We at Cambridge Common Writers love to celebrate the diversity of our community, which is why we’re thrilled to be continuing our Spotlight series for Pride Month! Come and get to know some of our LGBTIQA+ alums as we ask them about their writing lives and the many wonderful projects they’re working on.
Aqueela C. Britt — Fiction, JUNE ’18
Aqueela C. Britt’s love for writing began in a townhouse in Roxbury in the early 80’s. What started as pencil scribed tales on steno notepads has since transformed into raw, matter-of-fact stories about LGBTQ identified black and brown kids trying to live their best lives. Aqueela’s dual passion is Social Work, where her career in child protection often served as a backdrop to her stories.
Aqueela published her first novel, London Reign under the pseudonym, A.C. Britt in 2007 through Ghettoheat Publishing. Since then, Aqueela has penned several works of short and long fiction, poetry and essays.
Aqueela holds a BA in Social Work, Master of Social Work and an MFA in Creative Writing with a focus in Fiction. Aqueela currently works as an Academic Advisor in the School of Social Work at Simmons University, of which she is an alum. Aqueela is the proud mom of a charmingly precocious son with a love for animals, gaming and all things fun.
What is the driving factor that gets you out of bed to write? What do you enjoy most about your writing?
The characters get me out of bed, they are nagging, entitled and righteous in their own way. They are the little voice on my shoulder judging me if I do and judging me if I don’t. I think what I enjoy most about my writing is creating worlds and stories I had little access to, only observed from the outside or was too scared to infiltrate. Although most of my writing centers on LGBTQ youth, I also write stories that experience love and success in a way that I’ve always hoped to achieve.
Do you have any bad writing habits you’ve picked up over the years?
The worst writing habits are the ones where I am not writing. The ones where I’ve allowed everything else in my life to claim space when I know I should write, instead. I think more specifically, my worst habits are working on too many projects at once, often leaving all unfinished.
What or who were some of your earliest inspirations in writing?
I am most known for my fiction but my early inspirations were poets such as Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni and Saul Williams. I also loved writers such as E. Lynn Harris, Omar Tyree, Terry McMillian, Sapphire and Sister Souljah.
What is something that tends to get in the way of your writing and how do you overcome it?
I think life is the main thing that gets in the way of my writing and I am admittedly still trying to overcome such self-imposed barriers. Since the pandemic, I’ve begun to value time in a way I hadn’t before. I’m learning to listen to the characters when they speak to me, I’m learning to set a specific time for writing which works most days and most importantly, I’m giving myself permission to allow other things to wait so that writing, which for me is as important as sustenance, can hold the space in which it is worthy.
For you, what was the most valuable part of the Lesley MFA program that helped shape your writing career?
Since I am still trying to build my career, I think what I’m reminded of from my time at Lesley is that in order to be a writer—in order to be a successful writer—one must write. Lesley has given us all the ingredients we need, it gave us the recipe and in many ways it has even mixed it all together for us, we must simply put “it” in the oven. I recognize that I am standing in front of a pre-heated oven with a pan of goodness in hand.
What is a piece of writing or publishing advice you’ve learned since graduation that you think others should know?
I think the most prevalent takeaway is that we are in control of our destiny. This is not a piece of advice directly credited to the program but rather a reminder that this program was a foundation, it would be a shame if I allowed it to deteriorate.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that doesn’t have to do with writing.
I love giraffes! Besides having a tribal giraffe tattooed on my leg, I will only go to zoos that have giraffes. If some weird science advancement occurred resulting in the creation of miniature giraffes I’d probably be one of the first people getting one as a pet—it could happen.
What are you working on now?
I am currently finishing up a short story that is being considered for publication and working on two different novel ideas. I do not have anything to promote yet but CCW will be the first to know!!!!
Listen to Aqueela read from an excerpt of her current novel draft: