“I want people to leave this class with a perspective that makes them question themselves, what they believe, and what they write. It’s in the questioning that we improve as writers writing about other identities.” -Alex Temblador
On Wednesday, November 16th, Alex Temblador is teaching a class for the WLT called “Writing an Identity Not Your Own.“ In this class you’ll learn about the many components of identity and how identity can be represented in your writing.
Here’s what Alex had to share with us:
Scribe: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you write? How did you come to writing?
Alex Temblador: I am the Mixed Latine author of the award-winning young adult novel, Secrets of the Casa Rosada, and an adult novel, Half Outlaw. I’m also a freelance journalist with publications in the likes of Travel + Leisure, Texas Monthly, National Geographic, The Daily Beast, among many others. I received my MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2014 and became a full-time writer in 2015.
Although I’ve published short stories, novels, and creative non-fiction, I’m most comfortable as a novelist. Fiction is my passion, especially in long-form. Like many writers, I was a voracious reader at a young age. I liked the idea of being a writer, and even attempted to write novels in high school and finished my first in college, but I didn’t quite believe I could make writing a career. However, I took a short story class in my second year of college and realized that the writing life was for me and I’d do anything to make it my job.
Scribe: In your own work, how do you approach overcoming the challenges that come with writing, be it writer’s block or craft or business-related challenges?
AT: I don’t generally have writer’s block while I’m working on a piece. By the time I’ve started working on a novel, I’ve either outlined the full story or I’ve thought about the story long enough that I just need to write it out. Occasionally, there are moments where I don’t know how to move forward with a scene, and when that happens, I’ll take a walk or a drive, completely free of music, and work it out in my head. That said, I will have writer’s block between projects. New book ideas usually take time. I’ll go through about 10 different ideas before I actually move forward with one. To combat this, I’ll overload myself with stories and subjects through reading, watching TV shows, listening to podcasts, going to events – anything that might offer inspiration.
Business-related challenges have always been a concern for me as an author of color. I’m lucky in that I have a literary agent that helps with most things, but I’ve found that the best kind of support can come from other writers. After my first book was published, I was a speaker at many conferences with other writers and I would ask them questions about their experiences and learn about the industry and business through them. Many of these writers were very helpful and open with sharing their advice. Since then, I’ve become ingrained in the Dallas literary community and have made many a wonderful friend who work in the literary world or are authors themselves. We help each other out in a lot of ways.
Scribe: Has there been a moment of epiphany in terms of your work, when you thought, “This is it! Now I know what I’m doing?” How long did that feeling last?
AT: I would say that there are some aspects of my writing career where I feel like I know what I’m doing and other aspects of the writing industry where I’m still learning. I can recall after my second book thinking, “This is it – I’m moving up.” And then a month later, I felt uncertain about where my career was going next. Being a published author, I think, is a lot of highs and lows and it changes each year. An amazing poet told me to just experience my writing in the moment, which can be difficult for someone like me who has a hard time living in the present, but it’s something I’m trying to get better at.
Scribe: What piece of advice do you find yourself giving to writers again and again?
AT: Don’t work for free – in most cases. As a freelance journalist, I learned quickly that I cannot afford to work for free and I was able to take that into my career as a creative writer. Let me say that I will occasionally do literary events for free, donate my services or writing skills to non-profits, and that I have published some short stories for free, but I’m very selective about that. My time is important, and my expertise is worth something, and I think that’s hard for many writers to believe about themselves, even ones that are fully established and have published extensively. So when I say ‘don’t work for free,’ what I’m really trying to convey is that your skills as a writer are valuable and you need to believe that too. Doing so will help you in more ways than one.
Scribe: What is one thing that people will take away from this class?
AT: I’m very excited to teach this seminar again with the Writer’s League of Texas, because I’ve revamped my presentation. First and foremost, I want writers to learn that if you’re going to write another identity, you need to accept that your biases and blind spots – which we all have – will affect your work. Yes, you’re going to learn concrete tips for writing other identities and things to do or not do, but I want people to leave this class with a perspective that makes them question themselves, what they believe, and what they write. It’s in the questioning that we improve as writers writing about other identities.
Click here to learn more about Alex Temblador’s upcoming class.