Jedah explains his struggles as a writer and how he feels about feedback, “I find operating in a vacuum completely miserable. So few opportunities exist for critical feedback. It’s difficult to know whether you’re on the right track. Eventually, a rejection letter will include a bit of encouragement, some mention of something that resonated with the reviewer. An acquisition editor returned an early copy of a manuscript I submitted completely marked in red. It showed that she thought enough of my work to take the time to give the piece a thorough read. Ultimately, she passed on the project. But that encouragement lit a fire under me to work in greater earnest on improving my writing.”
His latest book is a story about brothers. “I have an older sister. Growing up, we pursued individual interests, maintained separate groups of friends. I was interested to see how boys relate, how they come to depend on one another, what might happen to one if he were left without the other. I read “I Know this Much is True” by Wally Lamb. The book is set in southeastern CT, near to where I grew up. It also tells a story of brothers. Lamb introduces “a person of color”, uses his circumstance to establish bounds across which his main characters would be best served to not venture. My story picks up where his left off, my protagonists falling in age some years behind this ancillary character of Lamb’s. I visit some of the same places that appeared in his book, explore similar themes only told from the perspective of the person of color, the persons left on the fringe in his story taking center stage in The King of PPM.”
With publishing and writing being new to the writer, I asked how he got into publishing this book. “The book is based on my second completed manuscript. After years shopping another piece I’d been working, I took an extended writing workshop, again in the interest of continuous improvement. I had the kernel of an idea for a new story in my head, but wasn’t sure where it might lead. The first couple chapters of the book grew out of weekly workshop exercises. Shortly after completing the workshop, I attended a local book festival. I sat in on a panel discussion on pitching to prospective agents and editors. One of the panel members seemed to take an individualized approach to each person’s query. Soon after, I submitted my newly completed manuscript to the book group he represented (along with the flood of other places to which I had been submitting) and things took hold from there.
Jedah explains his writing method, “I’m constantly writing. I keep a folder of potential titles, story fragments, passing thoughts. The folder is linked to my phone, tablet, computer. Whatever’s close at hand. Once a story reaches critical mass, I transfer it to a more structured document. As far as content goes, I use place to a large degree to frame a piece I’m developing. Like a main character, I believe the region in which a story takes place sets the tone for the direction the narrative can take. I set out to create a world in this place, fill it with people then dig into the intricacies of their lives. I generally have some idea where I want to take the story. I create little story islands working a scene at a time to propel the storyline, quite often surprised myself by the twists and turns that work themselves in. From there, I go back and fill in the gaps between islands, layering in detail. I repeat this process several times before I deem the story ready to share, with an editor or beta reader, even a close friend.”
With the literary field being so wide and the goals endless, I asked Jedah about his personal goals for his literary career. “To establish a literary voice grounded in the world I know. I include elements, hip hop, jazz, blues, fishing, baseball, martial arts to anchor the story to a place I find relatable while staying mindful of literary intent, of quality storytelling.”
Jedah was a top ten finalist for Best New Author by the National Book Festival. I asked him about this accomplishment. “Though I didn’t win, the experience gave me a tremendous boost of confidence. Awarded based on something I’d written, it meant somebody dug my work, that my voice connected with someone.” He went on to say, “It prompted me to write more, to focus on refining my technique. Even with a published book in hand, the feeling of operating in a vacuum persists. This validated that an audience exists for my work. Those little boosts fuel the tank, give me energy to press on, to keep going.”
Jedah explains his plans for his next book and what his readers can expect in 2014. “I used the experience of getting a book through the editing process to resume work on the manuscript I started with originally. It’s also a coming of age story. Set in the south, it has a different vibe than KoPPM, but holds promise to be relatable in a similar way. It has undergone significant revision. I’m currently proofreading before resubmitting. I’ve begun pursuing online publishing opportunities (EtherBooks, The Snippet App) to raise visibility for my work. I’ve used them to give things I’d shelved new life as well as a venue to work out new content. I recently released a two part series, Would Be Twins and Iron Bones (http://www.thesnippetapp.com/writers/jedahmayberry/ ), taken from what promises to be the next book.”
PEN’Ashe Magazine wishes Jedah much success with his literary career.
About the Author
JEDAH MAYBERRY is an emerging fiction writer, born in New York, raised in southeastern CT, the backdrop for his fiction debut. He was a top ten finalist for the 2013 Best New Author Award sponsored by the National Black Book Festival. He also garnered honorable mention in Glimmer Train’s April 2012 Family Matters Short Story Contest. He currently resides with his wife and teenage daughters in Austin, TX.
Follow the Author
Author on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6965080.Jedah_Mayberry