As a DC Native and Howard University grad, how long have you been contemplating about writing these stories? How did these characters manifest for you?
I've been a storyteller since I was a kid, but writing about DC in particular actually wasn't something I did until I had left DC and left the east coast. Some writers say you can't write about a place until you've left it and that was definitely true for me. I see with some of my writing students in New Mexico that they're convinced that the place they're from isn't that interesting and that some other place, often a place they've never been to, must be a better setting for their work. I think you have to fall in love with your own origin story, where you're from, the experiences you've had, the perspective you bring, to see its value. And then be able to access those feelings in order for your reader to feel those emotions too. I loved growing up in DC and going to Howard so I wanted to see if I could bring that love to this book. Once I did, I also found these characters. Some who are easier to love than others, I suppose, but I love them all. And they all came to me in different ways. I heard a TSA agent say she'd never flown and the voice of the character in All the Things You'll Never Do just started talking to me. Hers was the first story I wrote in the collection. I got an image of a little black girl in a bathing suit wanting to go to the beach and another story started to come. Each of them unfolded for me, sometimes fully formed with their story and sometimes it was six drafts in before I figured out not just who the character was but what situation they were in.
What have been some the surprising encounters and/or experiences that have happened since this book came out?
It has been amazing just having one on one conversations with people about the book. I've heard in person and on social media from black women who felt really seen when they read the collection and that just is so gratifying to hear. That is very much what I wanted the book to feel like to people. Just as it's a love letter to DC, it is absolutely also a love letter to black girls and women, my family, my friends, the black woman I see on the street who I don't even know but whose hair and outfit I love. I wanted for this to be us on these pages. Probably one of my best events, in the first couple of weeks of the book coming out, was reading at a high school in Southeast in DC. It was like 20 black girls and one black boy and they were excited to see DC represented in the book. They asked great questions about why I wrote what I wrote and picked up on themes and ideas that even some of my adult readers hadn't. I didn't cry but I definitely fought back tears to see black girls connect with the book like that.
So much talk can get wrapped around the plight of Black people, and the solutions that we need to fix them. But where do you find the silver lining, where do you go to get your Black Girl Magic?
Basically any conversation with my mother, sister, or cousin gives me that! They are three of my biggest cheerleaders and also my truthtellers. Same for my girlfriends and my aunts and cousins. I really feel so surrounded by and lifted up by incredible black women. Oh and also, the Instagram feeds of Tracee Ellis Ross and Cree Summer. And any episode of Insecure. Those give me all kinds of Black Girl Magic too.
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