The Art of Blogging No. 2: An Interview with Katrina Fernandez

Katrina Fernandez was raised by hippies in Northern Virginia. A self-professed snob, abhorrent of hippies, she writes the delightfully anti-Puritanical web log, The Crescat, on the Patheos Catholic Channel. Ms. Fernandez displays a pointed point of view, delivered in expressive and colorful posts that provoke and, oftentimes, astonishShe is the Liberace of the Catholic blogosphere.

While certainly shocking, Ms. Fernandez is not a shock jock. But she is a jock: she played rugby for seven years at the position of prop, one of the two pillars of the scrum. If her fearless prose is any indication, she must have delighted in the intensity and sometimes outrageous pageantry of rugby football. And, of course, the contact.

Like the continuous play of a rugby match, Ms. Fernandez completed her interview within a single eighty-minute session on Facebook chat. And a bottle of wine. The thread was at times chaotic, but never boring, and even adversarial at times — after all, we are both former ruggers.

The sport of women’s rugby is a subtle art. Many times the finesse gets lost in the spectacle of women doing battle, verging on the homoerotic. The same might be said of her writing. LOUD, salacious, and fun, the sheer romp of her sentences and imagery can sometimes obfuscate the absolute seriousness of her aesthetic-religious message, sometimes to a degree that verges on being defensive.

But, as they say, sometimes the best offense is a good defense.

— Sam Rocha

INTERVIEWER

     Your writing. It’s good. It clips and verves and achieves something pretty wild sometimes, without totally going off the rails. How do you do that? How do you write that way you do?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     I talk to myself in my head. Seriously, that’s how a write. Like a running monologue. I’ve kept a journal every day of my life since I was six. I can’t think or figure things out without first fleshing them out on paper

INTERVIEWER

     So, if this were an oral account, a more traditional interview, the transcript would probably be the same, at least in the voice of the prose?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Yes. How I write is exactly how I think and talk. Which is why grammar Nazis hate me. I’m a shit writer in technical terms, I suppose. I wrestle with that inferiority complex when I compare myself to real talent. That kid, Max, I have such an Internet crush on his prose. I don’t do radio interviews well either because of it.

INTERVIEWER

     Back to your unique voice: I once had a student who wrote in his deeply street-inflected Philly voice. It reminded me of Twain’s folksy voices in Huckleberry Finn. He took such a beating from profs who thought he needed to “learn how to write proper English,” but all I could think of was Twain (who certainly had total command of the English language) when I read his work. 
All I see today are students (and even some professional writers) who don’t have a voice, and certainly not the one you have. What do you think about that?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     I don’t really know what to think. It’s just my voice in my head. My narrative that never shuts up.

INTERVIEWER

     I feel like I could just give you a cue and you would narrate the whole interview for me, like a John Cage interview technique or something. Is that the voice in your head?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Probably. I write in my sleep. I once read somewhere in some pseudo pyscho babble magazine that you weren’t supposed to be able to read in your dreams. That’s BS. I read and write in my dreams all the time.

INTERVIEWER

     Me too. I think I have some harder questions to ask about this voice in your head business, is that okay? Not intellectually hard, but maybe digging too much, presumptuous…

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Sure. Psycho analyze me baby

INTERVIEWER

     Here’s my reading of your prose: it’s disarming, cool, fast, but never loose. I know some guitar players who are super coy about what they do because they’ve been doing it for so long, but that also seems to be a failure on their part to recognize and see themselves in a certain interior way, as artists. I mean, “I can’t stop talking” doesn’t strike me as telling the whole story. See?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     I guess I’ve honestly never really thought about my writing style because I don’t see myself as having one. It reads more like being all over the place as my mind moves from one subject to the next. Sometimes it really is just me writing to myself. I don’t know why anyone finds that interesting but they do.

INTERVIEWER

     Do you edit?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     I try. I try to edit for errors but I am terrible at catching them. Edit for content, rarely. If it’s personal I will sit on it for several days. I either publish or trash it. You mean edit for errors or edit for content?

