Sunday, November 23, 2014

Steampunk Granny Interviews Kahlil Weston & Zhariya'Amani of Mad Writer Publishing


I’m here today with Kahlil and Zhäriya to learn more about their writing and what their plans are for the future. Kahlil is a writer and a publisher and he is also a member of the South Jersey Writers’ Group. Zhäriya is still in high school, but this is one talented young lady and she’s had her first book of poems published.

Marie Gilbert: “So Kahlil when did you start your writing career and what inspired you to write?”


Kahlil Weston: “I started writing back in 1997 when I started writing I started kind of raw and I didn’t know the idea I wanted to take when I wrote. I didn’t start taking my writing a little more serious until I went to prison in 1998 and during that course of time, I started writing things up. I didn’t know what style of writing I wanted to take so I did a lot of writing, hand writing for several years, but eventually I had to learn to start typing and once I learned how to type things then I said that IZZhIt'siyato start publishing  books so then I went under Author House. When I went with Author House, I signed a contract with them in 2004, but I got burned out and once I got burned out, I went through a major case of writer’s block where I didn’t write nothing at all for four years.

What kind of got me back into writing was when I was under house arrest in 2009, I had a lot of down time so I began to start writing again, but what basically got me influenced where I wanted to get my book published was...I went to a book signing for Mika Brsezinski from the Morning Joe, it was a book that she promoted called “All Things At Once.”


Marie Gilbert: “And, where was this?”

Kahlil Weston: “In Philadelphia, and I was on house arrest and it’s kind of funny.”

Marie Gilbert: “Well don’t say that on here.” Both of us are laughing.

 Kahlil Weston: “No, no, I’m not on house arrest. So I went over there and I sort of had a moment and went over there and kissed her on the cheek and I think it got me the influence because I started thinking from a writer’s perspective. If she has her book out, what’s stopping me from doing mine? So that’s when I started writing again and I wrote two books under Author House, “The Kahlil Weston Hour” and another one called “The Wes Daddy Mack Hour.”

“The Kahlil Weston Hour”, was just an introduction of me as a writer, but with “The Wes Daddy Mack Hour” I took a darker and deeper turn, a more sinister and twisted turn in that style of writing where I wanted to go. Then last year when I wanted to come out with a book called “The Young and The Westless, Author House and I had an impasse and then they decided that I had given several different revisions of the book and they canceled the project and didn’t want to have anything to do with it. So a friend of mine named Eric Jackson told me how to basically do your own publishing company and to start doing your own thing and that’s how the whole idea came up with “Mad Writer Publishing”


Kahlil points to Zhariya and continues his story. “Now what brought her into this was last year my facebook information got synched with my phone and Zhäriya's stepfather, Johnnie Thomas El, who is now my right hand on “Mad Writer Publishing”. I called him on a whim because I hadn’t seen him in a few years and Johnnie happened to mention that he heard that I had published some books. I told him that I was going to start my own publishing company and one of my goals is to bring out other writers whose last name isn’t Weston, because you know that’s my famous catchphrase. Johnnie told me that his stepdaughter did a book of poetry and I told him for her to give me the material so we could work on it. I knew I had to be serious about the whole thing.

I stayed in touch with him and Zhäriya and I periodically spoke until her material was done around Christmas time last year and we started working on the project.”

Marie Gilbert: “So starting with “The Young and the Westless” that was the first book published under The Mad Writer Publishing?”

Kahlil Weston: “Yeah that name came about from originally a chapter I wrote in “Wes Daddy Mack Hour” called, the mad writer, and when I wrote a sequel called “Mad Writers Gone Mad” and the idea was there and then when my friend Eric Jackson knew I was going to start my own publishing company and that’s when he said to me, “You call yourself the mad writer, so why don’t you come up with Mad Writer Publishing. I felt like the mad happy face fit the personality of me as a writer.”

Marie Gilbert: “What do you like better, writing or publishing?”

