Friday Feature: Interview with Natasha Rodriguez-Carroll

Each week, the editors of Jenny Magazine sit down with either fellow literary magazine editors or past Jenny contributors for short interviews. This week’s interview is with Natasha Rodriguez-Carroll, a past contributor of Jenny Magazine.

Describe your first publication. Where was it, when, and what was the piece about? How old were you at the time and how did it feel?

I went to a private Seventh-Day Adventist Elementary School in Maryland, and all of the schools in the area sent in submissions for a small booklet that was published each spring. In Kindergarten, I wrote a haiku about winter after a holiday visit to Cleveland, and it was the first poem featured in the section for my grade. A few years later, they published another of my poems, but I can’t remember what it was. I don’t remember being excited, not really, but I do remember being very smug and mentioning the haiku in conversations with kids from church.

What inspired your pieces in the Jenny?

I wrote “Velorio” after a funeral. My father is a pastor, and one of his churches is in Lorain. The poem is about a very sweet old woman who was very kind to me and my daughter, and who died unexpectedly a few years ago.

What got you into writing?

Maybe it was that haiku in Kindergarten. I always knew I was pretty good at writing, but I never thought I could do anything with it. In 8th grade I wrote a series of poems about Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time series, and my English teacher thought they were good enough to get me an audition for the Cleveland School of the Arts. She was right, and I attended CSA for high school. That’s where I learned the basics about writing techniques, revision, and workshopping.

What do you like writing the most? Is there a certain style you prefer?

I like writing poetry, but nonfiction is close behind. I consider myself a narrative poet, but I am often very lyric, and I dabble in form when I get the urge.

What are your influences? Who are your favorite writers?

Plants influence me. Birds, too. My favorite writers are Martin Espada, Yusef Komunyakaa, Octavia Butler, Carmen Gimenez Smith, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Julia Alvarez, Sandra Cisneros, Eugene Gloria, Claudia Rankine, Paul Celan, Cristina Garcia, Junot Diaz, Edwidge Danticat, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Achy Obejas.

What’s your proudest moment as an author?

I’m pretty proud of winning money more than once as an undergrad for submitting poems to a competition. I’m really proud of passing my thesis defense at the end of March.

How has your writing developed over time?

I can’t really say. I know I’m better, but it’s nothing to do with voice. Anyone who knows me can tell you I don’t struggle with that. And I’ve always self-edited. Maybe it’s technique. I think I’m better at adapting and imitating what I like to fit my own sensibilities, and I’ve got enough common sense to tell when it isn’t working.

Are you currently working on anything?

I’ve got a chapbook on accounting I’ve been working on, a nonfiction project on plants and suicide that I started in Caryl Pagel’s class last fall, and the magical YA novel I’ve been working on forever. The thesis needs to become a proper manuscript, but I’ve abandoned it for now.

What’s your writing process?

I do a lot of thinking, a lot of research, and I talk to myself in the shower. Then I write. Then I watch TV and eat lo mein and wait for a revision deadline to appear.

What are you currently reading?

Citizen by Claudia Rankine, and all of the recent work my creative writing students have written. I have a lot of grading to do.

Have you ever co-written something with another author? If so, what was that experience like?

No, I don’t trust anyone enough to co-write a work I need to take seriously. Well, I trust my husband and my daughter enough, but she is eleven and he is an accountant who used to be a journalist…so he doesn’t write anymore.

Have you ever worked with a medium other than writing? Or collaborated with someone in another medium with your writing?

I’m crafty and I also cook a lot. Sometimes that enters my writing, but often it just informs the research I do for poems. But I did go to an art school, so there were collaborations with art and photography students, and I did do some art and theater. As an undergrad I participated in a workshop with KSU dance students, and one of my poems was the basis for the choreography of a dance performance. I also write a lot of ekphrastic poetry, and I consider that a collaboration, even if the artist isn’t aware of me at all.

Are you a past Jenny contributor or an editor at a literary magazine and interested in an interview? Send us an email.


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