By ANNE CRUZ As a NYU journalism and psychology major with a minor in creative writing, Riley Cardoza is inspired by the act of writing itself, whether in diaries, novels or magazine articles.   

The 21-year-old Chino, California native Cardoza has written consistently since childhood, and finished writing her second novel the summer after her freshman year at NYU. Rather than dive headfirst into the publishing industry, she hopes to fine tune her voice in fiction by writing features with young adult audiences in mind. The college junior has already taken steps toward a career in magazines and is currently interning at Seventeen and Cosmopolitan.

On her childhood:

My childhood was awesome. Chino is a really good place to raise a family. My parents were together until I was like, 13, so for my entire childhood I lived in the same house. It was just my parents, my brother and I and we were like super close. My dad played softball, we would go watch his games. My mom was a stay at home mom, so everyday she’d pick us up from school and make us snacks — it was very sitcom-y.

From SoCal to SoHo:

Chino got boring once I was in high school. I was like, ‘Get me out of this place.’ I visited New York when I was eight, and I was like, ‘In the future I want to be somewhere like this.’ Creative writing was the draw to New York, because I always knew I wanted to write.

Fiction versus features:

I had absolutely no experience [in journalism] besides reading magazines and I was like, ‘It’s writing, you’re just not lying. You’re just telling the truth.’ I’ve enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I thought it would be harder than it was to transition [to non-fiction]. I’m not opposed to working in magazines, I actually really like it

I thought I wanted to work in publishing, like literary agencies or publishing houses, and then it’s almost too close to what I want to do, where I feel like I could get kind of lost in it. Whereas, magazines, I would still be writing and working on my voice, and working for that age group and I could work on a book on the side.

Childhood desires to write:

When I was a kid I wrote books, little chapter books that were really bad. I illustrated them too, until I realized my drawing skills didn’t ever get better after, like, five. So I stopped drawing and I kept writing.

In high school, I finished a book. That was also really bad. I would work on different books and I finished a few and I’ve been editing them for a really long time.

Eventually I’ll try to send it out. My internships at literary agencies just terrified me and showed me that it’s so hard. I, as an intern, was making executive decisions to reject people. You have to just hit a chord with some very specific intern.

Straightforward storytelling:

I like contemporary stuff. So no fantasy or sci-fi or anything. It’s all very straightforward. A lot of family dynamics and centered around end-of-high-school age, maybe beginning of college and those personal transitions and transitions in your relationships with friends and family and yourself. That’s what I like to read too, generally.

Favorite authors:

Nina Lacour and Jodi Picoult, she’s my idol. I met Picoult and I fangirled like she was Justin Beiber. She asked me how I was doing and I was like, hyperventilating. Those are my favorites right now. It changes a lot. [Picoult] has been the only constant.

Daily diaries:

I write in a journal every single day. I’m not exaggerating. The one in my purse is my 86th. I’ve been writing every day since I was in fourth grade, like diary format. If I didn’t write, I would be insane. Like, I’d be a crazy person. It’s so necessary, so vital to my life.

Bookstores and New York hobbies:

New York has a ton of bookstores. There’s one in particular called Books of Wonder, on 18th Street and Fifth Avenue that is young adult and below. They do signings all the time with authors that I either grew up reading as a kid, or read now. I’ve met so many people and gotten stuff signed and that’s pretty awesome. That’s what I do in my free time, is go to those.

Her favorite book:

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. She used to be a poet, and then she transitioned into fiction and she is the most beautiful writer. If you can tell a story and then make it sound that pretty, then I’m a fan.