Where Ingrid Rojas Contreras Writes
The three Polaroids that hang by my desk are from different parts of the story, but it helps to have them nearby.
I have always been a creature of comfort. With the pandemic, I focused on what I could do to make my writing space as inviting as possible.
I didn’t always have a writing office. When I wrote my first novel, I was working at a desk right next to the kitchen, and to get privacy, I would hide myself and my laptop under a thin blanket and write in that way “unseen.” Now, I have a door I can close, and a view that both me and my cats enjoy while I am writing.
My daily amusements have to do with my rock and crystal collection, which I showcase (only to myself, since no one has ever come over) under my desk light. Right now, I have displayed a chunk of lava rock and a piece of selenite. I tell myself that I like them by my computer screen as I’m working because it takes my mind off how long books take to make. The lava rock is thousands of years old. I don’t know how long the selenite, six inches tall, took to grow. Ten years? Fifteen days? Sixteen months? It’s a question I like to entertain as I handle it, and once I’ve relearned all its little marks, I know it’s time to get back to work.
I have a debut memoir coming out next year. It’s about my grandfather, a curandero who people said could move clouds, and my mother, who people said could appear in two places at once. The story opens in 2012, when three aunts dreamt—independently of each other—of my grandfather, dead for twenty-seven years, who said he wanted his remains disinterred. Being Colombian, we made arrangements to carry out the supernatural task.
Knowing this story would constantly cross over into the magical, I decided to bring a Polaroid camera with me on that trip (and consecutive trips). The three that are hanging by my desk are from different parts of the story, but it helps to have them nearby. One shows the disinterred remains, the other is my mother, and the third is a small bronze sculpture of hands holding nothing—one of a few surviving things that belonged to my grandfather. I think so much about how what we inherit can sometimes look like that: open hands, holding nothing.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras is the author of Fruit of the Drunken Tree (Doubleday, 2018) a silver medal winner in First Fiction from the California Book Awards, and a New York Times editor's choice. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, The Cut, The Believer, and elsewhere. A new work of nonfiction, a family memoir about her grandfather, a curandero from Colombia who it was said had the power to move clouds, is coming from Doubleday in 2022.
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