- What is your earliest memory of writing?
I have two early memories that stick out. When I was around age 5 my mom would buy me these Mead Notebooks to write in and I would fill them up within hours. My mom had to start tearing out a few pages a day because she was like, “I don’t have money to be buying new notebooks every day.” I would fill the pages with stories, and I really enjoyed just using my imagination. My other early memory is of 2nd grade where my teacher had this thing she would do to get all of us excited about writing. She would put a bunch of different images into a box and each kid had a chance to come up and reach their hand in the box to grab an image. After all of us kids had our image, we had to write a story based on that image and after we finished writing we had a chance to share our stories with the class. It was by far, my favorite thing about 2nd grade.
- What do you think makes a good story and what kinds of stories are you drawn to?
I love stories with strong nuanced characters and a clear but complicated conflict. I’m most drawn to stories steeped in realism, but I watch and enjoy all kinds of genres.
- When did you know you were a “writer” and that it was what you wanted to pursue professionally?
I knew this the summer before I started 8th grade. That summer me and my brother spent a few weeks with my aunt and uncle at their house in Oceanside, California. I remember my uncle asking me, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” And like most middle school kids I had absolutely no idea and I told that to my uncle. My uncle then pointed out that I watch a lot of movies and TV and that people write the things that I’m watching. It blew my mind. For some reason, I just never thought about that fact, and that’s when I decided that I wanted to do that for a living.
- What are some of your favorite books, plays, movies, tv shows, or authors?
For some reason, some of the things that I have recently enjoyed are all coming to mind, so I’m going to share them. Favorite books: Caste by Isabel Wilkerson and Begin Again by Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Favorite Plays: Barber Shop Chronicles by Inua Ellams and Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress, Favorite Movies: Steve McQueen’s Small Axe, Anthology Film Series and Sounds of Metal, Favorite TV Shows: Sopranos, The Wire, Treme (Yes, I re–watched these series during quarantine, and they hold up), Sex Education, Happy Valley, and Last Tango in Halifax. Current Favorite Authors: Paul Beatty, Mat Johnson, and Toni Morrison.
- What inspires you, and why?
This is such a tough question because so many things inspire me, but I’ll say that right now I’m really inspired by the stories of other artists when they describe their process for making art. We all have a process and struggles that are very specific which make them universal, and usually hearing about process affirms my belief in the power of art.
- Tell us about your writing process.
I usually write very late at night when it’s quiet and most people are in bed. I have to be in a quiet space to do my work. I usually build in a half hour or an hour to do some reading or watching of some silly YouTube videos before I get serious and actually start putting words on the page.
- Has writing ever surprised you? If so, how?
I’ve had many times where writing has surprised me. After a while characters will take on a life of their own and you can just hear their voices and at that point I’m just there to dictate/put it on the page. At times where that has happened, I’ve had characters that have said something that made me think, “Oh no, I can’t put that on the page.” What a character has said has really made me feel fear, but I now know when that happens, I have to face the fear and put it on the page. I know when that happens that a character is speaking their truth and it’s part of my job to honor that.
- Do you have an interesting “writing quirk” – if so, what is it?
With my playwriting a recent writing quirk that I’ve had the past few years is to find a font and style of placement for the page that invokes the mood of the piece overall. Another writing quirk of mine is to find a random question from a newspaper article or a book or even something I’ve heard on a podcast, and I’ll ask a character in the story that same question and I’ll free write in the voice of the character the answer to the question. I find that this silly little exercise just helps me to learn more about the character and it often times helps me with specificity.
- What do you like to do for fun, or when you’re not writing?
I really enjoy going out to eat with friends. I can’t wait until we all can safely return to safely doing that.
- Any advice or tips for anyone struggling with writing?
I give the same advice all the time. Try to make writing a daily practice and to set just a very minimal goal for yourself. My goal used to be to write 1 page a day. On most days I would end up writing more than one page a day, but if you write one page a day by the end of a month, you’ll have approximately 30 or more pages, so if you’re writing a screenplay that’s your 1st Act, a 1 hour TV drama that’s 2 Acts and if you’re writing a play that’s 90 minutes then in two more months you’d have it completed. So, I’m always giving the advice to make time daily to write.