Sheree Renée Thomas

Sheree and Jada

A native of Memphis, I write between a river and a pyramid. I wrote  Shotgun Lullabies: Stories & Poems (Aqueduct Press) described by Arthur Flowers as “a wondrous book, like Jean Toomer’s Cane” and edited Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora and Dark Matter: Reading the Bones (2001 and 2005 World Fantasy Awards, named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year among other honors).

As you can probably guess, I love to read and I love to write. I’m always learning, always seeking new ways to tell stories that reflect the world I see, the worlds I imagine. It’s been quite a journey, and I know it’s not over yet. Anyone who wants to be a writer needs to be pretty comfortable in their traveling shoes.

My professional background is in books, in the publishing world and in the magical realm of independent bookstores. I worked in a lovely indie store/art gallery in historic downtown Memphis before I packed up my child and my dreams and moved to New York City. I worked my way up in a big publishing house, while moonlighting at an indie science fiction bookstore. My world then is as it is now—surrounded by books. I found myself completely engaged by smart people who loved everything about books. All that time I was writing and writing. I sought opportunities to learn more, so I attended writers’ workshops and listened to those who could offer insights on how to approach this thing best. Of course I got a ton of contradictory advice, but it was all quite good. I worked to incorporate the things that made the most sense for me and my family. Finally I gained the confidence to send my work out and begin the cycle that is natural to all writers’ lives, rejection and acceptance, sometimes hand-in-hand!

My poetry and short stories appear in literary journals and magazines such as Callaloo, Eleven, Eleven, Harpur Palate, Meridians, StorySouth, Strange Horizons, Mythic Delirium, Obsidian, Drumvoices Revue, African Voices, and in numerous excellent anthologies, including The Moment of Change: Feminist Speculative Poetry, So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mojo: Conjure Stories, Mythic 2, Southern Revival, Hurricane Blues, Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam, Bronx Biannual II, Temba Tupu! (Walking Naked): Africana Women’s Poetic Self-Portrait, and The Ringing Ear: Poets Lean South. I also am featured in the collection, Language Is a Place of Struggle: Great Quotes by People of Color and in Notable Black Memphians by historian Miriam DeCosta-Willis.

Contrary to what some think, writing is not free. It takes more than perseverance and dedication to do it. It takes time and resources to carve out the space and focus to create new work. When I mentioned a writing experience I wanted to pursue, but soon talked myself out of it, a good friend gave me some great advice. He said, “Sheree, why in the world would you close the door in your own face? If they tell you ‘no,’ then so be it, but you owe it to yourself to try! All it’s going to cost you is some postage.”  He was so right.

I have been honored with fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation, the New York Foundation of the Arts, and I also received the Lee Hope Fellowship for Diverse Voices and the Ledig House / LEF Foundation Fellowship for Fiction. My work was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, two Rhysling Awards, and received Honorable Mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror (16th &17th annual editions). I also was commissioned by the Studio Museum in Harlem to write original work for the Bill Traylor, William Edmondson, Modernist Impulse exhibit with artist Chris Ofili. I was thrilled to have this opportunity because these fellow Southern artists who labored long ago, continue to inspire me.

My various interests have led me to write essays, articles, and critical reviews for publications as diverse as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Essence, Upscale, The Cascadia Subduction Zone, Rap Pages, and Vibe. A teaching artist who has taught creative writing in classrooms, universities, and community arts organizations around the country and in London, I am also an indie publisher. My Wanganegresse Press published Mojo Rising: Confessions of the 21st Century Conjureman by Arthur Flowers and SCARAB, a limited edition hand-sewn Coptic bound anthology. I also co-founded Anansi: Fiction of the African Diaspora in 1999.

I curated the New York Review of Science Fiction reading series at Dixon Place, named in 2002 as the Best Geek Culture Readings by BEST OF NEW YORK© in The Village Voice. Over the years I have also served as a juror for the Speculative Literature Foundation, the Carl Brandon Society, and the James Tiptree, Jr. Awards. Whenever possible, I try to support artists organizations that are focused on helping talented writers do what they do best—write!

 

 

 

 

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