Sunday, September 20, 2009

PLPT GEMS - Meet Dria

Peace Love and Pretty Things is about the celebration of the depths and complexities of a woman's spirit and the potential that lies therein. Our new feature, GEMS, will showcase women who are tapping into their unique talents and breathing life into their dreams.

GEMS stands for:

Grace and
Encouragement for
Motivation and

The women who are showcased as PLPT GEMS embody the boldness and vulnerability that are required to step out of the box and offer something intimately personal to the world. They are accessible examples of women who are doing interesting things, overcoming challenges, expressing themselves and making a difference in a unique and beautiful way.

As they share their stories, we hope that you will read something that inspires you to reflect, laugh, cry, dare, question, create, understand, and most importantly - get involved. The world needs your perspective and your contribution. When you focus your energy on a goal that reaches beyond personal gain into a context larger than yourself, there are no limits to what you can create.

PLPT GEMS presents ~ Dria
Writer. Story-teller. Torch carrier.

1. What is your passion and what is your outlet for it?
I have more than one, but the most overwhelming, the one that haunts me if I don’t tend to it, is language. I am a writer ALL the time—it’s nearly a nuisance (thank God my sisters are little geeks and will discuss literature with me for hours, if I want!). I have several outlets for my passion since it’s how I make my living, including magazine and newspaper articles, literary journals, collections of short stories, and websites, but I don’t enjoy writing other people’s junk. I only want to write my own and it is this freedom I strive for every single day.

2. How did you get started? How did you prepare yourself?
I’m not a writer who has been writing since a very young age. I guess maybe I kept journals as a child, and I was an excellent student so I pulled off school essays just fine, but I didn’t do these things for the words or the magic I could make with them; they were just a means to an end. I have always been an avid reader, but I didn’t eat up books thinking, I want to do this. I just loved the stories, the escape, the accomplishment of having finished another book. I discovered my gift late in my undergraduate career, declared a Creative Writing major, and set my feet toward the horizon. Like most novice writers, I was in love with my work then. I’d write a poem in fifteen minutes and be so enamored with it, I’d share it with all sorts of people and think I was soooo fly. I wasn’t! I wasn’t reading enough. I wasn’t revising. I thought there was nothing to it but emotion and a few “original” ideas. Then I stumbled upon a collection of poetry by Sonia Sanchez. She shamed me, as she will any know-nothing writer, and I shut up all that conceit. From there, I studied like a madwoman (I’m still studying and will always), I wrote a collection of poetry myself (nothing like writing a terrible book to learn a great deal), I got into the number 2 Writing program in the country (Johns Hopkins), I suffered pains of unimaginable degrees, I won some awards, had a baby, launched a women’s writers conference (, and decided ain’t nothing in the world I want more than to create literature.

3. What obstacles did you have to overcome?
I’m writing in a genre that is not particularly popular and not particularly honored by Black people on a major scale. Literary fiction is not something we pass around like we do a Mary J CD, so committing to something not all that well loved by my people, the very people I write about, requires the occasional pep talk. I write a lot about intra-racism and incest and other “sensitive” topics. I’m very gentle with them, but I say some things that need to be said. I would love for my audience to be little poverty-stricken high yellow, brown, and blue-black girls and boys. I’d love for old black men and women to read my work, but the reality is the majority of them will never set eyes on it. Still the level of creation—that commitment to writing literature and not popular fiction and striving to be among the Toni Morrisons and James Baldwins--has always been more important to me than my audience. The artist has to remain committed to her art. So I just kind of hope and pray my stories land where they’re needed. I guess I’ve had to overcome naysayers too. People who love me and have my best interest at heart have told me, “But you won’t be able to live off your work.” I know they think they’re serving me, but they’re not. I ignore them. It’s fairly easy though, because I’m clear about my life’s purpose and my family has always supported me 1000%, so I don’t want to paint that as a true obstacle. On an everyday basis, I have to overcome laziness, procrastination, and an outright distrust of my work. Sometimes I read it and think, “This is garbage,” and it is only God who brings me back to it.

