Interview with Sylvia Riojas Vaughn

What name do you write under?

Sylvia Riojas Vaughn

Is this your given name?


If you use a pen name why?

I want to pay homage to my Latina heritage and to my husband.

Which country do you live in?


What made you want to write and were you inspired by anyone?

At age six I told Mother I’d be a writer.  No writer inspired me; I think literacy experiences throughout my early childhood may have been the key. 

What encouragement did you have, and have you taken any courses in writing?

I encouraged myself by writing TV fan scripts as a young girl; in high school, my journalism teacher encouraged me.  In college, I majored in journalism.  I have also attended poetry workshops taught by published poets and professors, and a class on writing novels.  I belong to a local poetry workshopping group.

What genre do you write?

Poetry, plays, short stories, news, news features, press releases, blog posts, book reviews.

What was your first publication?

High school journalism news stories. 

Did you self-publish or use a publishing house?

I submit to and have been published by poetry journals, anthologies, and contests that print anthologies.  I once self-published a chapbook of holiday poems using Microsoft Publisher and the local copy shop.  My father illustrated it; he’s also illustrated poems in an online journal for me.

How long does it take you to write a book?

The book of poems I hope to publish has taken many years to compile.

How many words does your book usually contain?

The three chapbooks I hope to publish contain between sixteen and twenty poems; the full-length volume has about 80 poems.  I don’t know the word count, but many of my poems are no longer than thirty lines.

How do you get over writer’s block?

Doing something routine, such as housework; people watching and window shopping at the mall; or, going anywhere else to journal, even if it’s a fast food joint.  I buy coffee, commit to staying one hour, and, if I’m really stuck, I’ll start by writing, “I’m really stuck. I’m really stuck…” as many times as it takes to get me interested in working.  After a while, I’ll study my surroundings, soaking in the aromas and bits of conversations, and write a description.  Usually that will jog an idea loose.  Free-writing about any topic for ten minutes without stopping to edit or punctuate also helps; I’ll then pick out a word, phrase or sentence and use it as an idea for a poem; or, the text may jog a completely different idea loose!  I also love nature photographs; they are great prompts for me.

Did you give up the day job to be able to write?

Not when I worked as a full-time journalist.  Now my day job is homemaking, writing, and editing.

Will you ever retire from writing?

No.  The Muse will not be denied nor ignored; she arrives at any hour, and demands my complete attention.  Alas, sometimes I have to summon her (see answer about writer’s block).

How did you find out about The Writers Newsletter and has it been of interest to you?

The editor contacted me through LinkedIn.  Yes, I think The Writers Newsletter is a worthy endeavour, especially because it champions literacy for young people.


Short Bio :

Sylvia Riojas Vaughn is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. She has been selected as a Houston Poetry Fest Juried Poet three times.  She belongs to the Dallas Poets Community. Her work appears in Red River Review, Triadæ, HOUSEBOAT, Diálogo, Desde Hong Kong: Poets in conversation with Octavio Paz, Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems (Dos Gatos Press, 2016), The Arachneed Journal, Highland Park Poetry’s The Muses’ Gallery, and anthologies and journals in the U.S. and abroad.  Her play, La Tamalada, was produced in Fort Worth.


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