Whenever and wherever I am, I write. I keep a journal—dreams, ideas, conversations, imagined first lines…
GEMINI INK: Norma, what theme or symbol keeps emerging in your work and why?
NORMA CANTÚ: I guess a literary critic will have to answer this formally. For me, it is the border and also the idea of land and family.
GEMINI INK: Do you have any secret rituals you perform before you get started writing—tics, habits, special ceremonies? How important is it to you to have a sense of sameness about your writing routine?
NORMA CANTÚ: No, I don’t have any special rituals and I don’t have a sense of sameness about my routine…it happens wherever I am. Of course, when I have had occasion to I relish the time devoted solely to writing, I do have a routine and I love the solitude as when I had the Beca Nebrija en Alcala de Henares and I wrote everyday, all day long, with short breaks for food and to walk a bit. I had a similar routine in Albuquerque when I wrote Canicula.
GEMINI INK: Do you have a favorite writing tool?
NORMA CANTÚ: I use the computer, but I also write with ink pen or a pilot ballpoint. I like no. 2 pencils…
GEMINI INK: Describe your first writing desk.
NORMA CANTÚ: My first writing desk was the kitchen table at 104 E. San Carlos. Now, I have a simple table at home, and I have a university-supplied desk in my office.
GEMINI INK: How do you mentally get into a space for writing?
NORMA CANTÚ: Not sure, I just do it. Sometimes for poetry, I find that reading poetry elicits poetry from me.
GEMINI INK: What music are you listening to now?
NORMA CANTÚ: These days I continue to listen to a variety of things: Cesaria Evora to Eva Ybarra; classical (operas), musical theater, Conjunto and 60s music. I am watching an old movie about an opera singer: Jose Mujica.
GEMINI INK: What is the best writing time of day for you? What is the worst? Does it matter?
NORMA CANTÚ: The best is late at night… between midnight and 5 a.m. I don’t think there is a worst time… I can write at any time, so I guess it does not matter.
GEMINI INK: Do you have any special charms, talismans or souvenirs in your workspace? What and Why?
NORMA CANTÚ: No, but frequently some things find their way to my desk—the seashell from Finisterra or from Port Aransas, a feather found on my morning walk.
GEMINI INK: What is your favorite piece of writing advice?
NORMA CANTÚ: READ. I always tell students who ask, just read and then write!
GEMINI INK: Does good writing result from best practices, magic or both?
NORMA CANTÚ: Probably both and then some! I think it results in finding your path as a writer and following it…maybe it is writing in a cafe, or writing on a plane, or at home in a specific space…no le hace. Good writing emerges from deep emotion and truth telling.
GEMINI INK: What do you want to do in your writing that you’ve never done before?
NORMA CANTÚ: I have never written a full fledged play and I’d love to do so. I would also love to write a broadway musical based on the Camino de Santiago. I also have only dabbled in mystic poetry—I would love to do more of that.
GEMINI INK: What do you consider the best/worst trends in writing today?
NORMA CANTÚ: Best trends: the personal narrative, flash fiction, and graphic novels. The worst: probably writing that seeks to shock by using profanity.
GEMINI INK: What’s your favorite writer snack?
NORMA CANTÚ: I don’t have any… in fact some times I forget to eat when I am writing!