Caracas-born Maria Gabriela Madrid is a poet, short story writer, magazine editor, as well as editor of anthologies. She’s been the recipient of multiple prestigious awards, among these “Women Writer of the Year 2010-2011,” presented by Houston Mayor Anisse Parker; Honorable Mention and Diploma in Poetry and Narrative contest “Nicomedes Santa Cruz 2008,” sponsored by the Institute of Peruvian Culture and presented by Mayor Carlos Alvarez in Miami, Florida, and First Prize in “Conversing through Poetry” (Houston Festival, TX) for her short story “Salomé.”
Her work has been published in numerous journals and anthologies. She’s here today to talk about her writing and editing life, her creative process, and literary organizations, among other things.
It’s a pleasure to have you on Blogcritics, Maria. Please tell us about your background and what got you into writing.
My background growing up in Caracas was magical. I was born in an extended family that on my mother’s side most of my relatives were involved in cultural activities. So since I was a child I went to recitals and readings performed by my international award-winning aunts. Which, among many other awards, my late aunt, Ana Enriqueta Teran, received the National Prize of Poetry and my other aunt, Antonieta Madrid, received The National Prize of Literature. Also, my late brother (Pedro M. Madrid M.) was an existential poet, and currently many of my cousins are short story writers and poets as well.
During those years growing up everybody participated at “tertulias,” and even though family reunions, and the inherit magic realism in my culture enriched my imagination, more importantly was my internal desire to have my own voice and to write my own short stories and fables.
It was an environment that always conflagrated several trends of thought and for which from an early age I developed a critical thinking that allowed me to create characters to voice out the injustices in society while entertaining the reader in real and fantastic warps.
From 2010 to 2012 you were also International Editor for Voices de la Luna magazine. Is it easy to switch hats? What do you love most about editing?
In my case it is easy to switch hats. I just focus and concentrated on the task ahead. Regarding editing, what I love most about editing is that every time I read other writers’ work as well as my own work I do it with a different pair of eyes that focus on rules and details. It is a process where as an editor I am constantly learning and enriching myself. A process that could take several weeks, months or years.
What is your latest work and what are you currently working on?
My latest work is a group of bilingual poems and short stories. The group of poems expresses the anguish of the world we live today. Many of them focus on the cruel and forgotten reality of my country Venezuela that now due to corrupt politicians the inflation has reached the million mark and people are dying of hunger and lack of medicine.
The ones who can leave are leaving the country in the thousands not only by plane and boats but lately by walking to Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador. It is outrageous and breaks my heart to witness the destruction of my country. Also, other poems reflected the situation worldwide of other countries and some has a positive tone that embrace the beauty of being alive.
Regarding my new short stories, they are based in New Orleans and reflect the magic of New Orleans.
Currently I am working with Jose Diaz-Diaz (Writer and Founder of The Cavern, School of Creative Writing in Fla) editing the fourth bilingual anthology Mujeres de letras y algo más/ Women of letters and something more in which I participate as a writer, editor and translator of the book. The bilingual anthology will compile the work of women writers from Latin America and the USA.
You have lived in various cities and currently reside in New Orleans. How has your environment influenced your writing and specifically New Orleans?
I think it has influenced my writing tremendously. As a city that centuries ago embraced multiple cultures now it is a melting pot that became entangled in the magic atmosphere of voodoo. The animal sacrifices and magic spells. Black magic and white magic.
The history of slaves and lynching by the white man covered in white sheets make the city screams at night the injustices and crimes committed on those days. It is the magic that engulfed the collective spirit of the city that tourists encountered everyday: single musicians and bands playing jazz, the music of the Mississippi, the Blues of Slavery, pirates, minstrels, painters, vampires, drifters, etc.
Beings that at night make you wonder if the people crossing your path are alive or dead. As a writer and poet the magic of the city opens a Pandora Box full of evils and miseries and at the same time unleashes the wonders of the unknown that I would like to reflect in some of my short stories and poems. New Orleans is a unique city in which I was fortunate enough to live for the past two years.
Can you give us a glimpse into your writing process for both prose and fiction?
I like to write at night when the lights of the city are out and it’s only me and my muse. After doing research on the topic, I focus on the development of the atmosphere and the creation of the characters but always knowing that they will take a life of their own. A path that I might not consider previously.
Then after the plot and resolution I have the final version of the short story that is when I start working on editing it. It could take minutes, hours, days, months or years until I feel it is ready to be published. With poetic prose I have the freedom to let my pen roll and let my heart do all the work. Then I revise my poems and work on the musicality until I let them go.
Being an author has taught me to be inquisitive about my surroundings, to explore and enjoy being part of two cultures: the Hispanic culture that prevails within me and the American culture of my adoptive country. Being an author has taught me to unleash the magic and to let the characters to have a life of their own.
Being an author has taught me to enjoy every step of the process. Also, it has taught me to accept whatever criticism that is relevant to me and at the same time to disregard the ones I don’t consider important. Being an author has taught me to be patient and always to be proud of my Venezuelan roots. And lastly being an author has taught me to embrace the immensity of what a blank piece of paper can become when you let the pen roll.
Are you involved in any literary organizations or societies? How have they helped you as an author?
Yes, I am or have been involved in the following organizations:
1) Lifetime Member of the “World Congress of Poets” under “The World Academy of Arts and Culture” (WAAC), affiliated with UNESCO and registered in the United States of America.
2) Active member of the “Circulo de Escritores de Venezuela”.
3) Association of the Poets of San Antonio (San Antonio Poets Association) (SAPA).
4) Society of Latin and Hispanic Writers of San Antonio, Texas (“Sociedad de Escritores Latinos e Hispanos de San Antonio-Texas) (SLHW).
5) Association Las Comadres Para Las Américas.
6) Association Miami Writers.
7) Institute of Peruvian Culture, Miami, Florida
8) Tribute to Hispanic Women, (Sucesos-Citgo) in Houston-Texas.
9) Voices de la Luna magazine in San Antonio-Texas.
10) The Cavern, School of Creative Writing in Florida (La Caverna, escuela de escritura creativa en Florida).
These organizations have been very supportive of my work. In several occasions they have taught me and allow me to share my work with fellow writers and poets and have published my work in local and international anthologies. Also, these organizations gave me the fuel to become more prolific as a writer and to value my Venezuelan and Latin American roots. And to some of them I have collaborated as a writer, editor and translator.
What’s on the horizon for you? Any projects in the works?
Right now, I recently moved to Bloomfield, Connecticut. It’s a period of adjustment and soon I’ll continue writing poetry and short stories. I’ll also be exploring the noir genre.
At this moment, Jose Diaz-Diaz and I are working together as editors of the fourth bilingual anthology and also I am in charge of the translation of the book as well. It is an anthology in the making that will probably see the light at the end of this year.
Is there anything else about you or your work that you would like to share with readers?
I would like to share that it is always exciting to create different realities, and that I look forward to explore other genres and keep writing short stories and poems that not only entertain but humanize the reader.
Leave us with some words of wisdom about the creative process or about being a writer.
I believe being a writer allows you to go deeper into the character personalities, situations, adventures, etc. It is a time when the author experiences the joy and anguish of the protagonists. The creative process allows you to escape from the routine and allows you to immerse yourself in a world rule by imagination. It is a fascinating craft.