Jan 29, 2018
30 Under 30, Class of ’18: Glynn Pogue, Writer
Most Likely to: Do it for the story
Favorite Quote: “I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.” – Audre Lorde
If you ever want to understand a writer at their core, read their work. What a writer takes to the page is often more telling than anything they could hope to reveal in person, because they are often burdened with the liminal nature of language. The page is where the writer wrestles with the whims of words, pinning them down, in order to make them mean something more. I say all this to say: Glynn Pogue is a writer. Not just by trade; but by temperament. Whether she’s showing you what navigating the cultural landscape of Cambodia as an outsider looks like, or revealing what it feels like to be an outlier in her own circle in Bed-Stuy, words are Glynn’s guide. It’s how she finds herself, no matter where she is.
What is your earliest memory associated with what you do now?
I know most writers say this, but I’ve legit been writing “novels” in journals since I could hold a pen. I was the only young kid on my block, so I wasn’t playing outside until the streetlights came on. I’m also an only child who grew up in a Bed & Breakfast that my parents operated out of our home. The combination of the two meant I grew up accustomed to quiet, solo time, and that I pay attention—key traits for a writer.
As a kid, I’d sit on the porch of the inn, listen to adults spill tea at the dining room table, and write. I remember one “novel” I wrote in particular, it was about a young girl who lived in a big old home, much like mine, except it was in Ditmas Park. I read it to a few neighbors who were over our house one night, and I remember them telling me I was “a natural.”
When did your occupation become real to you?
When I enrolled in the MFA in Creative Writing program at The New School. That was a major investment in my craft and myself. And I put the work in; I read hungrily, wrote and revised; stalked my professors. Sitting in those classrooms, sharing my work and my opinions made me take myself seriously. It was the first time I started moving in literary circles and introducing myself as a writer. “I’m a writer” is what I told a woman who was sitting next to me at a Poets & Writers dinner last Spring. She turned out to be a major literary agent who is now representing me, my book proposal is currently circulating through publishing houses.
How does Brooklyn/your neighborhood particularly inform your work?
Bed-Stuy is home. Because I write personal essays to understand who I am and where I come from, I always return to the ‘Stuy. It’s where I began. I work to write sensory depictions of what I find. I’m constantly walking through my neighborhood, talking to people, and observing.
What do you feel is most challenging about being where you are now?
The ebbs and flows. As a freelancer, my checks aren’t as consistent as I’d like them to be. But I’m patient and know I’m on the verge of a steady upswing. Until then, I’ve got mad side-hustles.
What’s most rewarding?
Watching it all unfold and knowing it’s only about to get more lit.
5 spots in Brooklyn people should know about?
- The Billie Holiday Theater
Built in the the early 1970’s The Billie Holiday theater is a Bed-Stuy institution. Growing up, I loved going to the theater on opening nights with my mother—it was our thing. We’d watch plays about unrequited loves and family dramas, sometimes they were one-woman shows. They were often a little scandalous, but they were real, and Black as hell. Many of the greats have made their way through the theater; Samuel L. Jackson, Debbie Allen and Tichina Arnold. Billie Holiday just underwent a massive renovation and Brooklynites should be hyped to see what’s in store.
- Zoe Zen Boutique
If you know me, you know I stay in some sort of fly ass frock. I used to be all about minimalism, but Zoe Zen makes me want to experiment with patterns and silhouettes. It’s a carefully merchandised store with one-of-a-kind looks and I want every single one of them.
- A & A Doubles Shop
My childhood best friend was Trinidadian. Most mornings, before dropping us off at our elementary school on Bedford Ave., her mom would swing by A & A’s and get us doubles—a fried flat bread filled with curried chickpeas—for breakfast. It used to be tiny shop, and they’d sell out of doubles real quick, but they’ve since moved to a bigger location. Brooklynites should try it with tamarind sauce and extra pepper if they’re about that life.
- Weeksville Heritage Center
Back in 1838, just 11 years after the abolition of slavery, a free Black man named James Weeks bought a plot of land in what is now Bed-Stuy and neighboring Crown Heights, and named it “Weeksville,” establishing one of America’s first free Black communities. It’s now a heritage center with a fly museum space, where talks, exhibits, festivals and performances all celebrate the African diaspora.
- Akwaaba Mansion Bed & Breakfast
Shameless plug! My parent’s own and operate this Brooklyn spot, but I do believe it’s crucial to the culture. Housed in an 18-room Italianate mansion, Akwaaba was the first upscale business to open in Bed-Stuy back in 1994.Back then no one was even thinking about walking through Bed-Stuy at night, let alone staying the night there. Since then, it’s become a destination in its own right as well as a coveted wedding location. Akwaaba, my parents and I, are now the subjects of a new docu-series on The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) called Checked Inn.
What’s your most significant accomplishment to date?
After I graduated from Howard University in May 2013 I joined the Peace Corps. I lived and worked as an English teacher in rural Cambodia for two years. It was the scariest, and most rewarding, life experience I’ve had thus far. Up until then I’d been set on going into advertising. I hadn’t written creatively in years. My time in the Peace Corps brought me back to the page; the experience was too special not to document. What I wrote there went into the manuscript that got me into my graduate program.
Who/what inspires you?
Places around-the-world and around-the-way. Conversations over cheap wine with my friends—who are creative and brilliant and who challenge me. Black folks—the way we move, dress, talk, live, thrive. Mostly, I’m just curious, about everything, so I move thoughtfully through the world, writing to figure things out.
Thinking about the future, where do you see yourself in the next 30 years?
Several best-sellers under my belt—with a few film adaptations, that I’ll produce—that Black women and girls see themselves in. I’ll probably still be traveling, because I can’t sit still, and because there are so many more stories to tell, but I’ll always make my way back home, to the ‘Stuy.
What’s next for you?
In the new year my creative partner, Zoe Munlyn, and I launched a retreat for artists of color called Space is the Place. Inspired by Sun-Ra’s Afrofuturist film of the same name, Space is the Place provides space for artists of all mediums to unplug, connect to self and build community. Held at The Mansion at Noble Lane in the Pocono mountains, Space is the Place’s first retreat will take place over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.
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