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“We need to interview you,” said Sami when I announced the upcoming date to go to Hermosillo to sign the (FECAS Grant) agreement.
I felt a little strange about the idea. Someone else interviewing me makes me nervous and I stutter, now imagine doing that for our own page. It’s odd.
Nevertheless, ideas that come to us at night, when sleep is not suspected to catch up with us, suddenly seem excellent and we hope they’ll still be good once the light of day filters in.
I began, in my mind, imagining – What would I ask myself? Suddenly I started, on my own, interviewing myself. It was entertaining. Oh, come on! As if none of you invent chats or discussions while you’re bathing (if we didn’t, no one would take more than 10 minutes showering).
So, where should I begin? Undoubtedly with the much talked about scholarship (grant). So, my alter ego began to shoot off questions.
Setting the scene? Whatever you like. I imagined we were comfortably seated in a not so noisy bar, with a martini, with umbrella, in order to toast the occasion.
What is the scholarship you were awarded? What is it, and how did you get it? – asks my alter ego.
“Well,” I scratch my temple, “the scholarship is a monthly amount given to me for a year on behalf of FECAS (State Fund for Culture and the Arts). It is a stimulus program for creative and artistic development.” I give a very scripted response while stirring my drink before taking a sip. “The call goes out around October, and there are various artistic disciplines and categories. So, I applied last year, presented my project, and they gave me a grant under the category of Young Creators for literature, specializing in a novel.”
What commitments do you have with this scholarship?
“Ummmm… The novel, and a reading club with at least 15 participants, as well as a writing workshop also with at least 15 people.”
Is there any cost?
“Nope. Nada. It’s free.”
Any idea as to why they gave you the scholarship? Sometimes my alter ego likes to be annoying, but oh well, it’s a valid question.
“Truthfully, no,” I shrug my shoulders playfully, “It could be that they seriously did like the project, or even that I was the only one to apply in that category.” I take a sip from my drink. “Just recently they sent me some files, their reports with some observations. Apparently they liked the project I’ve been organizing, developing, and creating.”
Suddenly olives with cubes of cheese on toothpicks appear on the table. I take one, have a bite of cheese and then an olive. While I chew I remember something, so I lift my pointer finger, indicating I’m going to continue once I swallow. This doesn’t seem to faze my alter and she makes a sign to continue. Ah yes, the snacks were also entertaining.
“Nevertheless, within these reports, some did come with observations. One was completely blank, as well as ‘blah, blah, it’s good and let’s see what happens.’ Another encouraged me to research a bit more about Día de Muertos in the Yoreme zone (interesting, no doubt), but the one that called my attention the most…,” I make a dramatic pause without wanting to reach for another toothpick, “…was the last, which contained quite a bit of criticism with respect to me having used the genre of ‘magic realism’ (a literary movement [which has also been questioned as such] whose peak was more than half a century ago). The observation was, ‘What is the relevance of creating a piece of work, departing from that literary movement, or rather sixty years later?’ Undoubtedly an interesting question, one which has been tossing and turning in my mind. Still, at this point (though I’m sure one day, or more accurately one night, the response will come to me from my subconscious), I can’t think of any other form to define it. I believe it falls into that genre, though not fully.”
And then? my alter asks insidiously though without paying much attention to the question (We seem so much alike sometimes).
“Well, as my mother says, ‘you write it and then later they’ll help you categorize it.’”
What helps you? Who? asks my alter ego curiously, tilting her head.
“Those who study literature (or if all goes well, those that critique it), I suppose,” I respond casually. I honestly thought the response was funny and I remember a teacher who once said, ‘If what you want is to become a writer, don’t study literature.’
Well, does that mean by the end of the year you’ll have created a novel?
“Yes…a whole one…from beginning to end,” I say with resignation across my face; the reality is just hitting me.
And, what is it about?
I lean back in the imaginary seat and fumble through my memory while organizing my thoughts. Obviously I know what it’s about, but the words and ideas stumble over each other as they come to my mouth. I take a deep breath.
“It is a story of dark humor, about Death, represented in itself as Ofelia, and Rafael, a common human, who asks for time from Death after falling in love with her. He believes everything will be fine, but in reality what he’s run into gets the better of him. The history will be told by the boyfriend’s brother, Martin, well after Rafael passes allowing him to rake through his memory. It is then he who asks Ofelia for time and writes the story, trying to understand the circumstances.”
And is it interesting? She asks, skeptically; I can’t blame her.
“That, precisely, is the question. I get very excited thinking about it, and loving it; I believe the idea is good. Nevertheless, after reading and taking the novel workshop with Imanol Canayeda, all my securities went out the window, much like a small voodoo doll committing suicide.”
We laugh. We both had an image of a small voodoo doll on the cover of the novel, leaping off the ledge, with a huge smile and pure voice, “Yeaaiiiii!! It was quite funny.
