TWD Magazine 4th Collection Interview: Matt Reid — Fiction Contributor

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As an extension of The Black Lion Journal’s mission, The Wire’s Dream is a semi-annual magazine that values community, life perspectives, and different worldviews. Contributors were asked to complete a set of mini interview questions with the purpose of sharing with the readers and their fellow submitters a bit about who they are and about their creativity. All questions were the same for each contributor; and each answer given is unique, open, friendly, and candid.

About The Creative Process

What does creativity mean to you? And what does it mean to be creative?
Creativity to me means finding a special way to inspire others. Creativity can come from almost anywhere! I grew up hearing the expression, “There’s nothing new under the sun…”. My favorite rapper Nas said that in a song and it stuck with me. I interpreted these lyrics as one having to be creative because not much in life is new. So humans have to find innovative ways to appeal to one another by using whatever the world provides for them. For instance, a writer has to use the same 26 letters in the alphabet, the same letters that everyone else has access to in order to form words, sentences, and paragraphs that draw the attention of readers. It’s a very challenging process! I think of the writer Ernest Vincent Wright who wrote the lipogram, Gadsby. He must have been bored with writing and needed a new challenge. So he decided to write a book without using the letter “e’. Now that’s c-r-a-t-i-v!

How do you make time for your creativity? Are you an early bird creative or a night owl? Or something in between?

Time is something all of us adults seem to run out of with more responsibilities. We have to be creative in finding more grains of sand in our hour glass. A thousand ideas pop up in my mind at the most inconvenient moments. Particularly at my job! I work with students so they inspire me all day long by reminding me of what life was like at their ages. That’s why a lot of my writing is about me when I was a kid or a teenager just like the students I’m around. My daughter Sage also motivates me to think that way too. She’s becoming more curious about history and writing so I find time to creatively connect with her. Sometimes I think of concepts of stories while I’m talking to students or my daughter. The youth inspires me! So with little time to write, I jot a whole lot down as fast as I can so I don’t forget it. When I can, I also make time to watch documentaries that inspire me to be creative. Netflix has a piece titled Abstract with an episode of Tinker Hatfield (the guy who designed Air Jordan’s and many other sneakers for Nike). He was somehow injured and had to sit up in a hospital for weeks yet he asked for a sketch pad and designed sneakers in the 1980’s that many repeatedly buy over-and-over again as retros! Watching his creative process was mind-blowing! Another episode featured Christoph Niemann who’s a visual storyteller and draws cartoons for The New Yorker. He had an office space where he would go to sit for hours without coming up with any ideas, however, it was the time he put in to eventually get to his creative stage that mattered to me. These guys made me realize that my work ethic was poor. When I described these stories to my wife Lauren, she went and bought me a sketching desk. Now I have a creative space in my basement where my drawing desk, laptop, markers, colored pencils, sketch paper, and beats by dr. dre constantly call my name to come create.

I’m definitely in between being an “early bird” and a “night owl”! I get up early almost everyday and if I’m not writing or illustrating, I’m thinking about it. Or if I don’t find time to create throughout the day, I wait until everyone in my home is asleep and sneak down to the basement to write or illustrate pictures for my children’s book. In fact, I have a character who’s an owl that helps his friend find himself. It’s sort of symbolic to me finding my voice as a writer.

How much of your personal life and experiences shape who you are as a creative and as a person? Do you find that you draw much content from your experiences or have you worked to keep that separate from what you create?

Most of it! I’m writing a memoir about my coming of age. It consists of defining moments that helped mold me into the man I am and continue to become. The theme of my memoir, “It takes a village…” pays homage to the community I was born and raised in, William Penn Village, the former name of a government housing project in Pottstown, PA. As kids, my friends and I had to be pretty creative because we were underprivileged. We used to slam metal shopping carts on the hard concrete until the top basket part fell off. Then we’d flip the basket part over to reattach it to the bottom section that has the wheels with string or wire in order to make a go-cart that coasted down the street. Only poor kids are that creative!

