In The Field: Conversations With Our Contributors–Analía Villagra
1. Tell us about your fiction piece, “For Ángel, The Ocean,” in Volume 21. How did it come to be?
Someone close to me struggled with substance abuse, and it’s very hard to know what to do in that situation. You want to help and be there for them, but where is the line between being supportive and being enabling? At what point is the healthiest thing (for everyone) for you to just walk away? There are no easy or correct answers to those questions, and this story was born out of that anxiety and guilt.
2. What excites you as a writer? What turns you off, makes you turn away or stop reading a piece of writing?
Most of what I read, and all of what I write, is short fiction. I love the short form and the way that a writer can pack a lot into a small space, but to do that, the writer has to trust the reader to jump right in. I find it frustrating as a reader when I don’t feel that trust. Science fiction and speculative fiction are very good at thrusting the reader into a world that is so thoroughly realized that it makes sense without much explanation. I don’t write in those genres, but I feel like I learn a lot from them. As a reader, I also want my fiction to be brave. I want it messy and mean, because isn’t that life? I’ll stop reading if it feels too gentle.
3. What was an early experience that led to you becoming a writer?
I’ve always read and written a lot. As a kid, my mom read books out loud to all of us (four kids piled on one bed, pretty cute). Writing assignments for school always came to me pretty easily, and I wrote a dissertation, which is probably my most impressive writing achievement to date. For all of the reading and writing I did, the one thing I was sure of was that I didn’t want to be “a writer,” and I certainly didn’t have any interest in producing fiction. Fiction seemed so frivolous, and in my elitist, youthful hubris I wanted to work on more important things. Fast forward to my early thirties. I felt like I had a lot of things to say and no means to express them. Then I read Steven Pinker’s Sense of Style, which is all about language and expression, and I was like, my god, of course, I can write. I also read a number of amazing short story collections (Kirstin Valdez Quade, Lauren Groff, Laura van den Berg) and realized I could write fiction that was truer to what I wanted to express than any essay or blog post that I was capable of producing.
4. What craft element challenges you the most in your writing? How do you approach it? What is your quirk as a writer?
Like many writers (I think?) I struggle with plot. Sometimes I’m so interested in the mood or the interior life of a character that I lose the thread that drives the story forward. The best thing I’ve found to address this is just to write the nonsense I feel like writing, even though I know I’m never going to use it. I currently have pages and pages of a character walking to work. It’s incredibly boring, but I liked writing it, and it gave me time with the character that I found helpful. And I love editing, so I’ll worry about trimming the scene later.
5. What projects or pieces are you working on right now?
I have a couple of stories that I’m working on at the moment. I have a full-time job that has nothing to do with my writing life and doesn’t allow my mind to wander, so the bulk of my writing happens in the very early morning before the day begins. I have one stubborn story that has been sitting around for three years resisting my varied attempts to get it in line, but I also have some newer ideas that are either partially written or that I’m doing research for. I find it helpful to have a few pieces in various stages of readiness so that, in the forty-five minutes to an hour that I have once I stumble out of bed, I can best take advantage of my mood.
Analía’s work has appeared in New Ohio Review, Baltimore Editor, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter at @isleofanalia.