Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: You will soon be participating in HerStory 2022, a one-day virtual panel discussion in association with Towne Street Theatre. What can you share with us about the genesis behind this discussion?
Lynell George: Nancy Davis, of Towne Street Theatre, kindly reached out to me and asked if I might participate as part of their Women’s Month programming. I was very honored to be asked. I admire what they do.
BD: A portion of the virtual conversation will be focused on your book, A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler. How would you describe your process in researching the life of Octavia E. Butler, and what did you find to be most revealing in learning about her life and creative path?
LG: In late 2015, I was commissioned to write a piece for the arts nonprofit, Clockshop, here in Los Angeles. The founder, Julia Meltzer, had an idea to send a half-dozen writers and artists into the Octavia E. Butler archive at the Huntington Library (where Butler willed her papers). That project, Radio Imagination, was a year-long initiative that celebrated Butler’s work and legacy. I wrote a piece called “Free & Clear,” which explored some of the questions and answers Butler often teased out in her work and during her days. It was fascinating, as a writer, to be in another writer’s head and wander through her day with her. What was most revealing and important as a take-away is that Butler made a life for herself that was greater than anyone imagined for her. She did so with the humble items she had at hand: Hand-me–down books and notebooks, her bus pass that took her to the library to do her research. Also, she is a shining example that habit, focus, and persistence are some of the most important tools a person can possess – no matter what your dream or profession might be. This became the research foundation for my book, A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. Why do you feel that Butler’s story so deeply resonates with audiences?
LG: I think there is something about that persistence and clarity that is so resonant with people. She was told “no” many times, but she kept going. She wrote herself into a world that didn’t make room for her and by so doing, she cleared the way for those of us to follow her.
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are working that you would like to share with readers?
LG: I’m currently at work on some magazine and newspaper pieces. One about the great chef, Ms. Leah Chase, in New Orleans and how her family is taking her legacy forward. Also, I will be interviewing the poet Amanda Gorman about her new book, Call Us What We Carry.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about and purchase tickets for HerStory 2022?
LG: That we are lucky to have events like this that allow us to learn more about the pathways creative women take to make a life for themselves.