Patricia Engel was born to Colombian parents,raised in NJ and earned her undergraduate degree in French and art history at NYU and her MFA in creative writing at Florida International University. Her fiction has appeared in The Atlantic, Boston Review, Guernica, Harpur Palate, Nimrod, Slice Magazine, Quarterly West, Sycamore Review, Fourteen Hills, and has received awards including the Boston Review Fiction Prize, a Florida Artist Fellowship in Literature, a Florida Artist Enhancement Grant, scholarships and residencies from Bread Loaf Writer's Conference, Key West Literary Seminar, Hedgebrook, and the Norman Mailer Writer's Colony.
I come from a very creative family where daydreaming was encouraged and artistic expression was part of our daily life. This definitely shaped the way I think of art--that it's valuable, transformative, and can reveal our deepest truths. My parents raised me to view all of life as a work of art and they continue to be my greatest inspirations. My work is also heavily influenced by film and music and I've found creative heroes in Freddie Mercury, Keith Haring, Luc Besson, and Anton Corbijn.
Tell us about Vida.
VIDA follows a Colombian-American girl from the age of fourteen to about thirty as she tries to reconcile her bicultural identity through her relationships with her family, friends, lovers, and society, forming her personal philosophies, deciding what she will accept and reject as her cultural inheritance, and understanding her own legacy as a child of exile.
Challenges of what you do?
It's a daily struggle to sustain the solitude required to go inward and create when life often has another agenda, along with saying no to social invitations in order to stay home and write, and the thousands of written pages that get thrown away just to arrive at a few good ones. Writing is my greatest pleasure but it's also an act of faith and patience.
- I am a devoted fan of Albert Camus, Marguerite Duras, and Romain Gary. I also have a habit of reading the same books over and over. On top of the repeat list are:
- Innocent Eréndira by García Márquez,
- James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, Grimpert's Secret,
- Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud,
- Rules of the Wild by Francesca Marciano,
- and Martin Eden by Jack London.
How did growing up in NY affect the person you are today and your work?
I grew up in New Jersey, moved to the city at 18 to attend NYU, then moved to Paris, and returned to NY for a decade before leaving again for Miami, where I live now. My closest friends are still in New York and I consider it home, but I also think you need to leave home in order to understand who you are, what you really from desire life, and what you are capable of.
Favorite spots in NY/ and Miami?
When I'm in New York my friends and I can usually be found at :
- La Esquina, Piadina,
- Resto Leon, Via Quadrono or Libertador.
In Miami, my favorites are :
- Ceviche 105 for the best ceviche and chaufa outside of Peru,
- the Coconut Grove Farmer's Market
- San Pocho for great Colombian food, Garcia's for seafood,
- The Standard, and the roof at The Webster.
- My favorite spot of all, though, is the beach.
What do you have planned next?
I'm working on a novel that's set in Paris.
I'm disciplined about keeping my internet time to a minimum, but when I am online I always check out NinuNina, BBC News, and I like digging up old Depeche Mode videos on YouTube.
Anything else you'd like to share?
I'll be doing events in New York and Miami this fall. Check my website for dates!