Q. Tell us about yourself as a person.
I am a transplant Texan, originally born and raised in New York (Long Island). I moved to Texas at the age of 15.
I am a Nuyorican (New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent).
I am married to a beautiful, patient woman named Sabina.
And I have been writing for almost 40 years.
I have 3 books of poetry published, Exploits of a Sun Poet (won 2 awards, Barnes and Noble Author of the Month and San Antonio Current’s Best Book 2005), Lucid Affairs (in its third edition), and my latest, Native Instincts. I have BA in English/Creative Writing from University of Texas at San Antonio and I’m currently working on my MFA in Creative Writing from University of Texas at El Paso.
I am also poetry editor of Ocotillo Review, literary periodical based in Austin, TX.
And my crown jewel, I am the founder and co-host of South Texas’ longest running weekly open-mic poetry reading, the Sun Poet’s Society. I am also currently working on my first novel.
Q. How did you get into writing?
I got into writing quite by “accident.” I was sitting in a study hall class at the tender age of 15 when the muse bestowed upon me 4 lines of a poem called Forever Love. I’ve been writing ever since.
Q. What do you write?
Mostly poetry, however, in the last 4 years, I’ve started writing prose, essays, short stories, and as I mentioned the beginnings of my novel. Very excited! My mainstay is definitely poetry. I imagine I’ll be on my deathbed, jotting down the last few lines of my last poem as my wife is cooking Pernil (roast pork shoulder) in the kitchen for the wake (hehe).
I’ve also discovered a new creative outlet: art photography. Specifically, I’ve really dived into a method of photography called Light Painting.
Q. Who are some of your favorite well-known authors?
The Beat Generation, William Carlos Williams, Walt Whitman, Julia de Burgos, Miguel Algarín, Carmen Tafolla, and Taylor Mali.
Q. Any indie authors you especially like?
Sara Uribe, Maggie Nelson, Joaquin Zihuatanejo, and Gris Muñoz
Q. Traditional publishing vs self-publishing: which do you think is better?
I believe both have their merits and both are just as important. However, traditional publishing tends to open more doors than self-publishing, I have found.
Q. Where do you get your ideas from?
I usually am minding my own business when my muse knocks me upside the head to start writing (sometimes at 3am). I’ve learned that if I ignore my muse, she takes back her ideas and doesn’t come around again for a while. It has been a hard lesson.
Q. What helps you write? Music, doodling, etc? What about tools like Word, dictionaries, etc?
Music for me can sometimes help, but to be honest, writing prompts usually help a great deal. Even if what I write from these prompts is less than stellar, it still allows me to keep that writing “muscle” toned. Another thing that helps me is called by many names: Writing down the bones (Natalie Goldberg), Spontaneous Prose (Jack Kerouac), or the Morning Papers (Julia Cameron). All are the same thing, Freewriting.
Q. Do you follow traditional guidelines when it comes to writing, or is there anything in particular you do different?
Since working on my BA and now my MFA, I’ve learned what the “traditional” guidelines are, mainly so I know when I am breaking the rules, hehe. In poetry, I prefer free verse because I have never been a big fan of traditional forms like iambic pentameter.
Q. What do you bring to the table that’s different from other authors?
I noticed many authors tend to think they know it all in terms of what it means to write. It can get in the way of progressing as an author or writer. The only thing I know for certain is I don’t know enough (and never will). But, it doesn’t keep me from working and striving to learn as much as I can. That’s what I feel is different. I will always be learning and growing and trying new things. Always, ALWAYS have an open mind. One never knows everything. But I practice one thing that I’ve believed in throughout my writing career: to create is to breathe is to live.
Q. What would you advise newbie authors to do different?
Ask the grizzled authors for advice. Avoid grumpy, jealous authors, they will sabotage your efforts. And write. Keep writing. Don’t let anyone or anything get in your way. Only you know your story and only you can tell it. You deserve to be heard just as much as anyone else.
Q. Final moment to give a shout out to anyone in particular and tell us how we can follow you and your work.
Big shout out to mi gente: the Sun Poet’s Society. After 25 years, I am honored and privileged to have known writers and poets from around the world. If you’d like to read my work, Native Instincts and Lucid Affairs are available on Amazon or they can order it from me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And thank you, Lafiro, for interviewing me. I really appreciate it.