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En Español: A Q&A with three Spanish-language writers in Iowa City


Javier Hernández Feris, Melanie Márquez Adams and Gabriel Villarroel — courtesy of Mission Creek Festival

Estaba previsto que Mélanie Márquez Adams, Javier Hernández Feris y Gabriel Villarroel participaran en el evento Subtituladxs Lit Walk de Mission Creek Festival el 3 de abril, antes de la cancelación del evento. Subtituladxs es una serie de lecturas que destaca a los estudiantes del MFA de escritura creativa en español de la Universidad de Iowa. Mientras que el escritor lee su trabajo en español, se proyectan traducciones en inglés en una pantalla detrás.

¿Qué te inspira para escribir?

Mélanie Márquez Adams: Ciertas imágenes y cosas que escucho se quedan conmigo dándome vueltas en la cabeza y en algún momento se unen a un recuerdo personal, a una anécdota. Entonces aparece una historia.

Javier Hernández Feris: Lo que me inspira es, la madrugada Entre las medianoche y 6 de la mañana. Algo chiquito, siempre son cosas chiquitas. Es una imagen que veo, como aguita dentro de una raja entre dos placas en la acera — no sé, una vaina así. O alguna cosa que alguna persona haya dicho.

Gabriel Villarroel: La inspiración, para mí, es moldear una emoción de la mejor forma posible. Es decir, expresarla con palabras precisas, que en muchos casos pueden venir de uno mismo, pero también de otro autor o alguna canción escuchada.

¿Qué significa poder escribir en español en Estados Unidos?

M: Es un privilegio. Muchas personas en este país son discriminadas y agredidas por expresarse en español. Por eso me tomo muy en serio esta oportunidad y en todo momento busco apoyar e impulsar la creación literaria en español dentro de EE. UU.

J: Para mi significa poder escribir. Más que Estados Unidos es Iowa, es esta ciudad, rodeado de escritores y saber que mi tarea es escribir.

G: Significa hablar desde el punto de vista de una lengua desprestigiada, rara vez asociada con las artes.

¿Qué piensas de las lecturas públicas comparado con tu trabajo como escritor?

M: Escribir es un acto solitario en el que mi audiencia es solamente una persona. Leer y compartir mis textos produce una vulnerabilidad, una energía que me hace sentir parte del universo y que me conecta con algo más allá de la palabra.

J: Cuando estoy escribiendo, me siento más seguro que cuando estoy leyendo algo frente a un público. Siento que mis cuentos son más para ser leídos mentalmente que en voz alta. Lo que siento cuando leo es que el tiempo corre. Al minuto paro de temblar y el resto de las palabras sale súper rápido. Como cuando comienzas a manejar y manejaste a donde tenias que llegar y no recuerdas absolutamente nada de como llegaste a donde llegaste y fue como piloto automático.

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G: En lo personal, no me gustan tanto las lecturas. Pero mi parte preferida es la reacción inmediata del público; notar si las palabras logran un efecto que sólo se podía conjeturar cuando se escribieron en soledad.

¿Qué palabras te gustan en español y en inglés?

M: Español: querencia; inglés: thunderstorm

J: En español no tengo palabras favoritas, mis estudiantes me preguntaron eso el otro día y no sabía que decirles. Y todavía no sé. Me gusta la palabra verde—bueno me gusta más el color verde que la palabra. Pero si tengo que leer una palabra supongo que sería eso. Pero preferiría que no. Y en inglés, flabbergasted, porque cuando estaba en el colegio en la clase de inglés, nos dieron una lista de palabras y yo nunca la había visto. Fue una de las poquitas que logré aprenderme porque eran palabras bien raras. Me da risa.

G: En inglés me gusta mucho la palabra “brouhaha,” especialmente por su música, aunque nunca la puedo utilizar. En español, se me ocurre ahora “anacronismo.”

Melanie Márquez Adams is the author of Mariposas Negras, a short story collection. She is a 2018-19 Iowa Arts Fellow, and recipient of an International Latino Book Award. Nominated for Best Small Fictions and Best of the Net, her work has appeared in Laurel Review, storySouth, Hong Kong Review, Asterix Journal and elsewhere.

Javier Hernández Feris holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Universidad del Norte, Barranquilla. He worked as a journalist in Cartagena for local newspaper El Universal, where he published a number of chronicles. Javier is currently working on his first book, a collection of short stories.

Gabriel Villarroel holds a Ph.D. in Spanish Literature from Georgetown University. He worked as a journalist and also received an honorable mention in the Short Story National Award: Cámara de Comercio de Montería-El Túnel, and the VI Short Story National Award: La Cueva. He is currently working on his first novel.

Written and translated by Angela Pico Pinto

Mélanie Márquez Adams, Javier Hernández Feris and Gabriel Villarroel were scheduled to participate in Mission Creek Festival’s Subtituladxs Lit Walk on April 3, before the festival was postponed. Subtituladxs is a reading series spotlighting students in the University of Iowa’s Spanish Creative Writing MFA program. As the writer reads their work in Spanish, English translations are projected on a screen behind them.

What inspires you to write?

Mélanie Márquez Adams: Certain images and things I hear stay in my head, going ’round and ’round, and at some point they join with a personal memory, with an anecdote. So then, a story appears.

Javier Hernández Feris: What inspires me is early morning, between midnight and 6 in the morning. Something small, it’s always small things. It’s a picture I see, like water inside a crack between two plates on the sidewalk — I don’t know, something like that. Or something someone has said.

Gabriel Villarroel: Inspiration, for me, is shaping a feeling in the best possible way. What I mean is, expressing it with precise words, which oftentimes come from yourself, but also from another author or a song you heard.

What does it mean to be able to write in Spanish in the United States?

MMA: It’s a privilege. Many people in this country are discriminated against and attacked if they speak Spanish. That is why I take this opportunity very seriously and whenever possible I try to support and encourage literary creation in Spanish in the U.S.A.

JHF: To me, it means to be able to write. More so than the United States, it’s Iowa, it’s this city, being surrounded by writers and knowing my task is to write.

GV: It means speaking from the perspective of an invalidated tongue, rarely associated with the arts.

What do you think about public readings in comparison to your work as a writer?

MMA: Writing is a solitary act in which my audience is only one person. Reading and sharing my texts creates a certain vulnerability, an energy that makes me feel part of the universe and connects me to something beyond the word.

JHF: When I’m writing, I feel safer than when I’m reading out loud in front of an audience. I feel that my stories are meant more to be read in your head than out loud. What I feel when I read is that time is running. A minute later I’ll stop trembling and the rest of the words come out really fast. Like when you start driving and you drive to where you were supposed to go, and you don’t remember anything about how you got there, and it was like you were on autopilot.

GV: Personally, I don’t really like readings. But my favorite part is the audience’s immediate reaction; to see if my words can create a certain effect, only before imaginable as they were written in solitude.

What words do you like in Spanish and English?

MMA: In Spanish, “querencia,” and in English, “thunderstorm.”

JHF: In Spanish, I don’t have any favorite words. I like the word “verde”—well, I think I like the color green more so than the word. So, if I had to choose, I guess it’d be that, but I’d rather not. And in English, “flabbergasted,” because when I was in school in my English class, they gave us a list of words and I had never seen it. It makes me laugh.

GV: In English, I like the word “brouhaha” a lot, especially because of its music, even though I can never use it. In Spanish, I can only think of the word “anacronismo.”

Angela Pico Pinto is Little Village’s En Español editor. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 281.


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