We had the good fortune of connecting with Sienna Thompson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sienna, is there something you believe many others might not?
When pursuing creative writing, one of the most common phrases you’ll encounter is “write what you know.” Although I don’t disagree with this sentiment entirely, I think that the usual interpretation of that phrase is not helpful for aspiring writers. The fact is that everyone who writes fiction, poetry, or any kind of creative prose will inevitably write from their own experiences, outward or emotional, whether they set out with that intention or not. I think a more helpful piece of advice to give writers would be to say that you can only write what you know, so when you set out to depict experiences and identities that are not your own, make sure you examine your own perspective and biases. Do the necessary research and thoughtful consideration to write the unfamiliar in an authentic, personal, and most importantly non-damaging manner.
Please tell us more about your career. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
As a queer woman of faith, raised in a Christian household and remaining Christian today despite an overhaul of so many of my other beliefs, I have a very specific perspective which comes through in my writing. I have long been a lover of character and emotion-driven storytelling, and novels that really explore a person’s thoughts and feelings and their very individualized viewpoint of the world and their experiences. I cannot speak for all queer Christians or queer people of faith, but for me personally, the journey to accepting myself and the presence of God in my life has given me a unique perspective on love, sacrifice, anger, and life in general. My stories nowadays are all centered around queer characters, and those characters’ relationships to themselves, each other, their understanding of purpose and existence, all stem from my own personal journey. I only hope that in reading my stories, people will feel understood, loved, and sure that they are not alone.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would love to take my best friend to the Backbone Trailhead at Latigo Canyon Road, or really to any number of those gorgeous hiking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains; the Woolsey fire a few years back did so much damage, but the resilience of nature is incredible and the way new plants bloom in the wake of disasters like that is stupendous to witness. I might also take them to one my favorite stores that my friends and I used to love in high school, Aahs!, or thrift shopping at Out of the Closet (there are so many great thrift stores in LA, but you can’t beat that one for name alone.) I would also, of course, take them to some of my favorite bookstores, probably the iconic The Last Bookstore with its gorgeous book arch and The Iliad Bookshop in North Hollywood which is such a great place to disappear and read for a while, as cats wander around. I love the California Science Center and all its interactive exhibits just as much today as I did when I was a kid, so I would definitely take my best friend there, and if I could pick anywhere to eat, I would have to go with Lily’s Cafe in Malibu, you can’t beat their burritos. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Geneva Zane is one of my favorite people and one of my favorite living writers; her book Stringbean and the Grace of Dog, and her writing in general, have been very influential in my development as a person and as a writer. She has a command of language and emotion that is impressive and humbling to behold. When I read her writing I feel a confidence to be braver and more honest in my own life and my own storytelling.
Chelsea Thompson (photo of me), Sienna Thompson (all other photos.)