INTERVIEWER

     I guess both. What I am driving at isn’t totally clear to me but I think I am trying to ascertain your sense of taste, you have fascinating ability to mix highbrow ecclesial jargon with profanity and loud pictures and shorthand, cool phrases… And ellipses. How do you do it? And do you think you are being coy?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Coy. “Making a pretense of shyness or modesty that is intended to be alluring but is often regarded as irritating.” Yes, I’ve been called irritating.

“Reluctant to give details, esp. about something regarded as sensitive.” Yes and No.

INTERVIEWER

     Okay, say more about the yes and no thingy.

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Am I annoying? Gee, I sincerely hope not, but I kind of fear that I am. I try not to be. Like really super hard. I took an etiquette class once because I don’t think a lot of people get me. OK. Here’s where I’ll share something personal: I took this class because someone I admire said I’d have better dating luck if I toned my gregariousness once. She said she was sure there was a truck driver somewhere who’d love me. “Day-um,” I said, and thanked her for having the balls to be honest.

Then I decided to stop dating till I figured this out. You know that old saying that you are the only constant in all your failed relationships. Well, I figured it was right and took that class. And had some successful dates just like she predicted. But by the third date I couldn’t hide the fact that I snort when I laugh. And I laugh a bit too loud. And when I get nervous I say things like, “I steal votive candles from church”. So I had to decide. Do I want to be “coy,” as you called it? Or just me. So no, I do keep things to myself on my blog. I rarely talk about my ex-husband. Or that acid I took. Because I know how much it sucks to be honestly you and have that honest version, your true self, get rejected. Plus the trads would die if they knew I smoked pot and I regularly attend the Novus Ordo mass.

INTERVIEWER

     I can see that. But isn’t there a sort of honesty and authenticity that is also about NOT being who I really am, about trying to cling to that “me” that I think I am, but suspect I may not really be? I think there is a fine line, at least for me there is, between being authentic and being scared.

I have to ask: you do realize that you’re giving me all this to post on the Internet about you, right? All these things you “don’t write about.” Of course that’s the genius of your style, you say what you couldn’t say otherwise by saying what you cannot say about it.

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Wait what? This is like Inception.

INTERVIEWER

     Like I said earlier, you are disarming, in an oddly aggressive but playful way, and by doing that you are able to say things others could never get away with. But I’m more interested in you and why it is, or how it is, that you do that.

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     You know what I miss most? My pathetic never read non-blog from five years ago









 because that never read blog was where the real shit flew. This, this, Patheos thing… it’s like a mental filter. It’s like I am forcing my mind to behave like my every day professional self. Now everybody and my fucking confessor read the damn thing.

INTERVIEWER

     In others word: “you ain’t seen nothing yet — in reverse”?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     That’s why this interview thing idea you have is great. Cause I can say shit. But I’m not really. I can tell you I steal votive candles from Church and you can do with that as you please but it’s not really my confession because it’s technically not coming from me.

INTERVIEWER

     Gotcha. Want to get really serious now? Want to fight?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     I played rugby for seven years. You’d lose.

INTERVIEWER

     Nice! What position?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Prop.

INTERVIEWER

     Oh boy. You’re right.
Okay then. We’ll do something psychoanalytic instead. Are you familiar with word association?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Yes. It’s where I see an ink blot and tell you it looks like chickens doing it.

INTERVIEWER

     Yes. Exactly. In fact there is a good, vulgar joke I know from a guy I write about sometimes (Slavoj Zizek). Want to hear it?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     I like jokes.

INTERVIEWER

     So there is a peasant being psychoanalyzed using free association. Every cue the therapist gives, he responds to with “Fucking Fatima.” Finally the therapist asks him why he keeps saying that and he replies, “I’m sorry, but all I can think of is fucking Fatima.”
 Zizek’s point is that the analyst should have given him the cue “Fucking Fatima” to disrupt his consciousness and flip the script on him.

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Was that it?

INTERVIEWER

     Yea, I don’t tell jokes very well…

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Obviously.

INTERVIEWER

     Ouch. How about some free association? Just type the first thing that comes to mind.

“Building.”

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Fucking Fatima.

INTERVIEWER

     “Dress.”

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Shirt.

INTERVIEWER

     “Leggings.”

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     NOT PANTS!

INTERVIEWER

     “Pants.”

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Breaths.

