And why this new deal is so important to me…
1994 – Grandma dies. I was ten years old. I wrote a few lines to console my mother. She (my mother) printed those lines on the back of the funeral program. My first poem.
1994-1996 – All of my grandmother’s siblings died. I wrote poems for their funerals.
1996 – I started high school. I was twelve. I wanted to write poetry, and be public about it, but…I was twelve. In high school. NOT cool. Poetry was being written at home.
1998 – I meet Ms. Blaufuss, the first teacher to push my writing. I hated her, at first. I loved her by the end of the year. I was a junior.
1999 – Ms. Blaufuss asks me to take the first ever creative writing course at our school. There was maybe ten people in the class. Mostly misfits, and “weirdos.” We learned about the science of poetry as well as the artform. Cinquains, sestinas, haiku, sonnets, and on and on. She spoke to my mother about sending me to UVA for their writing program.
2000 – I began performing at school, often, for different assemblies. I wasn’t twelve anymore. Turns out, more people liked poetry than I thought.
2000 – I decided to write my first collection of poetry. “Let Me Speak.”
2000 – I entered the University of Maryland, College Park. Wasn’t interested in UVA.
2000 – Tied for first place in the UMD Black Student Union Talent show. I was 16. Suddenly, people knew who I was.
2000 – Met Delonte, who was the person who introduced me to spoken word. He drove me down to Bar Nun on U Street, and they let me in, though I was underage, and I would perform at the end of the night, once everyone else was gone. I also remember seeing Raheem Devaughn when he s still signing the open mic list. When he had five dreadlocks. EVERYBODY would be in there.
2000 – Met Jason Griffin.
2001 – Moved in with Jason Griffin.
2001 – Had my first solo show. “Jason’s Lyric.” Sold out.
2001 – “Let Me Speak,” came out.
2002 – Second “Jason’s Lyric.” Traveling more.
2003 – Third “Jason’s Lyric.” Traveling even more.
2004 – Washington Post writes article about me.
2004 – Featured on the front of the school newspaper. (If you went there, you would know why this was such a big deal. A black man? on the front?)
2004 – Jason Griffin drops out of school. Asks if I’d be interested in making a book with him. I said yes.
2005 – SELF comes out. $50 a book. We sold over 500.
2005 – Jason Griffin asks me to move to NYC with him. Again, I say yes.
2005 – I move to Bed- Stuy Brooklyn. My family just doesn’t understand. At all.
2005 – I go on tour with the Liquid Lounge. One of the best times of my life.
2005 – We land an agent, due to a fluke. A friend of ours, Ernest, hands SELF to his agent (he’s an actor) who then passes it on randomly to the literary department, and the lady actually took a second to open it. All she said was “I dont know who you are, or what this is, but we need to talk.”
2005 – We signed a deal with Harper Collins, and began working on a new book. The happiest day of my life.
2005 – I get rejected for grad-school.
2008 – I lose the apartment, and am forced to move back to my mother’s house.
2008 – I wrote a novel, my first “Boom” which was shot down terribly by my agents. I was always afraid of writing longer works, but figured it was worth a shot.In retrospect, it was a terrible book.
2008 – Short on cash, I took a job at Lord & Taylor, in the stockroom, making a $100 a week, in Wheaton Mall. People I knew would come in to shop, and I would duck behind fixtures, embarrassed.
2009 – “My Name is Jason. Mine Too.” is finally released. On my lunch break from the stockroom, I went into the Borders bookstore in the mall, looked at MY book on the shelf, then went back to work putting sensors on women’s underwear. One of the strangest days of my life.
2009 – The book is too hard to find in NYC and DC, the two places all of our supporters are. Apparently Barnes and Noble bought 15,000 and put them all in the midwest. So, despite stellar reviews across the board, the project did just moderately well(though I’m happy to say it’s still selling) because it was virtually unavailable.
2009 – I got rejected for grad-school, again.
2009 – I take a job as a case worker, and serve mentally ill people.29 on my caseload. Rapists, schizophrenics, manics, homeless, drug addicted. I met some beautiful people and learned some valuable lessons. But the stress and emotional strain made me sick. Psycho-somatic trauma. I lost 50 pounds.
2009 – So I quit. And moved back to Brooklyn.
2010 – I went on a trip to Bermuda, where I was so inspired by the culture that I decided to write a novel about it. I gave the novel to my former editorial assistant at Harper. Though she did consider it, she turned it down.
2011 – I wrote “Letter to a Dreamer,” and recited it at The Kennedy Center. Biggest gig of my life.
2011 – I landed a new agent, and wrote another novel. This time about a little boy with Tourette’s syndrome, growing up in Brooklyn. The new agent loved it, pitched it, and Simon & Schuster bought it, plus whatever I create next (which is halfway done. Secret *wink*) The *new* happiest day of my life.
And there you have it.
So this is a big deal, because quite frankly, it’s been a long journey. I know there is an even longer journey ahead, but this first part was a struggle.I’ve met some INCREDIBLE people, and been some amazing places, and it’s all been beautiful indeed, and unbelievably charmed, but a struggle nonetheless.
Let’s see what happens next!