“Dreams are not given away “

AUTHOR: Dania Ferro

TRANSLATED BY: Fabiola Jauregui 

“Dreams are not given away”

The year 2006 had begun and I started the year working as a cashier in a secondhand clothing shop. I was earning only a few pennies more than the minimum wage set at that time which was about $ 7.15 per hour. I remember I bought a new car in 2005, a Lincoln Aviator, with leather seats, a metallic color; it looked like a spaceship to me. It was my first car. The salary I was earning was just enough to pay my vehicle, insurance and nothing else. At home everyone paid the bills and I was never asked to pitch in, I was just expected to work, pay my car, not hangout with bad influences and keep my dream of being a writer. I had already been writing for a year for one of the Hispanic newspapers that circulated at the time in Fort Myers titled Tropical Gazette and in Naples; New Echoes where my poems appeared in a section called: “The poetry corner”. Mr. Euro Brito (editor of New Echoes at the time) was kind enough to trust me with my work. All the articles and poems ran through me before being published along with a photograph of my young image. I was only a 21 year old full of dreams.

The whole time that I worked in retail, which by the way wasn’t for too long, I always found myself always thinking of known libraries, major book launches, readers throughout the world reading my book, in the translations of my books to many languages, stories in my head that I needed to bring to life, the form, time and place; and thought about those late nights when I wanted to write. I imagined microphones I spoke to while I thanked people for reading my books … I pictured many autographs, lots of autographs. 

When I went to lunch with co-workers I autographed their napkins and told them with certainty and watery eyes: “Keep this, because one day I will be a great writer, I will pass by to say hello and I will gift one of my books only to those who show their napkin signed “.

Of course most of them laughed at me and commented amongst themselves: “This girl must be crazy, every day she signs a dozen napkins as if she was already a famous writer or as if she really had published books”.

In the store, there were more than 2000 employees. I would find out about everyone’s name and every day at lunch time I would sign napkins and hand them out. On each napkin I wrote the persons first and last name along with my giant signature and a small personal note. I made sure that everyone received one. At one point there was only three people left to give my autographs to, the manager, Lola and Ramon who worked in storage.

One day a woman had complained to management saying, “You should scold that crazy girl using the napkins and distributing them as if that did not cost a thing. It’s been more than once that I’ve tried to get napkins and I can’t because they are never available. “

The next day the manager called me into her office through the P.A system, something  that everyone in the shop feared of because it was said that when the boss called you to her office using your full name through the P.A system, it meant that things were not going well and that you were most likely losing your job.

When I entered her office she spoke very bluntly but quietly: “I have received complaints about you misusing napkins from the company. I’ve heard that you write your name and give them out like they are autographs. You come here to work and not waste time. Got it? ” she said angrily. “Yes ma’am,” I replied.

That day I cried a lot and had lunch by myself. I no longer trusted anyone in the store and I felt a huge desire to get out of there once and for all. But I needed the money to keep paying for that car that was so new, but so expensive…

That night I went through all the articles and poems that had been published and I realized that  I had more than 65 poems and more than 100 stories, so I made a decision…

The next day I went to work with three autographed napkins, my last delivery: One for the manager, one for my friend Lola, the Argentinian who cleaned the floor, and one for Ramon, the Peruvian who worked in the storage. I walked into the office and I told my boss Kate, “I came to give you this and say goodbye”. Kate looked at the napkin and laughed, threw it across the table without looking at it. She gave me the papers to sign, gave me my last paycheck and didn’t say a word. That same day I enrolled at Hodges University, returned the Lincoln Aviator and I bought the car I have been using since, a car that set me free from working at a place I absolutely despised.

I started writing to publishers and not one of them was interested. A book with 65 poems about a girl who wasn’t famous  and no one knew about, except for about 40 or 50 people who read the newspaper every now and then in a town like Fort Myers that was barely known. It was such a bad idea. The publishers didn’t see anything productive or how it would be advantageous to publish the book. The answers were all a simple no.I won’t deny the fact that I was discouraged, but I never completely gave up the idea of ​​publishing my books.

 In 2008 I started writing for “Vista Semanal” and in 2009 I was motivated by my grandmother to write a letter to the famous journalist and host of Univision Cristina Saralegui. I told her about my desire to publish my first book and within three months I received an invitation asking me to participate in the show “The Show of Dreams”. There, publicly on national television, I was introduced as a writer and I was given the first 300 copies of my first book: “Dialogue with my heart.” Univision included a promotional campaign on their website for a year as well. I was in several major Hispanic programs nationally and later I traveled to Venezuela where I promoted my book for a month.

When I returned from my trip I went back to the store where I had worked with several books in a bag. Some remembered me and came out to greet me, they had seen on T.V that I had finally published my book; they had also read about it in several magazines and newspapers and came to congratulate me. I asked everyone if they had kept the napkin and no one seemed to pay attention, let alone remember. Then came Kate scolding everyone for being distracted, she ordered them to return to their posts and told everyone leave us alone, and she said, “So, are you coming to give me your book?” and I asked about the napkin. “I threw that out, I wasn’t going to keep that. Do not get your hopes up, because one thing is to publish ‘some’ book and another thing is to keep publishing and actually have readers. “Kate said.

“Well, if you want one, you’ll have to purchase one” I said smiling. ”And it will cost you $12.99 because dreams aren’t given away”

As I was leaving the store, my friend Lola came out crying and with a big hug she said to me, “I always knew that you could do it Dania” … and reaching into her purse, she pulled out that napkin I had given her 3 years ago. It was crushed, yellowed and worn out but I could still see my signature and the note that said, “Keep it if you believe that dreams come true!”

I pulled a book from my bag and said to her, “Lola, this Christmas I’d like to gift you my first book”

A note from the author:

Lola no longer cleans floors in that store, she bought a farm in Argentina and from there she writes me cute emails telling me to not give up and always keep my head up. Kate is still the manager in that same secondhand clothing store. 

 I have already published my second book and I write notes of opinion for Vista Semanal, a publication of the Naples Daily News.

This new year my advice is:  “Take things as they come, discover their purpose in life and don’t stop working”