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Memoirist of the Month—December 2017: Maria V.

“Writing became fun instead of work, thanks to SMITH.”


Name:
 Maria V.
Place: San Francisco, California
SMITH Member Since: February 2008

December is a month of religious and multicultural celebrations—a fitting time to feature Maria V., who posts under the pious pen name Stella_Matutina. With more than 800 memoirs since joining SMITH Magazine in 2008, Maria has an adventurous side (“Jetway junkie, always ready for takeoff”). Her memoirs are alluring (“She fears falling. He has wings.”), saturated with benevolence (“Welcoming means comforting those who suffer”), and faith (“Had me at oremus pro invicem”). Congratulations to Maria V. as our Memoirist of the Month for December 2017. Maria reveals her divine side as she answers our Six Questions:

How did you first hear about Six-Word Memoirs?
I don’t remember how I learned about Six-Word Memoirs—it was too long ago! Apparently, I didn’t “get” the site at the time: after writing my first memoir, it took six years for me to post my second. SMITH began sending email newsletters that inspired me to return to the site, and I’ve been “sixing” more or less consistently since September 2015. Though I’ve taken a few breaks, I keep coming back to Six Words as my favorite creative outlet.

The fun and friendly competition of the SixContests plays a large part in bringing me back to SMITH. I thrive on challenges, and contests motivate me to step up my game. So far, my best has been second place in SixContest #77, Your Family Story in Six Words: “Multicultural kids, raised as world citizens.” As one of the contest’s Top Six, I was delighted to receive a signed copy of actress Diane Guerrero’s memoir, In the Country We Love: My Family Divided. I was even more thrilled to have an entry for another contest appear in SMITH’s latest book, Six Words Fresh Off the Boat: “From melting pot, multicultural Thanksgiving meals.”

Encouraging comments and messages from Six Words community members give me greater self-assurance in my creative writing ability, and some have touched my heart profoundly with their kindness. In my backstories, I often share the beauty, joy, and wisdom of the Catholic faith that is my lens on life. At first, I was uncertain how readers would respond to my efforts to convey Christ’s love through my writing, but the SMITH community has proven to be a true blessing. For the most part, “Sixers” are welcoming and gracious, willing to respect and appreciate sincere beliefs with open hearts and minds.

When did you start writing and what have been turning points in your creative life?
I’ve always loved the beauty of words, but I tend to be more of an analyst than an artist. An English literature and writing major, I restricted myself almost exclusively to academic and business writing—until I started posting steadily on Six-Word Memoirs. SMITH gave me a safe and supportive space to exercise disused creative writing muscles, embrace my inner mystic and poet, and muse on the fruits of contemplation with community members. Writing became fun instead of work, thanks to SMITH. I’m grateful and honored whenever my memoirs are chosen as Editor’s Picks, Featured Backstories and Images, or the occasional Memoir of the Day. Six Words nurtured my confidence enough for me to begin blogging very recently for a start-up Catholic media company.

Which authors do you enjoy or admire, including writers on Six-Word Memoirs?
I’m a voracious reader of a variety of genres, from theology, spirituality, biography, classic novels, historical fiction, and poetry, to business and management. I especially admire those timeless authors who express universal truth and beauty through the artistic medium of words. My favorites include Saint Thomas Aquinas, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, G.K. Chesterton, Rainer Maria Rilke, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Louis de Wohl, Peter Kreeft, and Patrick Lencioni.

Many seasoned sixers and newcomers have struck a chord with their tremendous talent for storytelling, but I particularly enjoy reading poetry at SMITH. JohnBigJohn, NeilSlevin, and torturedbutterfly stand out for their penetrating and powerful poems. Writers like these three are the deep-sea divers of the psyche: they descend into the inner world of the human soul and return to the surface, reporting on what they have discovered in the most intense and imaginative language. A special shout-out goes to those sixers—too many to mention by name—who share their support, humor, and wisdom through positive comments on others’ memoirs. And I miss several gifted writers who have left or no longer post regularly at SMITH.

Can you share a favorite Six-Word Memoir, or other story of yours on SMITH and tell us why it’s meaningful to you?
A favorite memoir is “I’ve learned silence within monastery walls.” It’s about the importance of seeking interior silence in a world of distractions, written as a birthday tribute for a cloistered nun. Sister became a close friend when I spent a month with her monastic community to discern a possible vocation to contemplative religious life. Although that calling wasn’t meant for my immediate path, my time in the monastery was a pivotal experience.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time and what do you enjoy doing?
I’m currently a management consultant. I’ve also worked in philanthropy and fundraising and in global corporate banking. A native and lifelong resident of San Francisco, I’ve earned an MA in theology and an MBA from a Top Ten graduate business school.

Finally, Maria V., what are your Six Words for today?
“Write what you believe and love.”

Comments

  • zsuzsu
    December 1, 2017

    Oh my, Maria, so happy to see you featured here as December’s MOTD! I am so much a fan of your writings, your spiritual insights and lovely expressions of life. It’s also nice to see we share the native homeland of San Francisco. How appropriate to see you featured in what I consider the holiest of months!

