Something funky going on in your sex life? Long-term relationship starting to run dry? Well Sujeiry Gonzalez is your go-to-girl. Sujeiry owns and operates Lovemionline.com and is a featured writer at Latina Magazine’s website Latina.com. She’s hosting the LoveMiOnline Annual Festival Friday, March 26th and the Love Yourself Expo Saturday, March 27th. So get out there and love yourself. It’s sure to be a good time.
Parlé: First of all, tell me about growing up and just a little bit about where you came from.
Sujeiry: It’s a long story, but here’s the short version. I was born in New York and raised in Washington Heights until I was twelve years old. When I was twelve my mom moved up to Lawrence, Massachusetts and I went to high school there at a prep school called Phillips Academy Andover. So, I kinda wasn’t raised in Lawrence. It was a little weird because I was from Lawrence but didn’t go to high school there so I didn’t know anyone. Then I went to UMass Amherst in college and during the summers that I was at UMass I was going back to New York so I moved back to New York once I graduated college. So, my upbringing has been a little scattered but I belong to New York now and I’ve been here permanently since twenty-two.
Parlé: Tell me about your professional life a little bit. You work on the love and relationship circuit and have done it for years, so tell me about what you do on a daily basis.
Sujeiry: Well, as of September of 2009, I quit my day job officially. I have a background in education so I used to be a teacher and last year I was a parent coordinator so I worked in a school system for a really long time. Then I took a break and got my masters in writing. Back in 2006 I finished my degree and then I started writing full time just to see what it was like to be a freelance writer. As of now, day to day, I run Lovemionline.com which is my website. I own it, I write pretty much 75% of the content. I have six actual columnists that write every two weeks – they have a piece that they send me – and I also have freelance writers that just write sporadically. I also write for Latina.com, Latina Magazine’s website. I write their dating blog and I write that twice a week and then I do the event planning. Last year I did it more, I did like four events last year and I started in July so I was doing events almost every month. This year I’m only going to do two events a year and just keep building and making them bigger just because it’s a lot to do an event every month and make it as good as I want to make it.
Parlé: How much do you enjoy what you do? Have you always thought that this is your end goal and you’ve always been waiting to be in the spot you’re in?
Sujeiry: It’s funny that you ask that because I’m going to be thirty-two in like three weeks so I’ve been re-evaluating goals both professional and personal. I’ve always wanted to be a writer but I don’t think I knew I wanted to be a writer until later on in life because you’re raised to think that if you’re a writer and you doing anything creative, you’ll be a struggling artist, and nobody wants to be a starving artist. Especially since my parents were in the Dominican Republic, like we were born and raised here, they instilled in us that you need to have a practical job because you need to make money because we came here and sacrificed and struggled. You know, it was a hard knock life. We definitely didn’t grow up comfortable. So, it was something that I tried to stay away from as much as I could because, even though I knew that I was a good writer and everyone would tell me I was really good, I just figured that it wouldn’t make me any money and it’s not the most stable career so I shied away from it for a really long time.
But, I’ve also been performing for a really long time because I also sing. I’ve been performing since I was like twelve years old singing so as much as I loved all the creative stuff, I didn’t want to focus on it until recently because if you don’t love what you do then you’re not going to be happy. Work is like 50-75% of someone’s week. I just kind of realized “Wow, I really like working with kids but education isn’t my passion – not at that level.”
I really wanted to write and I really wanted to deal with the creative arts so I decided to start the website as a means to have my own business and as a means for me to be able to write and also give other writers opportunities. I did the event planning for the same reason, mostly to give other talent opportunities to shine. But now, I’m actually taking a step back and I’m going to start focusing in the future on my own writing and my own singing career because it’s like – Why do for others what you can’t do for self?
Parlé: So talk to me about having that passion and that commitment and faith in yourself, as a writer myself with a journalism degree, I hate the news and I’m not going to spend my time working for a network news station.
Sujeiry: It’s horrible, isn’t it? I never wanted to do the news either. It’s so boring and I don’t want to do a story about so-and-so got shot on the corner of this and that street. That’s not creative!
Parlé: Exactly. So, just talk to me about jumping ship and just deciding that this is what you’re going to do and there’s nobody that can stop you.
Sujeiry: It was a really, really hard decision. Like I said, I’m going to be thirty-two next month and I quit my day job in September and I’ve been struggling with this pretty much all my life. I’ve been a writer all my life and because of this, I always keep journals. For most writers that’s kind of their first outlet, just like their diary. I’ve been writing a diary since before I can even remember, I was in like junior high. I keep everything that I write, so I have boxes of my journals for almost twenty years. With all these journals, I look back sometimes and read just to see where I’ve been so I can know where I’m going. There was a lot of doubt, I’ve had a lot of doubt.
Until I went to grad school I didn’t really share my writing with strangers. I took a creative writing course in high school and the professor would always be like, “You should read this in class,” because Fridays were the day where the class would read their stuff. But, I would never want to read my stuff and every time he would say, “No, this is a really great poem you should read it in class. This is a really great story.” But then, once I went to grad school, that’s when I kind of stopped struggling or trying to fight with myself because nobody was telling me I wasn’t a good writer and I shouldn’t do this. After a while my mother was like, “Listen, do whatever you want to do. Do whatever makes you happy.” But I was still having the internal struggle within myself. Not because I didn’t think that I had talent, but because of the fear of failure.