My experiences are everything to me! I take where I’m from everywhere I go even if I’m on the other side of the world. My mantra is a Bob Marley quote, “My home is in my head.” I had an opportunity to travel through South East Asia where my friends and I played soccer with kids in Vietnam, bought ice cream for kids in Cambodia, and rode elephants in Thailand with a kid and his father. The kid and his father provided an elephant as their business for tourists to ride. I’ll never forget the kid telling us that he couldn’t afford to go to school. Instead, he helped his father earn a living to entertain us and many others. These experiences humble me yet are worth sharing.

About Creative Moments & Inspiration

What is your most memorable creative moment, if any?

My most memorable creative moment is coming up with the concept and characters for the picture book I’m working on. Writing a story is one thing, illustrating the pictures for certain text is another. It’s very time consuming when one does both on their own but it has a sense of fulfillment.

Do you cross genres for inspiration? Which ones?
Ex: If you're a fiction writer, do you read and practice poetry? Do you also dabble in art?

Most definitely! My favorite genre is non-fiction. As a history major in undergrad and an aspiring social studies teacher, I love reading about events that took place in the past. It helps me better understand what’s presently going on and how to prepare for what’s coming. I believe it’s important to re-write history that’s either misrepresented or not represented at all. For instance, there are many untold African American and African stories that authors must creatively write about! Sometimes I cross over to the genre of fiction because it’s a gateway to touch on more serious topics in history. Graphic novels are great instruments to get kids and even adults to see pieces of history in ways they’ve never seen it in reading a boring text book. Also, I love hip-hop music and there isn’t much difference between verses in songs and stanzas found in poems. As I previously mentioned, I also do my own illustrations.

What/who inspires you the most?

My wife Lauren inspires me the most! She’s the one who put the battery in my back to pursue writing by gifting me with books and other things to get me started. Before that it was mostly talk about writing children’s books or memoirs. As someone who earned her PhD before the age of thirty, my wife is an overachiever who has little time for all talk and no action. Also, I get inspired every time I read an excerpt, article or book based on someone’s life story. It motivates me to keep writing so I can convert from being a writer to being an author.

Are there any contemporary writers/artists that you admire and think should be on everyone’s radar?
(Who do you think has been undervalued?)

James McBride’s The Color of Water:A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, changed my life and is the epiphany I gained toward writing about my own experience. Paulo Coelho who wrote The Alchemist which is the perfect book to encourage one to follow their heart. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between The World And Me, is something that every black father should read. Alexander Michelle’s The New Jim Crow is highly informative! Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope described a man I admired way before he’d run for president. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, describes the plight of Africans and Tim Wise’s White Like Me, reminds me that one always has the ability to step outside of their privilege or race to express empathy for oppressed people.

I think many of the above have been undervalued because for some reason, race and injustice is still an uncomfortable topic for many to discuss.

Tips For Others, Personal Goals

What tips would you give to those who have never published anything before?

KEEP WRITING! Rejection is part of the process. Being stuck in the slush-pile is frustrating but it happened to the best authors out. I never delete the emails of the publishers that denied my work. Instead, I keep my list of them as a reminder that not being “the right fit” does not always mean my writing sucks. There’s always room for improvement. Also, to be a writer, you must be a reader. It’s wise to go into Barnes and Noble to see what authors stay on the shelves and who’s currently out. Read about someone who has a similar story as yours. Even if it’s only the inside flap.

What goals and/or aspirations do have for your creativity? Where would you like to see your work?

My goal is to have my memoir available in all outlets! Barnes and Nobles, Amazon, local book stores, and more. Being a bestseller is every writers dream! Having a picture book that I’ve made from scratch published and accessible for every child all over the world would be wonderful! Someday, I want to be minding my own business in a coffee shop until I notice a college student reading my memoir. Or seeing a mother reading my children’s book to her five year old son at an airport would all be worth it!

— TWD MAGAZINE 4th COLLECTION—

About Matt

Matt Reid is a Child Specific Aide who works with amazing students to help them overcome obstacles within the Wissahickon School District located in Ambler, Pennsylvania.

Matt believes that confidence is everything when it comes to helping students discover their talents.

Matt has gone viral exceeding a million views on House of Highlights after scoring the game winning shot in a faculty versus students basketball game.

Matt holds a B.A. in History from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.

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