Today we’d like to introduce you to Christopher Ozuna Mardiroussian.
Christopher, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I am originally from Glendale, California. I come from a family of immigrants. My dad was born in Iran; he immigrated to the U.S. at the age of fourteen with my uncle and grandparents. My grandparents on my mom’s side came from Mexico and El Salvador. Having grown up in a culturally diverse household, I’ve acquired a piercing work ethic and passion for helping others. With the love and support of my family who’ve made many sacrifices, I’ve been granted the opportunity to follow my dreams/goals. At the end of the day, family comes first. With my parents prioritizing my needs and well-being, I was able to grow into the person and “artist” I am today.
As a child up until high school, I was heavily involved in athletics. I played baseball and then transitioned into soccer. I developed a real passion for soccer at the age of ten because of the stories my grandpa told me of him and his cousins playing for the national team/professionally. I continued to play soccer until my senior year of high school all the while receiving good grades. However, my passion for reading, writing, and becoming an educator began my first semester at Glendale Community College. It was in my freshman composition course with Professor Hasmik Barsamian, that laid the foundation for my interest in aspiring to be an English professor/novelist. Professor Barsamian was the first teacher to see potential in my writing and as a result, she recommended me to the GCC Learning Center where I eventually became a writing tutor. It was here, where my “artistic” journey began.
At the GCC Learning Center, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by an encouraging, supportive, and loving staff (Andy, Shant, Sevada, Michael, Krysten), who always had their doors open to us. Due to their guidance, I had the esteemed privilege of tutoring students from all walks of life. There was nothing more heartwarming than to see students improve not only academically but see their confidence blossom as well. This fulfillment was one of the defining moments that established the hunger to pursue a career in higher education.
My last semester tutoring at the Learning Center proved to be the most fruitful. I met several extraordinary people who propelled me further into my “artistic” journey. Particularly, my dear friend, Ericka de Alexander, who was the most charismatic, enthusiastic, positive, and overall true visionary. Her background, ambitions, and intense passion for storytelling through the cinematic arts, had a substantial influence on my development as an “artist.” Through her friendship, I found poetry. In fact, she was the first to read my poetry and recognize the “artistic” side of me. Then one day, she approached me and said, “you need to share this with the world.” Though I was extremely skeptical at the time, she continuously encouraged/motivated me to publish my very first collection called “Honesty. Loves. Cruelty.,” which I co-wrote with a close friend of mine, Manlio Gutierrez, whom I also met at GCC. Having worked alongside Manlio for well over a year on this collection, I became more vulnerable and saw the world through a whole other lens. Manlio inspired me to break down cemented walls and pour my entire soul into poetry. We connected not only through hardships, but through the sheer joy of following our goals/dreams no matter who disagreed. He is someone who has and will always be supportive of my “artistic” ambitions. Having published this collection in 2017 (Lulu.com), I realized soon after how stimulating it was to be in touch with my “artistic” side. I didn’t quite know how impactful both Ericka’s and Manlio’s influence would be on my “artistic” journey at the time. However, looking back on it, they were the early pieces to the puzzle. I will always thank/credit them for being at the nucleus of it all.
Knowing what the “endgame” was, I needed to advance myself. When it came time for transferring to a university, I had my sights set on California State University, Long Beach. One of the few universities that not only offered my specific emphasis (Rhetoric and Composition), but it was highly competitive. It was a very nerve-wracking and/or obscure time for me. Having received numerous rejection letters, the pressure was on. Luckily, my one and only acceptance letter came from CSULB. I remember reading the letter and couldn’t help but feel both ecstatic and relieved. I had a hunch that this new chapter would lead to new opportunities.
It was definitely an adjustment period. The atmosphere was different, classes were more rigorous, the hour-long commutes were rough, but it was well worth it. I became infused with the culture, learned to perfect/polish my craft, bypassed the mind swelling commutes, and met many incredible, ambitious people who couldn’t wait to make an impact. I grew to call Long Beach “home away from home.”
