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It's A Book Thing Presents: An Interview with Adina Ferguson, author of I Don't Want to Be Your Bridesmaid

Author’s Bio: Adina Ferguson is an essayist, humorist, content writer and proud DC native. She is the author of the essay collection, I Don’t Want to Be Your Bridesmaid, and has been published on Hippocampus Magazine, midnight & indigo, Very Smart Brothas, Defenestration, Slackjaw and more.

When she’s not writing about being Black & woman & single & 30-something, Adina freelances for small businesses and is a full-time content marketing specialist. You can find Adina at adinathewriter.com, on IG @adinathewriter or on the couch watching Golden Girls reruns.

 

Deliah Lawrence: What inspired you to write your book?


Adina Ferguson: My book’s birth story is actually pretty cool. I was in the Creative Writing MFA program at the University of Baltimore. Your manuscript is your thesis. But wait, there’s more. In this amazing program, you’re required to self-publish your book! We’re talking do the layout and design, cover to cover, working with a printer, and even marketing/selling your book.  I Don’t Want to Be Your Bridesmaid was born from my grad school career. The essays within it were inspired by my twenties. 


So much happened by the time I was 29 when the book was released. I saw myself growing into womanhood, and took all the good, bad, funny, and heartbreaking and rolled it into a humorous essay collection. Ultimately, the book is a declaration. It’s a bright, hot stage where I proclaim who I really am and most definitely who I am not…professional bridesmaid included.

 

DL: What is your writing process?


AF: Ahahaha. It probably should not be documented. I kid. For my own personal work, if I have something or someone I want to write about, I start with a brain dump. Check my phone for any notes or just start from scratch. There’s always music when I write. I warm up to probably the same songs on my Spotify or YouTube playlist. There’s always Jodeci, I kid you not. I light one of my favorite candles and then I start to write.

 

I take breaks throughout sessions because I can’t write for a long period of time. I’m just not wired that way. I’m thumbing through social media or having a whole concert in between writing 2-5 sentences.  I want to have word count goals, but yep, no. And I’m usually most productive at night. The writerly juices be flowing! I’ve tried getting up early to write and write on my lunch break. But something about the moon… I always have water.

 

And then sometimes there’s jazz or movie scores in the background.  As I progress through a piece, I save each draft as its own file. I love seeing the journey.  I go back and read, maybe do a little editing, and then more writing. I’m always moving sections of essays around or doing my best to make things as clean and concise as possible. I’m big on not wasting words or readers’ time. And I have a short attention span, so, my work is never super long. 

 

And I repeat the cycle until I believe the essay is finished. If I’m not feeling a piece, I’ll let it rest, and move on to something else. Sometimes though, there are essays I work on continuously because I believe in their story. I can go weeks or months working on one essay. Some have taken a few years and then voila, it is well-written to my satisfaction.

 

DL: What were some of the challenges when writing this book?


AF: I had this idea that certain stories and people needed to be in the book. One of them in particular was about a pivotal moment in my relationship with one of my best friends. I wrote a few drafts of the essay, but I never got it to a place of satisfaction. It didn’t do either character justice and was lopsided. So, I scrapped it from the book.

 

Months before I completed the manuscript, my paternal grandmother passed. In fact, she was the fourth grandparent I lost in a six-month span. Because of who she was to the family, I knew she needed to be in the book. So, I started writing her essay. It was dark and heavy. I was still very emotional and grief-stricken and it showed in the piece. I didn’t like it and couldn’t push through, so I just left it alone. A few months later, pretty close to deadline, I started from scratch, and the essay came out just right. It’s written from my grandma’s point of view and actually closes the book.

 

DL: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?


AF: It’s funny, I used to be a sports writer before I transitioned to personal essays and memoirs. One of my favorite writers/authors during that time was Robert “Scoop” Jackson. He wrote for SLAM magazine when I was first introduced to his work. He wrote this feature on Kobe Bryant titled “The Undisco Kid.” I loved it! Read that thing I don’t know how many times.

