Previous Writer to Writer Mentees
Mona Alvarado Frazier
Fall 2014 Session
Mona Alvarado Frazier’s novels feature Latina protagonists in urban multicultural settings who deal with issues of incarceration, domestic violence, immigration, and family. She feels compelled to write about women whose voices aren’t heard, who are abandoned and/or abused, and who make poor decisions; however, Frazier also writes about how such women pick themselves back up, or grab a helping hand and do better. She lives in the strawberry capital of California, the coastal city of Oxnard, where she was born and raised.
Mona worked with the writer Fred Arroyo.
What advice do you have for people entering the program next?
Get ready to push yourself, expand your writing skills, dig deeper, and go further.
What is something you learned from your mentor or this process?
Fred Arroyo described the goal of fiction writing as this:
“...to create a mysterious, intimate space between the world represented in words, and the world readers read, that place—imaginative, unspoken, empathetic, beyond the words on the page—where the reader, the fictional world, and the writer, meet.”
Creating fiction and poetry have much in common:
“...slowly, paragraph by paragraph, image by image, trying to make every word count, and trying to create small connections the reader would discover....”
His ideas inspired me to strive to push myself to go deeper in story. I love this quote he sent me, from Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life:
One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water.
People can tell you one thing, but “seeing” is another. Fred often recommended books that illustrated scene development, introspection, or beautiful language. I read books or excerpts by Jean Rhys, Helen Viramontes, Salter, Lamott, Márquez, and Rilke, along with a few others. I felt the synergy between reading and writing.
We spoke about revision and I found that Fred’s perspective made for a more interesting and positive way to view this task. He sent me George Sanders’ statement on revision, “Revision is love.” I was immediately struck by the quote because I’ve revised my second manuscript at least twelve times over the past four years. It is indeed love.
What is something that happened that you did not expect?
Truthfully, I didn’t expect that a mentor could be so introspective and provide guidance from a distance to a stranger they’ve never met in person. But, I felt I was in Fred’s classroom, or in a small writing group, where he took time to explain and clarify items via a letter. He was professional, warm, and caring.
The Buddhist concept of sangha, the cultivation of mindfulness in everything we do, was also unexpected. I enjoyed learning about this concept and how it applied to writing.
Where do you go from here?
I’ve developed my short and long-term goals and discussed them with Fred. These are doable, and I believe I will be ahead of my timeline on my short-term goals concerning revision. I look forward to finding an agent and publisher during 2015.