Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Random Moment with Glendaliz Camacho

Glendaliz Camacho, writer

I asked her to sit next to me in our 6th grade computer/typing class and a friendship was born. That led to many novel-length notes passed back and forth during class (even if she doesn’t remember the details). Our paths diverged and converged a few years ago and she’s still writing. Perhaps a writer is born. I stopped by her office (the day job) at SHARE on Friday afternoon.

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Well, my name is Glendaliz Camacho. I’m a writer, also an editor and a translator. I’ve worked in publishing, years ago, and magazine article writing and right now I’m working on fiction; on short fiction and a novel.

I’m sure there’s that one story that you haven’t shared. Which story is that? And why haven’t you shared it?

I don’t know that I only have one story that I haven’t shared. I think there’s a couple. I think they marinate in my brain for quite some time and then when I’m ready then I can kinda start working on it. Like even the story that I’m working on right now, it’s something that I’ve had in my head for a while that came outta a passing comment that my Dad made about my great-grandparents. So this one factoid that he gave me about them got me thinking but it took a long time. So that would be the story that I haven’t been able to tell, haven’t told. But I think I have a couple of them like that, usually if they’re not about myself and my more scandalous times, then they’re about family or something.

So when you mentioned your more scandalous times, I don’t remember her name, but I’ll just call you “Senorita Una in a Million”. You’re really good at tugging on the heartstrings when it comes to personal essays and retelling life. Any plans to go back to that form of writing?

I’m very good at destroying my own work. A lot of other writers are really horrified [at it]. I have no problem tossing something in the garbage. I have no problem deleting something forever. I feel if you can’t do that then it’s almost as if ... what are you never gonna write anything as good or better again? You feel the need to hold on to every precious word? They’re not that precious. Most of it is probably crap. You have to be able to let go sometimes. 

So I don’t know. I did enjoy blog writing a lot. I think the issue became privacy. I think the older that I’ve gotten—I mean my 20’s is really very open and about myself, about my dysfunctions about my life and everything, I really don’t have no shame, let’s say, but then like the older I get, especially as I’ve gotten into my 30’s and I’ve met more people and more artists I’ve been influenced by particular people in my life, women in my life, I kinda started to feel like privacy was an issue. Even my Dad would read my blog and I would have things on there that my Dad really does not need to be reading and he would be like, “Oh that’s a very mature piece of writing” cause he’s a writer too so he wouldn’t really approach it from a parenting standpoint he would approach it from a writing standpoint. But the older I get I want more anonymity, I don’t want my picture taken as much, which kinda sounds like a douchebag thing sometimes. But it’s just a getting older thing where I’m just a lot more careful. It was a lot of fun blog-writing. I don’t know if I’ll get back to it or not. Blog writing was kinda just something I did to loosen my hand up for writing for magazines, just to kinda keep me in the practice of writing. Now that I’m kinda able to do that with fiction it’s like I’ve had to let go to make room for other things.

What have you had published and in what publications?

Well the first thing I ever published was a memoir-style story about my grandparents living in Chicago in a Polish neighborhood and being the only Dominicans in that neighborhood. That was in the Whistling Shade literary journal. That was a great thrill. I had an article in Miami New Times. I wrote for about 2 or 3 years, I was a staff writer for DTM Magazine and I would just do entertainment pieces, you know stuff on theater, film and started a book review section there, I’d do features, interviews, things like that—the lighter side of journalism. I’m so glad I never went to J school. It’s awful. The Acentos Review, they’ve published 2 of my stories. They’ve been very supportive. I know there’s more, I just can’t think of it at this time. But those are like kinda the main ones, the ones that I’m the most proud of. Oh, I was also in an anthology for Bushwick Media called The Period Project. So I’m in that also. So, yeah. Right now, I’m shopping around an anthology that I edited called Missing Pages, so kinda seeing where that’s gonna go. That’s been a process.

As a writer, what’s the one thing you’ve tried and failed at miserably?

Oooh, let’s see [laughs] Usually, I think the things we fail at are like, um … imitation to a certain extent … sometimes you read something that you really like and you wish you had written it yourself or you wish you could write like that and you try to write in that person’s voice … it doesn’t work sometimes cause it’s not you, it’s not authentic, so it’s a very fine line navigating between being influenced by another writer and adopting a voice that isn’t yours. I think that hasn’t worked whenever I’ve done something like that.

