Pact Press sits down with Daniel A. Olivas, who offers thoughtful insight on the writing craft and on the duty of writers in a polarized age, with a inspiring message for emerging writers. Pact Press is very proud to be releasing Daniel A. Olivas’ poetry collection, Crossing the Border, in the fall of this year.
- Most writers have day jobs and frequently have difficulty finding writing time. How do you manage it?
First, I have a very patient spouse who understands my artistic compulsion to write. Second, I am a compulsive writer. Third, I derive great joy from creative writing.
- How long have you been writing and do you perceive your writing to have evolved in any particular way that you would like to share?
I’ve been writing since I learned how to spell out words. My mother saved some of my very early little books that I wrote…simple stories with illustrations. I wrote all through school but put aside creative writing when I went to law school and started my legal career. But even as a lawyer, I wrote constantly: briefs, memos, letters. I also wrote articles for our legal newspaper here in Los Angeles. Then at the ripe old age of 39, I started to write fiction and poetry which started to get published. Now, 19 years later and almost a dozen books to my name along with critical and scholarly recognition of my writing, I’m still in love with the creative process. In terms of my evolution as a writer, I believe that my stories and poetry are deeper yet more economical.
- What appealed to you about being a part of the Pact Press Speak and Speak Again anthology?
With the election of Trump, we’ve entered into a very dangerous time in our history. I feel as though I have a duty to be part of the literary resistance movement. I will not sit back quietly. I believe Speak and Speak Again is part of that movement.
- What do you think is the responsibility of the writer in today’s polarized environment?
As a writer of color, as a Chicano writer, I feel as though I have a duty to speak out in favor of diversity, civil rights, and justice especially during these perilous political times. Also, I believe that when a person of color gets published, that—by itself—is a political act. As I often tell students when I get a chance to speak in front of them: if we don’t write our own stories, someone else will, and they will get it wrong.
- What advice would you offer writers who are just embarking on their careers?
Work hard, read a lot, and don’t let anyone tell you that your voice is not important.
Connect with Daniel:
Daniel’s published work may be ordered through your local bookstore, online, or through the publishers:
The King of Lighting Fixtures: Stories (University of Arizona Press, 2017)
Crossing the Border: Collected Poems (Pact Press, 2017)
The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles (Tía Chucha Press, 2016)
Things We Do Not Talk About: Exploring Latino/a Literature through Essays and Interviews (San Diego State University Press, 2014)
The Book of Want: A Novel (University of Arizona Press, 2011)
Anywhere But L.A.: Stories (Bilingual Press, 2009)
Latinos in Lotusland (Bilingual Press, 2008)
Benjamin and the Word (Arte Público Press, 2005)
Devil Talk: Stories (Bilingual Press, 2004)
Assumption and Other Stories (Bilingual Press, 2003)