The Foundry is our literary reading series! We want to introduce you to your next favorite writer. Each reading features established authors and emerging writers, both from San Diego and across the country. We’re going to do a little web series so you can get to know each of the readers for The Foundry #4, coming up on Saturday, March 18th at 7 PM at Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill.
The Foundry #4 will feature readings from Jami Attenberg, Karolina Waclawiak, Kiik A.K., Alex Zaragoza, and today’s feature: Wendy C. Ortiz.
Wendy C. Ortiz is the author of Excavation: A Memoir, Hollywood Notebook, and the dreamoir Bruja. Her work has been profiled or featured in the Los Angeles Times, The Rumpus, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the National Book Critics Circle Small Press Spotlight blog. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Hazlitt, The Lifted Brow, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, StoryQuarterly, and a year-long series appeared at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Wendy lives in Los Angeles. Visit her public notebook: wendycortiz.tumblr.com.
Wendy’s writing is powerful, thick with imagery, and beautifully sparse. The things left out from her work carry nearly as much weight as the words included. From a recent interview at The Rumpus, here’s Wendy on how perfecting the art of omission works with her self-coined genre “dreamoir” used in her new book, Bruja, published in 2016 by Civil Coping Mechanisms.
Rumpus: You’ve said in the past about your writing, “What can I omit to make it a sharper piece?”
I’m fascinated by the way Bruja forces the reader to piece together the story through symbols and narrative threads as opposed to a linear story arc. As a reader the dream format compelled me to think more deeply about the journey of the narrator—to engage in the process of discovery in a much more visceral way than I might with a traditional memoir. In a way, the omission, made the narrative more engaging. Was this something you had to think through?
Ortiz: In the original writing of it online, I never thought this through—the website was a receptacle for dreams. In editing it, I had to think through which dreams had the most to “tell,” which forced me into omitting dreams that didn’t have much of a thread (or threads that might be too obscure to follow). I also omitted dreams that felt like they told too much. It felt like a very careful removal of organs from a body, to see if the body might still function without one dream thread or another.
And her work, both in Bruja and in her earlier memoir texts, Hollywood Notebook and Excavation, is intensely personal, revelatory, and groundbreaking. She plays with genre in the same way that she plays with language and structure, pushing the boundaries of what is non-fiction, what is memoir, what is truth, and the boundaries of what a page or a story might look like: prose, poetry, truth, dream, magic.
Here’s Wendy on magical realism and magic in writing:
Rumpus: […]I felt keenly that Bruja, had an intentional spell-like—almost a magical realism—quality. Certainly, the gorgeous cover art by the artist Wendy Ortiz, and the title itself is evocative of a female archetype—a woman with magical powers. Were you thinking about this when you composed Bruja?
Ortiz: I was thinking of it the same way I think of brujería everyday without calling it that, necessarily. To me, magic is everywhere. Synchronicities fall under the “magic” heading to me. I pay attention as much as I can. I try to surround myself with other women with magical powers and a lot falls under the heading “magical powers.” To me, a bruja is able to live on and in different planes at different times and sometimes simultaneously—this is what I thought of most as I edited the text of the book—that this was my life on another plane while living on the one most people call “reality.”
I love this stunning, boundary-squashing and structure-squashing piece of her writing you can read online at the literary magazine Poor Claudia, “Celestial Body Language.” Here’s a brief clip:
“personal power is mobilized”
Pluto at the top of the chart, Mars at the bottom.
“You’re here to destroy,” she said.
I stepped out of the salon clutching the cassette tape. In the attic I reset its spools.
She gave no definition for “destroy.”
Months wandered by like clouds. I counted. After five had passed I forgot I was counting.
The sixth cloud hung heavy.
Midway I sprung out of the cloud, soaking wet, then engorged with flames. Destroying came naturally, as it turned out.
I hit the ground. When the ground opened, kept running.
We are honored to have Wendy come read to you at the Foundry, and teach her (SOLD OUT!) masterclass, “Public Notebook to Book,” earlier that afternoon. Come join Wendy, Jami Attenberg, Karolina Waclawiak, Kiik A.K., and Alex Zaragoza on Saturday, March 18th at Tiger Eye Hair!
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