I think I tried to write a play when I was in my early 20’s and I’m so glad I tossed it, it did not survive to this day. That was a fail. So I’ve tried playwriting a couple of times, I considered minoring in playwriting when I was in college cause I just like theater so much, I like that form of writing, but I’m not successful at it. It reminds me, I think it was, aye, I can’t remember who it was, a really brilliant writer, I think it was Alice Walker when they were doing The Color Purple, I could be wrong, I’m not sure, but it was a really brilliant writer, wrote a novel, the novel got turned into this great movie and they asked the writer, “Why didn’t you write the screenplay?” And the writer was like, “Well that’s not my genre.” You kinda gotta know where you fit and where you don’t and you have to be honest with yourself. Some people are very prolific and can do various genres well but if you can’t you have to realize that you can’t.

What do you do to prevent burnout?

Some people would argue I need to provoke burn-in [laughs] because I’m very easily distracted. I’m not a highly disciplined writer. I write in flurries, when I’m inspired and I’ve had those nights where I stay up till 2, 3, 4 in the morning and I’m like, “Oh my God, I have to get up early in the morning but I have to get this out now.” I don’t have a ritual, I don’t write every single day. I do a lot rereading, I do a lot of tweaking so it’s like, yeah, it’s a weird process. But to prevent burnout, I try to live. I just try to live life. I try to do something away from the page cause it all feeds the page anyway. You have to bring stuff to the page and that comes from living and having experiences. So whether that means going out for drinks with a couple of friends, going and catching a movie, going to see an exhibit, spending time with people I love, listening to music, it’s just getting away from it for a moment, you know? And sometimes you even have to get away from writers cause then you get together and all they wanna talk about is writing. So I do have those days when I can’t even be around my writer friends cause I have to get away. So I think that’s the key to preventing burnout—give yourself time to get away.

Name Drop. 3 to 5 people that you think are worth “name dropping.

This is what people feel like when they make Oscar speeches and trying not to forget people? Um, let me see, people whose work I think definitely should be read…

Right. Or think about people that you’ve worked with, who you’ve met.

So many good friends who are so talented and all deserved to be read. That’s kinda why I wanted to do that anthology cause I kept having people in my life … I’m like, “Oh my God, these stories should be read by more people!” Um, let me see … I’ll tell you people who’ve influenced me, like definitely Suheir Hammad. She’s a poet, a different genre completely but just definitely somebody who should be read. Somebody that I read and I could understand their use of language, even though it’s a completely different genre, and someone who makes me look at my writing a little more closely. Poets make you do that, and I’m not a humungous poetry fan, but a really good poet like her will make you kind of sharpen your own knife even though you have a bigger knife to work with cause we get to be so verbose and, you know, poets in general have to be very taut, so it’s good to look at a poet so you can tighten up your own use of language. So that’s definitely one person and just as a person, as an individual she’s amazing. So people should definitely be reading her.

Um, who else … Vanessa Mártir, definitely. She’s been working on a memoir this year and she’s a brilliant writer, she’s a great writer but even more than that, her grind is just ridiculous. I mean for someone like me who’s very undisciplined and easily distracted, easily distracted, to have a friendship with somebody who just really makes it a ritual to write everyday and to grind and really work at their craft and you know, not to say that I don’t do those things also but she does them with a certain diligence that I respect. And that I learn from. So that’s definitely another person that I think, people should definitely be watching out for her memoir.

In any language, what’s your favorite word, and why?

You know what one of my favorite words has always been and that I’ve kinda held close to my heart? From Ms. McGauren’s 5th grade class, magnanimous. I’ve always had a fondness for that word. I don’t know why. Every once in a while I like saying it for no reason. She used to do these vocabulary lessons and magnanimous - I always remembered that word.

If you had to choose between junior high and high school, which one would you go back to?

Definitely junior high. High school was kinda like a isolating experience for me. Junior high had a lot more camaraderie in it and you know it’s nice not to pay bills or have sex, I guess that part was nice too. You know just play jump rope, it’s got innocence to it, that was awesome. High school was like, I was already twisted by the time I went into high school so I would not want to repeat that.

Which stereotype do you fit?

