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  • Writer's pictureAva Chen

Interview with Erica Rivera: Issue 3 Featured Contributor

“Her pupils bloomed, ecliptic.” 

In “Pandemic Story,” Erica Rivera interweaves experiences being transgender and the isolation of the pandemic using riveting imagery and raw, emotional resonance. With bold metaphors like “hugging the sunset like a remorseful ex,” Rivera immerses readers into Salina’s tumultuous yet momentarily peaceful world in this vibrant flash fiction masterpiece. We’re so excited to feature Rivera as our prose contributor interview from issue 3, and we hope you enjoy the energy and heart of her electric words! 

Read "Pandemic Story" here.

How would you describe your writing style, and what do you think makes it unique?

I recently started referring to myself as a performance writer. I write all in one go, trying to harness the kind of energy you get in a performance, especially improvisational ones. To be more morbid, I write as though I might die of an aneurysm while writing. Mortality is always on my mind: I try to leave even early or unfinished drafts in the state I’d want them to be in if they were the last things I ever wrote.

What common themes or concepts do you see emerging throughout your work, and why are you drawn to them? 

I came out publicly as trans just over a year ago, so I’m often trying to articulate the experience of gendered embodiment in my work because I’m also navigating that outside of it. I’m also interested in developing new ways to express old ideas, which is why I’m always as concerned about the form and means of production of a piece of writing as I am about the words themselves. Finally, I have something of a background in STEM, as well as in journalism, which is why I incorporate near-future techno-speculative elements in my fiction. I like to think of my speculative fiction as its own kind of journalism.

Where do you usually draw inspiration from? What inspired you to write “Pandemic Story” in particular?

I’m a big fan of writing prompts, but usually ones I come up with for myself. In the case of “Pandemic Story,” I assigned myself the task of writing an emotionally resonant story that opens with someone smoking a joint. I started writing the piece about a year into the pandemic, and the opening section more or less depicts how I was coping. It was originally part of a more ambitious writing prompt: write fifty works of flash fiction, all set during the pandemic. “Pandemic Story” is the only one that survived. Late last year, I revisited the (significantly different) first draft and began weaving in the speculative element (joints laced with estrogen), and realized it had always been about navigating transness. That insight allowed me to finally complete it.

What is your writing process like? 

I find inspiration everywhere, which is very overwhelming, so I try to tune it out. Every once in a while, something makes its way through: a conceit or observation or metaphor I know I can wrangle into a story. I write as much of it as I can in my head when I have ambient downtime, and then when I get a free moment at my keyboard, I play a fitting song on repeat and write until it’s finished.

In “Pandemic Story,” the narrator wonders, “If a woman appears and there's no one to perceive her, does she still get to feel a thing?” How would you answer this question? 

With a resounding yes.

What messages, emotions, and/or morals do you hope readers take away from your piece? 

I like to leave that up to the reader, but I will say that I recently learned about a movie called Safe  (1995, dir. Todd Haynes) that builds to a similar image of claustrophobic isolation. I think “Pandemic Story” is probably the trans version of that story, which is to say: the same story, just told a little more clearheadedly.

Looking ahead, what are writing projects or goals you are currently working on? 

My first book, a collection of essays titled The Ecology of Art, Strike!, is forthcoming from tRaum Books in 2025. I’m currently running a (slightly behind schedule) performance series called performing mfa on my personal website, in which I perform the work required to attain a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, including playing the roles of my classmates and professors. I’m also writing an ongoing series of essays called “everything i know about genocide,” which began in October 2023 in response to the escalation of the genocide of Palestinians carried out by the settler colonial state of so-called Israel. Finally, I’m writing a new essay collection tentatively titled The Trans Girl’s Guide to Grey’s Anatomy, largely inspired by the work of Jules Gill-Peterson.

Is there anything else you would like to add about your writing?

Each performance in my performing mfa series concludes with an exhortation, which is a generative prompt that allows the audience to take part in the performance series; if you’re a creator seeking inspiration, feel free to check those out at [RiveraErica DOT com SLASH PerformingMFA].

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