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

Hi Alyson, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I grew up in Newport Beach, CA and moved to Boulder, CO for High School. They were beautiful places to live and planted the seeds of a lifelong love of both the mountains and the ocean. My family was incredibly unconventional. We were a blended family and my parents divorced when I was three, but lived together, “as friends” until I was 14 to raise my 4 brothers and myself. There was an abundance of New Age Spirituality which definitely encouraged me to blaze my own path and I was fortunate enough to have my parents financial encouragement which is a huge reason I felt brave enough to pursue a creative life. At the same time, many of the grown ups in my childhood were “finding themselves” and things were chaotic. I experienced a lot of trauma. My skewed foundation has both fed and hampered my creative life. I’ve always felt the deep desire to express myself and what is meaningful to me, but at the same time I struggled with CPSTD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and believing that my ideas were worthwhile to anyone, let alone a large group of people.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?

I’m excited about so many things! I’m in the midst of finishing Issues #3 and #4 of REBURN, a comic I created and write. Our Kickstarter is planned for March and we can’t wait to share these issues with our fans. We are incredibly proud of them.

Also, Jessica Petelle, the producer and editor of REBURN, and I are developing another project with Jessica and it’s coming along nicely, it’ll be fun to share with the world soon!

I’ve been writing personal essays for the past 18 months and I’ve been fortunate enough to have thirteen essays published in outlets including: The New York Times, Ms., Hobart Pulp and Bending Genres. I’m at work on a memoir and will be participating in a memoir incubator this year with Gina Frangello and Emily Rapp Black, writers I deeply admire.

What pathways did you take to get here?

I’ve gotten here through a variety of pathways. Education was my first step, I received a degree in Theatre and Creative Writing form Northwestern University and then my MFA in Cinematic Arts from USC. I enjoyed academia and these felt like logical and honestly, safe steps for me to take. School felt like the easy part. And then what?

When I graduated from USC I went on to become an assistant and eventually a TV producer, while writing my own screenplays and hustling to get repped. I made an indie film, EVE OF UNDERSTANDING that did very well on the festival circuit but it didn’t result in representation and that was incredibly disappointing.

I continued writing until I had my first child and then I stepped away from it, with some relief, to become a stay at home mom. During those early years, enjoying the anonymity of motherhood, I realized that the trauma from my childhood combined with subsequent trauma, left me with nothing in the tank. I felt like I had nothing to say and no one cared.

During that time, both Jessica and Jen Prince (who produced EVE OF UNDERSTANDING) would casually mention, “Hey, if you do write anything, I’d love to read it.” I’d laugh and brush it off. When my second child started school, I realized I did something to say, as I believe, we all do. The big difference was that now, I was going to write what I wanted to write, not what I thought “Hollywood” or anyone else wanted to see.

Pieces of REBURN were from a script I wrote years before but I returned to it with a new perspective and when Jessica read it, she loved it. I’ve written a few other screenplays including, “The Night We Met”, that made it to the second round of the Sundance Producers Lab last year. And I’ve been writing essays in between other projects. It’s incredibly powerful to write something, see it published and share it with the world. I always have something I’m working on and these projects bring me real joy.

I think the thing I would like to tell my younger self, and really anyone who’s struggling with their creative life, is to keep creating. Find your audience. Find your people, collaborators, trusted readers and create. Practice is invaluable. Rejection is inevitable. Get comfortable with it. If you’re getting rejected, it means you’re putting yourself out there. Keep doing it, you never know what project will take you somewhere but if you keep doing it, you will make progress. Small steps forward count. And they add up.

Each of us has a story to tell, it can be a challenge figuring out the best way to tell your story. Keep the words of the poet, Maggie Smith, close to your heart and, “Keep Moving.”

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?

Like I said at the beginning I’m in love with both the ocean and the mountains so they would feature prominently into any itinerary. I love going to the beach in Marina Del Rey which is more chill and kind of off the beaten path. I also love the beach at Ocean Park, it’s super kid friendly and a nice break.

There’s really not a bad place to hike in the Santa Monica Mountains. I love Eagle Rock and if you’re feeling really ambitious start at the Santa Ynez Trail and head up to Eagle Rock from there but the hike from Trippet Ranch is great too. I also love Kenneth Hahn and the whole Park to Playa Trail.

I love to walk and talk. So we’d hike and then grab lunch in downtown Culver City or Topanga, depending on the hike. Village Well Books & Coffee is a favorite spot in Downtown Culver City.

An architecture walk around Downtown LA is also a great way to see the city, definitely stop for a snack at Grand Central Market and if you have a car grab a French Dip at Phillipe’s.

If possible a concert at the Greek or the Bowl and a walk to the Observatory. If they have kids, I love the LA Zoo and recently we had such an affordable, fun, Karate Kid reminiscent time at Sherman Oaks Castle Park.

Last but not least, HomeState is our favorite spot for breakfast tacos and we cannot talk up their flour tortillas enough. Check out any location, they have 5!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Jessica Petelle, the Producer and Editor of REBURN for the few years and our partnership has been a source of great joy and satisfaction. In fact, the collaboration with the all-female team on REBURN has been the highlight of my creative life. Elise McCall, line artist and cover artist. Hilary Jenkins, colorist and cover artist. Joamette Gil, letterer. Molly Mendoza, cover artist. Ruth Ilano, additional coloring and sensitivity reading. And Mo Atlas, Kickstarter Support and Associate Editor. What an incredible group. I’m so proud of the book we’ve put together.

Also, my friend and Producer, Jen Prince. Years ago, we produced a feature film I wrote and directed entitled Eve of Understanding and she encourages my writing, gives incredible notes and is phenomenal producer (and person!). I have the amazing good fortune of developing a project right now with both Jen and Jessica. DREAM TEAM.

And, for the past few months, I’ve been hosting a Weekly IG Live inspired by the poem “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon. Friends and writers join me and share their poem and we chat about it for 15 or so minutes. I’ve done 11 so far and I want to thank all the women who’ve joined me so far. It’s been such a source of joy.

And as far as reading goes, I’m a voracious reader. I read to escape the world and to educate myself about the world. There are so many books that have changed my life. The most recent ones are The Book of Delights by Ross Gay, Textbook Amy Krause Rosenthal by Amy Krause Rosenthal and Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke. It was a serendipitous trio of books to read together. The experience braided many of the things that have been on my mind of late and brought clarity to those very same thoughts.

I can (and will!) do little things and, yes, all those little things may add up to something larger, which is cool, but not the point. All those small steps forward, the small gestures, connections or actions, they give my life meaning, every day.

I can (and will!) pursue joy, even if what I’m doing makes sense to no one but me.

Delight is contagious, yes and loneliness is contagious too.

And the longing to connect is real, for all of us.

And so in 2022, inspired by Ross Gay, I’ve been writing a Delight and sharing it to my IG story and asking my friends to share theirs too.

And every single day I am grateful to my husband and kids cause without them, I wouldn’t be the me I am now.

Website: www.alysonshelton.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/byalysonshelton/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alysonshelton/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/byalysonshelton

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/byalysonshelton

Image Credits
Photo Credit: Cody Shelton

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