We’re thrilled to introduce the 2021 Oregon Literary Fellowship recipients with individual features on our blog! Out-of-state judges spent several months evaluating the 400+ applications we received, and selected eleven writers and two publishers to receive grants of $3,500 each. Literary Arts also awarded two Oregon Literary Career Fellowships of $10,000 each. The 2022 OLF applications will be posted in July 2021, and the deadline to apply will be in September 2021.
2021 Oregon Literary Fellowship Recipient
A.M. Rosales is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, and translator originally from Cochabamba, Bolivia. They hold a literature degree from George Mason University. A Pride Foundation scholar and a collaborating artist at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, their work has been supported by the Precipice Fund and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
Q&A with Literary Arts
What are your sources of inspiration?
I am inspired by people. Every day I am inspired by what I see people do, what I see them make. I’m inspired by orality and storytelling more so than by plot devices and genre conventions. I like to take things I observe from the world, be it from nature, history, or elsewhere, and try to bridge or fold-in different points of view together. Everything I write is a meditation on my culture and my surroundings. Unpacking the past is never simple or easy, but I think it’s important in order to make art that’s meaningful to me and other people. Whenever I’m stuck, I like to meet one of my creative friends for coffee and talk. This almost always helps me become inspired again.
How would you describe your creative process?
Messy. There’s the boom-and-bust cycle of being productive for a while, then nothing. Every piece requires a period of active procrastination. I prefer to think about things for a long while before they begin to take shape on the page. If I can’t remember something later, it probably wasn’t a good idea to begin with. Once I have settled on an idea, I like to make an outline, and write some notes. I may even draw or sketch a few things. It may never develop into a full project, but I like having a variety of things to work on. I am the least productive in summer. As for the writing itself, I need a calm and peaceful environment. I usually draft with recordings of rain playing in the background as it helps me concentrate. I find music too distracting for writing. Whenever I’m stuck, I like to take walks around my neighborhood. Every piece has its own process which is constantly changing, evolving and responding to our circumstances.
What is most exciting about receiving a fellowship?
I moved to Oregon ten years ago. I knew only one person in Portland at the time (a former creative writing teacher of mine). There aren’t many Bolivian immigrants in the region. It’s been a unique experience to live in isolation from my culture, but I’ve managed to find community and build a life here. I am certainly not the first Bolivian writer to make their way to Oregon, but it certainly feels special to have something formal that ties me to this place. I only started writing nonfiction in grad school at the insistence of my instructors. As I get ready to graduate from Portland State with an MFA, I really appreciate receiving this recognition. It encourages me to keep going.
What are you currently working on?
I work in a lot of disciplines, not all of them related to letters, but I have three literary projects going on right now. I am translating a book from Spanish to English. It is a novella originally published in the 1960’s called Tirinea by the Bolivian writer Jesús Urzagasti. I’m two thirds into the translation. It’s a labor of love, most Bolivian literature doesn’t get read outside of Bolivia. I have also been writing a collection of short stories that explores the lives of transgender children and young adults in a transnational context. Short stories often feel like brutal little puzzles, so they always take a while to write. Most recently, I began writing a series of interconnected essays. This project best falls under the umbrella of creative nonfiction. It is exciting to receive this fellowship in support of this project.
What advice do you have for future applicants?
Go on writing. Follow your instincts. Continue to try to get your work out there. Keep applying. Beyond that, I would share the wise words of Violeta Parra, a beloved Chilean artist and musician, whose words about songwriting are just as applicable here. She said:
“Que escriban como quieran, usen los ritmos que les salgan, prueben instrumentos diversos. Que se sienten al piano y destruyan la métrica. Que griten en vez de cantar. Que soplen la guitarra y tañen la trompeta. Que odien la matemática y amen los remolinos. La creación es un pájaro sin plan de vuelo que jamás volará en línea recta.”
“Let them write however they want, use whatever rhythms come to them, try out a diverse set of instruments. Let them destroy meter at the piano. Let them shout instead of having to sing. Let them blow into the guitar and pluck the trumpet. Learn to hate math and fall in love with whirlwinds. The act of creation is a bird without a flight plan that will never fly in a straight line.”
Excerpt from Dis·mem·ber
from the Sonora Review, January 2021
The Earth’s oceanic and atmospheric phenomena predate modern humans by millions of years. Currently, the temperatures near the surface around the equator are very warm in the western Pacific yet cool in the eastern Pacific. This pattern is interrupted periodically by changes first noticed along the continental coast by early settlers of present-day South America, like the Moche people. This phenomena aids in generating heavy rains over southeastern Asia and northern Australia but keeps parts of the South American pacific coast relatively dry. When this pattern is interrupted, rainstorms follow the warm water to the central and eastern Pacific, northern Australia and southeast Asia become dry, droughts manifest in northern Brazil, and winters become soggy in North America. While the patterns can be predicted, no two cycles are alike or have the same duration. When scientists created a model to track and predict these patterns, they called it El Niño and later its opposite La Niña.
You were twenty-nine years old when you consented to Hormone Replacement Therapy.
A nurse practitioner taught you how to self-administer the injections.
Wash your hands with soap and water for twenty seconds.
Put on gloves (optional).
Use an alcohol pad to disinfect the top of the vial.
Attach drawing needle to the syringe.
Use alcohol pad to disinfect the injection site.
Remove and dispose the needle (in a sharps container).
Attach injection needle.
Remove the cap.
Grasp three or four inches of the muscle between thumb and first finger.
Insert needle at a ninety-degree angle.
Pull back on the plunger (if blood enters the syringe, do not give the injection).
Inject by and pushing down on the plunger.
Leave the needle in the flesh for a few seconds after the plunger is all the way down.
Remove needle from the injection site.
Apply bandage (if necessary).
Dispose of needle and syringe (in a sharps container).
The preferred location of these injections is the front of your thighs, alternating weekly between your left and your right thigh.
You told your father about the first injection.
“In absolutely gorgeous and necessary prose—part memoir, part lyric essay entwined with history and a brutal accounting—A.M. Rosales crafts a stunning portrayal of trans life and death with an eye toward the natural and cultural histories that surround them.”
– Judge Susan Briante