Interview with Cristina Munoz

Tenacity and inspiration – those are two words that come to mind when I think of my interview with Cristina Munoz. I've never seen such a sense of determination emanating from one person. Wait until you read her backstory? It's a delicious tale of endurance and overcoming painful adversity. Without further adieu I present to you my dialogue with the lovely and talented Cristina Munoz. Please once you've read this interview if it has inspired you in any way you're more than welcome to follow Cristina via Twitter & Instagram.

RMMW: What was the catalyst that started your writing journey?  

CM: Great question. When it comes to catalysts I've had two.  

The first happened when I was nineteen. I was a young gothic/punk girl obsessively into alternative music and one afternoon I was at home writing in my diary listening to Triple J which is an Australia Wide alternative radio station here in Australia when they announced their first 'WORD UP' Poetry Competition for young adults aged from 18-26. 

At the time I had won a few short story competitions though I had never written a poem. I was intimidated by poetry until a friend introduced me to ee cummings which made me feel like maybe i could write poetry only it took hearing about the competition to inspire me to actually give writing poetry a go.

I made an immature pact with myself, deciding I would enter the poems in secret and if Triple J didn't accept them I'll never write another poem again and stick with writing short stories. 

Writing those first batch of poems was an extremely emotional experience unlike what I felt when writing anything else. It felt like they were all already there waiting for me to let them out as they literally flooded out of me. These were not at all like the poetry I was used to reading at school so I seriously thought Triple J wouldn't like them but I entered them in anyway and promptly forgot about them until months later I got the call that my poetry was selected. 

The next thing I knew I was in the ABC Studios recording the pieces I had sent in which was then played on air all over Australia along with having one of those pieces 'Longing For Danger' included in their 'WORD UP' Anthology as part of the competition as well.

Having Triple J think I had some talent as a poet was the first catalyst for me which got me writing poetry. For a couple of years i was living the life of a young struggling poet, doing poetry readings and was starting to get my work published elsewhere until I started getting insecure about not having truly lived yet, then needing to make a living took over completely. 

From the time I was twenty two until my early thirties I still kept getting down poetry and short stories only instead of submitting them I would file every piece away. When I was thirty four I stopped writing as I lost my job after seriously injuring my back so started my own online home business. All of my creative energy went into building my online business. I kept meaning to do something with my writing though my desire to build a comfortable life took priority as my partner and I wanted to start a family. 

I loved running my own business which involved lots of writing so convinced myself I was still writing even though I had folders filled with my work gathering dust in my study. Eventually I had reached a point in my business where I could have done both only I was scared of what people would say about my work if I did start putting it out there so it was easier to put it on the back burner to deal with in the future.

Two events happened which changed everything. The first was having a spinal fusion surgery in 2014. It was the third surgery I've needed for my back and this third one took away my ability to use my laptop comfortably which meant after trying everything possible I could no longer run my online business and I was devastated.

For the first almost two years I was in excruciating pain, on high dosages of pain management medications and my self shattered as my life as I knew it was over. I'm no stranger to chronic pain though in the past I was always able to bounce back. Not this time. 

Being mainly bedridden, having to accept this disability was permanent, far worse than in the past I started believing my family would be better off without me. I went through almost two of the darkest years of my life. It was like being under water and I remember thinking about my work in my study and if I get through this I'll start doing something about them as I felt this overwhelming grief for having stopped writing in the first place. 

My family never gave up on me, they have always been my anchor so eventually I started to come back to myself early last year and then started the process of putting myself back together again. Just in time for my forty-eighth birthday in May, which was the second catalyst which got me writing again as I had reached the age my mother was when she died. She was my biggest fan and before she died she had told me to never stop writing. 

I had been able to work down to half dosages of the pain management drugs, lost enough weight where my back could cope with me being in my feet for a five minutes and I knew focusing my time writing would be a perfect way to distract myself from the pain. I didn't have a business to run anymore so I had no more excuses. I could use my iPad lying flat on my back in bed to write so I asked my partner to bring me all the folders out of my study and then I began taking those first steps to write again.

I have to admit after I updated my Twitter and Facebook accounts and decided to get onto Instagram to begin sharing my work, most of which I got down in my twenties I thought I was in for the greatest embarrassment of my life, only this hasn't been the case at all and I couldn't be more grateful. 

It blows me away every time I get an acceptance email and each time I do it makes me feel like I'm finally doing again what I was born to do and I know no matter what happens I'll never stop writing again. 

Sometimes the worst things to happen to you can then lead to the best things to happen to you and that's certainly been the case for me multiple times throughout my life. 

