Welcome to Day 3 of
The Beacon House Writers are ten teen writers who are members of a community-based organization in the Edgewood Terrace community of NE Washington, DC. The mission of the organization is to lift as many children as possible up and out of their often difficult circumstances. Shout Mouse Press collaborates with Beacon House giving agency to the teen writers’ voice. In 2017 ten authors worked together to finish a 2-year collaboration with Shout Mouse Press resulting in The Day Tajon Got Shot, which went on to gain national attention and win Top Fiction credentials for In the Margian’s 2018 Award List. Three of those ten authors (T’Asia, Temil, and Rose) are featured in a mush anticipated interview below as part of our April book blog.
- Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Rose: I am 16 years old. I attend Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, MD. I like to play basketball. When I’m not writing, I’m reading.
T’Asia: I’m currently a freshman at Banneker High School in Washington, DC. In my free time I usuallyhang with friends & go places. Sometimes when I don’t do that I draw. I also cheer.
Temil: I am 16 years old. I attend Dunbar HS in Washington, DC. When I’m not writing I tend to hang out with my friends. I also work with a program called Reach Incorporated after school. At Reach I tutor young kids on their reading comprehension skills.
- Were you into writing before you started on the Tajon project”? What were some of your earliest memories of writing that you enjoyed?
T’Asia: I used to write poems in my free time or write about my life but I never thought of writing a book.
Temil: Yes, before I wrote this book I wrote another one with Shout Mouse called Trinitoga: Stories of Life in a Roughed-Up Tough-Love No-Good Hood. It’s a novel about a neighborhood we made up in DC and the people who live there. Before I started writing with Shout Mouse I wasn’t really interested in writing. But I did enjoy and still do enjoy writing essays for school.
- When you started on the Tajon Got Shot project, can you share with us what you did to come up with the idea?
Temil: I used things that were happening in the world. When we started writing there was a lot of news about police brutality involving black young men so we wanted to voice our opinion about it.
- Can you tell us about some of your challenges in writing Tajon?
T’Asia: Some challenges I had to deal with was being in somebody else’s shoes & figuring out how the story will flow.
Temil: Some challenges I had was determining what happens next due to the fact that I had to be mindful of others’ opinions.
- How did you determine the storyline? What was your process? Did you have to make an outline or are do you just write?
Rose: My process was to think about what and how I wanted my character to be. I got into the head of the cop and how I wanted the cop to think. We didn’t use an outline. We just wrote our ideas down and brainstormed with the group. Everybody had to be on the same page.
Temil: I really just wrote what I wanted to happen each day. We didn’t make outlines, we just had conversations amongst each other about what we wanted to happen next.
- Characters? Which characters voice were you? What did you have to do to prepare for writing the character (s) you represented. What about the process made it the hardest? What about it did you enjoy? Is anything or anyone in your book based on real-life experiences or purely all imagination?
Rose: I wrote the character Pete the Cop. I had to think how a cop would feel if it was a real situation. We looked at some articles about cops in real life who were in this situation and that helped me come up with my ideas. I enjoyed seeing both sides of the story. But it was hard to put my words together. I don’t have a problem with cops in my own life, so I don’t see them as the enemy. But I don’t think that they should just go around shooting people, especially when they are innocent.
T’Asia: I was the character Ashley, the cop’s daughter. I prepared for this by basically watching my surroundings & trying to fill her shoes. The fact that she is white made it hard for me to understand her. Also my dad is not a cop so I don’t know how to feel in that situation. I enjoyed seeing how the whole story played out. One particular part related to me. I have a deeper connection with my dad than my mom & I just used how I would react in that situation.
Temil: I was the voice of Tajon. In order to prepare for writing about this character I had to put myself in the shoes of a person living a hard and rough lifestyle. I had to show how it feels to be a young black teenage boy in society during that time. I used experiences about things I knew about police brutality with young black men.
- Genre? Is the genre for Tajon, your favorite? Why? Why not? Is there another genre do you more? Why or why not?
Rose: I enjoyed writing fiction because you get to imagine the story. You’re not restricted by any specific facts. This is the only book I’ve written, and I don’t really write in other genres.
