Tiny Spoon: We love insight into the creative process. Could you share what it is like for you? Do you follow any rituals or creative exercises to spark your writing process?
Safiyya Bintali: It’s hard to define a “clear process” for me, personally. Rather, I have a couple of practices that help me create various types of work. Among these is keeping a commonplace book, where I note down passages, poems, quotes, dialogue, whatever sparks something—it’s especially helpful during writer’s block. Going back to my favorite authors/artists and doing my own studies on their work also help me better ground myself in the work and, in turn, inspire me to continue my own.
One more thing: considering a theatre concept defined in Richard Schechner’s book Performance Theory, “event time”, which is defined as “…[an] activity … [that] has a set sequence and all the steps of that sequence must be completed no matter how long (or short) the elapsed clock time” (6). I’m not anti-outline or anti-structure when it comes to constructing a story, but sometimes what really works is putting saying what needs to be said at the forefront of the process rather than length, chapters, or other logistics. It’s completing the whole “steps of the sequence” (story), no matter the way you present it in the end.
Tiny Spoon: What inspired you to begin and maintain these practices?
Safiyya Bintali: Two words: they worked!
Tiny Spoon: Does your writing intersect with other creative practices?
Safiyya Bintali: I like to adapt my work or portions thereof in other mediums, usually visual art. I adapted one of my short stories into a comic before to explore the process.
Tiny Spoon: If your work was a song, what would it be?
Safiyya Bintali: Tough question! I’m not sure cumulatively, but I remember writing a story in middle school that never saw the light of day with characters based off some lyrics in Greg Laswell’s Comes and Goes. I always liked that song a lot.
Tiny Spoon: Are there any artists/ heroines/ idols/ friends who have been influential to your work?
Safiyya Bintali: So many! I’ve had some excellent creative mentors who have greatly influenced and helped me improve upon my work, for which I am grateful. My thesis chair, Dr. Chapman; my art mentor, Professor Jean Munson; my graphic novels professor, Dr. Gauthier; and my English mentor, Professor Brokaw have especially been supportive and I appreciate them so much. Throughout my high school years and still now, I was also very inspired by the animator/artist @memedokies.
Tiny Spoon: What is on your reading list this season?
Safiyya Bintali: Mainly some graphic works:
– Stretch Marks: A Psychologic Autobiography by Jean Munson
– Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison/Dave McKean
– My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Vol. 2 (hopefully!) by Emil Ferris
And some texts I want to reread or explore:
– Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
– Octavia Butler’s Patternist series
– and reread P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories—always a great time!
Tiny Spoon: Can you share your philosophy on sustaining creative communities?
Safiyya Bintali: Successful creative communities work together to ensure communication and support that builds one another up and helps one another improve. It is also not built on competition or outdoing one another, but working towards individual goals together, and encouraging one another to do so.
Tiny Spoon: What advice would you give to emerging writers?
Safiyya Bintali: Don’t throw out or delete your old work—it is a part of the journey, and honestly, it’s kind of fun reading it later, even if you question what you were thinking at the time. Oh, and take chances! It’s not easy putting your work out there, but by building up the confidence and continuing to create, you will find a way to share your work in the best way possible.
Safiyya Bintali: Also, don’t feel as if those who are already established/practicing an art are unapproachable. You will find some of the most inspiring and incredible mentors, friends, and fellow artists by reaching out. Connections like that can carry you.
Tiny Spoon: Is there anything else you would like others to know about you, your creations, or beyond?
Safiyya Bintali: Maybe a fun fact. One of the more recent additions to my commonplace book is the poem “Chess” by Rosario Castellanos. It’s very fun to imagine, but also a very thought-provoking read. Definitely worth a read!
Tiny Spoon: What projects are you working on? Can we find you at any upcoming events, etc.?
Safiyya Bintali: My YA novel, One Last Month! This is a part of my thesis, so I am excited to finish it, especially as I have been working on it for quite some time and the characters are very close to me at this point.
Safiyya Bintali: Whenever I have more time, I was thinking of adapting a short story collection I did into small comics. They surround three decades in American history, centering in on a car definitive of the decade, with the car acting as somewhat of a symbol of the “ideal” of the times and the way things really are. Writing it was fun. Now, drawing those cars…that’s another story. So, that’s on the backburner for now.
Tiny Spoon: Where can people learn more about what you do? (website, social media, etc., if you wish to share it)
Safiyya Bintali: My work can be found on my website, safiyyabintali.com
Join us for Safiyya’s workshop Art at the Intersections: Translating Between Mediums!
One piece of art can be “translated” into many mediums–from plays to poems, novel excerpts to comics, story to dance. By translating our work, we can more deeply connect with the intersections of our creative self and explore new ways to adapt our work into new forms. This 2-day workshop series will be both informative and a creative practice. We will absorb and discuss other “translations” in media, such as the poem-short story-mini film translations of “There Will Come Soft Rains” (Bradbury/Teasdale) or comic-animated film translation of “Persepolis” (Satrapi), and later explore the ways we can adapt our own work. Participants can bring pre-existing work to “translate”, or bring a fresh new script/painting/anything they wish to the table to begin their journey into inter-medium translation.