Victoria Kennedy of Zora’s Den, sits down for a one-on-one chat with Melissa Brooks-Cuffee, one of the strongest, emerging voices on the Baltimore literary scene, to discuss the memoir collection [/brāk-iNG/].
VK: Melissa, now that the end of your academic studies in Creative Writing is drawing near, what would you say has been the most valuable take-away?
MBC: That’s a tricky question, only because I have had so many amazing experiences and met so many outstanding people during this journey. The comradery and friendships I’ve built with my fellow writers and even my teachers are something I will carry with me always. Aside from that, and maybe most important to my personal evolution, is the way the MFA program has challenged me to get out of my own way—to step outside of my comfort zone. I think a lot of that comes through in the book.
VK: I’m glad you bring that up. What would you like to see happen with [/brāk-iNG/] —your new memoir collection?
MBC: When I started writing this collection I only had one goal in mind, and that was to share my stories with people in the most open and honest way. In doing so, I hope readers know they’re not alone. We all have our stuff and go through things. Good things. Bad things. Things we never could have imagined, and things we never thought we’d make it through. But there’s always light.
VK: Can we expect to see you anytime soon at readings on the Baltimore scene?
MBC: On Saturday, May 6, 2017, at 1:30 PM the official book launch and reading takes place at the University of Baltimore in the Wright Theatre. The event is free and open to the public. I’ll be there and so will 14 other amazing authors. You can visit the official invitation on Facebook for more details.
VK: What do you want potential readers to know about your work?
MBC: That it comes from my heart. I think that’s the only real way to be successful in writing. Often people measure success against the wrong ruler. There’s so much more to this than book sales or simply telling a story. It’s about establishing that human connection. Reaching out with the words of your heart and using them to relate to and empower people. There’s strength in sharing our life experiences. Make no mistake about it, words are infinitely powerful. They can build and destroy worlds, but when they come from the heart, that’s that special place where healing can happen.
VK: Speaking of healing, thesis work can be grueling, yet rewarding. Besides your book, what other rewards do you have planned for the immediate future?
MBC: A nap! Completing this program, finishing this book, has been grueling. One of the unique things about the MFA program at UB is that it aims to build writers who have respect for every part of the bookmaking process. When I tell people that we make handmade books here, they are in awe. With this memoir collection, I’ve not only written the book but designed it and laid it out as well. There’s also a limited-edition version of the book that includes a handmade element.
It’s been a long journey. One I sometimes felt would never end, but the finish line is but a few steps away. I look forward to the break ahead, but also, I am excited about the new opportunities that are just around the corner.
VK: I personally know readers are in for a treat in your new book, [/brāk-iNG/]. Going forward, what can we expect from Melissa?
[/brāk-iNG/] is a beautiful beginning to something much larger. Of course, I am always writing, always creating worlds and telling stories that I cannot wait to share. I’m looking forward to a future collaboration on a fiction series that will make you think twice about a few things. I am also thrilled about working with other writers in the Baltimore area, including the ladies of Zora’s Den, on a few very special projects.
VK: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. I wish you so much success and cannot wait to see what comes next for you.
MBC: Likewise. Thank you.