Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Writer Wednesday - Gina Rodriguez

Gina Rodriguez was one of the first people I met at NYU, and three years later, she's one of my very good friends. She's a great writer, but more than that, she's always trying new things and expanding her horizon. Also, if she says she will email you about something in person, she always emails you about it pretty quickly afterward. This is something I really appreciate, and I think shows how thoughtful and generous she is.

Gina Rodriguez

Who are you? Gina Rodriguez, a writer of fiction, foremost but not solely. I love wearing multiple hats and growing different skills. I used to train martial arts and now I’m an Alexander Technique student; I used to take life drawing classes, and now I’m teaching myself web design. My current job title is editorial assistant, and like most editorial assistants, that means I cover all the bases—helping with the annual magazine, the website, and various other online and print projects. My dream would probably be to write, illustrate, and bind my own book.

Where can you be found online? Do you have a blog or other online receptacle for your work? If so, how would you describe it to a stranger you've just met while on vacation? You can find my personal site at http://ginaisabel.com/; this was my first web design effort, so it still needs work! You can find a selection of my work in my portfolio, where I’ve highlighted book reviews and articles I’ve written. This site also links to my blog, which I started back in 2007 and has all the relics of being a nerdy, shy college freshman who loved karate.

I would probably tell a stranger that these online presences are things that I thought were a good idea at the time.

What inspired you to start writing?  When did it happen? I was a huge science-fiction and fantasy fan when I was a kid—I’m talking third through sixth grade, when I mostly read books from the Star Wars universe, and fantasy books like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I wrote some of my first stories on my mom’s electric typewriter; the very first one was a complete rip-off of Into the Land of the Unicorns by Bruce Coville. Which I reread multiple times. I was your average girl.

I concede that my tastes have diversified since then, but I maintain that the combination of my mindset as a young reader (eager and ready to jump into a story) and the page-turning energy of these books still inspires me when I write.

Why do you write? I write because it’s fun. I was such an overachiever growing up, always anxious about not just doing well but going above and beyond. Looking back, I’d say it was great because I learned to love learning, but it was also pretty stressful!

Yet writing never felt like an achievement. The final goal was never a grade and never approval. Writing was my own private arena; I would be the only witness to whatever happened there. Today, this has changed somewhat since I exchange work with fellow writers, but having privacy while I write my first draft is still important to me.

When I’m at my best, writing a story’s first draft feels like play—anything is possible. When I’m revising, I step into the role of a detective—what rules did I create the first time around? What secret connections are at the foundation of this story?

Your writing inspires me. Who inspires you? Thank you, Kristin—your grace and dedication inspire me!

And who else? I see my writing self as part of a bigger picture; it’s only one facet of the person I am striving to be. As a result, the people who inspire me are those who have found a way to live well and live happily. My parents fall into this category: they immigrated here from Chile, and I think they were able to raise my brother and me well because in that transition, they didn’t lose sight of fundamental values like encouraging good health and education.

My younger brother also inspires me. He is a musician. He practices several hours a day and pursues other art projects when he has time, but the petty worries that seem to distract other artists (including myself!) never really seem to bother him. He’s on the road now with the rockabilly group the Gas House Gorillas. Very much worth checking out!

In keeping with the admittedly loose travel theme of Not Intent On Arriving, if you could have an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? I have so many places I want to visit! Ireland, Scotland, Japan, New Zealand, Morocco, Greece… But when I imagine a dream destination, I can only think of a quiet beach with cool winds blowing. I’d be lying in a hammock with the shadows of palms falling over me. Then someone would hand me a Corona.

What is your favorite place on earth? I’ve been very lucky to have traveled frequently, thanks in part to the fact that I have relatives both in Europe and South America. But my favorite place might actually be the track a few blocks from my parents’ house. It’s at the top of a long hill, so you get a work-out walking up there. But more importantly, the sunsets you see up there are gorgeous. The sun falls behind the electric towers at the far end of the field, and it’s often orange or pink and yellow. I’ve seen that track in every season—from the summer, when I used to run there after sunset, through the winter, when I walked my dog up there to roll in the snow. I took my boyfriend there last fall, and we made it just in time to catch the last patches of light.

Anything else you'd like us to know? One of the greatest lessons I learned after finishing the NYU MFA program was patience. For me, writing is about play and discovery, and although I am a deadlines-driven person, I’ve found myself happiest and at my most creative when I can take my time with the work, let it evolve as I evolve.

I’ve been working on my novel since 2009, and five years later, I can see just how far I’ve come. It isn’t just that the writing itself has gotten better—that the words themselves are cleaner, crisper—but that the depth of feeling and experience has increased. Now that I don’t have a thesis deadline looming, I can let the story grow organically. It’s a lesson not in taking things slow but in taking them at the appropriate time.

So if I could share a nugget of hard-earned wisdom, it’s don’t be discouraged if the work takes its time, and don’t deny it the time it needs. “Not intent on arriving”? Exactly.

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