“I returned to the desert, hidden as it is under cement and immense ribbons of black asphalt, painted with lines, dotted and whole, dotted and whole. Here, the ground doesn’t stay put, but in an entirely different way: it shakes with understanding and a longing to renew. To start a new life, I returned to where I had come from,” reflects Wendy C. Ortiz in her notebook.
Ortiz, a 30-year-old living alone for the first time in a long time, records thoughts upon returning to live in southern California. These thoughts, sometimes mere paragraphs and other times two pages, comprise her recent book, Hollywood Notebook, a compilation of anything and everything she ponders while living in there. These entries are descriptive, and are often fragments and run-on sentences, or lists and poems.
Hollywood Notebook is an inspiring glimpse into a writer’s mind, and Ortiz is a writer in every sense of the word.
Early on, she works at non-writing jobs, where she tries to be involved, but “often there’s a story behind my eyes that is whipping around like a hurricane trying to keep my attention,” so she’ll take a sick day to write.
Reading Hollywood Notebook is like indulging in someone’s diary, and every new day offers something different, for instance: three weeks in Ecuador, a funeral, wildfires. Like life itself, her writings span from meandering thoughts and emotions to specific ideas and events.
Many of Ortiz’s passages may leave the reader wondering and hungry for more. For example, she writes about looking for a certain photo, but she doesn’t say what is in the picture, or why she’s so determined to find it. The content of her “notebook” may seem haphazard—it is filled with lists, thoughts, ideas, poetry, and snippets of what could become longer stories—but Ortiz is essentially offering readers a glimpse into her personal thought processes as a woman, a writer, and someone living on her own and trying to figure things out.
Ortiz’s distinct voice is evident in her beautiful, vivid descriptions. A week after running a marathon, she reflects:
“A week to the day I’d been running and walking and stumbling and shuffling down the closed streets of Los Angeles, and what a way to see the city…at times apocalyptic, as though this was the L.A. post-bomb, when thoroughfares like Crenshaw or Wilshire were emptied of cars and we could make our way down the middles like zippers closing up the city, with orange rinds, banana peels and crushed cups underneath our shoes.”
Hollywood Notebook is a case study in one writer’s writing process. Ortiz is continuously working on stories in between taking breaks to record her thoughts. She likens her stories to children, suggesting her submissions are like sending her babies out into the world.
Ultimately, Hollywood Notebook might be more suitable for literary and artistic types. It could even be utilized in writing classes because of its wide variety of topics and ideas from which one could generate a writing exercise or spark one’s own story.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Angela earned her master of arts degree in creative writing from Wilkes University under the tutelage of Kaylie Jones and John Bowers. She lives below Blue Mountain in a log home with her husband and three cats, and she works in a delightfully quiet office. In her spare time, she indulges in books, films, ice cream, and making art.
[Angela previously served as a reviewer for Hippocampus for a number of years before moving into the editor role.]