In the last semester of my senior year, I received an opportunity of a lifetime. On my walk from class to the parking lot, I received a call from my close friend Ericka. She told me about a short film festival organized by Cinema Italian Style that was being held in Los Angeles and asked if I wanted to collaborate. Given her artistic vision and resounding influence, this was a no-brainer. Even though we were confronted with various obstacles, we refused to surrender. Instead, we bulldozed through and created a five-minute short film called “Il Breakup” that won first prize, sending us on an eye-opening/life altering journey to Rome. Definitely, an unforgettable experience. None of which would have happened had it not been for my dear friend, Ericka.
At the moment, I’m a graduate student at CSULB working towards a degree in Rhetoric and Composition. I work as a writing tutor at the University Writing Center. An opportunity where, thanks to UWC director Dr. Tina Matuchniak, I’ll continue to gain valuable tutoring experience, guide others to new heights, and take one step further to reaching the “endgame.” Not to mention, I’m working on a debut creative nonfiction novel called “Risk it for the Brisket.” A scathing satire on the absurd realities of American masculinity in the twenty-first century. The novel combines the comedic timing of Hunter S. Thompson, the sharp dialogue of David Mamet, and the brutal realism of John Fante. It’s expected to be released in 2020.
I must say, this debut novel would’ve ceased to exist if it weren’t for a former professor, current mentor, and eccentric guru, Robert Guffey. What started out as a creative nonfiction workshop class in 2018, taken for elective credits, would eventually set the blueprints for a debut novel. Professor Guffey’s class was unlike anything else. His teaching methods were not only both student-centered and “uncanny,” but he challenged us to extract every ounce of our creativity and discover our idiosyncratic “voice.” While most of my peers seemed to find these real-life events (chapters) distasteful, Professor Guffey was the only one who genuinely saw potential for a “larger” scope. I can’t thank him enough for all his constructive feedback, encouraging comments, and sincere support. He is someone who, when all others turned their backs, welcomed me with open arms. Thank you, Mr. Robert Guffey.
This “artistic” path I’ve taken has enlightened me. Without a doubt, I was meant to tell the stories of not only myself, but of others. To voice the voiceless.
Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I am poet, novelist, and script writer. I take an introspective look at the world and try to understand this connection between the “self” and the “other(s).” Essentially, transcending the “seen” into the “unseen.” It’s important to take your foot off the gas and absorb as much of the world as possible. My poetry, films, and stories are a representation of living in the moment and surrendering yourself to the world. Why do I do this? I want to tell the stories of the voiceless. I am inspired by the people I meet who feel abandoned.
I’m hoping that through my art people can come to understand the struggles of minorities and shed light on the social/political turmoil we currently are in. Basically, my art is meant to break down barriers through organic, crude, genuine depictions of contemporary realities.
Any advice for aspiring or new artists?
Advice: Don’t succumb to the pressures or dogmas centered around those quote unquote credible/profitable careers. Don’t buy into the fallacies that “art” is nothing but hogwash. Don’t be a “sheep.” Don’t settle for the “societal norms.” Don’t listen to the “naysayers.” Be yourself. Follow your passions. Trust your heart. Creativity is not a sign of weakness, but a strength of character.
Remember: Never apologize for your art!
What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
The poetry collection (“Honesty. Loves. Cruelty.”) is available on amazon. You can find a direct link to it on my Instagram profile (will attach below).
The short film (“Il Breakup”) is available on Vimeo. You can find a direct link to it down below.
(note: all uncapitalized)
The novel (“Risk it for the Brisket”) will be on the publisher’s website but I will post a link to it on Instagram when it’s available!
The majority of the support would come from my Instagram page. Be sure to check it out and follow me on this exciting journey!
Ericka de Alexander, Brettza Mardiroussian, Esther Kasue