4. Is your passion your full time occupation? If not, how do you balance it with your other responsibilities?
I know I said writing is how I make my money, and right now it is my sole source of income, but my own work—my fiction, my personal projects—is not my full time occupation. I feel like I’m almost there! Like just as soon as I find a publisher for my short story collection I’ll find a university home where I’ll be allowed to work among all things fiction, but I have a little more work left to do before I’m granted that blessing. In the meantime, I talk to myself in this way, “You want it? Are you really a writer? Do you mean it? Then get to it.” I try not to take too many breaks, to put off the dream for any serious length of time, and I just trust that God hasn’t given me this gift for nothing. I get it done. There is no balance really. A lot of times—a lot!—the dishes go unwashed, the nights out with girlfriends get postponed, my boyfriend and daughter settle for a quick game of Yahtzee…all in the name of making a life out of this thing.

5. How do you stay motivated and overcome doubt, fear and negative thinking?
I almost gave a generic answer to this because overcoming doubt, fear, negative thinking has never really been my issue, but I understand that there are some writers out there—specifically women, specifically black women—who wear above them their own personal storm cloud, demanding their failure. So I’ll tell them the proactive measures I take: I read all the time. For every page I write, I have read 250. I am most at home with black women humanist literary writers, but I gobble up everything excellent. Black women writers feel like me myself and in their work lives one million messages. Messages I take personally, that tell me to keep going (though I have much respect for many writers of other ethnicities). I am motivated by excellence. It is very important to me to grab the torch and hold it high until the next generation of literary writers is ready to carry it. I want to make Zora Neale Hurston and Jean Toomer and every member of my literary lineage proud of me. That is very, very important to me.

6. What advice would you offer to others who are searching for their purpose or are afraid to take the first step towards their dreams?
I’m the aunt who says, Scared? The hell you scared of? So I don’t really nurture timidity or baby folks who are afraid of their own shadows. There is someone out there for those people, but I’m not her. I’ve never been that sort of person, even in childhood. I’m the person you come to when you’re ready to jump. For writers ready to jump, I say read until your eyes tear. Write until your fingers boycott you. Study, study, study. Decide on excellence and do not stray.

7. Name someone who has inspired you and why.
Oh man. Inspiration comes in big old daily doses, sometimes too big to swallow. I am inspired by: the way my mother tells a story, my sisters and their refusal to be anything but themselves, my daughter’s shyness, Oprah’s strength, Toni Morrison’s wisdom, Toi Derricottoe’s honesty, Beyonce’s focus, Barack Obama’s eloquence, Malcolm X’s fearlessness…by films, by music, by individual words, photographs, commercials, good food, good wine ;0)…ooh, especially good quotes…deep down pain, injustice, anger…fabric, television shows, singing, dancing…hell, hot pink nail polish. I can use anything as an excuse for inspiration and it, like the sky, is all over everywhere.

Check out the following links to read some of the original works of Andria Nacina Cole. She's one to watch!

1. "Leaving Women" - (short story)

2. "Small Crimes" - (short story)

3. "How Not to Ruin Your Daughters" - (experimental fiction)

4. "Such Evenings" - (short story)

Dria, You have an amazing gift and we thank you for sharing it. PLPT loves and supports you. xoxo


Poppy Fields said...

Dria, Thank you for sharing your story. Fearless, positive, courageous people like you inspire me. High five! I'd love to join your literary circle. I look forward to reading your work.


Dria, You are so on point with the reading. Reading is absolutely a must-have tool for any writer. You are so fortunate to have a group of friends that share your 'obsession.' Your story is just what I needed to read today. Thank you.

Andria said...

@Poppy Fields - Thank you for receiving it!!! I was JUST saying I need to launch some sort of online writing thingy...hmmmm

@Carmen - You're welcome sugar! I'm reading Lucille Clifton right now!

GG said...

How funny, Dria - I too was thinking that you need an "online writing thingy" LOL.

If for no other reason, because I selfishly want to read your work on a regular basis!

Hope all is well chica!!

Poppy Fields said...

Let me know when you start the writing thingy - LOL!

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