What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?
I actually enjoy social rewards connected with group achievements. And, this may sound strange, but the greatest accomplishment for me was getting my bartending degree (diploma of mixology!) – done over a week’s time with a lot of drink recipes and minutiae to try and assimilate at once.
Working with a lovely crew of people that week, supporting one another and helping guide and verbally cheer each other on, was the highlight of any professional thing I’ve ever done. The Mainline Center for Bartending in Manayunk has a special place in my heart because of that week. I feel the most proud of that intense and socially (if not professionally) significant time.
Are you working on any special projects?
I am working on two projects at the moment. One, is a chain gang project – an storytelling workshop involving participants in the miming of prescribed work done on a chain gang farm. The other is a scripted episodic story about a very long and protracted revolt aboard a slave ship in the 1700s. I hope to one day propose it as a serialized television show, much like Lost.
Who has been the greatest influence in your life?
There are two writers and a storyteller who have influenced me greatly. Adrienne Kennedy’s play, Ohio State Murders, is a wonderful play about memory and protracted terror in segregated laws in the north in the 1950’s.
My mother’s children’s book, Zamani Goes To Market, is a wonderful, balanced portrait of a family unit. It might have worked as a model for dysfunctional family units all over the world – not in spite of its cultural difference from contemporary life – but especially because of the humane illustration of people working to fulfill the basic needs and wants in life. This balanced, family unit being African (Black) might have been as profound a placement in its time for school and library audiences in the 70s as the Cosby Show was in the 80s for TV watchers.
The greatest person I knew growing up was my Nana. My grandmother told great stories, over and over again. She was a little bit mischievous too, and would make herself the victim in stories that she told – when she very clearly resembled the villain in them!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I see myself working inter-generationally, doing freelance work in nursing homes, special education institutions, school classrooms, and on farms even, teaching theater and storytelling workshops. Any work that I do writing-wise will always need a component of social input, and teaching and workshop practices are good ways for me personally to keep my approach to life fresh and balanced. I probably like to teach in my writing too, so I think – even if I never write another word – I’ll never retire from that teaching mode.
What career advice would you give to a new high school or college graduate?
If you have a tendency to wander in your mind, tell yourself stories (whether happy or sad endings), you should pursue writing or drawing or however you can put these thoughts and ideas that you have down on paper. A friend of mine, who helped me get better at job interviewing, said that putting something down on paper gives it power – and it’s no longer just a figment of your imagination.
Having said that, maybe the writing or drawing that you do can be compared with a baby being born prematurely – in other words, it might not make any sense at first and need a lot of help…but work with it. It just needs time to grow and form – and you can be there with the writing to do just that – to make it clearer and to encourage it to grow in the way that it needs to.
If you think of it as your baby, then the gentleness that needs to accompany that will be coupled with a diligence not to let it walk off without your guidance. Revision is a part of you getting the raw work in communication with the rest of the world in the best way.
If you would like to contact Kamili Feelings, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.