Alejandra Reuhel author of Stars Like Fish and Where Everything Lost Is Found
I interacted with Alejandra Reuhel Menegol October 2013. She was born in Tokyo in 1984. She grew up in Junco, Puerto Rico. As a child, she believed to be the queen of her own little piece of rainforest. That has always been the place she refers to as home. Her second home is the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras. Here she studied Comparative Literature (BA) and English Literature (MA). She loved this home so much that she continued living here. She now teaches here English Courses in the General Studies Faculty. She is also an editor for and the owner of subVERSE Publishing.
Your real name and pen name?
My real name is actually my pen name...! Alejandra Reuhel are my first and second names. My last name is Menegol.
Please share some of the best memories of your childhood
I grew up on a farm of sorts in rural Puerto Rico... I was very close to both of my grandparents as a child, so when I think back on happy memories, they're usually of my grandfather, who used to encourage my creativity in unconventional ways. Sometimes we would stay up until past my bedtime just talking, outdoors.
Whenever I look at bamboo from a distance I see animals, mythical creatures or people, and always think of my grandfather. One night, by starlight, I started making up this story about bamboo creatures in the dark, and my grandpa engaged with what, in retrospect, was surprising ease for an adult. He also told me about how when he was a child he used to imagine nuns, dinosaurs, sea serpents... I included them all in my made up story.
We also used to have this silly song he must have learned when he was a child, it was a rhyming game in Spanish. You had to sing and rhyme, and the game would end when no one could come up with any more verses.
I had a hard time when I was in school... I lived in a small town (where I lived until not long ago), and kids were especially cruel to me because my feelings were easily hurt. As a small child, I only interacted with other children for long periods of time at school, and I really really wanted them to like me. Because they knew this, they used it against me and did some things that now, as an adult, I can't believe let them bother me.
The point is, the school was torture, and I would often pretend I was sick and throw these terrible tantrums where I would make myself vomit. My grandfather was always the one to say "Who cares? Let her stay if she wants to." he would take me grocery shopping along with my grandmother, who always bought fresh ingredients for whatever she would cook that day.
One day, in first grade, a girl grabbed me by the neck and left awful scratches because I had "taken her seat."
I was angry, afraid and sad. My grandfather ridiculed this girl by making a hilarious poem about her being some kind of cat, and that helped me laugh in her face the next day.
She was not the only girl he writes poems for me about - some poems had foul words in them, adding to the humor.
Sometimes he would draw cartoonish, hideous portraits of them (he had never seen them, I would describe them and he would exaggerate).
I never thought about this until now, but he taught me very early in life that poetry and art was a good way of getting over difficult times.
My grandfather died when I was 7 years old, but in my head, I still talk to him sometimes. "Grandpa, I'm writing."
I've wished we could still play rhyming games until late at night.
I loved both my grandparents, and I could write about my grandmother as well, but this response would become too long!
And my mother deserves her own book. She's worked so hard her entire life, mostly out of selflessness - for me and, when they were alive, for my grandparents (her parents). She's so smart and just amazing.
I had a great childhood.
About your education
I have a Bachelor's in Comparative Literature and a Master's in English, both from the University of Puerto Rico.
What career did you plan during your education days
To be honest, I had no IDEA. I was hoping it would end up in something having to do with books or education.
What is your biggest source of inspiration in life
People with genuinely good hearts, even those I've never met.
What hurts you most in this world
Cruelty and injustice. It's everywhere, and sometimes it's hard to be hopeful if you think too much on it... so it's best to focus on the small differences we are able to make daily.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced? Were you able to overcome it? How?
Nothing really comes to mind... not worth mentioning, anyway. I've had some challenges, but when I think of people who have had (or still have) a life so much more difficult than my own, they seem insignificant.
But I have learned that I am stubborn and sometimes my own worst enemy. I try to overcome this by thinking a lot and listening to other points of view.
If you had to live a day of your life as one of the living or dead personality, who would it be and why?
This question is a chance to imagine going back in time and changing the course of history... being someone at the moment they made a TERRIBLE decision that is affecting us all in negative ways... but I'll be selfish. I'd like to be a multi-multimillionaire for a day. Whomever. I'd sleep in until I've felt I've had enough sleep... then I'd start writing checks. Money for all the causes I believe in.
What is your favorite genre and why?
I don't read enough of it, but it's probably science fiction. Science fiction authors make powerful critiques of humankind through what we think of as fantasy... whether through imaginary effects of imaginary causes (that are usually analogies of causes and effects of our own world or society), or imaginary futures that are often predictions.
It can be wildly imaginative while being precise when it comes to observations of human behavior (as individuals or societies). It can fill us with despair, or with hope.
What is the purpose of your writing?
Sharing. I write because I can't just NOT write...
I remember when I first started sharing my writing, some people's reactions were (and one person actually said this to me) "you've written something I've always felt but didn't know how to say."
I've gotten that feeling from reading, and it's a reward to help others feel less alone in their thoughts.
Which of your work published so far?
I've had some articles published online in different blogs (academic and not).
I've also had lots of short stories and poems published in local magazines (again, academic and not) since I started college.
My first publication was in a poetry anthology from people all over the world that I submitted my work to online.
I might be forgetting to mention something... I don't really keep track.
However, my two books are Stars Like Fish (2012) and Where Everything Lost is Found (2013).
What are your forthcoming writings?
I just put Where Everything Lost is found out, new projects will be out soon! Just look me up, because not even I know yet!
What are your future plans?
Hehe, same answer as above. I need to breathe a little right now.
But I do have some ideas to be revealed in time.
What four top most things you take care of while writing a book?
Since I've only written anthologies so far:
1. Elimination! Some texts just don't HAVE to be there.
2. Coherence. Even if a piece seems not to "fit in," I try for them all to be part of a same thematic frame.
3. Design. I get creative with this, and I want my book to look exactly as I imagined it.
4. Keep writing while putting old stuff together - because even if I'm not planning it, that might be the next book a few years from now...
Your dream destination on Earth?
Does it have to be Earth?
I should probably do some research, but I guess somewhere that has lots of wild forest areas, access to the ocean, and affordable health care.
Your favorite time of the day?
Evening to dawn. Maybe a few hours during the morning before the sun starts to burn...
Easier: I hate hot afternoons.
Your zodiac/ sun sign?
Your favorite color and why?
I love blues and greens. They remind me of home.
Your favorite book and why?
My mother must have bugged me to read them since I was a child, but I finally got around to starting the Dune chronicles by Frank Herbert maybe 2 or 3 years ago... and I'm still on book 4, God Emperor of Dune.
It's everything I could love in a book, and probably everything everyone loves in a book because it literally has everything. History, philosophy, poetry, ecology, religion, politics, science, psychology, economy... intrigue, romance, adventure, danger, wisdom, entire made up PLANETS with different societies...
Your favorite food?
This question is complicated. I like food in general.
Some quickies: Sun or Moon, Laughter or Smile, Morning or Evening, Coffee or Tea, Mountain or Sea, Long Drive or Short Drive, Silence or Conversation
Moon, Laughter, Morning (if I don't have to work), Coffee when I'm not drinking tea, and vice versa. Long Drive, BOTH.