Alexandra Peñaloza Alessandri is a Colombian-American poet, children’s author, and professor at Broward College, where she teaches composition, creative writing, and literature. She received her BA and MA degrees in English Literature from FIU and a Certificate of Fiction from UCLA Extension. Her work has appeared recently in The Acentos Review, Rio Grande Review, YARN, and Atlanta Review. She lives in South Florida with her husband and son, dreaming of Colombia.
Alexandra is represented by Deborah Warren of East West Literary.
Once upon a time, I was a child growing up in South Florida with summer trips to Colombia. My parents fostered a love of books at a young age, and I was immersed in reading and making up stories. The library was my favorite place, apart from my backyard, which was the stage for my imagination. I graduated to storyteller, entertaining my younger cousins or anyone who would listen, with made-up tales of kingdoms in clouds. At some point, I began filling notebook after notebook with poems, stories, and snippets of my daily life. One of my first typed stories was a (horrid) ghost tale. I still have this story somewhere in the box of memories I keep.
After high school, I attended Florida International University, where I earned my BA and MA degrees in English Literature. During those years, I took creative writing and literature courses, and though my heart was in the former, my practical thinking was in the latter. I kept writing as a hobby, focusing my professional energies on academia instead.
Then, in 2008, six months after my son was born, my father passed away. After his death, I began filling the ensuing void with memories. I wrote to make sense of my past, of my father, and of our (often troubled) relationship. And like memory begets memory, so does writing beget writing. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I’d found my way back to writing.
In 2011, I was diagnosed with an invisible illness–lupus, along with fibromyalgia–and I often find myself trying to find a balance between what I want, what I need, and what my body tells me I can do. All these experiences have found their way into my writing. I write about grief and loss, as well as about my identity as a Colombian-American, submerged in the nostalgia of my parents’ country but grounded in my American reality. I also write about the magic that’s possible if only we look closely at our lives.
Through all my writing is my first love: poetry. When I can’t think in logical sentences, when I can only feel, poems help me put those feelings into words. Sometimes, the words come in verse rather than prose, so I run with it. But what I love about poetry, is the ability to make language dance. Language, when done properly, is a fragrant bloom in the wind, swaying to the rhythm of nature.
I’m obsessed with all things Harry Potter and Hunger Games and Mortal Instruments. My favorite genres to read in are magical realism, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, and dystopian, though I’m also a fan of memoir. I’m a Disney aficionado. Beauty and the Beast and Phantom of the Opera are my favorite films. I’m a hopeless romantic, a teen who never grew up, and a sucker for musicals. My perfect landscape would combine my love for the beach and the mountains. I love traveling, though I don’t get to do it as often as I’d like. I love food, photography, dogs (I have a part-Chinese Crested hairless pup). And I’m beyond obsessed with Starbucks and Twitter.
A few random facts about me:
- My dad used to be a Catholic priest in Colombia, Chile, and here in the US.
- My great-uncle, Bernardo Arias-Trujillo was a Colombian novelist and poet.
- I’m ridiculously clumsy.
- I love circus peanuts, even though everyone around me seems to think they’re gross.
- When I was little, I used to sleep walk and sleep talk. As an adult, I’ve had sleep paralysis. Google it–it’s as freaky as it sounds.
- There are musicians in my family, classical and contemporary, and though I learned to play the piano, I never pursued it.
- I’m dying to learn to play the guitar.
- I love trivia games.
- I can be obsessive about things I believe in (and really, really want).
- I’m a libra.
Fangirl Friday: An Interview with Pitch Warrior Alexandra Alessandri (December 27, 2013)
Another PitchWars Success Interview with Alexandra Alessandri and Dannie Morin (April 22, 2015)
Get to Know the Pitch Wars Mentors Mini Interviews…No 27 Middle Grade