This past week has been the last part of the project, the wrap up. Mainly I have been uploading all the information in WordPress. I thought I would have to learn more digital stuff, but since my project is a map, it´s mainly entering the information in the site. What I did learn a lot about, and that was something I wasn’t expecting, was copyrights.
When I started the project, I didn’t realize there were many things I wouldn’t be able to use. That things out there, flying around in the internet, are not that easy to use or reuse. I know that it sounds naive, but in all my excitement about this project I forgot about copyrights. So in the last few weeks I’ve been digging deeper in the copyright jargon, learning a legal language that for me is not that easy to understand. I think this was one of the most discouraging difficulties I encountered, and I had to decide that a lot of information I had wasn’t going to end up in the map. The bright side is that this led me to get in contact with more writers to ask them for their permission to use their pictures or pieces of their work. At first nothing happened, just sheer silence and more discouragement. But days passed by and as soon as mid-July arrived, emails started to drop in my inbox. Many were answering yes, we have the copyrights, you are more than welcome to use our material. Many added a phrase of encouragement about the project, some funny anecdote of their visit to the city, or just a hope that Iowa is as special for me as it was for them. Some attached an article or a story about their experience here, and reading it felt like travelling in time.
A crucial contribution to my project was the collaboration of the librarian assigned to my department, Lisa. I discovered that in a project like this a librarian can be one of the best things that can happen to you. She knew about everything. If I asked her about copyrights, she either knew the answer or whom to talk to. If there was an untraceable writer that for a month I couldn’t find, she knew where to find the data. Whatever I asked her, she had a solution at hand.
I also met with Robert, Ethan and Nikki at the Studio, who have been helping me to assess how the site would look and the information I should enter. Robert also helped me with the name. And I met with Mahrya, another librarian who advised me with copyright themes. I visited the Writing Center where Daniel and Claudia helped me to edit and revise some of the material.
After meeting with all of them, things started rolling up. It was a matter only of uploading the information and putting it there, finally in a place other than my extra-long and heavy excel sheet that has been hosting these fifty-something women for all my summer, growing and bulging with information. Putting the information in WordPress felt so good, like it was finally in the real world, out there. Like all these stories or facts started having a life on its own, kind of like a poem, or just a good story to talk about.
I feel that I’ve learned so much in the last few months, about copyrights, digital content, all the resources the university has and that I can rely on for a project like this, the International Writing Program, these women writing, their books and Latin American literature. My idea is to keep revising and updating the information on the map. I also intend to continue with my research on Hispanic women writers and to pursue the questions this project opened to me, such as, are there common characteristics that unite the writing of Hispanic women? If so, what are they? What does the Spanish language provide to these authors that other languages do not? Which aspects of Hispanic culture filter into their writing and make it unique? Can there be a shared identity of Hispanic women writers and if so, how can it be defined?
Mariana Mazer – MFA in Spanish Creative Writing