This Writer’s On Fire: Wendy C. Ortiz -The Toast

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“With her bold books, Ortiz defies society to ignore her, to resist her. But we’re becoming more and more aware of her. Her dark blossoming is changing us.” — “THE SUNDAY RUMPUS BOOK REVIEW: THE AMAZING HEFT OF WENDY ORTIZ’S HOLLYWOOD NOTEBOOK” by Lesley Heiser, The Rumpus.

“Ambiguities intrigue me and inspire me so I wanted to practice staying in the so-called gray area for as long as possible, knowing that sustaining that would be a challenge and good practice not just for art but for life.” — “INTERVIEW: Wendy C. Ortiz, author of Excavation and Hollywood Notebook” with Jesse Bradley in Electric Lit.


Who she is

Wendy holds an M.A. in Clinical Psychology and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. Wendy is an adjunct faculty in creative writing and has also facilitated creative writing workshops with Los Angeles youth in juvenile detention facilities. While living in Olympia, Washington, she was a mudwrestler, library worker, and editor and publisher of 4th Street, a handbound literary journal. She parents and works as a registered marriage and family therapist intern in Los Angeles.


Why you should read her

Wendy Ortiz writes the real stories we all know and live one way or another, that never seem to be made into books, articles, and movies. When these stories are told, it’s typically by people who did not live them, who are using these stories and the people (usually women and girls) who did live them to make a statement, to push an agenda. Ortiz gives our stories back to us in full, beautifully detailed context.

Ortiz is a therapist, and there’s something therapeutic in her work. Catharsis has come to mean something melodramatic, an explosion of emotion to signal that the story is almost over, but Ortiz reminds us that catharsis can be something else. These people are present, and they move you without the all-caps and exclamation points. Ortiz is redefining catharsis to something that is shared instead of an event that is acted out for us, at us. Catharsis not as an intense release/expression of emotion, but more like its original definition as a purging of or purification, a connection, a sharing that eases. Ortiz’s work is cathartic for the reader. By telling these stories, recounting her own experience with these familiar traumas, we can release that poison — or at the very least, can tell ourselves we are not alone in them.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent studies that suggest addiction is not a moral failing or even a biological problem, but a response to an abusive, isolating social world. There is a lot of addiction in Ortiz’s work, but it is neither glorified or vilified. Ortiz shows addiction for what it is, what science is just now catching up to: addiction (to drugs, alcohol, narcotics) is a way to numb ourselves to the pain of simply living in this world. Ortiz’s work shows us a different way of dealing with that pain: a sharing that pulls the poison out, a connection through and around trauma that leads to someplace beyond it. She writes so that we can see ourselves, our stories in the world, part of it the world as it is made and remade daily — this thing we call society or community that excludes and silences so many of us. She writes her story so that we know we are not alone.


Read her work

Hollywood Notebook (pre-order).

Excavation: A Memoir (link to buy directly from Wendy Ortiz) or get it at Amazon. Excerpt at The Nervous Breakdown.


Prose (select)

Newly Wed and Quickly Unraveling” from the Modern Love series at The New York Times.

What Is Sacred” an incredible essay on abortion in Midnight Breakfast.

Mud Myths” in Watershed Review.

Girlfriend” in Vol. 1 Brooklyn.

As Mark Ruffalo Is My Witness…” in The Nervous Breakdown.

On the Trail of Mary Jane,” a monthly column in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency about medical marijuana dispensaries in Southern California.

“I‘m on Fire” at Jaded Ibis Productions’ BLEED blog.

Pretty” in The Nervous Breakdown

Mix Tape” in The Nervous Breakdown

Interiors” in PANK Magazine.


Poetry (select)

After Bzzzzzzz by Amy Gerstler” in Luna Luna.

Rogue Benediction” in The Rumpus.

Death Lament” in The Rumpus.

Some Scars” in Blood Orange Review.

“she creates a new life again”, “The women in my family”, “Operation”, “Sweet” in

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