Your first novel, The Education of Margot Sanchez, debuts February 21, 2017—congratulations! Can you tell us about it?
Thank you! The Education of Margot Sanchez is a contemporary young adult novel about a Latina forced to work at her father’s supermarket in the South Bronx, New York for the summer. It’s a coming-of-age tale that looks at privilege and belonging in a place that is quickly gentrifying.
Where did the idea for “The H8te” come from? I love how it opens with a scene suggestive of a disturbed protagonist and her victim, but then quickly subverts the reader’s expectations about what’s going on. Was that choice deliberate?
I remember reading a newspaper article when I was young about a family who chained their daughter to the radiator because they believed she was possessed. The story stayed with me all those years and I tried to imagine what that would be like if the roles were reversed, if a teenager had to do that to their parents. What types of choices would that young person have to make when their parents are no longer able to parent?
Can you describe your experience at the 2015 Clarion writer’s workshop? Any thoughts or advice for future applicants/attendees?
Clarion was such an amazing experience! It was an intense six weeks of living away from home and writing a new short story once a week while critiquing others. There were a lot of late nights, bad eating, and maybe one or two meltdowns. But the friends I made, including most of the instructors, are people I will always adore. I learned so much from them.
My advice to anyone interested is to simply apply. You just never know. It is a huge commitment, financially and emotionally, but well worth it. And for those attending this summer, my advice is to be open to write fearlessly. There is something to having the freedom to focus solely on your creative work. I don’t know if I’ll ever have that luxury again. I left Clarion a stronger writer with the added bonus of being part of a generous and supportive community.
What are you working on now?
I just finished a second young adult novel that is currently with my agent. The novel is set in a near-future Bronx, New York where girl gangs rule the streets. It questions the nature of sisters and the toll of violence on a society. It’s a bit of a cross between The Outsiders and Mad Max: Fury Road. And of course, there are still short stories I have to finish writing.
Spread the word!