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 3, 2017

      Thank you for the steadfast thoughtfulness in your sixes and comments, Susan. As you were last December’s MOTM, it’s an honor to follow in your footsteps this December. I’ve always enjoyed your vibrant stories of our native San Francisco. Best wishes for a blessed holiday season to you and your loved ones.

  • Ellis Reyes
    December 1, 2017

    How wonderful that you are this month’s MOTM. Congratulations and Merry Christmas!

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 3, 2017

      Thank you, Ellis. Best wishes for a blessed Advent and joyous Christmas to you and yours.

  • liberata
    December 1, 2017

    You truly are our shining morning star! Un piacere di conoscerti ! Happy December!

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 3, 2017

      Molto gentile, liberata! Mille grazie, buone feste, e tanti auguri!

  • JohnBigJohn
    December 1, 2017

    So deserved!!! Your voice is so needed here. Bless you to the stars and back.

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 3, 2017

      Thank you, John. Perhaps “I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert’” – appropriate timing for the Advent season, at least.

  • J3nny
    December 1, 2017

    Beautiful Miss Maria,

    You give me hope, despite my “skepticism”. Your words are always beautiful and unfailingly kind. A rare gift for all of us. Congratulations on this well deserved honor. Happy December to you.

    Jen

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 3, 2017

      Thank you for your generous words, Jen. Never give up on hope. Best wishes for a happy December, a blessed Advent, and a joyous Christmas to you and yours.

  • Eric Skinner
    December 1, 2017

    I’ll repeat myself, Maria. You continue to inspire and bring purpose to me through your generous writing. Congratulations on being chosen MOTM at this most appropriate time. Peace to you, my friend.

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 3, 2017

      Heartfelt thanks for your past and present kindnesses, Eric. You’ve been an ongoing source of encouragement and inspiration. Praying for you and yours, and wishing you every blessing of the Advent and Christmas seasons.

  • Ksan
    December 1, 2017

    Maria,
    Good to see you flying so gracefully in your frugal Chariot! I enjoy your words of faith, gentleness and searching and the fierce intellect that underpins it all. Finding out you have academic focus in theology and business makes sense to me. Keep writing it down. Thank you for the grace of your stories.
    Ksan

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 3, 2017

      Thank you for being one of the most considered and considerate commenters at SWM, ksan. I’m always edified by your sixes and grateful for your support.

  • JAD
    December 1, 2017

    You are a blessing indeed to share the love of Christ to so many of us here at Smithmag. An inspiration you are. Keep writing and spreading love in your memoirs.

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 3, 2017

      Thank you for sharing your warm heart with all of us here at SWM, JAD. Praying for you and yours, and wishing you a blessed Advent and joyous Christmas.

  • Banjodan
    December 1, 2017

    Dear Maria, it is great to learn more about you and humanity sure needs people that have your faith and spirit.

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 3, 2017

      Thank you, Dan. I’m grateful for your support. Wishing you, Zoila, and all your loved ones every blessing of the Advent and Christmas seasons.

  • WinterSoul
    December 1, 2017

    Congratulations!! How excited I am that you are the Memorist of the month during my birthday month!! And what a surprise you live in my part of the world too! I always imagined you somewhere far away. This comment might sound self involved, I realize, but it’s meant to share my personal joy at being connected in these small ways. For me, this is what makes Sixwords real and not just strangers talking to strangers.
    My favorite Six and backstory of yours will always be:
    “Take trouble to write something beautiful.”
    Happy December!!

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 3, 2017

      Thank you, WinterSoul. I’m deeply touched that you have a favorite from among my sixes. Best wishes for a wonderful birthday and for peace and joy in the holiday season.

  • Tricia
    December 1, 2017

    Maria it’s so wonderful to learn more about you. Thank you for sharing your beautiful spirit with us all. As I’ve told you before, your presence soothes me (and I’m sure I’m not alone) and the grace of your words elevates us. Enjoy this holiday season!

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 3, 2017

      You’ve always been so encouraging, Tricia, and I’m truly grateful for your support. I also enjoy your lyrical and whimsical memoirs, and I look forward to more of them.
      Wishing you and your loved ones every blessing of the holiday season.

  • jl333
    December 1, 2017

    Maria, you are such a gentle soul and one of the nicest sixers here! I had no idea you lived in California! I’ve always appreciated your kindness not just in your memoirs, but to fellow sixers. This is a pleasure to learn more about you! Congrats on Memoirist of the month Maria!

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 3, 2017

      Thank you for being one of the most positive and supportive commenters on SWM, jl. You lift everyone’s spirits with your enthusiasm and humor. Wishing you joy and peace in the holiday season.

      • JL
        December 3, 2017

        I wish you the very best and a very Merry Christmas

  • Silken
    December 2, 2017

    Che piacere Maria!
    Beautiful lady, talented writing and a beautiful soul.
    So please to see you memoirist of the month.

