Meet Inklings Mentor Ty Chapman! Ty is a Twin Cities-based author, poet, puppeteer, and playwright of Nigerian and European descent. He is passionate about art that speaks to the Black experience in America. His recent accomplishments include being named a Loft Literary Center Mirrors and Windows fellow and publishing poetry through multiple journals. His poems made the longlist for both Button Poetry’s 2020 Chapbook Contest, and Frontier Magazine’s 2021 New Voices contest.
His debut picture book, SARAH RISING, represented by Savannah Brooks, is set to release in May 2022 through Beaming Books.
Tell us about when you first knew you were a writer.
I knew I had a passion for storytelling at a young age, though I never entertained it as an obtainable career. I often spent my time imagining fleshed-out story arcs during play and creating my own comics during class time. This developed into writing poetry and plays as a teenager, still never with the expectation that writing would become my life.
It wasn’t until I was fully grown that I learned to truly identify as a writer. I first began telling stories on a professional level as a playwright and puppeteer, though I quickly wanted my stories and perspectives to reach a wider audience. I then transitioned back to writing poetry and fiction and have made a real career for myself between the two.
This is a long-winded way of saying, while I always knew I was a writer on some level, I didn’t truly believe it until relatively recently.
What three books do you wish you had written and why?
The Tristan Strong series by Kwame Mbalia. I mean, have you read those books? They’re the perfect blend of African & African American folklore, riveting storytelling, and a distinct and humorous voice.
The Tradition by Jericho Brown. I greatly admire Jericho and each of his collections of poetry. The man is truly a genius at what he does. I can only hope to speak to the Black experience with the grace and ferocity that Jericho wields with seeming ease.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo. This book is part of the reason I’m deeply interested in crafting a verse novel of my own. Elizabeth has done an amazing job of speaking to so many societal issues without making the book about any one of them singularly. She weaves an incredible fiction about family, grief, and privilege, all while telling the story of two half-sisters living in different countries. Additionally, she does an amazing job on a craft level. She flawlessly weaves two perspectives into one story, while injecting the work with countless poetic devices and beautiful language.
What’s something you have learned while mentoring youth writers?
There’s no replacement for the imagination of a young person. Some of the greatest, most original, most imaginative pieces I’ve read have come from young people I’ve mentored in the past. Whenever I have the privilege of working with a particularly excited young writer, I find myself wishing I had gotten serious about my writing a whole lot earlier in life.
Beyond writing books, what is another way you express your creative voice?
I am also a playwright and puppeteer. These are other forms I use to tell stories, though decreasingly as my literary career has picked up. Additionally, I express myself creatively in much of what I do. I love fashion and getting creative with how I present myself to the world. I love playing basketball, video games, and board games and needing to creatively solve problems as quickly as possible. I find myself easily bored with any pursuit or pastime that doesn’t make me think critically and creatively.
What are you working on now in your own writing?
I’m currently making the leap from working on fiction and poetry separately, to weaving both skillsets into a verse novel. It’s a very new undertaking for me, but one that I am extremely excited about. At the same time, I’m doing my best to maintain my rate of picture book generation. I hope to have a total of ten published picture books within the next four years.