Writing as Re-Defining
January 16, 2018
The collection came from a period of dreams and nightmares, and re-evaluation of my personal and family history. I also spent a lot of time reading afro-futurist works by Nalo Hopkinson, Nnedi Okorafor and folktales (both Jamaican and African American such as “The People Could Fly”) that reimagine Black survival tools as magical powers. I love that they affectionately and unapologetically redefine traumatic experiences, and re-orient the world towards Black experiences.
I spend a lot of time with other writers, friends and writing community, who explore afro-futurist themes in many different genres. I find that there is a very rich interest in afro-futurism in a Canadian context which is very encouraging. Nalo Hopkinson is the most prolific speculative and afro-futurist Canadian author that I know of. I would love more works of Canadian afro-futurism to be published.
I am learning to rework my process, but generally I am first fascinated with a concept or scenario. This is the most exciting part for me and I make a lot of notes. Then I come up with a character to place around it. I write instinctually so that I get something solid onto paper. From there, the second most exciting part, I ask a lot of questions about the characters and the concept to create the story; how would they react, what about the scenario could be stretched. Because I am so excited about specific concepts, I sometimes have a hard time then going back and developing the story arc around it. And that is what I am learning to do better.
I have to work on my craft and in particular the skill of telling a short story that is focused and urgent. My incredible mentor Olive Senior has already been putting me to work on this in the best ways. I know that I struggle with considering the reader as I write. I am hoping that the mentorship will also help me to interrogate my stories, to ask more questions and to pull more out of them with the feedback from my amazing mentor, as well as to create more fluency between my pieces as a collection of work.
It’s weird to think of who I’d choose to write my life. Maybe David Chariandy (author of Brother), Nicole Dennis-Benn (Here Comes the Sun), or a creative non-fiction piece by Dionne Brand. I love the way each of them capture the intimacy of unsaid moments with so much grace and accuracy.
In a perfect world, writers would be able to stop the earth from turning so that we could pause a day and have a very long time to contemplate and consider things on a minute level – and then press play and have an immeasurable amount of time for living, enjoying and having experiences. We would also have excellent patrons, who would pay for our housing, basic needs and travel budget. We would also be able to spend lots of time with other writers, and a great amount of time doing oral storytelling in our communities.
10 years from now, I have published one or two anthologies of short fiction, two works of very personal creative non-fiction, an audio album of poetry, I will have expanded my writing to other genres such as documentary and script writing, and am preparing to publish my biggest endeavor after years of research: a full length two part afro-futurist novel.
My lowest point, hopefully, will have been having a fever while I self-consciously confront my ten year goals for a Q&A. Truly, as corny as it sounds, my greatest highlight would be presenting my mother and grandmother with my first published full length work. Watching one of my works come to life on screen would be pretty magical too.