Speaking From a Point of Realness

SHANEShane

Age: 21
Occupation: English Major at University of Maryland- College Park
Hometown: Bronx, New York

What originally drew you to writing?

I was originally drawn to writing in my fifth grade writing class. Our assignment was to write a poem about something that meant a lot to us. I wrote a poem about my fairy fish that had recently passed away. At the time, my poem was of the bubble-gum nature—I was only ten years old. Something sparked in me, however, to continue writing poems and expressing myself. I originally started off believing that the best poems were ones that rhymed, however I have the opposite mindset today. My poems never rhyme anymore only because I feel that rhyme schemes, if not done properly, can sound childlike and not well thought out. I think the best poems are ones that resemble prose because they speak from a point of realness.

Why do you love writing?

I like to write because it allows me to express my thoughts. I was always an over-thinker, and I needed a way to organize myself mentally. When it feels like no one is listening, I know that my page and pen are. I can write and read poetry for hours. I am the kind of person who searches quotes on the internet to give concrete words to my feelings and emotions. The rhythm of poetry is one that cannot be compared to anything else and it is just so enjoyable for me.

Who are some of your favorite authors and what are your favorite pieces by them?

I really enjoyed reading Richard Siken’s Crush because his poems are generally short and realistic. He speaks in an honest fashion so that the reader can relate and feel the words on the page by connecting them to personal memories. I really enjoy reading his poem “Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out” because it really touches common ideas or emotions that people/everyone feels on a daily basis. One of my favorite poems ever is “Killing Time” by Simon Armitage. It contains so many double meanings to words to represent the Columbine shooting. He writes about the shooting in terms of flowers and nature to give a beautiful image of the innocent lives lost on that day. It is one of the most creative and well thought out poems that I have ever read.

Can I have a sample of some of your work?

Seems

Each month that passed freshman year made us more inseparable;
unlike anyone I’d ever met, you were like me and I
was meeting myself for the first time

For everything, and we did do everything or talk about how we
wanted
to eventually try. Our thought patterns identical, you would
finish my thoughts so I knew I was on track with the day’s
conversations
at the end of the day to sum up our days, making my day

So it’s weird that today I am not with you. I’m in another state
and you’re somewhere in Copenhagen  finding yourself and
losing your path and losing our memories, replacing
them with adventures with new friends and more
significant moments that don’t include me

Or maybe, I’m over-thinking it the way that we both used to
back in high school; I’m probably just failing to understand what
moving on is fully, and the notion of change never being good.
I’m surely having trouble, but I will get it soon enough.

I appreciated that e-mail you sent to me last month telling
me that you missed being my friend. At least I know I’m
somewhere you can still remember.

***

The Impalpable Sustenance

Flipping pages of a book browned with age and wear
learned fingers trace the words of the story
Literature is life when we define it in the realm of
words and we communicate
with conversation and the blossom of poetry is
when our eyes project the words from the page
written from the faded memories that we never could let go of
we keep covered in dust buried in the back of our closets
behind dead trinkets in pieces and ballerina boxes no longer
playing twinkles
in case we remember them one day
recall what meant something to you
write it and remember it
and that piece of paper with the uneven edges
crushed behind your old red notebook with the silver wiring
with the black inked title in bold letters
you made a statement
crisp words that drip disdain
you write from the photos
crammed with the things that mean the most
your beating heart pumping streams flowing
on the remnants

***

Art

For the summer-month days that end without
any production taking place;
the tickling moments that
crawl away like the useless red ants
of the June time grass
that come upon us and sting our skin
as we sit Indian style, legs tanned, smooth and
crossed talking to each other.

We laugh about things that
never occur during the wintertime
and pair it with saliva-glazed, teeth-shown
smiles only evoked by the sun
and the happiness can only be
explained by the strong, bonny shoulders
pointed toward the blue pool above
the air, the nonchalant wind
brushes our bleached hair perfectly
behind us
and it flows like seas suspended
eye level in front of us
our eyes share one twinkle
we’re alive.

When word of loss
is upon us, I search for the
touch of the sun’s heat on my skin,
look for tan marks of the previous day’s clothes,
and the fingers of the cool wind flowing in my
golden hair and I want to feel you beside me, I want to know you’ve experienced the same summer
but the space is empty.

Want to see more of Shane? Check out her instagram @shane_no

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All That Matters is Me and my Creativity

ALEXAAlexa

Age: 16
Grade: Sophomore in High School
Hometown: Mitchellville, MD

What originally drew you to writing?

