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This blog was featured on 08/13/2019
An Exclusive Interview with Keturah Kendrick
Written by
She Writes
May 2019
Written by
She Writes
May 2019

She Writes had the opportunity to chat with Keturah Kendrick author of No Thanks: Black, Female, and Living in the Martyr-Free Zone about her writing style, the first job she ever had and some surprises about publishing. 

Share your writing routine.

I really wish I could answer this the way a writer is “supposed” to. Truth is: I don’t have one. When I was working on this collection, I made a habit of spending several hours on the weekend writing something towards completion. But, unless I am actually working on something, I have no routine. I think about pieces I want to write routinely, though. That counts for something, right?

What’s the first/worst job you ever had?

My first job was probably my worst because I found it was so underwhelming: the job and just the world of work itself. I managed this small office for an attorney who was starting a mediation business. It. Was…Lawdt…I only lasted a year, if that long.

Describe your writing style in three words.

Witty, cutting, simple

What is the first thing you can remember writing?

A poem for a church event. I was barely in middle school and the church was having some sort of banquet and I was “contracted” by the good Christian lady who was organizing it to write a poem for the program. I remember this not because of the quality of the poem I wrote, but because the good Christian lady never paid me. And my mother caused a minor stink about it. It was a bit traumatic, actually.

When did you start to feel like a writer?

When I joined the NOMMO Literary Society in New Orleans and went to a weekly workshop where we stayed up until the wee hours of the night critiquing each other’s work. Something about doing something with my words once I had written them. The letting others see them and then rewriting those very same words multiple times. It made me own that this was no longer just a casual pastime. I was working at this thing. I was a writer.

Was there something about the publishing experience that surprised you?

Oh, Honey…can I submit a graduate thesis on this question? Everything surprised me. How long it takes to get a book from off your computer into someone’s hands. How expensive it is. The publishing of it, marketing of it, all of it is the cost of three vacations in Bali. How NOTHING happens just because. Everything has to be sought out: blurbs, reviews, awards, speaking engagements and on and on and on. Most of my surprise has been at how much I never thought about “distribution.” I knew there had to be some system to get books to people once they bought them. But, the mystique of the system surprised me because I realized I had never thought about how that system worked and the mundane, yet significant role distribution plays in the publishing process.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

First, finish the book. No one is going to contract you to write the book. You probably won’t get any offers from literary agents for years after writing the book. But, you must write the damn book anyway. Once you write the book, then you can stress over all the afore-mentioned things.

What do you do to help develop your craft?

Read, read, read and read some more. Particularly writers in my genre. When I was in NOMMO, that was a rule: we had to read more than we wrote. And each session began with the group reading something together and then discussing it. Fortunately, I outgrew the childish belief that I had some breathtakingly original story to tell a long time ago. So, now, I intentionally seek out black feminist authors who write in the personal essay form about the intersection of race and gender and what it means to be a free black woman. I study what they write and HOW they write it. And I take from those studies what I need to craft my own words.

Why is it important for women to share their stories?

To paraphrase Zora Neale Hurston: “If you don’t open your mouth, they will kill you and say you enjoyed your own death.” No one will tell our stories. They are not interested in them and if they were, they wouldn’t know our stories intimately enough to write well about them. We do. So women should be writing our own stories and doing whatever it takes to get them in the hands of other women. If merely for documentation purposes. To say, “I was here. I existed in this space and time.”

What’s your favorite way to support other women writers?

Buy. Their. Damn. Books. I feel secure in assuming that is their favorite way for me to support them, too.

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  • Patricia Robertson

    “If you don’t open your mouth, they will kill you and say you enjoyed your own death.” - Wow! Great quote!