Kahlil Weston: “As of now, I would say more the writing than the publishing because I can get my impressions, thoughts and view out there because I consider myself a dark type of writer and I like to write sarcastically. I like to write about sinister stuff and on top of that I feel that if I have a bone to pick with somebody, I’ll write some stuff up on them; find weaknesses with them. It’s like how rappers rap. When I’m coming at somebody, I call it battle writing and what I’ll do is write a chapter where I verbally tear down somebody’s dignity to the smallest compound.”

Marie Gilbert: “But, you only do this in your stories and not to their face?”

Kahlil Weston: “No, I don’t do this to their face, but after I’m done, I’ll send it to them to let them know what I was thinking and usually I tend to humble them when I do.”


Marie Gilbert: “Did you ever have someone not get what you were trying to tell them?”

Kahlil Weston: “I think people got the message when I did it. The seed for this was planted when I got fired from a job in 2001 and some people were taking shots at me and I wrote some stuff up about them and humbled all those who went against me. The old saying is the pen is mightier than the sword and that’s where I go with that. After, when I meet an old adversary, they’re usually quiet because they were bullying you and you came back at them.”

Marie Gilbert: “Where do you get your experience for your writing? Does it come from your background?”

Kahlil Weston: “Some chapters do. I don’t talk about what went on in prison because that’s not my type of style. I like to have fun and I like sarcastic humor. I can be serious about things and I can write a parody of something tragic that happened, but that’s just part of me as a writer. It’s nothing personal, but let’s just say that something happened in America and I would take that role as a villain for example a chapter I did called (Wes Mohamed) about the sniper from D. C. and I put my spin to the whole thing and wrote about people I don’t like and taking sarcastic pot shots at them.”

Marie Gilbert: “Okay, I’ll stop here and pick up with Zhariya. When did you start writing and what is your inspiration?”


Zhäriya'Amani: “What inspired me to write was back when I was about eleven years old, me and my grandmother always went back and forth. We always had animosity between us for whatever reason there was always a strain in our relationship and it came to the point where I was always holding things in for so long that I just ended up cussing her out at one point in time. After that day happened, I wrote about four lines on Facebook and apparently they were deep. A lot of people liked it and a lot of people said that I had a talent. I wasn’t thinking about that. I was just venting. I don’t put a lot of stuff on Facebook, but when I do, people see it.

After that happened, my uncle got me a journal. It was a Mickey Mouse journal and he got it specifically for me and said, “Well, since you’re putting stuff up on there, it seems like you’re a writer. Why don’t you try to write something every day in the journal? It will help you out and you won’t’ bottle things up.” So, I started writing. It was stuff that was very light at one point and anything that I felt like doing, things I liked saying, it was goofy just dumb stuff I was writing. I started writing more started putting my experiences down, and then, I started putting down things that I wanted to say to people, but didn’t know how to say it. When I was talking to my mom there were things that I couldn’t say to her so I wrote it down because anytime you write it down, it’s going to be different than speaking it. That’s when my writing basically started.

In eighth grade, when I was thirteen and right before I turned fourteen is when I started writing more often and my uncle got me another journal and he put “Writer of the Year” on it and these were encouraging words and everybody needs that type of motivation to keep going because I’m not as self-motivated as I should be. I realized that a lot of people are like that; I need the motivation, the constant badgering, the positive badgering and the constructive criticism to keep going. That increased my writing and when I had a relationship with my ex, it increased my writing as well because I started writing my feelings out.

I’ve always been a fan of metaphors and similes and always enjoyed vocabulary reading. You know vocabulary was hard for a lot of people in my grade and age and so I never really connected to the people and stayed to myself and so I would write it out and with my friends, a lot of them were cool, but a lot of them didn’t understand where I was coming from even the people who were poetic. A lot of my friends are poetic. A lot of my friends who went through something, they come to me and talk about it, because they don’t have anyone else to talk to and even if I didn’t go through that situation; I could still relate to them, talk to them and give some advice and, this triggered more writing and made my writing deeper. It made me use images as well because a lot of people don’t understand me when I’m talking and I would have to explain myself. I don’t like explaining myself so when I write there’s a lot of imagery so they can see what I’m saying. Sometimes when I’m reading poetry, I don’t understand what they’re talking about or the concept, the plot; nothing. So, the majority of my writing is imagery.”


