Interview with Stefanie Michelle Almendarez

LILY KRYSTINE: At what age did you discover that you wanted to be a creative writer and why?
STEF: I was ten years old when I discovered I wanted to be a creative writer. I had discovered in my Catholic elementary school the book "The Diary of a Young Girl" which was a testimony of the inner life, struggles, and memories of Anne Frank. I was inspired by her example to record my own thoughts down on paper, in a diary given to me by my mother - she handed it to me along with a golden key chain pen half blue, half pink and I felt it was a treasure - I held it close to my heart. I wanted to be a writer immortalized just like Anne Frank, I didn't want my soul to be forgotten, I wasn't sure if the afterlife existed then.
LILY: Wow! That's amazing. What caught my attention the most was that you mentioned that you don't want your soul to be forgotten. That being said, from this present day, what have you done to have that immortalized?
STEF: I am 30 now, and not 10, so a lot has changed - my view on life, my beliefs, and dreams. I used to believe I needed to have a book published, or written, like a diary of my own, so humanity, anyone who'd read could retrace my steps, inner life, simple musings perhaps. Now, I believe I can be immortalized not only on paper, more so in the hearts, souls, and minds of those who love me, family, friends, even strangers if I only take the time to be present for them, be it through a simple smile, hello, offering a glass of water, being a great listener, or receiving or giving a flower with gratitude.
LILY: You’re right! 10 to 30 is a huge gap for change. It leaves you so much room for growth. I've known you, for what - More than 20 years? I always remembered you for is your creativity and love for art. Can you tell me how it’s changed over time?
STEF: Sure! I have had a love for learning I should say, I was blessed with a father who put me through Catholic school, a mother who had gone to Catholic school back in Honduras and so she left my Dad no other option but to put us through the same school system she once knew. I would say that the teachers I got to meet, and the environment of peace and safety nurtured, uplifted, and encouraged me. Art was my favorite subject in school since I can remember. I felt I was praised for my drawings and paintings by my teachers, and the same goes for my writing - I won a couple of writing contests, one poetry, two essay, and I know I had done my best to incorporate details, always describing my life at home, my love for my parents, and what that looked like - I took after my parents and my creativity was channeled into gardening together me and mom would plant roses, Rue and Rosemary, with Dad I played the guitar, after he taught me to play. My creativity and love for art have evolved over time, as things are never stagnant, right, even though we may sometimes think so. I love art in every one of its facets: watercolor paintings that soothe my soul, ink or chalk drawings in black and white portraying symbols of my life, knitting rows of yarn on bamboo needles out in the garden, cooking up a new soup with cauliflower, mushroom, cabbage, and eggs, meditative music like Gregorian Chant or Native American healing sounds of flute flowing with poetic sounds of nature. Art is everywhere! Everything in life can benefit from creativity! I've learned to be creative while changing my daughter Angelique's diaper so she doesn't run off naked -
by kissing her tummy, blowing on it 'til she giggles and squirms. Dressing myself and my daughter every day, applying or not applying makeup, deciding how to accessorize or not. “Mother is the name of God on the lips and hearts of little children,” like the saying goes from the movie "The Crow." Perhaps then, Art is the name of Life!
LILY: Art is everywhere, and I think a lot of people fail to see that or better yet, forget to be present to see that. I'm really digging your answers...
LILY:...I think when it comes to you, what really blows my mind is that people don’t necessarily know much about you and that your life is so MUCH MORE than just a writer. You’re also a Mom to a three-year-old, recovering from a mental illness and also, a wife to your husband. Tell me how this has played a part in your creativity and do you ever feel like, it’s hard to stay inspired?

STEF: Thanks, Lily! Yes, I am the mother of my daughter Angelique Giovanna. She was my second pregnancy, back in 2013. My first in 2009 ended up as a miscarriage, broke my heart, yet I made peace with God, and now believe I have a son or daughter as well in heaven, whom I still remember, named Angel, and ask him/her to pray for me. My husband, I guess you could say that - but he is really my fiancee right now - we're not officially married, but have been living together for seven years - he has been an angel himself never fearing me when I've been unwell, instead he's cared for me, to the extent that he once bathed me, brushed my tangled curls out, put my socks on, told me clean jokes to put me to sleep. I am recovering from what they call mental illness. I have been on an antidepressant since 2005, when I was eighteen and had suffered my first "nervous breakdown" - a long story! The mental instability I'd like to call it did play a part in my creativity, I feel it made me more sensitive, alert, (I had been paranoid, heard voices, hallucinated, etc) and creative - my imagination never abandoned me - even when mentally unstable, I'd imagine songs at the psych ward when the solitude was too intense, I became megalomaniac so to speak, I had come to believe I was Jesus reincarnated, (I don't believe in reincarnation anymore) also felt I was the Virgin Mary (I wrote about all this in a memoir I have yet to finish titled From the Tomb to the Wind.) It is sometimes difficult for me to stay inspired but I blame procrastination, and self-doubts for this. There is so much creativity can do, it plays a part, but hard work, determination, and discipline must play their roles. I am guilty of being too creative, too right brained, imaginative, intuitive, daydreaming yet not sufficiently analytical, factual, mathematical. Inspiration is everywhere, but I need to be more present.
LILY: I know you mentioned that your imagination never abandoned you - even when you were mentally unstable and I think that's great. However, I know a lot of people that say they suffer from “writer's block,” do you feel like this happens...
LILY:... and if so, what are your methods to break through that?

STEF: I think it may be a mental block in itself if a writer says they are suffering from "writer's block!" What I feel happens to me personally, instead of a "writer's block" - I feel what really happens is that I let fear override my mind, I don't allow myself time, patience, and start dwelling too much on the big picture - the finished product - instead of taking it slow, not being hard on myself, deciding to be intentional about a project, pouring everything I have, heart and soul into it, my work - an extension of myself. I have a handful of books I've finished, yet have yet to send them out for editing, publishing. I have a handful of works-in-progress. So it is hard for me to decide on just one project to work on. But do I have a method to break through "the block"? What I do is light a candle in my room where I like to write either by hand, on the computer, or my typewriter, play some relaxing music depending on the mood and what I need to write, I like to use OmmWriter for distraction free writing as well. It's all more of a ritual than a process. I also like to invoke my Guardian Angel when I write, what some call the muse. I also ask God to help me write the truth as I know it, and themes and words that only uplift, and help heal the world, not the contrary.
LILY: What are three favorite books and have you read them more then three times?
STEF: Sing to Me of Dreams by Kathryn Lynn Davis, The Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne Dyer, and El Alquimista by Paulo Coelho. I have read them once each. But I will definitely reread them now that you asked this!
LILY: Do you have any advice for young writers pursuing a creative writing career?
STEF: Sure! I would say to these young writers: live your life, love the art of writing more than the art of publishing, you don't have to major in English, or get an M.F.A. in Creative Writing to be a writer although it wouldn't hurt to do just that! Declare yourself a writer, don't just dream about it! You can go to college, or you may drop out and instead start your own business or family. Everyone has their own path, purpose, and only God and your passion can give you direction. Listen to the music of your own soul, take writing classes, visit the library, learn to swim, sing, cook, and definitely fall in love with Love, life, yourself, and maybe another wonderful human being!
Published 2017-09-03.
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