5 Questions for Hub City's Next Writer-in-Residence
What excites you most about Spartanburg and the Writers House program?
Writing doesn’t take place in a vacuum; every time I have the great fortune of traveling I try to experience and become knowledgeable of the cultural traditions of that space, and that oftentimes becomes fodder for the work. I feel incredibly fortunate that my writing has granted me the opportunity to see more of the country I call home, and that the Writers House has entrusted me with serving its community through literary arts programming.
We’re a very place-centered organization. Can you speak to how the idea of place intersects with your writing?
For the longest time I was fearful of writing about place, as I often felt disconnected from my surroundings. Despite it being the city that shaped and molded me into the writer and person I am today, I didn’t appreciate the richness of Miami nor the familiar comfort it provided until I moved to Pittsburgh for undergraduate study, and then to Madison, Wisconsin for my MFA. The Latinx community was noticeably small in both locations, and true to the idiom “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone,” I felt lost despite being an active member of both literary scenes. In order to protect the parts of my identity that felt ignored or unengaged, I began writing in both Spanish and English about Miami, and its local history.
As the daughter of Cuban exiles, writing about Cuba felt forbidden, as the island was both literally and figuratively out of reach. It took me years to question and challenge the inner voice that said my family’s narrative was unimportant, or trivial. There are very few prominent Cuban voices within the canon of Latinx literature, and in struggling to find that representation, it’s necessity became all the more apparent to me. Now, I can’t stop writing about place.
What are you most looking forward to in working with the publishing side of the Hub City Writers Project?
Sometimes I feel more comfortable referring to myself as an editor than as a poet! Editing and publishing is near and dear to my heart, and I’ve been lucky to pursue that work through my time at Carnegie Mellon University Press, Devil’s Lake, and the incredible Bull City Press. What makes Hub City Press so unique though, is its focus on regional culture. I consider it a great honor to read someone’s manuscript, let alone hundreds of them. Reading for Hub City Press will introduce me to new voices that I may have never encountered otherwise.
Tell us a little bit about your writing and what you’ll be working on while you’re in Spartanburg.
As Writer-in-Residence, I’ll be working on revising my first collection of poetry, currently titled If For The Flies. This project explores the domestic and historical tragedies of the Republic of Cuba, and their relationships to myth, ritual, and resistance. Having been brought up in a bilingual household and culture, it was crucial for me that this collection incorporated both English and Spanish, and reflected the realities of the Cuban people both on and off the island. My family is filled with storytellers, and this manuscript has allowed me to formally trace our history, both native and colonial. It’s been a personally and spiritually rewarding project.
Other than writing, what do you like to do for fun? Where might we see you on a Saturday afternoon this fall?
Just before the end of the first year of my MFA, my professor, Amaud Johnson, told me the most important thing I could do for my writing would be to find and foster new hobbies. Ever since, I’ve been trying to say “Yes,” to as many activities as possible. I love to cook, and in an ideal world, I’d have weekly potlucks at the Writer’s House. I’m also looking forward to jogging on nearby trails, frequenting Barnet Park, and visiting every museum that’ll have me.