with Sarah Marquez:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Sarah: I started writing in college while working on my four-year degree in English Language and Literature. My first influences were, of course, books! Fiction novels, historical fantasy novels, mystery novels and short stories. I’ve been an avid reader since childhood and held a wish to create something of my own someday, out of words that meant everything to me, to connect with kindred spirits. So, I spent a few years dabbling in fiction, (after I fell in love with the Sevenwaters Series by Juliet Marillier), but found that it wasn’t for me. This was so disappointing at the time. And then I encountered poetry in a creative writing class at Southern New Hampshire University. I remember having a big dislike for poetry during my high school days. But, being reintroduced to it in college changed that. My first influence to writing poetry was Aimee Nezhukumatathil. I stumbled on her poem, Naming the Heartbeats, and something just clicked. I had never connected with a piece of writing so strongly before. And I recall being upset that no one had ever showed me this kind of poetry, that was full and welcoming. I had a strong desire to try writing something like it, weaving words, images, sounds, and I did. At the end of that class, I was encouraged by my instructor to keep writing in the poetry genre, and that suited me. I signed up for a few more workshops the following term and began an ongoing journey to discover my voice.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Sarah: My biggest influence today is the plethora of poets I’ve encountered along the way: Maggie Smith, Leah Umansky, Ada Limón, Lucille Clifton, Sharon Olds, Marie Howe, Carolyn Forché, Elizabeth Bishop, Brenda Hillman, Ocean Vuong, Laura Cronk, Sally Wen Mao, Leila Chatti, Tara Skurtu, Christina Thatcher, Ankh Spice. I could go on and on. There are so many, and more I have yet to discover! I consider these wonderful people mentors, though I have never met any of them.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing/art? Have any travels away from home influenced work/describe?
Sarah: I grew up and reside in Southern California. Los Angeles, to be specific. So, yeah, I’m a city girl. And it’s influenced my writing in the sense that being surrounded by so much hustle and bustle has made me long for less, a more simple and serene environment. As such, my poems reference the nature I can see and that I wish I could see more of. My dream right now, closely related to writing, is to travel and eventually settle somewhere open and green, where life moves at a slower pace. Where I can daydream in the middle of the day without having to listen to the constant flow of traffic outside my window and focus on bird chatter, where June at night is warm and anticipating something, rather than unbearably hot and accompanied by the sudden boom of fireworks going off.
Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?
Sarah: Surprisingly, or perhaps not, the most meaningful work I’ve done creatively is connect with other poets by volunteering to read submissions at small journals. I spent a year or so as a member of staff at both The Winnow Magazine and Random Sample Review. I am no longer reading now, but at the time it was rewarding and felt right. Often, I wish being a professional submission reader was a creative career I could pursue.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Sarah: Yes! I remember it well too. It was near the end of my second writing workshop at SNHU. In the comments on my final portfolio, my instructor noted that some of my poems were ready for publication. That thought, his belief in my words, made me realize how much I really wanted to be a poet. And by that, I mean not only in my head. I wanted to go through the whole process of submitting work for peer review. It’s scary at first, and always challenging, but worth it when a poem finds a forever home and readers to love it well.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Sarah: Reading. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but I read more fiction than poetry these days. Well, not more, but it’s what I gravitate toward when I want to relax because I am surrounded by poetry all the time (others and mine). I just finished The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. It was such an incredible book! Rich and full of heart. I highly recommend it to anyone thinking of reading something new and unfamiliar.
Right now, I am listening to ASMR on YouTube. I’m not sure if that’s an activity, but it’s something I do to unwind. I don’t know anyone in the writing community that insists on having an ASMR routine, but mine is strict. After working all morning, in the afternoon, I’ll sit on the couch and put a video on and within minutes every muscle in my body will relax and the thoughts in my mind drift away. Then, at night before bed, to prepare myself for uninterrupted sleep. It really works!
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?
Well, I haven’t spoken much about it, but I do have a chapbook MS in progress at Potter’s Grove Press. And right now, I am working with my editor to polish it. It’s a small collection of poems I wrote prior to the pandemic, in early 2019. Sometimes, I’m not sure it’s right to be working on something from back then, as so much has changed–my writing style and voice included. Still, I’m proud the collection made it this far. Proud, I started something and finished it. I will have more information about it once everything gets settled BTS. And I will likely need help promoting it, as I’m inexperienced in marketing books. (I could use any and all advice). Meanwhile, I am working on a second chapbook MS that is giving me all sorts of problems and will eventually need a forever home. So, I don’t have time for anything else, though I wish I did.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?
Sarah: This question made me pause for a minute. I’d like to share a line from an unpublished work. It’s not my favorite of everything I’ve written, but it holds great meaning right now. “I tasted me, a new perspective–I am free to love and let someone else love this body, this porcelain verse, this guilt passing away.”
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Sarah: Besides for the wonderful people at journals and mags, and readers, who promote my work, that would have to be my writing tribe: “Beyond LU.” It’s a small, intimate and perfect group for three students who are in Lindenwood University’s creative writing program. I’m not sure if my writer friends would be comfortable with me mentioning their names here, so I won’t. But they are amazing, and I owe them so much for being my first readers, looking over my work and giving me feedback. And for simply being there and excited to discuss poetry, writing, and life. That’s all-in-one, really. I don’t think any of us can separate one from the other at this point.