In our monthly series on D.C.'s literary scene, Metro Connection’s Jonathan Wilson talks with writer H.G. Carrillo, author of the 2004 debut novel Loosing My Espanish. The Cuban-born author looks back on that book, and talks about his next work, tentatively titled Twilight of the Small Havanas. He also explains why he loves writing inside the National Gallery of Art; how teaching at George Washington University helps his creative process; and how a man who's lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and New York City finds Washington, D.C. just about right. Following are highlights of their conversation.
Carrillo on teaching students how to write: “Well, it’s one of those things — you want to have a conversation or discussion with people. Before I taught, I worked for television, and I wanted to have conversations with adults about books and about writing, and I thought the easiest way would be to go back to school and to train so that I could talk to adults about books… Books and writing and art are a conversation. So if you can begin to tell people about how those conversations happen, about how that kind of discourse works then it’s a particular kind of training that actually helps. I don’t know that it’s specific to writing, but it’s specific to talking about writing as an art form.”
Carrillo on living in D.C. and finding inspiration in the District: “I like it here. I really do. There’s something so cosmopolitan, yet provincial about D.C. that is ultimately lovely. I lived in Chicago for a very long time, I worked for television, so I spent a lot of time in Manhattan, so it’s nice to have just enough, but also to have anonymity. You know I lived in Ithaca, NY, for many years and I had no anonymity. I was told by my mentor that this is not one of those places you leave your house weeping – you know, the neighborhood knows about it. Here, there’s just enough anonymity, but there’s also enough familiarity that you feel comfortable.”
Carrillo on his second novel and how it compares to and differs from his first: It basically looks at the idea of Cubans in America, but the idea and the notion of terrorism, and this new idea of how we respond to terrorism. The idea that within a certain portion or faction of the Cuban community, and a certain faction of government, that if Castro were to die a natural death, that we’ve lost or failed in a certain way – and that this if kind of changing. It sights itself on 9/11, but also on a plane that was downed. It was suspected that Castro was on the plane. Seven people organized to have the plane blown up, 76 people were killed in this plane disaster, and three of the people were given sanction in the United States. Two of them are still alive here, and I interviewed some of them for the novel and to have this idea that U.S. sanctioned terrorism seems to be perfectly fine.”
[Music: "Frost Bit" by Mello Music Group from Odd Seasons / "Diferentes y Especiales" by Los Van Van from Exitos Van Van]
Listen to author H.G. Carrillo read the beginning of his novel "Loosing My Spanish."
Author H.G. Carrillo gives three book recommendations.