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“Write the world we want to see”: Fulton Street hosts conversation with Stacey Abrams

by Nate Morris
fulton street stacey abrams

FILE – Stacey Abrams, a Georgia Democrat who has launched a multimillion-dollar effort to combat voter suppression, speaks at the University of New England in Portland, Maine on Jan. 22, 2020. Berkley announced Tuesday that it had acquired rights to three out-of-print novels by Abrams that she had written nearly 20 years ago under the name Selena Montgomery. Berkley, a Penguin Random House imprint, will begin reissuing the books; “Rules of Engagement,” “The Art of Desire” and “Power of Persuasion,” in 2022. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

Stacey Abrams is known nationally for her powerful work in politics.  Her run for governor catapulted her into the national spotlight in 2018 and her work mobilizing voters in the 2020 election helped to deliver both the White House and the Senate to Democrats.

But politics is not Ms. Abrams’ only passion. In a powerful conversation over Instagram Live Thursday with Fulton Street owner Onikah Asamoa-Caesar, Abrams dove into her work as a writer.

“I write because I need to tell stories,” Abrams said.

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Universal stories with Black characters

Abrams’ books intentionally include Black main characters, but she works to ensure that their race is not a central factor in their story.

“I want to write stories universal in scope but specific in identity,” she told Asamoa-Caesar.  “My Blackness is with me all the time. It doesn’t define everything I do, but it’s a core part of who I am,” Abrams said.  “I think when we’re writing thrillers and genre novels, there’s space in using race, not as a tool for the story but as an explanation for the characters.”

Abrams’ goal, as Asamoa-Caesar summed it up, is to “flip the script” in what the reader expects.

Abrams’ long journey to success and her advice to aspiring writers

Success as an author didn’t come immediately for Abrams.  She describes years of writing novels she says “nobody would even publish”.  It wasn’t until she achieved national fame that publicists began to take an interest in her.

“This book is not new,” Abrams said of her now bestselling novel “While Justice Sleeps”.  In fact it took nearly ten years for a publishing company to pick it up.

This experience and the tenacity it has built in Abrams came through when Asamoa-Caeser asked her about the advice she had for young writers.

Abrams was quick to describe herself as a writer rather than an author.

“Writers tell stories,” she said. “Authors sell books.”

“I am privileged to be able to sell some of the books that I write, but I will never allow the ability to sell a story to keep me from writing it.”

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She believes that writers, of any age and any level, have a responsibility.  “We have to tell the stories that need to be told,” Abrams said. “We have to write the world we want to see.”

“While Justice Sleeps” is available now. You can purchase your copy at Fulton Street Books and Coffee.

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