1. What is your earliest memory of writing? I am 4 or 5 years old, laying on our apartment floor, writing and rewriting my name, house address, and my mother’s phone number over and over again on this huge easel notepad that she had just bought a month or so before I was to start kindergarten, so that I could practice writing and memorize all the major details a little human should know before their first day of school. Maybe that’s too literal an interpretation of my first “writing” memory, but I think that in the repetition of writing my name and my address, countless times just to get it hammered into my head, there was something a little deeper and a little more foretelling going on. So much of my current writing is couched in affirmation as a stepping stone to liberation, and maybe it can all be traced back to little Pre-K Ayling just trying to get her name right, ‘cuz our names and our small apartment address were two of the few things we could really lay claim to at the time.  
  2. What inspires you? The power of radical love and imagination. And when I see someone light up after they’ve read a poem they really love. Little instances and manifestations of change (as well as, of course, larger-scale ones like that through which we’re currently living). 
  3. What are some of your favorite books, movies, TV shows, and why? Picking favorites is always the hardest thing for me! I’ll share some that I do love. Books: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi because I love reading and talking all about family generations; All About Love by bell hooks because it is one of my manifestoes of sorts; Electric Arches by Eve Ewing because her poetic form is so captivating and inspiring for me. Movies: Moonlight, because vulnerability, tenderness, and community are so exalted in the film; Parasite because…wow…the layers…the layers. TV Shows: I’m a lover of dystopian future shows, so 3%, and of course, just good ol’ funny and relatable shows, like Insecure. 
  4. What do you think makes a good story and what kinds of stories are you drawn to? I think the best of stories are those told from the heart. I think you can tell when you read or watch something whose writer didn’t give it their all. I’m drawn to stories that are so honest and wear their heart on their sleeve that in that way, they invite you in to connect, relate, and/or question. I’m drawn to stories with good purpose. 
  5. What was your experience like participating in a WGI Workshop?It was incredible. I’ve never had access to writers retreats or anything of the sort prior to the workshop, and I had been telling myself that those types of immersive spaces aren’t really necessary (trying to make myself feel better about the fact that I might never be able to afford an MFA program or have access to writers retreats). Then I completed the first weekend of the workshop, and I couldn’t believe how much I had written, and how much more I still felt like I had to write! Apart from just gracing me with the time to write, it provided me with an incredibly uplifting space, among writers from similar backgrounds, where I knew my stories would be understood and not disregarded or belittled. And to be connected with a mentor… how valuable to me. I still cherish the workshop for that connection, and for all the others I was able to make and, to this day, maintain. While writing itself is beautiful, the community it helps forge and sustain is gorgeous, and that’s what participating in a WGI Workshop felt like — it felt like watering my writing garden.  
  6. What is your writing process like? Is it too cheesy if I say it’s like a sunset changing colors? Slow, then all at once? I’ll go through periods of low inspiration, but then one day I’ll be on a train ride, or in the shower, or at the bodega, and I’ll hear or smell or just sense something that suddenly strikes the creativity neurons (those are a thing, right?) and my hands itch for pen and paper. When inspiration strikes, my writing is hurried, as if the words might get off at the next stop on my train of thought, and that very second is my only shot at getting them from my brain out unto paper and into the world. And when the waterfall turns into a trickle, I close the notebook and return a little later to edit. And that’s when things go real slow. My mentors have told me writers will never feel that a piece is done. So, I guess you could say my writing process is eternal. But I’ll submit when I feel more or less content and as though it’s all my current self has to give.  
  7. What kinds of stories do you most want to tell? Beautiful ones. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I want my storytelling to be such that it resonates and sparks feeling within each person who beholds them. I’m funnier in person, so I’ll spare the world of my written comedies. I think my whole way of viewing the world is poetic, so my storytelling will likely always be in poetry. Or longer prose. I want to tell stories that make me feel good about telling them because someone has seen themselves reflected, or were able to connect to a shared experience that reminds us how funny and wonderful it is to be together on this planet if we let it be such. 
  8. Do you have an interesting writing “quirk” – if so, what is it? I regard the BEST part of writing not when a piece of mine is done, but rather, when I get to name it. I adore picking titles. 
  9. How do you juggle writing with everything else? I am intentional about it. I see it not as a luxury or hobby of mine, but as a necessary component that absolutely needs tending to. I think our current society doesn’t treasure and nurture the arts as it should, especially for Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color; I try not to align my writing with productivity or profit, but with community-building. In that way, I try to weave it into everything I do, into how I move through the world, and remind myself that I have to make time for it if I hope for my writing to be radically conscious- and love-building. (Practically speaking, I make sure to write when inspiration strikes, even if it’s during my regular 9-5, knowing that I’ll make up for whatever I was doing in the moment after I get these words down; that way, I never push it off when it feels most dire. And I carry a notebook and pen wherever I go. The same way folks read on the train or in line at the grocery store, I write.)
  10. Any tips, advice, guidance or suggestions for anyone struggling with writing right now? Keep writing. Yes, this means you, too. Don’t ever give up. And draw from your truth, always. 

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