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Conversations with Danielle P. Williams

Today we’d like to introduce you to Danielle P. Williams.

Hi Danielle P., thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I spent most of my childhood in Columbia, South Carolina. From the very beginning, music and writing was something that helped me understand my own feelings about the world around me. I began taking piano lessons at eight and joined orchestra in middle school where I started playing the viola, an instrument that would take me all the way The South Carolina Governors School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville, South Carolina, a public boarding school for the arts where I could focus more exclusively on my music. I left home at sixteen with hopes of bettering my artistry and finding opportunities outside of Columbia. This became a common trend in my life. I started off as a viola performance major at Elon University in North Carolina, eventually deciding to switch up my studies and dedicate more time to my other love: writing. I’d say college is where I found my writer’s voice. Where I was constantly encouraged by my friends, sorority sisters, and faculty/staff to use my voice to spark deeper conversations in our predominately white community. I became more used to the stage and bearing my soul in front of strangers. Little by little, I found more of myself through my art.

After I graduated, I kept telling people that it was a long-term goal of mine to write a book of poems before finally telling myself that this was a goal that was achievable right now. In six months, I wrote over a hundred poems and self-published “The Art In Knowing Me,” a book of poems that explored how I’ve used art to learn the many intricacies and complexities of myself and my own fears and desires. This only made me want to create more, and so I decided to incorporate both of my loves and called on some of my talented music friends from college and created “We Fall Down” EP.

At this point in my life, I had one goal: become a better writer. I applied to MFA programs when I was living in Washington, DC and was accepted a three year program at George Mason University. I tried to soak it all in. To lean on my professors and cohort and ask bigger questions about myself and my poems. I soon began to see progress and started publishing more, winning contests, attending different fellowships and workshops, as well as receiving a travel grant to go back to Guam and Saipan for the first time in nearly sixteen years to learn more about my Chamorro culture and write the stories that if not for writers like me, would never get told. In this program, I was able to work as a poetry editor for So To Speak and intersectional feminist journal, editorial coordinator for Poetry Daily, and even started doing freelance. In my last year, I kept telling myself that I needed to get back to my music, but in a bigger and more intentional way than before. Again, with the help of my talented village I had formed around me, I began to write “At My Own Risk”, a project that allowed me to really dig into my artistry and sit in my writer/songwriting bag. It made me see that music and writing was something that worked hand in hand for me and that this was certainly not the last time I’d be making music.

I’m pretty new to California. I moved to Los Angeles this past April, a month before I graduated from my graduate program. I had always planned on moving to LA, so when I was finally here, it quickly began to feel like home. In three months, I met some forever friends who I create with all the time, had my first post-quarantine poetry performance, and landed a job at CAA as a full-time copywriter. It’s really only up from here.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Things have never really been easy for me, though I always have on my brave face and try to go into the world with as little fear as possible. I’d say despite the struggles coming from all of the outside forces, it was my own mental health that deterred my success at times. Being an artist requires so much self-awareness and transparency, and sometimes I’m just not up to that task. I have to constantly remind myself that I’m human and have flaws and that my feelings are valid, no matter what they may be. All I can really ask of myself is to do my best. Me being a perfectionist and always trying to demand the most out of myself has probably been my biggest downfall as an artist, but I’m learning and growing more and more everyday. I try to remind myself whenever I am creating that this art is for me, but once it’s out into the world it’s up to others to decide how it can be for them. That my art lives on past me and the difficulties it took for me to bring it into the world.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am a musician, poet, essayist, and spoken-word artist. I have received nominations for the Pushcart Prize 2020 and Best New Poets 2021, with fellowships from Palm Beach Poetry Festival, The Watering Hole, and The Alan Cheuse Center for International Writers.

My poems were selected for the 2020 Literary Award in Poetry from Ninth Letter. You can find her work in Juked Magazine, ANMLY, Hobart, Flypaper Lit, Barren Magazine, and elsewhere.

I am the author of a self-published collection of poetry, The Art in Knowing Me, and two spoken-word EP’s, At My Own Risk and We Fall Down available on all streaming platforms.

Honestly, I’m proud of anything I create. It’s all a part of who I am and collectively tells the story of me. I’d say what sets me apart from others is my ability to create unapologetically, to tell the stories that get left out and forgotten. I’m not afraid. I create for me and people like me and not with the intention of profit or even recognition. Just knowing I was strong enough to create it is satisfying enough for me.

What do you like and dislike about the city?
I love being surrounded by so many creative people. Seriously, I feel like everywhere I go, I am meeting new dope people that I could potentially collaborate with or learn from. I’ve always had to seek out that community, so having it at my fingertips is truly a dream.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

EP photos: Dillon Donalds other photos: Shawntell Pace

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