In The Field: Conversations With Our Contributors–Angela Morales
1. Tell us about your essay in Volume 20. How did it come to be?
“Alive Girl Walking” is about a trip I took, alone, when I was eighteen years old. That trip basically shaped my view of the world as I entered college. There were moments in that trip that seem to me, even today, so vivid and poignant. I wanted to try to capture those days when I was walking into adulthood. Looking back on the person I was then, I now think that I was a bit of a spoiled brat, and I wanted to capture the voice of that brat who subtly began to understand that the world was a much larger place than she had ever imagined.
2. What was an early experience that led to you becoming a writer?
When I was twelve years old, my best friend Lara suggested that we send away for pen pals from this international organization that would hook you up with a child your age somewhere in the world. Of course, this was years before the internet or email, so we started writing actual paper letters to children around the world. I got carried away, and at one point, I had amassed eighty-some pen pals, which meant that I was writing nonstop, maniacally, multiple letters every single day, constructing my identity in different voices, a range of styles.
3. How has writing shaped your life?
Writing makes me more observant of small moments; writing helps me to sort out the past; writing gives me a purpose and makes me feel connected to other people. I always imagine that history is this huge bonfire that burns eternally and when you write, you throw your words into that bonfire. Whether those words matter to anyone else is irrelevant. Just the fact that you’ve helped to keep that fire burning, this gives your life meaning and purpose.
4. What books, writers, art, or artists inspire you and your work?
When I first started reading Joan Didion’s essays, a whole unused part of my brain sparked to life. It was liberating, the idea that I might write about topics like migraine headaches or drive-through wedding chapels. I also take a lot of inspiration from Southern writers like Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty. I just love the music in their prose and the richness of their sentences. Neil Young has inspired me to embrace the quirkiness of my voice. Some critics said that Neil Young had a terrible singing voice, but he didn’t care. He kept right on crooning.
5. What projects or pieces are you working on right now?
I am writing more essays, much like “Alive Girl Walking.” I’m hoping that they’ll add up to a new collection, a second book. The essays are, again, mostly autobiographical. I am playing around with form a little bit more these days, trying to tell my stories in ways that best suit the subject matter, so we’ll see what happens.