RMMW: What frightens you the most about being a writer? 

CM: My most frightening fear used to be no one wanting to read my work because I have zero talent and everybody hates it. After finally having let that fear go what most frightens me is losing inspiration. By this I mean where the words won't come anymore beyond simply being blocked. The thought of the words disappearing completely is terrifying as there would be nothing to share at all without the words coming.

I feel the same anxiety about it I used to feel when I played softball professionally as a teenager. I was centre field and I used to have anxiety dreams about the ball being hit to me, only after I would pick it up I couldn't throw it. It would just fall out of my hand.

The idea of not being able to throw my words fills me with the same horrible anxious feeling.

RMMW:  Have you ever been creatively blocked?  If yes, how did you manage your way out of the doldrums? 

CM: Oh God yes. There have been on and off times in my life, because of big events in my life which needed all of my focus and creative energy to get through where I didn't write anything creative at all until it was over and I could process it through writing, like the death of my mother when i was almost twenty-six. 

When it comes to normal writers block that's when I do panic a bit it means my words have dried up which thankfully isn't ever the case. Usually I first try working on some thing else, another piece not yet at final draft to see if that gets the process going. If not the next thing I do is write about songs, albums and artists I resonate with as they inspire me.

Before i had to manage a disability I used to do something physical like go for a long walk to clear my mind. These days i do something else I enjoy, like hanging out with my family, chat to a friend, read something which nourishes my soul, watch a movie or TV Show. Sometimes all it takes is a good nights sleep.

Other times as inspiration does come in waves for me and puts me on a such a high I know what goes up must come down so when those waves flatten out and I've come down I just have to ride it out if none of the above works.

RMMW: Are you on social media?  How do you feel social media benefits writers in today's society? 

CM: Absolutely, since before the spinal fusion I used to be an Internet marketer and blogger being on and using social media was critical to my online business success. 

Once I made the decision to start doing something about all the writing I had stored away I knew being on social media would be key as a writer as well though had no idea just how powerfully it would benefit me as a writer.

After I updated my social media and then started sharing examples of my work on Twitter I started getting other poets and writers liking my poetry tweets and following me, and every now and again it would be a publisher like "Spillwords Press" who would like my work.

'Spillwords Press' were the first to like my poetry tweets and to encourage me to submit my work back in August last year which was the catalyst to get me submitting my work. I keep a little file of publishers who like my work on social media to submit to as otherwise I wouldn't have a clue where would be best to submit my work.

I think Social Media, especially Twitter and Instagram are ideal for writers/poets, helping to get our work out there to find it's readers, bring writers/poets together from all over the world who would never meet otherwise like you and i as well as helping to connect writers/poets to lit mags and publishers who may like to publish there work.

Best of all with social media the feedback is instant which I've also found helps me know what pieces to focus on, what needs more work and sharing excerpts before final draft helps me get pieces to final draft faster as well. 

Lastly, since I'm kind of like Frida Kahlo only I paint with words and use an iPad in bed being a people person social media is mainly how I get to meet new people so it's so important to me on so many levels.

RMMW: What are you trying to communicate with your art?

CM: Since I've got a lot of catching up to do I'm working on my first poetry collection which is turning into a autobiography so I'm still mainly bringing the prolific amount of pieces I got down in my twenties to final draft stage.

It's strange moving back and forth through time every day, and sometimes I wonder if twenty something me knew forty something me would be writing full time one day so deliberately left me with mainly first drafts of pieces to work on so I'd have lots to do. There's no way I could get them to final draft on memory alone so I do so with the help of the diaries entries which inspired them in the first place. 

My work is like little pieces of my soul, so I guess they tell the truth as I experienced it about the people who were and who are in my life now. My past main muses who captured my imagination and heart for a time as well as writing about the love of my life who is my muse now. Most of my main muses knew I was writing poetry about them, one didn't as i was too terrified to tell her how I felt.

I'm fascinated by duality, so often write about my dark side as well as my light side. I believe a life is half lived if you don't let your dark side out to play every once in awhile as doing so myself has only enriched my life, helped me fully understand and accept myself and protected me when it counted as well.

I write about life, the beautiful like falling in love and how love can heal, the ugly like domestic violence, including how I was violent myself, managing PTSD, the embarrassing like fighting love for so long, not having the guts to say what I felt for so long, the terrifying like being abused when you're too young to fight back, believing there is something horribly wrong with you because you're not like the other girls, the joyful like coming out and finally being around other girls and boys like me, finally able to feel intense attraction and enjoy the joys of sex, sensuality and love which felt like a miracle to me, the painful like repressing who I was, struggling with understanding who I was, dealing with grief and loss and so on. 

