A Conversation with Talia Flores
By Laura Liu
Talia Flores (they/them) is studying Comparative Studies of Race and Ethnicity and Art Practice. A Pushcart Prize Nominee, recipient of the Texas Book Festival Fiction Prize, and winner of the 2017 Gabelle Prize for Writing, their work appears or is forthcoming in Hobart, Bennington Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, and Gigantic Sequins. They are a poetry reader for The Offing.
I was fortunate enough to sit down and ask Talia some questions. Read on for the result!
Laura Liu, Interviewer: Ever since high school, you’ve been interacting with the writing and publication communities—what led you to pursue writing in the first place, and what led you to engage in these communities? Did you ever have any doubts along the way?
Talia Flores, Poet: I started writing as a means of survival. Growing up I struggled with mental illness. I looked to writing to calm me and work through my thoughts.
The writing communities I found online were important spaces for me. In high school, I participated in an online writing workshop with the magazine Winter Tangerine. This was powerful – it introduced me to incredible, caring people, expanded my definition of writing and my writing ability, and allowed me to feel more comfortable in my artistry.
LL: You have involved yourself in a number of different forms of writing, including slam poetry, which has commonly been a platform for social activism. Do you find you naturally gravitate towards the spoken or written word? Are there certain times you find a topic or idea you have calls for one or the other?
TF: Spoken word is a form that is much newer to me. I didn’t start performing until last year when I joined my school’s spoken word collective. When practicing both spoken and written word, I do find myself writing in slightly different styles. But I don’t think either platform is better for a certain topic. Written poems can be performed aloud and spoken poems can be written down. They are both forms of poetry and art and are equally difficult and rewarding.
LL: Aside from writing, you photograph for a publication at Stanford University. What about photography renders it similar or different to poetry in your mind, and how do you find that your pursuit of photography informs your pursuit of poetry (and vice versa)?
TF: I am grateful that college has allowed me to experiment with different forms of art. Although I do not practice photography as much anymore, I found it encouraged me to focus on smaller details.
Lately, I have been practicing drawing, which I like a lot. Drawing helps with my anxiety. It has also influenced my writing positively. Drawing has taught me patience and that, in the first stages of a piece, to not worry about details yet. First strokes first, and details later.
LL: I’m sure you’ve met many students in high school and in college that love writing but are on the fence about whether to pursue it beyond the classroom. What advice do you have for students who want to break into the literary world, but aren’t completely sure how or whether to go about it? Do you believe there is an “it” factor?
TF: Although school is one way to access writing, it is definitely not the only way. A poetry community – whether that be from the classroom, a writing group, or just some friends – is fundamental, I believe, to artistic growth and security.
I think going online is a great way to find and work with other writers. For high school and college-age writers, I suggest journals like Winter Tangerine, The Shade Journal, and TRACK FOUR. And Neoqulloquy, of course!
Joining a journal as a reader can be a great experience, too. I spent about four years working with The Blueshift Journal as a reader, designer, and editor. Although the journal is no longer active, my time there was influential as I learned how a journal works behind the scenes.
LL: Finally, what is the strangest piece of advice you have ever received? Did you take it?
TF: To believe in myself. I’m still working on it.
Laura Liu is a senior at Conestoga High School, and has been writing her entire life. As an editor for her school's literary magazine, The Folio, she is always looking for ways to help herself and her peers develop mastery and voice in writing.
Laura is a 2019 Merit Award Winner for Writing (Poetry) from the National YoungArts Foundation, and has won top prizes in competitions such as the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (NFSPS) Student Contest, and the Central League Writing Contest. She was also published in NFSPS' annual poetry anthology, Encore, in 2017.
Header Image: Talia Flores