INTERVIEWER

     “Francis.”

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Boohoo. 
(Sorry, that was my honest reaction.)

INTERVIEWER

     “Rabbit”

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Food.

INTERVIEWER

     “Scouting.”

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Gay.

INTERVIEWER

     “Ski goggles.”

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Also gay.

INTERVIEWER

     “Issues.”

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Plenty.

INTERVIEWER

     “EWTN.”

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Sucks ass.

INTERVIEWER

     I can’t keep going; you’re making me laugh too much.

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     I swear these are my honest replies.

INTERVIEWER

     I believe you.

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     I don’t think I am doing it right.

INTERVIEWER

     Luckily I’m not a psychoanalyst — is confession sort of like psychoanalysis?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     No.

INTERVIEWER

     How does your confessor handle you in there? Do you make him laugh, too?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     I disguise my voice. I use a fake British accent. I’m so ashamed. 
I’m so arrogant I am ashamed myself.
 Sometimes I go full on Cockney.
 He HAS to know it’s me. One of the these days I told myself I’d say “AY gov’nr” to him as sort of a confession that it’s me in there being a self conscious dip shit.

INTERVIEWER

     So this is another interesting part of your style/personality: you seem to also genuinely make mea culpas and self-deprecations and confessions and alike all the time. I don’t think it is self-loathing, but is it?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Let’s just say that if I were true to myself I’d spend the rest of my life doing penance for my sins. Like hard-core penance. Hair shirt penance, crawling on glass penance. Join a convent penance. But you don’t a join a convent for penance.

INTERVIEWER

     Another topic: Recently we’ve agreed on not liking EWTN and other stuff. As a result, you seem to get told that you’re going straight to hell and
 I get called a snobby prick. Which is worse?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Snob doesn’t bother me. Hell does though. I hate the heat. I get called snobby all the time. Art snob. Liturgical snob. Book snob. I can’t help if 95% of the literate world is low brow.

INTERVIEWER

     So I should get over it and just accept my snobby fate?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Yes, embrace your inner snob.

INTERVIEWER

     You went to lots of fine arts stuff as a kid, right?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     I was poor growing up and we didn’t have air conditioning and my mom worked a lot so I would hang out in the Chrysler museum because it was cool, free, and the people that worked there were nice. I found God in that museum. Seriously.

INTERVIEWER

     Tell me about THAT!

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     I was seven. Memling’s “Last Judgment” was on tour
 and I stared at that painting so long I am convinced Hell looks like a twisted Danish painting. I was only as tall as the bottom of the painting so I was right at eye level with the demons and Hell
, their distorted twisted agony convinced me Hell was real and I was NOT going there. I came back every day for a month to visit that painting. Well, maybe not everyday. But I visited it a lot
. And the Hudson River school painters convinced me that Heaven was real.

INTERVIEWER

     I was about to ask, “You found God in Hell?”

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Actually, yes. I found God in Hell. If Hell is real then it stands to reason that God was real. Simple as that.
Why do atheist struggle so? Their arrogance to dismiss their first instinct… that child voice plainly stating a fact as fact. There’s nothing intellectual about “well, duh!” which is what happened when I saw Hell. Well, duh! God is real. Landscapes showed me God is kind.

INTERVIEWER

     Some people, not atheists, might respond by saying that an encounter with Heaven or Hell is not that same thing as an encounter with God in the person of Jesus Christ. How would you reply to that question?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     To which I would reply: BOSH!

INTERVIEWER

     Why so?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     God created both. To encounter His creation is to encounter Him.
 He is everyfreakingwhere!

INTERVIEWER

     Sure, but I guess the question is whether or not it makes a difference to have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ or not…

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Hudson River school. Look at nature. God left His fingerprints all over that canvas. Cole knew that. Personal encounter? You got a little protty in there trying to come out?

INTERVIEWER

     So you are a panentheist, like St. Francis? My Dad is a Catholic evangelist, deeply influenced by the (protestant) Campus Crusade for Christ-style presentation of the Gospel. The kerygma. So I guess so, maybe just a little protty in there. 
But back to Francis…

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Back to encountering God.
What do you consider a personal encounter? Does it have to be like an emotional thing, an emotional connection to be a personal encounter?