So, when I jumped ship in September, I was terrified and I’m still terrified because I have to depend on myself to make money. I don’t have a regular paycheck coming in and when you’re a freelance writer sometimes you have a gig and sometimes you don’t. I’m lucky and I’ve been really lucky and really blessed that it’s never been very difficult for me to find somewhere to write. Especially since I have such niche writing and like you, I never wanted to write for a newspaper. I interned with Philadelphia Weekly when I was in grad school and yeah, that was an alternative newspaper, but it still wasn’t the type of writing that I wanted to do. I wanted to do more creative non-fiction, personal stories, and personal essays. I’ve been really lucky that it’s never been difficult for me to find a writing gig. I’ve been writing and getting paid for it since 2005 and I kind of just bumped into it. I pitched a story without even knowing I was pitching a story to an editor and she was like, “Oh, you should write that!” That’s kind of how I got my first paid writing gig. Word of mouth – when you’re professional and meet your deadlines – people talk about it and people recommend you. I’m pretty on top of my stuff and when it comes to writing and creative stuff I don’t ever want anyone to think I’m unprofessional. But the other aspect of the creativity, it’s hard. Like singing, I’m terrified whenever I go on stage, like I want to pee. (Laughs) It’s really weird because I’m so comfortable writing now and even going to open mics and reading stuff but when it comes to singing and other creative stuff I’m insecure. But, it’s very difficult to jump ship and just say “This is what I’m going to do.” I still every day have a little thought in my mind like, “What did you do? What did you do?!”
It gets rough and you’re stressed because when you work for yourself you don’t have set hours. I get up early at 7:30 in the morning like everyone else but my job doesn’t end at 5:00 necessarily. I usually work from 8:00AM to 8:00PM or 8:00AM to 10:00PM and I’m not seeing the money that other people would working that. But it was a choice that I made and I’m trying to stick to it. I don’t want to backpedal anymore because that confuses the universe.
Parlé: Being a dating blogger, I’m sure that a lot of your work comes from real life experiences. Can we get maybe one funny story of a relationship in your past or something you’ve written about that people have liked?
Sujeiry: Actually, I just wrote one for Latina.com. I just wrote about the last guy that I met where something potentially could have been there. I met him at a bar when it just kind of happened that someone knocked over my beer and he bought me the beer, y’know, the typical “Send that girl a drink,” to the bartender and the bartender comes up to you and is like “That guy sent you this drink.” So, I was bold, because I can be really bold when I want to be, and like ten seconds after she put the drink in front of me I went over and sat next to him because I saw him and I thought he was cute. We hung out the entire night and we went to go eat at a 24-hour Dominican restaurant in Washington Heights and I’m talking to the guy and I’m looking at his eyes, and I’m thinking “Maybe this guy’s drunk.” So I was like, “Are you drunk?” and he was just like, “Oh no, I’m just high on E,” and I was like, “What?!” and he said, “Yeah!” like it was no big deal to him. He goes, “Oh yeah, I pop E like every week once a week.” I was thinking, “Ok, I’m not cool with that,” and then we’re walking outside and he called me the N-word as a term of endearment and it was like, “Ok, you’re high on E and instead of calling me baby you call me the N-word. That’s not cute, I’m not your homie, we’re not in a rap video and we’re not Mary J. Blige and Method Man.” That just happened recently and it reminded why I don’t really date guys I meet at bars. They’re high on E and they wanna call me homie.
I wrote someone else on Lovemionline.com about a twenty-year old guy who I was working with when I had a part time job trying to make more money. He kinda became a stalker and wouldn’t get the point that I was thirty and he was twenty. I was like, “You can’t even buy me a drink at a bar, it’s not going to happen!” But he was persistent and that one I wrote on my column at Lovemionline.com called “Love Trips”, which is where I started writing the relationship stuff.
Parlé: Tell me about this Workshop you’ve got coming up.
Sujeiry: It’s March 26th and March 27th and it’s called the LoveMiOnline Annual Festival. It’s the first year that I’m doing it and last year I started with a talent showcase where performers used content that all had to do with love, sex, and relationships. It was kind of a promotional tool to promote the website and then it became something bigger than I expected and it got really good feedback. So, I was like, maybe I need to do this again and this year I decided to do it on a bigger scale. Instead of just doing the talent show I added on an expo, and the expo is on Saturday and it’s called the Love Yourself Expo. It’s going to be at the Caribbean Culture Center from 1-4PM and the entire point of the expo is for women to come and pamper themselves. I’m going to have free wine, I have a Domincan woman who’s making appetizers, I have a Mary Kay representative that’s going to be doing makeovers, I have a massage therapist, I have someone selling sex toys, I have someone selling jewelry, I have an actual sexologist who’s a doctor with a degree in sex and has written books, I have an author of erotic fiction, and I actually have someone doing Cash for Gold so women can bring their old broken jewelry and broken gold and get cash and spend it there. I’ve also got someone doing retail and someone selling candles and scented things so it’s going to be a fun event and it’s the first time I’m doing it. It’s going to be a festival and two events back to back.
Parlé: Thanks so much Sujeiry and good luck at the LoveMiOnline Festival and the Love Yourself Expo!
Written by Jacob Coughlan for Parlé Magazine