“I am a real writer, regardless of what anyone else says.”
— Jamira Richardson
The 2021 WLT Fellowship Program marks the first year of the program and includes five emerging writers who will spend twelve months enjoying classes, connecting with instructors, attending the annual Agents & Editors Conference, and building their writing community. We’re happy to introduce them to you over the next few weeks.
Jamira Richardson is a fiction writer based in San Antonio, Texas. In 2020, she graduated summa cum laude from St. Mary’s University with a bachelor’s degree in English. She is currently the youngest writer in the inaugural cohort of the Writers’ League of Texas Fellowship Program.
Scribe: What inspires you to write (even on the days when you’re not writing)?
Jamira Richardson: I am inspired by other storytellers—novelists, poets, playwrights, even screenwriters. These days, I find myself inspired by film in particular, especially South Korean cinema. I’ve watched more than 150 films from all over Asia, and the innovative, hard-hitting storytelling never ceases to remind me why I pen stories of my own. Whenever I’m suffering from so much burnout that I can’t seem to get any words onto the page, I simply immerse myself in the storytelling of others to refill my creative well.
Scribe: If you could ask one author (living or dead) one question about their writing process, who would you ask, what question would you ask, and why?
JR: If I could ask one author a question about their writing process, I would ask Toni Morrison, “How do you soften the edges of the most horrific aspects of humanity until beauty shines through?” When I read Beloved for the first time last year, I was fascinated by Morrison’s ability to capture the unimaginable without allowing the sheer horror of it to consume the beauty of her language. I would love to hear how she developed the skill to write so eloquently about the unspeakable events of Sethe’s life without inadvertently romanticizing her pain and suffering or relying on the clichéd Strong Black Woman trope.
Scribe: What’s one challenge you’ve faced in your own work that you hope to focus on during the year ahead?
JR: I have yet to master the art of being a “bulldozer”—a term coined by Stephen Wilbers in Keys to Great Writing: Mastering the Art of Composition and Revision. According to Wilbers, writers can be divided into two categories: bulldozers and bricklayers. While bulldozers charge through the first draft, plowing ahead until they reach the end, bricklayers have a far more meticulous approach to the drafting process, refining each paragraph before moving on to the next. For as long as I can remember, I have fallen into the latter camp. As a result, I rarely reach a state of flow during writing sessions. This year, I hope to overcome some of my bricklayer tendencies and experience the creative flow I remember from my youth—a time when I fully immersed myself in the joy of writing without fear or apology.
Scribe: What drew you to the WLT Fellowship Program – why did you apply?
JR: For the past three years, I have faced the blank page with an overwhelming sense of trepidation. After a soul-crushing experience with an instructor whose black-and-white approach to the writing process suppressed my voice in an attempt to mold me into a “real” writer, I began to associate the blank page with judgement and shame. Whenever I sat down to write, I could hear the derision of the page with every word I typed, and I found myself erasing far more words than I wrote, insecure about my own voice. Soon, I found that the little free time I had was spent feeling ashamed of my inability to write rather than actual writing, and I eventually stopped writing altogether. I applied for this fellowship to confront my impostor syndrome head-on and reclaim control of my lifelong dream. I applied for this fellowship to remind myself that I am a real writer, regardless of what anyone else says.
Scribe: Finish this sentence: As a writer, having a community is/means _____________________________.
JR: As a writer, having a community means finding a place in the literary landscape by building meaningful connections with others on the same journey. It means embarking on that journey together, no matter where you found each other along the way, and holding each other up even when your feet grow tired or your body grows weak.
Thank you, Jamira!
About the WLT Fellowship Program:
The WLT Fellowship Program offers emerging writers the opportunity to spend a full year honing their craft and learning about the business of writing.
Each WLT Fellow receives tuition-free access to a curated slate of classes, no fewer than two per month, plus special post-class sessions with the instructors. In addition, each WLT Fellow is invited to attend the annual Agents & Editors Conference in Austin, TX, with the registration fee waived and hotel accommodations provided, plus the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a literary agent during the weekend-long event.
The application process for the 2022 WLT Fellowship Program will open in November 2021.