This week, ASFA-CW’s Ashley M. Jones is one of sixteen Bash Fellows taking part in The Conversation, a three-state (MS, AL, LA) tour of readings and workshops dedicated to examining and expanding notions of Diasporic Blackness for young writers in the American South and beyond. All week, she’ll be engaging her ASFA-CW students from afar, filing field reports, exhorting them to engage some of the concepts she’s considering during the fellowship, and we thought it would be fun to let the outside world in on that exchange. Thus, without further ado, here’s Ashley’s first communique.
Monday, Oct 16 | Oxford, MS
I’m here in Oxford, Mississippi at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) for the first leg of The Conversation Literary Festival. I’m having fun here, but I already miss being at ASFA with you! For this first post, I wanted to create a discussion question that you guys can respond to, in the spirit of what I want to share with you today.
Last night, at our orientation ceremony, we (the fifteen other fellows and the festival staff), talked about our hopes for this experience. Many fellows shared their hopes for creating and broadening their community, and really thriving in this space, which provides a sense of safety and creative freedom that they don’t always experience in their daily lives. I also have hopes to create and build community with these fifteen contemporary writers. But, unlike some of the fellows, I feel like I’ve had this sort of community since I was twelve years old, writing and learning at ASFA. Y’all experience a sense of creative and personal safety (at least, I hope you do) that many other folks don’t get until they’re at a retreat with like-minded individuals, or until they’ve created a family (chosen or blood) that can provide this for them. Even these fifteen fellows–writers who have published and traveled and made a name for themselves in the literary landscape–find themselves without creative community in their daily lives. ASFA’s community is unique and magical, and I want you to think about what that means to you in the comments section of this post. In what ways do you feel community here at ASFA? In our classroom? Do you feel secure, safe, and able to express yourself and be vulnerable? What does this environment (whether you have it or not) do for your creative process?