Sounds Like a Writer to Me: Interview with Precious J Stroud
I’ll bet every Black woman alive has a story to tell about racism or sexism, and Precious J. Stroud has set out to collect the ones about how Black women successfully navigate structural racism and sexism in the workplace.
As founder of the BlackFemaleProject, she supports women to write their own stories, stories that help prepare girls and young women for the realities of the work world by introducing stories of triumph and perseverance. “We are committed to helping each other. If you believe in the mission of preparing girls and young women for the realities of the work world, make a financial contribution or submit a personal story," she says.
This project excites me because it uses the art of writing and self expression to uplift women in business. In this interview, Precious and I talked about identifying as a writer, writing in bars, and of course, what’s sexy about writing.
Kristy Lin Billuni: Besides supporting and interviewing women for the BlackFemaleProject and leading the research effort, you have your own story about writing and navigating the work world.
Precious J Stroud: Yes, I did not think of myself as a writer, until a boss said, "You can't write. You should never apply for a job like this again." Since that was year 15 of my marketing communications career, I was shaken and proclaimed, "I am a writer."
KLB: I love that you’ve built an organization that empowers Black women and girls by amplifying their voices. Can you talk more about the inspiration?
PJS: I needed a resource and couldn't find one. Doesn't mean it didn't exist, but I couldn't find something that could help me process and articulate what I was experiencing and how to navigate around the structures that were impeding my success and maintaining the status quo.
KLB: So you set out to create a resource?
PJS: Exactly. I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure that other Black girls and young women were better prepared for navigating structural racism and sexism at work. That made me wonder if our generation is documenting our stories, specifically our lessons learned and words of wisdom in the workplace, for the girls who are coming behind us.
KLB: And it grew from there?
PJS: It sure did. What started as a simple call for submissions on my website has become a national effort because of the need for Black women to gather in a safe space and talk uncensored about what they have to negotiate every day to stay employed, not upset the order, yet maintain integrity, dignity and authenticity. . It has grown so quickly that after self funding the first year more than $15,000, I had to start building an infrastructure. We launched a giving campaign last week to raise $15,000 to cover this year’s expenses. And next year we’re starting an annual membership.
KLB: And what has that been like for you as a writer?
PJS: The past seven years, I've come to know myself as a storyteller who helps nonprofit organizations determine which stories to tell to win support and attract donors. The BlackFemaleProject is helping me get comfortable calling myself a writer.
KLB: Why was it hard to claim that?
PJS: From where I sit, that title is reserved for friends and artists who write eloquent sentences that end up in novels, not marketing collateral.
KLB: What was it like to write your own story for the BlackFemaleProject?
PJS: Before asking anyone to consider writing a story for the BlackFemaleProject, I spent three months tortured by writing my story. It was the hardest thing I've done since burying my father, maybe even more emotional.
KLB: Have you grown as a writer?
PJS: My admiration and respect for professional writers increased exponentially after that experience. I could relate to editing out for the gaze of others, deleting an especially emotional section because it didn't move the story forward, and rewriting, editing, and rewriting. I've learned that my personal and professional expression, spoken and written, are valued by others.
KLB: So you’re comfortable calling yourself a writer now?
PJS: Sometimes. My friends and colleagues comment about my writing. It is humbling, but I still don't always call myself a writer. As I reflect in this very moment, I recognize that I edit all day, attend writing workshops, conduct writing workshops, and teach others the nuance and skill of business writing.
KLB: Sounds like a writer to me!
PJS: Yes, I am a writer.
KLB: Great, I love to hear that. Now, tell me about your process.
PJS: Mostly, I just need uninterrupted blocks of time. Even if I have to work on deadline, I can't piecemeal. I need time to be present with myself and focused on permitting thoughts and notions to weave in and out of my heart, head, and fingers. I cannot force it. I also need space to move around, change my perspective, and change the scenery.
KLB: Where and when do you like to write?
PJS: I write 3 to 4 times a week, in a good week. I enjoy and am most productive in the morning, from 6 to10. But I do write at night, too, when it gets quiet, between 10pm and 2am. If I'm not at home, I need access to a clean bathroom. That is one thing that can mess up my day. Real talk.
KLB: I agree! When I review cafes as writing venues, the state of the bathroom is a major consideration! Do you ever write in bars?
PJS: Now that I think about it, I do enjoy hotel bars. I can eat, get good service, and stay as long as I want to.
KLB: Sounds like you enjoy writing. Do you think it’s sexy?
PJS: Yes. The rhythm and movement of phrases being born, the beat, the music, and dance of it. I love that. I feel like I'm one with the spirit of words that are coming through me.
I love to talk to writers like Precious J. Stroud about the empowering, vital process of writing. Donate to the BlackFemaleProject or submit your story of triumph over racism and sexism in the workplace. The next quarterly deadline is June 30. Follow the BlackFemaleProject on Facebook and Twitter. To meet more writers in social media, follow me, The Sexy Grammarian, on Facebook or Twitter. Yearning to jump into the writer’s life yourself? My free ebook, Arouse Your Writer Self, will get you going. Want more? Private sessions with me are more affordable than you think, and the first one’s free.