An Interview with Tanaya Winder

An Interview with Tanaya Winder

Hello, Plumers! Our August/September edition has just shipped, which means we’re hard at work on October’s offerings! Plume’s next featured creative writer is Tanaya Winder, a writer, educator, motivational speaker, and performance poet from the Southern Ute, Duckwater Shoshone, and Pyramid Lake Paiute Nations. Tanaya is a literary force to be reckoned with, and we’re so excited for you to get to know her and her work. We hope you enjoy the interview!

Plume: When did you know you were a writer?

Tanaya Winder: I suppose I really felt like a writer after my first book got published and people from my own reservation community, other Indigenous people from their communities, and other folks from different backgrounds told me that my words resonated with them. The first time one of the elder in my hometown (where I gave my first book reading for my first published book) said she stayed up all night reading my book and it reminded her of her and her husband when they were younger. The fact that she saw herself in my work made me feel like I was a writer.

P: Where do you get your ideas?

TW: My ideas come to me in dreams, in between sips of coffee, looking at the clouds in the rise and descent of flight, and in the interacitons I have with all of the youth, my peers, and elders I meet on the road. I get my ideas from living.

P: Where do you write?

TW: I write literally everwhere. I write on planes, on the road (if I’m the passenger), in coffee shops, and at home after work. Sometimes I’ll write on my laptop, in a notebook, and even on napkins or post-it notes; it all depends on what I have around me on the top.

P: Do you have any writing rituals?TW: Not at all. I usually just go with my gut and write when the words come to me. Sometimes I’ll need to motivate by making coffee or listening to a writing playlist, but I wouldn’t call any of what I do writing rituals. For me, writing itself is a ritual.

P: How supportive is your local community for writers?

TW: I travel so much that I’m not really able to engage in a local community of writers and I don’t really feel a part of the community where I am currently living. I honestly spend so much time on the road I feel most home as a vistor, visiting the communities I am fortunate enough to be invited into to teach, to sing, to read, to perform, and learn. But, the communities I visit are all very supportive to what I do. I’m very lucky in that way and grateful for the support I get.

P: What are some of your self-care practices?

TW: I breathe. I run outside along the creek with foot to pavement, on dirt, and mother Earth to remind myself that I am but a small human on this Earth that needs protecting. When my hurt or problems or difficulties feel so immense, I run, I cook food, I meditate, and I take care of myself physically, emotionally, and mentally because I know that we can’t take care of others until we first take care of ourselves. I also play my guitar and sing every day. I try to practice these acts daily because I write to reflect the world I exist in.  Because, most of what I write about is difficult subject matter because the lives we live in the brown bodies we exist in is difficult. It’s difficult trying to exist in a settler colonial country where systemic processes are set up to see you fail. For the sake of our survival, we must practice self-care daily when we write our hearts onto the page and then live with those hearts outside of our bodies so that the ones we write for can see that healing is possible.

P: What is your favorite book about writing?

TW: I don’t have one. I honestly don’t remember many books I’ve read about writing. I’ve read a few craft essays taken from books and those were all assignments from classes in undergrad or grad school. But, honestly while I think all of those technical skills do matter and they are helpful to learn in honing your craft, I don’t believe they are an absolutely necessity. Personally, I write what is in my heart, I write what I feel needs to live and breathe and sing in the world. And, I write what I feel I’m called to write because it will help other people on their path in some way. It’s not about how many times I get published or where I get published. It’s not about awards or getting famous; it’s all about honoring the gift. The thing that has helped me most with writing hasn’t been a single book, but rather the elders who tell me stories (the books of their lives so to speak), the youth who ask me questions, the youth who I teach life lessons to in writing workshops or classes, and the ceremonies of my culture.

P: What are you currently working on?

TW: Everything!! I am currently working on so many things. I’m working on my second full collection, which will be a compilation of essays and poetry. I’m focusing on continuing to grow my Indigenous artists management company. I’m working on new spoken word pieces and always writing more songs. The most exciting thing is I’m working on my first EP. I love singing and playing guitar. I’m excited to say I should have my first music album in early 2019 and I can’t wait!

Want to learn more about the indomitable Tanaya? Head on over to her website!

If you haven’t signed up for Plume’s October edition yet, you still have a few weeks to do so (When did it get to be September already?!). Check out our shop so you can get Tanaya’s work and our other exciting writerly goodies into your hot, hot hands next month!

Happy fall!