Write Here, Write Now: Heat Stress by Claire Ibarra

In Season 2 of Write Here, Write Now: A Vocal Podcast, host Erica Wagner interviews winners of the Vocal+ Fiction Awards

By Write Here, Write Now: A Vocal PodcastPublished 2 months ago 3 min read

Mirages. They can come from wistful thinking, from nostalgia, from the burning sun. In “Heat Stress,” Claire Ibarra immerses us in the mind of a mother running away from her past into the Moab desert. But what is she running toward?

What was the impetus for your winning story? Walk us through your initial act of creation.

As a writer, I am always drawn to settings first. Most writers would probably say their characters come first, but the setting is usually my impetus and initial doorway into an idea for a story. I am always drawn to places for establishing a certain mood and tone. “Heat Stress” is set in the desert of Moab, Utah and Arches National Park. I visit the area often, and it is dramatic, with extreme conditions, features, and geology. There is a vast beauty, yet harshness, to the place. It lends itself to tension. From there, I tried to imagine obstacles one might encounter. A mother, going through a divorce and feeling responsible for her children, also lends itself to plenty of tension. Kiran is a mother, but also a woman with her own desires, needs, and struggles. The dramatic backdrop of Arches offers some metaphor and foreshadowing. Even the names at Arches, like *Devil’s Garden* and *Fiery Furnace,* set the tone for this story.

What does it take for a story to grab you? How do you grab your audience?

The mood, tone, and voice of the writer will grab me right away. I can usually tell by the first sentences. So, that’s what I try to do with my own stories. Voice is something you can’t learn, per se, but it does develop and emerge by practicing the craft. I try to establish the tone and mood from the outset. As I mentioned, setting is a great way to do that.

Who are your favorite writers and why? Do you have any favorite Vocal Creators?

I have always been drawn to magical realism. Early on in my writing, I was mostly inspired by Latin magical realists, like Gárcia Márquez, Isabel Allende, and Luis Urrea. One of my favorite writers is Louise Edrich. I love her voice and style, and her themes can be fairly dark. I also enjoy authors who incorporate the natural world into their writing, like Terry Tempest Williams and Annie Dillard. I am currently getting familiar with Vocal writers. There are so many talentedwriters to read here!

How has sharing your writing in life and on Vocal affected you as a Creator?

I love the creative, innovative, and dynamic platform of Vocal. I’ve been publishing with literary magazine for a long time, and I can’t think of another venue that supports writers like Vocal. The prompts and challenges are diverse, and a lot of fun! I feel like there’s something here for everyone. Vocal has sparked some ideas for me and pushed me to write, even at times when I’ve felt depleted. In life, writing is my greatest means of artistic expression. But I have expanded into poetry and the visual arts, as well. I love creating and finding ways to share and express what it is to be human. I never tire of exploring the human condition, and the many facets of what it means to be alive on this planet and in relationship with one another. There are never ending layers of complexity to our relationships, which is usually at the heart of fiction.

What advice do you have for other Creators?

I really enjoy the essay “Shitty First Drafts” by Anne Lamott. It’s from her book *Bird by Bird,* and I use it in my creative writing classes. **It’s a humorous look at the writing process and the importance of revision. Good writing is simply a lot of hard work, and every writer, no matter how experienced, has anxiety when facing the blank page. Also, I learned the importance of observation. Fiction writing is really a study of humans. It’s about psychology and understanding human nature. You learn this through keen observation of people, their interactions, mannerisms, habits, and speech.

In addition, you have to be persistent and immensely patient. It helps to have several projects going at once, so that when you submit a short story, for example, you have other work to focus on. You may be waiting several months for an acceptance or rejection, so write more stories, poetry, or creative essays in the meantime. Join a writer’s group, take workshops and classes, go to readings, and become part of a literary community. Vocal certainly cultivates a sense of community!

Stay tuned for new episodes of Write Here, Write Now Season 2 launching weekly.


About the Creator

Write Here, Write Now: A Vocal Podcast

Sex, death, relationships, nature, families... If you like to stop, think and consider things a little differently, join host Erica Wagner as she introduces a new Vocal creator’s story each week.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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Comments (3)

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  • Hammad Murtaza about a month ago

    How can i start?

  • Em Starr2 months ago

    Great interview! Excellent advice and insight from Claire. Off to read Heat Stress now.

  • OK but My English is poor too

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