Who’s Your Audience? A Profile of Mel Ortiz

As part of our profile series on the Riggio: Writing and Democracy community, we asked 12th Street Journal’s reader, and writer, Mel Ortiz, who she searches for in an audience. For Ortiz the question is not just “who,” but “where is her audience?”–an answer she often finds harbored among the stars…


Audience. Audience…audience. Who is my audience? In truth, I don’t have one. An audience, to me, implies a legion of minds eagerly awaiting my words. Thus far, my written work has only earned me the audience of an inquisitive, amber-eyed tabby who stares at me from behind my laptop screen.

As an always-storyteller who was new to writing, it was only recently that I began to consider being published. I had certainly never considered who my audience might be.

So who, exactly, am I writing for? After giving this question much thought, the verdict is in. Staying in my adult voice, I write for the child in us all. I write to awaken the memory of what it is to create—with unrestrained imagination—a thousand realities from a single thought. Here is how I used my storytelling practices to arrive at this conclusion…

My daughters: When my now-teenaged daughters resided in the magical world of childhood, they loved nothing more than to listen to my otherworldly stories before bedtime.

On audience: My stories often take place on other planets, or on an unrecognizable Earth. I want my audience to possess an imagination which willingly slips from the constraints and inhibitions of reality, and dives into new worlds.

My daughters: Days belonged to the mass-produced literary adventures occupying their bookshelf; but the nighttime spawned characters and realities that belonged to only us.

On audience: Though I aim for “a legion of minds,” It is my hope that my audience’s experience is a personal one.

My daughters: The tales I spun presented fantastically dressed versions of everyday life; with characters they could identify with.

On audience: Often taking the shape of an alien, a robot, or even an amorphous, gelatinous goo, my characters aren’t always presented in human form. However, they are, for better or for worse, human. My audience is empathetic, and able to see themselves in my characters, despite the obvious differences they may realize between themselves and the characters. They would question what it means to be human.

My daughters: Most of my stories ended with questions posed to my daughters, like: “Is that a world you would want to live in?”; “Did she/he make the right choice?”; “What if you were her/him ?”After posing such questions I would leave their shared room. I never asked for an answer. Instead, I left my daughters to their own thoughts.

On audience: I seek to ask the big questions with my work. My audience is an intellectually curious bunch who enjoy perusing the potentialities of those questions and their answers.