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509-raised author up for regional award

Managing Editor | September 7, 2023 4:33 PM

SEATTLE — An Othello-raised writer and veteran now living in Seattle is a finalist in the annual Washington State Book Awards for his poetry collection, “We Had Our Reasons.” Ricardo Ruiz said he’s excited to have been recognized, especially early in his writing career.

“It’s the first thing I have published,” Ruiz said. “... I left the Army in 2016 and went to Big Bend (Community College) and studied business. And then came to (the University of Washington) with the intent to study business, but ended up going and just following a whim and just being like, ‘I want to write poetry.’”

Ruiz said that eventually led to him getting a book deal and having the book go well. Now, the first thing he’s published is up as a finalist for Book of the Year in the state. It’s been a bit of a hectic road to get where he’s at, he said.

Ruiz said he initially had intended to get a degree in business because he’s always had an entrepreneurial mindset. He enjoyed working on projects to get products finished and enjoyed that aspect of business. Still, when he went to college, he found the math and prerequisites to get to that portion of the degree a bit boring and possibly not as useful as he might have hoped. But in writing classes, he found himself a bit.

Ruiz developed a connection with one of his instructors, Allison Palumbo, who teaches writing at BBCC. Palumbo found that the therapist he was getting service through as a veteran just wasn’t “clicking” with him and he was still struggling with issues from his time serving in Afghanistan. Palumbo encouraged him to try writing about what was weighing on him from his time in combat, and he did. Ruiz’s first language is Spanish, rather than English, so he felt uncomfortable working in English.

“Because of that, prose always just takes more time for me, because I am very critical of myself, to ensure I’m getting it right. With poetry, I’m just like — I can do whatever I want. Play. Have fun. And if I want to break a rule – if I break a rule by mistake — I can chalk it up to artistic design. And it is freeing to me to have that mentality in the medium (of poetry),” Ruiz said.

Ruiz wrote the poems in “We Had Our Reasons” from the perspective of the child of migrant workers who settled in the Othello area. His poetry is often inspired by the challenges of life as farmworkers and the child of farmworkers. Ruiz said he realized after the book’s release that it could have a bit of a dark tone to it, though that wasn’t his intention. It was just part of working through the things he needed to work through. After reading it, he stopped to analyze his own work as a whole, he said.

“I was just like, ‘Man, I think I missed an opportunity to put joy and the love that’s really in the community in the book,’” Ruiz said. “But, where I was at when I was writing it, I was working through some deep trauma, sharing and collecting in writing, that I don’t think there was space for joy at the time.”

Ruiz said he’s hoping to tap into the joy of the Hispanic community in future works, though it still seems odd to him to have the idea that he represents a culture in some way.

“It’s weird,” he said. “It’s weird to think that I represent my community in that aspect and in the greater scheme of things, because, for me, I just view myself as a storyteller.”

Ruiz said he intends to keep storytelling. He has about 100 poems written in initial drafts and expects 10 to 20 of them to eventually be of the quality he wants to publish. He has a few ideas for how another book might come together, but he hasn’t settled on just one yet. Giving a voice to Hispanic culture will always be a pillar of his writing, though.

In the meantime, he’s accepted a position with Seattle Arts & Lectures to participate in their Writers in Schools program. He’ll have an opportunity to work with beginning writers to help them find their voices. He’s also working to help others find confidence and passion in writing through regional appearances.

“These aren’t just speaking engagements, they’re workshops,” Ruiz said. “I get to go and share my passion, which is actually writing and creating, with the public.”

That’s the gist of it, he said, to create and share and enjoy doing that as a career, which he said he appreciates. Being able to be a writer for a living is a phenomenal thing, he said, and it’s just part of who he is now.

“I’m a writer. I’m a poet. I’ll be writing forever,” Ruiz said.

R. Hans “Rob” Miller may be reached at

Want to write?

Ricardo Ruiz has multiple workshops set for the Columbia Basin this weekend and later in September.

Friday, Sept. 8 — 5-7 p.m. — Moses Lake Public Library

Saturday, Sept. 9 — 2-4 p.m. — Wenatchee Public Library

Tuesday, Sept. 19, — 5:30-7:30 p.m. — Quincy Public Library



Ricardo Ruiz said he used poetry as a sort of therapy after serving in combat in Afghanistan. During his time in service, he saw a great many traumatic events and being able to work out his experiences through writing has been beneficial, he said.



Ricardo Ruiz conducts a reading after releasing his poetry collection, “We Had Our Reasons.” Ruiz conducts readings and workshops throughout the region to promote his book and help others enjoy writing.