Why I Write

When I was seven or eight, I wrote obituaries.

For a kid, they were pretty morbid stories, the stuff that fills psychiatric files: “Kristy was killed by her father today …” “Timmy got ran over by the school bus …” My mother found these twisted eulogies and feared that I would need counseling. She needn’t have worried. The carnage cluttering my notebook wasn’t the work of a burgeoning serial killer, but a lonely little girl who realized her words had power. If I got teased on the school bus, I took a bully out with my Bic pen.

By age ten, I started journaling. I remember trying to build a time machine from a baby carriage and some nuts and bolts I found at my grandmother’s house, and I wanted to document my journey to another dimension, my voyage from a life of invisibility. It never occurred to me that I was landlocked, that I couldn’t fly. Around that time, I discovered Stephen King, Dean Koontz and the Twilight series — not the ridiculously successful vampire franchise, but teen horror serial novels that my mom dismissed as “occult books.” Every weekend, we headed to the bookstore at the mall, and as she went looking for a novel, I wandered off in search of the latest paperback bloodfest. I wasn’t fascinated by night crawlers or gruesome murders. Even at that age, I was intrigued by the darker side of human nature.

I grew up in a small town about fifteen miles northwest of Philadelphia and was often teased for “talking white.” While my neighbors were jumping Double Dutch on the sidewalk or practicing their drill steps in the street, I was holed up in my bedroom penning the ‘hood version of Carrie. I identified with King’s psychokinetic teen protagonist. She was homely but powerful, and she knew how it felt to be the odd kid on the block.

At times, I still feel like a lonely nerdgirl, but I’m learning to embrace my otherness. It makes sense that I now write speculative fiction, examining future worlds and alternate histories from the perspective of the black dysfunctional diva. When I discovered this genre in grad school, I realized it was a way to blend my love of the bizarre with social justice. I examine life through the eyes of black women who are trapped in white bodies, penalized by the Rage Patrol for having a temper and hunted by hair vampires.

Writing is lonely work, but it’s also redemptive. bell hooks says, “There is a world of thoughts and ideas women have yet to write about in nonfiction — whole worlds of writing we need to enter and call home. No woman is writing too much. Women need to write more. We need to know what it feels like to be submerged in language, carried about by the passion of writing words.”

As trite as it sounds, writing is my passion. Little did I know that as I was offing the neighborhood bullies in those childhood obituaries, I was also writing myself into existence. I’ve found a safe place to be zany, macabre and vulnerable — all at the same time.

Nicole D. Sconiers recently received her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. She is the author of Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage.

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