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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Interview with Ainhoa Palacios, Summer 2021 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Today I'm excited to interview Ainhoa Palacios, runner up in our Summer 2021 Flash Fiction Contest. Make sure you read her story Chola and then come on back to read the interview.

First, let me tell you more about Ainhoa:

Ainhoa Palacios was born in Lima, Peru, and moved to the US at the age of six where she was raised by her mother, Abue, and sister. She graduated from the University of South Florida with a B.A. in journalism but soon after remembered it was a different kind of storytelling she loved.

Since, her work has been long-listed in Fish Publishing’s Short Memoir contest, come as a finalist in Sunspot Literary Journal’s Rigel 2021 competition, and appeared in publications like Somos En Escrito.

Ainhoa currently lives in Shenzhen, China with her two dogs—a wild-eyed husky and tripod miniature pinscher.

To connect with Ainhoa, follow her on Instagram @noah_pal_.

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First, congratulations on winning runner-up! I was pulled in immediately with your story. What was the inspiration behind this story? 

In recent years I have started exploring my own experience of growing up as a Latina immigrant in the US. One of the first stories I wrote surrounding this theme was titled "Gringas"—a slang term often used in Latin countries to describe an English-speaking foreign woman (usually a white woman). From that story, the word 'cholas' naturally came next. The story which pulls from my own experiences of wanting to have straight hair and refusing to wear hoop earrings is a reflection of that. I wanted to touch on that sensation of being a teenage girl, feeling the pressure to fit in, while also trying to avoid falling into certain categories. 

WOW: I think you did a beautiful job portraying that pressure and internal struggle. I thought it was fascinating how you chose 2nd person to tell this story. What made you decide to write it in this way? 

What often happens when I begin a story is I just begin without giving much thought to the point of view, but rather the feel and content. I’m just trying to get words on paper. But once I've gotten a general idea down, I'll play with changing the tense. Just trying different ways in my head to see if one works better. This particular story was written in 1st person but something wasn't quite working. I felt it was very dull. I randomly started playing with telling it in 2nd person, read it to a friend who loved it, and knew that was it! 

WOW: What a moment! It's so unique. I see that you graduated with a degree in Journalism! How did this experience prepare you for creative writing? 

My first instinct is to tell someone how journalism pushed me in the direction of creative writing by showing me the type of writing I didn’t want to do. But that’s not all true. The part of my journalism degree, the experience I loved was telling someone’s story creatively. With heart. I think in some ways, all the interviewing, has helped me to think of the kinds of details I want to include in a story. Details I had to notice myself while interviewing someone just for context if nothing else.

WOW: It probably helps you develop such strong characters too! How do you know when a story is done? 

This one is difficult, and to be honest, I am not sure it ever truly is. I have left stories for months and when I go back to reread them, I’ll almost always find something I want to change. However, for the sake of going forth, I have started to find a comfortable spot to stop. The place where I am comfortable showing the story to someone, receiving feedback, either taking that feedback or deciding not to, and then letting the story go. If it is something I am proud of, can stand behind, I’ll call it complete with, of course, the possibility of always being revisited or expanded in the future. 

WOW: I feel the same way - there's always something for me to change in a story. It's hard to call it truly complete! What are you currently working on that you can tell us a bit about? 

"Cholas" is part of a collection of shorts that have been my main focus this year. Every story is in some way connected to growing up Latina in the US and the themes surrounding it like the feeling of displacement, searching for an identity, and mending broken relationships. I hope the collection can see publication one day! 

WOW: I hope so too! Congratulations again and we look forward to seeing more from you!

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