Meet the Writer is a feature for which I interview authors who identify as women. We talk less about a single book or work and more about where they’ve been and how their lives affect their writing. Today, please welcome Tara Isabel Zambrano. She works as a semiconductor chip designer. Her work has been published in Tin House Online, The Southampton Review, Slice, Triquarterly, Yemassee, Passages North and others. Her stories have been featured in Best Microfiction and Best Small Fictions, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net. She lives in Texas with her husband and two grown-up kids.
Grab the Lapels: What did you want to be when you grew up, and does this choice influence your writing today?
Tara Isabel Zambrano: Growing up, I wanted to be a doctor and serve people. However, as life happened, I shifted gears and became an Engineer, and since then had the opportunity to work with some of the best minds in Electrical Engineering. I started writing poetry in Hindi when I was eight or nine years old. Almost one poem every week, scribbled in a diary, never to be shared. After I came to America, I started writing in English, a second language for me, mostly day-to day diary entries. Then a family friend introduced me to blogging, showed me WordPress and I started a blog and added a post once every two weeks or so. I shared it with my friends and family and over time, gathered an audience. Some writers who identified with my experiences and encouraged me to write more. I also started reading voraciously, mostly fiction, which influenced and enhanced my writing, made it more approachable.
GTL: Why did you start writing?
TIZ: I can only identify it as an itch to express if you will. Like I mentioned before, it started with day-to-day personal experiences and grew into more outward reaching stories. Initially, my writing was limited to my eyes; gradually I started sharing it with others. Once I started receiving encouragement for my work, it fueled my passion. On Twitter, I came in touch with experienced and emerging writers; I read their work and it deeply impacted me as an artist. The Lit community I am a part of is a wonderful, encouraging miscellany of gifted writers and readers. It has developed me tremendously as a writer and a reader.
GTL: How have you developed creatively since then?
TIZ: I would like to believe that I have evolved creatively after reading other writers and working constantly and consistently on my prose. I have also developed because I have had great mentors, individuals who took interest in my stories and helped me to see the value and scope of improvement in my writing. It’s a continuous process, of putting your ego aside and letting that piece of art take its best possible shape and form, to never stand in its way. The results are rewarding and, in a way, surprising when you read your own story, sometime later, and are filled with wonder and contentment.
GTL: What happens when you’re not happy with your writing?
TIZ: I am rarely happy with my writing. This doubt keeps me grounded, enables me to tirelessly edit my work, and let it simmer until it is of a consistency and impact I am satisfied with. It is a transformation of frustration, sweat, and tears into strength and happiness, only to realize oh, this could have been better. The work of a writer, like a dream, like a life, is never done. There’s always potential to make it poignant, wholesome.
GTL: Did you learn anything from writing your book, Death, Desire, and Other Destinations?
TIZ: This collection has stories spanning a few years. I have evolved as a person from imagining these stories and bringing them to the page, correlating them as a collection that represents my perception of death and desire, and everything in between. I have learned to be patient in letting my stories sit, editing, and then repeating the whole process again. I have learned to accept rejection as a tool to improve my work.
GTL: Why do you think your book would be a good choice for a book club pick?
TIZ: It’s an eclectic collection of short-shorts and a few short stories that can be analyzed and examined at length, and that is what makes it a great choice for a book club pick. That’s what flash fiction is about: simmering with a depth waiting to be uncovered. This collection has a spectrum of stories that might appeal to a broad range of readers, with characters that are relatable and yet strange, and plots that engage intellect and surreal aspects of one’s thinking. Overall, it should be an enjoyable experience.