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INTERVIEW WITH VIRGIL SAUREZ
BY MARIE PAULOS

Photo of Virgil Saurez

When and where were you born? I was born in 1962 in Havana, Cuba-- right after the Bay of Pigs invasion, but before the October Missile Crisis. Somewhere between the two, I picked up all of the restlessness and curiosity for history I have lived with all my life.
When did you begin your writing career? My writing career is connected to my reading career. My grandmother read to me very early in life, possibly by the age of five. She began reading to me from the classics. She also recited poetry to me, in particular the poetry of Jose Marti whose work every good Cuban has memorized. I think I started writing shortly after I turned 13 or 14. I was already living in the United States. Being an only child, I was extremely introverted, and I had begun to keep my journal, something I still do.
What has inspired you the most throughout your career? I think family has played a great role. But also my reading. I love to read. It’s the best advice I can give a young writer. Learn to write through the love of reading. I read everything, from newspapers and magazines to how-to books and technical manuals. I love to read!
Who has played a major impact in your life throughout your career? Most of my teachers. I think my 7th grade typing teacher, Mr. Wade, had an impact upon my imagination because he’d tell us these wonderful flying war stories. He flew Mustangs in WWII. I’ve been blessed to have had such wonderful teachers. A few good ones indeed.
What would you consider to be your best work and why? I like all my work, and I seldom reread my work. I’m still fond of The Cutter, my first novel, because I felt like I learned to write character and story with it. I love the poetry I write. My novels were probably testing ground for how far out I could take a story. My shorter stories and my poems show me how little I can focus on that still makes sense to me.
Marie: When do you do most of your writing? I write in the early mornings; then I continue throughout the day up until about 4 or 5pm. I put in full days over the summers when I am down in Miami and my daughters play in the pool. I sit there with my laptop all day. I seem to get a lot done then too.
Is there a special place that you enjoy going to that inspires you to write? Miami is my muse, as I like to say. I get a lot of my material by being down there, among my people. I thrive on the energy of that city. I think and hope it is going to be one of the mega cities of the 21st century. It’s got the potential anyway.
What classes do you teach or have you taught in the past? I teach creative writing workshops, both fiction and poetry. I also like to teach literature courses, in particular Latino/ a Literature.
What advice would you give to a young person who wanted to pursue a career in writing? Read and write. It’s that simple. Read everything you can get your hands on. Be open to reading. Be inspired by it. Then write. Enroll in workshops. Build a community around you of other people who are as passionate about reading and writing as you are.
Would you say that your writing has changed over the years? If so, how? My writing hasn’t changed. I am still writing about being in exile, about being an outsider, about being Cuban, and Cuban American. About having come from an amazing little island in the middle of the Caribbean. That’s what I’m still writing about.
What made you decide to want to become a writer? The fact that I love to get lost in a story. The fact that I love the imagination, the pure act of inventing and telling a good story. That’s all that’s ever mattered to me as a person and as a writer.