Bryan Washington on NPT's A Word on Words

Memorial | Bryan Washington

Bryan Washington talks to host J.T. Ellison about his debut novel, MEMORIAL.

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Memorial would not have been written, it certainly would not have been published…if not for the work of queer folks in this country, really carving, not only an enclave, but reiterating and repeating that…it is queer culture but it is also culture. This is culture.” Author Bryan Washington talks to host J.T. Ellison about his debut novel Memorial on NPT’s A Word on Words.

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An Interview with Bryan Washington, Author of Memorial

With his debut novel, Bryan Washington is breaking new ground in the literary world. In this interview NPT host, J.T. Ellison discusses the book, writing inspirations, and what’s next for the young author.

J.T. Ellison: Hi Brian.

Washington: Hey!

Ellison: What an amazing moment in time, right? I’ll just jump in with that, since you were just talking off camera about how moments happen and we don’t realize they’re happening while they’re happening. Right? But this one’s different. We all know a moment is happening. We all know we’re part of history. Right?

Washington: I think that’s very much the sentiment, or it seems to be the sentiment for the overwhelming majority of us. I have a really good friend who’s convinced that it’s one thing to read about an incredible moment, but an entirely different thing to actually find yourself a part of that moment. Perhaps it’s incredible in a way that takes some adjusting to. But yeah, that seems to be a shared understanding that we are in the midst of a painful change, much of it needed and timely and all of it, but you know, a bit frantic.

Ellison: Very frantic. Yeah. I mean everywhere you turn something is happening, isn’t it? It is amazing. We’ll look back on this and be very… I don’t know. I don’t know what it’s going to be like in 10 years, when we look back on this, but hopefully, you know, it will not be all bad.

Washington: Hopefully. You know, one can hope! I don’t know that it’s been laid out as a massive, positive change in the cards, but one can hope. And I think that you have to hope, you know?

Ellison: Absolutely. So on, onto MEMORIAL! Let’s talk about your book. I just want to say congratulations on an absolutely brilliant novel. It’s fantastic. The reception for this book has been remarkable. Well-deserved. How has your life changed this year? The year that changed everything for everyone, but on top of that, how has this book changed your life?

Washington: I think more immediately, not very much, because we’re all still in the shared quarantine, pandemic safe. So any sort of tangible changes, those that require travel or getting to meet folks that thought about the book, or folks that want to talk about the book has been put on hold indefinitely. So in that regard, my routine and my daily revolutions are very much the same.

But it’s been really exciting and a really warm feeling that folks have taken to it, especially given that, you know, I wrote it as I try to write most of the things that I do, with my friends in mind and with myself in mind, the sort of thing that I want to read, the sort of thing that they might want to read. So to see it reach an audience that has far exceeded whatever I could have expected has been really lovely.

Ellison: That’s incredible. Tell us about MEMORIAL.

So MEMORIAL is a love story. It’s a queer love story. I’ve been calling it a queer dramedy and I said it once accidentally and it’s defaulted. So I kept repeating it. My editor has been calling it a rom com with teeth, which I quite like. And, you know, I throw that in every now and again.

But it’s largely a story about some folks trying to figure out what it means to be okay. Collectively and also okay as a person, as an individual. A young man who is queer and black is in love with another young man who is queer and Japanese American. They are in the midst of going through some things in their relationship, the way that people go through things, and one of their mothers has come to help them through that thing.

Ellison: It started as a short story, right?

Washington: Yes.

Ellison: You’re a celebrated short story writer. So I’m curious about how you took it from short story to novel.

Washington: I think it really began with the sort of questions that surrounded that particular short story. It was a less than 3000 word, quick thing that I wrote for a friend’s zine for no money. And I was in the midst of writing what I thought would be the followup project at the time. It was going very poorly in the way that projects do when you don’t really care about them, or you’re writing something that you feel that you’re meant to write. But I kept returning to and thinking about the thematic and structural questions that the short version of MEMORIAL had presented, about home, about family, about the different forms the relationship can take, and the creases in between those relationships. After complaining to my friends about it for a long enough period, they convinced me that it might be something worth working on in earnest. And my agent said the same, and my editor said the same. And that’s really [when I] put my head down and started working through the draft over the course of three years. And about 11 drafts.

Ellison: What part of the book was the short story?

