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Kathya Alexander on Books and Writing

With Keep A'Livin' coming out in April, we're excited to feature debut author Kathya Alexander in a few of our upcoming newsletters. She answered some questions we had about books and writing below:

How have books influenced your life?

Books have been my closest friend, my ever present help in times of trouble. A way maker. A burden bearer and a heavy load sharer. Ok, I’m getting all ‘Black Baptist Church’ on you now, but it’s true. I don’t even know what to do with myself if I don’t have a book to read. On the bus. On a plane. On the toilet. Books have been my constant companion all my life. One that has never gotten tired of me, or angry with me, or judged me, or rejected me. They are so much a part of my life, I can’t imagine life without a book in my hand.

What writers have inspired you? 

See above. But, I have to add Terri McMillan too cause she is the perfect example of ‘the more specific your writing is, the more wide reaching it is.’ She focused on Black women in a very specific way, told a story that was really specific to them, and women all over the world responded to it.

Advice for folks who want to submit? 

First, finish something. Then find someplace you can submit it to for free. Cause you can go broke paying all those submission fees to magazines and contests. That way, you haven’t really lost anything if you don’t get accepted. So why not submit? You only have to write a submission letter once, and there are templates of really good ones on the internet. Then you just have to change the name of the magazine or agent or publisher, and use it over and over again. Don’t make a big production out of it.  People new to it act like submitting is this big intricate process that you have to research like you’re writing a dissertation. And it’s not. Just google submissions and lots of places will come up. And just accept rejection as part of the process. I mean, The Hunger Games was rejected 60 times before it was published. So I just put a nail on the wall above my desk, and every time I got a rejection letter (in the days before email), I would just put the letter on the nail and say, “One down, fifty-nine to go.” And so on. If you have a completed piece of writing, you’ve done the hard part. So just do it!

Advice for marginalized writers?

I want to speak directly to Black women here. First, understand that race matters. It always colors what people think about you and about what you write - for good or bad, but way too often for the bad. Most folk ain’t gon’ get your experience, or your language, or your dialect, or your culture, or your characters, or… I could go on and on. And then, one day, somebody will. Again, accept rejection as part of the process; don’t take it personal. I know that’s easier said than done. But, I mean, what would you be doing if you were’t writing? Something you don’t love nearly as much I bet. So do what you love. Make the time for yourself to do something you’re really passionate about. That’s what life is about really, right?

How do you feel radical writing has affected the literary space?

Not nearly enuf

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