Manner of Dress: Outlandish. That's a good word to describe Camila. She likes color, and a lot of it. Some people might say she dresses provocatively, but she doesn't believe that to be true. To be "provocative", you have to be provoking someone, and Camila doesn't dress for anyone but herself. If people like it, hey, great! If they don't, well. Behold the field in which she grows her damns. Gaze upon it, and thou shalt see that it is indeed barren.
Tight dresses, mini skirts, low cut tops are all as likely to feature in her wardrobe as tracksuit pants with a sports bra, or jeans with a hoodie. It's all about dressing how she feels. Sometimes that necessitates more than one wardrobe change a day, but that's all right, that's all good. Camila is all about fluidity and going with the flow, even with her clothing. Especially with her clothing. Life is too damn short.
Distinguishing Features: Probably the most distinguishing of Camila's distinguishing features is her hair. No, that's not her natural color, but I think you knew that already, didn't you? Follow that up with her lipstick, which is usually (though not always) a bright, vibrant shade of red and you're probably not going to forget her too quickly.
If you were looking for some kind of accent, you're not really going to find one here. She's been in the US since she was two years old, so her accent is predominantly American. Okay, on some words she has picked up some of her parents' pronunciation, but they're the exception, not the rule. Of course, that's when she speaks English. When she speaks Spanish, she is fluent, but she has an unmistakable American accent. Ah well. Can't win 'em all.
Camila has a small but deep scar on the inside of her right arm. It's not from self harm. She doesn't remember how it happened, just that it happened in Peru. Her parents have told her that it was from tripping and falling on broken glass, and she takes that at face value, for the most part. She's not all that anxious to know the specifics. It is what it is.
She wears a homemade bracelet around her right wrist (she's left handed) made by Nico. It's a simple medallion on a leather strap, but he made it for her at day camp when he was eight and he was so proud of it that she's worn it ever since
likes: bright colors, diversity, dancing, writing, singing, music, going to the club, Peruvian food like her mamá makes, most other kinds of Latin American cuisine, beer, wine, fresh fruit, all kinds of juice
dislikes: bullies, people who use the word retard (especially as a slur), racism, white people who think racism is over, ignorance, being told to calm down, people who say "you grew up here, you're American!", hard liquor, "rabbit food"
Bring in the noise. Camila's all about being loud, proud, and exactly who she is. She's uncompromising, in that she refuses to change herself for anyone or anything. She knows who she is, and she likes who she is, and anyone who doesn't, well. She doesn't have time for negativity.
She's always been a creative sort of person. As a small child she was the one dressed up in princess gowns and fairy costumes, prancing about playing make believe. Her school years were marked by a reluctance to wear her school uniform, because it made her look like everyone else, which for Camila was utterly intolerable. Interestingly, though, this aversion to conformity stood her in good stead in her later life. She became an expert at personalizing and adapting her uniform to show her individuality while remaining within the boundaries of the dress code. Now, as an adult, that ability has carried over into knowing exactly how to follow the letter of any and all laws and rules while carefully skirting the spirit of them.
Camila's creativity is expressed in other ways, too. She can't draw to save herself, but she loves to paint, wild swirls of color and patterns and just abstract feelings. She likes to sing and play guitar, even if she's average at best at both of them, and, perhaps most importantly, she writes. She wrote stories by the dozen when she was younger, now writes books. She's had two published and is on her third. Her stories are fantasy, with female protagonists and feminist themes throughout, and it is her greatest triumph that she has as many men reading her books as she does women.
Camila doesn't suffer fools lightly. If you say something ignorant, she's going to tell you, and she's not exactly one to pull any punches. She's a feminist, as previously mentioned, and is against bigotry of all kinds. She's a huge proponent of people minding their own business, unless they're calling out injustice of course. An example: she firmly believes that her body is her own, and nobody, but nobody, has the right to tell her what she can and can't do with it. If she wants an abortion, she'll get one. If she wants to have a lot of sex, she will. If she wants to be celibate for three years, she'll do that too. If she wants to gain thirty pounds, or lose thirty pounds, she thinks that's her business. In short, she's not interested in being told who to be.
She likes children, and that's probably a good thing, because her brother is going to be a child for the rest of his life. She might not have a lot of patience for bigots and ignorance, but she has infinite patience for Nico and for the other children in the program where she volunteers. She'd like to have kids of her own someday, she thinks, but now's not the time.