Washington: The entire arc really, [in] a lot of ways the short story was just like, all of it. Sans the ending. It was nice to have a skeleton in a lot of ways, but I knew that when I decided that it would be a longer project, or at least something that I wanted to try and see through, that I would need both Ben, who’s one of the major characters and also Mike, who’s one of the other major characters, both of their voices, in order for it to work, because I felt it important in telling the story about the relationship and the way in which that relationship changed to have both sides and as many angles as possible within that particular relationship.

Ellison: I’m glad you did, because I agree. I think it really did flesh it out. I loved when it switched to Mike and it’s like, Oh, okay, here we get another perspective on the same story, but it’s a completely different story. It was really, really well done.

When the covers are closed and the story’s finished, what do you want the reader to take away from this?

Washington: That’s a really great question, I think the idea that many different things can be true simultaneously, and that one thing’s being true doesn’t negate the importance or the significance of another thing’s being true, is something that surfaced clearer and clearer over the course of my editing the draft, and something that was really important to me when it came time to look at it from afar, you know? As I’ve gotten more and more distance from the finished product of it, because, you know, I finished writing it at the end of last year, my editor and I finished final edits at the beginning of this year, this spring, so that’s something that’s really stood out to me. But at the same time, it was really important to me not to write a book that was prescriptive about any particular being or person or a way of being, but one in which characters and people perhaps writ large were allowed to change and to make mistakes and to find one another after they changed and after they made those mistakes.

Ellison: Well, the themes of acceptance and forgiveness and finding love again, not just between Mike and Benson, but between them and their families, and Mike and his father and Benson and his father, and their mothers…on the whole that they are able to do this. But it’s also a story about the silences between the silences, and the things that can’t be said, or that we swallow back. Was there ever a moment when you had to fill in the silence or you had to pull them back so that they wouldn’t respond?

Washington: Yes. So a lot of the actual writing process for me is overwriting and then turning around and figuring out what within the scene actually needs to be there and what the reader themselves can bring to the scene. Because it’s always really interesting to me, just as a reader and as a consumer of narrative, is when there’s a symbiotic relationship between the facts and the person that’s partaking in the text, because you can take that with you, right? Your relationship with the book is something you can move along with as, you know, make, make yourself learn, make your way through life I suppose, like long after you turned the final page and long after you’ve read the final words.

So after I wrote what happened in each of those scenes, and also what happened prior to the scene, and also what happened in the aftermath of that scene and the creases in the conversations between each of the characters, I went back and I edited it accordingly to figure out where those natural silences may have resided in the way that silence can exist when we’re interacting with loved ones, with strangers, with acquaintances or folks who were in that sort of transitory period between acquaintance to loved one, or vice versa even, and to structure those conversations and those interactions in a way so that the silences weren’t simply dead space, right?

Because I don’t think that silence is like… it’s another mode of communication. And when words didn’t work between each of the characters, what became important to me was trying to figure out––how do the characters seek to connect with one another, right? Like Mike and Ben, for example, I didn’t want it to be a narrative in which it was doubted that they love one another or doubted that they want to connect with one another, because they do.

But the question became how they did that and how it would change over the course of their learning new things about one another, over the course of their accumulating new experiences, apart from one another and also together. And if there would still be acceptance, once they each realized what the other needed. And in order to do that, I had to know what they were thinking at all times and what they were feeling at all times, but the reader didn’t necessarily need to know that. So really being strategic about editing was helpful, when it came to figuring out when silences needed to be placed throughout the book.

Ellison: So it’s interesting that you say that, because silences in our relationship is something I equate to a much more mature relationship. You know, the longer you’re with somebody, the more comfortable those silences are, and Ben’s and Mike’s silences don’t feel comfortable to me. They love each other so much, but… one of the weird bits of relationship advice I got early on is you’re never going to be as in love with each other at the same time as the other is. That is exactly what I felt like was going on here. It’s not that they aren’t in love with each other. They’re just in different stages of “in love” with each other at different times, which is a very natural thing. But I think for both of them, they were having a hard time figuring that out. Is that right?

Washington: I think it’s fair. You know… and that’s an interesting piece of advice that I’ve never heard. And now I’m going to have to think about all the rest of my life, but no, I think it’s fair. And I think a lot of their respective arcs is of them changing as people so that the iteration of themselves that they are ultimately left with at the end of the book is very different from the one in which we found them at the beginning of the book. And the question becomes, can Mike and Ben respectively have love for one another in these truer iterations of themselves, that they are more comfortable with iterations of themselves that they perhaps needed to become. And how is that love different than what they originally had at the book’s outset? And what does it mean if that love necessitates them having to give one another distance, right? Or is it something that can be reconciled, or is it something in which the relationship simply changes form? And is that something that they can deal with or not?

