My roommate from Taos Toolbox, Catherine Evleshin, has been everywhere and done everything. And now she shares her wit and wisdom with us.
Tamago: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Catherine: I still haven’t decided, just like it took me a long time to realize that I was a dancer. The IRS will make those decisions, and so far, they have not been brought into my writing “career.”
Tamago: Which writers are important to you?
Catherine: I adore Kim Stanley Robinson for his intellect, careful research, and inspired visions of our future. He can turn an unforgettable phrase, as well. I enjoy many other SF writers (often West Coast) who find a “mundane,” plausible near-future to be an exciting thing. Much of SF is fantasy to me, although often a pleasure.
Tamago: Why is so much of your writing about the environment?
Catherine: It is the future, and trumps all other concerns, in my opinion. So many “experts” on human problems, e.g. poverty, fail to factor in resources, because of the prevailing myth that humans can solve anything if we set our minds to it. it is unthinkable that we may be doomed to suffer. Indeed, half our species is already suffering…and dying.
Tamago: I know that you have made quite a career as an adventuress.How does your philosophy of living tie into your writing?
Catherine: As a dance ethnographer, I had professional reasons to go into communities all over Latin America and the Caribbean and explore the underbelly, so to speak. But beyond and before that, I had desire to discover the truth about human society, and not just the one presented in school or in the media. We forget that before the Internet, information was recorded by educated, mostly male, persons, and I simply didn’t believe everything that was said. I had to see with my own eyes, and learn with my own body.
Beyond and before that, I believe I have only one chance on this beautiful earth, and must take full advantage.
Tamago: How did you come to attend the Taos Toolbox workshop?
Catherine: It was perfect for several reasons. Part of my novel-in-progress is set in New Mexico, where I lived decades ago, so it was a refresher with wiser eyes (I took extra days to explore). I liked the work of the teachers, Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress. It was just about as long as I can leave my husband with the cats.
Tamago: What advice would you give a writer who wanted to attend a writing workshop?
Catherine: Be ready with well-developed stories. Be prepared to spend a lot of time before and during the workshop giving careful thought to the work of others (it will pay off in greater understand of the problems with one’s own writing). Listen to every word that is said about everyone’s work, even if you think you disagree. Research to find out if you are a good fit (writing level, subject emphasis, philosophy of both the teachers and the students).
Tamago: Writing is maybe your 16th career. Some people would say you’ve started a little late. What would you say to that?
Catherine: Aging dancers often turn to writing (non-fiction), as I did. But I often felt I could tell “The Truth” better through fiction. Sometimes it was necessary, to protect the guilty. This is especially the case when I write about Cuba, where I was told and witnessed many things in confidentiality, and the consequences to the informants could be dire.
Climate change came into my focus, and my interest in eco-fiction went from vague and theoretical to immediate and all-consuming.
In all my endeavors, practicality or even making a fool of myself never entered into the equation. Given my health and genetic endowment, I probably have as many years left as some of the great writers. Would we have told Jane Austin she shouldn’t write because she had only twenty years remaining?
Tamago: What are you working on now?
Catherine: I’m writing short stories, in some cases, VERY short fiction, and submitting them everywhere. I made a 2012 New Year’s resolution to do this until I got published. I have had one success and about thirty rejections, spread across three stories, and waiting for responses on several others stories. I’m a fusser, so the work keeps changing, even after I have sent it out. But that makes the rejections easier to bear, almost a relief, sometimes.
Tamago: Where can people find your work?
Catherine: Words Apart Magazine just published my story, “Paperless..Jobless” (vol. I, issue 2, online), but there is an inadvertent omission that I’m trying to get fixed. I should also mention that I have published dance ethnographies, the latest a chapter in Caribbean and Atlantic Diaspora Dance: Igniting Citizenship by Yvonne Daniel. For those who live in Oregon, I frequently present readings as part of Los Portenos, a Latino writing of Portland connected to Miracle Theater/Teatro Milagro.
Tamago: What’s your dream project?
Catherine: Bringing my novel and my stories into shining perfection and getting them out there.