Marie Gilbert: “What grade are you in?”

Zhäriya'Amani: “I’m in eleventh grade.”

Marie Gilbert: “Do your teachers know that you’ve published a book?”

Zhäriya'Amani: “I think that all my teachers do right now.”

Marie Gilbert: “Are any of your teachers encouraging you with your writing?”

Zhäriya'Amani: “Yes. A lot of people are encouraging me and a lot of people stopped talking to me because of it. People just give me looks because of it. They gave me looks before, but once they heard that I published a book...well. Two of my teachers bought a book from me.”

Marie Gilbert: “Will they put your book in the school library?”

Zhäriya'Amani: “I don’t know. I didn’t do that yet because it’s been so much to do during the year with school stuff that you have to do.”

Marie Gilbert: “You should see if they will put it in the library. Okay, so you did your book of poems called “Words in My Head” would you like to write a novel or short story?”


Zhäriya'Amani: “I’m not sure. When I write stories in class they turn into poems in my head. Even if it’s not in the standard that I usually write poetry, it’s still poetry and not a novel or a story. Maybe I could but it’s not going to be the same.”

Marie Gilbert: “Did you and your grandmother make up and does she know about your writing?”

Zhäriya'Amani: “She knows about my writing, but it’s kind of confusing right now. We talk whenever I see her. I’m not disrespectful and whenever I see her we talk. I don’t have any hard feelings towards her and if she has hard feelings towards me, then that’s on her. I’m doing my part.”

Marie Gilbert: “Back to you Kahlil. Where do you see The Mad Writer Publishing Company going?”

Kahlil Weston: “I’d love to have my own building and office and I’d love to start bringing out other writers; expanding and branching out. If Johnnie and I want to start expanding, we’ll have to bring on other writers.”

Marie Gilbert: “So are you talking about an anthology?”

Kahlil Weston: “We’re discussing that right now. We’re bringing on other writers and Zhäriya is going to have other writers with poems or short stories and it’s depending how many are in this project, to see if it will be one book or two.”

Marie Gilbert: “How are you getting the news out there for people to submit?”

Kahlil Weston: “John and I spoke about this and when I joined the South Jersey Writers’ Group, we started bringing it up periodically, but as time went along and as we got people interested in the project then I started discussing it even more. Then in February, Zhäriya and I met at the African American Book Store in Camden and that’s when we had a lengthy discussion and I told her that this was her project.”

Marie Gilbert to Zhäriya: “So, it will be up to you to bring in the writers?”

Zhäriya'Amani: “Right.”

Kahlil Weston: “People will tell you that they have stuff, but when you say here is my information, call me.”

Zhäriya'Amani: “Then you don’t hear anything.”

Kahlil Weston: “You don’t hear anything because they don’t have anything to work with.”

Marie Gilbert:  “You can put a call out on your Facebook page and on your website. What type of stories are you looking for? I can put this on my blog with your information of where to submit.”

Zhäriya'Amani: “I’m looking for anything from the heart. I want it to be original. When I'm writing poems and if there’s negativity like when I’m talking about Camden. Camden is a community I live in. Camden is my community. So I have a poem called “My Community” and I talk about racial relations and anything we go through because Camden is very destructive, but I also talk about the positive outlook, like this is what we need to do and not something that we say we’ll do. We actually do it by making ourselves better because if we make ourselves better by spreading love instead of hate; we can go places. If you're writing negative stuff then it has to be followed by a positive outlook. I want you to perform it at different places and I want church people to say, “Well, hey, I like your piece.” 

You don’t have to write all your pieces like that but I want at least one of your pieces to have it and you don’t have to talk about religious things but positive things that anybody can relate to.”

