Image by G Gallerie
I had the pleasure of meeting Ruby Veridiano Ching earlier this year and I was instantly impressed by her. She’s a co-founder, and only female member or spoken word collective ill-Literacy and she just published her first book of collected poems called Miss Universe. Her book is out of this world (pun intended) and you can read the review here and get the book here. She also released an “intergalactic soundtrack” to go with the release of Miss Universe that you can listen to here. We took some time to chat with Ruby about her writing and inspiration and this lady just does not stop! Check out the full interview after the jump.
1. When did you start writing?
I started writing at 12, writing “nursery rhyme” type poems for my boy crushes- I remember writing one for the guy that played Rocky in “3 Ninjas.” Does anyone else remember that movie? Oh, and the Green Ranger too.
Then I took it a little more seriously during my senior year in high school, when I discovered Langston Hughes. I didn’t know until then the power of language, and the art of crafting words to look and sound beautiful; creating legacy in prose. Special thanks to my English teacher, Ms. Londahl! She’s my hero. She let me explore Langston Hughes in the back of the classroom while everyone else was doing their vocab exercises.
2. You’ve lived in different cities, how has that influenced your writing?
My goodness, it’s been a blessing to experience life in different textures- living in different cities has opened me up to so many layers of my growth. It’s tested and expanded my comfort zone, has allowed me to tap into different parts of myself- and because writing is a reflection of my present moments and emotions, the “me” in every city gets captured.
By the way, I’m trying out the Moon next year- so look out for the next book, its pretty safe to say it will be out-of-this-world.
3. What’s your favorite city? Why?
Oakland, California. It’s my home. I’m not originally from here, but I’ve never felt so at home anywhere else. Its beautiful here- you can feel the city’s soul breathing, and the movement is still alive, present and thriving. And yes, Oakland is notorious for its negative press, but while there are definitely struggles and unease present in this city, its also important to recognize the work that many artists, community organizers, and youth are doing to combat the negativity by instead refocusing their energy into art, education, and empowerment. You can feel energy in the air. That, and on sunny days when Oakland is out and about, brace yourself, because the people are breathtakingly gorgeous.
Photo by Jayson Entao
4. How did you get involved with ill-Literacy?
I met Adriel Luis in school back in 2002, and we co-founded the crew at our alma mater, UC Davis. We wanted to provide a space for artists to express their art freely, to foster a culture within our campus that pushed for creativity. That’s how the group was born. iLL-Literacy the group has been around for 6 years, but the present group as it is now, which includes Dahlak Brathwaite and Nico Cary, has been touring together for 3 years now.
5. How often do you write? Do you set aside time to write or do you just pick up a pen whenever it comes to you?
Inspiration is so spontaneous- I never know when it comes. I just try and live life and be open to experiencing inspirations so I can output creative energy. You can’t create art without taking in what the world has to offer.
But no, I’m definitely not putting out poems like Lil Wayne is putting out mixtapes. I do, however, stay on the grind, and am proud to say my work ethic is pretty darn serious. (But only cause my job is so fun!)
6. Pen and paper or computer?
Both! Computer for when I’m crafting a piece, pen and paper for my brainstorming sessions. Plus, I’ve got 3rd grade teacher cursive penmanship that I wish I could show off a little more. Darn you email and text messaging, darn you.
7. Is the writing you do on your own different from the kind of stuff you write for ill-Literacy?
You know, if I only wrote for myself, I’d only write romance novels where Common and I would always be the main characters. Laws of attraction, you know what I’m saying!??! Haha, seriously though, yes, its very different. Writing for myself is a lot more introspective and private; I can be free to write as a writer and not as a performer. When I write to perform, I write with an audience in mind. When I write for me, it’s reflection, its therapy. No matter what though, I write with a fearless sense of vulnerability, documenting the human experience in the most honest way possible.
8. Is it tough being the only woman in the crew?
Yes, it can be challenging, but luckily, the boys I roll with are very understanding. And we have excellent communication, which is so rare these days. The four of us are pretty close, and we’re not just group members, we’re family. So even on those tough instances of testosterone overload, it’s not a bad challenge; in fact, it’s allowed me to solidify my voice and build my confidence even stronger. It’s definitely made a more versatile performer and speaker, and most importantly, it’s taught me that I’m fierce!
9. What obstacles do you face as a young writer and how have you overcome them?
In this day and age, where vinyl records face extinction, people text message more frequently than they call, and books are becoming less and less popular, I think the challenge for me is preserving, encouraging, and re-fueling the passion for the word.
I want to make poetry exciting again.
I want to encourage others to communicate, to be open, to talk, to listen. I believe that if people realized how beautiful language could sound they would want to take time to explore the power of their own words. I’m a firm backer of the belief of manifesting our personal visions through the words we say. Our words are our magic; they hold promise, truth. I believe if more people knew this, we’d be empowered to use our voices more readily. The world needs our stories.
10. What other projects do you have going on? What are your future plans?
I’m going on “Natural Electricity” tour with the crew this Fall, and we’re working with a lot of music; there’s a mixtape on the way. I’m also pursuing my VJ/TV Career a lot more aggressively- I’m with MYX now, but hoping for more and more on-camera opportunities soon! I’m also hoping the book will also be an educational tool for literary classes. With my experience as an arts educator in high school classrooms, one of my dreams is to be able to use this as a learning resource for young writers.
And to note: I’d also like to get my nails done did in true MISS Crew fashion in the very, very near future. Rawr.
Tom Huynh Photography
11. How did you make the decision to keep your publishing indie? Was it difficult to do? What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Luckily, I’m involved with an amazing team of exceptional artists and visionaries, so I got a lot of support when I created this book. From the design, to the marketing, to the publicity, it was all done within my circle of friends who I trust. I wanted to publish Indie simply because one, I knew that I could do it, and two, this book was such an intimate and personal process that I didn’t want to compromise my vision by working with a publisher that might make me tear it up and put it back together incongruently. I’m very proud to say that I was able to craft this work piece by piece using my own ideas & the support of my friends. It’s my heart on these pages!
My advice to aspiring writers and artists is to build with your community. Though the work begins in you, your community is who will support you- they are the source of inspiration and energy that will continue to fuel your aspirations. Share your stories, your work, and resources, and it will come back to you. Make art with integrity. Make art with purpose. Reach out to those around you and don’t be afraid to ask for help, and pay the favors forward. You’ll see that the world is working to support you in carrying out your dreams!
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- Save The Date: ill-Literacy at The Crash Mansion Wednesday, 11.12.08
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