T’Asia: Fiction is my favorite because it makes you think beyond the real world. You get to use your imagination. It makes you think outside the box to understand what’s happening in the story.
Temil: Yes this genre is my favorite because it interests me to write about things like this. With fiction you can just say what you want to happen. Anything is possible.
- What else have you worked on since Tajon was published?
Rose: This is my first book, but I plan to write more. It would be another book for teenagers, probably about high school life.
T’Asia: Right now I just work on my poetry about my life but I don’t share it with anyone. It’s just for me. It helps me express my feelings. I used to keep my anger inside, but writing has helped me get through a lot of things.
Temil: Last summer I worked on another book with Shout Mouse and Reach Incorporated called Spanky the Pup: All Dogs Must Go. It’s a children’s book, for younger kids. It was inspired by thinking about kids in the foster care system, how theydon’t always feel wanted.
- Can you share with us a book you’ve read that has made an impact and why? What book did you last read? What book are you currently reading?
Rose: I really liked the book Things Fall Apart. It really kept my attention and made me want to read more by that author.
T’Asia: A book I read that made an impact on me is Lord of the Flies. It made me think more deeply about government and things that happen in the real world. Right now we’re reading Romeo and Juliet in school.
- If you had to go back and do it all over, is there anything that you think you’dchange pertaining to the story?
Rose: I would love to write from another perspective, especially Tajon’s mother. I’d like to see how mothers would feel in this situation. It would be so hard on them that their child is shot. No mother should have to go through that.
T’Asia:I still feel like Tajon should not have died. The fact that he died meant that the conflict ended, and there was no real solution. Nobody found out the truth, because only he could have told the truth. Maybe that could have led to Pete being convicted. It’s like in real life. There’s no real solution, people don’t find out what actually happened, because the people who are shot so often die. They don’t get to tell their story.
Temil: Personally I would change the fact that Tajon dies. I want to see what would happen to him if he lived.
- What was your favorite chapter (or part) of the Tajon storyline and why?
Rose: My favorite part is writing about Pete, especially the scene when he goes to the hospital. In real life cops would feel sad to see the person they shot.
T’Asia:I liked the part where Kayla rioted. She stood up for what she believed in. It was also really powerfully written.
Temil: My favorite chapter was about Bobby the drug dealer because it showed why the character did what he did.
- What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
Rose: The best compliment I’ve heard is that we have made a big impact on our readers. When we give readings, the audience really enjoys it, and they give us good feedback. It’s good to see that the young kids read our books. I think they think of us as role models.
T’Asia: It’s not exactly criticism, but sometimes we had to delete scenes that we’d written and that was hard because I felt like some of that was really good. But it contradicted with what others had written, so it couldn’t be included
- Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Rose: My advice is to be yourself and think outside of the box.
T’Asia:Always believe in what you write. Stick to what you believe in. As you keep writing, think about how it could help others. Always have a message.
Temil: While you’re writing, become another person. Moreso, get out your comfort zone and become what you are designed to write about. Make sure you involve different perspectives that can be part of your story.
- Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Rose: I would like to say thanks for supporting us and our book.
Tamil: Writing this book has made a big impact on me because it shows you what others have to go through just to get through life. It shows you that just because someone is doing something bad may not actually make them a bad person. They may have gone through things in life that you didn’t, but you should try to understand.
- Thank you so much for the giving of your time.
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The Day Tajon Got Shot is the result of a two-year collaboration between ten teen female high school writers named T’Asia, J’Yona, Reiyanna, Jonae, Makiya, Rose, Najae, Serenity, Jeanet, and Temil. The multi-alternating voiced narrative is highly engaging for the reluctant and inquisitive reader. Youth who are fans of Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely’s All American Boys, Kekla Magoon’s How It Went Down, Jewel Parker Rhodes’ Ghost Boys, Nic Stone’s Dear Martin, Jay Cole’s Tyler Johnson Was Here, and Angie Thomas’ THUG will enjoy this as a follow-up and/alignment.
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