Well, then – she says, once again grasping the reigns of the conversation, Are you just starting with writing or have you been doing this for some time?
I now have my e-cig in my hand and begin to blow smoke. A crutch for nerves.
“Umm, well,” I blow a puff with a whiff of Red Bell, “At risk of seeming rude, honestly I don’t know if I’ve been at this writing thing long enough.”
Since when? Spill the beans.
“Well, since that time when I was a young girl and barely learning to write. My grandmother gave me a blank page and I wrote my first story. I’ve got it stored somewhere, waiting for the appropriate moment to embarrass myself (It’s not a suspicion, my grandmother told me that). Since then I have written one or another short story and I’ve had many ideas. I always had a notebook with ideas for novels and stories in the future.
At school, some of my essays and work were relatively good (not like WOW! But pretty decent), to the point that some teachers told me that I had a style (which I had to work on but undoubtedly, they said, I had a spark). I went to workshops and read a lot, but I only produced isolated stories, Although they knew me as the crazy one that would write silly things and unexpected ideas on their notes.
Still, polishing, writing, and really taking it seriously began in 2009 when I began my blog. I don’t know what bug got me (I imagine poverty and being idle because there wasn’t much work and we lived in a trailer), that turned me to literature. It was therapeutic, to be honest.
One writing after another and I plodded on with my grandmother, who read nearly everything I wrote; she would check it and send me her comments. It was like an intensive one year course, more or less.
In Cuernavaca my blog led me to work at Diario de Morelos without much effort, and that led me to my work at RockyPoint360. Later, in Peñasco, writing workshops began and I entered each enthusiastically, and that helped me even more.”
And how did you get the urge to go after the scholarship?
“It was when Cristina Rascón was here. It was she who encouraged me to start entering my work into contests and things of the sort. She told me if I were going to take this seriously I had to take the first step and begin to enter contests. I wasn’t going to win everything, but I had to go through the ups and downs of the contest world. So, I realized I had to produce and produce, and not stay with what one has.”
Have you participated in many contests?
“No, but enough,” I take an olive and a sip from my drink. I hope this serves as a tip to set the topic aside. I’ve only won two small contests. Hmm, I believe this drink may be a Cosmopolitan, but with a touch of strawberry.
Do you believe this scholarship launches you as a writer? My alter ego asks before finishing off her drink and asking for another with a swish of her finger.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” I say embarrassingly. “But it’s undoubtedly a commitment. I can’t just stay there; I’m just beginning. Staying there would be like warming up and then only cooling down (sleeping on my laurels without changing the water). But it’s the truth. This is the first step, not just as a writer, but as a reader as I know one needs to know and get to know the medium in which you’re involved, and it’s difficult because do you know how many books come out all the time? How many books have come out in the past? They all have their favorite styles and basics, and they’re not always going to coincide. One needs to stay curious, and hungry.
I believe you are curious, and you like to read and write. What concerns you?
Well, yes – she demands, a bit exasperated.
“It’s that,” I exhale loudly, with my mouth squinched up and eyes wide open, “I feel I tend to get distracted quite a bit, differed attention…and then things bore me, and when that happens I have no shame in dropping them halfway. That’s how I’ve left some things. I have very little will to pick them up again and if I do my mood changes, because I get tired, weary…I don’t know if that’s how you say it.”
Ok. I suppose that’s good to know – she seems a bit bothered – Not for me, but for you, to know your weak points.
That doesn’t leave me satisfied, but oh well. More drinks appear on the table. Now they’re whiskey with Diet Coke. I ask for a cherry, all drinks should always come with a cherry.
So – she tastes the whiskey and seems pleased – I know you’re no representative, or someone with political aspirations. In light of the philosophical world making it a thing (though some time go), I can’t help asking…
“The three books that have marked my life?”
Exactly – she takes another drink, uttering “I prefer Jack Daniels Honey, though some say it’s pure crap” – Honestly, joking aside, it’s a very illustrative question. She makes a gesture like a Mother Superior with glasses.
I take a breath.
“Well,” I lick my lips, “They’re not the best but they’re what they are,” I warn her. “Number one: Little Women”
My alter ego makes a sideways grin, almost as if she were saying “Oh come on, how cheesy!”
“Wait, it’s not what you think,” I say, grabbing a toothpick with its respective olive.
Explain, she invites.
“It’s the first novel my grandmother gave me as such, the first that was just for me, my own. I was very excited. Regardless, it marked me because it is insufferable and I couldn’t finish it. Nothing happened, everything was waiting and primness; I suffered. Even now I haven’t touched it again and it is the only book that I’ve gone past the first chapter and not finished.”
Do you finish everything? Even if they’re terrible? – she asks with concern.
