Creative Friends: Lydia Cruz (Part II)

This is Creative Friends, a series of blog posts where I feature friends whose art inspires me.

Two weeks ago, I published Part I of my interview with the talented writer, photographer, publisher, all around legend: Lydia Cruz. Now here’s part II, in which we chat about creative nonfiction and what’s on her desk at the moment. Looking for some great creative non-fiction recommendations? Read on my friends!

Carly: Who are some of your favorite creative nonfiction writers? Any recommendations for people who are not familiar with the genre?

Lydia: Ugh. Well. Jo Ann Beard, number one. Her collection Boys of My Youth, specifically the title essay, The Fourth State of Matter, Out There, and the introduction. I also really love A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle. Also, anything by Maira Kalman, who is an interesting mix of genres—a blend of historical information, personal history (I think) and probably some fiction maybe, I don’t really know, but it’s all fantastic. She is an illustrator as well and I would recommend The Principles of Uncertainty as a starter text. Annie Dillard, of course. The Writing Life for a book, and then Eclipse and Living Like Weasels for essays. Once a Tramp Always, by MFK fisher (essay). So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star by Jacob Slichter. Days, by Deborah Eisenberg, which is actually a short story but her most autobiographical short story and is fantastic. David Foster Wallace, particularly the essays Ticket to the Fair and Tennis, Trigonometry, Tornadoes. Black Swans by Lauren Slater (essay). Hateful Things, by Sei Shonagon (essay). The Year Of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.

What’s on your desk at the moment?

My desk is a particular mess at the moment, having never recovered from an arts market I was in last Saturday haha. (Well, I wrote that about a week ago and nothing has changed, yikes, but here it is) Oh and I suppose I should say my desk is an old drafting table without the adjustable top—the top was huge and wouldn’t fit—in my enclosed front porch, lovingly and reverently referred to as The Magic Porch.

1 Royal Typewriter

1 Silver Jubilee mug purchased in Scotland and broken in transit a year later that was glued back together and is now used to hold pencils (20), paper straws (10), a couple ballpoints and a little chalkboard tag that says happy may day

2 boxes of business cards

1 pile of scraps of string, all neatly rolled up and individual

1 engagement photo of my younger brother and my now sister in law

1 spool of string on some kind of plastic neon orange dispenser thing I forgot I had until just now

1 3x2in slice of teabag with a nice tea stain on it

2 shells from Scotland

1 handsewn drawstring bag I usually use for toiletries when I travel but used to transport tools and tape to the arts market

Only 1 copy of the New Yorker at the minute but there are usually at least a few floating around

1 pint mason jar full of 17 paintbrushes

2 estate sale small wooden boxes—one full of various spools of string and one full of water color paints, a bottle of mysterious *water color medium*, and some scraps of newsprint with watercolor blots I like

1 Nixon’s the One! Button I found at the same estate sale this summer where I bought all the watercolors

1 half sheet of medium grain (?) sandpaper

1 half pint mason jar with pens (only 6 at the moment because all my pens are in my purse so I can work on illustrations when it’s slow at work), mostly micron but one white gel pen, and a bit of leather strap that I think migrated from the string box next door.

2 stamp pads

1 set of nearly finished hand embroidered felt coasters

1 sketch of an idea for my next tattoo that I have since scrapped

1 tiny blue glass vase holding 9 needles, 7 regular and 2 coptic

1 small ceramic pot I made in high school and has housed Stuart the succulent since this summer

1 piano lamp my mother bought to put on our piano and which I commandeered very early on and which also gives off an astounding amount of heat

1 17x22in cutting mat

1 green glass wine bottle with stalks of long dead mint leaves

1 roll of toilet paper

1 small ceramic bird my mother gave me last Easter

1 blue glass insulator

1 zine called quiet earth from the talented Eloise Bennett

Marcel the Shell’s book The Most Surprised I’ve Ever Been by Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate

1 copy of A Beaded Prayer which is a kind of guided collection of prayers my brother compiled and I bound into some small books

1 tiny brown paper envelope held together by red paper tape (given to me by my best friend on a day when I pulled out the last two letters from the scrabble bag—FU—) that says to lydia on this treacherous day love meagan and contained 1 handcarved scrabble tile, the letter N penned on one side and token of hope and fun to come on the other and which I carry around in my pocket every day as a talisman of courage

1 paperwrapped bundle of vine charcoal

1 prototype felt heart valentine from last year with embroidered—I’ve never felt this way before—

1 bone folder

2 erasers, one unopened

1 belt buckle with a navybean sized piece of turquoise that belonged to my grandfather before he died

1 leather pen case I made last year

2 candles

4 scraps of paper tape from packages I’ve received pressed onto the table

1 poem I wrote on December 27, 2012

5 boxes of pencil lead back when the lead was housed in wooden trays instead of plastic

1 eight count sheet of fruit stickers, a party favor from my birthday in November

1 tea bag plate with a painting of perhaps a cardinal

1 circle paper cutter gifted to me by my brother and his wife for my birthday that I haven’t figured out how to use

1 print of an illustration of an older couple I photographed walking down Market Street in St Andrews

1 illustration in a completely new style on a paper bag salvaged from a shipment of tea, syrups, etc we received at work

1 handbound book of quotes my mother gave me last Christmas—the page I keep the book propped open to is this

be easy. take your time. you are coming home to yourself. –nayyarah waheed


Lydia’s desk on The Magic Porch


Lydia Cruz is a Colorado-based writer and designer. She has worked as a designer for various festivals, musicians and businesses and has shown work in Colorado, New York, and Scotland. She is currently Artist in Residence at Bindle Coffee in Fort Collins, Colorado USA.

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