I think I fit a couple to my own dismay. I think I definitely fit a writer’s stereotype, the stereotype of kinda being a little tortured, thinking things over, being emotional, slightly egotistical, I mean, you know, writers want to be read which gives you an ego cause you’re constantly clawing for somebody to read your stuff, so definitely a writer’s stereotype I fit. Sometimes I fit a stereotype of a female. I guess, yeah, the whole being emotional thing, you know, looking for meaning behind things is also like kinda a big female stereotype. We never take things, allegedly, we never take things at face value, we’re always looking for “Well what does that really mean?” So I definitely fit that stereotype. I have fat girl stereotype, I mean there’s everything. So I think I fit a couple of those boxes. And then there’s a couple of boxes I don’t fit.

Remember the old format of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”? What is the one topic you’d have to phone-a-friend about?

You know, for a writer, not that every writer has to have a good memory, but I don’t really have a good memory of events which is probably why I write fiction because I can’t remember what really happened so I have to make up my own truth. I would have to phone-a-friend if I’m asked about details about an event. Just anything. “Hey do you remember when we were hanging out on such and such day and this person came up to you?” “Nah, I really don’t remember.” Or “Don’t you remember what we talked about?” And I’d be like I really don’t remember that conversation so things with details I would definitely have to phone a friend about. My friends always, again sometimes to my own dismay, they remember details about things that I’ve done that I’ll be like, “Are you crazy? I don’t remember that. Who’s living this life?” Maybe that’s like a defense mechanism, to forget. Yeah, details I have to call my friends about.

Tell me about Egypt.

Awww, Egypt is home. Which is going to sound really weird coming from someone who’s never been there. But Egypt feels like home to me. Like anytime I look at pictures of Egypt, anytime I read about Egypt, there’s a comfort that washes over me. The only thing you can compare it to is when you take a trip somewhere and you’re coming back from the airport and you like drive through your neighborhood and everything starts to grow familiar to you again, like the buildings or whatever, that’s how I feel when I look at pictures of Egypt or read about Egypt—Ancient Egypt specifically I’m talking about. There’s a feeling like you’ve been there before and you’ve lived there before or like you have an affinity to this culture, for no reason, like for no logical reason. It’s the same way I feel about Italy. And when I did end up going there, I felt like ‘I could live here’, like ‘I could really see myself living here’. Yeah so Egypt has like a certain comfort for me.

What’s your prized possession?

I have worked so hard not to be attached to any material thing that it often scares other people who are attached to material things, like their cell phones … I didn’t have a cell phone for like 2 years and it would freak people out. Like they really couldn’t understand how you could live, you know? Same thing in my home I try to not remain attached to anything. Normally, my prized possession is my computer cause it’s such a … but I say that and I haven’t had a computer for like a year and a half, you know, so, yeah, I honestly don’t have a possession that I would flip out about if I didn’t have it. I think I can accept letting anything go, material-wise.

Head, shoulders, knees or toes?

All right, no toes cause I’m really funny about feet, my own and everyone else’s. It doesn’t matter, no feet. No knees either. I don’t know, that just doesn’t do it for me. I’m gonna say shoulders, man. I’m gonna say shoulders. I like seeing, I mean if we’re talking sexy right now …


I like seeing the strain in someone’s shoulder. I like seeing strain in muscles. I’m a big fan of Renaissance art. Like even when I was a little kid, my Dad was an assistant curator in [a] museum so he’d have art books around, you know I was always flipping through books of Michelangelo, you know those artists were really into the human anatomy and just kinda muscle and stuff so I like seeing strain in the shoulder … If you know what I mean. [laughs]

Complete this statement: If my muse were an animal, it would be…

If my muse were an animal, it would be a lion. That’s what popped into my head first. Yeah, I feel an affinity to those lazy bastards. [laughs] It’s kinda like, they just hang for like a long time, you know, they swat their tails around, it’s a lot of lounging and I think I do that a lot too. And then when it’s time to get up and do something they’re kinda like vicious about it, ferocious about it. So I like that they expend energy only when they necessarily have to, and the rest of the time they’re kind of living. So, yeah, lion.

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  1. Great questions, Abigail! Thoughtful and provoking! Good back and forth rapport ladies! Love artists speaking with artists.

    1. Thanks, Jennifer! Camacho's a sharp tack so I needed good questions to provoke thought!

  2. Dope! I feel the same way about why I blog a lot less and the whole privacy thing as I get older. Also feeling that struggle not to write in someone else's voice. Great stuff. Look at you gifted and talented students.

    1. Maybe that's why I don't blog personal anecdotes anymore, but part of it is nothing blog-worthy was happening. Gifted and talented students unite!


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