Today marks the release of our sister publication, The L Magazine‘s “30 Under 30” feature and we thought we’d highlight a few of the people featured by running Q&As with them. One of these people is writer Ashley C. Ford. Maybe you know Ford from Twitter (follow her @ismashfizzle), where she is a reliably smart, funny, and active presence who uses social media to engage with the world in a meaningful way. Or maybe you know Ford from her powerful writing at BuzzFeed, where she writes thought-provoking essays and profiles (please read “My Boyfriend and I Came Out to Each Other” and “Meanwhile In America, Brown Girls Are Still Dreaming” as soon as you get a chance). But no matter where you know her from, once you’ve read Ford’s writing, it’s impossible to forget it; her voice is clear and piercing and speaks of experiences that are all too frequently hidden in the shadows. Read on to see how Ford got to where she is today in her career, what she hopes comes next, and the reaction you get when you tell people you’re not even 30 yet, but you’ve written a memoir.
How old are you?
I’m 27, but will be 28 the first week of January.
Tell me a little bit about the path that took you to where you are today—both in your career, and just, you know, in Brooklyn.
My path has been less and less intentional as I’ve gotten older. Before I was a full-time writer who lives in Brooklyn, I was a receptionist in Indianapolis who did some freelancing writing. I really loved my receptionist job and the company I worked for, and I was happy to keep freelancing. Then there was this great opportunity to have an adventure, it scared the shit our of me, but I went for it. That’s how the best things in my life have come about. I’m presented with an opportunity, I allow myself to be terrified by it, then I do it anyway.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
I always knew that I loved to tell stories, but that manifested itself in many ways over the years. I wanted to be an actress, I wanted to be a history teacher, I even did stand-up comedy for a while. There was way too much time spent trying to figure what kind of job I wanted, instead of what kind of life I wanted. So far, writing has always led me closer to answering that question. The only life that works for me is the kind of life in which storytelling, or supporting of storytellers, is the main thing I do.
Has it ever been challenging to be taken seriously because of your age?
When you’re in your mid to late twenties telling people that you’re writing a memoir, their bound to give you a little smirk. But when I explain to them what my memoir is about, they usually do that side-nod thing that means, “Okay. I’ll allow it.” They can’t deny I have a story that should be written, or at the very least, a story they’d love to read.
What advice do you have for people who feel like they don’t have enough experience/aren’t old enough to go after their career dreams?
There’s no such thing as not being old enough for your dreams. They come to you when you’re ready for them. You may need more experiences, more skills, or more direction, but these are the things you learn on the job when you’re working toward your dreams. In my experience, my dreams have been more real than anything else. It’s all the excuses that are an illusion.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
Ten years from now I see myself with my partner, Kelly, on our way to a country we’ve never been to before, where we’ve rented a house to write from for the next month. I see myself with a few published books in different genres. I see myself working in different artistic mediums, just allowing myself to play. I see myself using whatever skills I have to support the causes and organizations I believe in. I see myself in hot pursuit of the next dream.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen