Later this week, University of Portland will have the pleasure of welcoming distinguished author, poet, and essayist, Luis Roberto Urrea to campus as a part of the Schoenfeldt Distinguished Speaker series.
Luis Roberto Urrea is a Mexican-American best-selling and critically acclaimed author of poetry, fiction, and essays. Born in Tijuana, Urrea now lives in Naperville, IL, with his family. Some of his notable achievements include being a Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction in 2005, a member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, and winning an American Academy of Arts and Letters Fiction award.
Urrea earned his undergraduate degree in writing from the University of California at San Diego, and did his graduate studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He has served as a relief worker in Tijuana and has been a film extra and columnist-editor-cartoonist for several publications. Urrea has taught at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette as well as expository writing and fiction workshops at Harvard. He is a distinguished professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
I had the pleasure of being able to ask Urrea a few questions prior to his visit to campus. His responses are below:
Q: What is your favorite piece you have ever written, published or unpublished?
A: A small book called Wandering Time, published by the University of Arizona. It was a gift for my wife when we were still getting to know each other. I wanted to share with her some things that made me happy.
Q: Do you have a special place that you go to when you write?
A: I write everywhere. But at home, I sit at a window looking out on the top of a big oak tree.
Q: What do you hope your legacy will be when future generations encounter your work?
A: I honestly don’t think about that.
Q: Where do you believe the most important aspect of your creative voice lies?
A:I am dedicated to the work of witness. Witness in terms of truth to power, witness in terms of broadening the dominant paradigm, witness as in representing while not appropriating. I am perpetually tearing down the wall.
Q: What is one piece of vital information you wish you would have known going into your professional career as a writer for those hoping to pursue a similar path?
A: Never ever ever give up. You know if this is the thing you have to do. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.
Q: If readers could be left with only one impression of your work, what would you want that take aways or message to be?
A: It’s all about grace. Every day small miracles show themselves and we miss them. I hope I’ve been able to capture some of these small miracles.
Q: Outside of writing, what are some of your hobbies?
A: We take a lot of cross-country car trips. And I like to travel to other countries every chance we get. I read a lot. I listen to lots of music and I binge-watch trash TV.
Urrea will be visiting UP as a part of the Schoenfeldt Distinguished Speaker series on Nov. 7.