 

I loved his transparency, his storytelling, and his style of writing. It was hella Black and unapologetic, and he cursed. LOL. I subscribed to the magazine and read everything Scoop wrote because it was just butter. And very distinct. Like, if you skipped over the byline, you knew just from the imagery, the casualness, the rawness who wrote the piece. I wanted to pattern my writing style like Scoop, but with my own Adina flair. 


I was so in awe and a fan, some folks started calling me Lil’ Scoop. My 9th grade year, my English teacher suggested I email the editor of SLAM so I could make contact with him and write an essay for this contest I wanted to enter. It actually worked and Scoop and I connected! To this day we keep in touch. And I see the flair he had in my own work and voice, and the distinction there is when people read my essays.

 

DL: If you could choose a super power, what would it be and why?


AF: The power to stop anxious thoughts. I’m a huge overthinker and analyzer. It’s so hard to turn my brain off, and just be. My fellow overthinkers know it. I want to save us from our thoughts at times. How do we make this superpower a thing??!!

 

DL: What tips would you give to aspiring writers? 


AF: Don’t wait for “perfect” to consider a piece of work finished. As you look over a body of work, you’ll always find something to take out or add, and then the world will never get to experience it. Trust your gut after you’ve written, revised, walked away, came back and revised a little more. When a piece is right, it’s right. And you feel it.

 

Try not to compare yourself to other writers. Yes, it’s hard to do, but it’ll drive you crazy and potentially stunt your growth as a writer. The world needs your work. Celebrate your peers in writing, but don’t stop writing while you do.

 

DL: What do you like to do when you are not writing? 


AF: I love binging something good on TV. I also like to cook nowadays. Try a new recipe and see how it goes. My mom jokes that I’m a crockpot girl. She’s not wrong. LOL. But I’ve also enjoyed getting to know my cast iron skillet on a one-on-one basis. And then there’s napping. Naps are life. I often wonder if neighbors can hear me snoring outside my front door. LOL

 

DL: What are three things you can’t live without?


AF: Water, books, and chicken wings.

 

DL: Would you like to share an excerpt from any of your essay collections?


AF: Sure, here you go:


Mom and I found ourselves close to having the talk we should have had 15 years ago. The one where she forewarns me about life and how not to screw it up with boys, drugs, petty fights with homegirls and overall foolishness. How we got on this topic was by way of a family update.

“Miss Tiffany got her period,” she announced.

“Oh, wow, she’s a woman now,” I gushed.

“I remember when you got your period. I was so terrified for my baby. My stomach started cramping up,” Mom said in a soft tone as if she were talking to the 11-year-old me. Her eyes glazed over as she fell into her reverie.

Yep, I had lost her. She was officially back in 1997. The year our family moved into our new home in Northeast DC. The year I no longer had to share a room or television with my brother, Chris. The year rapper Notorious B.I.G. died and the Spice Girls ruled the world.

I remembered my initial day of menstruation very well.

Listening to Mom, I wondered if we remembered the same events from the same day. Her expressions and details quickly led me to believe we had conflicting accounts of this historic moment but I remained silent and let her theatrics take center stage.-- excerpt from  the essay “Can We Not Talk About This”

 

DL: Where can readers learn more about you and purchase your book(s)?


AF: Readers can learn more about me and my work here:

DL: Thanks so much for being here with us today. I know my readers will enjoy getting to know you and your work. 


AF: It was an absolute honor and pleasure!







Comments

  1. Adina is my literary sister. We joke she's my sister-cousin because before I met her in person, I felt like I'd known her since forever. This interview almost mirrors my life and writing habits and confirms why I love her so much... That and we're both DC natives. You have to live ACTUAL DC natives! This interview should have been titled "Charlene, this is your life"!! I love it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Charlene! Thanks so much for stopping by and showing Adina's interview some love! Whenever you are ready there's an open invitation for you to have your own interview titled "Charlene, this is your life!" Be well!

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    2. Charlene, thank you, thank you, thank you for the love and the taking time to check out the interview! I'm glad we're more alike than either of us knew. Must be a DC thing 😏 Happy writing, creating, and making memories worth sharing with the world, Sis!

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