Writer Sherese Francis’s poems “Thinker-Tinker” and “Through the Eyes of a Prawn” were featured in Issue #6 of Newtown Literary. We interviewed her about her writing, and her answers are below. For more of Sherese’s work, check out Futuristically Ancient; you can also keep up with her work on the Queens Book Festival.
What is your relationship to Queens?
I have lived in Jamaica, Queens, for most of my life, from about the age of two (I was born in Brooklyn). I live in the general vicinity of the end of the E and F subway lines in Queens, which is like venturing to outer space for some people.
How would you describe the writing you do?
For most of my writing life, my main focus was writing poetry, but I also liked writing essays, and short stories occasionally. When I started college, I started gaining interest in blog writing. I try to challenge myself and my writing, so I don’t really have an obvious category for my writing; however, my interests tend to revolve around mytho-spiritual writing, taboo writing, and object writing.
Some of my interests include mythology, esoteric works, spiritual fiction, and other similar areas of study, so I incorporate much of that into my work. I like writing about subjects that have been forgotten, marginalized, or repressed because I like questioning the world in which we live and accepted histories. I believe there are greater truths that illuminate and change our world if we questioned the status quo more. I think of Bukowski’s work “I Met a Genius” and challenging common ideas about the world in which we live.
Additionally, one of my favorite writing exercises is ekphrasis writing and I extended it to the observation of the environment and finding multiple meanings through your own presence. Our world is much bigger than we see, but we have to be willing to explore that and pay attention to things we miss on daily basis.
My two poems in the journal kind of reflect those ideas, whether it is “Thinker-Tinker”, which references Nikola Tesla and Antonio Meucci, and is about how we miss the important figures in our lives who change our world because certain accepted histories silence them, or “Through the Eyes of a Prawn”, which I wrote after looking at a award-winning picture of a prawn’s eye.
How did you come to writing?
I started writing officially when I was in the fifth grade. Before then I know I was making up little ditties and stuff like that, but in the fifth grade is where I remember an assignment where we had to create our own books, and that’s when I started writing poetry and stories. Two of my favorite early poems were “Ms. Blues”, which I wrote after seeing a doll in an ad that looked like a blues singer, and “Menarche and the Girl”, about my struggles with and pains of menstruation.
During my teenage years, I wrote here and there personally (most of my writing was dedicated to writing essays for school, for which I did a good job and I liked). I didn’t take writing seriously as a possible career option until college, when I did a poetry collection for a senior class, and now I am here.
What inspires you?
Anything and everything! These past few years I have been learning to be more open and present to the world around me and use whatever I soak in to create. It could be a random object or place on the street and it could inspire something. It could be graffiti on the walls or music lyrics or words from another writer or TV shows or museums exhibits or my own personal life — this list could go on forever!
What does it mean to be a writer in Queens?
I have written before about how Queens is a place of hidden treasure; it’s not like the other boroughs where its has a kind of obvious consolidated history or center that is handed to you on a golden platter for you to enjoy. You have to explore and find out what you like about it. Queens’s trademark is its diversity, and that diversity is spread throughout its various decentralized communities, so there’s something new to discover and learn in Queens that can be absorbed into my writing.
What writing project(s) are you currently working on?
Currently I am working on a urban-ish fantasy novel set in Queens. It’s called The E and it’s about an underground team with supernatural powers who are fighting the tyrannical powers above ground, and their headquarters are located in a secret underground location inside a shapeshifting, time and space traveling, living E train. The main character is S.W. Isibe, and the book focuses on her as she discovers her powers and herself. The novel takes influences from the Underground Railroad (two of the other main characters are based on important figures who were part of it) as well as local Jamaica, Queens, history. Much of the story will utilize Queens locations or landmarks as part of the fantastical world and play on the idea that Queens and the world are more that what you can physically see.
Besides that I recently wrote my first children’s story, which I submitted to a contest (and here’s hoping that they like it)! I am also working on a poetry collection called “And the Water Breaks”, which I call a poetic automythology. In addition to that I am the literary director of the upcoming Queens Book Festival in 2016, and I am trying to make time for my blog, Futuristically Ancient, which I have been regretfully neglecting. So, as you can see I have a lot on my plate. 🙂
And, finally, my favorite question: What should I be asking you that I didn’t?
Well one thing I didn’t elaborate on was my blog. It’s called Futurstically Ancient and my title is that I am A Future Ancient! My blog was started in my junior year of college when I took a blogging course. It centers on exploring arts and culture of the African diaspora through an afrofuturist lens. Afrofuturism is a newly recognized movement and critical lens that utilizes tropes of speculative fiction, science fiction, fantasy, mythology, magic(k), magic realism, and surrealism to explore and create alternative futures for people of the diaspora.
The reason why I named my blog Futuristcally Ancient is because I feel speculative fiction is something that we have always created whether it was mythology, folklore, legends, etc., and we are just continually reexamining and recreating the past and those stories in new ways, like in science fiction and fantasy. Also, one day I will be ancient history and future people may look back and see what I did. So we are not just future or past, but both continually dialoging in the present.
Thank you again for the interview! I appreciate it!
Readers, mark your calendars:
- Delve deep into your personal writing as Heightening Stories presents the Creative Nonfiction/Autobiographical Fiction workshop. Enrollment is open until November 4.
- Work on your development and revision skills! Heightening Stories presents the Community Writing Exercise Workshop. Enrollment is open until November 10.
- Boundless Tales is accepting submissions for its current reading series! Submissions are considered on a rolling basis; the next reading will be November 12.