Marie Gilbert: “So you’ll be taking more of a “Slices of Life” type of stories?”

Zhäriya'Amani: “Right, I want personal experiences. When I do personal experiences, no one knows what’s involved because I use metaphors or cover it up with subliminal messages so you may not know exactly what’s going on, but you get the feelings.”

Marie Gilbert: “Has your schooling helped with your writing or did you have to do it on your own?”

Zhäriya'Amani: “No, the schooling helped with my writing because I honestly did not know what a metaphor was. People would tell me and tell me, but I was confused; what is a metaphor? I knew what a simile is, so you know what I mean. English definitely helped with my vocabulary. I read all the time, but there were certain things that I learned in there and in the shops that I take up. I go to technical school and I’m taking up Allied Health and I’m going to graduate and become a health aide...some of the terms from there I incorporate into my writing and learning how to play with certain words.”


Kahlil Weston: “I’ll use this as a metaphor and you know where I said sometimes you have to go where your leads are for example, I’m the leader of my own publishing company. Well sometimes you’re a leader and sometimes you lead by following so sometimes I’ll take a back seat because she’s the one bringing in the people and so she’s the leader of this project and I’ll follow her lead and I’ll have to respect that and that’s why I’m going with the metaphor; you lead by following.”

Marie Gilbert: “Well, that is a sign of a good leader. You have to allow others to shine be it work or government.”

Kahlil Weston: “What I do with the compilation of writers that Zhariya as a Co-Publisher is bringing in is to expand the business by opening it up to other writers. That’s what I’m trying to do by going forward with Mad Writer Publishing.”

Marie Gilbert: “So if someone sends you a horror story, it wouldn’t matter.”

Kahlil Weston: “No, it doesn’t matter. I have several projects going on along with Zhäriya's and I’m working on “As the Wes Turns” a sequel to the “Young and the Wesless” or “Wes Daddy Mack Hour 2” and Johnnie Thomas El, my C. O.O is going to come out with a book also called “Garden State of Mind”. It's a health and wellness book and it’s still a work in progress.”

Marie Gilbert: “Will there be royalties for the writers who submit a story to the anthology?”

Kahlil Weston: “Yes, royalties will be involved.”

Marie Gilbert: “Would they be required to promote the book?”

Kahlil Weston: “Yes and also that is why I’m breaking it down to two different teams or books, it would help bring in the sales.”

Marie Gilbert: “Having the writers help promote the book involves a lot of book signings. Will you be doing this?”

Kahlil Weston: “We’re working on that, in fact, we have a book signing coming up for Zhäriya at the Made in Camden Store today and we’re also going to bring out books under the Made in Camden Store branch because they are trying to branch out and do more than sell tee-shirts.

Marie Gilbert: “Sounds like you’re trying to create an art and culture center with the Made in Camden store.”

Kahlil Weston: “Just like we have the South Jersey Writers’ Group, we might have the Junior South Jersey Writers’ group or Black Urban Journals’ Group in Camden.”

Zhäriya'Amani: “That’s what I’m trying to do is promote other people especially if you can write. I want to show them that there are other opportunities. My friend, Siani, just started writing a few lines to a poem and I told her to just write it down. Then we did a combined poem together and the poem is nice.

Marie Gilbert: “I’m wishing you both the best, but Zhäriya you did say that you’re interested in nursing, but what if your writing is doing better.”

Zhäriya'Amani at the Made In Camden Store
Zhäriya'Amani: “Yes, I’ve always been interested in neurosurgery and now I want to be an adolescent psychologist so nursing is just a way to get my foot into the door of medicine so when I do go to college, I can major in child psychology and a minor in nursing and I’m thinking of also taking a couple of classes in creative writing because this is something that I like to do."

Marie Gilbert: “I want to thank you both for appearing as a guest on my blog and I’m looking forward to following your progress and sharing it with my readers.


1 comment:

  1. Nice interview! Keep up the good work Kahlil and Zhariya!!