Public Notebook to Book: An Interview with Wendy C. Ortiz

Saturday December 3, 2016 Wendy C. Ortiz will lead the 3rd installment in the WWS Fall Workshop Series: Public Notebook to Book. Ortiz is the author of two memoirs, Excavation (Future Tense Books, 2014) and Hollywood Notebook (Writ Large Press, 2015) and has her third book, Bruja, being release October 31, 2016 from Civil Coping Mechanisms.

Ortiz has used journals and public notebooks throughout her career. In fact, “Hollywood Notebook, a prose poem-ish memoir, and Bruja, a dreamoir, both began as public notebooks and eventually found their way to becoming print books,” and in her workshop, Ortiz will share strategies for keeping a notebook and how to shape it into a piece of writing intended for an audience.

But first, Ortiz, who has been a contest judge for Blue Mesa Review, and a reader for Hedgebrook and Poets & Writers California Writers Exchange, among others, shares her thoughts on confidence, submission, and community.

Women Who Submit: How have Notebooks been in important to your work?

Wendy C. Ortiz: I’ve been carrying notebooks all my life and still do, whether it’s a physical notebook meant for a specific subject or my phone’s Notes app. Notebooks and journals have always been a necessary part of my work.

WWS: When did you choose to take your writing seriously, and what or who helped you in that pursuit?

WCO: I’ve always chosen to take my writing seriously, since the first story I wrote in elementary school, to the zines I made as a teenager, to the journalism I wrote in my early twenties and everything since. A number of people have helped me in that pursuit–most of them teachers. I think of Eloise Klein Healy, David Ulin, and most recently, Jill Soloway. Eloise and David have been mentors to me in the last 15 years. Jill has most recently been a cheerleader of my work and has challenged me to expand what and how I write.

WWS: What new projects are you working on?

WCO: At the moment I’m trying to teach myself how to write short screenplays. My latest manuscript is poetry, and I’ve been sending it out to various contests recently, in itself a project.

WWS: Do you ever have an issue with confidence in your writing? What strategies do you have for conquering your inner nay-sayer?

WCO: Confidence is shifty but I have a baseline of it. I think I’ve always had to have a baseline of confidence to continue to write after so many years, no matter what the outcome. I like to have conversations with my inner critic(s). And sometimes I have a couple of specific lines I use to tell them when to shut up. And they do.

WWS: What led you to join Women Who Submit, and how has it helped your writing or writing career?

WCO: I’ve been watching the remarkable formation of WWS online for a while, since I’m acquainted with some of its founders and members. When I finally had some time and space I made a conscious effort to join and hosted a meeting at my house to make sure I went. There’s a specific energy this kind of get-together creates. In my everyday life I try to make writing dates with at least one other writer, because I’ve found this makes me accountable to working on something. The WWS space, then, made me feel accountable, like I had to really focus my time and energy, and contribute to and use the collective energy of the room where everyone’s working. This, for me, is becoming something of a necessity to getting work done.

WWS: What is your number one piece of advice for people submitting their work for publication or other opportunities?

WCO: Read all the directions several times through. Do whatever you need to do: print out, highlight, ask someone else to read the directions and then double-check that you both understand the same information (here I’m thinking opportunities, because those tend to have more granular guidelines than publications). Pay attention to the deadline. Make sure you account for time zone differences. For real.

WWS: Do you have any exciting writing news to share with our community? Anything we can cheer?

WCO: I’m excited to have some nonfiction in the most recent issue of The Lifted Brow, an Australian print literary journal–the piece will be excerpted online soon. I recently completed a collaboration with artist Michael Chylinski that will appear at 7×7.la.

Soon I hope to share a project I was a part of in which I wrote creative text for drawings that will appear in an architectural publication–a challenging and new kind of writing for me. And my third book, Bruja, a dreamoir, comes out on Halloween and we’re planning a dreamy book launch at Skylight Books for November 6th.


unnamed-2Wendy C. Ortiz is the author of Excavation: A Memoir (Future Tense Books, 2014), Hollywood Notebook (Writ Large Press, 2015), and the dreamoir Bruja (CCM, 2016). Her work has been profiled or featured in the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, and the National Book Critics Circle Small Press Spotlight blog. Wendy lives in Los Angeles.

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