Ask a Writer: Cebo Campbell: Conversations with Women
Updated: Aug 29, 2019
"My mark will be to help make sure in the future all little boys and girls are represented in fantasy, drama, sci-fi, romance, and more."
Meet Cebo Campbell, New York based Creative Director and Author of Conversations with Women. When he's not writing some of the most edgiest literature I've personally had the pleasure to read, or working as a creative director in the industry of luxury hotels, he spends his time maximizing his creativity through various art forms like web design and visual art or traveling the world.
I was blessed with the opportunity to get to know him and read his amazing work. I'm not exaggerating-- it's amazing work.
Here's what we discussed:
When did you decide you wanted to write? And Why?
I went to college on a football scholarship. I had dreams of being an NFL player, but in my freshman year of college I wrote an English 101 paper and my professor called it out as the best writing of my class. She pulled me aside, changed my major to writing, and had me write everyday in a journal. At the end of the year she submitted all my writing to the school’s senior writing award. To my surprise, I won. I’d always had a knack for writing. That day I realized it wasn’t just a knack, but an identity I didn’t even know was mine.
What inspired you to write “Conversations with Women”, and what message did you want to send to the world?
Women, haha. One day I asked myself how was it possible that I feel like I know so little about women when they’ve been at the center whole life? A million conversations, no doubt, and I wondered if I’d ever heard a single word. So I started writing down conversations as far back as I could remember. In the end, my book Conversations With Women was the result. It is a collection of real conversations from real women pieced into a coming of age narrative. Part poetry, part memoir, themes of youth, sex, identity, and patriarchy through the wisdom of women.
Can you think back to the first time you fell in love with literature? What was your entry point?
Sula, by Toni Morrison. Even though I was writing at the time, I understood ‘story’, but not the power of language. She writes in a way that both includes and excludes, sinks you deep into the work and forces you crawl back out. It used to take me a month to read one of her books because I would close the book every other page just so I could reconcile what I just read. That’s power. More than words. Incantation.
Who is your favorite writer?
Toni Morrison, without question. But I also love Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Baldwin, and Jack Kerouac.
Why does representation in writing and art matter to you?
I often think of Ferris Bueller. If he were Trayvon Martin, would that story even exist? Rebellious kid who skips school and, on charm alone, steals a car, impersonates a cop, drinks underage, tampers with computers, laughingly engages in solicitation, and at every step exposes his best friends to peril, only to go home and fall asleep with his mother to kiss him into sweet dreams. If Ferris were Trayvon Martin, how do you think that that story would end? We all know. But the answer to that question is why my work in fiction is devoted to featuring characters of varying race, sex, and age unstereotyped in common narratives. That is to say, stories of all people experiencing the commonness of life. Not enough of these stories exist and, as a result, it is difficult to imagine little black boys falling in love, and women with braids becoming homecoming king, and so on. There shouldn’t be a need to force them into being gangsters, or living in tough circumstances, or playing into a stereotype. Why couldn’t Jason Weaver have been Ferris? Why couldn’t Nia Long have been Molly Ringwald? Trayvon should be the hero in Dune. Sandra Bland should be Joan of Arc. I have always seen a need for these characters and these stories. What drives my work in fiction and poetry is a single mantra: everyone should both have a hero and be one.
What are your top 5 favorite books?
Always a tough question, so these are the ones I read over and over:
Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison
On the Road - Jack Kerouac
Dune - Frank Herbert
Go Tell It on the Mountain - James Baldwin
Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates
When can we expect the next book?!
I have a novella called Paper Tigers due in September, and a collection of short stories called Color early in 2020 (** Livre note: It's good y'all**).
How do you hope to leave your mark on the world?
I plan to fill the shelves with stories featuring characters of color. Additionally, I plan to leverage smaller film platforms to produce movies based on the source material. My mark will be to help make sure in the future all little boys and girls are represented in fantasy, drama, sci-fi, romance, and more.
Lastly, how can people find you/ get in touch with you?
(IG, Twitter handle, email, website, etc)
Copies of Conversations with Women are available Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Google Books