Those are all questions that were circling around me, but it was still important for me not to give answers generally or specifically, and certainly not important to me to deem one behavior, in other words, good or bad, because something that was also really interesting to me was the question of what happens when something…for Mike, for example, that would be thought of as good is not good for Mike… what if the bad thing is in fact good for Mike or Ben. And is it still a bad thing if that’s the case? And if the folks around them are able to reconcile with the fact that it’s a necessary thing for either one of them. So really trying to be open to allow the characters to change and also their love to change.

Well, that’s a really interesting way of thinking through it. I’m gonna have to think about that for a while.

Ellison: I’ve been with my husband for 28 years and it’s really great advice, it truly is. There are just moments where one of you is more in love than the other. It’s fascinating when you look at it like that.  It was great advice. It was really great advice.

Do you think their story’s done?

Washington: If you’d asked me a year ago, I’d have said, yeah. Now that I’m writing the television show, I feel like I have to not answer that, you know? What I think that a fair answer to that would be, is there are series of questions that I began the novel with and I’m still interested in those questions. So the degree to which that changes forms and the degree to which it continues to extend itself is an open answer for me. But I haven’t experienced that before with a narrative. Whereas with my last book LAW, once I finished it, it was done. Like there was no chance of continuing on with those characters, partly because they didn’t need me to. And partly because I answered enough of the questions that surrounded those narratives, that I was comfortable with where I left them.

Whereas with MEMORIAL, these questions of home, these questions of family and found family and connection, I think are questions that, you know, I can continue to prod and play with and see what they reveal and their various capacities. Although whether it’s in a continuation of the interaction that they currently exist in or not, I don’t know.

Ellison: Well, that’s a testament to what you’ve done with the story that you’ve got themes that are going to be big enough that they are going to carry on into other work. That’s great. That’s what we want. Right?

Washington: Yeah, it’s what you’re ultimately writing to hear. I mean, at the same time, I think I’m finding that I’m someone who’s really only interested in four or five different things and much of the battle for me craft wise is trying to figure out how to extrapolate those four or five things into different narratives and not to answer those questions from different angles that are still interesting to me.

Ellison: Oh, that you’ve figured that out this early,  good for you.

Washington: For better or worse.

Ellison: You mentioned the TV show, so that’s a perfect segue. I was just a few pages in, and I’m like, oh my gosh, this would be amazing episodically. And then I was doing the research, and saw about the show. I was like, oh, awesome! And you’re adapting. How is it different writing for a television audience versus reading audience?

Washington: The more immediate difference is that you’re working with a team and I’m working with a team, whereas with MEMORIAL, the short of story iteration, for sure, but also the novel iteration, it was largely just me, and me writing towards my whims and my curiosities in my respective concerns. And that’s not the case this time around, but it isn’t something that I say in like a pejorative sentence, because I’m really lucky to be working with [them.] We were lucky to be working with [the team.]

And I think that a lot of that luck stems from our common interests being shared and that we just want to make this sort of thing that we ourselves would watch and enjoy. And because they have been so game for the different things that I’ve thrown on the page in the very early days of the script, because we’re sort of thinking through what the shape is now or writing the pilot now, that can only be exciting. And I think that this form will allow for certain corners of the narrative that I made my way through in the midst of drafting. And I would’ve thought it could be interesting to explore. It could be interesting to linger on possible and viable to do on the screen. Right? So we can spend a little bit more time lingering in certain pockets of each of the characters, respective relationships, whether it’s between Ben and Omar, whether it’s between Mike and Ben, whether it’s between Ben and Lydia. So really having the space to do that and the opportunity to do that has been a big gift.

Ellison: Masuko and the dismembered chicken. I’ve got to touch on this. I felt like that was the moment that changed everything between her and Benson, but it changed everything for him. She moves into their house. Mike leaves. Ben even asks if she speaks English and Mike’s not happy with that comment. It was a very fish out of water moment for all of them.

And Masuko goes and changes the layout of the kitchen. And later on, Mike finds out when he’s in Japan, that Japanese put their kitchens the same way. Right? So that was really interesting to me. And I was wondering about when she changes the way the kitchen is laid out and suddenly [Benson] feels more comfortable. Can you talk a little bit about how that scene plays into the rest of the book and, and the kitchen to life in general, how important it is to feel comfortable in your kitchen and how that translates into your life?

