We are pleased to present another Author Spotlight! This series showcases the writing talents and published works of women and people of color. Theme weeks are done on my website throughout the year to commemorate prominent holidays and events. Every time I do one of these, I feature another author (usually a woman and one of color). In honor of Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month, I’m trying to feature authors with Latinx/Hispanic backgrounds. The author Janette Valenzo is here today! Let’s get to know her!
About the Author:
Janette Valenzo (she/ella) is a Chicana actor, poet, & teaching artist. She freelances with nonprofits on arts education, mental health advocacy, and higher education access. She currently writes for Virago Rising, and her debut poetry book, “Before I Say Goodbye,” was published April 2022. She attends USC for a Master of Education in School Counseling & holds a BFA from NYU. For more on her work, visit www.janettevalenzo.com.
What and when started your love for writing?
Surprisingly for someone who cannot carry a tune, I started writing lyrics first. I just loved (and still do) to sing what I am doing or thinking. Once in high school, I didn’t really feel supported by my Language Arts teachers and was even told I would not make it in advanced classes due to my limited vocabulary. This only motivated me to keep writing and writing became my lifeline when nothing else made sense.
Of all of the book genres, what drew you to write about yours?
How has your Latinx/Hispanic background and culture shaped what you write and how you write?
I grew up Catholic and the imagery of Catholicism I find absolutely fascinating. So when it came to describe what I was feeling in love and in heartbreak, biblical expression captured exactly what my body was experiencing. The astrological and Tarot elements came to play in my work as I now try to find ways to combine these beliefs in myself. Just like when I was growing up trying to find balance and unity between my American and Mexican sides, dualities have always called to me. So, the book has some reflective poems, continuing this mirroring I have always felt in myself.
If you could meet your favorite Latinx/Hispanic author, who would it be and why?
Gloria Anzaldúa, author of “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza,” because that book made me feel seen for the first time in my life. To this day, I credit the book for embracing who I am at a time that I most tried to reject.
What book do you think everyone should read is based (or inspired by) around Latinx/ Hispanic culture?
Any plays by José Rivera! I hope to one day direct some.
What makes your book(S)/writing special?
I think each poem flowing into each to create a poetic play makes it unique. Each poem, I hope, stands alone, but to get the full picture, the book needs to be read in order. I recall an interview I read a long time ago about music albums, something along the lines that albums should be heard in the order they are produced to understand the story musicians want the audience to experience. I want the same for my readers. There is a reason for each space, period, and order.
So…what are you working on now?
I am wrapping up my graduate program this winter and hope to start finalizing my second book in the spring!
Come through the graduate program! I wish you the best of luck Janette! I love the spiritual connection of your heritage and culture. My many ways I also feel the same way as a Christian with African heritage. I wish you the best on that second book! If you want to connect with Janette you can through:
Thank you all for reading and remember:
Live. Love. Laugh.