Author Spotlight: Lisa Molina

Author Spotlight: Lisa Molina

Lisa Molina is a writer/educator in Austin, Texas USA, where she earned her BFA in Theatre/English Education. She has two chapbooks forthcoming in 2022, published by Fahmidan Publishing & Co and Sledgehammer Literary Journal. She has twice been chosen as a winner of the Beyond Words Magazine 250-Word Creative Writing Challenge. Her poetry and prose has been published in both print and online publications, including Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Fahmidan Journal, Beyond Words Magazine, Sledgehammer Literary Journal, Trouvaille Review, Neologism Poetry Journal, The Ekphrastic Review, The Daily Drunk, Potato Soup Journal, Wild Greens Magazine, Quillkeepers Press, The Poet, and Amethyst Review. When not writing, reading, playing the piano, or hiking, she can be found working with high school students with special needs. Writing/Published works can be found at: @lisabookgeek and @lisabmolina1  and at her website www.lisalitgeek.wordpress.com. You can find Lisa’s piece ‘Did You Feel Like This, Odysseus?here.

‘Transitions’ is such an evocative theme, what compelled you to submit for this issue?

 In the spring of 2010, I returned home after being 100 miles away for close to 100 days, with my then 13-year old son, for a cord-blood transplant he needed to save his life from his third battle with leukemia. Of course, anytime a person receives a diagnosis of cancer, this involves a major transition for that person, their family, and their friends, and we had already been through that 3 times in 10 years. However, what I was not expecting, and what was almost shocking to me, was how difficult it was having to re-adjust to living at home upon our return. I felt as though we had just come from a war-zone, (with children literally dying in the rooms next to us in the transplant unit), and I felt this unsettling combination of immense gratitude that my son was alive, survivor’s guilt that other parents’ children had died, and basically, feeling as though I had changed in ways that could never be undone, but I was supposed to just be happy, and go back to life as usual before the transplant; at least, these were my own expectations of myself. For example, I would awaken in the morning with a jolt, upon realizing that I was in my own bed with my husband, and not in a hospital room, or in the townhome that my son and I had lived in while in the other city. I don’t want to reveal the other episodes like this that I included in my piece, but every time something like this occurred, it stunned me, and caused me to have memories of what my son and I had just lived through. I finally realized that I, and of course, my son, husband, and 6 year-old daughter had been through an extremely traumatic experience, and that I needed to accept that it would take time for all of us to slowly readjust to not being in constant battle-mode, and to feel “normal” once again, or at least find our feet in this forever “new normal.”  As a former high school English teacher who taught “The Odyssey,” I began to think about the various battles and challenges that Odysseus had overcome on his return to his beloved home, and that is how this piece began. (Of course, I also think of those in the military, and can imagine how difficult the transition home must be after a deployment, and I’m glad to see more awareness and counseling for this.) 

Do you have a routine for writing? If so, what is it and how has it evolved?

As for my writing routine, since I work full-time with high school students with special needs, I write most often early in the mornings on weekends before my family is awake, and on school holidays. I tend to write about personal experiences, but some of my favorite prompts are exploring themes, or thinking about the lives of writers, musicians, and artists I admire, and their works. My process has changed because whenever I start writing now, I try not to “think,” and instead, just let my subconscious take over with images, words, symbols, and/or themes. If I find I’m overthinking at the beginning, I will set a timer for myself and just write without stopping to get words flowing on the page. The editing process comes later once I’ve explored something. Sometimes, I find that my first draft ends up being the beginnings of two or three fairly decent pieces if I’m lucky.  I have learned over time that my overanalytic brain can really get in the way of my creativity. My favorite places to write are either on our couch in our living room, while facing our loaded bookshelves that get taller with the slanted ceiling, with a Virginia Woolf or Frida Kahlo candle lit, and my cat in my lap; or outside in my backyard when the weather is cool enough to sit by the warm fire-pit. The part of my writing process that is lacking right now is reading more works of great writers! I’ve learned more about writing by reading the best writers, and I didn’t start writing until after a period of several years devouring the works of Woolf, Dickens, Tolstoy, Plath, Dostoyevsky, George Eliot, Shirley Jackson, Oscar Wilde, Kafka, Camus, Baldwin, and so many more, and I’ve only scratched the surface. I need to find more balance in that regard.

Do you have a routine for writing? If so, what is it and how has it evolved?

I tend to write a lot of CNF, and I think it’s because, in my opinion and experience, reality truly is more interesting than fiction. Also, I love allegory, allusion, and metaphors. My son will often tell me, “Mom, you think everything is a metaphor!” I am also very influenced by “The Hero’s Journey” that Joseph Campbell explored, so I naturally tend to look for that process in my own life, and in the lives of others. What is challenging for me in writing CNF is sometimes it involves sensitive family events. I always try to allow them to read my work and give me their blessing to submit for possible publication . I have had some pieces published under a pseudonym for this reason. 

What is a song is on repeat for you right now?

Wow! So to answer your question about what song I have on repeat at the moment, it’s really more an album on repeat. Since my husband introduced it to me via a streaming service, all I knew was that it was by Peter Gabriel, and consisted of many great songs recorded by him in the past, but with orchestral arrangements. I’m a classically trained pianist, and my husband is a guitarist and was in a rock band for the first five years of our marriage, playing/performing both cover and original songs. During the Covid lockdown, we started playing some songs together, and he knew that I liked Peter Gabriel, but he didn’t know if I had heard this album – and of course, I absolutely fell in love with it, and have been listening to it for months. He and I have been singing some of the songs in harmony, and I’m now learning some of the piano arrangements. I realized in answering your question, that I did not even know the title of the album, since the album “cover” I see on my phone is a graphic with no text. In order to answer your question, I just learned that the name of the album is “New Blood,” which makes total sense, due to the album’s concept, but is also significant to me personally, since my son is alive today because he was lucky enough to receive “New Blood” in the form of donated umbilical cord blood stem cells from an unknown couple almost exactly 12 years ago. So, thank you for asking me the question!  (See! Everything is a metaphor to me!)

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