Creator Spotlight with Author Ivelisse Rodriguez

Headshot of Ivelisse Rodriguez

This week we would like to introduce you to Author Ivelisse Rodriguez.

What was the inspiration behind becoming a creator? What do you enjoy most about the creative process?

In elementary school, the whole school had to write “stories.” The principal came to my classroom and said I had written the best story. And she rewarded me with a chocolate bar. I love chocolate, and that was it. I decided to be a writer.

What I enjoy most about writing is the end result. I witness how I took a terrible draft and made it into something I can feel proud of. It’s a long process, but it is amazing how you can pluck ideas and characters from your mind and bring them to life on the page.

Can you talk through your creative process? How long does it take? Does everything you produce make money?

While writing my short story collection, I wrote terrible, terrible, drafts. I started with a kernel of an idea, so I wrote drafts to find the story, voice, and lovely lines. Then I would outline my stories in the middle of the process. Next, I would get each scene in place. Lastly, I did line edits where I considered every word in my stories. This took a very long time because I had to frequently stop to think about where the story should go next.  

I’m working on a novel now, and I outlined it first. I think this process will be faster because I have a sense of direction versus making it up as I go along.

Not everything I do produces money, but I don’t think that is the only marker of whether a project is successful or worthwhile. For example, many literary journals don’t pay, but being published in literary journals helps writers in the job market, in catching the eye of an agent, or building a fan base.

I am a believer in taking different opportunities, even if they don’t pay, because you don’t know where the opportunity can lead. For example, I recently wrote for free a 10-min novela for a college friend for a web show he was putting together. This led to being hired as a writer for a show at Lincoln Center because the director of the novela was also producing a show at Lincoln Center.

So, I don’t think about everything in monetary terms. There are other things to consider: connections, visibility, press, interesting opportunities, etc.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about your line of work?  

From TV, you get the sense that being a writer is glamourous and will make you tastefully rich. However, accolades in your field do not necessarily lead to financial success. For example, while I am a PEN/Faulkner Finalist, I work as a tutor at a local college. Not very glamorous.

But you should divorce the idea of making money from your creative life. If you don’t, you end up in a desperate situation where your art must produce money. And if your art does not allow you to sustain yourself, you’ll end up thinking: What’s the point of doing this?

Being a writer will most likely not make you rich; that’s the reality of being a writer.  

When did you first become aware of copyright, and why?

When my publisher was getting my short story collection ready for publication, I had to double-check with all the literary journals my stories had been previously published in that all my story rights had reverted back to me. While I had kept any contracts from literary journals, not all journals provided contracts. So, I had to check on their websites or contact the editors just to make sure that I now held the rights.

So, I would suggest that anyone who is publishing in literary journals keep a copy of their contracts and print out what the websites indicate about when rights revert back to you. It would be a major disappointment to find out too late that you cannot include your work in your larger project because someone else still holds the copyrights.

What is your biggest copyright-related challenge?

The length of time someone owns my rights. For, example, I submitted to an anthology which would be great to be included in, but my copyrights would not revert back to me until three years after publication. The issue is that my submission is a novel excerpt, and while my novel may not be completed by then, I have to consider that if it is, I either have to hold my novel back or take out the excerpt from my book. The publication date for the anthology is two years from now, so I wouldn’t get my rights back for another five years, assuming the publication date does not change. While I think the anthology is very important because of its historical value, I may have to withdraw my work if the copyrights cannot be returned to me earlier than what is currently stated in the contract.

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