Author and editor adrienne maree brown grows healing ideas in public through her multigenre writing, her music, and her podcasts. Informed by 25 years of movement facilitation, somatics, Octavia E. Butler scholarship and her work as a doula, adrienne has nurtured Emergent Strategy, Pleasure Activism, Radical Imagination, and Transformative Justice as ideas and practices for transformation. She is the author/editor of seven published texts and the founder of the Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute, where she is now the writer-in-residence.
Tell us about your new collection Fables and Spells. Does the book have a specific theme or focus? Are there any new pieces included?
All of these stories and spells are in some way related to the work of witching, magic, conjuring, spell casting. What are the ways we become ourselves when the instruction manuals have been burned, outlawed, erased, and shamed? How do we reclaim that organic relationship to the wisdom of the world around us? Almost all of the short stories are new content, and many of the spells have been posted in different places but never pulled together in this juxtaposition.
The collection includes one of your best-known stories, ‘‘The River’’, and two related pieces, to form the Water Trio. Can you tell us about the world where those stories take place, and the characters who inhabit that world?
The Water Trio is rooted in a Detroit just ahead of us in time, a Detroit that has been unable to protect its relationship with water. It follows the nonlinear path of a kind of water working magic, a way of calling from the earth that substance which flows through each of us. After reading ‘‘The River’’ for years I wanted to explore more about what it would mean to live with this power, the blessings and challenges of it.
You’re the founder and writer-in-residence at the Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute, and your book is part of the Emergent Strategy series. Can you tell us about that organization and the work you do there? Feel free to tell us about your movement work in general.
For 25 years my primary work was movement facilitation, and the Emergent Strategy Series and Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute are places to gather everything and experiment with how to best share it. Emergent Strategy is fundamentally about how we get in right relationship to change, which is inevitable – how do we shape changes that increase our chances of species survival, and joy, and community? Books are a way to reach a lot of people, and people often want guided communities and experiences of practice, so over the past five years we have put a lot of time and effort into that.
You’re a poet, a prose writer, and an editor – do you love all those disciplines equally, or prefer one over the others? Do they fulfill different needs for you?
Oh what a lovely question. Hmm. I think in general my writing and editing feel very much part of the same work, at least when I am editing myself – I have come to love returning to work and fine-tuning it. My creative writing, the poems and songs and spells, is where I go with my longing, my tenderness, my emotional life – that work is often extremely personal and the more personal it is, the less words come – some of my songs have no words at all but I know exactly what I was feeling when it came and it is very fulfilling to me to have expressed myself. My prose writing is often where I take my frustration and anger, and let it transform into lessons on the page – it’s where I gather the wisdom of my life to offer out to others.
You host multiple podcasts. Tell us about them!
Yes, I learned early in my life the transformative power of conversation, and the podcasts I cohost are all places of learning together. The first podcast I ever cohosted is How to Survive the End of the World with my sister Autumn Brown, inspired by Octavia E. Butler but looking at all kinds of survival skills including emotional and communal. Then there’s Octavia’s Parables, cohosted with Toshi Reagon, where we are reading Octavia E. Butler’s classic texts one chapter at a time. And finally The Emergent Strategy Podcast, which is interviewing people across the emergent strategy landscape to show how this vibrant idea is already so decentralized.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know? Upcoming work or other projects of note?
My next big projects are the release of book two in my Detroit novella series (which started with Grievers, published last September) which is called Maroons and will be out early next year, a musical ritual called To Feel A Thing: A Ritual for Emergence, which is cocommissioned by OSF-Ashland and the St. Louis Rep, an album to accompany Fables and Spells, and a long-form novel that has been in my head since I was a kid.
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