Nanette Rayman Rivera is the author of the new memoir, to live on the wind, published by Scattered Light Publications. She is the author of two poetry books: shana linda ~ pretty pretty, published by Scattered Light Publications and Project: Butterflies published by Foothills Publishing. She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the first winner of the Glass Woman Prize. Her work is included in DZANC’s Best of the Web Anthology 2010 and Best of the Net 2007. She has been published in numerous literary journals including The Berkeley Fiction Review, The Worcester Review, Oranges & Sardines, Dragonfire, Carve Magazine, Gold Wake Press, Carte Blanche, Slant, Dirty Napkin, Wilderness House Literary Review, Wheelhouse, The Sugar House Review, Unmoveable Feast, Up the Staircase, MiPOesias, and Stirring’s Steamiest Six.
Shelagh: Please tell us a little about yourself, Nanette.
Nanette: I studied at The New School University, and studied theatre at Circle in the Square, The New England Shakespeare Festival and with the late Peter Thompson at Michael Howard Studios. I played Rhonda in the award winning New York University student film: Stephan’s Silver Bell and a waitress on All My Children. I have performed in off-off Broadway theatre and black box Boston theatres. I was a runner-up in Miss Massachusetts.
Shelagh: When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
Nanette: I started writing little plays when I was very young. My brother was forced to play the guy who had to walk the plank, which was the red corduroy couch in the basement. At first all my plays had a guy walking the plank and then I started writing plays about a woman’s prison that was really my house in suburbia.
Shelagh: Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?
Nanette: My new memoir, to live on the wind, as far as I can tell, will be a stand-alone book. Of course, if my life changes dramatically, I could write another memoir. I also withheld a part of my life because the book could have ended up being 600 pages instead of 461 pages. Another reason for not including everything in a memoir is so the story of a life doesn’t get weighted down and the arc can be seen by the reader. If you add too many elements or disasters, even in a memoir, it can alter perception or make the reader lose focus on the underlying theme. My book, to live on the wind, shows that a life can be mostly out of the control of the person living that life. This, of course, goes against all Western thinking, which is that free will and determination equal success. My book shows that this is not always the case and there is a real difference between someone who does all the wrong things and ends up badly and someone who does mostly the right thing and ends up in the same bad place.
Shelagh: What’s the hook for the book?
Nanette: I would say the “hook” for the book is a personal, tell-it-plain, name names account of the New York City homeless system. There are many other themes in the book, but I don’t want to give it all away~
Shelagh: Who is the most unusual/most likeable character?
Nanette: I think there are only two likeable characters in the plot. But if tell, the surprise is ruined. One of the characters is a very minor character, but a person most people will recognize. The other character is also secret until you read the book, but not someone anyone would know.
Shelagh: Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
Nanette: In this book, the technique to maintain the plot is actually one of the secret characters. As far as my environment and upbringing, those two things meld into my writing style, which I think is poetic and dirty-gritty at once. My upbringing was upper middle class, but completely in the hands of my sociopath mother. So I knew of the “nicer” things in life, how to behave, how to think for myself and to have manners, but she made me angry and depressed. At that time kids didn’t know that you could call the cops or social services on your own mother. Today I don’t live in a nice place, but it’s still better than being around her. I wouldn’t wish either environment on anyone, well…maybe some people…I don’t know if it works, but I like the mixture of poetry and grit in my writing.
Shelagh: Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.
Nanette: One of my favorite reviews is for my poetry book: shana linda ~ pretty pretty, also published by Scattered Light Publications. This review is from the lovely author, Martha Engber:
I read poetry in the way I view modern art, not with a mind full of rules established by The Poetry Elite, but rather for an eye toward what moves me. Even if I don’t understand the meaning of the poem, I consider it a marvelous success if the words leave me with a unique twist on the world: an image, impression or emotion so strong I can almost taste it.
Such is the case with the poems of Nanette Rayman Rivera in shana linda ~ pretty pretty. Throughout the 31 poems there drifted the scent of flowers, though not in a pretty, wallpaper or commercial bouquet way. Rather, the feel was of wildflowers growing in impossible places: the cracks in sidewalks, the perimeter of warehouses, the beaches of the tourist trade.
This despite the fact Ms. Rivera’s poetry covers the major obstacles in her life; trauma that is, unfortunately, too common and too commonly portrayed in clichéd ways. She writes about an emotionally-distant mother and of being raped and falling into homelessness.
Normally those subjects deter me, not because I’m unsympathetic, but because for many poets and writers, especially those newer to the craft, such crises take precedent over the art of the words. The telling too often takes on a bitter, pitying cast filled with common sensory descriptions, such as the smell of urine and the grime of clothes and the cold stares of passers-by.
Ms. Rivera don’t sink into that mundane, self-indulgent realm. Instead, the words and phrases touch the ground lightly, then leap away, the joy of living always present. Even when devastation looms, the joy — the play and sound and rhythm of the words — shines through a unique prism:
(From I saw him)
around the crook of the cape
thousands of Iceland Poppies, pistil
the brewing water
with bubbly calyx, some matrix
ceremony for the ogler
Shelagh: What are your current projects?
Nanette: I just finished writing to live on the wind, so now I’m taking a couple weeks off from writing. I think my next project will be fiction, perhaps historical fiction, something completely different from my current book. I might go back and write poetry for a little while to get my creativity flowing again.
Shelagh: Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
Nanette: All of my books are listed on the website: Goodreads:
and on Scattered Light Publications website: