I believe that when we stretch our minds beyond what we think we know, we create space for new possibilities.
We all have a history. My history is that I am from a small town with a big personality called New Orleans, Louisiana. The land also has a history. It was the original home of the Chitimacha Tribe, and the Chitimacha still live in the region today. As human beings, we are always living in the past, the present, and the future all at the same time. We write to make sense of our histories and to imagine new worlds. I wrote my first story in college to understand how racism (a social evil that our country pretends we have left in the past) could emerge in the form of a violent incident that happened to a classmate. Since then, I have published essays about identity to grapple with reality as well as fantastical short stories to exercise my imagination about humanity, community, and freedom. I have written two short story collections for adults: Ancient, Ancient (winner of the James Tiptree Award), and When the World Wounds. When the World Turned Upside Down is my first novel and my first book for young people. I am passionate about sharing strategies for writing through my workshops, my Patreon posts, and my ebook series Notes From the Trenches. I live in Brooklyn with my daughter, where I am remembering the history of the Lenape and the founders of the Weeksville community, while writing the future in the form of a YA book series forthcoming in 2022.
K. Ibura Interviews K. Ibura
How did you start writing?
I was always writing. I just gravitated toward reading and storytelling, but I never thought I would be a writer. A racist incident that happened to a college classmate hounded me until I wrote it into a story. After publishing that story, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Many, many stories and essays later, I am still writing!
What do you like about your hometown?
New Orleans is culture. There is a unique way of being around every aspect of life. From the festivals to the second lines, from the family ties to the familiar strangers, from the food to the music, there’s no part of New Orleans life that’s not steeped in that special New Orleans culture.
What’s the most surprising thing about being a writer?
Being a writer is really hard, but it’s not challenging because of the actual act of writing—it’s challenging because of the mental somersaults we go through as humans. I tell people all the time, the biggest part of my job as a writer is self-management. If I can manage my pessimism, fear, doubt, self-criticism, and exhaustion—and just surrender to the adventure of writing, I am unstoppable.
Do you really believe everyone is an artist?
I do believe everyone has the creative impulse. It may not be a written art or a visual art or a performing art, it could be a culinary art or a management art. But if we put our spirit, imagination, and passion into a task, it can all be art. Many people who want to create discount themselves before they begin. I’ve spent more than a decade documenting my own struggles with writing. Lately I’ve started holding workshops and hosting groups to help other people who want to write capture the right mindset that will allow them to carry on.
I’ve heard you say writing is a conversation with the work, what does that mean?
There is a huge amount of surrender involved in writing. If you are too rigid, you’ll quickly end up blocked. I’m most successful when I don’t pressure myself to be perfect in the first draft. When I stay loose and follow the story, I make magical connections and find the most organic and powerful way to weave a tale. You have to be receptive to the work for it to unfold into its best version of itself.
I’ve always been a what-if thinker. As I move through the world, I’m wondering who people are, layering stories onto everyday life.
- I am the middle child in a family of seven (five kids plus parents!)
- I grew up in the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans with lots of trees, insects, and neighbors.
- My siblings and I were obsessed with competitive games. Some of our favorites were jacks, pick-up sticks, and a card game called Crazy Eights.
- We also loved to build insane obstacle courses that rambled through the house. Our building tools included stacked chairs, bed sheets, and box fans.
- My parents were independent thinkers who filled our house with music, culture, and strong principles.
- My parents were also activists, so we spent our childhood coloring picket signs, folding political letters and stuffing them in envelopes, and attending protests.
- I am still obsessed with games, but now I play them alone on my phone.
- I am an artist and my favorite hobby is doing puzzles.
- I also love traveling. I have been to 15 countries and I speak two-and-a half languages.
- I passionately believe cheese is the best food in the world.