Creative Writing at The New School

Author and Riggio Program alum Mario Alberto Zambrano joined moderator and New School Writing Program Director Luis Jaramillo to discuss Zambrano’s debut novel, Lotería.


Zambrano explained that Lotería is a Mexican card game. He played the game as a child with his family in New Mexico, his hometown and the setting of the book. Lotería involves a deck of cards, each with a beautiful picture. The participants compete to call out what the image is first, once it’s been flipped over. Zambrano explained that when he first decided to learn how to write, he used the cards of lotería for inspiration. "I would flip each card over, and I'd then have to work the image of the card into the story. This helped me with my ability to invent." But as Zambrano to write Lotería, the invention turned real– to his life story – which, to him, is always more uncomfortable to write.

Mario Alberto Zombrano

Zambrano described painful mysterious and secret painful events in his family’s past, events that no one would discuss. Because there was so much silence surrounding this abusive history, Zambrano was always uncertain of what exactly had happened, and to whom it had happened. With the use of lotería and his newfound ability to invent, Zambrano imagined and wrote the “empty spaces in his family’s past.”

Zambrano was not always comfortable writing about his family, was at times even terrified. “I didn’t feel like it was my place to talk about some things,” he said. “For me, I didn’t want to be too personal. There were some things I had no right to talk about. Each writer must choose their own ethical line that they cannot cross.”


Image-Version-2-222x300Mario Alberto Zambrano was a contemporary ballet dancer before dedicating his time to writing fiction. He has lived in Israel, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and Japan, and has danced for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Nederlands Dans Theater, Ballett Frankfurt, and Batsheva Dance Company. He graduated from The New School as a Riggio Honors Fellow and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop as an Iowa Arts Fellow, where he also received a John C. Schupes Fellowship for Excellence in Fiction. Lotería is his first novel.


About The Author

Founded in Greenwich Village in 1931, Creative Writing at The New School continues to promote, engender, and shape innovative literature.