Shinelle Espaillat on writing "That One Bonnie Raitt Song"


What inspired you to write the story “That One Bonnie Raitt Song”?
I was just thinking about the complexity of female relationships and how sometimes you expect them to be one way and they turn out to be completely different.

 What made you focus on that?
I was thinking about the different relationships many daughters have with their mothers. There are some women who love motherhood and some women who don’t and really don’t want to have children but do for various reasons, and how that can affect the kind of mother she is and her relationship with her children. That was the inspiration: what happens with someone who ultimately should not have been a mother but who steps into the role anyway, and the fallout for both of them.

Was there any pivotal event in your life or observation that caused you to focus on it?
No, this was something that grew out of the examination of relationships, but it’s fiction.

Do you typically write prose or do you write other forms? 
Mostly I write fiction. I write poetry only in my journal so nobody can see that.

I think it’s important to explore all aspects of writing. Writing poetry on my own makes me a stronger fiction writer because of the way that you have to play with language. But fiction is where my heart is and it’s where I feel that I’m best able to hone my craft and tell the kind of stories I want to tell.

What makes your creative juices flow? What sort of writing rituals do you have?
I write in the pockets of time that I’m able to create while balancing the rest of my life. I write in the doctor’s office when I’m waiting for my kids at their appointments. I have a standing meeting with a colleague and we write once a week together. When I’m spending time in my car on my hour-long commute, sometimes I dictate notes to my phone. I’ve learned not to wait for the exact, perfect setup because that almost never happens. I’ve had to learn to write when I can make it happen.

Why do you write so regularly? Do you feel compelled to keep at it to hone your craft?
I find that if I don’t write I become a less pleasant person to be around. It’s better for everybody if I get the writing done. I also feel there are stories that need to be told. There are probably stories that I was waiting to read when I was younger and never found them and so now it’s incumbent on me to write them.

What are your ultimate goals? Do you want to write a novel?
I think ultimately a novel is in my future. Right now, I’m working on a short story collection. And that’s my short-term goal. I want to complete that and find a home for it. A novel may have to wait until my children are older.

Read “That One Bonnie Raitt Song” here: