Brooklyn, NY/Oakland, California
GRACE PALEY FELLOW
I was born in Brooklyn, but my roots are in the South. My first stories were those I heard from my relatives about working in the fields in Virginia. I was too young to understand everything, but I felt the heart behind their laughter, their singing, and even the quiet spaces between the sad tales. When I grew older, I wrote the stories that friends whispered to me about the boys they slipped away to meet or the visit to the clinic where they sat alone and cried. I have always found real life stories as rich and complex as fiction, and it’s these folks I want to honor when I write.
I have a B.A in Africana Studies from Brooklyn College and an MFA from Mills College in California. These degrees opened a space for me to immerse myself deeply in literature and writing. I have been published in several journals, including Kweli, Agni and Tayo Literary Magazine, and have received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Sustainable Arts Foundation and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Writing has led me to some wonderful experiences. What I also want to do is uphold the tradition of the indigenous storyteller.
Like my relatives who worked closely with the Earth, I believe that place has a powerful role in our stories and is often its own character. I believe in the history of streets, buildings, trees and water. I’m also a Reiki master, an herbal tea blender, a listener of the trees and Mama to a beautiful son. My workshops in the dark spaces of prisons are different from my workshops with seniors in a room with open windows and sunshine. I also believe writing heals us and that one of the most important things we can do is listen to and tell each other’s stories.