Written By: Ashley Reynolds
Wendy C. Ortiz was recently published in The Coachella Review for her story “Listen.” “Listen” is a non-fiction piece about how music influenced her life as a young girl. Wendy is a marriage and family therapist intern in Los Angeles. Her other publications include The New York Times’ Modern Love column, Specter: A Brooklyn-based Art Journal, and PANK. Wendy also co-founded and curates the Rhapsodomancy Reading Series (www.rhapsodomancy.org).
What inspired you to write “Listen?”
My consciousness is often completely invaded by song lyrics. Most of the time I actually prefer silence so the songs in my head can play themselves out and reveal things to me. My favorite place to listen to music, though, is in the car, and I use my radio occasionally as a kind of oracle for questions I have. The answers are often in whatever song comes on the radio at the particular time I ask a question. Song lyrics still leave their mark on me, sometimes in a way I don’t like, that make the song difficult to hear again over time because they bring up so much emotion in the space of two minutes as they play. So: this story comes from an amalgamation of memories I’ve had where song lyrics imprinted themselves on me in a particular way I wanted to explore in an essay form.
When was the first time that you realized you were a writer?
I realized I was a writer during all my childhood visits to the Panorama City branch library in the San Fernando Valley–my destination every Saturday with my father. I brought home stacks of books, read them, then wrote my own stories. My mother photocopied my first zine when I was in second grade, and I tried selling the zines at school for a quarter each. Then there are the moments when other people realize you’re a writer and that somehow cements the secret feeling you’d had–I credit teachers from first grade (the place I wrote my first ghost story) through sixth grade (where I won a ribbon for a poem) and junior high who helped reinforce my realization that I was and am a writer. I felt like I really came out as a writer with the help of a community college fiction instructor who urged me to enter a story I wrote into an English department contest. When I won, I thought, This is it. I’m a writer. Now I can see it was one of many arrivals into that realization.
What do you do in your free time that contributes the most to your writing?
Read. Read read read. And read. And think. In solitude, when I have it. But mostly: read.
What person inspires you the most? Why?
My friend, mentor, and the first Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, Eloise Klein Healy. Since I met her 13 years ago, I’ve watched, studied, and admired her way of being in the world. Eloise elicits the best in other people, is generous with her teaching and mentoring, and basically operates personally and professionally with an extraordinary amount of integrity.
What was the best advice that you received?
Tara Ison, friend and author, has offered me the advice I call upon the most: “A thoroughbred runs her own race.” She got it from an old television show with Marlo Thomas. It’s simple, succinct, and reminds me to quiet all the other voices in my head and get to work. Tara also offered me a similar maxim: “Tend your own garden.” This is for when it’s time to stop looking at all the other gardens with a mixture of wonder and envy. Get in the dirt in front of you and work it.