Baltimore, Maryland — “I don’t care if I’m called an Instagram poet. I really don’t care as long as people are reading it and connecting with it”.
Yrsa-Daley Ward, the English-born Nigerian-Jamaican writer, was part of the line-up of writers with featured sessions at CityLit Project’s 15th Annual CityLit Festival in Baltimore on Saturday April 14, 2018.
Citylit Project is a nonprofit organization founded in 2004 that promotes literature in and around Baltimore and across Maryland. The organization brings together writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, memoir, screenwriting, playwriting and storytelling for a daylong festival at the University of Baltimore for panel discussions, speakers’ series and workshops.
Daley-Ward taught a 90-minute Master Class called ‘The Way Things Feel”, a course for emerging and established writers that explored ways to tell one’s truth—how to bring real-life experiences onto the page.
Daley-Ward is the author of a successful collection of poems called Bone. She first self-published her book through Amazon in 2014 and then developed a loyal fan base of thousands on Instagram after sharing her poetry on the platform. Her book Bone was then picked up in 2017 by a mainstream publisher Penguin and reissued with additional poems.
She is also featured in the Badilisha Poetry X-Change, an online audio archive and Pan-African poetry program produced in radio format.
When asked how she got started, Dale-Ward said that her poet-friend Nayirrah Waheed encouraged her to collect her poetry in a book and publish them. During her workshop, she emphasized the importance of writers having a community that supports, challenges and believes in them.
Here are some of the tips Yrsa-Daley Ward offered attendees of her workshop on writing their truths from their lived experiences:
- Where was I when this tragedy or experience took place?
- Notice the small things.
- What is said or done that makes the air change, since everything is a projection of change? What changed?
- What feeling am I left with? Talk about the feeling in your body.
- Don’t be passive about the things that have happened in your life. Those things that we don’t want to feel—it’s important to feel the truth.
- Write fresh out of the dreaming when your mind is open.
- If you feel stuck on what you want to produce, look at the writing that resonates with you. Look at what you’re reading.
- You need to trust yourself when writing. Encouragement from others is important, but you need to trust yourself first.
- Write without obligation. When you write, it has to be a free and wild place, not one of obligation.
- To write well or have things to write about, go out and have experiences. Be interested in people. Watch people. Travel.
- Before I go to sleep, I make a gratitude list of all the things I’m thankful for and when I wake up, I meditate—it’s important for me to set the tone for the rest of my day.
Before ending the workshop, she reiterated that writers should “read everything you can get your hands on. Read diversely. Read things you wouldn’t otherwise read. Read outside of yourself.”
Daley-Ward is currently based in New York City. Her forthcoming work The Terrible: A Storyteller’s Memoir will be released in June 5, 2018. You may preorder your copy on Penguin’s website. In the U.S., order here. For the UK, order here. You may also preorder on Amazon here.
About the Author:
Arao Ameny is a Ugandan-born MFA Fiction student at the University of Baltimore and resides in Columbia, Maryland. She’s obsessed with Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera. Find out what she’s reading on Twitter at @africanwriter or Instagram at africanwriter.