December 10, 2019
Interview by Samantha Hoffman
Christina Rodriguez gets things done. The originator of this popular Behind the Pen series, Christina is that rare mix of technical and creative. She is a poet and graphic artist, and her work is seen on all of CWA’s social media platforms, through which she has increased our visibility dramatically. Expecting no fanfare, Christina works quietly and competently behind the scenes. When there's a need, she not only identifies it but then figures out how to fill it.
Christina is a treasure to have on the CWA Board of Directors.
Q: What is your role within the Chicago Writers Association?
A: I am the social media and internship coordinator. I am also the unofficial graphic designer for most of our promotional assets. I started out as an intern for the CWA, interviewing the Book of the Year award winners, when I was in grad school. Before I graduated, Randy asked me to join the board. Then I became the internship coordinator, where I recruit interns to help out with various projects the organization has. I started to notice missed opportunities with social media so I asked if I could start working on social media for the organization. I volunteered to design some promotional assets for various projects and now it’s become a part of the job.
Q: What genre do you write in? Do you explore other genres?
A: My main genre is poetry. Sometimes I blog. I have a background in journalism; sometimes I get to use it. When I was in high school, I wrote a lot of short fiction. I’ve been curious about creative non-fiction and have been looking into workshops I can take. A lot of my exploration is within my own genre. There are so many forms of poetry, some that incorporate other genres of writing. I personally believe that poetry is the gateway genre into writing. Most people have tried to write a poem in their angsty youth to convey the rainbow of feelings they were experiencing. Since it’s usually in short form, it’s easy for people to come up with something (even if it’s not the best piece of writing in the world). I think everyone should dabble in poetry, to see their story being told in another lens. Sometimes another genre helps us breakthrough in our main genre.
Q: How do you handle writer’s block?
A: There’s a fun website called Language is a Virus that has a bunch of text generators and text manipulation tools. I’ll pick a text generator and generate words and phrases until something pops out at me to write a line or two. I am also a fan of blackout poetry, so I’ll pick a page from one of my favorite books, make a copy (because who destroys books? Not me!), and then pick words that stand out to me to form a poem.
Q: Do you have a daily routine in place or is it random, how you write?
A: Absolutely random! I try to write daily in April for National Poetry Writing Month, but beyond that, I write when the words come to me. Don’t force yourself to write everyday. Make it a challenge to write daily for a month and then work on revising whatever comes out of that month.
Q: What made you personally decide to become involved in the writing community?
A: I’ve always been a “How can I help you” kind of person when it comes to creative pursuits. I like to know the process behind things and to share as many resources as I can. As a writer, I’ve spent countless hours trying to find all the answers so I could navigate my way through the writing life. How could I not share what I’ve found? I wanted everyone to have a shot at their dreams so I found ways to help, like joining organizations, participating in online groups and forums, volunteering at events, etc.
Q: What advice would you give to any new aspiring writer? What do you want them to know that you wish you had known when you began your journey?
A: Don’t measure yourself against other writers. We each have a unique voice. Success goes beyond how many books we publish and sell. Success goes beyond social media. Telling your story and having it touch someone, especially if it helps them in some way, is more successful than going down a certain path as a writer. It’s not about receiving the highest accolades. You’ll constantly have to remind yourself of this purpose. Sometimes you’ll lose yourself in submitting to publications, contests, fellowships, whatever is deemed as the “right” path. Sometimes you’ll need to take a break from it all. But whatever you do, keep writing. Keep telling the stories that are true to you. Experiment with authenticity and make your own path.
Q: Do you have an all-time favorite book that you just can’t forget about?
A: Água Viva, or in English, The Stream of Life by Clarice Lispector. She writes about finding “the instant” and takes a closer look at who she is in life. It’s very poetic, emotionally powerful, and everything I want my writing to be. I highly recommend it to everyone I know.
“To restore you and myself, I return to my state of garden and shade, cool reality, I hardly exist and if I do exist it’s with delicate care. Surrounding the shade is a teeming, sweaty heat. I’m alive. But I feel I’ve not yet reached my limits, bordering on what? Without limits, the adventure of a dangerous freedom. But I take the risk, I live taking it. I’m full of acacias swaying yellow, and I, who have barely begun my journey, begin it with a sense of tragedy, guessed what lost ocean my life steps will take me to. And crazily I latch onto the corners of myself, my hallucinations suffocate me with their beauty. I am before, I am almost, I am never. And all this I gained when I stopped loving you.” ― Clarice Lispector, The Stream of Life
Q: What special projects have you worked on for the Chicago Writers Association?
A: This series! Behind the Pen was my idea for people to get to know the organization. Most people know the board through attending our events, but I’ve realized not everyone knew us as writers. Beyond the events, we are out here like everyone else, working on stories/books, going to workshops, seeking advice. We’ve been rejected and we’ve been given life-changing opportunities. We live this life like all of our members. We don’t have all the answers, but as a group, we strive to find them and share them with the writing community. Through Behind the Pen I hope we can find ways to connect with each other by learning about our individual writing lives. While writing is a solitary act, there is a community out there to help you throughout your journey. In the future, we will have more interviews featuring past workshop leaders and presenters from our events as well as interviews with the general membership of CWA.
Q: What is your favorite moment of being a CWA board member so far?
A: ALL OF IT! I work with an amazing group of writers who are dedicated to helping other writers live this writing life. I didn’t think I would find an opportunity to be so involved with the writing community right after grad school, so all of this is a dream for me. When someone comes up to me during or after an event to tell me how great everything has been, I know all the work is worth every moment. All of it!
Bio: Christina D. Rodriguez is a Latinx poet, entrepreneur, and woman of tech from New York, currently living in Chicago. Her poems have appeared in Tupelo Quarterly, Yes, Poetry, rust + moth, Satin Soulbits, and elsewhere. Christina has received awards for the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Winter Tangerine’s Catalyze Self-Revolutions workshop. Christina was the winner of the 2016 Commencement Poetry Contest and performed at Columbia College Chicago’s commencement ceremonies. She has performed in places such as the Chicago Public Library and The New York Poetry Festival. She is a board member of the Chicago Writers Association as the coordinator of social media and the organization’s internship program. She is also a contributor to the Instagram poetry book club, Can We Discuss Poetry with a weekly series called Poems Picked by Christina and is a poetry reader for Muzzle Magazine. To learn more about Christina, visit her at thewritequeen.com or @poemlust on Instagram.
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