Life Story

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Hi! I’m Alisa. Thank you for visiting my blog! I appreciate you being here.

I suppose I’m best known at this moment in time as a novelist. I’m a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of a dozen or so novels, the best known of which continues to be The Dirty Girls Social Club. My books have been published in eleven languages, and I have more than a million books in print.

I’m also a screenwriter. I’ve had development deals with Columbia Pictures, Lifetime Television, NBC, Starz, Nickelodeon and MarVista. One of these days I hope to have a development deal that crosses over into production.

Music has been one of my passions, since I was a child. I manifest this through playing saxophone, being a singer-songwriter, and through dance. My undergraduate degree is actually in music, from Berklee College of Music, where I majored in the tenor saxophone. Also, I have been a professional dance fitness instructor most of my adult life, including having been a continuing education credit provider for the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America and, once upon a 40-pounds-ago, the silver medalist for all of New England in a fitness contest. Yeah, I know. But I’m hoping to get there again, and want you guys to come with me on my journey to slim down and get healthy!

I was born in Albuquerque, to a Cuban immigrant father and an Irish-English-Spanish-American mother whose family has been in New Mexico since the 16th Century. My mom is a writer and musician, and my father a sociology professor. If you know me and my work at all, this lineage makes perfect sense! One of the most thrilling bits of news I ever got was when I found out a sociology at Brown University was using one of my chick lit novels to explain Latino identity politics. Mission accomplished!

After 15 years away from home, studying and working in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, I moved back to my beloved Albuquerque in 2000. Nothing inspires and calms me more than the incredible landscape of New Mexico. The earth is still alive here. The people are still humble – well, all except that one guy at comedy open mic. But he’s dumb. Also, I love comedy open mic. That’s my newest hobby. Albuquerque has an awesome little comedy scene, and I feel lucky to count some of these folks as my friends. This city, this state, they are in my blood. If I ever leave again, it will only be to get a second home somewhere else, or to escape the concentration camps. New Mexico is home, always and forever.

 

I’m proud to have been named one of the 25 Most Influential Hispanics in the United States by Time magazine, for nothing more than arranging words in ways that make me happy. Latina magazine named me a Woman of the Year; Entertainment Weekly hailed me as a Breakout Literary Star; and Hispanic Business magazine has twice named me among the 100 Most Influential people in the nation. I also got a literary achievement award from the National Hispanic Congressional Caucus, just for writing stories people love – the thing I have loved to do since I was five years old. This makes my soul sing!

I got my professional writing start as a staff writer for the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times, and won some writing awards for that, too. Many of my favorite novelists got their start writing news. Being a newspaper reporter teaches you that writing is never precious, that it’s a job like any other, that to be successful at it you must write even when you don’t much feel like writing. It also taught me that there’s way too much fiction in corporate “news,” and that to tell my own truths I would have to do it in novels. Several agents and editors I’ve since worked with in the book world say I am the fastest writer they’ve ever met, and I credit both the formal study of jazz improvisation and having been a newspaper writer for honing my ability to think fast, to spontaneously compose at the highest possible level and speed. 

I should probably mention I was named the nation’s top essayist by the Sunday Magazine Editor’s Association, when I was just 28 years old, for a piece I wrote about Cuba in the Globe’s Sunday magazine. I got Honorable Mention for Short Feature a couple years later while on staff at the L.A. Times, in the American Society of Newspaper Editors competition, for making fun of Gallagher, which wasn’t particular nice but it was hella funny. Also, quit smashing watermelon on people, ya weirdo.

While I working as an on-air host for the Urban Update show on WHDH-TV in Boston, my team won an Emmy for public service journalism. When American author Tom Wolfe was asked to select an author to be Artist in Residence at his alma mater, Washington & Lee, he chose me, saying I was “the new Tom Wolfe,” because of my biting social commentary and fearless way with words. That was pretty awesome. Oh, also: I have a master’s in journalism from Columbia University, if that impresses you. It isn’t that great, just really fucking expensive. Amurika.

What else? I’m a mom. My son, Alexander, is my life. He’s a senior in high school and will be off to college next year. He’s an outstanding scholar and musician, a prodigy of a writer, insightful, thoughtful, and the funniest person I know. I feel beyond blessed to be his mother. What a gift he has been. Thank you, universe! Oh, I’m also a bit of a Buddhist, philosophically; not sure about the reincarnation bit, but I do believe meditation holds the key to a sound mind and body. I follow a mostly ketogenic diet, which has incredibly cured my severe autoimmune diseases. I love makeup and clothes and traveling, and don’t see any sort of conflict at all between being a smart, creative, serious artist whilst also feeling pretty and healthy and happy and strong.

Creativity is life, and life is beautiful.

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