Meet First Place Essay Contest Winner, Adriana Páramo

Sunday, May 13, 2018
Adriana Páramo is a Latina cultural anthropologist, writer and women’s rights advocate. She is the author of Looking for Esperanza, and My Mother’s Funeral. Her essays have appeared in multiple literary magazines and been noted in The Best American Essays of 2012, 2013 and 2014. In 2014, she was named as one of the top ten Latino authors in the USA.

She teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Fairfield University and is an alumna of the travel writing workshop of VONA—Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation—a community of writers of color.

She currently writes from Qatar, a place she considers home and where, oddly enough, she works as a yoga and zumba instructor.

She tries to keep a travel blog at: Visit her website at:

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Q2 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Adriana: Thank you, Marcia. This is not only a very personal story, but sadly, also a very universal experience. I wanted to make sure that the readers could empathize, genuinely and effortlessly, with Julie and her journey. I couldn't think of a more accepting/receptive/loving readership than WOW's followers.

WOW:  Thank you for your kind words about WOW. Your entry, “Let’s Kill Your Grandfather Together” is powerfully moving from the title all the way to the final sentences of the essay. What inspired you to write this particular story?

Adriana: The first time someone cried in my restorative yoga class, I thought I had done something wrong. I thought that my sequence of poses, or maybe even my words, had triggered an emotion that it was not for me to elicit. I knew that because the poses in this type of yoga nourish the parasympathetic nervous system, the students switch from their fight or flight reactive mode to a rest and release state. What I didn't know was that in that release state, in that safe place on the mat, the students crumble along with their fears, traumas, insecurities. Hence the tears. Suddenly, there are no walls to hide behind, nothing to fear, no one to fight off, and these feelings take some women aback, like Julie. Her tears in the studio, her revelations outside of it, her need to share her struggle with other women, and her blessing to have her story published inspired me to write it.

WOW: Your work often involves social activism and advocacy for women. What messages do you hope to impart with your writing and other efforts?

Adriana: What do I want the reader to walk away with after reading my accounts of other people’s lives? I want the reader to trust me, to come along on this journey and inhabit other peoples’ world for a few hours or days, but more than anything, as a social activist, I want to turn an ordinary reader into an “empathetic reader," one whose decision making in the world is affected by and more thoughtful as a result of reading my work.

Writing about social activism is my opportunity to subvert. I write what I write to instigate change, to be analytical, critical, loud and vocal. Conversely, I read what I read to allow myself to be swayed, to discover, to become aware of “the other” and imagine alternative scenarios, different points of view, possibilities and actions.The truth is reading and writing are in themselves subversive acts. What they subvert is the notion that the status quo can’t be changed, that we are alone, that no one has ever felt the way we have, that the voices from the margins have no place in mainstream literature, and that we belong to a powerless subculture.

WOW:  Can you tell us what projects are you currently working on? What can we plan on seeing from you in the future?

Adriana: Southern Indiana Review will be featuring some of my work in the next issue. It is part of a larger work: a memoir about Kuwait. Right now I'm working on a collections of essays about women, and off-and-on continue to work on a project about the cross-cultural symbolic value of the hymen.

WOW:  Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Adriana! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Adriana: Yes. Submit to legitimate contests and for the right reason. Money awards are nice to win, but shouldn't be the only reason to submit Send your work where the main reward is to be read with loving kindness. Nothing tops that.


For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.


Angela Mackintosh said...

What a moving interview! Adriana, thank you for sharing the inspiration behind your essay, and I feel great empathy for Julie and her struggle. Your essay is written with so much love and compassion for her it brought me to tears when I read it. You definitely succeeded in turning me into an empathetic reader. I relate to what you said about social activism--you've encouraged me to take a deeper look at my themes and play with ideas of the other alternative viewpoints. Thank you for that! :) I'm still quite new to creative nonfiction and I find there are so many ways to tell a story. Many people write about abuse, but you managed to create a completely new and fresh way to tell that story.

I'm excited about your memoir and your essay collection! I've been reading some of your published/linked essays on your site. Powerful work. I'll be following your career. :)

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