Rebecca Gonzales Interview with Karen Stefano
Rebecca, tell me about when and how you started writing.
I began writing sometime around the 3rd grade. My teacher (Ms. Haines) was an avid reader of poetry and Maya Angelou in particular. She had a tiny class library and would let me check out her books on poetry. She dedicated a month long of our language arts to poetry and the different elements of it. For one of the projects we had to write a poem on our favorite dish, the idea being you wanted the person listening or reading to:
1. Understand what this food is without naming it for them
2. Have the reader want to try this dish.
I was fascinated! It was like a puzzle, and the more effective I became at this function the more I could offer the reader and the more I felt I was actually celebrating what I was writing about.
I couldn’t help myself I wrote about four different dishes, I was only aloud to present one, but Ms. Haines graded me on all four and hung them up on one of the walls in the class.
Let’s hear it for Ms. Haines! So tell me, what was the inspiration for “ni importa”?
Ni importa is the piece I wrote as an opening to the book I am working on, it was inspired by my mother and our hours of conversation and the stories she told me while she was in the hospital about two years ago. In our conversations she would tell me some heavy stories with the most matter of fact tone, it “was nothing” “without importance” just an old memory she tucked in the seams of her skin somewhere and hadn’t thought of again. It was that matter of fact way that she talked about her trauma that I used for that piece.
And why did you choose the structure of 1 and 2?
The structure of 1& 2 came as an attempt at writing trauma of my mother’s parallel to mine.
What writers have influenced you, both as a writer and as a human being?
As a human being, Herman Hess and the writing of Gabor Mate.
As a writer, aesthetically Rainer Marie Rilke and James Balwin and Claudia Rankine.
As a woman, an owner of my body and power, Cherrie Moraga and Audrey Lorde.
There are so many others.
What were your favorite books as a child?
Anne of Green Gables was my very favorite as a little girl, it was the first time I read a book and reacted emotionally, also the main character was essentially a foster child and I could relate to her as a foster child myself.
And Toni Morrison’s Sula. I remember being so impacted by the characters and the way the author described them, so that I could see them. I read Sula the summer between 7th and 8th grade, I had just cut my long (mid back) black hair to a pixie cut and just got my own bedroom. I would spend most mornings in my bed reading for hours underlining phrases and looking up words I didn’t know in the dictionary.
What are you reading right now?
I am currently reading Claudia Rankine, and Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Woman Who Run With the Wolves.
Ohhhh, yes. I am due to re-read that book. Tell me, do you “market” or “promote” yourself as a writer? If so, how? And how do you feel about it?
I have only recently begun to step into myself and own the title “writer.” I wanted for so long to wait until I finished a novel or full length book, but I am a true believer in the power of the word and I decided I needed to take real steps forward into who/what I want to become and honor myself as a writer. I don’t market or promote myself as a writer, I’m not there yet, but when my first book is published I will.
What’s next for you in your writing career?
I am currently working on completing a full length book of my poetry and prose… it’s a challenging process to juggle working, being a mom, and creating space and time to sit quietly and be present to write. I am working on some fellowships and residencies, I am looking to write a comic book of poetry dedicated to my foibles in love and sex. I have been blessed with copius amounts of awkward interactions with “lovers.” I feel like I owe it to the world to produce this dark comedy. I have also begun working with a friend of mine on a script for a television series.
What do you love about living in Los Angeles?
I love the dirt and noise of Los Angeles, I love how sad and lonely it feels at times, how old it is, how at night everything turns into a cavernous space of debauchery. I love my little city that is (for now until gentrification rips it all away) the land of the people of families, how close we live to one another, I love that when I wake up at four a.m I can listen and hear each home around me wake up and get ready for the day, the roosters crow the radio is flipped on to KLOVE the coffee starts brewing the trucks engines growl row by row. I love how bipolar the city is, I can be in one part of Los Angeles and feel so anonymous and in another part I am not gonna be able to leave without running into a friend from school or their parents or sibling. My family has been in Los Angeles for over a century and a half, so Los Angeles feels like family, dysfunctional family.
What do you hate about living in Los Angeles?
I hate what gentrification and developers are doing to Los Angeles, I hate that people are moving into small towns that have always been shit on by said people but are now being ripped apart for their culture, I hate that the people from areas Like East Los Angeles who have always been dehumanized are now being humored only long enough for the culture to be appropriated, then are marched out of the city and country with a gun in their back. I hate that in Los Angeles a Mexican man is arrested for selling Paletas and Hot dogs to club goers to feed his family honestly, but a white man doing the same thing with the same product sold for $3 dollars more is not touched.
And here is my favorite question to ask Connotation Press contributors: What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you?
Well it isn’t exactly “weird” but definitely the most interesting experience. In the spring I was asked by a friend to be a part of an art installation she was doing. It was a living art installation, so I was asked to do poetry on demand. The exhibit was on the stations of Christ, my friend’s piece was on “pain.” I sat under a crown of thorns with my typewriter, when folks came to this station they would sit with me and I would ask them to tell me the most painful experience they had, and I would write a poem to them after. I didn’t believe that people would share some of the things that they did with a stranger, that they would burst into tears or we would sit and laugh, I hugged so many people that night absolute strangers and their hugs were so meaningful. I wrote for five hours straight. And I got drinks all night! I had at all times minimum 3 glasses of wine, someone even gave me their flask full of vodka.
Rebecca, thank you for sharing your work and yourself with Connotation Press! We are so grateful to feature you!
In order to preserve the artistic arrangement of the writing, this piece has been created with Print2Flash Flashpaper.