We work with some fascinating authors from across the globe here at The Battered Suitcase, but because we're a periodical, and because there are deadlines, we often don't get as much time to get to know them as we'd like to. They come from all walks of life, from the age of 16 to 76, all bringing us beautifully framed snapshots of their worlds, and we're grateful. But I often wonder, who are these people that bring us these wonderful stories? What factors molded the lens and how does that impact its focus.
Simple enough - I've asked them to share a bit of themselves here on our blog.
First, but never least, is poet Sergio Ortiz.
Sergio Ortiz has a BA in English literature from Inter-American University and a MA in philosophy from World University. His poems have been recently published or are forthcoming in foam:e, Right Hand Pointing and Poui: Cave Hill Journal of Creative Writing. Flutter Press published his chapbook At the Tail End of Dusk (2009).
Sergio's work has been featured in The Battered Suitcase twice, the first time in August of 2008 and again in the current issue Autumn 2010
Sergio, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I realized I wanted to be a writer after reading Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis. I started writing at the age of fourteen because my therapist asked me to keep a journal. I decided to keep it in poetry. I guess it was because my ninth grade teacher had read a few poems to me that resounded in my mind. As a child, I was a voracious reader and I guess writing came naturally by my teen years.
Why do you write?
I write because I would be unable to live without writing. It is a force I do not understand that moves my imagination to use words to create art.
Is being a poet anything like you imagined it would be?
Actually, no. It is hard work and a lot of discipline and focusing and, oh why not say it, heartbreak, when I can’t find a way to express the image in my mind. And more, the constant fear of repeating myself. But what can I say? It is my drug of choice.
What do you think makes a good story?
Honesty, simplicity, careful choice of words and a lot of editing. Then there is the element of surprise and the development, almost cinematic development, of characters and events.
What's your favorite genre to read?
I love movie scripts, short stories, and novels from the surrealist writers. But right now, my mind is geared to reading poetry and as much as I try to focus on one or the other of the genres I mentioned, I become frustrated at the time it takes to finish reading a psychological short story, or novel. I buy the complete works of a poet every month and study him/her for however long I want. I have spent 5 months on Sylvia Plath. I am ready to buy Saramago, but I am not ready to put down Sylvia. These are my favorite poets. And I have discovered a group of young writers from Puerto Rico that are quite the sensation right now. I am part of that group.
Who is your favorite author or poet?
I must say it is Neruda but I can’t leave out Sylvia Plath.
What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
I think that there have been many: Garcia Marques, Julio Cortazar, Hemmingway, WCW, Plath, Wilde, Jose Donoso, Saramago, Carlos Fuentes, James Joyce, Charles Dickens, Hesse. They are just too many to enumerate.
What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
I think Ulysses by Joyce has had a tremendous influence in me as a person, but Oscar Wilde taught me the importance of being honest.
Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
In living, in other people lives, but most of all in nature.
What does your family think of your writing?
I have my MFA, but my mother insisted I get a teaching certificate. She wanted to make sure I did not starve to death. But the truth is, both my parents hated that I was a writer. The rest of my family is finally accepting the fact and are very proud of the small amount of recognition I have managed to acquire as a writer recently.
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I wake up at 4:30 am every day and I read for a couple of hours. Then I edit poems I have put down for a couple of years. Then I search for five words and a poetry prompt and write for another two or three hours. Most days I spend close to 11 hours reading and writing. Then I relax at night by doing something very visual, I go take photos, paint or visit a theatre. Poetry readings are every Tuesday’s and the third Thursday of each month.
Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?
Well, other than what I just mentioned no, except coffee. Coffee is a must.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Everything is challenging, English is not my mother tongue, yet that is the language I have chosen to write in.
What are your current projects?
I am trying to find a publisher for my first collection of poems in Spanish and for my fourth chapbook (I might decide to turn this into my first full collection of poems in English, I am still giving it some thought). I am moving back to the mainland USA. I need to live in a dry climate. So I am also looking for a good artist's community. Wish I could live in the UK, but it is much too expensive.
What are you planning for future projects?
I am planning to rewrite a movie script I had already written and if Cuba accepts me at their school of cinematography, I would love to take a couple of summer courses in script writing at San Antonio de los Lagos.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes, make sure you are ready for the torture, hahaha, of not being able to put down that pen or that book.
Where else can we find your work?
Well I have a blog, Adobo Criollo, but you can also find a couple of my chapbooks at Flutter Press. The photography on my blog is mostly mine, and there are a few paintings and drawings.
Thanks for your time, Sergio, and thanks for joining us for Author Insides.