Camila isn't sure how to define her sexuality, because it's not something she thinks about. She likes who she likes, you know? And that's about all there is to it. Some people might be tempted to label her as bisexual, or pansexual, but she doesn't really dig labels. In a relationship she likes to have fun, and as soon as it stops being fun, she stops being interested. That's not to say she doesn't know how to be serious! She's had a lot of seriousness in her life, she's well acquainted with it. No, it just means that she doesn't want to have to fight for someone's affection and attention. Either you want to be with her or you don't.
As a friend, she's fiercely loyal because if you're not, what's the point? She doesn't have a lot of friends. Some people like to surround themselves with acquaintances and casual friends, but she's not one of those people. She can count her true friends, her good friends, on one hand. She just doesn't have time for people who aren't making her life better in some way, shape or form. She's not standoffish or rude or isolationist, nothing like it. She just doesn't give much of herself away unless you've earned it.
Camila has always been something of a daddy's girl. When she was little, he was the one who invariably read her her bedtime stories and played with her in the evenings, and took her places in his weekends. That doesn't mean she doesn't love her mother, or that her mother never had any fun with her. It's just one of those things - she's a daddy's girl, and there's not a lot she can do about that.
Once upon a time, a college Literature professor fell in love with his student. It seems like the set up for a cheesy romance novel, or perhaps the opening to a deposition hearing. Bear with us though, because it gets better. See, she was on the verge of graduating, and he was a fairly young professor to begin with, and both of them had the sense, the morals and the self control to wait until after she had graduated to act on their feelings.
Cut to five years later, the couple - Sebastián and Valentina - were living comfortably in Lima, Peru, with their baby daughter Camila. They weren't rich, by any stretch of the imagination. Sebastián, after all, was still only a college professor, and Valentina was working as a librarian. They had a roof over their head, food in their refrigerator and clothes on their backs, and that was enough for them. Their life was mundane, but it was sort of idyllic at the same time.
1992 was a dark year in Lima's history. An insurgent group called Sendero Luminoso was responsible for a number of terrorist acts throughout the country, but the last straw for the Díaz family was the La Tarata bombing. They themselves, their home and their loved ones were safe, thank goodness, but too close was close enough for them. At the beginning of 1993 - shortly before Camila turned three - they packed up their belongings and moved to the US.
Sebastián's career translated well to the United States. It didn't take him long to find a position, in Philadelphia, so that was where they set up. Perhaps surprisingly, the local community welcomed them with open arms, and it wasn't long before they had integrated about as fully as it was possible to do. Valentina found her niche volunteering, and of course spent her days looking after Camila. Sebastián worked during the day and came home at night to play with his daughter and give her a bath. Beautiful life, don't you think?
One of the things both of Camila's parents insisted upon was that Camila not lose her Peruvian heritage. To that end, they spoke only Spanish at home. For the first two years in the United States, the only English Camila heard was on the television. She started kindergarten speaking barely any English at all, but she picked it up fairly quickly, and by the time she was in third grade no one even remembered that English was her second language, or that she'd come from anywhere other than Philadelphia.
Her best subject in school was, perhaps ironically, English. In particular she shone in creative writing. Her first story of note was entitled "Three Steps Into the Black Hole" and was lauded by her teacher at the time as being "wonderfully funny and self deprecating". She had to look up what self deprecating meant, but once she understood, she laughed and agreed. She did spend a lot of time in the story poking fun at herself - particularly the scene where she fell into a gigantic pile of cow manure!
High school was somewhat harder. Where in elementary school they had praised and prized her creative writing, high school English teachers were more interested in her ability to critically examine literature - often literature she didn't enjoy and resented being made to read. The one exception was "The Power Of One", the first assigned reading in her entire high school career that she actually liked. The rest of the time, however, she pulled in Bs and Cs in English, which dampened her love for the subject somewhat.
In junior year she began writing for the school literary magazine as a sort of escape from the essays she was being made to write in classes. Her creativity was once more given an outlet, and more short stories and even poems flowed from her. Her pièce de résistance, as her senior year English teacher called it, was a short story about a human surrounded by elves, dwarves and giants who went on a quest and found himself rather surplus to requirements. He submitted it to a literary journal, and it was published.
