Author C.P. Patrick Talks Her Brilliant New Book Of Poetry And How She Stays Focused On Her Craft

C.P. Patrick is a writer and a storyteller who revels in the opportunity to affirm that truth.  These days that affirmation comes in the form of her second book titled, “Dear Ancestors,” a brilliant collection of poetry that focuses on the black experience. 

“The collection begins in pre-colonial Africa, takes readers through the Middle Passage and trans-Atlantic slave trade, and ends  with the state of Black America,” says Patrick of her latest offering. “It is a poetic homage to my ancestors.”

It’s also a slight departure from her original work. As a lover of fiction and fantasy interwoven with stories of the African Diaspora, Patrick’s first book, “The Truth About Awiti,” had many critics comparing her work to that of renowned author, Octavia Butler .

I recently caught up with Patrick to talk about “Dear Ancestors,” the creativity of her first novel, and what motivates her to write.

 

How is your new book, “Dear Ancestors,” being received by the public?

Very well! I have seen my poems all over social media, which is one of the best forms of unsolicited, genuine marketing.  “Dear Ancestors” has also been picked up by several high schools, and I’ve received invitations to speak at many of them. So it’s pretty exciting.

 

In the past you’ve written fiction.  What inspired you to write poetry this time around?

I was actually working on “Seasons of Shame” and “Dear Ancestors” at the same time. “Seasons of Shame” is my second novel. The storyline focuses on Afro-Germans during the Holocaust, which can be so depressing at times – the research and the writing.  “Dear Ancestors” was an escape. It helped my writing process to switch between the two books. I’ve heard that some writers work on several projects at a time for this very reason.

dear ancestors
you survived
you live
on my full lips
in the bend of my curls
reflecting in the melanin dancing on my skin
within the words i write
speak
your tears are my tears
for our past and present
whenever i breathe
i give thanks to you

— from Dear Ancestors

 

Your first book, “The Truth About Awiti,” is a historical fantasy novel that some have compared to the work of Octavia Butler.  Tell us about it.

I love Octavia Butler! It is such an honor whenever people say, “This reminds me of Kindred!” And it’s proof that there’s an audience for science fiction and fantasy with an Afrocentric focus. “The Truth About Awiti” tells the story of a restless slave spirit who travels through time searching for her loved ones. She causes a lot of havoc because of her anger regarding the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its residual effects. In graduate school, I heard a theory that the spirits of slaves are not at rest, and that they are embodied in the winds of hurricanes. It always stuck with me! And I really wanted to explore it in a narrative. So I looked at the top ten hurricanes and possibly-related historic events. That was the original premise, but like many novels, it sort of took on a life of its own. I spooked myself so many times!  “The Truth About Awiti” is my first book baby, although I love all my books the same! {laughs}  Awiti is special – she showed me that I could pursue and achieve my literary dreams.

 

Your work deals a lot with our ancestors.  Where does your love for exploring black history come from?  Did you study history in college?

Yes! I have always been curious and passionate about the history of the African diaspora. I received a B.A. in Africana Studies from the University of South Florida and M.A. in African Studies from The Ohio State University. Then I went on to get my J.D. from Stetson University College of Law, and caught the energy and environmental law bug. But my passion for the African diaspora never faded, and writing has been a wonderful way to keep it alive.

Writing a book is no easy undertaking.  What’s your secret to staying focused?

Ha! If there was a secret, I would sell it and become rich! {laughs}  Every published writer will tell you it’s important to stay dedicated and committed to the craft. It’s such a journey of highs and lows, rejections, scathing reviews, writer’s block.  You have to really love the craft and believe in your work. Even if you put your work-in-progress aside for days, months, or even years, always come back to the story and see it through. You owe it to yourself, and if you write fiction, you owe it to your characters as well.

 

C.P. Patrick for BCB’s Body Noire photo series

You also model and you were one of the amazing women featured in our Body Noire photo series.  How did you feel about the experience?

Oh my word! First of all, every woman in the photo series is amazing in her own right. It was so wonderful being around all that beauty, Black feminine energy. I turn 40 on December 26, and the Body Noire photo series made me feel like a goddess. And the feedback from both the online communities and professional industries was unbelievable. Seriously, one of the best experiences of my life.

What’s next for you?

I am this close to finishing my third book, “Seasons of Shame.” I’m also in the process of launching a lifestyle blog called The Afro Minimalist, which will focus on minimalist living. And I was recently selected for a 2017 writing residency at The Lemon Tree House in Tuscany, Italy!

 

What is the thing you want people to take away from the book, “Dear Ancestors?”

I want people to take away a deeper understanding of the African diaspora – what our ancestors endured and what their descendants inherited. People of the African diaspora possess a resiliency that lives in our DNA. We are a part of an unbelievable survival story that it still unfolding.

Abi Ishola

Editor-in-Chief

Abi Ishola is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Beyond Classically Beautiful, the acclaimed photo series turned multimedia platform. On any given day, you can find her tucked away in a perfectly lit Brooklyn coffee shop working for several hours. Then she dashes off to pick up her daughter from daycare. Abi is also a TV Producer, a proud FIT Alum, Nigerian-American, and a soul searcher.

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