Craig Santos Perez is a CHamoru author and poet, aiming to awaken the world with his weapon of choice: the written word.
Originally from Mongmong, Perez grew up in Guam before moving to California in 1995, and settled in Oahu, Hawaii, in 2010 where he is presently an assistant professor in the state university's English department.
The established poet is the co-founder of Ala Press - the only U.S. publisher dedicated to Pacific literature - co-star of the spoken word audio book "Undercurrent," and the editor of two Pacific anthologies.
In 2016, Perez received the prestigious Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship, and in 2017, received the Hawaii Literary Arts Council Elliot Cades Literary Award - the most prestigious literary prize in Hawaii.
Perez was also recognized and commended as an "accomplished poet" and "phenomenal ambassador for our island" through a resolution presented by Guam Legislature in 2010.
The decorated writer is most famously known for being the author of four popular collections of poetry: "from unincorporated territory [hacha]," "from unincorporated territory [saina]," "from unincorporated territory [guma']" and his October 2017 release, "from unincorporated territory [lukao]."
Besides his list of literary contributions and accomplishments, the CHamoru poet is a is an editor, activist, essayist, critic and book reviewer.
Question: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Answer: “Listening to my family and relatives talk story around the table or at a fiesta taught me the power of language and storytelling to enliven memory and experience.”
Q: Did your family always support your career as a writer? What were some of the hurdles or hoops writers had to jump through to be noticed in your time?
A: “Yes, my family has always supported my creative endeavors. One of the major hurdles to being noticed is that most people in the world have never heard of Guam or CHamorus, so there is a lack of knowledge and visibility of the main themes of my work.”
Q: What was your favorite childhood book and how did it make you feel growing up? What is your favorite underappreciated novel?
A: “My favorite childhood books were the Berenstein Bears series. There are no bears on Guam, so it captured my imagination. In general, Pacific Islander novels are underappreciated in discussions of global literature. One author whom I love that deserves more international recognition is Peter Onedera.”
Q: Tell me about a time when writing energized or empowered you. Conversely, tell me about a time when writing exhausted you.
A: “Whenever I write about my culture and homeland, I feel energized and empowered. I feel exhausted from writing when I am copy editing.”
Q: What is your writing kryptonite? Do you believe there are common traps for writers?
A: “For me, the most common trap is a lack of time. Being an educator, editor, publisher and activist all take time away from writing.”
Q: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would your advice be?
A: “I didn't start writing seriously until I attended graduate school, so I would tell my younger self to ‘take yourself more seriously as a writer.’”
Q: Could you imagine your life without writing? If you didn’t write, what would you picture yourself doing for work?
A: “No, I could not imagine my life without writing. Right now, I work as a professor and I also could not imagine my life without teaching, which is my other main passion.”
Q: Do you consider yourself a successful author? What does literary success look like to you?
A: “I have not thought about it in terms of success, but I have been fortunate to be the first ever Pacific Islander author to receive major literary awards in the U.S., such as the American Book Award. To me, though, literary success is more about inspiring readers and making my family and people proud.”