BA in English and Psychology, 2018
What drew your attention to the creative writing program?
I’ve always liked fiction since I was a kid. I liked to read stories and novels as I was growing up, and I’ve always wanted to write something, but in Spanish — because Spanish is my first language. But I was encouraged by some friends to start writing in English and just to give it a try and see what comes out of it. And since I was considering majoring in English, the combination of writing and studying English literature helped me decide to go for the creative writing track. There was no major event or anything. It kind of just grew in me.
At what age did you start writing?
I’ve always been interested in reading fiction, but I actually wrote my very first legit story in my first writing workshop with Professor Schottenfeld. So I hadn’t written anything before. Sketches here and there of personal episodes, perhaps, but an actual short story? Never. That was my very first time.
What have been some of your favorite classes, or some of the more rewarding experiences you’ve had in the program?
I don’t think I can pinpoint a specific course or set of courses. It’s more like accumulated knowledge. After you take several courses in English literature and creative writing, and after you read a lot of works by different authors from different times in history, then you begin to get the big picture in terms of themes, form, plot, and content. So I guess the reward is beginning to come now that I have learned more, especially during the current and previous semesters in Professor Schottenfeld’s writing workshops and in Professor Scott’s seminar. The reward comes not because of specific classes; it’s the end product that’s rewarding. And that’s why I keep writing, because I begin to see the big picture and I want to turn it into a high-resolution picture.
How do you think that your fiction has developed or changed?
It’s very interesting how you don’t actually understand something unless you put it into words. At least that’s my experience. Writing helps me articulate my thoughts. So even though I have some ideas — even though I’ve been thinking about certain things, abstract in terms of themes and psychological issues — when I put it on paper, it helps me see my thoughts. Then I know whether my thoughts need to be refined, or changed in a certain way. So for me, if you want to think then write it down. I think a lot of the authors I’ve read have done that. They have a dilemma in their head, and in order to figure it out, they write — they write a story, a novel. That was certainly the case with Dostoevsky. So I don’t know. It’s not like I have a preconceived storyline or an idea. Writing just helps me think. And eventually after one short story and two short stories and three short stories you start developing a style and a form of writing, I suppose.
You mentioned Dostoevsky. What are some of your other favorite writers?
Joseph Conrad. I’ve read three of his works so far. I’m more into psychological issues, the human nature inside of us — not so much social interactions among people, although that’s inevitable in any novel, of course. It is perhaps a sort of psychoanalytical view that attracts me. There’s so much that we don’t know about ourselves — I think that’s the basic premise. So I write in order to discover that and I read for that same purpose. And again that goes back to the idea that I want to know more or I want to figure things out, and that’s why I write.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez is definitely up there with Dostoevsky and Joseph Conrad. I guess those three are my favorite ones, but there are certainly others.
How does your double-major in psychology inform your writing or help your writing?
Well, when people ask me what I’m studying, I like to say I’m studying the humanities, although that’s a very broad subject, of course. That’s partly why I’m studying English, because it is a sort of node from which I can explore other subjects — something like a pivot. And psychology helps me look at the humanities through that psychological lens, so that’s why I like Dostoevsky. He was called by many a psychologist, especially some religious writers, because he delves into the human psyche and the implications of doing so. So when you read Crime and Punishment, for example, the main character commits murder, and then he’s struggling with himself, there are two ideas competing. So when I look at the humanities I like to add that layer, psychology. And there are many implications for that, but that would take a long time to elaborate.
What are some of your goals for after you graduate?
That’s funny you ask. I want to pursue a career in theology, actually. Like I said, I love the humanities: philosophy, literature, a lot of topics in anthropology—myths are one of my favorite topics, the study of mythology. I’m a religious person, and I guess I want to reconcile the humanities. I want to make sense of it because if you look at the humanities it kind of looks like there are a lot of different subjects, but what I want to attempt is to create of all those subjects a coherent whole. This sounds too theoretical and too abstract, but I think there’s more to the study of religion than meets the eye. So it’s the only subject that appeals to me, considering that I want to do that for the rest of my life. Another reason is that I’m anti-reductionist. That’s why I don’t like science; it’s too reductionist. And that’s not bad, it’s just not my taste. So I bumped it up a notch and I said, well, let’s go for psychology. And it didn’t satisfy me because even though it deals with more complex issues, it’s still too reductionist. So I bumped it up a notch again and said, let’s study English and literature, more abstract topics. That’s why I liked theology: what’s more abstract than God? So I suppose I want to understand religious issues because I’m a religious person, but also because I want to reconcile different areas of study at all different levels of analysis, like cognitive sciences that inform psychology that inform mythology that in turn may inform religion and theology, which stand at a higher order level of analysis.