I was originally drawn to writing in 8th grade when my literature teacher asked our class to submit something original. It could be anything from poetry, to a song, or a short story. I was skeptical at first because I had never even thought about writing something original. Later though, I found that it wasn’t as hard as I thought. Writing seemed to come easy to me. I usually like to write fictional stories about teenage adventures with strong female characters.

Why do you love to write?

I write so that I can escape my life, not because it is bad, but because I give my characters qualities and talents that I sometimes wish I had. Writing allows me to cope with not having certain abilities. It also allows me to enter a different world when I need to. If I get stressed then I will go write and suddenly all that matters is me and my creativity.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

My favorite authors are Rick Riordan, Ally Carter, and Cassandra Clare. I love these specific authors because they all write books about teenagers saving the world. I love reading about teenagers saving the world because it shows that we aren’t kids anymore and we can handle responsibility. They also have strong female characters that can take care of themselves and don’t need a male to save them all the time. I get tired of seeing girls so dependent on a guy when they really need to be dependent on themselves.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I can draw inspiration from anything. The trick for me is to be open to everything and not go looking for inspiration but allow it to come to me. I could be doing something completely random and suddenly have a new idea. But when that doesn’t work I have my favorite authors, television and movies, and the experiences of the people I interact with.

To read some of Alexa’s work, go to: http://www.wattpad.com/user/FindingMyVoice 

 

“Creating New Spaces”

KESIA ALEXANDRAKesia

Age: 23

Occupation: Student at Boston University

Hometown: Washington, DC

What originally drew you to writing?

I read a lot as a kid because my mother made me. Eventually it became something I enjoyed doing…Boxcar Children, Sweet Valley High, Nancy Drew, Little House on the Prairie, Goosebumps… just to name a few titles. I think I was originally drawn to writing because it was a way to tell stories without getting in trouble for lying. The first time that I remember writing a story was in third grade. I know I was coming up with stories before that because I would talk to myself a lot as a kid, and get in trouble for it. Which made me feel really embarrassed but I basically get it. When I see little kids talk to themselves it freaks me out too. But I still talk to myself a lot.

In eighth grade I tried to write my first book. There might be a copy of it somewhere. I lived in a house with a lot of kids. We would have writing competitions and everyone always liked my stories the best. Also every Monday I would come in to school with a new story from the weekend. My friends and I would sit on the windowsill and I would tell them whatever the story was. These weren’t made up stories; they were stories about what had happened to me over the weekend. Something was always happening to me over the weekend. That first book I tried to write was really bad though. I remember one of my friends telling me that.

Also in eighth grade I got in trouble for a gossip blog about my classmates. This might have been one of the most important things that happened to me in terms of writing.

My mother didn’t care about me getting in trouble for the blog. When the principal sent her what I had written alls she said was “wow, this is good.” I didn’t even know that it was. I was just bored and wanted to mess with people. Anyway my mom decided then that we should start writing a book together. I agreed because I was in eighth grade and didn’t have anything else to do. But that’s why the gossip thing was so important. Because if I hadn’t done that, my mom might not have found out I was good at writing and never would have encouraged me to pursue it. A large reason I’ve made it this far in academia is because of her encouragement.

When I got to college I started taking writing classes and that’s where I am now.

Why do you like writing?

There are a lot of things I actually like a lot more than writing. I used to play the violin and the bassoon. I was okay at them but they were never the logical response to negative or exciting events in my life. Playing instruments was never the thing my gut told me to do when something happened. Music is life, I’ve heard a lot of people say that. That’s probably because they have musical talent. I wasn’t blessed with musical talent. I was blessed with writing talent. That’s just the way it is. I always wanted to sing or be really good at playing instruments. One girl I use to live with was an amazing violinist. It doesn’t matter how much I practiced, I could never be as good as she was. It came naturally to her. Writing comes naturally to me.

Book Cover for "Freshman Year: Bullies Beware!"

Book Cover for “Freshman Year: Bullies Beware!”

Anything you’re working on now?

My mother and I wrote a book together called “Freshman Year: Bullies Beware!”. That book is not based on my life, which a lot of people ask me, but it is based on a lot of stuff that I saw happen or was told about happening at private schools in the DC area. I wasn’t bullied by kids in the private school system. Not in the outright way that some people I’ve known have been. In fact, I was actually called a bully on a couple occasions, the gossip blog and when I made the dean of students cry in front of the entire school (which landed me a four day suspension).  