Washington: Yeah, I mean, I think the particular scene definitely creates a concrete shift in that dynamic between Ben and Masuko, because she’s the character that I knew from the outside would be the emotional center of the novel. And she would be the heart of the novel in a lot of ways, and the book would live or die by her success on the page or not. That much was apparent to me from the outset, even if only, and because she is, you know, in the midst of this love story between these two young men Ben and Mike in linear time, they’re really not in the same place at the same time for very much of the novel, but Masuko is Mike’s mom, she’s everywhere, right? She’s in the past, she’s in the present. And then she is with Mike when they meet one another, near the conclusion.

She’s seen all these different iterations of them both, together and apart. And in a lot of ways, she has a better sense of how they are as a unit than they do themselves, because she’s just spent so much time with them. And she has all of this experience that she’s accrued both with them and on her own respective journeys. And I think it really speaks to her particular character to have her a Japanese woman who flies from Tokyo to Houston, the city that, you know, the last time she was in, she had a really rough go of, to see her son, and her son immediately tells her like, Hey, peace out, I’m leaving. Also, I don’t know when I’ll be back. And also you’ll be staying with my maybe partner in a neighborhood that you have not spent very much time in at all. Goodbye. Right?

And the first thing that she does, when she could react any number of ways, is to cook Ben a meal. The very first thing that she does the next morning to create an even keel and to create a foundation of comfort from the very outset. And she’s the character for me, who is the most astute when it comes to what the folks around her need and also what they want and also what those wants and needs metabolize into when they themselves don’t recognize it. She’s able to see that. And she is one of the two characters to me, I think, who is honest for the duration of the book in that characters aren’t constantly having to parse through eight different veils of “what’s she saying?” in order to get a sense of what she means. She just says it, and that truth is a really tricky thing to approach when you haven’t been approached by it before.

So it creates some discord between ourselves and them from the outset. But I think that they navigate that and negotiate that through your time in the kitchen and the kitchen as a narrative construct is a really useful structural tool, because it’s the one space in a home, whether it’s shared or an individual space where a character, where people pass through every single day for one reason or another, and there’s a narrative for when they pass through it. Like literally when, what time of day, there’s a narrative for who they spend time with in that particular space, right?

Like if they’re avoiding someone. There’s a reason for that. There’s a narrative there. If they’re willing to spend time with someone in that space, there’s a reason for that. There’s a narrative there. And that was something that felt really important to play with. As I was thinking about this idea is like pleasure and comfort and how Mike and Ben went about acquiring it, if they could acquire it. And for Ben, he finds the closest iteration of home that he has been privy to in this Japanese woman who is teaching him essentially how to cook from the ground up and that he begins the novel as someone who’s been mystified by the notion of scrambled eggs and ends up in a position where he’s cooking, in tandem with his partner, his partner’s favorite dish. And that’s a really big gift that I think Masuko gives him over the course of the book, because he’s able to take this new language of culinary comfort in the kitchen and to use that as a way of expressing himself, which feels especially important for a character who has a little bit of discomfort when it comes to dressing himself at the beginning of the book. And that changes over the course of the narrative, largely due to the time that he spends in the kitchen. And by way of that the time that he spends he needs to go. So I think that they’re both necessary for the movement of the novel, and it feels like a really good fodder for a story like that particular space. And what folks do when they occupy that particular space.

Ellison: No, you’re absolutely right. How did you decide what food to cook when in the book?

Washington: That’s a really interesting question. So I actually made a big chart of who cooks what, and when they cook it. And I cooked most everything, at least once, that folks cook in the book because I needed to have a sense of whether it was possible to multitask in the midst of cooking or not. Like, could you think about other things? Did you have a conversation in the midst of cooking, and also what character’s cooking comfort needed to be in order for them to accomplish a dish or not? Because there is a great food writer named John Birdsall. He’s really brilliant and someone that I admire really deeply, but he read an early version of the novel and he said that the MEMORIAL was very sneakily above about two young men who learned to love cooking Japanese food and that was like a secret and it’s one that I hold dear, because it’s one that I took quite seriously, and that there’s an arc for Ben where he’s ultimately someone who learns how to express himself and to open up to others and to learn how to speak. And he does that through food.

And then there’s an arc from Mike who is someone who ultimately learns to listen to others and how to intuit their desires, that he does that through food. So it felt really important to me to have a sense of what they were cooking when they were cooking it and how it changed with what they were feeling and what they wanted those to feel around them over the course of the novel. So a lot of lists, a lot of charts, a lot of time, just like trying to cook things.

