Elle Jeffries is an author, educator, and “promoter of self-preservation.” Her debut novel “Deep Condition” is a re-imagined coming-of-age story that aims to empower women and girls alike to find the power in their healing. Here she talks all things conditioning, what it means to interrupt the trauma, and how “I Used to Love Her” by Common sparked her creative energy. Keep up with Elle via Twitter and Instagram.
Tell us a bit about your background: Who are you and where are you headed?
I am a counselor by training. I have a Master’s in school based counseling. I’ve always been a writer but it was initially a hobby that’s grown into something more meaningful. I’ve used writing as a vehicle for healing; it allows me to glean some meaning from life’s trials. It puts them in context like they are part of a larger journey. For me, it’s about intentional time with my words to make these connections.
Where I’m headed? A space where I practice what I preach; I’ve watched others tackle their dreams head on. Initially writing professionally wasn’t a dream for me but it has become one. I’ve become empowered by platforms that allow for self-publishing and self-promotion. Watching others pursue their passions for so long- Issa Rae, Christina Bright, Francheska Medina, Alex Elle- I’ve been inspired by them, and with social media, I’ve had an opportunity to witness different parts of their journeys. I decided that it was time for me to take control of my own destiny, and I’m thankful for the platform and the means to do so.
How did you start writing? How did that lead to the writing of an entire book?
I started writing poetry first- it started after I watched Brown Sugar [laughter] and actually understanding what a metaphor was. The song “I Used to Love Her” by Common and Brown Sugar were the sparks and my creative energy was born. Granted, my first poem was about clouds, but I was excited! I used to do this thing in middle school where I would write short stories in a notebook and pass it around to friends to get their feedback. In high school, I transitioned to writing online under a pseudonym. For about ten years- I wrote under the name ‘Express’. I would write for this nebulous audience that didn’t exist in a real world context for me; writing didn’t feel real for a long time.
Last year I decided to write in the light because I believed that I had stories that should be shared. I wanted to become a novelist and transition to owning my authorship.
Tell us a bit about “Deep Condition”.
The character, Nia, was conceived in 2014- one of the most tumultuous years of my young adult life. I created her as an extension of myself. I could deal with the things I was battling through her; her character was and is deeply personal to me. I wrote an initial story, “Brown Girl”, for two years between 2014 and 2016. Then I left it alone and didn’t return to it until after grad school when I restructured it. I shifted the story and started her character at an earlier age. It has three parts, and in each part, she battles a challenge that directly impacts her identity. These challenges range from police brutality to intersectionality to her own trauma and having to figure out who she is in the midst of all of it. It’s a re-imagined coming-of-age story. My “coming-of-age story” started at 18 when I moved out of my mother’s house and had to embrace the world- all of its complexities and the dark parts, too. And then having to make something shake despite that, the hard stuff.
What do you hope this book will mean for others?
For others, I hope that the bottom line is this: consider the stories that you tell yourself versus the stories you tell the world. Ask yourself, is there a gap? Is there a gap in the stories I tell myself and the stories I tell the world? Then be brave enough to fill in the gap. I want others to know that the real person who lies beneath the surface deserves as much love and value as the person you share with the world. So many of us aren’t sharing our true, authentic selves and instead, we’re sharing this very curated ‘ideal self’.
I want people to begin reconciling some of those differences. I also hope that readers consider self-preservation and self-maintenance. How are they taking care of themselves? How are they fighting generational trauma and being interrupters?
What opportunities to do you see for women/women of color/girls like you in your field and how do you intend to positively influence this arena?
There’s this idea that right now we’re in a time and space where we can be in charge of the content we make and share. We’re in a unique space, where our own narratives ‘matter’ and people are interested in who we are- the layers, the complexities, and even the mundanity of blackness. We’re in an interesting time where Black women and girls are in a space to share their stories.
How I intend to influence this arena? With the bravery it took to write a character like Nia, I hope that others will be brave enough to write stories about normal Black women and girls who deal with normal things. Everything doesn’t need to be a super tangled narrative. I hope that through my story people find simplicity good enough. Normalcy good enough. I hope I inspire women to feel empowered to write stories like this. Write stories that glorify the lion, not the hunter. Write stories about you and where you come from and be proud of that.
What message would you give millennial women of color who dare to share their passion in unexpected ways?
Something I’m still learning to accept- a dream that is not immediately achieved is a dream worth pursuing. These small deposits you make every day towards achieving your dream, they matter. You don’t have to be on anyone else’s schedule. Take the time to achieve your dream and build a brand that you can be proud of.
What can we expect from your writing moving forward? How can we be of support?
I’m super inspired by short stories – I’m a pretty brief writer. Moving forward, I’m going to challenge myself to pursue short stories and stretch myself to capture the fullness of characters with fewer words. I plan on improving my writing, submitting to platforms, more submission based work. From “Deep Condition”, I want to tap into wellness and healing through writing. I want to use this book as a center for that work.
You all providing the platform to share, providing space in the interwebs to connect with women, is the biggest support.
In the end, how do you want your story depicted? What legacy do you want to leave behind?
I’m new at this and I’m trying to figure this thing out- I never think about legacy [laughter]. But really, really being empowered to tell your stories and the stories that matter to you. I really value people and all that they go through. Falling in line with black authors, I don’t think I can say it any better than they already have- tell the stories that matter to you.
Just for Kicks
- J Cole or Kendrick?
- At this time, Kendrick. Not because his recent album is one of my favorites but because he has created some of the best music I’ve ever heard. But I do connect to J. Cole on a deeper, emotional level.
- Instagram or Twitter?
- Neither. At my core, I disdain social media. I want to be done with it so badly but I acknowledge how it’s needed to connect with people. But if I had to pick, Instagram because you can capture moments. But in my gut neither, I don’t want them.
- Brown Sugar or Love Jones?
- Oh, my God. What?! Here I am referring to Brown Sugar in this interview and not Love Jones. Both have been influential at different points of my life, but if I had to go by character, absolutely Love Jones. There are parts of Sidney Shaw in Brown Sugar I could never wrestle with and I aspire to be like her in many ways. But Nina, the older I get, the more problems I find with her. She’s not flat. And Darius Lovehall, he’s that guy. I love him and I hate him.