Bob here. I met Andi Cumbo-Floyd through Twitter, where she holds weekly discussion with other writers. She’s one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I’ve interacted with, and her writing reflects that. Besides her ongoing pursuit of creative nonfiction, Andi is also a teacher and editor. She recently launched a new online community for writers, and she maintains an artistic commune of sorts on her 10-acre farm in Virginia. I’m delighted to feature her on my blog.
Andi, tell me about that first magical moment when you realized you were a writer.
Oh, I think it was in graduate school for literature. My teacher, Ted Gup, suggested that I might have what it takes to be a writer, that I had a unique voice. Until that moment, I was on track to be a literature professor, but Gup’s words work me up to something I have always loved – the way words create worlds and emotions.
You ran a Kickstarter campaign for your next book, You Will Not Be Forgotten, in 2011. May I press you for an anecdote about the work you’ve done on that book to date? What’s a memorable story?
Sure, I have finished the book, and I’m shopping it to agents right now. I’d like to publish it with a traditional publisher because I’d like the additional support to share the story about these amazing people.
I think the most memorable story – that doesn’t give away the end of the book – is the one of Moses, who was “turned out” from the plantation for reasons I don’t know. I interpret the phrase “turned out” to mean he was exiled, not sold but turned away from the plantation without papers. As a slave, this meant Moses was in danger for his life and could also not find another place to live. It’s a compelling story, and a tragic one.
You recently started a new online writing community. Tell us about what services you’re offering.
The online writing community
is a place where people can come to meet other writers, get encouragement for their projects, hear about publication locations, receive critique, and get that little kick in the rear that we writers often need. In the community, people can subscribe to get weekly writing prompts, to receive monthly feedback from me, and to be a part of a monthly writing workshop with other writers. So far, we have a great group, and we’re really enjoying our time together . . . at least I am. We’d love to have other people join us.
Can you relate any success stories from your new community so far? (Small successes are also great!)
It’s been wonderful to see people set weekly writing goals, share them with our Facebook community, and then reach them. We’re seeing people meet daily and weekly writing goals, and I’ve also offered them a challenge to submit their work for publication somewhere by the end of the month. So far, several people have taken the challenge, and I’m eagerly awaiting new of publications . . . and not so eagerly waiting to commiserate with rejections.
You currently have one short book published, God’s Whisper Manifesto, which lays out the life-philosophy for you and your Virginia farm. It’s a remarkable statement of personal belief and intention. Without recounting your life’s story, can you describe one cardinal moment that led to the worldview that informs the God’s Whisper farm?
Wow, what a great question. Honestly, my first writing workshop at Antioch University’s MFA program was pivotal for my world view. I came into that room with conservative to moderate, mainstream Evangelical Christian values – a skepticism about the supernatural, a fear of homosexuality, a prudishness about sex, and a sense of myself as odd because I was “artsy.” And within minutes, I was confronted with all my own prejudices as people read about their same-sex love affairs, about their experience with ghosts in Charles Manson’s cabin, about their sexual experimentation with wind-up toys. Suddenly, I had to take the ideas about people that I had developed in my Christian life experience and reconcile them with actual human beings. It was in that moment that I began to embrace love – not the cheesy, greeting card kind but the hard, open, flexible, not so nice kind – and see my faith, which I still hold dear, as not defined by rules but by the way we embrace human beings. That workshop changed me, and I am so grateful.
To that end, how is development on the farm going?
The farm is going really well. In ten days (from this writing on September 18th), I am marrying the love of my life here on this farm. We’ve done a lot of work to get ready for this day – built a lean-to for our ceremony that will then become a concert space, installed a stone firepit, cleared trails, built a chicken coop. It’s so exciting.
After the wedding, we are considering another Kickstarter, this time to build our barn that will not only give night-time shelter to our future goats but will also become a concert and reading space for artists. Stay tuned.
How many visitors do you get at the farm every month?
Since we’re just getting started, we don’t get many folks yet . . . probably 5-10 a month. But once the barn is built, once the farmhouse becomes the guest house, once we add the cabin and the yurt, we hope to have people visiting most of the time – either to play with the goats, hang in the garden, take a meal, or sleep in the space. Plus, we want to fill that barn with folks to hear concerts or readings on most weekends.
Your two existing works are nonfiction. Do you have any plans to write a novel?
I am a creative nonfiction writer at heart. While I do, from time to time, consider writing a novel, right now, I’m pretty committed to the CNF path because I love research (which I know isn’t exclusive to nonfiction) and the way it informs our sense of the world. Plus, there’s a weightedness to nonfiction that I really appreciate much the same way I love seeing “Based on a True Story” at the beginning of a film.
Finally, what would you like to plug?
I’d love for folks to check out the God’s Whisper Farm website. We’re just getting rolling, but if people subscribe, they’ll get updates on all the happenings here – including upcoming workshops, concerts, and readings. Plus, they’ll be the first to know when the goats and chickens arrive.