One of the reasons to write is that when you do, you find out what’s on your own mind. Like my best friend from elementary school, for instance. Or my grandpa, who died when I was fifteen years old. Or the time I ran away from home and I had that rare experience where, for one quick moment, I knew exactly what I wanted out of life. The people I’ve met and the stories I’ve been a part of as an attorney, activist for criminal justice reform, and advocate for restorative justice, have profoundly influenced my writing.
I’m a writer and activist whose work has been published in The Brooklyn Rail, The National Book Critics Circle, and more. I have an MFA in writing for children and young adults, which means I got to go to school to read and write all day, which was amazing. My current projects include a YA mystery set in Brooklyn, and a historical middle grade novel. I’m even trying my hand at fantasy! And I’m thrilled to be represented by Elizabeth Bewley at Sterling Lord Literistic.
This is a picture of my grandpa. One of the first things I noticed about myself when I started writing on a regular basis, was how much he influenced the adult I became, even though he died when I was only fifteen years old. I found myself writing stories set in North Carolina, his hometown, not because I knew it well, but because he seemed so much a part of the place.
My grandpa, who everyone called Papa, owned and worked his own farm and, in his spare time (which he can’t have had much of with nine children), he ran the molasses mill in the town, where he turned stalks of sugar cane into hot molasses for anybody who brought him their crop. When my mom and her siblings grew up, most of them became a part of the great migration, in which thousands of Black people fled the segregated South to start new lives in the North. Papa missed his children sorely and made sure that all nine of them visited often and brought their own children with them. He didn’t ask much when we visited– just a few quiet minutes sitting next to him under the car port. And like my favorite characters in books, he was always ready with a story.