We all have a bucket list of people we’d love to talk to once in our lives. People who exemplify a craft, have stolen our hearts with their wisdom, or who are changing the world for the better because of what they do. Tanya Saracho, the creator Starz Vida, is that person for me.
As a queer creator myself, Saracho exemplifies and succeeds at a craft many queer Latinos are eager and hungry to get into. That, and many more reasons, is why she’s on my bucket list and why it was an absolute pleasure to have a kiki with Tanya over Zoom about writing, being Latinx, and her love/love relationship with Latinx goddess herself Gloria Calderon Kellett.
When it comes to writing, this isn’t the first or last time she’s been asked about her craft. Keeping that in mind, I couldn’t help but ask about what Saracho does when fear starts creeping into your work, which surprisingly enough is something that always happens to her and is definitely happening during this quarantine.
“I am not writing and it’s okay.” The fear is there, present as always, but you have to be kind to yourself and understand that everyone’s process is different. “When you have something due, you have to get it done. But most of the time I have rituals that I do that help me.”
“Writing is conjuring,” according to Saracho. It’s a process of bringing to life what lives in the imagination. One that gives life to queer and brown stories that can change the world because they reflect the reality of who we are as people, as humans.
And there are moments when it gets hard, even for Saracho. But that’s when you need to stand your ground and write your truth.
“Dare to still write it, and then worry about it later. Cause it’s probably a necessary story you have to tell, not just for you therapeutically, but …we have to hear these stories.”
You are the only one that can tell this story. And no matter the burdens that come with our culture, the things that try to pin us down and stop our stories, we need to keep pushing forward. When that doesn’t work, you keep pushing and find sisterhood in the work you’re creating.
Luckily, Saracho has found that with the Vida writers, who are a “sisterhood of latinx writers, creating this group that is all about community.” She’s also found that in One Day at a Time showrunner Gloria Calderon Kellett. They are true BFF’s who when not Marco Polo’ing each other, it’s a thing and you should look it up, they’re coming together to create the community they never had.
“We’re like, legit besties,” Saracho gushed about Calderon. And yes, I mean gushed like were talking about the brightest star in Saracho’s sky. And it’s the kind of community and friendship any of us would want in our lives. “It’s good to have a mutual admiration society,” especially when you’re learning, which Saracho is still doing thanks to Calderon and the rest of the Starz Vida writers in her life.
“I didn’t have a lot of mentorship.” Saracho clarified before diving into something a bit personal but something that we all feel as Latinos. “I always have my parents on my shoulders and their voices. I encourage people to shut down those forces. Sometimes it’s our parents, but sometimes it’s yourself. It’s a lot of work…a lot of cultural trauma that you’re carrying.”
And it’s our job, your job, as creators to dare to still write. Because, like Saracho said, “As soon as I shut those voices up, risky stuff can come up writing wise.” Ultimately, that’s what we all want as writers, to shut down those voices and write from the heart without hesitation. And if Saracho can do it, so can you.
When that happens, magic is created; unforgettable magic like that of Starz Vida. The hit queer and Latinx series has garnered much love in its time on air and like Saracho, we’ll never forget the experience of seeing our brown, queer, trans, and so much more, voices on TV.
It’s what Saracho will remember the most about working on Vida when the screen goes black on that final episode, “That I got to work with these people.” Because it’s true what they say, “I’ve never been to a friendlier, more Spanglish, warmer set.” And that happens, that becomes a common place reality, when we are inclusive to a variety of voices, sexualities, and experiences.
So, remember this. “There’s a responsibility we have as brown queers” in this day and age. “And if you’re getting attention, you have a platform.” So, go for it. Reach for those stars, create the content that speaks to your heart. Because, “Just your essence, your presentation is a radical act, so present it this way.”
And we will.
Vida airs Sundays at 9/8c on Starz.