When I was twenty-two years old. Vilma brought it to my attention that I could be a great writer if I put my mind to it. I proceeded to ask her what made her think that, and she told me that going over my papers she noticed that I had a strong voice; and that was a common skill with a lot of known writers. I digress a little, but after doing some research on my own. I came to learn that was in fact true.
But how could someone like me, who was told multiple times to shut up and stay out of people’s business have a voice? More importantly, how could a black kid living in a country he once believed wanted to see him fail, have a voice? It was with those thoughts that I told her no. I could never be a writer because no one would ever care to hear my message or the stories I would write. She told me I can at least try, that way when I get older, I won’t look back and say, “I should’ve tried it.” So, I started a blog.
When the account was complete it told me to post something so people can know I was active. But I was left wondering what I could write on such short notice. I thought about it for a few minutes, then it came to me like a light bulb. “I’ll just write a poem,” I told myself. That’s when I wrote my first poem titled “The Mask.” Once I published it, I went to sleep knowing that I wasn’t going to get any likes from it…I was wrong. I woke up the next morning to four likes on my blog. Sure, not that much, but still the fact that they were total strangers. Made the feeling that more amazing.
However, there was one challenge I faced when I first started. The grammar, my god, the grammar. I truly believe that this is everyone’s kryptonite when it comes to writing. Next to description, but I managed to work on that throughout the years and I see myself improving. But it wasn’t always like this.
I looked back on some of the things I wrote in the past without any re-writes. And boy are they horrendous. It looks like an eighth-grader wrote those stories and didn’t care about what grade he got in his English class (I was that eighth-grader). Devasted by how bad my grammar was, Vilma told me that she found a creative writing class at UNLV that I should take. At first, I was hesitant to take the class. Fearing that I would be in a room with highly trained writers, who were taught since they were like two years old. Then I had to remember, UNLV was not an Ivy League school. So, during my second semester I signed up for the class and till this day, I don’t regret it one bit.
The first time walking in with like ten to thirteen students we all had to write introductions of ourselves and I was kind of nervous. Why? Well, I felt like the amateur in the class and everyone else, mind you younger than me, were probably pros by now (despite what I said about the school not being an Ivy League); and I wasn’t quite wrong by it either. Everyone showed off their prowess of writing well and beautifully. Where little old me was wishing he lived in the Marvel or DC universe. It made them laugh which was a good thing honestly. But little did I know I made me some new friends at school. Something that I didn’t quite believe I could do again really. But I did it. But I guess I can tell you about the ones that made an impact on me as a writer.
First up is Jem. My first time seeing her, something in me told me to keep my eye on her. Didn’t know why at first, until I read her first story about James Dean. Well more like a character based on him. Her writing was smooth and gentle. Like the words just fell off the paper in a gentle river on a warm spring day. It was so easy to visualize the scene without her hammering us with so much detail on what was going on with the story.
I grew envious of her craft and wanted to do something similar. But I failed the first time, but I use to keep that story on me as a muse when I write. But since I messed around and threw too many things away. I must admit that her story was one of them. But I read the story so much, that I still remember how well it flowed. Hell, I still have her poems which are just as equal, if not, better.
Next up is Sidney. Now I can’t really remember what she wrote, but I do remember how much she scared me at times. She may be pretty, but I still think to this very day that she’s an assassin moonlighting as an everyday girl. I mean this girl was so quiet in class, she would never talk unless she needed to. And when she did, she somehow got the respect of the room. I like to call it the “Angela Basset Effect.” And what I mean by that is if you look at someone like Angela Basset, who is beautiful, smart, and unique. Could walk into a room full of people and everyone in it will just stop to look at her, just to hear her speak. That’s how Sidney was in class. Didn’t talk much, but when she did, oh boy, did we listen to every word. But I still think she’s an assassin at heart.
Erick was one of the few males in the classroom that sat next to me. And if memory serves me well here, I think his story has something to do with raiders attacking a fort. I remember it was part of a bigger novel and I was really invested in it, and he was hoping to be finished with it in the next year or so. But the one thing that stood out to me, was the way he explained things when he gave you constructive criticism. He told you what he liked about your story and what he didn’t like about it. Most importantly he’ll ask you good and important question that makes you think like a writer. What is the story about? Where is the story going? Who’s the story about? Now when I write a new story these are the three things; I think about before I start my outline. Before I start putting the idea to pen and paper. It’s a marvelous thing if you put some thought into it. And again, I’m pretty sure great writers like Tolkien, King, Martin, and Jordan all went through the same process before writing their masterpieces. It’s funny as I write this though. Because at this moment I haven’t spoken to Erick in a few years really. The last time I talked to him was on campus catching up and talking about our WIP (work-in-progress). I hope he’s doing well for himself.
Next up will be my little Jewish friend Yasmine. Now, Yasmine…well she scares the hell out of me too and for good reason. But if she remembers our little one on one conversations we had in the past. She’ll know why, but Yasmine always had an exciting story to share. Whether it was supernatural or a good murder mystery. The one thing that she told me she loved about my stories were some of the characters felt real. I remember working on another novel where a team of cops takes on a mass murderer, and the guy had Schizophrenia. She loved it because she told me I researched the subject well and made it feel like the other guy was in the room. I was happy to hear that because I was nervous as hell that people would hate him. Even though she was critical of my grammar and tenses, which was fair in her defense. Because boy, I was terrible at that.
