2018 & Next


Last year was a special one for me. I’m hard on myself and I tend to worry a lot, which means that I struggle to be present in the now. Last year I kept reminding myself to slow down and pay attention because a childhood dream had come true. A few days after my book came out my middle school best friend, who I’d long lost touch with, wrote to me: “I’m so glad that you still write and that you still have an assortment of cats :) It reassures me you’re the same gal at heart.” This made me laugh! At the time I had one cat, but since then I’ve adopted a kitten.

I fought long and hard before I decided to become a writer, which sometimes still seems a little unwise for someone from my background. I suppose most writers struggle with the reasons not to write, which is a part of why a first book means so much. I always think of first books as a kind of autobiography—speaking for so much of how a writer has lived experienced up until that point.


Some people had nice things to say about HTLAJ, and it meant so much to receive messages from readers, especially Caribbean readers. I signed books in Jamaica, Mexico, Mississippi, Iowa City, New York, Miami, and Boston. This year I’m looking forward to signing books in Toronto, New York, and Trinidad. Some people don’t realize that though the work is public, many writers like myself, are shy. The months leading up to book promotion, I was really nervous, but when the time came, I managed, and I was so grateful to have opportunities to share about the book. Last year was all about challenging my fears.

Other exciting things about the year: Spending more time in Mexico, a country I first fell in love with through literature. I visited Veracruz twice, a port city on the coast of Mexico that was a sister city to Cuba. I haven’t really spent much time outside of Mexico City, and Veracruz was noticeably different. I was told that Afro-Mexicans are to be found on the coast in places like Veracruz and Acapulco, so I went looking. It was so meaningful to connect with my brothers and sisters of Caribbean and African descent. And the food! The food reminded me of home. I also visited Thailand with friends from high school to celebrate our thirtieth year of life. Lots of exciting happenings in Thailand, including the opportunity to ride an elephant! I so appreciated the opportunities to travel last year. Growing up I wasn’t the type of person who had the means to travel, and I don’t ever want to take this for granted.

Spotted in Veracruz, Mexico

Spotted in Veracruz, Mexico

Food in Veracruz, Mexico

Food in Veracruz, Mexico

Personally, the last year has been a lesson in taking better care of myself and reclaiming my time. I can say no, when I want to. I learned a lot about relationships, specifically about boundaries and accountability. I have to take care of myself first before I can take care of anyone. Creative resolutions for 2019 include revising old stories, returning to new projects, and diversifying the kinds of books I read. I would like to start volunteering in my community. I’ve been thinking too that I need a hobby that isn’t related to reading or writing—something self-caring that I can do with my hands. An intimating goal--I’d like to start looking into launching “How to Love a Jamaican” in Jamaica. The paperback comes out in June.

in Chiang Mai thailand with friends .jpg

I’m curious to see what this year brings.  Happy 2019!

Maria Mergal