Ellison: I’m glad to hear it because when I put food in, it’s usually what I’ve had for dinner that night. But this did feel very intentional. There was a lot of intention with this. I could tell. Speaking of, let’s talk about the setting. Let’s talk about Houston and Japan as settings. Obviously you’ve been to Japan, right?

Washington: Yeah.

Ellison: Okay. Tell me about the juxtaposition of those two very, very different places, the differences and the similarities.

Washington: Yeah. So for Houston, I grew up here, I live here. It’s a city that I think it’s like rife with narrative, but not solely because of its diversity, but largely because of its diversity and also because of its expansiveness and the many different ways that you can just sort of be and hang out here. That is really interesting to me right now. And I wonder how long it will be interesting to me, but right now it’s an interesting thing.

And for Osaka specifically, and for Japan more generally, I went to Osaka for the first time, about five years ago and it was just to visit friends. I had no intention whatsoever of writing about it, or thinking through the experience beyond just spending time there and being comfortable and going to sympto and just hanging out and eating around.

 But at some point, and you know, in that fivish-year interim, I would go back once or twice a year to see friends and to hang out, it became apparent to me at least that there is a warmth emanated within and by the city that is really palpable just by the generosity of its residents, whether its residents that were friends prior to me going and spending time, or strangers who have since become friends as a result of my getting to spend time and hang out. And that warmth feels and felt very singular. And it’s one that I have not experienced any other place except for Houston.

And as different as those two cities may look in the field, visibly, sort of at first glance, it’s the fact that they shared that warmth with one another. It was something that I thought was just really interesting. And I thought that there was a narrative there, right? Like, why did both of these places emanate this very specific singular warmth with one another? And for me, in the time that I had spent between them.

So when it came to putting them on the page and including the cities as characters in their own way, over the course of the narrative, trying to capture that warmth and what it looked like and how it felt for each of the characters as they navigate a handful of different contexts over the course of the book, felt like a challenge, but also very much the sort of book that I would want to read, the sort of thing that I’d want to spend an extended period of time thinking about. And it’s something that I’m still thinking about, which, you know, felt like it merited a novel’s worth of words.

Ellison: It did. It was fascinating. Do you have any life interests that are going to make your way into the work, the way travel and cooking do?

Washington: I’m so boring. Traveling and cooking are two of those four or five things [I like], so I wonder, maybe they will, but I don’t know. I’m pretty boring.

Ellison: I don’t think that’s the case. What brings you joy?

Washington: Being with loved ones brings me joy, right? Like, seeing folks comfortable whether with themselves or in the geographic space that they’re occupying brings me joy and the solace that I find in community and that friends and function around me have found in community in the various capacities in the way in which those communities have changed, brings me a lot of joy.

I think that’s something that’s been especially challenged over the course of the past eight months or so when our ideas of community have been put through the ringer and a lot of ways that it had to change in order to accommodate the current moment, but what’s been really reassuring in the midst of all that is the fact that folks are constantly seeking ways to connect with one another and possibly seeking ways to reestablish and recreate that sense of community.

So that has been really joyful as of late and also the way in which folks congregate around narrative from the way, especially now, narrative feels as essential and as affirming as it’s ever felt in a lot of ways. Right? And the openness and the diversity of the narratives that I feel if you’ve been privy to this year alone feels like a really special thing. Like a really cool thing.

Ellison: I agree. What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Washington: The best structural writing advice I’ve ever received is to read your work aloud. Um, the sister writer [advice], the other half, the better half, I suppose, of that writing advice would be not to write with an eye or an ear toward monetization or to the market, because the market really doesn’t know what it wants until it wants it. Um, I think that MEMORIAL is a cardinal example of that. No one was knocking down my door to read a multiculti queer slacker dramedy at the outset of my writing. It seems to have, you know, alighted whatever expectations I had for it at the outset, but really writing toward your personal interest in your personal obsessions and the things that perhaps you think are interesting only to you at least, at least my immediate experience, has yielded a result of what you find out is that no, it’s not interesting to you, many other folks are interested in that very strange thing, or they could be interested in that very strange thing, which you bring narrative to it and you give it its own life.

