Episode 2: A conversation about matcha, stars, and hammocks with Ingrid Rojas Contreras

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Our second episode is with Ingrid Rojas Contreras, author of FRUIT OF THE DRUNKEN TREE. Inspired by Ingrid's own life, FRUIT OF THE DRUNKEN TREE takes place in Colombia in the 1990's and is told through the alternating perspectives of Chula and Petrona, who develop an unexpected friendship. With beautiful and violent writing, Ingrid weaves together two coming-of-age stories, shedding light on what happens to strong women who are forced to sacrifice, and the connections that can be made as a result. It's a book we cannot recommend enough!

We can't wait for you to hear the episode. Ingrid's self-care tips were unlike anything we could have imagined. Ingrid lives a life of hammocks, baths, stargazing, and of course, reading. Ingrid is a reader who uses books and writing to care for herself. We think you'll be stealing her Shelf-Care rituals for yourself.

And don't forget to show off your #shelfcare! Tag us on Instagram to be featured on our feed.

Let's rest and recharge together!
kate and lauren

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KATE: It's officially my favorite season--Autumn! And how am I celebrating? With depressing, "punch in the stomach," books that feature depressed female narrators! What's more fun than that?! I started reading EILEEN by Ottessa Moshfegh after finishing THE NEW ME by Halle Butler and highly recommend both for anyone looking for something dark to read. Even though the weather is creeping towards winter, I like to keep a beachy vibe going with my hair. Thanks to OUAI Texture Foam, my hair stays in eternal summer-- even as my reading habits keep getting bleaker and bleaker.

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LAUREN: This week #myshelfcare is Daphne du Maurier's REBECCA, a perfect book for me to re-read in October for the zillionth time. It's a beautiful, mysterious, delicious, gothic novel about fucked-up romance and it checks all of the boxes for me. Plus it has the best first-line, ever. And shout-out to my panel of CBD oils, which I take before I go to bed. CBD oil doesn't work for everyone, but it sure works for Ingrid and me. Does it work for you? On my shelf: Charlotte's Web Everyday in mint chocolate, Danodan Grassworks, Restorative Botanicals Hemp Oil in spice, and Genesis Pharms High CBD Tincture. They each have a variety of power, I play around with them, depending how wired I am.

Books and products recommended in this episode:

Kate: Why don't we get to it and you can start describing your Shelf-Care. 

Ingrid: I love Laneige, the water sleeping mask. It's so refreshing and so relaxing. I also have a Sunday Riley’s Luna Sleeping Night Oil. I also have Good Genes, another Sunday Riley, more of a day cream, and a Vitamin C brightening serum. 

I've also started drinking matcha in the last two years, so I switched from coffee to matcha and it's just been like the, the best decision that I have ever taken. I was just reading up on matcha and it has something in it that they actually take and isolate and put it an anxiety medication. So it's like, uh, a really nice way to wake up.

I also have these cannabis-infused gummies, they're mostly CBD and they’re sparkling pear.

Kate: What is the brand? Because I've been, when I can't sleep at night, I Google what CBD to buy.  Which just goes to show how badly I need CBD.

Ingrid: This is Kiva, Kiva and it's the sparkling pear, CBD gummies. There's, it's so, yeah, it's super relaxing. It's it, the feeling is kind of like if you, either you have two glasses of wine or you just got out of a hot bath, that's what it feels like. 

So you know, what I like to do is at night, just when I'm winding down, I like to take this CBD gummy and I have a hammock in my writing room that I actually unhook and re-hook depending on whether I'm using it or not. So it doesn't take up space the whole time. Um, and then I get in my hammock and then I curl up with a book and it's, it's just like the best, just such a relaxing experience. It's amazing. 

Kate: I love that. And what are some of the books that play into your Shelf-Care? 

Ingrid: Um, you know, something that I really love rereading are Kafka’s shorter stories. So they're the ones that are usually like a paragraph long or sometimes a page long. But I find them to be so beautiful and amazing. 

Kate: And having the short Kafka, similar to being intimidated by matcha, Kafka is something else I'm intimidated by. And having a paragraph seems much easier to digest than an entire book.

Ingrid: Uh, Oh my God, I'm going to change your life.

Kate: Please. I am not someone who typically read short stories and I know I'm missing out on a ton of great things. I mean I wasn't able to read FLORIDA by Lauren Groff, and I also even essays I can't, I just read TRICK MIRROR and that was the first essay collection where I read every word.

Ingrid: Yeah. Well, you know, Kafka's shorter stories can be quite funny. Um, what else? Well, I've been reading, I just finished Kaveh Akbar's CALLING A WOLF A WOLF. Um, and it was so beautiful. I've been reading it for maybe three weeks, um, and I just really wanted it to last longer. I wanted it to go on.

You know what else I love to reread is A HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE. I love that novel so much.

Kate: People that have read that book, I don't know, I've never heard of someone reading it only once. 

