30 Under 30: Jayson Smith, Writer

Photo by Nicolas Maloof

This week marks the release of our annual 30 Under 30 issue, and because each of these individuals is so interesting, we thought we’d further highlight them by running some brief interviews with them.

Name: Jayson Smith
Age: 23
Neighborhood: Bed-Stuy
Occupation: Writer

Who would be your choice for a 30 Under 30?
Camonghne Felix, for sure. She’s a brilliant mind & unreal at pretty much everything she touches.

Who are your role models in your industry?
Kiese Laymon, Saeed Jones, Erica Hunt, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Daniel José Older—I’m in awe of how deeply they engage with the work & the constant grace they move through the world with.

What was a turning point for you, when you realized you could make a career out of something you loved to do?
One moment I always think of is the day I was nominated for a Pushcart. I was at my desk in the middle of a not-so-great work day, got the email, forwarded it to my mom then ran into the bathroom to freak out. That was definitely a start, I think.

What’s some advice you’d have for people looking to get a foothold in your industry?
Read. broadly. If you are a writer in 2015 only reading work that caters to your lens (whether white, straight, cis), it will absolutely tell on you. Also, be kind. Can’t stress that one enough—someone is more likely to remember an experience they’ve had with you than a line from anything you’ve written.

Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for young people to build a career?
Haha if we all don’t get priced out in the next few years, absolutely. The energy in Brooklyn is unmatchable and we’re definitely a big catalyst, I think.

Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
Not yet, luckily. Everything still feels pretty new & wonderful, so I want to hold on to that as long as I can.

What’s felt like your biggest professional accomplishment?
Patricia Smith curated an offsite reading this past AWP (called Paris is Still Burning) which was just ridiculous. I got the chance to read with some of my heroes & it still feels surreal to talk about.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully in a remote location, sitting on some grant money to finish book (insert number here.) Wishful thinking.

Follow Jayson Smith on twitter @sojaywaslike

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