Interview with Algae: Q3 2020 Creative Nonfiction Essay First Place Winner

Sunday, August 16, 2020
is a recent graduate from Texas A&M University where they wrote a creative thesis about Mexican American experiences in the Rio Grande Valley entitled “Las historias son para ti.” They funded a creative writing scholarship under the same name. This piece, “Bordertown Synopsis,” is an excerpt from that anthology and has specific geographic connections to her hometown, Roma, Texas. algae’s work has been published in The Eckleburg Project and Fudoki Magazine’s online platform. They love grapefruits and can be followed on Twitter @writer_algae.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Q3 2020 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

algae: In short, I already had the piece written. I was actually encouraged to submit to this contest by my thesis advisor, Dr. Jason Harris. Throughout the duration of my senior year including the summer leading up to it, Dr. Harris truly believed in the quality of my work and would send links to different contests or journals to apply to. When the pandemic hit and our university moved all our classes online, I believed I would have more time to work and focus on my assignments. Instead, my work hours got cut drastically and the workload piled on as my depression suffocated me. This was one of the few contests that I found to be highly financially rewarding. I never would have thought I’d win first place when I had applied with only $100 in my checking’s account.

WOW:  What inspired you to write your essay, “Bordertown Synopsis” (which is part of your college creative thesis and an anthology)? You’ve captured the universal in your specifics, and the second person voice works really well in this piece.

algae: The first draft of this piece – and I mean really rough draft – was written 4 years ago as part of a college admission essay. It was less than a page long and was supposed to describe my hometown. It was one of many prompts and when I first read it, I thought I could describe Roma in the light my high school teacher told me to: that it was poor, mostly brown, and a really small town. Perfect way to get into college. I didn’t end up attending that university. After my first semester at college, I came back to this essay, and, after being the face of adversity at a predominately white institution, realized I needed to take ownership of the narrative that was being fed to the public about the Rio Grande Valley and the U.S.-Mexico border at large. The use of second person was intentional; I wanted people to feel like a local reflecting on the community that they were a part of. I wanted to tell a story people could imagine themselves in and not only as a figment that was elsewhere.

WOW:  Your approach worked very well. Can you tell us what your writing process is like? Any favorite routines or places to write?

algae: I actually don’t have a writing routine, which I always feel really guilty about. I’ve heard my professors say they wake up at 4am or stay away until 2am where they write best; I’ve heard they need a specific drink in hand or candle lit. I’ve been fed romanticized versions or writing routines and I get scared of copying someone else’s and not creating my own. I guess my ‘writing routines’ comes through the form of days-long brainstorming sessions. I can’t seem to start writing until I have an end product in mind. If the project changes in the process, it happens, but I’ve struggled to write without a goal envisioned. I’m currently working through finding a daily routine.

WOW:  Are you working on any writing projects right now? What’s next for you?

algae: I hope this isn’t too scandalous to mention, but I am venturing into erotic prose and poetry at the moment. I am a queer individual and yet sex is always a rough topic for me to discuss. I am demisexual and bi-romantic, meaning I only have sexual attraction to someone unless I am emotionally attracted to them. And while my sexuality is under the asexual spectrum, I am not sex adverse. Sex is just something very personal I don’t like to share with others. However, in the age of quarantining, I have found that sexual exploration, even within oneself, is important and have started documenting my journey through prose and poetry. Latine Literature is what I hope to gain recognition in someday, but I also feel the need to expand my genres and topics of writing in fear of being type cast as only able to write from a single perspective.

WOW: Whatever you're inspired to write, you should try it! Thanks so much for chatting with us today, algae. Before you go, can you share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice?

algae: This was advice I overheard a very long time ago and I encourage everyone to use whether it be related to writing or not: “Anything that you write, and is difficult for you to write about, is going to be part of the healing process for someone else – an empathy collection.” It reminds me about the lack of representation or women, queer individuals, non-gender conforming individuals, and most of all BIPOC in literature. There are experiences that are unique to border residents in this story that I tried to share, that could potentially inspire other border writers. Tell the story you never got to hear.


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


Sioux Roslawski said...

Marcia--Thanks for doing this interview and for giving us a link to algae's great essay.

algae--You're right. I stepped into this piece and I was sorry when it ended. Your world, your home--it embraced me due to the details. Congratulations. It's quite apparent why your essay won 1st place.

Good luck with your future writing, and continue to tell the story you didn't get to hear when you were younger. When we don't see ourselves reflected in the literature and poetry we read, little bits of us begin to erode...

... and despite what our president might say, everyone's voice deserves to be heard.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Thank you so much for sharing a bit about your writing and your life with us. Good luck finding a routine or process that will help you write where you are right now. Your voice is one we all need to hear.

Joanne said...

algae, your voice and concrete images made me feel the heat, the stinging sun, the heaviness, and also the love of the narrator for Roma. Congratulations on your well-deserved win.

Jeanine DeHoney said...

Marcia, I enjoyed reading this interview with algae. Congratulations algae. Your essay "Bordertown Synopsis," painted a moving and vivid picture of what life is like in a border town. Good luck with all your future writing endeavors.

Renee Roberson said...


Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. This was such a beautifully written and honest piece. You are worthy and your voice needs to be heard-especially in the Mexican-American community. My mother's family is Hispanic and I spent my early years under the watchful eye of my grandmother in central Texas, but I have a hard time writing and sharing my stories as I now live in a community surrounded by white privilege, and I worry about being shamed for my heritage by those around me. Thank you for being a voice for change.

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