Get To Know...Brynne Barnes
We had a conversation with Brynne and Valerie about both their latest books, Black Girl Rising and Together We Ride. Wonderful stories that capture Black girl joy and family love. A full conversation with Brynne below, discussing her creative writing process and her favourite female writers.
Welcome Brynne. Tell us a bit about yourself.
There’s one key aspect to me; I love using my creativity in every single thing I do, from writing books, poetry, and music to singing, cooking, and making handmade jewellery.
I even use the creative process as an educator; At Schoolcraft College, I’m a
full-time English Instructor. Over 11 years, I’ve been writing and publishing for as long as I’ve been teaching. Being creative is what I love. That's really important for creativity. After all, the more you use, the more you have!
Black Girl Rising is a magical and powerful picture book, a love letter to and for Black girls. What inspired you to write this book?
Thank you! This book is so special to me. As a Black girl, I face the beauty, the challenges, the glory, and grace of that every single day and have for as long as I can remember. I wanted to write something that could capture that. I’ve always tried to embrace all aspects of who I am, and this book, in particular, addresses the human experience (which is universal) through the lens of Blackness and Black girlhood. That’s where the inspiration for this book and the voice of this book come from. I think it’s imperative to address notions of identity where we can draw our inspiration from. There are people outside of us that inspire us who can model strength and resilience, but ultimately, the most powerful resource we have to tackle anything we face comes from within us. We already have it. We all have that magic. This is what I want all young people everywhere to know.
What do you hope young readers will take away from this story?
This book is unique because we can read it in various ways. I’m hoping that readers will sit with it long enough to experience that. In one interpretation, there are two voices in this book — the one that tells you can’t and the one that tells you it's possible. Whichever one you listen to is the one that gets louder, so I hope young readers will let their voices boom the loudest in terms of who they decide they are and what they are capable of. Our lives and the future are what we make of it. This is what I want them to know.
What aspects of your creative writing process do you enjoy most? Which are most challenging?
There’s something delicious about crafting something quietly. It’s secret, and it’s special. I get to cherish it, and shape it before it takes on enough life of its own to leap into the hands of others. I relish that private time with the work — the time in which I get to know a story that’s only ever existed in my mind. Writing is what you do in a cocoon; the butterfly hatches only when the book is ready to be birthed.
The most challenging aspect is probably the editing process — which I also love, but it challenges me because it requires me to realise that whatever I’m making with my publishers will take on a life of its own. It’s always a little different from where I first started, but it’s always better at the end of this phase of the creative writing process. I find myself filled with gratitude at the end because it takes a village to bring a book to fruition.
Who are your favourite female writers?
This is an unfair question — I have so many! I’ve included some of them in Black Girl Rising but to mention a few: Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Lucille Clifton, Gwendolyn Brooks, Jacqueline Woodson, Alice Walker, Rita Dove, Claudia Rankine, Mari Evans, Carole Boston Weatherford, Nikki Grimes — I mean, there are truly too many to name here. So many of these women are the reason that I picked up a pen in the first place because when I read their work, they gave me this feeling I can’t describe. The whole reason I started writing was because I wanted to give other people “that feeling”.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading The Dark Fantastic by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, which explores race, culture, and imagination in fiction and fantasy.
Quick Fire Round
What’s one of your favourite memories?
Hiking the Great Wall of China is one of my standout memories. I was 14, and I was there with a group of students from my home state, Michigan. We hiked three towers, and we received signed certificates commemorating that feat. It was the first surreal experience I’d ever had, and it made me realise just how big the world really is.
You have 3 wishes. What would you wish for?
I wish the COVID-19 pandemic never happened.
I wish I could stop time because all too often; I feel like I don’t have enough of it. Wondering how much more I’d create if I could!
I wish I could teleport anywhere, past or present. That way, I could see my parents as kids.
What is your favourite place in the world?
It’s a tie between Venice, Italy and my grandmother’s kitchen.
Black Girl Rising | Chronicle Books | Available here
About the author
Brynne Barnes has colored the world with her pen writing stories, poetry, and music since earning her BS from the University of Michigan and MA from Eastern Michigan University. She has taught at several colleges and universities. Her picture books include the award-winning Colors of Me and Books Do Not Have Wings. She lives in Southfield, Michigan.