AUTHOR INTERVIEW 111 – Lyris D. Wallace and Chyrel J. Jackson

Lyris D. Wallace

Chyrel J. Jackson

United States

Different Sides of the Same Coin is a modern and sassy collage of poetry as experienced from the Black female perspective of 2 sisters and authors. This timeless collection of poems is refreshing and unique. Different Sides of the Same Coin is a soul searing and heartwarming work of new age black voice and spoken word. This adaptation highlights the human experience of life, love, loss, parting and sorrow. Timeless wording, honestly written with a little of the unexpected. Black Expression has never been more vibrant, relevant and real. This work is an interesting twist on Harlem Renaissance revisited as it collides with 2019 social struggles and conditions of our current time. In no short order we are reminded of why written and spoken word is so vital to the sustenance of African American Literature.

Romelia:   WHAT IS THE MOST VALUABLE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN ABOUT WRITING?

Lyris D. Wallace:   To just write.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   Write what you know, what is familiar to you.

Romelia:   HOW MANY HOURS A DAY DO YOU WRITE?

Lyris D. Wallace:   I do not write everyday, but I spend anywhere from 2 to 4 hours writing at least 3 times a week.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   It varies I don’t have a set structured time to write when I feel inspired is when I write. That can be any time of the day or night.

Romelia:   WHEN YOU ARE WRITING AN EMOTIONAL OR DIFFICULT SCENE, HOW DO SET THE MOOD?

Lyris D. Wallace:   When you’re writing poetry, most of the time it comes from an emotional place.  Especially if you’re writing about family, or even current events.  The key is not to be overly emotional because you don’t want to come off as judgemental or “preachy”.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   Writing for me is just that writing. I don’t bother myself with setting moods. A writer is either committed to the story they are trying to tell or they aren’t. The rest of it is just time wasting in my opinion.

Romelia:   WHOM DO YOU TRUST FOR OBJECTIVE AND CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM OF YOUR WORK?

Lyris D. Wallace:   My sister, Chyrel J. Jackson.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   My sister, daughters, & husband.

Romelia:   HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH THE SUBJECT OR THEME OF YOUR BOOK?

Lyris D. Wallace:   My poems started out as journal entries, until I went back to read the first couple of entries and they read like poems.  They had a rhythm to them and I liked it so I kept writing the entries like that.  When I finally read them to my sister, she suggested that we make a book of poetry because she was already writing poetry by then.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   Everything is organic, we live the words we write. We are poets there is nothing that we write that we have not actually lived.

Romelia:   WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO WRITE IN YOUR PARTICULAR FIELD OR GENRE? IF YOU WRITE MORE THAN ONE, HOW DO YOU BALANCE THEM?  

Lyris D. Wallace:   I started out writing screen plays which is what I went to school for.  I still play around with that, I have several unfinished plays.  It’s much easier for me to write the poems.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   Our first preferred genre is poetry. We will branch out to fiction.

Romelia:   WHAT CULTURAL VALUE DO YOU SEE IN WRITING? 

Lyris D. Wallace:   I think it’s important to keep giving a voice to our struggles.  To remain silent is to be complacent and part of the problem.  But to let that form of artistry die out, would be tragic.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   Our culture as black women has always been undervalued. Thank God for Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and Gwendolyn Brooks. They gave black women a place in literature. We’re just doing what they did but in our generation and current time.

Romelia:   HOW DOES YOUR BOOK RELATE TO YOUR SPIRITUAL PRACTICE OR OTHER LIFE PATH?

Lyris D. Wallace:   My spiritual practice is in a lot of my poems.  It dictates how and what I want to communicate to the readers.  My spiritual practice is not just a practice, it is a way of life.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   We are what we write. We write in the spirit of our great Literary ancestors. It is because of their sacrifice that we are able to write in confidence knowing that our narrative and stories as black women must be told and have value.

Romelia:   WHAT WERE YOUR GOALS AND INTENTIONS IN THIS BOOK, AND HOW WELL DO YOU FEEL YOU ACHIEVED THEM? 

Lyris D. Wallace:   Our goal was to uplift our people, especially young black women, encouraging them to love themselves and everything about themselves.  I think we accomplished that very much. 

Chyrel J. Jackson:   Life is about acceptance. We as women are enough. We in our own God given right as human beings are enough. That is not defined by anyone else outside of God. I am grateful to God because I know that it is him who I must please alone. If I do that everything else will take care of itself.

Romelia:   CAN YOU SHARE SOME STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE YOU MET WHILE RESEARCHING THIS BOOK?

