There is no shortage of talented women who make up our alum network at Cambridge Common Writers. In our continued Spotlight series, we highlight several of them in honor of Women’s History Month.
NADA SAMIH-ROTONDO — FICTION, JUNE ’12
Nada Samih-Rotondo is a writer, teacher, and mother who is inspired by the relationship between personhood and place. She is interested in the slippery concept of home, local histories, and creature folklore. Born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents, she immigrated to the United States at the age of six to Rhode Island. She lives in the enchanted post industrial land of Providence with her husband and three kids. Her work has been published in The Masters Review, Squat Birth Journal, Topography Literary Magazine, Frequency Anthology, and Gulf Stream Magazine.
Find Nada on Instagram @nadasamihwrites.
What drew you to the Lesley MFA program and what take-aways did you have from it?
I was drawn to Lesley’s MFA program because it was Low-Residency and close to home (I live in Providence RI), I was a new mom at the time and enrolling in a Low-Res program was important to me. I was also attracted to the interdisciplinary component and was able to expand my knowledge of Science Fiction, blog writing, and photography. The cohort of fellow writers were supportive and fun to share work with, I love how most of us have managed to stay in touch through the years.
What is your writing process like? Do you have a particular routine or ritual to help you get into the writing zone?
As a high school teacher and mom of three I utilize weekends, school vacations, and especially the summer to write but when inspiration strikes I write anytime. My note app on my phone is my go to for ideas that I want to return to later and I keep little journals everywhere. My writing process also includes reading anything I can get my hands on. This past year with COVID I’ve learned how prioritizing my rest ends up supporting my writing practice immensely as well. Once I am in the writing zone, music keeps me in it longer.
This year, I am teaching a creative writing class to my ESL high school students and preparing prompts and projects for that class has also fed my writing process. As English language learners, (which I was when I immigrated here at age 6), my students tend to feel insecure about their writing but I give them the advice (that I need to follow myself!) to let go of perfection and just write while modeling what that looks like in class with them daily, spelling errors and all.
What are some of your favorite books you’ve read in the past year?
Fiction: Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, You Exist Too Much by Zainab Arafat.
Nonfiction: Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad, Love is an Ex Country by Randa Jarrar, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch and Braiding Sweet Grass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Poetry collections: My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet, When Rap Spoke Straight to God by Erica Dawson.
Why do you write and what do you like to write about the most?
The email tagline I’ve had since getting email back in the Y2k era is “Write or be Written” and it summarizes why I write. It’s important that as a Palestinian, Muslim, Arab, woman, immigrant, mother…etc that I share my experiences and express my perspective out to the world, to speak for myself despite how others might speak for me. It’s vital that marginalized communities of color and colonized folks take space to heal and creative writing can be one avenue to do that. I like to write fiction, particularly Sci-Fi and weird fiction, but lately my focus has been on non-fiction.
What is something that tends to get in the way of your writing and how do you overcome it?
When I start a project, I tend to get hung up on the big picture themes first (I blame my teacher brain) and it can get in the way of my writing flow. I grew up working class and as a young person, a writing life was not encouraged, so imposter syndrome can be a bitch. Blessedly, I have folks around me that remind me to take life lightly. It helps to tap into my unapologetic salty Rhode Islander self that cusses like an irreverent sailor. Writing from a sense of playfulness and love ultimately helps me overcome it.
If you could get coffee with any writer (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
Toni Morrison. My first mentor at Lesley – AJ Verdelle – was closely connected with Morrison for many years and I remember geeking out at that degree of separation when I worked with Verdelle. I first read Beloved my first year of undergrad and I was fascinated with how she created this physical embodiment of collective trauma in the form of the character Beloved. I remember thinking “Yes, that! I want to do that!” I would have loved to just bask in her glow for a bit.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that doesn’t have to do with writing.
I love making plant medicine! I studied medicinal herbs and I am an herbalist. I grow and make medicinal tea blends to support various body systems, tinctures, salves, and lotions for my friends and family. Working with plants is an important way for me to stay rooted to the land and the present moment and it saves me money on skin care!
What are you working on now? Is there anything we can promote?
I am working on my memoir right now, Here, a piece of which has been published in Gulf Stream Literary Magazine.
Listen to Nada read an excerpt from her memoir here: