Deep Dive: K. Tempest Bradford on Grief, Memory, and Structure
“They were essentially recreating the day [September 11th] because they started at whatever time in the morning everything kicked off…and I was like whoa, y’all are doing some heavy ritual magic here. So, I started thinking about that and I started thinking about ways to get into that, the thinking around rituals around death and how we deal with it, especially when it’s a mass death event…”
In this clip, author and creative writing instructor K. Tempest Bradford discusses grief, memory, and trauma in her early work as well as how her research trips to Egypt have helped her writing. Watch from the beginning to 14:05 to get started on the following questions and exercises.
- Bradford talks about how living in New York City during the September 11th attacks informed her story “Until Forgiveness Comes.” How do the geographies, histories, and societal norms of the places you call home inform your writing? What are some potential challenges to basing a story in your hometown?
- Bradford uses technology and speculation to craft stories of grief, loss, and trauma. What might imagining new technologies allow us to see or know about grief that would otherwise remain hidden? Can you think of strategies for writing stories with new technologies without detracting from the inner lives of your characters?
- Consider the role of research in writing. How does a deeply researched story impact your experience as a reader? How do you approach research in your writing? Think about the resources you might need to elevate your research process.
- Create an outline for the last story you wrote or the last story you read. What kind of structure does the story follow? Draw a shape to represent that structure. If you continue to do this with multiple stories and collect stories with different shapes, you can challenge yourself to write a story with a structure outside of your comfort zone.
- Look at the criteria for SLF’s Gulliver Travel Grant. Then, spend about 10 minutes freewriting what you might put in the cover letter for this grant. Think about where you would go and why. How would traveling there inform or inspire your own writing projects?
- Sometimes an additional step beyond a standard character sketch can help strengthen your story’s characterization and conflict. Take 5 minutes to freewrite in response to these questions: What is your character’s greatest fear? What is your character’s greatest desire? Then, write a scene in which you describe how your character’s greatest fear (or desire) came to be.
K. Tempest Bradford, “Until Forgiveness Comes“
Nalo Hopkinson, “Ganger (Ball Lightning)” in Skin Folk
Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
K. Tempest Bradford is an award-winning teacher and media critic who writes speculative fiction steeped in Black Girl Magic. She’s the author of Ruby Finley vs. the Interstellar Invasion, her debut novel, and over a dozen short stories. Her essays have appeared on NPR, io9, and more. Tempest gives talks and teaches classes on representation and diversity though Writing the Other.com.
This Deep Dive was created by Jasmine H. Wade. Wade is a Black speculative fiction writer who’s obsessed with time travel, futures, and family mythologies. Her short stories have appeared in literary magazines, including Drunken Boat, TAYO Literary Magazine, The Copperfield Review, and anthologies, including Trouble the Waters: Tales of the Deep Blue. Her writing has been supported by the Hurston/Wright Foundation, Imagining America, the VONA/Voices workshop, San Francisco Writer’s Grotto, and Oakland’s AfroSurreal Writers group. She has taught community creative writing workshops through the Museum of Children’s Art, Mills College, and Liminal. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of African American literature at Cal State LA.