Ofrenda Magazine (OM): Thank you for sharing an excerpt from Funeral for Flaca with our readers. There are so many rich layers in your book—experimentation, heritage, social justice, and healing, among others. Can you share more about what this particular selection, “La Llorona,” means to you?
Emilly Prado (EP): “La Llorona” is an essay that appears near the end of this collection, and it started with a memory of a tree in my grandparent’s house in Mexico. I didn’t know exactly where I’d go from there, other than I knew I wanted to spend some time thinking and writing about this tree. My writing often feels like a tree—messy and sprawling with many possible branches to explore, and as I thought more about the tree, it sparked memories of Mexico, my roots, growing up, and the lifecycle of things—myself, traditions, and relationships.
It documents the changes of this tree, this house, and my body. It marks the “end” of my disordered eating, and perhaps more accurately, a forced severing of my ties to the nickname Flaca. I say end in quotes because I think the stage of my life I’m in now feels something more like a remission, as the stressors and societal messages that fueled my body image struggles still exist, and, like I write, require ongoing monitoring, even on a subconscious level, to not let myself get caught up in the toxicity.
Finally, the title for the essay came after it was written because each essay in Funeral for Flaca is the name of a song, and together, they make a playlist. I picked it because in addition to being known as Flaca, I also grew up being called a cry baby. I thought “La Llorona” was a fitting ode to this other nickname, to the powerful queer icon Chavela Vargas, and the terrifying Mexican folktale of the ghost woman who sobs for eternity, roaming the land, especially near rivers, as she cries out in mourning for her three children—each of which she drowned.
OM: What is your writing practice like?
EP: I like to spend mornings, whenever I can carve out the time, writing stream-of-conscious thoughts in a journal. I was never a morning person, but my partner converted me into one when I set my own routine to his former teaching schedule. I’m a convert, and I love rising early and easing into my day with quiet and a cup of tea.
When it comes to writing creatively, with the intent to write an essay or maybe a scene towards another memoir project I’ve been slowly building towards since 2012, I start with making sure I’m comfortable. I live with chronic pain stemming from a few overuse injuries, so I’m typically limited to writing in an ergonomic desk set up. I put on headphones and listen to weird atmospheric instrumental music, and eventually the world around me dissolves. If I’m feeling anxious or don’t have a huge urge to write, I’ll set a timer. I make a promise to keep writing until the timer runs out, and often, I’ll find I’m enjoying it so much I want to continue. Then I keep doing this until things become more coherent and take plenty of breaks. I like to revise as I go, but also do several full sweeps after I’ve come to what I think might be a conclusion. I don’t write every day, but I’m okay with that.