Each year, The Writer’s Center awards an emerging writer with the Undiscovered Voices Fellowship. The fellowship provides funding for writing classes, as well as other benefits including chances to network with fellow writers and additional publishing opportunities. The program is designed to elevate the work of an aspiring writer, assisting them personally, professionally, and financially. 

We are incredibly pleased to award Ofelia Montelongo with this year’s Undiscovered Voices Fellowship. Montelongo has been published in Latino Book Review, Four Chambers Press, Z Publishing, Los Acentos Review, Rio Grande Review, and Ponder Review. She is a bilingual writer originally from Mexico. She currently works as a freelance writer and photographer, and has worked with the Phoenix New Times, So Scottsdale, and Phoenix Magazine. She is also pursuing her MA in Latin American literature at the University of Maryland.

Read our interview with Montelongo below:  

TWC: First of all, congratulations on winning the Undiscovered Voices Fellowship! Do you have any plans for your next year at The Writer’s Center? Any writing goals?

Ofelia Montelongo: Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity. Right now, I’m working on a novel titled Rosa Mexicanx. I plan to finish it this year with the help of the Writer’s Center classes and workshops and to edit it during summer 2020. I also want to finish some short stories I have been crafting, and I’ll try to publish them. 

You were originally an accountant before you decided to pursue your dream of writing. What made you decide to make that change? 

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was eight years old, so writing has always been on my mind. When I was a teenager I used to write stories here and there, but it wasn’t until I moved to the U.S. that I found opportunities to study creative writing. I studied for a few years before quitting my job, and honestly, if it wasn’t for my husband’s support I wouldn’t be able to do it (to change careers that fast). Thanks to him, I was able to finish my Bachelor’s because there weren’t any scholarships that fitted my profile and background. 

What are you most proud of since you started your writing career? 

Besides the Writer’s Center Fellowship, I’m proud that I’ve led creative writing workshops in Spanish in Phoenix and in D.C. to expand literary communities. I’m also proud that some of my short stories have been published in different literary magazines after many rejections!

What’s your writing process like? 

I don’t think I have a precise process to write. Many of my ideas come from random things in life. For example, one day, I was cutting an avocado and some of it stayed inside my fingernail and from that image, I wrote a short story called My Avocado Life. Most of my short stories are born like that, with a small image and from there my imagination just flies away. For my novel, I do force myself to come up with an arc and build conflict. I guess that’s why I’m writing my novel in vignettes or short stories, so I can focus on images and specific scenes. 

You’re bilingual, speaking both English and Spanish. How does knowing another language affect your writing? Do you feel more comfortable writing in one language than another? 

I started writing seriously once I moved to the U.S., so my most of my creative writing education has been in English and I feel more comfortable writing in English with some Spanish here and there and code-switching. However, during the last years, I’ve been going back to write in Spanish and learning more about it! Writing in both languages is both amazing and chaotic. 

Can you tell us a bit about the novel you’re working on? 

Absolutely, my novel Rosa Mexicanx is a coming of age story about an undocumented teenager who lives in the U.S. – Mexico Border. The novel consists of 30 short stories that follows the life of Rosa, as she becomes DACA.

Lastly, do you have any advice for aspiring writers, especially those who might be thinking about applying for fellowships? 

Keep writing and read a lot. I know you’ve probably heard this, but rejection is an important part of the journey. Don’t take them personally, move on. Craft away and find your voice. Knock as many doors as you can. And if this is something you truly want to do, be patient and do not quit.