Ingrid: Right. You know, there's something about that novel, I think when it came out, initially Colombians didn't know how to read it or appreciate it because it was, it was such a close mirror that our reaction was to mostly just be like, well, this is normal life, so this cannot be literature. Which is speaks to the level of internalized colonialism that we have. But then once you kind of like dig under that and you, um, start to, to like really love the, the novel for kind of the, the joy and the gift that it is. 

Kate: Was there any book that you read that made you excited about moving to the U S or paint a picture of the U S in an idealized way that you can remember just making that move very exciting for you?

Ingrid: Um, I don't think so. It all seems, and you know, the literature also doesn't speak of one place, so it all seems very confusing to me, to try to imagine how THE GREAT GATSBY and like AS I LAY DYING were in the same country, you know, when, when you haven't been here like it, it's hard to imagine. And then you're trying to piece that together with the Hollywood movies that you see and then you're really confused. Well, what is, what is this place? 

Kate: Do you remember when you first moved to the U S ever having a moment where you just thought this is what it means to live in the United States? Was there a product that you saw or you know an experience that you felt like it hit you where you actually were? 

Ingrid: Yeah. So I read a lot of literature while in Colombia and so one of the things that I was really curious about were fall and winter. Living in the equator, we obviously don't have any of that. Um, and I had never seen snow, um, but it was still, you know, somehow a part of our cultural conversation. And it was always like, we, we always compared it to flour. Like it would be like light and dusty like that. 

Kate: So that must have been shocking when you experience snow for the first time. 

Ingrid: Yeah. It was very shocking. It was very beautiful. I mean, I remember being inside and then just watching it fall and how beautiful that was. And then being in it is not as beautiful. 

Kate: No. It rarely is. Most things that look beautiful once you get a closer experience and firsthand, not so much. 

Ingrid: Yeah. But I always remember cause you know, we have a famous metaphor for death, which is, a broom that's sweeping away dust or scraping a floor clean. And you come across this metaphor in places that have snow over and over again. How you know, things getting blanketed and snow is the death metaphor. So when I first kind of saw that in, in real life and even saw the leaves changing and things like that, it was a moment where I was like, I finally get all that, all of those poems that I before could not really access.

Kate: Ingrid, would you mind giving a 15 second synopsis of your book and describing it for people that haven't had a chance to read it yet?

Ingrid: Sure. Uh, FRUIT OF THE DRUNKEN TREE  is an autobiographical novel. It takes place in the nineties in Colombia. And so there's car bombs happening as there were at the time, and Pablo Escobar's on the run. So there's all this violence exploding throughout the nation. And it's told from the point of view of two girls who come from different classes and these two girls, um, develop a friendship.

Kate: When you were writing this, I can imagine it took your mind to very dark places and places that, and memories that reminded you of experiences that you probably wanted to distract from or forget in some instances. And I'm wondering as you were writing this and the catharsis of it, how did you take care of yourself and how were able to compartmentalize where you could still function while you were going through and writing about such dark subject matter? 

Ingrid: Yeah, that's such a good question. You know, it is hard, ‘cause when you're, especially if you're writing from experience, you, you do have that kind of daily, sensation that you're just opening a wound. And so then when the writing session is over, you kind of have to deal with, with the fact that you've opened up all these emotions and like how do you, you need to like find places for them. One thing that really made a difference for me is I found this little, it's like a little plastic device and it's called, it's like a sound device that you can hold in your hand and it's called, The Buddha Machine and Phillip Glass designed I think there's seven different loops of sound. So it's just a short loop and it repeats over and over again so you can listen to the same to the same music for however long you want. And there's something about looping sound that really, really relaxes me and kind of like really puts me in a meditative state of mind. And the other thing that I started to do was I started to really get into stargazing and constellations. Yeah. 

Kate: Oh, that's so cool. I love space. I had a moment of insanity when I was in college and was an astronomy major for a semester.

Ingrid: Oh my god really? 

Kate: Yes. And it's wasted on me now that I live in New York. I went out with someone who went to, actually two people that I've gone on dates with now in my life have gone to space camp and this isn't something that comes up within the first hour of me meeting them, which is shocking because if I went to space camp you would know that before you knew my first name in most instances. 

Ingrid: What happens at space camp? 

Kate: They don't go into too much detail because I think what happens at space camp stays at space. But I know that as a child, one of the most exciting things for them is the astronaut ice cream. 

Ingrid: Mmm. I want to go. 

Kate: Yes, definitely. And um, being the life of a writer can be really difficult when it comes to structuring your time and discipline. And do you find that you rely on routine to get you through the days or are you more, I wake up in the morning, everything I do is more intuitive?

Ingrid: Yeah, I do love routine, routine is very important to me and I usually write better, like my mind is more present or more active and fresh in the mornings. So I usually just think of, I have like two windows in which I can write and it's either, you know, early in the morning, or it's late at night. And I just kind of structure my days around that. So right now I'm teaching a class that is that 3:00 PM, and it's perfect because then I can, even on a teaching day, I can like wake up and have my morning session, go to class, come back, and then have a night session. But it doesn't look like writing all the time. Sometimes it looks like research or sometimes I'm just kind of thinking about an idea or a concept that I want to write about, but I haven't found my way in yet. 

