I’m 24 years old, newly graduated from The New School with an MFA in Fiction. Now I’m trying to figure out what to do next while finishing up my first novel. I’m a Taurus. I do yoga six days a week. Sometimes I eat crusty bread with just a little honey drizzled on it for breakfast. I like shiny things. And I am, above all, an artist, a writer. I absolutely love classical ballet, and it is often incorporated—in form or in content—into my work. I am also very interested in the physical body, and how its internal processes interact with the external environment. I think of writing as a type of dissection of the universe, an attempt (which inevitably fails) at approaching the unknowable. Also, really tall people scare me a little. There. I said it.
My vision as an artist
When I was very young—about four or five—I had a dream so terrifying one night that the next morning, I went to my mother and told her about it, crying. It was frightening enough that it has become a part of one of my earliest memories. In the dream, I was informed that in three days I was going to die. Then, another three days would pass, at the end of which I would come back to life. I was going to wake up after my three days of being dead as though I had been sleeping, and reenter into my same life—I’d have the same family, live in the same house, and eat the same kinds of things for breakfast—but I would lose all of my memories. In other words, in that dream, pretty much the worst week of my life had been prophesized to me.
When I woke up the next morning and went to my mother seeking comfort after that nightmare, the detail that I was most upset over was not that I was going to die for three days; rather, what I was most disturbed by was the notion of losing my memory. I could remember my grandmother’s stockinged legs from my perspective on the ground, as I crawled by them at a picnic as a baby, before cancer took her away from us. I could remember my father wearing a baseball cap and my favorite shirt—it was sleeveless, with a palm tree set against a neon pink sunset—and knowing that it meant that we were going someplace exciting. And I could remember falling asleep on my mother’s stomach as a toddler. Even as a child, these memories were sacred to me, and the thought of losing them horrified me. This bond with memory, present in me from an early age, is the undercurrent of who I am as a writer, and why I write.
Through both blood and design, I follow in the tradition of the griot—an African storyteller—in that I write mainly to preserve memory. My passion is the telling of the story, and I often honor family, culture, and tradition in my work in untraditional ways. I am an enthusiastic learner because being steadily open to the learning process is what enables my work to be fresh, and relatable to different types of people. And I value the input that I receive from others, because it is the only way that I can know whether or not an outsider can enter into my story and indulge in it. I want my writing to be something that one might want to indulge in. I pull lessons from writers such as Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Shirley Jackson, John Edgar Wideman, Annie Dillard, and Sharon Olds.
Writing was my first language. During my formative years, I loved being read to even when I was too young to understand what was being read. And when I grew older and learned to read and write I would often come up with stories of my own. A shy child, I was always able to express myself more effectively, more richly, and with more complexity through the written word, rather than by any other means of communication. The written word remains my premiere language. The layered meanings of even the simplest of words, the way that they work together to create full and striking sounds, and even the way that words look laid out on a blank page—all of these things are things that I find beautiful about writing, and all of these elements have helped to shape me into the growing writer that I am today.
For me, writing is a cumulative process, which is why my memory is so precious to me. My writing is a build-up of things that I have learned, and experiences that I have had. Aldous Huxley once said, “Every man’s memory is his private literature.” Everyone has their challenges to face, and their hurdles to overcome. I take these experiences and hold them as memories, and in that way, they can enlighten my writing and help me to develop.