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N.M.A. Zambrano


First Language(s): Spanish from Venezuela
Second Language(s): English


N.M.A. Zambrano grew up in the Venezuelan Andes in the 1980s and 90s. It was a time of hope and political instability. Global and local changes shaped her interests. She received undergraduate and graduate degrees in the United States.


What was your favorite book as a child?

Growing up, my favorite book was Michael Ende’s Neverending Story. I was a bookish kid with plenty in common with the main character, Bastian. Characters in books were fully human to me. Following Bastian in his two hero’s journeys was a great adventure. Aside from the travels into interior landscapes, a passage from The Neverending Story stayed with me for the rest of my life. It spoke about how human passions affected those who felt them in manners that cannot be explained to those who have not experienced them. I approach writing through the lens of the passions my characters feel. I feel their joys and disappointments. I recognize their humanity in the passions that I can experience through them, yet I cannot explain.

Do you remember the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?

“The Helicoid” is an excerpt from a full-length novel. The story haunted me, kept me awake at night, cornered me with its melancholy until I had no choice but to write. Complete scenes and chapters materialized out of the grief I felt for friends and family members who lost their homes and livelihoods amidst the Venezuelan refugee crisis. Prose became a meditation, a way to keep them company and share in their losses.

What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experienced?

I have traveled to most continents, flown in just about every contraption created by humans, jumped from very high places, and dived deep into waters from Alaska to New Zealand. And yet, to me, there is nothing more magical than a good conversation. Nothing compares with feeling a spark of understanding, human connection, of living, albeit temporarily, in someone else’s mind and soul.

Do you listen to music while reading or writing?

I do! As part of my process, I try to recreate the sensory and emotional environment that my characters would have experienced. I try to get lost in their worlds. Music plays a vital role in giving texture to the inner experience of my characters. I listened to “En un beso la vida” many times while writing this story.


Short Story
The Helicoid
Issue Spring '22

Supported by:

Land Steiermark: Kultur, Europa, Außenbeziehungen
U.S. Embassy Vienna
Stadt Graz