First off, how are you and how is your 2021 going?
I’m pretty well. I’m in a great space spiritually and mentally. 2021 has brought many great opportunities my way with the catalyst being my book All Boys Aren’t Blue. I’m excited about how my work is now expanding beyond publishing into film and tv spaces, and looking forward to doing more work throughout 2021.
We’re super excited to be reading All Boys Aren’t Blue for our June Book Club, can you tell us about the process for writing this memoir-manifesto?
The process wasn’t easy. I wanted to tell all the stories but had to pick the ones that best fit the overall themes of the book. I decided that I wanted to be as vulnerable and transparent as possible in telling this story. That caused me to have to open up old wounds and heal certain traumas I hadn’t gotten over. But in the end, I knew it was important for the total story to be told.
Can you tell us more about becoming a journalist and how your career as a writer started?
My career in writing started back in 2013. My best friend Preston Mitchum had written an article for Ebony magazine and I told him “I always wanted to be a writer”. He looked at me and said “well write.” Since that day I decided to do that. Realistically, if went searching for something and couldn’t find it, then I knew that I had to be the one to write it. I focused on the communities closest to my intersections and simply built upon that into my career.
Your next book We Are Not Broken is coming out in September what can readers expect?
They can expect to hear more of the heartwarming stories of a Black family that operated from a place of love. My grandmother “Nanny” was a show stealer in my first book, so I wanted to give people more of her story. She is represented in every chapter of the book. I also took the letter writing technique up a notch in a really cool way. It’s a book about Black boyhood, imagination and the totality of the existence of the Black child.
We love that you write about gender identity, toxic masculinity, consent, marginalization and so much more through your own stories. Why do you think story telling through personal experience is so powerful?
People like when they can connect with a character. It makes it even better when the character is a real person. People get to see themselves in someone and even more the possibility model of what can become. The personal experience is part of the human condition and is what ties us today.
Your books have the ability to inspire, change and possibly save lives, is that something you set out to achieve?
Yes. I try to write in the mindset of centering Black people first, knowing that the message will essentially be universal and benefit all. I wish I had books like this when I was learning about who I was. My story isn’t unique. It is one that has always existed but rarely given the space and access to be told. So I knew putting it out there would resonate with those who needed it with the goal of shifting actions and thoughts and minds.
What are you currently working on?
Whew. My second book “We Are Not Broken” comes out September 7th. I am also working on a non-fiction book where I will be writing letters to my enslaved ancestors. Working on my first fiction Middle-Grade book called Five Second Violation. Also working on the tv adaptation of All Boys Aren’t Blue with Gabrielle Union’s production company. And some stuff I can’t say yet lol.
Can you share any tips for people who are keen to write personal essays?
To keep writing. It can be very easy to get deterred from writing. You simply have to keep writing. No two stories are the same. My book is a book of personal essays and although they resonate with thousands of people, their stories are still different and deserve to be told.
Who are some of your current favourite authors?
Hari Ziyad, Robert Jones, and Sesali Bowen. Loved all their work prior to their book releases and they have all created some amazing debut books this year.
What does your perfect weekend look like?
I’m a lowkey person in many ways so for me the perfect weekend is the beach with some friends. Drinks, games, and maybe some dancing. Not doing any work for sure lol.
What do you always carry with you?
Phone, Keys, Wallet. I do the pat down before I walk out the door lol.
What would your last ever meal be?
It would likely be seafood, Alaskan Crab Legs, Lobster in garlic butter, mussels and shrimp.
What is one positive piece of advice you could give to our audience?
Have grace with yourself. We can all be so self-critical at times that we forget to give ourselves space to right, wrong, indifferent, happy or sad. It’s okay to not be okay at times. So have grace with yourself.