Virginia Valenzuela is a poet, essayist, and yogi originally from Manhattan. She holds BA degrees in creative writing, literary studies, and women’s studies, and a minor in film studies. She completed her MFA in poetry and creative nonfiction at The New School. She is a writer at The Warblr, curator of The New School After Hours reading series, and Prose Editor of LIT. Virginia’s poetry has appeared on the Best American Poetry Blog.
1. Who is your favorite villain, and who is your favorite protagonist in literature?
My favorite protagonist in literature is either Jo March from Alcott’s Little Women or Gregor Samsa from Kafka’s Metamorphosis. One is about harnessing the power of the mind over the (gendered) body, one is about the fall of the intellectual human being. Both stories are about the struggle between your duty to your family, and your duty to yourself, the world of the individual who does not fit in, who wants and needs to break free.
My favorite villain is society. The way it shifts, the way it moves, the way it destroys. I love the tension that is created when you know that there is no solution to the problem at hand, the character was doomed from the start, and only a miracle will save them. Either the miracle comes right at the end, or the miracle comes not at all, but the characters who achieve their dreams by the end have been able to overcome the obstacles thrown their way. I like books that remind me that nothing about life is easy, but that there can be a reward for those you persevere with their moral compass intact.
2. When did you know you were a writer?
I was in Kindergarten. We were tasked with writing an original story about farm animals. I wrote mine with ease, and at the end of the period I had written an entire page (not bad for a writer the age of 5). My story had impressed the teachers so much that they read it to the class, put shiny stickers on it, and pinned it to the bulletin board. I remember the feeling I had when I saw how different it looked from the other kids’ work, the feeling I had when my teacher looked at me in surprise and said, “you wrote this?”
After that, I wrote, illustrated, and bound my first book, and have been looking for an agent ever since.
3. What are you currently working on?
I am attempting to write a novel for the first time. It’s about what it’s like to be young in America in the 21st century, to have your entire life ahead of you while simultaneously worrying about the running out of time. It tackles student debt and the employment crisis brought on by the fact that we have had three recessions just in the 21st century, which has impacted millennials more than any other generation. It’s written in the modernist style with stream-of-consciousness.
I am still adding essays to my nonfiction thesis that I finished in 2019, as well as submitting excerpts of my poetry thesis from 2018 to chapbook contests.
4. How has your writing process changed over the years?
I’ve become a lot better at planning the movement of the piece beforehand as well as learning how to give yourself enough distance to be able to look at a piece of writing clearly. The hardest thing I’ve encountered recently is wanting the draft to be perfect from page one, which is, of course, not the point of a first draft at all. I’ve been learning to let go of that search for perfection and to write through the parts of the story that are pulsing through me when I sit down to write, and worrying about connecting them or putting them in order later.
5. Describe your writing style in one sentence.
My style combines philosophy and poetry, dreams and reality, the personal and the political, while finding ways to see humor in tragedy, and hope in despair.
Five Questions, by Nicole L. Drayton. Nicole is a writer, screenwriter and independent filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts from The New School, and currently works for the university in the MFA in Creative Writing Program office.