INTERVIEWER

     I think the standard view would be an encounter with Jesus Christ through the love of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit. I think I got that right.

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     I can encounter God with all that gooey emotional crap by simply appreciating God and what He creates. That’s my encounter.

INTERVIEWER

     Did you get that sense of spirituality from art alone or are there other influences, too?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Art alone. Through beauty. It’s why I take Pope Francis’ liturgical style as a spiritual assault.

INTERVIEWER

     This does makes more sense out of the serious issues you have with Pope Francis. So you’re less of a Franciscan panentheist and more of an aesthetic Catholic.

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     YES. Full on senses. Double incense. Interestingly enough my Catholic conversion was Eucharistic, like St. Paul: flash bang boom. Be Catholic! Said the Lord.

INTERVIEWER

     Was that encounter aesthetic, too? Did it happen like your childhood and the painting?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     I never thought so but you got me wondering
.
The church it happened was as plain as the mother ship Francis celebrates mass in. 
And I remember thinking, “This is wrong. Very wrong.” It was at a Pentecostal church in Nashville, TN. Can you hear the twang from over here? It was Easter Sunday 
and the pastor wanted to “do communion” and wanted to try something a little different 
so he had us all line up to come to the “altar” and receive a shot glass containing grape juice and a packet of oyster crackers.









 And God said “NO!” I immediately knew this aping display was not the real thing. I grabbed my son under my arm and got up and left.

INTERVIEWER

     Sorry, but, how was this Pentecostal service Eucharistic?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     Because I knew what was real and what was not. I just somehow knew that what I needed was the Real Eucharist









.

INTERVIEWER

     So, in both cases, you found God in a place of absence — Hell and oyster crackers.

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     If there is a place devoid of spirituality than there has to be a place where the spiritual experience is OVERFLOWING in abundance.

INTERVIEWER

     Yours is a really folksy version, I think, of the via negativa. Let’s start to loop back around, to the beginning, or really the beginning before the beginning: Do you mind if I try to review?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     The Catholic Church is that place. The antidote to nothingness. The sites, smells, and sounds.
 Folksy. That’s me, I suppose. Ok, the review.

INTERVIEWER

     I think I originally wanted to figure out how you write and your response was to push off by saying it is just you and that is all there is to it. You followed that up with a veritable feast of stories and confessions and defenses of your life story, your biography, and even your testimony. Coming all the way back around, my question is pretty direct. Is it really that simple? Is your writing simply a unified part of your life at this point? Was there no craft, none of that? Finally, do you think of your identity as a “blogger” to be as a writer? Cause, you know, I think you’re a great writer. But do you even think of yourself as one?

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

     I aspire to be a writer. Only because I want to be validated that what I have to say is important and worthy. But no. I am not a writer. I have written no novels, published no works. I am just a blogger. 
I am probably more accurately, an obsessive journal keeper.

Yes, my writing is a unified part of my life. Like my Catholicism. Catholicism is for my heart and soul. Writing is for my mind — my thought process. There’s no craft to it. No style. And I don’t mean that with any shred of false modesty. I am horribly self-conscious at how uneducated I sound when held up to legitimate writers 
and I work at trying to improve my writing. I buy books like elements of style and take writing classes. But in the end it’s just as forced as etiquette classes.

  • Tim Canny

    Very interesting profile of one of my Most Favored Bloggers. We will need photographic proof of the rugby truth claims though.

  • hotboogers

    Love Kat.

    BTW, it’s “protty” or “prottie.” On account of the full word has t’s but no d’s.

    • SamRocha

      Thanks for the catch! Corrected.

  • Joshua Danis

    Sam, you made Katrina seem even more interesting than I remember. I certainly don’t always think the way she does, but maybe that is why she is so delightful!

  • Heloise1

    Katrina, what you have to say is important and worthy. In fact, your blog was the one I fell in love with first at Pathoes and one that I check every day.

    Thank you.

  • KB

    Up next: Narcissus is turned into a flower.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    How did I miss this? I see it was posted on the 23rd which is almost two weeks ago. Thank God I went back to check. Katrina is among the most entertaining bloggers around. She’s a blast. :)


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