiss Women’s History Month Essay Contest has given me the vindication that I have wanted as a writer and only drives me to work harder towards realizing my dream. I want to thank everyone that helped me accomplish it. I appreciate your votes of confidence and reassuring words.




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