Yvonne Conza’s writing has appeared in Longreads, Electric Literature, Los Angeles Review of Books, AGNI and elsewhere. UK’s Dodo Ink will feature her work in an upcoming anthology. Her piece, “Just Breathe”, can be found in EPOCH Issue 02: Aftermath, available to purchase here.
What is the most challenging and rewarding aspect of your creative process?
Time & Balance — It takes time for an essay of mine to find alignment and pulse points inside narrative thresholds of what, at first, might seem to be disparate threads. The challenge is about accepting patience as part of the writing process. Securing kinship, or parallelism, in the work, whether in tone, contrast or themes, also requires hard-won mindfulness. Envisioned thoughts, structure and story arc need to fuse and coalesce on the page and, for me, that starts from a place that feels near impossible yet ends up wonderfully surprising. My early drafts are fueled with urgency, a compelling desire to get where I need to go. Then what follows is a period of merciless trimming and endless revising. I trust if I remove something, and it still matters, it continues to resonate in the piece as a soft echoing presence. The challenge and reward comes from achieving a balance so that ‘voice — singular (my own) and plural (universal) — co-exist with dimensionality.
What does your writing space look like?
Depending on what stage of the writing process — drafting, revising, finalizing — it varies.
Physical writing space: Anne Carson’s Nox rests on the upper right corner of my desk. Atop of it is a quarter-size lapis stone, framed with mala beads worn as a bracelet for years. A stack of books are nearby: Joy Williams’ Ninety-Nine Stories of God, Melissa Falveno’s Tomboyland, Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist (which I had her retitle on my copy as Bad Ass Feminist), Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, Maggie Nelson’s The Art of Cruelty, Andre Dubus’ Broken Vessels, Conjunctions: 73 Earth Elegies, Loren Eiseley’s All the Strange Hours: The Excavation of a Life and Penelope Cray’s Miracles Come on Mondays. Leaning up against them is an Amy Hempel handwritten postcard purchased through The Common’s annual author postcard auction. It reads:
“I remember being surprised to learn that asking for help is a sign of strength.” (from “Cloudland”) And while you’re wading in the ocean, remember that “A pulse is a thing that you feel.”
My best, Amy Hempel 12-12-19
Drafting Space: Sparse, where with a lined notepad, two document easel stands – placed on the right and left side of my computer, I face down the blank page with a strong coffee. Within grasp at all times: Pentel EnerGel Tradio Pearl Liquid Gel Pens, 0.5mm, Fine Line Capped, Needle Tip (blue ink) and Pilot Spotliter Fluorescent Highlighter, Chisel Tip (pink)
Revising Space: Various folders containing research, hand-written notes, transcriptions from documentaries, online interviews, eavesdropped conversation, and printed, often conflicting, drafts blanket my desk and nearby table. Close at hand is also another pile ‘wtf’ stuff: sentences I admire, quotes that feel related to my project, fragments taken from printed advertisements and various images. Envision organized clutter where I’m mining for every ounce of something that starts as an inkling, a seed of an idea, and becomes an obsession. The research rabbit hole that I go down for every essay is intense, and borders on being unwieldy. I’m not always sure why I pursued a particular detail and, if it doesn’t get homed in the essay I’m working on, it often becomes the heartbeat of new one. My meandering process of developing pieces is something I’ve come to trust. Even if it yields nothing, it still feels like something has been gained.
Finalizing Space: All the color-coded Post-It Sticky Notes containing odd bits of shorthand are condensed into a notebook. Because I’ve been through several home renovations, it feels like the big cleanup has arrived where the goal is to regain the sparse element of my desk belonging to Anne Carson’s Nox and my other beloved stack of books.
Who is your biggest artistic supporter?
My husband. He is my first reader/editor. When I’m finalizing an essay and preparing to pitch it, he takes over the kitchen, shopping and making meals, so I can stay in the bubble of concentration.