Q & A with Our Issue 2 Contributor Ursula Villarreal-Moura

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view?

I think if I were to describe my style it would be a fatalism that drowns the reader then pulls her back up for a gulp of precious air. Until I answered this question, it never occurred to me that that's subconsciously my aim. I mean, that's almost precisely my worldview, although it's starting to shift. Almost everything imaginable makes me uncomfortable, but I keep interacting with the world, because beautiful things can and do happen. 

Themes I consistently write about include loss, speaking or avoiding Spanish, stuffed animals, and abandonment. Those are some of my most loaded subjects--they help me drown and resurface in multiple ways. 

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

My list is long: Karl Taro Greenfeld, Mary Miller, Elizabeth Ellen, Leesa Cross-Smtih, and Rumaan Alam. Karl Taro Greenfeld writes excellent fiction and nonfiction. His writing is often surprising but never in a gimmicky way. Mary Miller and Elizabeth Ellen write vulnerable women characters that make me flinch in good, uncomfortable ways. I'm really excited about the upcoming release of Leesa Cross-Smith's book. I read absolutely everything she and Rumaan Alam write. What I love about Leesa Cross-Smith's writing is that it's so uplifting. It's almost the polar opposite of mine. If she drowns her reader, it's for twenty seconds or one minute. Rumaan Alam's short stories and essays are funny, astute, and brilliant. Two of his stories, published in Meridian and Necessary Fiction, I think about almost weekly. I want to be a literary agent so that I can represent him.

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

I've always wanted to work at a museum. MoMA, are you listening? One of my best professors in college was my art history professor. I was already having a love affair with art by the time I took his courses, though. It's so cliché to admit this, but the first time I saw Guernica in person at the Prado, I felt like I was having a spiritual experience. The irony is that my husband and I had had a framed print of it on our wall, so I didn't expect to feel any different standing it front of it, but I did. Being in the presence of art is like conversing with the universe. 

I'd love to write museum guides, lead tours, or even narrate audio guides.

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

When I think of Austin, I can't help but flashback to my internship at American Short Fiction. It was a magical time for me. I also think of the times I spent reading and drinking coffee at Houndstooth or book browsing at BookPeople. Because I catalog discomfort, I think about I-35 and people driving 95 mph between San Antonio and Austin. Most people who know me are aware of my dislike for driving and cars.  

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

If writing really is creating for an audience of one, who is your audience? 

My seventeen-year-old self. She was hard to impress but had wild dreams. Sometimes I feel I'm earning her respect and living up to her expectations.