Viviana Prado-Núñez was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in a hospital with a 4.0 Google review rating and a view of the ocean. She has never seen Star Wars, eaten a grasshopper, or written a poem without the letter ‘e,’ although she hopes to do all three of those things in the future. Previous publications include The Best Teen Writing of 2014, 4×4 Magazine, Columbia Spectator, and Quarto Magazine, the last of which she was published in as the winner of the 2017 Morgan Parker Poetry Prize. She is also the 2017 winner of the Burt Award for Caribbean Young Adult Literature for her novel, The Art of White Roses, which was published in May 2018. Her first play, And the Trees Fall Down, recently received a workshop production with the 2018 Furnace Festival at The Center at West Park. She is currently a junior at Columbia University where she spends a lot of time reading plays and eating strawberry ice cream. (www.vivianapradonunez.
How did you become a writer?
I arbitrarily decided to become a writer in middle school mostly because I had multiple teachers encourage me into it and also I read Harry Potter and thought that was cool. So I applied for a high school that had a Literary Arts magnet program, got in, went, and the rest is history.
What about your background particularly informs/inspires your writing?
My Puerto Rican and Cuban heritage definitely heavily influence me, although I have gravitated more towards my Puerto Rican side recently due to how bad things have been post-Hurricane Maria. I would also say all my writing regardless of whether it is heritage-based is very much rooted in poetry, which is where I began. I have an obsession with language, precision, and tightness. If there is something that informs all of my work, I would say it is brevity and condensation—and when I get into my longer works, I tend to care just as much about the poetic arc of a piece as I do about regular narrative structure.
What do you consider your hometown to be? And how has that influenced your writing?
This is a strange question for me to answer because I come from a lot of places. I was born in Puerto Rico and lived there until I was five. Then when my mother moved, I lived between my mother’s house in Maryland (the location in Maryland shifted a couple times) and my father’s house in Gurabo. Because of that, there is no particular “town” I feel linked to, although I am definitely linked to place. I don’t know if I have ever felt like I fully belonged anywhere, but I will say that my nostalgia towards P.R. and the Caribbean informs a lot of my work. Because my time spent in P.R. is spent with family (I don’t really have “friends” in P.R.), I find myself connected to P.R. through visuals, images, and observation, but never really knowing it the way a native would. So I’d say a lot of my writing grows out of a state of disconnection, of knowing things intimately but also feeling slightly apart.
What things outside of theater (e.g. film, television, music, video games, etc.) inspire you as a storyteller/writer?
I don’t know if this counts, but I find people in general inspiring. I’m particularly fascinated by how I interact with my best friends (I have exactly three of them and I love them very much). I always think about our interactions as little plays and how odd it would be for an outsider looking in, but also how much of ourselves are implied by the way we speak to one another. Interactions with strangers who are very different from me, but are simultaneously open and unashamed about themselves also fascinate me. When you start to view everyday life as a theatre, you realize how beautifully bizarre everyone is.
Are there certain recurrent themes in your work?
Absolutely. I think those themes have a lot to do with the fact that I’m still a young person writing from the point of view of having just been a younger person three seconds ago (…if that makes any sense). I am very much intrigued by questions of trauma and its aftermath as well as questions of identity and belonging. It doesn’t matter how much I try to write about anything different, I tend to end up in hilariously similar thematic locations. I’m also pretty consistently dark (but then also strangely hopeful?) in my work, although that might perhaps be more of a trait than a theme.