Lisa Teasley speaks about her experiences as a black writer

Author Lisa Teasley presented as part of UCR’s Writers Week at the CHASS Interdisciplinary Building on Monday, Feb. 10. Some of her well-known works include “Glow in the Dark,” which deals with those in the midst of addiction and complicated love affairs, and “Heat Signature,” which stars Sam Brown, a man attempting to escape his current life but unable to leave behind the questions about his murdered mother.

Teasley also worked as a writer and host for the BBC documentary “High School Prom” and will have paintings displayed at the Marie Baldwin Gallery from March to April of 2019. She is currently a senior editor with the Los Angeles Review of Books.

The room held a sparse audience, mostly professors and a few students filling the auditorium. Teasley entered in a bit of a hurry, warming the crowd up with her story of a canceled flight to Bangkok and her family’s worry about her possible contact with the coronavirus. She then revealed to the crowd she was going to give a reading of a book she’s currently working on, “Genuine.”

Kritika Srinivasan, a second-year creative writing major, took note of it of the author’s tone during the reading: “It was cordial and intense. Since the author was reading her own story the way she wanted it there was more emotion in it.” After that she read “Full Circle,” a story about how the connection between a couple stretches across time and gender, as described in Zyzzyva’s synopsis. Zyzzyva  is a literary journal that is dedicated to showcasing otherwise unknown artists, poets and writers. 

After her reading, she remarked that her narrators are usually omniscient and start off more cynical before becoming more understanding, or are compassionate throughout. In an email to The Highlander, Teasley revealed a major difference between “Genuine” and other works she wrote in the past. “Normally, my novels (two published by Bloomsbury, as well as two put away in a drawer) are character driven … I have previously never written a ‘plot driven’ short story or novel. It’s still true that this is about ‘Genuine,’ as a character on her journey, on her own growth arc,” she wrote.

Marcos Leon, a master’s student in creative writing, asked if her painting ever helped with writing. Teasley said only on one occasion have they worked in tandem with each other. “While I was writing the novel ‘Heat Signature’ I had to write a rapist and a murderer … I painted his mugshot and the process of doing that made it so much easier to get that view and finish the novel.”

As for her perspective on being part of ASP’s Black Writers Week, Teasley wrote about how her experience as a black woman impacted her writing. “Decades ago when my first novel (one of the two still filed away) was out to publishers, there was this near unanimous response that it would be hard to ‘market’ a black female writer whose work was not set in the ‘ghetto’ and was not centered on ‘alcohol, drug or sexual abuse’… it is always harsh to be faced with, and to stare down, stereotypes. We see that now in today’s big conversation regarding authenticity and diversity in publishing.”

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