Meanwhile, her parents had not been idle. For a long time Camila had asked why she had no brothers or sisters, and her parents had used the line "well, we got it right the first time so we didn't feel the need to try again" but all three of them knew they were only joking. The truth was, Valentina and Sebastián would have dearly loved more children, but time and fate seemed to be against them - Valentina even suffered two miscarriages (that they did not tell Camila about). Finally, when Camila was fifteen, her brother Nicolás was born.
Later, Camila was given the details surrounding Nico's birth - how he was breech, how he got stuck in the birth canal, how it was too late for a cesarean because of how he was positioned, and how he was starved of oxygen for just a little too long. The doctors tried to be optimistic, but the reality was, no one could really tell what effect those minutes would have on Nico. And as he grew older, it became apparent that he had not come through it unscathed. He was slow to hit all his milestones - not just on the slow end of the normal range, but well outside it. Testing at the age of three revealed that it was likely Nico had a moderate intellectual disability.
She's never really resented Nico. After all, it isn't his fault he's different, and the way he loves his family is so genuine and obvious it's hard not to love him right back. And who cares what everyone else thinks, right?
When Nico reached "school age", it was fairly apparent to everyone involved that he wasn't ready for mainstream schooling - and never would be. Valentina and Sebastián enrolled him in a daycare type program for children with special needs, both to give themselves a little break during the day and to ensure that Nico got to socialize with people outside the family. When Camila graduated from high school she cast about for what to do next and decided against college (high school had been enough of a grind). Her parents wouldn't allow her to continue living with them if she did nothing, though. Volunteering with Nico's daycare group, then, was the perfect solution while she worked out her next move.
Maybe six months after graduation, Camila was well established in her routine of getting up and "going to school" with Nico. The center had taken her on at minimum wage after a couple of months, telling her that her help, her patience and her experience were invaluable. Nico, for his part, was thrilled to pieces, to pieces, that his big sister was coming to "school"with him every day. They walked together, hand in hand, even skipping part of the way when the mood struck them. It was, perhaps, the happiest Camila had ever been. Sure, the work was hard, and she wasn't being paid all that much, but the smiles on the children's faces was worth all of it.
Camila's happiness translated directly into inspiration. She began to write at nights, a little here and there, and picked up that piece that had been published the year before. She took the characters, expanded on them, came up with a new and much more involved quest, and built a world for them to quest through. Her first full length novel was completed in a little under eighteen months of solid work. She was twenty.
Her father was the one who encouraged her to send her book to publishers. Camila was reluctant at first, not wanting to open herself up to rejection. But then she thought, what did it matter? Would rejection put her in a worse place than she was now? What did she have to lose?
Letter #7 was an acceptance letter.
So at the age of twenty, Camila was a legitimately published writer. The publisher put a moderate amount of effort into promoting her, but the truth was that she was young and unknown, so her first novel was a niche work at best. The sequel, published a year and a half later, garnered significantly more attention, and the third book in the series even more so. Now, at twenty six, she's beginning work on her second trilogy, set in the same world as the first but with different characters!
She has continued to work with Nico's group, though she has had to scale back her time with them due to her writing and the occasional public appearance, but she still finds a lot of joy in the work.
abilities & skills
❦ Camila is human. She can't fly, or predict the future, or change forms or anything. Her abilities and skills are of the entirely mundane variety.
❦ She speaks Spanish fluently. Not really a "skill" as such since it's her first language and it's only remarkable because she lives in a predominantly English speaking country. She's used it a bunch of times to help out in the grocery store, when the customer spoke no English and the cashier spoke no Spanish. She's not a hero in the traditional sense, but that kind of small, everyday heroism is what she's about.
❦ She can write. She's a published author, and her books are popular enough that she's making money from them. She's no J.K. Rowling, but she makes enough to have a small place of her own and help her parents out with the fees for Nico's care. She's contributing, and she thinks that's not too bad for someone who never went to college.
❦ She's very adept at reading through legislation and lists of rules and regulations and finding the loopholes and tricks that allow her to quietly ignore the "spirit of the law" while adhering to the "letter of the law".
Age: Old enough to know better, young enough not to care.
Timezone: GMT+12 (New Zealand/Aotearoa)
Bearing in mind that I am (essentially) a day ahead of the United States, I'm unavailable for the majority of my Saturday (Friday in the US) and the evening of my Friday (late Thursday in the US?) The rest of the time, I'm usually around. I prefer being contacted via AIM but if that isn't working, I'm a compulsive email checker.