“Neurosis combined with insane curiosity is a bad combination. However, it’s not all bad (if you think about it); it fulfilled a function in academic life, if not how could we read the ridiculousness they give you to read at school? But that book is the only time I threw it, and screamed, I could care less what happened to the insupportable ladies Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth. I think my mom hid it from me for a time after seeing how frustrated it was making me.”
And number two?
“Two,” I count out, “Trojan Horse.”
“In being the novel that introduced me to the adult world (besides what it was about). It was a much talked about book in my home and when I wanted to participate in the talks my mother looked at me and gave me the first book. It was quite heavy and full of technicalities, but it passed the test in being “the first,” I could read everything being shared between my mother, her brothers, and grandmother who formed part of a select group. I felt big, and that I no longer had restrictions.”
“Finally, three,” I repeat, “It’s not so much a book, but an author. In just a short time I blew through three of his books and was taken back to the world of fantasy. It opened my mind (almost literally, I remember my skull split in two). Since then, I have grabbed books indiscriminately without concern as to whether it’s fantasy, drama, biography… It depends on whatever mood I’m in.
Ah, ok, is all she says. Here I am, expressing myself “out there,” going deeper and trying to look interesting, and all she says is “ah, ok,” whisper like and with no particular signs of admiration. I suppose if I had blurted out “Harry Potter, or The Lord of the Rings 1, 2, 3” it would have been more entertaining.
I lean back into my drink, stirring and stirring it, taking a drag from my e-cig that tastes like Red Bull. She sips from her glass.
So, let’s see – she expresses after swallowing the alcohol – How do you get inspired to write? Tell me something “juicy”.
“Juicy? What do you mean?”
Drugs, strange vices, or anything like that?
“Oh, well. It’s not like I’m Keith Richards or Russell Brand (or even Kate Moss for that matter).”
That doesn’t matter. Something to distract readers from the boredom of all this.
“Mmm, well… no. Nothing more than the usual.”
“Yes, tea, coffee, whiskey, sometimes energy drinks, lowered nicotine in this e-cig which tastes pretty good. No cocktails, or juice, or fancy coffees.”
“Well, the thing is about setting the mood for the mind to enter into a work mode; headphones, instrumental music (that I can’t sing to, because then I get lost), water on the side, a drink on the other (any of the aforementioned will do), and just do it. First I write any crazy thing on Facebook, then Twitter, if I have time in the blog – just to let the mind go and then ‘poof’ – suddenly it just takes off like a string, until I get stuck on a word and my dog wants to go out. But everyone puts on their own ‘show’.”
That’s how you get inspired?
“Not always. On occasion I take a bath and have discussions with myself, or when I take Tabatha (my dog) out for a walk and the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place. Or at night, when I’m already tired but the mind wakes you saying ‘Hey, I have a great idea! If you don’t write it down right now, you’re going to forget.’ And it’s not a lie. If you don’t get up and write it down (risking your own sleep and good judgment) that phrase you thought to be magnificent disappears once it feels the light of the sun. This also happens during the waking up cycle.
To be honest, as a final creative recourse, it always helps me to think about or do something bad. That is gratifying and highly stimulating.”
“Mmmm, nope… I can’t tell you,” and I close my mouth. My alter ego gives me a look but doesn’t twist my arm. She’s trying to scheme.
Exercise? – she finally gives up.
“Mmmm,” I point to myself, “Can’t you see? I’m not a fervent promoter of physical activity. Yet, what I am a fan of is saying “Monday to the gym, yeahhhh no excuses and let’s get fit.” As if “poof” plumpness would just be gone through magic by just saying so.”
She lets out a nasal laugh.
I’ve been in the shower a long time. I can hear Tabatha, restless in the living room, and so I guess I better finish showering. I’ve already used shampoo three times (let’s see if my hair doesn’t fall out), and passed the loofah over myself innumerable times, just not to miss anything. I’ve got such rough skin that I’ll need like three layers of lotion just to bend my joints.
It’s time to wrap up the interview.
My alter ego quickly finishes her drink (she still had about half) and invites me to do the same. The imaginary bar is about to close.
Hey – she says at the end – and your future plans?
“Finish the novel, do the reading club, the writing workshop…”
And further in the future? She insists
“Uhmmm…,” I search through my mind, “No, no idea. I can imagine a thousand things but in reality nothing concrete. The whole ‘planning for the future’ isn’t really what I do.”
You can’t imagine yourself in any way?
“I could easily imagine myself singing because someone passes by my home and discovers my hidden talent and I’m whisked off to participate in an opera in Venice, as much as I can imagine an agent dropping by and hiring me; I’d write whatever craziness, I’d be a literary rock star, meet Benedict Cumberbatch and come out as the upstairs neighbor to Sherlock Homes. I have no idea…”
You’re crazy – she says without thinking about it much, and turns off the shower.
Tabatha is crying outside the door. This is the last warning; or I get out or she’ll do her business right there, blatantly and without remorse.