Talking with . . .

Shay Youngblood
I FIRST LEARNED THAT Shay Youngblood (Dominica 1981) was a PCV from Laura Bice (Macedonia 1998–99) who is working temporarily in the New York Peace Corps Office. Laura had read Shay’s new novel Black Girl in Paris, and had also attended an event in New York where Shay read from the novel.
     Elsewhere in this issue of our on-line newsletter, Laura reviews Shay’s Black Girl in Paris. Here we learn what Shay has to say about her own career as a writer and how her Peace Corps experience has affected her writing.
  What did you do as a Volunteer?
  In Dominica, in the Eastern Caribbean, I served as an Agricultural Information Officer. I had recently graduated from Clark College (now Clark-Atlanta University) with a B.A. in Mass Communications.
Tell about your first published work.

To see the full listing of Shay's books, go to her name in our Bibliography of Peace Corps Writers

My first published short story was written while I was a PCV. It was based on an incident that happened when one of my neighbors invited me to a christening at her church. The story, “In A House of Wooden Monkies” was published in Children of the Night: The Best Short Stories by Black Writers, an anthology edited by Gloria Naylor.
     My first book was a collection of short stories, The Big Mama Stories, a semi-autobiographical work about the women who raised me in a small south Georgia town after my birth mother died in the early 1960’s.
     I was working at a book table at a large conference when the publisher of Firebrand Books, Nancy Bereano, mentioned that she had seen a few of my short stories published in several small journals and praised them. She asked me what I was working on and I said I was working toward a collection. She asked me to send her my manuscript when I felt I was ready. I worked all summer long finishing stories, revising and polishing up about a dozen. I sent them to Nancy, and two weeks later she sent me a contract. Keep in mind, I had been sending out short stories to places like the New Yorker for years and getting rejection slips.
     When I began sending my work to smaller journals that seemed likely to publish stories like mine, they did. And by the time I met my publisher, I had had a few poems and stories published and a few lines on my writing resume.
     Nancy gave me one of my first serious deadlines and a goal — to have a book published. Now I set goals for myself challenging myself to write in different genres and forms.
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