Lyris D. Wallace:   The book is a work of poems from our life experience as black women living in America.  It is a recollection of family, love, relationships, and life.  Therefore research was unnecessary because we lived it.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   Our book is an autobiographical book of poems we have many stories to tell and have told them in our book.

Romelia:   WHAT ARE SOME OF THE REFERENCES THAT YOU USED WHILE RESEARCHING THIS BOOK?

Lyris D. Wallace:   Our own lives.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   Life is our greatest teacher. Living and knowing the people within our household quite well did not require research. It was just a known tangible fact/occurrence.

Romelia:   WHAT DO YOU THINK MOST CHARACTERIZES YOUR WRITING?

Lyris D. Wallace:   I’m not sure how to answer this question.  I think it’s characterized as a soulful modern take on life, love, and family.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   We are very emotional. I and my sister both write from the well of our soul.

Romelia:   WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART OF WRITING THIS BOOK?

Lyris D. Wallace:   This book came rather easy for me because as I stated, it originally started as a journal.  Away for me to understand myself and how I was feeling about my life at the time.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   We are very emotional. I and my sister both write from the well of our soul.

Romelia:   ARE THERE VOCABULARY WORDS OR CONCEPTS IN YOUR BOOK THAT MAY BE NEW TO READERS? DEFINE SOME OF THOSE.

Lyris D. Wallace:   The only thing that may be a little different in my writing is that in a few of the poems, I pay tribute to “black language”.  I love the way we speak.  There is a rhythm to it.  Old black English is based on what our ancestors were able to pick up during slavery due to the fact they were not officially taught how to speak English.  There is a kind of beauty and history in that.  So I explored that in some of my poems.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   Black speech patterns are not new. They may be for someone not used to or accustomed to Black culture. We love experimenting with language. Black language is under represented so we love to feature and highlight this in our work as much as possible.

Romelia:   ARE THERE UNDERREPRESENTED GROUPS OR IDEAS FEATURED IN YOUR BOOK? IF SO, DISCUSS THEM.

Lyris D. Wallace:   The only underrepresented idea in our book would be the poems encouraging our people to find out who they are.  To look beyond, slavery and the civil rights movement.  Who were we before we were brought here to America?

Chyrel J. Jackson:   Please reference question 14 answer for this question.

Romelia:   ARE THERE MISCONCEPTIONS THAT PEOPLE HAVE ABOUT YOUR BOOK? IF SO, EXPLAIN.

Lyris D. Wallace:   None that I’m aware of.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   No. It is as straightforward as it can possible get.

Romelia:   WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOUR SUBJETC/GENRE, THAT THEY NEED TO KNOW? 

Lyris D. Wallace:   Based on the feedback we have already gotten, I think most people get it.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   Expression, Spoken/written word is as vital to living as breathing. After death, words/language remains.

Romelia:   WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

Lyris D. Wallace:   Mostly life itself.  Also my Son, family, and friends.  Outside of those things, the biggest inspiration to me would be the word of God.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   Life.

Romelia:   HOW DID YOU GET TO BE WHERE YOU ARE IN YOUR LIFE TODAY? 

Lyris D. Wallace:   Where I am today is not where I want to be, but if I had to say, it would be my sister Chyre.  Shel has always encouraged me to be myself and to always give it the best I could.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   God alone. No one else.

Romelia:   WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS THAT YOU FEEL WERE INFLUENTIAL IN YOUR WORK? WHAT IMPACT HAVE THEY HAD ON YOUR WRITING?

Lyris D. Wallace:   Nikki Giovanni, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Edgar Allan Poe, and Jane Austin, just to name a few.  But Nikki Giovanni literally changed my life.  It was her writing that made me want to pick up a pen.  I feel all of their writings to my core, which is why I read them over and over again.  I think you can tell in certain poems which one I was channeling at the time.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Lucille Clifton, James Baldwin, and Maya Angelou.

Romelia:   WHAT DID YOU FIND MOST USEFUL IN LEARNING TO WRITE? WHAT WAS LEAST USEFUL OR MOST DESTRUCTIVE? 

Lyris D. Wallace:   Writing has allowed me to express myself in a creative way.  But to me what was more useful than writing, was reading.  I use to hate to read because in high school, I never found anything that interesting to read.  It wasn’t until I was in college and I took my first black literature class and I was introduced to authors like, Zora Neal Hurston, Maya Angelou, Wallace Thurman, Ralph Ellison.  It seemed like I was reborned.  I couldn’t believe that these extraordinary artists were out there telling our story.  When I read their books, it’s like I took a breath for the first time.  It was because of these artists, that I learned to appreciate Charles Dixons, Emily Bronte, Oscar Wilde and others.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   Language, the love of and use of language was the most useful. There has only been positives in learning how to utilize language.

