We had the good fortune of connecting with Amanda Fletcher and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Amanda, how does your business help the community?
Tell me a story, Manda. Every kid I know has demanded this of me at some point. And let’s be honest, every adult, too. Because storytelling is the foundation of human existence. It’s how we make sense of ourselves, other people, and the world around us. Stories make up our past our present and our future–they are the context for our lives. Think about who you would be if you had never heard a story. It’s impossible to conceive. The Emerging Voices Fellowship (EV) has been providing a stage for underrepresented writers to tell their stories on since 1996. So? Why is that important? Why do these stories matter? Because all of our stories matter. And the sad fact is, we live in a society founded on principles that have prioritized certain stories over others for hundreds of years. The result has been a very narrow understanding of what is good and right and normal, effectively telling the rest of us–anyone who falls outside of those boundaries–to go fuck ourselves. Because we are wrong, or less than, or not worthy. That we should be ashamed of who we are or where we came from or how we show up in the world. Emerging Voices attempts to blow the lid off of this bullshit by prioritizing the stories of people who don’t fit the mold, especially BIPOC and immigrants and kids of immigrants and the LGBTQI+ community and women. All ages and ethnicities and religions and gender identities and experiences and anything that shows up in your life to make you feel small or unsafe. It is imperative that we see ourselves in stories. It justifies our existence, makes us feel less alone, makes us feel seen. Conversely, we have to read stories by people who are nothing like us in order to understand our differences but also to recognize the common themes that connect us as humans. Reading is a way into understanding. A cornerstone of empathy. And yeah, we can read academic texts and studies, and we absolutely should, don’t get me wrong. But I am the first to say that statistics can be static, meaning “lacking in movement, action, or change, especially in a way viewed as undesirable or uninteresting” but a poem, a poem is something else entirely. A poem can reorganize your reality. A short story can crack you open. An essay can be proof. That is the kind of alchemy Emerging Voices is capable of.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
So many terrible things have happened in my life that I feel bad for people having to hear about them. It’s a lot to process. And it kept me mired in my own suffering for a very, very long time. I am most proud of the fact that I continue to find my way through and I’m learning how to center the experiences of others instead of my own. That’s a huge deal for me–I mean I wrote AN ENTIRE BOOK ABOUT MYSELF.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Dude. I do this every year with my best high-school friend (hey, Jennie!), we call it Amandifer20-whatever the year is. Okay, highlights have been the Hollywood Bowl, either during the day to run the stairs or for whatever concert. The venue itself is the experience. And the museum is super cool, too! The Beachwood Canyon Secret Stair hike (with a detour to see the Wolf’s Lair and take a lap around Lake Hollywood) before matcha pancakes at Bea Bea’s in Burbank, but take Laurel Canyon to get there. The best things for out of towners are the things we just do every day. We always rent bikes in Venice because I lived there for years and still consider it home (even though I just can’t with how douchey it is now) and a stop at Tacos Leo for al pastor. Other highlights have been kayaking in the Channel Islands (we had a Groupon!) and spending the night at The Blue Iguana in Ojai. Oh, and if Natashia Deón is hosting an event in the Release Reading Series, we will be the first ones in line at The Virgil!

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I hesitate to call out names because there are hundreds of people I love and admire in the Emerging Voices network–156 Fellows, but also their mentors and masterclass instructors and specialty workshop leaders and author evening hosts and photographers and caterers and musicians (hey there Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles!) AND last but not ever least, our LA County Arts Commission Interns! I mean, it sucks to not be mentioned. Let’s just say I am consistently in awe of the work Natashia Deón, Bridgette Bianca, F. Douglas Brown, Ashaki M. Jackson, Lynne Thompson, Chris L. Terry, Shonda Buchanan and (take a breath) Jubi Arriola-Headley are doing. BUY THEIR BOOKS!

Website: https://www.amandafletcher.me/ AND https://pen.org/emerging-voices-fellowship/
Instagram: @theamandafletcher
Twitter: @pen_ev
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/evpenamerica/

Image Credits
Khalid F. Melina Mae Castorillo Wes Kriesel Casey Curry

Nominate someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.