Author Features

MEET: Melissa Lozada-Oliva

November 19, 2021

The child of Guatemalan and Colombian immigrants. She holds an MFA in poetry from NYU.

What was the last book that you read that you’d now recommend? 

I am almost done with “The Right to Sex” By Amia Srinivasan! She talks with such necessary nuance about everything to do with sex in a modern world. Stuff I am not ready to hear!

Have you read any classics lately that you were reading for the first time? 

Uhhh, I literally should. My friend Olivia recently read the Grapes of Wrath by John  Steinbeck and said it was deeply modern and relatable, and I really wanna feel that way!  Look into an old portal & see myself.

I usually re-read the Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson around this time of year.  It gets better every time.

What are your go-to genres?

Whatever genre is a lonely haunted woman in a short story.

What is your favorite childhood book?

I loved Turnabout by Margaret Peterson Haddix. It’s a story about a woman who makes a deal with this scientist to age backward. I also loved the Berenstain (Berenstein??  Mandela Effect!!) Bears.

What books are on your bedside table right now?

GodShot by Chelsea Bieker, Becoming Abolitionists by Derecka Purnell, Terminal  Boredom by Izumi Suzuki. Okay, is someone in love with me yet? 

Do you bookmark or dogear your page in a book? 

I do! Someone told me once that you shouldn’t write in your books unless you want to be buried with them, and that scared me, but I recently started to do it because I like borrowing books from people and seeing the stuff that spoke to them. I recently lent a  book to somebody, and he was like, “You have the littlest dogears! Look at mine!” And he had practically folded the page in half. Also what? Am I a dog? Also, if you’re reading this, I’d love my book back!

What is your ideal reading setting? 

Outside, in public, looking devastatingly hot, with a cup of coffee, I will only finish half of. Ideally, a successful Novelist comes up to me and asks if I can “watch their stuff,” &  then we fall madly in love.

Tell us about your favorite indie bookstore? 

I love Playground Annex in Bed Stuy! They mostly exclusively sell books by BIPOC  authors, and my girl Arti Gollapudi works there and has the best recommendations. I also worked at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, MA, for a long time, and I’ll probably haunt that place because it’s central to who I am.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power? 

Probably the first time I said a swear word or the first time I figured out how to tell a  joke. You realize that language can get a rise out of people, can make them be pulled towards you. 

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?  

I visited my friend Puloma in Bennington, where she was doing a residency, and we walked up a snowy bank to the house that Shirley Jackson used to live in that inspired  Haunting of Hill House. She was like, “And remember the steps?? These are the steps!!” A few weeks later, the world shut down because of the pandemic. 

Where do you get most of your writing and editing done? 

I have a desk that I trained myself to sit at during the pandemic, and now I bike to a  favorite coffee shop of mine that doesn’t have any wifi, so I don’t waste my time in internet holes.

Does writing energize or exhaust you? 

I don’t think either, actually. It’s just something I am pulled to do that I do every day. Not as fun as sex and not as laborious as brushing your teeth. 

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? 

I have like, three right now. 

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones? 

I do, unfortunately. Sometimes I read them to laugh because people can really miss the mark, and sometimes I read them as a form of like, I don’t know. What is the opposite of masturbation? Emotional cutting? Whenever I read a good review, though, I fucking cry. It’s really amazing when people get me and when they also notice something that I didn’t even know I was doing. 

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? 

You are not stupid; you have undiagnosed anxiety, a panic disorder, and OCD, and that’s why you are a bad student. It is very cool that you are dedicated to being an artist. You will be friends with Puloma and Will forever. You are no longer a virgin. You make money as a writer and live in a giant room with a funny cat in Brooklyn. You’re in a  band. Your book is on a billboard in Times Square.  

When you’re not reading or writing, what are you doing?

Riding my bike, singing in my band, watering my plants, seeking intimacy lol, texting screenshots to my friends, trying to read and often failing, sitting in living rooms and laughing with my friends until I cry, karaoke. 

What are your three favorite things right now?

1) My yellow electric guitar my friends got me for my birthday.

2) A stand next to my bed that has two beautiful plants.

3) This account called Favetiktoks420 that shows the most cringey  TikToks that are just like, the loneliest, horniest people imaginable lip-syncing to Creed.  It makes me laugh and fills me with energy. I am a monster.

Your favorite travel destination and why?

I don’t travel a lot because I am not rich, but I like arriving wherever my friends are. I  wanna go to the Louvre and cry at a painting for a reason I can’t understand. 

What’s your favorite meal and go-to drink order?

During the day: some kind of bagel with an egg & avocado & a latte; at night: two slices of pizza and a gin & tonic. 

What six people, living or dead, would you invite to dinner a party?

I would like to hang out with my friends Puloma, Will, Olivia, Samuel, Chris & Tiffany. 

If a movie was made of your life, what genre would it be, who would play you?

It would be a surreal coming-of-age A24 film probably, and I have no clue who would play me. I literally know two Latina actresses & they are not in the right age range. So she’d be unknown. Maybe she is reading this right now! Or maybe I get Danny Devito to play me. That would be cool. Why not?

What’s the last TV show or movie you watched that was really good?

 loved Midnight Mass! Body and Blood of Christ? Thas vampires, luv.  

You have to sing karaoke; what song do you pick? 

I’m sorry, I HAVE to? I definitely came here on purpose. I’d sing “Everybody’s  Changing” by Keane.

If you were being taken to a deserted island and could only bring one book, what would it be?

Honestly … The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson or the collection of her novels and short stories, all in one. Love her.

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