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Life & Work with Tiernan Bertrand-Essington

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tiernan Bertrand-Essington.

Hi Tiernan, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I was the kid reading books during middle school math lessons, filming videos for my YouTube channel when I got home from school, and then heading off to rehearsal for whichever community college play I was in at the time. I always knew that the life and career I wanted had storytelling at the center of it, and that it would take shape in many different forms. For the past ten years, I’ve been posting bookish vlogs, comedy sketch videos, short films, songs, and author interviews on my YouTube channel, TheBookTuber, for an audience of over 47,000 subscribers. I studied film and theatre at Columbia College Chicago, which gave me the training, grounding, and freedom to collaborate and create the way I love to, and I moved to Los Angeles in 2019. During COVID, I’ve done my best to continue creating on my own, posting videos online and writing like crazy, and I’m excited to share the project I’ve been working hard on…hopefully soon!

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
For a really long time, I kept the fact that I was making videos online a secret from my family and school acquaintances because I was revealing the part of myself online that often led to bullying in middle school and early high school. On the internet, I could be openly gay, talk about books, and really be myself with people who appreciated what I was doing. But that necessary secrecy did something strange to my relationship with my work – I still have the instinct not to be “too loud” about my queer films, books, and stories. My first reflex is still to assume no one will care to watch, read, or listen, even when the last decade of queer media has proven the opposite. It’s a “smallness” mindset I know I’ll be working against for a while.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
You can always find me sharing my love of queer books on my YouTube channel, TheBookTuber – we have a good time over there. My short film The Right Way, which I wrote and directed, won “Best LGBTQ Film” at the January 2020 LA Film Awards and was an official selection at the East Village Queer Film Festival – you can see more about that on my website. Last year, I had an essay published in Queerty, a leading queer publication. I’m a storyteller, and what really makes me tick is rolling my sleeves up on a new creative collaboration. When I’m involved in a project, I really give it my all and I live for those moments of inspiration, followed by the discipline of seeing it through. It makes all the BS worth it.

How do you think about luck?
A key part of all of this is learning to place yourself in the community – to “show up,” “network,” or “find your people.” And that’s exhausting to think about. I’m an intensely introverted person, but there’s always been a part of me that has the instinct for connecting and being in the right place at the right time. Throughout high school, I would drive from my small town up to Chicago so I could attend book signings and industry events, where I met writers who have since become my mentors and lifelong friends. There’s a lot of privilege and “luck” in being able to do that at all, but part of me knew that by sacrificing one night of the hourly wage I was making at my part-time job back then, I was planting seeds from which I may not see growth for a long time. And more simply, I was making friends and just loved being around like-minded people!

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Image Credits:

Jenna Clare Photography

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