Read all about our Story of the Month writer, Jessica de Balzo:
I am a small blonde Sagittarius from New Jersey. Currently I am a student at Emerson College in Boston, where I study writing.
My work has appeared in several online publications, including Thieves Jargon, La Boheme, and Riverwalk Journal as well as in several print publications, such as Vox and, most recently, Insights, a collection of short stories edited by Santosh Kumar.
I have also been featured in two anthologies of works by high school-aged contest winners, the more recent being a chapbook printed by Rutgers University, as part of the prize for their 2004 high school poetry contest. In September of 2004 I appeared as a student reader at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in New Jersey.
In Boston I regularly participate in open mic nights at the Cantab Lounge and have appeared on local television and radio programs. Since going to school in Boston I have realized why people put up with the hard New England winters: The spring is so beautiful it almost completely makes up for everything.
Congratulations, Jessica. We loved your story. Thanks for taking time to chat with us. Would you tell us a little about yourself?
I'm originally from New Jersey, and I'm finishing up my first year at Emerson College in Boston, MA, where I'm going for a degree in writing. I'm not exactly sure what that means I'm looking to do career-wise, but I figure as time goes on I'll have a better idea of what I really want to do. I don't think I could handle just being "a writer," because I can’t get my head around the idea of calling myself a Writer. Not a "capital W" kind of thing to me, I guess. I tend to work best when I've got something else going on. Part of me wants to be a creative writing professor. But we shall see. For now I'm just going to school, not so much to learn how to write, but more to figure out what to do with it, how not to get brainwashed. And anyway, I'm only nineteen, and lucky enough to be able to go to a great school in a great city full of interesting people.
Q. What would you like our readers to know about you?
I'm very interested in tarot, astrology, and dream interpretation. Insane coincidences are pretty much commonplace for me, so I get a lot of ideas from all the bizarre stuff that happens to me. And my mother is a hypnotherapist, which can bring up interesting conversation topics.
Q. How long have you been writing? What made you put that first story down on paper?
I think since first grade, when we would make books out of construction paper and have the teacher tape record us reading them. I think I made, like, 30, or something outlandish like that. It was totally addictive.
Q. Do you write in a particular genre?
I like to try out a lot of different things. Mostly, I write fiction, but I also like poetry, especially prose poetry. I'm very interested in screenwriting as well.
Q. Who’s your favorite author and why?
I really don't have a Favorite Author. There are so many different kinds of things that appeal to me. But if I had to pick a few, I'd say JD Salinger, Russel Edson, John Irving, Paulo Cohelo, and David Sedaris. I also just read Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," which just got me. And even though it's not exactly a, um, cohesive piece, Bob Dylan's book "Tarantula" just blew my mind. Lots of great one-liners that make for great writing prompts.
Q. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
Trust yourself. Write and then edit. Write what feels authentic, even if it's not.
Q. How do you develop your plots and characters?
Usually it starts with a line or an image and I just start writing and see here it takes me. I'm not big on making huge outlines, but I do make little notes. I also like to make a soundtrack for stories, like a mix CD. I get a lot of inspiration from music, whether it's melodies or lyrics or both. Sometimes a misheard lyric can turn into something. Or just observing and talking to people gives me ideas. Usually I'll start out with one thing in mind but then just find myself led in a
completely different direction. I love that.
Q. What is most frustrating about writing?
Sometimes hitting a wall with a piece or just not being able to get to "that place."
Q. What is the most rewarding?
When I feel like I can connect with a reader.
Q. What do you do to unwind and relax?
I listen to music (lately a lot of Beatles and Bob Dylan, and Elvis Costello, though I must confess I have an unexplained amusement with Donovan), yoga, go outside, spend time with friends listening to music or playing music, making collages, tarot.
Q. Is your family supportive?