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Emilly Prado discusses Funeral for Flaca and her writing life

This Friday, July 16 at 6:00 p.m., we hope you will join us for an evening of conversation with Emilly Prado and Celeste Noche, and a discussion of Funeral for Flaca, Emilly Prado’s new book from Future Tense Books.  Emilly G. Prado is a writer, DJ, and educator living in Portland, Oregon. As an award-winning multimedia journalist, Emilly spent half a decade independently reporting on a wide range of topics, most often centered on amplifying the voices and experiences of people from historically marginalized communities. Her writing has been published hundreds of times, appearing in nearly 30 publications including NPR, Marie Claire, Bitch Media, The Oregonian, and Eater. Emilly is the author of youth non-fiction title Examining Assimilation (Enslow, 2019) and the just-released essay collection, Funeral for Flaca (Future Tense Books, 2021). She is a Tin House and Las Dos Brujas Workshop alumna amongst others, and currently serves as the Director of Youth Programs at Literary Arts. You can read an excerpt from Funeral For Flaca here.

We asked Emilly some questions about her book and her writing life, and recommended food pairings for the event this Friday.

Literary Arts: Can you talk a little about how this book came to be?
Emilly: I didn’t set out with the intention to write a book. I always imagined my first book would be a more traditional narrative memoir—something I’m still working on today—but I’ve taken generative creative writing workshops over the years, and that’s where many of these essay ideas were first sparked. As a student in the Prose Certificate Program at the Independent Publishing Resource Center, I created the basis for this book as my class project. I self-published the resulting chapbook, designing the cover and even so far as gluing the spines and chopping the pages to size, and was thrilled to have put together about 90 pages of work. Kevin Sampsell, publisher at Future Tense Books and small press curator at Powell’s, offered to carry Funeral for Flaca at the downtown location of Powell’s Books.

How did it find a home at Future Tense?
I had an outstanding goal to pitch the manuscript to a small press with hopes that Funeral for Flaca would have a more sustainable second life. Having the support of a publisher would ensure I wouldn’t have to spend so much time creating the actual book and would afford me back some time that I could instead spend writing new work. I thought about cold emailing Kevin at Future Tense Books because of our brief pre-existing connection and because I’m a big fan of Elissa Washuta, Wendy C. Ortiz, and Myriam Gurba who all had first or early books with FTB and I think our work shares some threads, but decided against it when I read they weren’t accepting submissions. A few months later, I organically saw a call soliciting submissions and jumped at the chance to share my manuscript. I was thrilled when Kevin picked Funeral for Flaca alongside a handful of amazing new projects, and together we worked to revise and expand the collection to full-length.

What’s the most exciting thing about having your book published?
I really enjoyed being able to revisit earlier essays and rewrite large portions, partly due to my writing style developing and also in part because my own relationship to the content in the essays had shifted even just two years later. I loved being able to fill in the gaps I saw of topics I avoided in the first iteration, and the support folks are showing has been so re-affirming and fuel to carry me into my next project. Publishing isn’t what I expected, and I’ve learned so many things I had no idea went into this process. I’m looking forward to learning even more in the months to come.

As a writer of personal memoir, what is the most challenging about sharing your experiences with readers?
I think the line between narrative voice and writer can be hard to distinguish not only in conversation with readers but also with other writers. Funeral for Flaca is ordered chronologically, beginning with an essay around age five. The narrative voice in the bookprogresses as I age in the essays, and without that context it can hard to know what I believe in the “present” of the essay versus now. Additionally, while I’ve considered what I feel comfortable sharing in this book during the writing process, I don’t always want to speak openly about every subject or delve into topics that may have been intentionally skimmed in the essays, for example. I picked “boundaries” as my word of 2021, and I know I’ll continue to learn more about what boundaries mean for me as I enter this next stage of my career.

How do you find time for your writing practice?
I prefer to write during my mornings, before the tasks of a busy day take over. In writing this book, I often spent my weekends writing for long blocks of time, and sometimes weeknights. I love a DIY writing retreat when I’m away from caretaking and not distracted by my space, so I booked a small studio on a family farm in Woodburn for a few nights and wrote the final essay, “Mad,” during the few days there. When the budget is tight, pet/housesitting gigs can be excellent ways to carve out space for creative work.

You’ve picked a set of snacks and drinks for your event! Tell us more.
Food has long been a source of comfort, amongst holding many other importances in my life. While Funeral for Flaca does explore my experience of disordered eating and struggles growing up with body image, it’s a book about healing at its core. When Amanda Bullock, Director of Public Programs, suggested a food pairing to make the virtual event feel more connected, I loved the idea and tie to my book. Celeste Noche, my conversation partner and long-time creative collaborator, picked out some of her childhood favorites: Yam Yam and bottled Coke. I loved both of those growing up (and still do) and added a few of my picks: Flamin’ Hot Cheetos con limón and a drink I recently started making in quarantine, made with or without tequila, I’ve dubbed the Guava Spritzer.

What advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
Write your book! In the drafting stages of your work, write like no one will ever read it because you always have the choice on what stays or goes, and it’s in this safe, private space that we can sometimes feel more comfortable with experimenting or diving deeper. Publishing and becoming an author aren’t requisite for being a writer, and while it’s been such an exciting milestone and experience, I am reminded that the business side and creative side of publishing are very different from one another.

You can purchase a copy of Funeral for Flaca at Powell’s, online at any major book retailer, or request a copy from your favorite local book store.

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