Monday, August 04, 2014

Author Interview: Nancy Bevilaqua: Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS Wildfire Days

She attended Reed College and New York University’s M.A. program in English/Creative Writing (Poetry).  After that, she worked for ten years in New York City and New Jersey as a caseworker and counselor for people with AIDS, the homeless, and people with substance abuse issues.  From 2001 until about 2009 she was a freelance travel writer.

Her first book, Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, is based on some of those experiences.  In 2013, she also published a book entitled A Rough Deliverance: Collected Poems 1983-2013.  She recently completed a series of poems entitled Gospel, which will be published as a chapbook within the year.

She is none other than Nancy! Welcome, Nancy!!

Your real name and pen name?

I just use my real name—Nancy Bevilaqua

Please share some of the best memories of your childhood

A poem I finished recently might be a good answer:

At Play

Scene brings together
all that we have found.

Webs gone full star, sparkling strands
in the crabapple tree with the sun behind
just before suppertime as I played
alone:  I was seven, earth
to the sky, floating skin
of butterfly, each moment mine.

I knew my horses then, my horses
air and breath.  They ate stillness
on the lawns, swallowed seas and came
with love to me and I was lifted along.

I made demands on clouds and them
I swear obeyed so that the rains came
when I called them.  The tree
ignited; I was alone and it was all
I’d ever need to know before the shore
of time erupted and I was banished
from the house of leaves.

I was kind of a dreamy child, as you might gather from the poem!

About your education

I have a B.A. in English Literature from Reed College, and I was also enrolled in, but didn’t quite finished, the M.A. program in English/Creative Writing (Poetry) at New York University.

What career did you plan during your education days?

I think I always meant to be a writer of some kind.

What languages you can speak and write?

English, and a little French, Spanish, and Arabic.

What is your biggest source of inspiration in life?

There are many things, moment to moment.  My son inspires me to be a better person.  My belief in a loving, divine force inspires me to do the same, but not in the traditional religious “sin/not sin” way (and I don’t identify with any one religion).  And I’ve always been inspired by landscapes, the way the light looks at times, plants, animals of all kinds, the night sky.

What hurts you most in this world
I cannot stand to see or think about anyone or anything (human beings, animals, insects, worms—anything) suffering—particularly a creature who is defenseless, at the hands of someone who isn’t.  And the idea that someone would intentionally cause suffering, and in some cases even enjoy causing it, is extremely disturbing to me.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced? How did you overcome it?

My life has been relatively easy.  There are many other people who deal with much greater challenges than I could even imagine on a daily basis.  I can’t think of any challenges in my own life that would seem like anything more than tiny blips on the radar in comparison.

If you had to live a day of your life as one of the living or dead personality, who would it be and why?

I think I’d want to be someone like Jeff Buckley, or Janis Joplin.  I love to sing, but I’m not particularly good, especially now that I’m 52!  I would love to be able to just open my mouth and have that beautiful music come out, and to be able to express so much with just my voice, as they did. 

What is your favorite genre and why?

It really depends on my mood and what I’m thinking about at the time (and, of course, the quality of the work!).

When did you start writing? What is the purpose of your writing?

I started writing when I was a young child.  In many ways, when I write I find that I’m trying to somehow capture as something tangible, and to perhaps even relive on some level, events and times for which I have a great deal of nostalgia and/or passion.  And I like to try to convey some of those feelings to those who might be able to relate to them in some way.

Which of your work has been published so far? Would you like to share a synopsis of your work?

(Please see my bio, above for an answer to this.)

What are your forthcoming writings?

I hope to publish a poetry chapbook entitled Gospel within the next year.

What are your future plans?

We’ll see what happens.  Things tend to take care of themselves these days.  I’m optimistic.

What four top most things you take care of while writing a book?

(I don’t know how to answer this one.)

How much real life goes into a fiction writing?

I don’t generally write fiction, so I can’t really answer that.

Is high level of imagination important to have for an Author?

I think it’s important for anyone.

Your dream destination on Earth?

There are many.  I loved Greece, Turkey, Tunisia, and the New Mexico desert the most among all the places I’ve visited so far.  Oh—and the East Village and Lower East Side in New York City!

Your origin of birth and other countries you have visited/ stayed. What best things you liked in these countries around the globe?

I was born in New York City.  I was a travel writer for a number of years, so I really got to see a lot of places.  They were all so different that I couldn’t give you one answer as to what I liked best about them.  Some of my travel narratives can be found here if anyone is interested:

Your favorite time of the day?


Your zodiac/ sun sign?

Virgo, although I don’t fit the profile in the least.  I’m incredibly disorganized, for one thing.

Your favorite color and why?

I like them all, with the possible exception of beige (and I guess even beige has its place).

Your favorite book and why?

There have been so many that it would be really difficult to choose one.  I do love Jack Kerouac’s novels.

Your favorite celebrity and why?

I don’t really think much about celebrities.  I do think about people who are known because they’re truly talented.

Your favorite food?

Japanese, Thai, Indian, or Greek/Middle Eastern.  I’m also addicted to ice cream, now that I’ve given up alcohol and cigarettes.

Some quickies:
Sun or Moon (moon),
Laughter or Smile (laughter),
Morning or Evening (evening),
Coffee or Tea (coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon),
Mountain or Sea (sea—or desert),
Long Drive or Short Drive (long drive alone, with the radio on),
Silence or Conversation (silence),
Water or Fire (water),
Air or Earth (air),
Mars or Jupiter (Mars, because of its color),
Tulip or Rose (rose), Red or Blue (depends),
Left or Right (whichever way I need to go unless you’re referring to politics, in which case very much left),
Glance or Stare (depends on the attitude behind it)

The last line of your autobiography would be…

I know now that I’ve been incredibly blessed throughout my life.  I’m just not sure why.

Twitter handle: N/A

Goodreads author page:

Amazon link:
badge buzzoole code