But she never told me to stop writing, she encouraged me to keep going forward and never stop. I still remember the last thing she said to me, before our final semester together. “Just keep writing and don’t stop. And I promise you, you’ll be great at it.” Well, she was right, I kept going, I kept practicing. Sure, I’m still a little rough with the grammar and tenses, but proofreading has become my greatest/worst ally in the editing phase. This one is also funny though too, because when I first met Yasmine. She was only old enough to order an apple cider. So, the fact that I was getting all this wisdom from someone so young, made me feel weird. But at the same time contempt and driven. My grandmother always did tell me that wisdom will come from the strangest of places and people. And yes, Yasmine is a strange person and for good reason.
Monique is what I like to call a PG-13 erotica writer. Her stories and poems always had a sexual theme to them. Without sounding, well, too sexual. Again, going back on some years I remember a piece she wrote, maybe a poem. But some of us in the class didn’t catch on to the sexual theme of the poem. I think it was about someone studying for a Biochemistry final the night before.
Now thinking about that title, that flew way over my head. But Monique gave me a better perspective of writers of all genres and pretty much taught me that in order to get good. I’ll have to find read all kind of books to learn what people like and don’t like. I never did like erotica though, but if Monique wrote a book in that genre, I’ll read it. Why? Because let’s face it, that’ll go over my head too. Even if I was aware of the genre this time.
And finally, there’s Denise Weber, my first writing teacher. The one who’s responsible for putting me on the path of writing a screenplay. I remember after my first workshop with her, she asked to stay after class, and I was a bit nervous. Why? Well in high school, if I had to talk to a teacher after class it was never good. But that wasn’t the case here. She asked me had I ever thought about doing screenwriting and I told her I never thought about it. And she recommended that I should take one, believing that I would do quite well. I took a few of those classes. And she was right, I did do well. So, well that I even wrote a full feature screenplay that I hope to start shopping around soon.
Now, what makes these people so important. Well, the title above pretty much gives it away. These were the first group of people that I met who accepted me for who I was (except for Vilma). They didn’t see me as a black guy. That might be a thug, or aggressive. They saw a fellow writer who wanted to improve his craft…And probably want me to keep my promise of that book about making them all superheroes. I haven’t forgotten guys, I just really wanted to improve on my writing first. But that’s all I have for you today and my plan is to stay more active in this blog in weeks to come. I have an idea, but I won’t say until I get it done. So, please like and follow my blog if you haven’t. And I’ll see you guys on my next entry.
To those mentioned above. I know we haven’t talked in a while, except for Sidney when she thinks it’s a good idea to flaunt her pride as an Eagle fan(lol). I still think about you guys everyday…Okay not every day but you do come to mind a lot though.
Yasmine, congrats on the engagement. You’ll make a great wife and maybe one day an awesome mother. I wish you many blessings now and in the future. I also hope you’re still writing as I know there’s a great idea wondering around in your head ready to be unleashed. I really miss our talks, but I’m glad to see you’re doing great in life. Just don’t forget about little old me when you get to the top.
Jem, I hope all is well and that you’re still writing great stories that give this old soul a smile. If memory serves me well here. I think you told me you were going to focus more on poetry. But I heard you tried your hand at a screenplay. If so, how was it for you? And what was your story about?
Erick, I hope all is well with you also and you’re still writing your book. I know we haven’t talked in years. But your constructive criticism still runs through my head every day when I write. Those three questions you asked was the best advice you can ever give to a writer. No matter how simple they are. Again, if you’re reading this, I hope everything is well and don’t stop writing.
Monique, I see you doing big things in a lab coat. Even though I don’t know what you’re doing, and I don’t want to know. But I’m also hoping that you’re writing too. Thank you for giving me a new perspective on giving other genres of writing a chance and not rushing in with a hard pass. It has helped in the long run. I discovered some new books that I really enjoyed in the past few years. Imagine if I never met you, probably would’ve never discovered the Shannara Chronicles.
And lastly, Sidney, even though I talk to you from time to time. I hope you’re still writing, as well as modeling and working on becoming an actress. Just calm it down with the Eagle stuff and yes, you still scare me to this very day.
Denise if you weren’t my first writing teacher. I don’t know where I would be right now. I started a new novel called “Exile” that I’m hoping to be done by the end of the year, and I still remember all the advice you gave me all those years ago. Yes, the story is in the first person. But the character has my voice as he’s based on me to a degree. I think if you never told me how strong my voice was as well as the others. I would’ve never thought about a novel like this. However, as I’m working on it, there are times I wish you still my writing teacher. Even at this moment. I still feel I made mistakes in this entry and would love to hear your great advice as well as the others. But that’s how life is I guess, people come into your life for two reasons. To ruin you or to teach you a valuable lesson. I’m glad I was blessed to have you teach me lessons on how to become a better writer and yet a better person. But I’m not going to get into all that…at least not yet anyway.
But thank you, because of you and the rest of these guys I wouldn’t have been able to find my voice in such a cruel world. Thank you, guys, for showing me what true acceptance feels like…it feels weird by the way. Just saying.
Until we meet again, my friends.