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In Conversation with Author and Alumnus Victor Yates

Jun 16, 2016
Spotlight Category: Alumni

Graduate Writing alumnus Victor Yates' ('14 MFA) debut novel, A Love Like Blood recently received the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Debut Fiction. An author and educator, here Yates describes how he first got into writing and some of the challenges along the way.  

Can you give us a brief introduction of yourself and your work? 

I enrolled in the Writing Program at Otis College to become a professional writer. And, now I consider myself to be a professional writer. Since graduating from the program, I published my thesis project, a novel titled, A Love Like Blood which was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Debut Fiction. I freelance write for three local publications and I have taught various workshops including creative writing, spoken word, and writing for film. I am most proud of a one-day workshop that I taught at USC for LGBT youth and a one week workshop I taught in Malibu for youth affected by or infected with HIV.

When did you first discover your love of writing? 

I discovered my love of writing at 14. I read a poem by Maya Angelou called The Black Family Pledge. Soon after, I started writing poetry, but later moved to newspaper writing and then creative writing.

Publishing a book is a huge goal for many writers and quite an undertaking. How did this come about, and what was the process like for you?

I worked at a library in Ann Arbor, Michigan for a while. Shortly after working there, I started working for a newspaper and then two more newspapers hired me. I did not major in English or Writing in undergrad,  I just read voraciously for the library job and the newspaper jobs. One day, the opening scene for a book came to me - no middle or ending. So my entire approach was different for starting the project and writing the book was challenging. However, thanks to the writing program, I am better prepared and my hope is that the second book project will be easier.

What advice, if any, do you have for young writers?

Read, read, and read. Write, write, and write. Edit, edit, edit, edit, and edit. Then edit more.

What are you currently reading?

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende.

How has being a part of the Otis community contributed to your practice? 

I am originally from Florida, but when I moved from Michigan back home, I could not get a writing job. A good friend lived in L.A. and I knew L.A. had a larger writing market, so I started researching writing programs. Otis’ program was a perfect match for me. I loved the curriculum, the writing workshop, and what the instructors were doing. I owe my writing career to the program, specifically the writing instructors, through them I was able to read in the ALOUD Reading Series through Central Library in downtown L.A. It is one of the most prestigious reading series in the country. I have received multiple writing workshop jobs because of Otis. Most importantly, I was able to develop my writing style. I like incorporating strange and unusual images into my writing along with sound and breath. Now, I understand the importance of community, writing workshops, and how to be part of a community. Currently, I work full-time at a trade school in Long Beach, but my  goal is to teach English Comp or Creative Writing at a community college. Because of the program, I feel prepared to do so.

Victor Yates is a graduate of the Graduate Creative Writing program at Otis College. His work has appeared in Windy City Times, Edge, and he is the winner of the Elma Stuckey Writing Award (1st place in poetry). Two of his poems were included in the anthology, “For Colored Boys,” which was edited by Keith Boykin. The anthology won the American Library Association’s Stonewall Book Award. A Love Like Blood is the winner of the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Debut Fiction and is available on Amazon. Keep up with the writings of Victor Yates by following his blog.