Trading her law career for writingAfter 20-plus years of devoting much of her attention to a career in law, Sara Campos returned to college to study creative writing. Today she has nearly completed a novel set in her mother’s native land, Guatemala.
By: Ruth Nerhaugen, The Republican Eagle
After 20-plus years of devoting much of her attention to a career in law, Sara Campos returned to college to study creative writing. Today she has nearly completed a novel set in her mother’s native land, Guatemala.
Campos is spending July in residence at the Anderson Center at Tower View, honing her manuscript down to manageable size.
She earned her law degree in California in 1985 and worked for Legal Services in Granger, Wash., representing migrant farm workers, then worked as a civil rights attorney in the San Francisco Bay area, then as a staff attorney for the National Immigration Law Center.
Writing has always been a part of her life as well.
“Since I was about 9 years old, I wanted to be a writer,” Campos said, “but life took me different directions. I wrote a fair amount as a lawyer, but not the way I wanted to write. I had stories in my head and needed to get them out.”
She became an adjunct professor and teaching assistant at Mills College in Oakland, Calif., where she earned a master’s degree in creative writing in 2008.
Since 2004, her fiction, nonfiction and poetry have appeared in a number of publications.
Campos’ first novel, “The Revolutions of Matilde,” is set in the 1940s, which was a tumultuous time for that country.
“The original idea for my novel came to me from a photograph belonging to my mother,” she said.
“Among her memorabilia … was a small photo of an indigenous young man pasted inside a little cardboard box,” she said. Campos got the notion that he had loved her mother, although her mother denied it.
“True or not,” she said, “I realized that in the time and place my mother grew up, such a relationship would have offended society. In the 1940s Guatemala was so steeped in racism that state fair organizers thought nothing of caging indigenous Mayas and displaying them at an exhibit.”
“I sought to write a love story between a white woman and an indigenous man,” she said.
“When I began writing I did not realize that the ‘40s were a pivotal period in Guatemala. Once I stumbled into it, I could not help but write about it.”
And when Matilde’s story is completed, Campos already has the kernel of a second novel “persistently rolling around inside my head.”
It will be a fictionalized story based on her great-aunt Rosita, a Salvadoran woman who came to San Francisco in the 1940s and worked in the shipyards during World War II — as Rosita the Riveter.
Campos’ month in Red Wing is possible because she was awarded a fellowship from Letras Latinas, the literary program of the Institute for Latino Studies at Notre Dame University. Partnering with the Anderson Center each year, Letras Latinas identifies one emerging writer working on a first full-length book who would receive a significant boost from the residency.
“I’m very excited about being able to devote an entire month to my novel and grateful I have this opportunity,” she said.
During the Summer Celebration of the Arts July 7 at the Anderson Center, she will read some poems and a short story.