Ellison: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Washington: I literally saw someone tweet an answer to this like two days ago where they said that they saw themselves sautéing garlic and olive oil, and they didn’t much care for the rest of the details, I quite like that. I think I want to borrow that. I think that it’s especially difficult now to look past the next two or three weeks, you know, given the sort of immediacy of the moment and the energy that it feels like every single moment for the past while has required out of everyone, collectively and also individually. But I like to think that I will be in a place or in a position where I’m able to use whatever resources I’ve accrued, whether tangible or not, to help folks that are writing from marginalized corners, whether it’s from the marginalization of their background within this particular country, whether it’s a marginalization of the ideas that they’re trying to proffer, to have a platform and have visibility for those stories in the same way that other folks have done that for me. And they’ve been very generous and very thoughtful, in helping me a lot in various capacities. So ideally I’ll be in a position or in a place where I’m able to do that in some capacity, but I would also settle for being somewhere where I can sauteé my garlic and olive oil.

Ellison: I love that. I love that. That is the best answer ever. That’s, I mean, that’s really what matters, what really does matter. That just distills it right on down. Doesn’t it?

You mentioned the marketplace, and you’ve talked about how there was not a comp book for MEMORIAL and now MEMORIAL is a comp book. So in 10 years, I think that’s going to be something rather significant that you’ve started, something so remarkable that everybody else is going to be using it for their comp.

Washington: Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s simultaneously true that MEMORIAL would not have been written in, it certainly would not have been published and it would have not found its place within the wider marketplace, if not for the work of folks who had to really fight and challenge people in order to get their narratives told and to really expand what was allowed into the marketplace, and to really force it into the marketplace, to be quite frank. If not for the work of, queer folks in this country, whether fiction, whether memoir, whether poetry, and really carving not only an enclave, but reiterating and repeating that it isn’t queer culture but it is also culture. This is culture.

But also,  I think that insofar as there is a tangible good to a lot of the attention and to the visibility that MEMORIAL has gotten, and it seems to be getting as of late, it’s that it’s exactly, as you said, it’s now a comp, right? Like I really didn’t have a direct comp in any capacity for MEMORIAL, at least not a work written in this particular country, and now MEMORIAL will and can be a direct comp for other works I’ve already seen and already talked to people for whom Memorial will be a comp for their thing.

And that I think is something in which there’s a lot of power. Right? And not for me, but for folks who are trying to do a strange thing you’re trying to do, I think that perhaps doesn’t hit down the middle of any particular emotion or any particular answer, to be able to point to a work and say okay, this is something that was published and it achieved a certain amount of visibility and it was pointing to this particular place in the marketplace for a time. So it can be done. Right.

 And I think that in a lot of ways is one of the challenges and the goals, right? To continue to, to write things that push the boundaries of what’s allowable, allowable in the marketplace and what can ultimately exist and what ultimately is culture within the marketplace. So it is a good feeling to see very tangibly that this is a text that will be able to do that, but I’m more excited for the texts to come, not from me, but from folks [who] are working on their weird thing. And because now there are other breadcrumbs from this particular book and also litany of other books, that’ll be able to get adequate funding in order to do that.

Ellison: And we’re all going to be richer for it.

Washington: Yeah. That’s a lovely thing. Right? It only helps everyone, right? It serves the larger readership. So that it’s a good thing.

Ellison: Okay. I hate to wrap this but we need to do lightning round. You know, quick off the top of your head and then we’ll wrap. What’s your favorite food to eat?

Washington: Kimchi fried rice.

Ellison: Favorite meal to prepare

Washington: Jerk chicken.

Ellison: Oh no, now I’m hungry. I love jerk chicken. Computer or notebook?

Washington: Notebook for the aesthetic but computer, specifically Google Docs, for practicality.

Ellison: What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

Washington: I can’t possibly answer that question. Really. I’ll answer the question of, is there a book that I wish that I had read much earlier in my life and it would be On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong.

Ellison: Very good. What’s your favorite word?

Washington: Rosemary.

Ellison: Your least favorite word?

Washington: Moist

Ellison: Ditto. Observe or join in?

Washington: Join in.

Ellison: And finally, what’s next. What’s next for you?

Washington: Well, working on a script for the visual adaptation right now and also working on a handful of things, maybe one of them will be a longer project. I don’t know, but just sort of trying to give myself a little bit of grace and a little bit of time for them to become what they will ultimately become.

Ellison: That’s fantastic. Thank you so much for being here. It’s just been a joy talking to you this morning.

Washington: Yeah. Thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time.

Ellison: And thank you for watching A Word on Words. I’m JT Ellison. Keep reading.

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