Pact Press sits down with Daniel A. Olivas who offers thoughtful insight on the writing craft and on the duty of writers in a polarized age, with a inspiring message for emerging writers. Pact Press is very proud to be releasing Daniel A. Olivas’ poetry collection, Crossing the Border, in the fall of this year.
Most writers have day jobs and frequently have difficulty finding writing time. How do you manage it?
First, I have a very patient spouse who understands my artistic compulsion to write. Second, I am a compulsive writer. Third, I derive great joy from creative writing.
How long have you been writing and do you perceive your writing to have evolved in any particular way that you would like to share?
I’ve been writing since I learned how to spell out words. My mother saved some of my very early little books that I wrote…simple stories with illustrations. I wrote all through school but put aside creative writing when I went to law school and started my legal career. But even as a lawyer, I wrote constantly: briefs, memos, letters. I also wrote articles for our legal newspaper here in Los Angeles. Then at the ripe old age of 39, I started to write fiction and poetry which started to get published. Now, 19 years later and almost a dozen books to my name along with critical and scholarly recognition of my writing, I’m still in love with the creative process. In terms of my evolution as a writer, I believe that my stories and poetry are deeper yet more economical.
What appealed to you about being a part of the Pact Press Speak and Speak Again anthology?
With the election of Trump, we’ve entered into a very dangerous time in our history. I feel as though I have a duty to be part of the literary resistance movement. I will not sit back quietly. I believe Speak and Speak Again is part of that movement.
What do you think is the responsibility of the writer in today’s polarized environment?
As a writer of color, as a Chicano writer, I feel as though I have a duty to speak out in favor of diversity, civil rights, and justice especially during these perilous political times. Also, I believe that when a person of color gets published, that—by itself—is a political act. As I often tell students when I get a chance to speak in front of them: if we don’t write our own stories, someone else will, and they will get it wrong.
What advice would you offer writers who are just embarking on their careers?
Work hard, read a lot, and don’t let anyone tell you that your voice is not important.
Daniel’s published work may be ordered through your local bookstore, online, or through the publishers:
The King of Lighting Fixtures: Stories (University of Arizona Press, 2017)
Crossing the Border: Collected Poems (Pact Press, 2017)
The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles (Tía Chucha Press, 2016)
Things We Do Not Talk About: Exploring Latino/a Literature through Essays and Interviews (San Diego State University Press, 2014)
The Book of Want: A Novel (University of Arizona Press, 2011)
Anywhere But L.A.: Stories (Bilingual Press, 2009)
Latinos in Lotusland (Bilingual Press, 2008)
Benjamin and the Word (Arte Público Press, 2005)
Devil Talk: Stories (Bilingual Press, 2004)
Assumption and Other Stories (Bilingual Press, 2003)