But, I was bullied by the faculty a lot. I see now that they probably thought they were doing me a favor. Letting me know my place as a poor black girl in the world. However, that failed.

But we didn’t write about my experience being bullied because it’s a much heavier issue to talk about a child being bullied by adults. And it’s also less common in this context. It was a very particular case. For me to write about it as fiction would be pointless. Anyone who was at my school would know it was a real situation; but I would actually want people to know that because those people really tried to f*** with me. But it’s a different story for a different time…

Anyway, in the book, the Tiara Johnson character is much more wholesome than I am. I think people will really like her a lot. She’s smart, athletic, level headed and I intentionally made her this way. She’s the type of person anyone would want to be friends with, however, racism is a main issue she encounters. Also her family is wealthy, another intentional characteristic, because it shows that it doesn’t matter what your background is, if someone is racist, their perverted concept of blackness is all that they care about and all that they see when they look at you. I wanted to write a story that showcases how even in “privileged” environments, many still struggle with unfairness and judgement.

Can you talk about the process for publishing your book?

We knew we wanted to publish independently for a lot of reasons. For one thing, we need the money. My mother has two kids in college. Funds are tight. We didn’t have space to be giving money to publishing companies for doing the advertising work for us. This is ten years of work. We didn’t do all of that to only walk away with 20% or whatever it would be.

Also we wanted to be honest and a lot of publishing companies have been known to mess with black characters and change who they are. Make them more “urban” or stereotypical. I used to do interviews for the Amsterdam News and a lot of authors told me about their experiences with this and it’s really horrible. It wasn’t worth our time to explain to anyone who didn’t already get it, that wealthy black girls exist. I’m not one of them but I went to private school and I’ve studied briefly at Howard and I know that they’re there. There are even a good handful at BU.

My mom had been contacted years back by an Englishman who was really interested in another book she’s written, for adults. He was pressuring her to sell the story so hard that she was like, “this must be better than I thought.” So she did all the research for independent avenues.

A lot of people think that if something is published independently it might not be as good as things published through established companies. That’s not necessarily true. The piece is edited by professionals. We paid for that service. The difference between independent publishing and going with a company is the risk. If we don’t sell a certain number of copies, we don’t make any money and that’s on us. With a publishing company you get paid upfront and you sell your work to them. You no longer own it. But the thing about that is you know the company will push the text for you, because they’ve invested in it. Well most of the time. With self-publishing, you have to push the text yourself. Which means you have to make people believe in you. That is a lot of work, but we’re hoping to do it right. My mother and I know a lot of people who believe in us. We wouldn’t have taken this risk if we didn’t.

What would you like to do in the future with your writing?

I have a lot of things on my computer that are finished and ready to go. So does my mother. There are a lot of reasons why we had to wait so long to publish. Family things. But over that period of time we were still working. My mom has about six books completed. I have three.

“Freshman Year…” Is part of a series. We’re working on the second book now. I really love it and I’m having a lot of fun with the characters.

There is something we’re working on that I can’t really discuss yet but it will open the door for other writers of color, which is one of our goals. There’s nothing wrong with Urban Lit (Hood lit, hood erotica, etc) and I really mean NOTHING is wrong with it. But there have to be platforms for black writers who are writing other things. And it has to be consistent. Not just one person of color a year in some mainstream publication. We’re trying to make a new space for that.

Want to see more of Kesia? Check her out on these other sites:

Instagram: kesiaalexandra

Tumblr: freekeewee

Facebook: Kesia Alexandra

kesialexandra.wordpress.com

For the Love of Writing

Instead of going the traditional route for February and having the theme be

relationships or love, I’ve decided to focus on Black Female writers for this month! I’ve always had a love for reading and recently began writing more, mainly for my blog 🙂 Reading has always been a form of escapism for me. Any time of the day, I can immerse myself in an entirely different life or world if I wanted to. And writing has given me another form of expression; a way to vent while still keeping my thoughts to myself. As I’ve gotten older, through college but also through blogging, reading and writing has become a large part of my life.

So this month on the blog, I’ve decided to celebrate black women who write. Poetry, short stories, novels, fan fiction, everything! If you have work that you’d like me to post, email me at raven.best5@gmail.com 😀