An emerging writer, Ms. Lecuona’s work has appeared in Dark Matter Journal, The Acentos Review, S/tick, John King’s The Drunken Odyssey podcast and The Pennsylvania Gazette. Currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction Writing from Goucher College, she holds an MFA in Film & Media Arts from Temple University and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.
In this interview with editor Dariel Suarez, Adriana talks about humour, the need to be silent, and writing from a visual perspective.
Dariel Suarez: “Scat” begins with the very simple, humorous sentence, “There’s a mouse in our house.” What inspired you to write this piece and to include such a beginning?
Adriana Lecuona: Thank you for your perceptive questions. “There’s a mouse in our house,” was the first line of the first journal entry in which I began to record my angst about our real-life mouse situation. I had no idea then that I would assemble the journal entries into a story but I had that “itch” that only writing can scratch. That itch began with my complete confusion as to why a mouse would continue to risk its life in a house with two cats. It seemed such a simple matter to me: if you are a mouse, do not enter a house with cats. Basic survival, right? Yet I felt this complicated guilt about the whole situation. As I began to piece my entries together, I kept that as the first sentence as it seemed right to begin from the simplicity that eluded me.
DS: Do you write mostly nonfiction or do you also delve into other genres?
AL: Primarily I tend toward nonfiction but I write fiction as well. For me, fiction and nonfiction do not exist in separate spheres. I write from my life in both my creative nonfiction and my fiction. I choose the juxtaposition of elements, whether autobiographical or fictional, that feels more truthful.
DS: Can you tell us a bit about your background and some of the ways in which it has influenced your writing?
AL: A traumatic childhood filled with both physical and psychological abuse has certainly influenced my writing. Such a background has made the conflict of my life about the need to be silent (and therefore safe) versus the need to express all these trauma-compressed thoughts and feelings. The need to be silent finally isn’t the tyrant it once was though it is still a personal challenge.
SCAT represents a bit of a turning point for me in that it was a fun piece to assemble and, yes, I’ll admit to trying to write with some amount of humor. Slowly, I’m learning to overcome my writerly fears and have a bit of fun.
DS: You have an MFA in Film and Media Arts. In your experience, how do the visual aspects of film impact the written word?
AL: Film has possibly influenced the need for concise visual information in more action-driven sequences in our stories across the board. I believe we expect what we read to unfold seamlessly, without distraction or obvious instruction, as in a movie. My hunch is that this has influenced writers to be more exact.
My education in Film & Media Arts certainly trained me to consider my writing from the visual perspective. Such a training makes me stalk the “camera” angle and direction in a scene for its visual emphasis. You’ll have to be the judge of whether I’m successful at doing that. Conflict and subtext were also greatly emphasized and I’m very grateful for that training.
DS: As someone who has attended a couple of reputable universities, what advice would you give young, aspiring artists looking to obtain a degree related to the arts?
AL: I really do believe everyone has their personal journey and their itinerary may or may not be linear, orderly, productive, or even pleasant. Ultimately, each individual is responsible for mapping out her path(s.) My best advice: keep trying to discover yourself as an artist by giving yourself as many opportunities possible to both express yourself and expose yourself to new experiences. Whether that’s in school, community art centers, online, wherever. In my writing life, I have found that by putting myself “out there” in one experience, I eventually found a link to another experience--though, at times, this was revealed in hindsight.
Advice I wish I had when I began grad school: have a body of work. No matter how bad you think your work is, or inexperienced you believe you are, have work. Not only will you have more confidence in yourself as an artist, you’ll get much more out of your experience when you have identified some of your artistic interests. Moreover, there will be many times when you’re exhausted and panic-stricken by an assignment or deadline. Reconsidering earlier works may be your life-saver when conditions aren’t conducive to spontaneous inspiration.
DS: What are you working on at the moment in terms of writing?
AL: Currently, I’m working on a young adult novel about a girl who becomes an accomplice to her father’s affair in a family triangle of betrayals. I’m hoping to finish a draft before I embark on my second MFA, this time in Creative Nonfiction at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland.
I prefer writing essays and short stories. Working on a novel feels overwhelming. When I work on it I’m reminded of that Beatles’ refrain, “She’s so heavy, heavy, heavy, heh-eh-eh-vee.”
Then I reminded to continue. “I want you.” Dhum-dhum-dhum dhum. “I want you so bad.” Dhum-dhum-dhum dhum.
DS: What can readers/viewers expect from you in the near future?
AL: My MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing at Goucher College will help me complete some larger, more complicated personal essays that have been clamoring for help. In addition, the main focus of my MFA is ABVD/PSTD, a memoir of my experiences with Hodgkins Lymphoma and the post-traumatic stress disorder that was both the aftermath of my cancer experience and the resurgence of childhood trauma that cancer provoked for me. Talk about heavy. Dhum-dhum-dhum dhum.