We had the good fortune of connecting with Jasminne Mendez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jasminne, do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
Write everyday. I don’t write everyday and I don’t think you have to or even should to be a good or great writer. I think it’s important to imagine, dream, believe and LIVE. I think living and laughing and loving are just as important to the writing process as writing itself. I think reading, consuming other art forms and finding ways to play influence and help your writing as much as the act of writing itself. I’m also always thinking about my writing or being inspired by life and the world and taking mental and hand written notes of those things so that when I am able to come to the page I have plenty to draw from. I think the idea that we must write everyday feeds into toxic notions of productivity and only fosters guilt and shame. I’m the mother of a toddler working part time, teaching, keeping a home and just trying to stay sane. I can’t write everyday. I don’t WANT to write everyday. I want to live and find joy outside of my writing too. That’s important and it’s necessary.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I think what sets me apart from others is that I’m not afraid to bend, blend, and break form or genre. I know many writers who only write in their one genre. And that’s great for them. That works for them. I love to experiment. I love to challenge our notions of storytelling and I love to try new things. I’ve written poetry books, memoir, essays, plays, and books for children. I find the best genre or form to tell the story I want to tell and I tell it. I’m not afraid to mix things up and write a play as a series of poems, or include scenes from a play in a fiction book. It’s just how my mind works. I am excited about so many opportunities these days. My inbox is so full it’s a bit overwhelming but it’s all good things. I’m excited about my poetry collection and my YA novel. I’ve never written fiction before and the YA novel is an exciting if scary challenge for me. I’m learning a lot and that’s what matters most to me. Writing is a practice and I love practicing and getting it wrong. I got where I am today with the help, hope and belief of a wonderful community that supports, uplifts and believes in me sometimes more than I believe in myself. But also, I got where I am today with hard work, dedication and waking up at the wee hours of the morning to write, read, reflect and dream. I let go of a lot of expectations for what I thought my life should be and that has allowed my life to become better than I imagined. It hasn’t been easy. It’s hard work. There’s no magic routine, spell, or pill that will work for everyone. I wake up early. I work hard. I take chances. I risk failure. I put myself out there. When someone tells me “no” I go to someone else until I find someone that says yes. I spent the better part of a decade living with chronic illness and pain. It sucked. I don’t wish that on anyone. Sometimes writing was the only thing I could do in a day. Sometimes not even that. I don’t take life for granted. Not one moment. I know that as good and healthy as I feel today it could all go away tomorrow. So I keep working. But I also know when to rest. Rest is just as important as the work – if not more important – don’t let the work kill you. Rest. Rest. Rest.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
So…we’re in a pandemic and we can’t go anywhere…but in a perfect world if we COULD go somewhere I’d take them to the Japanese Tea Gardens, we’d grab some Tapioca tea, maybe head to the Flat for a drink and yummy pizza and good tunes, we’d hit up salsa night at the Aquarium if it’s the summer time, and go watch a play at Stages Theatre and maybe even park on their rooftop garage and just stare at the Houston city skyline and talk about life, love and happiness. Also, during the day I’d take them on a Houston mural tour and check out the amazing murals all around town!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My shout out goes to my partner in poetry and in life: Lupe Mendez. Without his support, love, time, compassion, and keen editor’s eye I would not be where I am. He has literally saved my life on more than one occasion and supports me unconditionally. He helps me be the woman and the writer that I am. Couldn’t do this without him.