My Father

014 Peter M. Raptis

He was Pete to my mother and his friends, Junior to my grandparents, Papa to my sisters and brothers and larger than life to me.

 “…My father died in a car accident, two blocks from our doorstep, when I was eleven and my mother was seven months pregnant. He was plucked out of our lives just when we were getting to know each other. Some things I’d prefer not knowing about him, but there were many more that made me feel grand and most of all safe.

As a family, we never recovered and have walked through life with a limp in our hearts. My father’s death at thirty-eight slayed our Nana Herminia, who had only one child, and while she adored us, the mere reflection of her son’s features or mannerisms in any of us would send her over an angry edge. She once railed at us with tequila breath, a machete in one hand, rage spewing, and while my sisters shielded my petrified younger brothers, even they knew it was her heartache and loneliness emerging. I wanted to avoid that kind of torment at all costs…”

Excerpt from  Stretch Marks

I Love To…


Congratulations to Julia Reynolds, veteran Santa Cruz, California crime reporter, award-winning journalist, and long-time pal’s  September book release! BLOOD IN THE FIELDS, Ten Years Inside California’s Nuestra Familia Gang.

“Intense, intimate, sprawling literary true crime effort.” – Kirkus Review.

You may preorder from your local bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, and Amazon.

Join Bookshop Santa Cruz for a special discussion featuring Julia Reynolds, veteran local criminal justice reporter, and members of the Santa Cruz and Salinas community working for violence and gang prevention. With youth violence becoming such a pressing concern in our community and beyond, Julia Reynolds’ work examines the nature of the problem today and some very promising solutions. Since 2002, Julia Reynolds has been reporting on gangs and youth violence around Salinas for the Monterey Herald, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, and elsewhere.

Salinas is home of Nuestra Familia, one of the most violent gangs in the United States. Born in the prisons of California in the late 1960s, Nuestra Familia expanded to control drug trafficking and extortion operations throughout the northern half of the state, and left a trail of bodies in its wake. Award-winning journalist Julia Reynolds tells the gang’s story from the inside out, following young men and women as they search for a new kind of family, quests that usually lead to murder and betrayal.

Blood in the Fields documents the history of Operation Black Widow, the FBI’s questionable decade-long effort to dismantle Nuestra Familia, along with its compromised informants and the turf wars it created with local law enforcement agencies. Reynolds uses her unprecedented access to gang members, both in and out of prison, as well as undercover wire taps, depositions, and court documents to weave a gripping, comprehensive history of this brutal criminal organization and the lives it destroyed.

Julia Reynolds is a reporter and editor who has done work for MediaNews newspapers, PBS, NPR, the Discovery Channel, The NationMother Jones, the San Francisco Chronicle, 60 Minutes, and more. She has reported on gangs, crime and prisons, and co-produced the award-winning PBS documentary Nuestra Familia, Our Family, the work of 11 years of immersion in rural gang member’s lives. She was part of the team that created Frontline/WORLD’s much-heralded documentary Gun Runners. Previously, she was editor of the national Latino magazine el Andar. She is a Center for Conflict Studies Research Fellow at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and was a 2009 Nieman Fellow at Harvard and a 2011 Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University. She has won awards from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, New California Media, the California Newspaper Publishers Association, The National Council on Crime and Delinquency, the World Affairs Council, and Investigative Reporters and Editors’ highest honor, the Tom Renner Medal.


Spring Cleaning

Had you stopped by my place during the last two weeks you’d find me in a closet, my behind in mid-air, cursing in both languages while hauling out a dozen cement heavy cardboard boxes and crates of vinyl albums, or perhaps standing still, adrift in memories, after unearthing kindergarten art and a wooden throne from a grade school play.

Days later I emptied out my office closet, relieved to find undisturbed rat traps, and was surprised to find forgotten containers from another life. I sat in the middle of my office floor, rummaging through wicker storage baskets where a twenty and thirty year old me had stashed travel  souvenirs, love letters, and a file folder from my first writing workshop.

I had begun struggling with infertility in the early nineties and longing to create. A flyer at the Santa Cruz Public Library caught my eye and, soon after, Maude Meehan greeted me at her door with a wicked moon beam of a smile and her signature embrace. maudie

Little did I know that I’d met a grand matriarch, community activist and poet who’d recently published Chipping Bone, her first of many books of poetry. Along with fragrant herbal tea and cookies, she welcomed a small group of writers, into her home, for a supportive, yet demanding weekly writing class of prose and poetry. From one season to another, I never missed a class,  and learned to listen to poems and short stories, in a variety of voices, but most importantly to honor my writing and listen to myself.

There I learned to let loose and write it down, for me. And for me alone.

There I thrived among the raucous and sometimes painful stories, which informed my writing and challenged my understanding of craft.

There, I finally gave voice to a handful of stories gleaned from my childhood and would later turn into Guacamole with Feta Cheese, a work still in progress.



In Celebration Of The Muse!

I’ll be reading Lioness In A Size Eight Pantsuit this Saturday evening and would love to see you there. It’s an extra special night, my sister Jannette from Arizona will be in the audience along with my sons and my man. She’ll be the one that whistles like a Hell’s Angels.

This event sells out every year, so please get your tickets and join us.


Come Hear Why My Mother Thought She Was Horny!


The Cabrillo College English Department, Poetry Santa Cruz and Amber Coverdale Sumrall & Dena Taylor present The 32nd Annual In Celebration of the Muse, featuring 21 local women authors: Debra Spencer, Joan Zimmerman, Laura Davis, Liz Raptis Picco, Robin Lysne, Jo-Ann Birch, Becky Hall, Sarah Rabkin, Helene Simkin Jara, Wilma Marcus Chandler, Rosie King, Ellen Treen, Kate Aver Avraham, Joanie Maro, Patricia Zylius, Adela Najarro, Dina El Dessouky, Barbara Bloom, Magdalena Montagne, Neli Moody, and Clifford Henderson.

• Doors open at 7:00 pm for seating and tickets. The 2013 chapbook, In Celebration of the Muse 30th Anniversary Anthology, presenting one poem or short piece of fiction by each of the twenty readers for the 2012 reading, will be available for purchase for $10 along with books by the 2014 readers (cash and checks only).

This event is a benefit for Poetry Santa Cruz.




My Year Is Off To A Bang!

I started the New Year with a publishing goal of mine.midlife-mothering-200x300coming to fruition thanks to Cyma Shapiro’s wonderful anthology THE ZEN OF MIDLIFE MOTHERING where my essay Infertile, me? No Way–I’m Latina is proudly included among dozens of witty, candid, and finely crafted writing. 

Soon after, I received news that my October 2013 submission landed me a coveted spot on IN THE CELEBRATION OF THE MUSE where I’ll read Lioness in a Size Eight-Pantsuit  at Cabrillo College on March 8th. Please join us for a fun evening with a talented group of Santa Cruz County women.

SMASHED WRISTThen in mid-January while on a glorious bike ride, I was slammed off of my bike and ended up in the ER where seven hours later I left with a heavy-duty, double splint to keep my banged up   wrist and arm in place until surgery a week later.

Now, I belong to The Twisted Sister Club, my younger sister megaphones everyone as she shows off the centipede scar down her right arm. My scar is smaller thank goodness and my right arm is on the mend. The months ahead are filled with doctor visits, physical therapy, writing, and redesigning my website!