October 22, 2007

A Conversation With Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik

afrobellaPatrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik is a Trinidad-born writer who currently resides in Miami. She graduated with her MFA in Creative Writing (fiction) from the University of Miami, and then, spent a wonderful summer employed as the Assistant Events and Marketing Coordinator at Books & Books. In 2005, she won an honorable mention in Trinidad's Derek Walcott Writing Contest for her short story, "Cookie." Currently she is the Calendar Editor of the Miami New Times, and in her spare time, she has created Afrobella.com, a beauty blog for women of color that has won an eager and ardent readership. This year Afrobella was nominated for a Bloggers Choice Award, and was the proud winner of two Black Weblog Awards -- for Best Culture Blog and Best Niche Blog. When Patrice isn't writing for her job or her blog, she is fervently trying to complete her first novel.

Where were you born?

Port of Spain, Trinidad.

What do you do for a living? Why did you choose this vocation?

I’m the calendar editor at the Miami New Times. After graduating from the University of Miami with an MFA in Creative Writing, I didn’t know what I was going to do for a living. I worked for three months as the assistant events and marketing co-ordinator at Books and Books until I got the New Times job. I didn’t apply for the particular position that I have, so you could say that the vocation chose me.

Who are your three favorite writers? Why?

Roald Dahl, because his stories are so alive with magic. I grew up on his children’s books, and when I was a teenager, I read the Roald Dahl Omnibus. Then I sought out all of his other books. He was a definite early influence on me as an aspiring fiction writer.

Samuel Selvon, because he made me realize that I could have a voice and a personality, and tell the stories I had stored up inside me. Foreday Morning and Ways of Sunlight were crucial in my upbringing.

Toni Morrison. The way she approaches the particular issues of black society is so inspiring to me as a writer.

What was the first book you fell in love with and how have your reading habits changed over the years?

Summer Lightning by Olive Senior, without a doubt. That book made me realize that I had stories to tell. That book made me fall in love with short stories and realize their potential. Over the years, I’ve found less and less time to read. Also, I’ve found that I have a more discerning eye for fiction, and it’s more difficult for me to surrender to a fictional story. I read a lot of biographies and non fiction books these days. For some reason, it’s what I’m most drawn to.

What are you reading now?

I just finished Dear Diary by Lesley Arfin, which was such a page turner. It’s a crazy rough and tumble biography.

What makes you laugh?

On TV, I get a kick out of The Office, 30 Rock, and those silly gossip shows like Best Week Ever and The Soup. In real life, my husband. He’s a total comedian. We’re both pretty silly, and we love being silly together. It’s the best.

What are your other passions?

The most all-consuming passion in my life right now is my website, Afrobella.com. It started out as a forum to review beauty products targeted towards women of color with natural hair. It has grown into so much more than that. Now I also write about music, culture – whatever I want to, really. I have an average 1500 readers a day, I get to interact with intelligent women from all over the world, and I won two Black Weblog Awards this year. So, Afrobella takes up all of my free time, but in the best possible way.

I was an art minor in college, specializing in sculpture. I love working with clay, handbuilding, and I miss doing that. I also love oil painting, which is a messy, time consuming passion that I haven’t had a chance to pursue in too long. I love crafty projects – making jewelry and candles and stuff like that. I love cooking, and I’m definitely passionate about good, healthy food.



nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I enjoyed this interview and I'm glad Afrobella linked to your blog.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Dear nyc/caribbean ragazza,

Welcome and thanks for the comment.
It was a pleasure to interview her and I look forward to many more.