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 3, 2017

      Grazie mille, Silken – molto gentile. Buon Natale e Auguri per un felice 2018.

  • enginethatcould
    December 2, 2017

    Maria, it is wonderful to see you featured as MOTM. You are truly an integral part of the sixword community. Your writing is intelligent, moving, enlightening, enriching. The best of the best.

    Congratulations (Mazel Tov!) to you for the well-deserved honor.

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 3, 2017

      Shalom Aleichem! Thank you very much for your kind words, Rebecca. You’ve been missed, and it’s always a pleasure to see you back – even briefly – at SWM. Best wishes for Hanukkah happiness to you and yours, my friend.

  • Kharis
    December 3, 2017

    Congratulations Maria, we are indeed blessed to have you as part of the Smith community- you add such a dimension of soul and spirit to it. Best wishes for your life and writing.

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 3, 2017

      Thank you, Kharis. I’ve always enjoyed the rich spirituality in your writing as well. Best wishes for a blessed Advent and joyous Christmas down under.

  • Josie (JoC)
    December 3, 2017

    Maria, I am always impressed with the sense of serenity your memoirs and comments exude. I admit, mine often lack those qualities, and I see you as an inspiration in that way. Thank you for your writing, and congratulations on being selected December’s Memoirist of the Month!

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 4, 2017

      Thank you, Josie. Maintaining one’s equanimity, especially during stress and difficulty, is something that has to be cultivated. Though it isn’t always easy to preserve one’s balance at all times, life is better when you can. Best wish on your quest for serenity.

      • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
        December 4, 2017

        “Best wishes” on your quest for serenity.

  • Canadafreeze
    December 4, 2017

    So pleased to see you featured as December’s memoirist. Congratulations. You are kind, wise and articulate and your words often inspire me to take a step back and just breathe. May you have a blessed holiday season filled with love and good will.

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 4, 2017

      Thank you for your encouraging words, cf. I appreciate the comprehensive range of your sixes, from playful to powerful. Best wishes for peace and joy in the holiday season to you and your loved ones.

  • Krystyna (CG)
    December 4, 2017

    Congratulations on being this month’s featured star of six words, Maria!
    I love the artistry and deep meaning in your Sixes, awesome backstories and photos. (The latter has me seeing those delicious Christmas cookies you made recently.)
    Thank you do sharing.

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 4, 2017

      Thank you for sharing your adventures with us as you travel the world, Krystyna. And your luscious food photos always make my mouth water! Wishing you and yours a blessed Advent and Christmas.

  • DynamicDbytheC
    December 4, 2017

    Always enjoy experiencing your memoirs. Nice to meet a fellow Californian. Congratulations.

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 4, 2017

      Thank you, DDC. I was impressed by your many first-rate entries for the #MoreAndLessIn6Words contest. Wishing you the best during the holiday season.

  • FKA_Liza
    December 7, 2017

    Congratulations Maria/Stella!
    I always look forward to reading your Six-word contributions and backstories. Blessings to you always, and have a wonderful merry Christmas!

    Amy

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 7, 2017

      Thank you, Amy. Likewise, I look forward to reading your sixes – oftentimes cheerful and buoyant, sometimes tender and poignant. Best wishes for a blessed Advent and a joyous Christmas to you and yours.

  • Dean
    December 14, 2017

    Maria,

    I’ve only *just* now found your MOTM spotlight – shame on me!

    Your Sixes and backstories are both an inspiration and a little garden of tranquility in a world filled with noise and confusion. Your excellent writing, your character and your spirit are steady reminders for me to not neglect my faith, and are a proof that one can be a believer and remain loving and kind at all times. Thank you for that.

    Dean

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 25, 2017

      With the launch of SWM’s new site, I’ve only *just* now noticed your comment, Dean. Thank you for your kind words; they mean so much to me. Best wishes for a joyous Christmas and a blessed New Year to you and your loved ones.

  • Guy Austin
    December 21, 2017

    Stella!

    Maria – I have not been on much of late, but I recall reading your words and they were always welcome nourishment. Your voice here is needed. Welcome and Refreshing. Well deserved.

    Hope your Advent is pieceful. Filled with joy and reflection. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    Guy

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 25, 2017

      Thank you very much for your kind words, Guy. You’ve been missed, and it’s always a pleasure to see you back – even briefly – at SWM. Best wishes for a happy and holy Christmas and a blessed New Year to you and your loved ones.

  • Krista (SouthPorch)
    December 21, 2017

    Maria, Congratulations on MOTM! I have always admired your willingness to share your faith via Six Words! I love learning more about fellow Sixers. Merry Christmas to you!

    • Maria V. (Stella_Matutina)
      December 25, 2017

      Thank you for your encouragement, Krista; it is much appreciated. A joyous Christmas and a blessed New Year to you and yours.

  • torturedbutterfly
    February 14, 2018

    Congratulations, Maria!! Your sixes are so beautiful and have always moved me. I’m glad I could do the same for you with my poetry. I was so happy to read this interview- I only wish I had sooner. Again, congratulations on the honor!

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