Romelia:   ARE YOU A FULL-TIME OR PART-TIME WRITER? HOW DOES THAT AFFECT YOUR WRITING?

Lyris D. Wallace:   I’m a part-time writer, but the minute I begin to make enough money to sustain myself with my writing that’s when I’ll become a full-time writer.  I don’t think that affects my writing at all.  Writing is something that I enjoy, it’s not a job.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   Unfortunately only a part time writer. I want to one day be able to do this full time though.

Romelia:   WHAT ARE SOME DAY JOBS THAT YOU HAVE HELD? IF ANY OF THEM IMPACTED YOUR WRITING, SHARE AN EXAMPLE. 

Lyris D. Wallace:   I’ve worked as a bank teller, worked at a radio station, worked as a church secretary.  None of those positions had an impact on my writing except for when I worked at the radio station.  I’m currently writing a treatment for a television “dramedy” loosely based on my time there.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   Unfortunately none.

Romelia:   HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT EBOOKS VS PRINT BOOKS AND ALTERNATIVE VS CONVENTIONAL PUBLISHING?

Lyris D. Wallace:   As a writer, I am for whatever is going to get our work out to the masses.  I support it all.  As a reader, I love the convenience of ebooks, because you literally have hundreds of books at your disposal at all times.  My Kindle changed my life.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   I love physical books. I always will. I also love ebooks but electronic just can’t compare to physical copies in any capacity.

Romelia:   WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE FUTURE OF READING/WRITING?

Lyris D. Wallace:   There will always be stories to tell and the need for people to tell them.  You will always have writers. Styles may change, and stories may differ, but you will always need someone to record them.  I don’t see that changing in the future. 

Chyrel J. Jackson:   I actually see this as a necessity of life and living the Pandemic made reading a viable necessity again. As human beings we will always need books.

Romelia:   WHAT MAKES YOUR BOOK STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD? 

Lyris D. Wallace:   Our book is 289 pages of the black experience, told in the form of poetry.  It is not a 50 page manuscript or pamphlet.  It is a real book giving the reader not just 1 style of writing but two.  And although we deal with life as black women, our story is really universal.  It is for everybody; both male and female.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   Our book was just fun. It was well-written and I believe that our collective love for language came through.

Romelia:   DO YOU WRITE MORE BY LOGIC OR INTUITION, OR SOME COMBINATION OF THE TWO? SUMMARIZE YOUR WRITING PROCESS. 

Lyris D. Wallace:   My writing process is not really a process at all.  I have to be moved to write.  I have to feel it.  If I don’t feel it, I can’t write it.  For me, it’s not something that can be forced, or that’s how it’s going to read.  Writing for me is an emotional thing.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   Definitely a combination. My writing process is to journal how it is I feel and just build from that place. It really is as simple as that.

Romelia:   WHAT IS YOUR ROLE IN THE WRITING COMMUNITY?

Lyris D. Wallace:   I am a student of those who came before me. I am a keeper of tradition, culture and black expression. I also encourage those who may come after me to pick up the pen and continue our legacy.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   My role is to constantly make people aware of the beauty that exists in black life and experience. It is to represent that lens as truthful as I can. If that makes you uncomfortable then I’ve done my job.

Romelia:   WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE PRESENT? WHAT DO YOUR PLANS FOR FUTURE PROJECTS INCLUDE? 

Lyris D. Wallace:   My sister and I are working on our 2nd book of poetry, we are also working on a novel which is not poetry, and as I previously stated, I’m constantly working on screen plays and/or treatments for television.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   Our sophomore witing effort book 2 Mirrored Images. When we release book 2 we have to go into creation of our 3rd book a fictional family drama; If These Walls Could Talk.

Romelia:   DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A FEW SENTENCES. TELL US SOMETHING WE DO NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU AND SOMETHING YOU HATE ABOUT THE WORLD.

Lyris D. Wallace:   I mostly work out of the creative side of my brain; I love arts and crafts, crocheting, reading and writing.  I hate injustice, inequality, and I hate when people do not stand up for what is right.

Chyrel J. Jackson:   I won’t say the obvious, I’m a self-imposed introvert. Most writers are. I’m very cerebral and very few people outside my immediate family will ever see anything that I don’t want to reveal. I abominate any kind of intolerance/ignorance as it comes to people with their feelings regarding race relations.

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