Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Carlene Fraser-Harris is a writer continuously navigating the realms of identity, womanhood and success. She is a BAME advocate and hopes to be a catalyst for the progression of colour in the publishing arena. Her piece, “Afternoon Tea”, can be found in EPOCH Issue 02: Aftermath, available to purchase here.
What books did you grow up reading?
From as young as I could remember, reading material in my home was a mixture of Bo Anansi and Tar Baby (West Indian folk tales in Trinidad), Alice in Wonderland, The Cat in the Hat and a set of encyclopaedias. Those encyclopaedias were a stiff sort of fun, encouraging me to want more information, more pictures more explaining. Then books by V.S. Naipaul and Danielle Steele eventually joined the shelves next to a handful of Goosebumps and The Hardy Boys. After reading The Loss of Eldorado (by Naipaul) I began writing for fun at 13 years old.
What are the most challenging aspects of your creative process?
First, it’s a difficult thing to try and structure creativity, there is never the perfect time to fall into a new story. Though, I have tried. Ideas hit when they hit and we have to pin them down. And it’s a challenge to draw out that creativity at less optimal times when there are so many other demands on your day. The notes app on my phone has become invaluable over the last couple of years; my story ideas and thoughts around structure and angles have been jotted down before other thoughts are able to push and shove them around. I’ve finally married myself to the fact that while creativity is sporadic, carving out consistent time to write is an even bigger part of the craft. I stopped treating my writing as a hobby – something I did for leisure – and began regarding it with respect, like the job that it is. It’s an ongoing challenge; there are more days where the words don’t come, and others where it all but bursts out.
Second, trusting myself in my work with my work. It’s often easier to edit someone else’s story because we were not part of its creation. But, from draft to final, the emotional investment in our own words is often an invisible tax. It takes confidence to delete that sentence or to keep it. It takes trust to believe in your own story and in how you tell it. I’m most invested in non-fiction because my strongest voice is the one I can trust to tell it like it really is. And I’m also most afraid of that voice because of what I am offering readers: me.
What does your writing space look like?
It’s a little white desk tucked under the window in my bedroom, with my laptop and one Ikea vanilla candle, often with a bowl of nuts and a full water bottle as well. Snacks, amirite? Looking out on the overgrown lawn and half-naked trees, my neighbours weathered brick wall and an old fence reminding me of how close to each other we’re forced to live. Bed made and bedroom organised,so that my thoughts don’t feel as cluttered on their way out. A dried carved calabash from Tobago hangs on one wall, and my husband’s Bob Ross masterpiece hanging on another. A small room with an outward look.
Who is your biggest artistic supporter?
My husband. As unartistic as he claims to be, he champions my work and gives insightful feedback. He pretends to snore when I present him with a new or edited story, 3000 words at 9pm is a big ask. But I think he sees me more through my writing. Perhaps because I can be myself with it, with my voice in it. Over the past few years, as I decided to take my writing out of the proverbial closet, he has been the why not’s to my why’s and the so what’s to my what if’s.
Where can we find your work?
Website (in progress) herwritehouse.com
@CFraserHarris on Twitter and Instagram.