Kate: Do you find it hard to go from writing in the evenings to turning off your mind and getting into bed and having a good night's sleep?

Ingrid: I think because it's in different rooms than it feels like, Oh, once they leave this room, it's like the end of the workday. 

Kate: I just started doing that. I was struggling because I noticed I started getting a burst of inspiration to work after dinner and I was having a difficult time shutting my mind off once I was done doing that and actually spoke to my therapist about it and she said her number one tip, and I can't believe I hadn't been doing this, is that your bed is reserved for sleep and sex. And I had been looking at the clock and let's say it's 11:00 PM, I would go into my bedroom and read. She said that is the number one thing to correct in order to change my sleep pattern is read on the couch or reading a different room and only be on your bed to fall asleep. 

Ingrid: Yeah. You know, I've tried that, but it's so difficult. The allure to read in bed is so great. 

Kate: The one upside is I waited forever for the couch that I have in my living room and there's something about it that is so alluring to me that reading on it and I have a good view from my reading nook that makes it better than my bedroom. 

Ingrid: Yeah. I guess it's the same way. If I'm in a hammock reading then that is like that better, a lot better. I’m so comfortable.

Kate: The hierarchy of ideal reading positions. 

Ingrid: Yeah. I think it would go hammock then bathtub and probably, bed after that.

Kate: How often do you take baths? 

Ingrid: I take so many baths. Um, probably one every two days I would say. I have a really good bathtub right now. So always in there. I really like have you tried Lush bombs

Kate: No, I haven't. 

Ingrid: They're just, there's this amazing bath bomb and they, I think they make them was all natural ingredients. So it's like really good for your skin and your hair and everything and, but more importantly when you're dropped them into your bathtub, they create this kind of like neon explosion of color that be like pink and blue and like turquoise and yellow and it's amazing.

And you know, I haven't tried this out yet, but I just ordered it cause I, you know, had an idea at like 11:00 PM last night. I just ordered, you know those like rainproof notebooks that, you know, scientists will, will buy to kind of make a field notes and when they're out in vain, 

Kate: I do now.

Ingrid: Yeah, they're called like rite in the rain notebooks. So I just ordered, I ordered a notepad ‘cause I was thinking that I could write in the bathtub cause I've always wanted to do that. But it never works. Your paper gets wet, the pen doesn't work. So I'll report back. But I think if it works, it's going to be brilliant.

Kate: Does that mean that you write by pen and paper?

Ingrid: I have a lot of different methods that I switch around depending on whether I get stuck. I write mostly in the computer, but I also have typewriters and I will also write long hand. They all have different speeds of thought. So when you're typing in a computer, you can very quickly get the words that you want on the page. When you're in the, in the typewriter it's slightly slower, so that sometimes as you're writing a sentence you start to see other ways that the sentence can go. And so what you end up typing actually looks very different than what you would have typed on a computer. And pen and paper is like the slowest thought process I think. So that you kind of can kind of see multiple ways in which the sentence can go before you reach the end of the sentence. So it slows you down. And if I'm, if I'm getting stuck on the computer, then I will use one of the other.

Kate: When I write with pen and paper, I also noticed the word selection is sometimes based on the word that I want to write physically. In addition to emotionally and there's a different connection that comes out when each word feels different because typing on a computer each key feels exactly the same, but when your writing something out, each word physically has a component to it. 

Ingrid: That's so true. Do you have a favorite letter that you like to do? 

Kate: You're talking to someone whose favorite thing about herself is her penmanship. I will be writing in coffee shops and get strangers approaching me, telling me they love my handwriting, which is a great compliment and also makes me wonder how much they're reading because, of course there’s certain things that I'm writing in a journal for a reason, but just this morning was writing in my journal. I find that there's something about putting a pen to paper that forces you to be very deliberate in your word choices too.

Ingrid: It makes me wonder, my favorite letter to make would be the “y”, by the way.’

Kate: Lowercase? Or uppercase?

Ingrid: The lower case. 

Kate: And would this be handwriting or print?

Ingrid: Handwriting. It makes me wonder because I read there was research about why we remember things that we read in physical books or like magazines or things that we can hold. We remember that better than when we read something online. And so there all this research going into it and the finding was that a part of when you're recalling something that you read on the page, it's spatial memory. So that information is stored in two different parts of your brain, like the words, and also like where, physically, it was so that you can access it better and that's why we remember it more. Whereas if you're on a screen, it's all the same place. And so you don't have this extra place that you store that information in. I think that's why we tend to be like, “I don't know where I read that” or like “Was it in The New Yorker?”, that memory isn't there. But it makes me wonder if for writing physically, it makes more of an imprint for the same reason. Cause you have a spatial memory that goes along with it. 

Kate: Definitely. That makes sense to me and something that really feels true.

Ingrid:  Yeah. Yeah. I can totally see that. 

Kate: Thank you so much again for joining us and I am very grateful that you took the time. 

Ingrid: Oh, thank you so much for having me. This was so much fun. 

Kate: Great. Thanks again. Thank you.