I often love to capture moments in life like a photograph, a song, or tell a little real life story about any of the above which hopefully anyone can relate back to there own life. 

RMMW: Do you care whether or not your words mean something to anyone or do you write for yourself?

CM: Oh I care deeply. My words don't have to mean something to everyone, it's those few I'm wanting to connect with who get it as they see their own selves in my work, feel the same strong emotions, have similar demons, similar struggles, fears and challenges in what I write about now and what I've written in the past, the same way I saw myself in Anais Nin's work which inspired me. 

Ideally i hope my work helps people feel less alone, especially young people struggling right now with the issues I faced when their age. I hope my work inspires people to not leave things unsaid, to say the things you're to scared to say out loud, to take risks, to be themselves, to accept themselves, think for themselves, to be compassionate, empathetic with others and to be willing to change, grow, and evolve. Find the courage to deal with their demons, face their own fears and to allow the magical dynamics of love, sex and sensuality into their lives far sooner than I did.

RMMW: What's the genesis story of Cristina's Sound of Woman In Alternative Rock & Pop? 

CM: I've always enjoyed sharing on Face Book the songs which capture my imagination only I found after I decided to start writing seriously again I was suddenly sharing a crazy amount of songs every day.

When I'm writing I always listen to mainly alternative music so I knew this compulsion I have to write about and share the songs, albums, artists who inspire me wasn't going to stop as when I was young along with seeing 3-4 bands play every week I used to write album reviews for 'Beat Magazine' in Melbourne while helping host a Sunday night graveyard shift show on 3RRR an alternative radio station in Melbourne.

My love of listening to and writing about music goes way way back, so that's why the idea to start a Facebook fan page so I could share as many songs as I like without it annoying anyone came to me.

I decided to focus solely on the women in alternative rock and pop as I believe they are still not given as much media attention as the men in the music industry, plus I know I resonate more with female singer-songwriters. I was going to call it 'Women Of Sound' only that was taken so I settled on 'Sound Of Women' instead which I've grown to prefer more. 

@soundofwomen is a labour of love which i started purely for myself and for fans only then I started noticing the actual artists and bands I was writing about starting to like my posts about there music. Some leave comments to thank me, retweet my tweets, and a few even began sharing my song reviews about them on their Facebook pages. 

That's when I decided to take 'Sound Of Women' more seriously, so in the New Year along with 'Sound Of Women' being on Face Book, @soundofwomen now has it's own account on Twitter and Instagram as before other than Facebook I was using my personal accounts. 

RMMW: What female Singer/Songwriters/Musicians do you enjoy and why? 

CM: Oh my I'd be here all day if I listed everyone I enjoy like from early on ABBA, Joan Jett, Stevie Nicks, Madonna, Prince, Sinead O'Connor, Bjork, Johnette Napolitano & Concrete Blonde, The Cure, The Pixies, PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, Garbage, The Kills, The Cranberries, Missy Higgins, Sarah McLachlan to in this generation Adele, Meg Myers, Adna, Lisa Mitchell, Fire To The Stars, Brenda Xu, LP, DARK, Whissell, seriously the list is literally endless as I literally do have a soundtrack to my life. I pretty much like anything as long as it's good so my taste is eclectic. lol  

If I could only pick one it would have to be Sinead O'Connor as she's the musical love of my life. Her voice and music is in my DNA and psyche. I first heard her voice when I was seventeen late one night while I was studying and to this day 'Troy' is my all time favourite song. I love her intensity, bravery, passion, intelligence, her willingness to be herself and say what she feels regardless of what anyone thinks. I saw myself in her being androgynous myself. Plus I share some of the personal challenges she has had to face and still faces so resonate with her music on a personal level and intimate level as her songs are like pages out of a diary. 

RMMW: All artists have to contend with an inner critic -- how do you deal with yours? 

CM: Mine is a tyrant and his voice is my father's voice so I often have to punch it in the face. Every rejection email I get brings out my inner critic though what helps is having decades of direct sales experience as I had to learn how to handle the no's, so my past business experience, along with rereading positive feedback helps me make sure my inner critic doesn't stop me.

RMMW: If you had a superpower what would it be?

CM: The power to heal. Not only myself but other people in every way physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. If I had a healing super power I'd get rid of my mother's cancer before it killed her, I'd return my lower back to the state it was before I first injured it, and heal myself every other way as well which I believe both love and my writing has and continues to help me do and hopefully not just for myself. 

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