We had the good fortune of connecting with Vanelis Rivera and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Vanelis, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
I used to be a people pleaser because I thought that it would progress my standing with colleagues. But, I have come to realize that my productivity is closely tied to my mental and spiritual wellness. For that reason, I try to stay sensitive to the areas of my life that require attention, be it exercise, meditation, stretching, or balancing my diet. I don’t follow any particular schedule. I’ve found that, at times, it hinders my enjoyment of the things I need to balance. Instead, I aim to intuit when the balance is needed, accordingly shifting and taking action.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Professionally, my writing focuses on culture, namely food, music, and interior design. I’ve found that writing about regional musicians and their craft has deeply inspired my own creative process, opening it up to other methods and perspectives. At a personal level, my writing is memoir-driven. It has greatly taken shape thanks to my experience as a remote graduate student at the University of New Orleans. One of the most challenging aspects of my personal writing has been tapping into wounds that I have avoided navigating and finding ways to explore them with a unique lens. I’m still in the process of excavating, but what I’ve learned from that process is allowing the evocative nature of memory to guide language use and structure. As a product of the Caribbean (born in Puerto Rico, raised in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands), I take pride in the unique perspectives I offer in my professional and personal writing.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Monore, Louisiana is a small-city feel with immense character. First, coffee! While the area boasts some phenomenal options, one of my favorites is Standard Coffee Co. With coffee in hand, an obligatory stroll through Downtown Monroe is merited, particularly Mercantile Monroe, a vintage clothing store that also stores a plethora of goodies from local makers. Across the bridge, Antique Alley also boasts specialty shops worth a few hours of browsing. For lunch, I usually crave a Honduran feast at Alex’s Latin Foods where my go-to is their baleadas and popusas. To walk off the meal, a stroll through the picturesque Black Bayou National Wildlife Refuge does just the trick. If a second coffee stop is needed, I’d head to Dreaux Coffee, a coffee and tea bar located inside of health food store Fiesta Nutrition, which will also merit a stroll. Weekend nights always call for a seat at Enoch’s Pub & Grill for the enjoyment of a stellar burger over optimal live music.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My colleagues at the University of Louisiana at Monroe School of Humanities have been an immense support system in my professional endeavors. As far as my writing goes, the team at BayouLife magazine has truly provided me a platform to further improve and share my work. Lastly, I owe a lot of gratitude to family and friends that take their time to read my work and offer their feedback and suggestions.

Instagram: @vanelis_rivera

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/vanelis-rivera

Image Credits
Amanda Myree Photography

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