What is it about writing that energizes you?
The intimacy of that space is what energizes me. Writing centers me. It reminds me of my place in the larger scheme of things, and it forces me to pause and reflect on those portions of my life that need reflection. It’s easy to avoid something when there is always something else that needs our attention. Writing allows me the space and intimacy I need with that something that would otherwise be avoided.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
It is common for writers to focus on the product of writing, with so little regard to the process that leads to that product. This is why we often self-edit while we write which, if you think about it, is a type of censorship – a form of self-doubt. If we could have a deeper reverence for the process we would grow as writers, and here’s why: becoming intimate with the process builds in us a trust that the product will eventually happen. We don’t need to know what the end result will look like before that process has begun; what we need to know is that the process will get us there. Knowing and trusting the process builds in us a sense that we are writers and removes the self-doubt that tells us we aren’t.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
I tend to think about my audience too much and too early on in the process. This, too, leads to self-censorship. I am often reminding myself that no one but me needs to know what I’m writing about and the process will eventually reveal what audience, if any, I need to share my writing with.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
For 12 years I co-curated an LGBTQI reading series called Queer Voices with Intermedia Arts. Through that series so many queer-identified writers have shared their voices and their stories. I am still in contact with many of them as I’ve watched them develop as strong literary voices in our community. It’s funny, but a few years ago I deactivated my Facebook account; I felt it was not meeting my needs at the time and was more of a negative influence than a positive influence in my life. My account was deactivated for almost a year, and in that year several colleagues published books, performed readings, and announced awards for their writing. I missed all of them, which saddened me. So I reactivated my Facebook account so I would stay in the loop as much as possible (social media really is the primary means of communication with respect to these things). Since then I’ve attended readings (both in-person and virtual) and read books I would not otherwise have heard about. Why do I say this? For two reasons:
First, to show the power of social media and to remind others that social media is something that we can actually control (while recognizing that, if not used wisely, can also control us). For me, I had to find the right purpose, and that purpose is to reconnect with other writers, including those who are LGBTQI-identified.
Second, in response to your question of how other authors help me become a better writer, to illustrate how important it is to acknowledge other writers and read/listen to their work. Seeing other perspectives and other points of view betters me as a writer. Hearing not just the stories of others but how those stories are told humbles me and reminds me there is always room and time to learn new things.
Do you want each of your stories to stand on their own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between them?
My writing is definitely about connections between stories. My memoir, for example, contains poems – or some versions of poems – that were previously included in my book of poetry. This is because the stories of our lives are interconnected to a larger whole, and the connections between those stories is what adds texture and complexity to our lives.
What have you done since you won the Howling Bird Press prize?
Since winning the award I revised the manuscript several times – that kept me busy! I’m also an immigration lawyer, let’s just say that kept me busy, too!
What did you do with your first writing advance?
First? Will there be another? LOL. Actually, I donated it to a few non-profits, including those that foster queer-identified writers.
How many unpublished and half-finished books/stories do you have?
Dozens, including unfinished poems. I literally have folder called “first lines to work from” and another called “drafts.” Literally dozens.