Interview with Bethany Fajardo Howard


What is a current project you are working on?

I am currently working on completing a collection of poetry inspired by my
heritage as a woman of Hispanic Caribbean island heritage. Throughout my life,
I have felt as if I did not fit into any category since I was half Puerto Rican yet
did not fit the stereotypical Hispanic look or background at all. This poetry
collection has helped me explore my experiences, feelings, and heritage as a
Puerto Rican woman as well as delve into my love for the islands.

What is the one piece of writing advice, good or even bad, that you have received that has impacted you the most?

One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received about writing is to write
often, several times a week at least, even if the writing I produce is not stellar.
We grow as writers through practice, and we need to realize that it is okay for
some of our writing to be good and some of it bad. The only way we will improve
is through writing often and uninhibited. Then, we can go back and analyze our
writing and discover which pieces are of good quality and which are not, and
begin the editing process. But our writing inspiration will often get clogged
unless we get into the habit of writing often even if our writing is not good.

What are some of the greatest influences upon your writing, whether other
writers or outside influences?

One of my favorite poets that has influenced my writing is Henry Wadsworth
Longfellow. His poetry is simple, so that all can understand it and enjoy it. Yet,
the stories he tells and the emotions he portrays are timeless. In the same way, I
have sought to write poetry that all can experience and enjoy in their own ways,
yet that expresses sentiments and ideas that are important for all times and
places. Another poet who I attempt to emulate is Pablo Neruda. His collection
On the Blue Shore of Silence is my favorite poetry collection to date. I try to
emulate his sensitive and rich portrayal of nature, while expressing valuable life
lessons or poignant problems that Hispanics face.

Can you recommend one book that you think everyone should read and tell us

I have many favorite books, so I would find it hard to name one that everyone
should read. However, I think everyone should take time to read and learn more
about people who are different from them. We often gravitate to books that are
familiar or relatable. But what if we took a moment to discover and explore
what the lives of people who we think are different from us are like? We would
learn that in the end we are not that different, but are all one family of

Do you have a favorite place to write, or are there any habits, inspirations, or
rituals that help you?

I prefer to write in a place where I can be alone and fully immerse myself in the
experience of writing. Oftentimes, I find my inspiration from what I see in
nature or driving down the road, so I try to be alert and notice the subliminal or
underlying messages that every day experiences and places can suggest.

You mentioned these poems are an exploration of your heritage as an islander of
Spanish origins. What inspired you to write about your Puerto Rican heritage?
Was there anything that lead you to explore that part of yourself?

I first began writing about my Puerto Rican heritage when I took a poetry class
in college. I noticed that inadvertently I was drawn to themes about the islands
or sea, and I wondered, at first, where those inspirations were coming from. I
realized that I had not really taken the time personally to explore what it meant
for me to be a young woman of Puerto Rican heritage, or to explore the
connection I felt to the sea. I fit in fairly well as a regular white American, but
my family was Puerto Rican, and my heart still felt that tug of the islands. I also
discovered that many other young women who were of mixed backgrounds felt
the same conflict between their white and Hispanic sides, as if they did not fit in
anywhere. As a result, I decided to discover through poetry more about my
Puerto Rican heritage and all its complexities and ramifications.