Writing fiction is a new hobby of mine. I love doing the journal type stuff, but over the past year, I’ve been doing short stories and flash pieces, and they’ve been fun to write. Using only my imagination to create something, and not being afraid to journey to the dark parts of my mind has been a bit of an adrenaline rush. They could use some outside editing of course, but I think they’re pretty good for what they are. Once I feel like I kind of know what I’m doing (does that ever come?) I’ve been thinking about collecting them and making a book or something. Kiini Ibura Salaam’s Ancient, Ancient was a big inspiration for that idea. Loved that book.
But I’m realizing that as much as I like bringing my own imagination to print, I’m more interested in getting into other people’s heads. I’m naturally curious and observant (what others might call “nosy,” but whatever), and I’m sure it has something to do with being a psychology major. This was, of course, after I majored in early education, and before I was an English, Undecided, and then Pan-African Studies major. Like I said, curious.
Copy editing, reading and writing book reviews have allowed me to feed that curiosity, to get into the minds of other writers, see what makes them tick, and sometimes find reflections of myself. It’s also a bit of an escape from the labyrinth of my own brain. Sometimes it gets a little too weird in there. Like Guillermo Del Toro weird. Did I tell y’all I once had a dream that I was inside a house that was made of images from his mind? CUH-RAY-ZEE. I loved it.
So anyway, I recently got to add to my method of the exploration and unearthing of the creative mind. Elixher magazine, for which I’d written book reviews in the past, contacted me and asked me to interview two authors whose books were soon to be released. I was intimidated at first. I’d never done author interviews. Hell, I’d only done a few work-related search committee interviews, and I didn’t enjoy those at all. But I was up for the challenge, because fuck it: it was an opportunity to have a new adventure, and I’m always down for that. It also gave me a chance to read something that wasn’t on my radar, so I agreed.
The first book was a collection of poetry. Now, I’m not the biggest poetry/spoken word fan, so I wasn’t excited … until I started reading. Humanity Maintained, by Shanell Bklyn is a beautiful piece of art. Heartbreaking, redemptive, powerful. I saw myself all up in it. I felt like we were soul sisters. Like, I wanted to travel to New York and continue our conversation over red wine and pizza, and … so maybe I developed a bit of a crush. But good writing will do that to you (And she’s gorgeous to boot.. You know how us Leos do). But more importantly, I discovered that I do like poetry (or spoken word. maybe both, I still don’t know the difference). But like anything else that matters, it has to speak directly to me – it can’t just be something highly touted by the world because it’s written by someone I’m supposed to like. Aint nobody got time for that.
In my 2cent opinion, a good book – whether YA, Romance, John Clancy or Omar Tyree (what up Flyy Girls!) – helps you find yourself. It takes you on new adventures and sparks new questions, thoughts, beliefs, and ways of maneuvering in this world. Seeing myself in other people, and being able to see other people in me, has helped me become a better friend, mother and lover. And much of that has come through reading. As a copy editor, I get to see creative work that is raw, unfinished and imperfect. Being given this access is humbling. Writing book reviews helps me give other readers an introduction into new worlds. And bonus, it helps me remember what I’ve read, so that I carry it in my soul and act accordingly. And now, with author interviews, I get to go right to the source, and hopefully ask some questions that challenge the author to journey into the shadows of their mind to find forgotten, whispering pieces of themselves. Liberation through literature.
You can read my interview with Shanell Bklyn here, and hopefully, you’ll learn something new about yourself. Go ahead and get lost in a new jungle. “Sometimes you have to lose yourself before you can find anything.” That was from Burt Reynolds, so you know it’s true. Deliverance was a crazy ass movie. People are weird.