“Write what feels true to you and worry about everything else – audience, readability, etc – later.” –KB Brookins
KB Brookins is a Black, queer, and trans poet, essayist, and cultural worker from Fort Worth, Texas. Their writing is published in Academy of American Poets, Huffington Post, American Poetry Review, Teen Vogue, Electric Literature, Okayplayer, Oxford American, and elsewhere. KB is the author of How To Identify Yourself with a Wound (Kallisto Gaia Press, 2022), a chapbook selected by ire’ne laura silva as winner of the Saguaro Poetry Prize, and Freedom House (Deep Vellum Publishing, 2023), their debut full-length poetry book. They have earned fellowships from PEN America, Lambda Literary, and The Watering Hole among others. Their poem, “Good Grief”, won the Academy of American Poets 2022 Treehouse Climate Action Poem Prize. Currently, KB is a board member with Ground Floor Theatre; community advisory board member with PrEP for ALL; MFA candidate at The University of Texas at Austin; and 2022-23 Poet-in-Residence at Civil Rights Corps. Their memoir, Pretty (Alfred A. Knopf, 2024) is forthcoming. KB is represented by Annie DeWitt at The Shipman Agency. Follow them online at @earthtokb, and subscribe to KB’s sporadic opinions/updates through their newsletter, Out of This World.
On Wednesday, April 26th, KB Brookins is teaching a class for the WLT called “Pitches that Land Bylines with your Favorite Magazines.“ In this class, you’ll learn more about the world of magazine publishing and how to best pitch your ideas.
Here’s what KB had to share with us:
Scribe: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you write? How did you come to writing?
KB Brookins: Yo! I’m KB Brookins, a Black queer and trans artist, writer, and cultural worker based in Austin, Texas. I write poems, essays, and things that move in the liminal space of those two genres. I’ve been a “writer” (in the sense that I’ve journaled my thoughts) since elementary school. I started creative writing in 9th grade and have been doing it since then (and have been consistently writing and performing since 2019).
Scribe: In your own work, how do you approach overcoming the challenges that come with writing, be it writer’s block or craft or business-related challenges?
KBB: I learned in a workshop with Jericho Brown in 2019 that writer’s block isn’t real. I see what is known as “writer’s block” more as periods of being uninspired or scared of writing “poorly.”To get over these things when they come up, I read like a writer (as in picking up a book of any sort and studying it like it’s a textbook). I underline words I like, put squiggly lines under words I know but haven’t used in my own work before, and write things that are sparked by the things I’m reading in the margins. Sorry– I guess this is me outing myself as a person that writes in books. I also try and actually *live* my life, yunno; go swim, or people-watch at a local coffee shop, or go to a museum, or learn more about the plants and animals that exist around me, etc. Those things give me more to work with when I do return to writing. To get over that fear of writing poorly, I try to attend a workshop (or create one amongst my friends) where we *have* to write something to a prompt – either from the Internet, or something that I’ve heard in another workshop, or something I make up. Then ta da! Writing happens. I try to remind myself as well that good writing isn’t mandatory in order to write; that’s what editing and revision are for.
Re: goals or business-related challenges, I try to remind myself of the reason why I write, why I share some of my writings publicly, and what I want to be changed in the world due to my writing’s existence. These things usually make all the other stuff seem small. If that doesn’t work, I suggest reading/listening to DEAR SENTHURAN by Akwaeke Emezi.
Scribe: Has there been a moment of epiphany in terms of your work, when you thought, “This is it! Now I know what I’m doing?” How long did that feeling last?
KBB: Every time I write something down that surprises me, it is an epiphany. Sometimes, it lasts long enough for me to finish a draft of whatever I’m working on (which is great!). Often, it lasts for a second, and then I chase that feeling until I actually finish something. In a way, one of the reasons why I write is in order to feel this feeling. It is magical, and fleeting, and worth all the attempts.
Scribe: What piece of advice do you find yourself giving to writers again and again?
KBB: “Good” writing is subjective. Write what feels true to you and worry about everything else – audience, readability, etc – later. Get the editor out of your head while writing.
Scribe: What is one thing that people will take away from this class?
KBB: My hope is that one thing that was once mystified to them is now made clear. So many things in the business side of literature I had to learn by trial and error, and would’ve appreciated someone explaining it to me. I’m happy to be that someone for this, and hope that I see their cool essays out in the world afterwards!
Click here to learn more about KB Brookins’s upcoming class.