October 29th, 2021

In Conversation with the Author: Maria Hromcenco

Stoic Inferno

"This short story came from a place of emotional turmoil and hurt. I’ve always been a perfectionist, and I (unhealthily) place my self-worth in external academic validation. I really overworked myself during my junior year of high school, to the point where I felt like I was just living for achievements. The only comfort I had was the temporary, short-lived respite I’d experience after accomplishing a goal. This was a very toxic and draining mindset, and I’ve been working on developing a healthier outlook on my self-worth. However, at the time I really longed for an outlet for my emotions, so I took to writing them out. I also inserted some philosophical analogies, specifically pertaining to the theory of Stoicism. I manipulate the goals of Stoicism; instead of being in control of my emotions in a positive sense, I am instead “addicted” to pushing myself towards accomplishments. I am addicted to controlling myself. In this way, Stoic Inferno was created."

The Mathematics Man

"This story is fraught with philosophical references and magical realism. I heavily draw upon Haruki Murakami’s literary style through my surrealist descriptions of the “mushroom children” and the glowing rhizome. Writing about entirely ridiculous events in a nonchalant way makes for an absurd, yet fascinating, vignette. The rhizome itself, as well as many other allusions scattered throughout the story, are directly related to the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and his theories. The rhizome and its many intersecting branches is a physical manifestation of Deleuze’s concept of the rhizome, a term used to describe development. The rhizome has no specific point from which all development occurs. It is multiplicitous, does not have ends or beginnings, and has non-hierarchical entry and exit points. There are a few other references to unpack, but I’d like to leave them open to interpretation. Part of the beauty of art is its ambiguity, and the receiver’s interpretations exist in their own right and aid in developing the art even further."

Screams of Candlelight

"Screams of Candlelight also has a distinct Murakami influence (he is one of my favorite authors, if you couldn’t tell by now). I wanted to toy with the unreal by painting a caricature and exaggerating it to the point of unrecognition. I did this through describing a man who places emphasis on external characteristics in order to validate his self-worth, and by extension his existence. When the factors he desperately grasps at as the foundations of his essence are threatened, he crumbles and lights on fire. This climax draws upon the extended analogy that I delineate between the man and a candle."

The Wings and my Adolescence

"This is a memoir I had to write for my AP English Language and Composition course. It depicts a few moments from my childhood that had a significant impact on my development. Although its themes are relatively straightforward, this story still has a few parts that are subject to interpretation. I incorporated many aspects deeply personal to my character, including my Russian heritage, my childhood adoration for fairies and mythical creatures, tense familial situations, social anxiety, and my love of literature."

The Liberation of Entrapment

"The Liberation of Entrapment is a short, entirely experimental piece. It was heavily inspired by the sickeningly sweet language employed by Vladimir Nabokov in Lolita. I essentially just tried to implement a lot of honeyed descriptors to enhance a rather benign situation: accidentally squeezing my cat’s tail."

I am of Russian Blood

"This piece involves my Russian heritage and how I navigated my cultural identity as a first generation immigrant. My mother and father immigrated from Moldova to the U.S. when they were in their early twenties, and my little brother and I were born here. However, our traditions and culture are deeply embedded in our familial interactions. At home, we speak almost exclusively Russian. My past is rooted in my home life; it is simply unavoidable. As a child, I had to work to craft a proper balance between my heritage and the environment found within America. I thus established a sort of divide of spheres between my American side and my Russian side—they are two separate realms of existence, meeting together exclusively at my back door. This process came with many challenges that I still encounter today, so I decided to write about them."