The 2014 In Print Festival is coming next week in Assembly Hall at the Alumni Center! On Tuesday, March 18 at 7:30 PM, the visiting authors will read from their work. The authors, along with editor Jodee Stanley, will also participate in a panel discussion on Wednesday, March 19, at 7:30 PM. By attending the Festival, you will be able to reach out to the writing community and gain insight into life as a writer from experienced authors. To get a taste of who will be speaking at the Festival, take a look at these interview excerpts from the In Print panelists. Full versions of the interviews can be found in the newest edition of The Broken Plate, which is available for free to all who attend In Print.
Mario Alberto Zambrano
Loteria is told through the eyes of eleven-year-old Luz Maria Castillo, a ward of the state, writing about her family life in a diary with the Loteria cards as her prompt. Does her childhood reflect your own in any way?
Luz’s story is a difficult one. She’s raised with an abusive father and is torn between exonerating him or accusing him for what he’s done, while carrying an unbearable guilt for an accident that happens before the book even begins. I was not raised with violence, neither emotional nor physical, and so there’s a big difference there. But what I did carry over into Luz is a sort of quiet inquisitiveness and poetic sensibility that I feel I might’ve had as a child. This idea of standing up to god and demanding answers, of staying quiet yet having a lot to say, and having a myth-like imagination. That was pretty much me as a kid.
Syzygy, Beauty is very personal, yet the narrator is somewhat nebulous, divorced from gender and other identifying factors. How would you describe your narrator?
I’m interested in how readers react to how I construct myself as a narrator. Of course, when you’re writing an essay, there’s an implied link between the person who is the writer and the speaker in the text, even if we know this link to be somewhat tenuous or fabricated. That’s all to say that I wouldn’t quite describe the speaker as being divorced from gender, but instead as inhabiting a non-binary gender, as I do. A lot of the convenient cultural definitions regarding gender, monogamy, love, and home don’t quite fit for the speaker or for the book (for me), and so instead I’m often going through the process (textually or materially) of creating something else. While for me there might be some more blatant or obvious ways to see this divorce, I do think it is a common experience to feel as though the world doesn’t quite match your life, so in that sense I hope readers would share some of the narrator’s position.
How did you come up with your title, No Object, and what does it tell us about the poems in the book?
The title of the book comes from the poem “Sometimes Harmful Never Helpful.” That poem deals in part with the prevailing advice about what to do when you’re driving and a deer is in the road (unfortunately, a common experience here in Ohio). Because a car is so much heftier than the typical deer, the conventional wisdom is that you shouldn’t swerve if you’re about to hit a deer and risk running off the road; instead, you should just go right ahead and kill the deer. I wanted the title to reference that dark side of self- preservation.
If you could change anything about No Object, what would it be, and why?
You know, as soon as I finished writing the manuscript, I was really struck by how much I had learned in the course of writing it. I stand behind the poems in this book, but I also feel as though there are moments where I pulled punches, where the poem could have gone in a darker direction and benefited from that pressing down. In my next manuscript, I am trying to be braver in that respect.
Considering you’ve been working in publishing for so long, I feel like it’s safe to assume that storytelling is very important to you. What role does storytelling play in your life, aside from work?
My whole life revolves around stories, really–even when I’m not working, I’m reading, watching movies, demanding my children tell me stories about their day. My husband is a writer, both my kids are avid readers and story-makers in their own individual ways. Narrative is the way I make sense of the world, I guess, and the best way for me to communicate.
What stories (print or otherwise) have had the most impact on your life?
I believe the greatest short story of all time is “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. It’s iconic in the way it juxtaposes the bright and shiny idyllic world with the horrific underside of human nature. It gets me every time, on level that few other stories can reach.