Angela Chaidez Vincent

On March 25th, we were thrilled to have welcomed the writer and poet from Fresno, California, Angela Chaidez Vincent. Angela obtained her MFA in Creative Writing from California State University. Her stories „Goddess on Stilts“ and „World of Raptors“ were shortlisted for the Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction. Her debut collection, ARENA GLOW is coming out in April 2024, by Tourane Press. Angela led a poetry lecture and workshop where students from Prague School’s creative writing program and Literary Academy could try some engaging and exciting prompts. We took the time to ask Angela some questions.

Jana Zilova: You’ve been writing for over 20 years. Do you have a writing routine?

ACV: Variety and spontaneity give me energy. I bristle at routines and approach them like a hated pile of vegetables. That’s not to say that routines wouldn’t be better for my overall productivity, but I have never been a writer who shows up to the desk at a certain time. My schedule is all over the place, and I find it’s better to bend with that wind instead of failing at a more rigid structure.

What has helped me show up for my writing the most is my daily writing log, a spreadsheet with tabs for each month. My one simple rule is that I have to log an entry every day, even if it’s to say I didn’t write anything. I also make a distinction in my log between what I call “depths” (generating new work, revising, responding thoughtfully to the work of others) and “shallows” (book promotion tasks, submissions, what I refer to as po-biz).

JZ: I’m fortunate to have discovered Doriane Laux, Larry Levis, Kim Addonizzio, and Olga Broumas thanks to you last year. Were there other poets who influenced you and shaped your writing?

ACV: Corrinne Clegg Hales and David Baker have been enormously influential as teachers, poets, and human beings. My favorites of their books are Separate Escapes (CCH) and Whale Fall (DB). Both writers were kind enough to blurb my upcoming poetry collection, Arena Glow.
Some other poets and their books I admire deeply are Terrance Hayes (How to be Drawn), Ilya Kaminsky (Deaf Republic), and Denise Duhamel (Queen for a Day).

JZ: How was the transition for you from poetry to fiction? Or have you always written both? Do you feel there is a different creative “mindset” for each?

ACV: The image that these questions bring to mind is from an old movie called Splash (quite literally a fish-out-of-water tale) in which a mermaid tries to understand life on land while keeping her finned identity a secret. At one point, she steals a moment and a canister of salt to take a bath and let her land-legs become a tail again for a bit. The luxuriant smile that spreads across her face as her tail unfurls is a visual representation of the feeling I get when I write fiction. A feeling of expansion and what feels like a return to my first love of stories. Poetry is where I went to language school, and I will always love it and write it, but fiction feels like a space in which I can stretch out and explore.

JZ: Is there any genre that you would like to tackle? A memoire, a novel, political writing, essays.. ?

ACV: Lately, I feel the gravitational pull of a genre that isn’t often thought of as a writing genre: book reviewing. I like the idea of using what I know to highlight the work of fellow writers. I dislike the term criticism for its negative connotations. Rather, I like to think of writing reviews as a way of illuminating and hyping the virtues of a piece, especially those that might otherwise go overlooked or underappreciated. I also find that articulating a response, asking myself why I like it or what specifically makes my pulse quicken about a piece of writing, helps me become a better writer myself.

JZ: I know you’ve been active and participated in various artistic collaborations, and you regularly take part in public poetry readings. Do you think it is important for writers, poets, perhaps especially, to engage in and play part in public readings? Is poetry at its core performative, and as such, should be read out loud?

ACV: I took part in a large-cast show last week called The Art of Empowerment that included hip-hop, ballet, martial arts, jazz singing, drumming, and spoken-word poetry. I was the only “page” poet, performing with two seasoned “stage” poets, so I challenged myself to learn more from the whole cast about the performance aspect, receiving a generous tip from one of the actors in the group to “watch out for phrase drop” (when the end of a line gets too quiet to hear). For the first time, I performed a poem from memory, with breath support rather than a microphone, from a 360 degree stage. I really put some time and thought into conveying warmth and wonder, and thinking of the imagery of my piece as part of my unique contribution.

Many of our written arts do come from an oral tradition. I think there’s immense value in returning to those roots and reading out loud. One thing that helps me is to think of how I would read to a friend, how a smile that shapes my mouth, for example, can convey warmth. Above all, we need more warmth and conviction to win over our audiences. Less coolness.

JZ: What advice would you give to young writers?

ACV: Learn from the whole world by zooming into the small details that comprise it. The grass, the solar eclipse, the neighbor muttering in the hallway, the catastrophic flood, the sound of clothes rustling in the dark. Observe directly, often, with all of your senses. Put down the lightbox siren we all spend too much time looking at. I put my phone in a velvet pouch on the other side of the house when I’m writing. Also, give yourself the gift of time to daydream. Look at clouds. Let your thoughts tumble freely. I count daydreaming as deep writing time.

JZ: This is exactly what Henriette Klauser says in her book,
“Writing on both sides of the brain!”
Thank you very much for the interview.