with Ashley Elizabeth Evans:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Ashley: I started writing in elementary school. My journey started with fiction then transitioned into poetry around middle school. I added nonfiction/memoir writing during undergrad. My original influences range from Langston Hughes to Albert Camus to Alice Walker to Zora Neale Hurston to Zane. I devoured any book put in front of me.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Ashley: Today, my biggest influencers are poets such as Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Sarah Kay, Andrea Gibson, Taylor Byas, Danez Smith, Jeni de la O, Lysz Flo, Zora Satchell, and Charif Shanahan to name a few. Also, my students inspire me everyday. I’ve been teaching since 2013 in some capacity, and each teaching year speaks different volumes to me.
Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Ashley: I knew I wanted to write when I couldn’t stop, so about middle school. I was a depressed, socially anxious kid, and writing in general pulled me out of that. It helped me ask and answer life questions and was always there for me when my family and limited friends weren’t.
Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?
Ashley: The person that has helped me the most is my undergrad sister, Mel Sherrer. She has mentored me for the past ten years in writing and in life. In addition to being my sister, she has been my editor, my writing buddy, my sounding board, my confidant, my notebook-thief, my pen pal, and my absolute rock. The person that celebrates acceptances with me and picks me up when disappointment comes.
Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?
Ashley: I grew up in Baltimore County. It didn’t really influence my writing until I got older. Now, after living in Virginia and coming back home, being a Baltimorean has been highlighted in a few of my pieces.
Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Ashley: Any of my work that highlights my experience, my heritage, and my blackness.
Q7: Favorite activities to relax?
Ashley: Video games! Animal Crossing in particular. I also like to dance and paint. Snuggling with pets is also something I enjoy.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem/writing of yours or others?
Ashley: From “Chile, it’s finna be lit“
“It’s your fault I talk like this
Why I have a white name
Why you don’t even know what I really sound like
Why I’m forgetting what I sound like, and it’s my own damn gab.
I code switch like I get paid for it and I sure as hell don’t.”
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?
Ashley: I am working on a few different manuscripts right now, one poetry and one memoir. I am leading a poetry workshop class the last Wednesday of September through the Lounge Writers. Also, look out for future events through the Estuary Collective.