5Q Interview: Ollin García Pliego, MFA Candidate in Spanish Creative Writing

The Writing University conducts a series of interviews with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the various University of Iowa writing programs. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home.

Today we are speaking with Ollin García Pliego, an MFA Candidate in Spanish Creative Writing at the University of Iowa and a fiction and non-fiction writer, poet, and journalist from Naucalpan, México. 

1. Do you have a plan or project in mind for the current year?

I am currently working on editing my MFA Thesis in Spanish Creative Writing, a novel that I plan to send to literary prizes in the fall. In addition, I am reviewing the final draft of a poetry book that I began writing here, in Iowa City, in the fall of 2016, which I plan to send to literary prizes soon. Also, I am writing an article in Spanish for Little Village, Iowa City and Cedar Rapid’s local magazine, which should appear in one of June’s issues, along with its English translation. With regards to my academics, I will start my PhD in Hispanic Literatures at Indiana University-Bloomington next August. It seems that I will have an interesting second half of 2018.

2. What does your daily practice look like for your writing? Do you have a certain time when you write? Any specific routine?

I usually write at night, before going to bed. I love the view from my desk in my living room. Although I can also write during the day at home or at my favorite coffeehouses (Prairie Lights and Cortado in Iowa City) with my headphones on, listening to a classical music playlist in Spotify. At least that is my routine for writing narrative (when I was writing my novel, or when I am working on an essay, an article or a chronicle). On the other hand, I can write poetry just about anywhere, and I often find myself writing poems in my notebooks, in napkins, or tweeting poems and thoughts about literature, film, writing, and politics anytime of the day.

Sometimes, when I get the writer’s block, reading helps me get back on track. I would not be able to write if I did not read every day, that is for sure.

3. What are you currently reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?

I am currently reading multiple books for pleasure, none for research. This is a skill that I took up very recently, I would say that within the past year. On my desk, half way through, is Cathedral, by Raymond Carver, and I am starting the Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor. In Spanish, I am re-reading Don Quijote de la Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes and Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges. Moreover, I am about to finish Casi el paraíso, by Mexican writer Luis Spota. Additionally, I am also in the middle of two non-fiction books: Diarios, by the Argentinian poet Alejandra Pizarnik, and Apuntes Biográficos (about the Mexican poet Jaime Sabines), by Pilar Jiménez Trejo. In terms of contemporary literature, I am reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, by Lolita Copacabana, an Argentinian writer and friend from the MFA.                                                              

4. What is something the readers and writers of Iowa City should know about you and your work?

This is a hard question, because I want to talk about so many things. With regards to myself, I was born in Mexico City and lived there for 7 years, and lived 10 years in Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche, and island in the Gulf of Mexico. I have also lived in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago and Pau, France. In the U.S., I have moved quite a bit: Houston, TX; Appleton, WI; and Iowa City, IA. I believe that these experiences, and my travels to more than 17 countries, have made me a global citizen and a bilingual writer (English and Spanish). Most of my literature deals with traveling, family relationships, globalization, technology, death, addictions, and social aspects and concerns, from the Latin American perspective of a person who moves and adapts among different cultures. However, I only write academic essays and poetry in English, besides the daily e-mails, text messages, social media commentaries, and class notes, of course.

I am extremely grateful to Iowa City, the University of Iowa, and the MFA in Spanish Creative Writing because I have had the incredible opportunity to write for two academic years in a row. Iowa City (and the Midwest) appears in some of my poetry and fiction. I am certain that it will also appear in my future non-fiction projects, too. During my time here, I have met many amazing writers from all around the world, and have been able to exchange ideas, learn, and discuss literary, social, philosophical, historical, and political topics that have, in some way or another, made me think and question more and more about what I write, why, and the position(s) from which I do it.

5. Tell us a bit about where you are from -- what are some favorite details you would like to share about your home?

I am from Mexico City and Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche, Mexico. I have family, friends and memories in both cities. I miss the mountains around Mexico City, especially the Ajusco, and the Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. In the case of the latter, I miss climbing it and doing hiking trails in the base of the mountain. In addition, food has a special place in my list of things that I cannot find in Iowa, typical dishes such as mole, pozole, and street tacos and quesadillas, and certain desserts, such as arroz con leche, natillas and spicy candies. I miss exploring bookstores, libraries and Book Fairs, as well as going for movie marathons at the Cineteca Nacional (National Cinematheque). Mexico City is a list of endless cultural opportunities.

In Ciudad del Carmen, I miss the proximity to the sea and going for morning or afternoon swims in the Gulf of Mexico. The weather is fantastic, almost always sunny and humid, although during the summer the heat is almost unbearable unless you are in the beach or in a place with AC. The amazing seafood and the sunrise and sunset views are things that I would want to enjoy and experience more often.

 

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Thank you Ollin!

Ollin García Pliego (Naucalpan, México, 1991) is a fiction and non-fiction writer, poet, and journalist. He earned a BA from Lawrence University in History and Spanish, with a concentration in literature. He was a Staff Writer for the Lawrentian and a Review Board member for Tropos, Lawrence’s literary and arts magazine. He is currently a MFA Candidate in Spanish Creative Writing at the University of Iowa. He will start his PhD in Hispanic Literatures at Indiana University-Bloomington in August 2018, where he was awarded a Top-up Fellowship for the summer of 2019, and a Dissertation Year Fellowship.