“Write every day. Be uncomfortable, but intuitive.”
Coffin Bell: Introduce yourself.
Zuri McWhorter: I am a multi-disciplinary writer and artist from Detroit, MI. I studied screenwriting at Interlochen Arts Camps and literature at Michigan State University. I’ve self-published two poetry chapbooks: Woes of a Well-Lit City and Not Too Far from China. I started the Juste Milieu International Lit & Art zine in 2017. I work as a free-lance screen writing consultant.
CB: When you write, do you start with a plan and move from there, or do you generally go where the writing takes you?
ZM: Naturally, I just drift into my poetry and short fiction projects. I can be dramatic and loving with that work. Recently, I’ve had to learn how to be specific and plan things out when I write scripts and adaptations. They have to follow some sort of formula so that people in the film world can follow.
CB: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
ZM: Write every day. Be uncomfortable, but intuitive.
CB: What advice can you give on editing and revising?
ZM: Have someone else do it. Always.
CB: What publishing advice can you give?
ZM: If you can afford to, do it yourself a few times. You’ll learn the process and know when a “real publisher” is giving you your worth.
CB: Who are your influences?
ZM: Poe, Toni Morrison, Anthony Bourdain, Colette, Donald Glover, and Jordan Peele.
CB: What’s one thing you wish every journal editor knew?
ZM: If you mean about me, I don’t want editors to know anything about me. Judge me strictly on my voice. Generally speaking, if you’re “in a mood”, don’t go picking pieces. You’ll be drawn to things that resonate with you, and not necessarily that of your readers.
CB: Taphophobia is the fear of being buried alive. Tell us about your fears.
ZM: Yikes! Now I’m definitely thinking about being buried alive, which makes me think of a prolonged death. I want to die instantly or never at all. I’m also afraid that none of this is real and that art is just my brain dipping in and out of this asylum we are all in.
CB: What draws you to dark fiction?
ZM: I read A Cask of Amontillado by Poe in the eighth grade. It was the first time I really understood something on both a literary and spiritual level. I’d never seen a story so clear in my head before. I became a bit “emo” after that.
CB: How does the darkness in your piece enhance the work?
ZM: I just think that darkness is an instant human connection. That’s why there are grief groups and not happy groups. But also it can be faked. Although, I’m not quite sure what is harder: to fake happiness or to fake darkness. I try not to do either one, in my writing or in real life.
CB: How important are your surroundings when you write?
ZM: Pretty important. I will go mad if I have to listen to an isolated conversation. Though, the space I’m in can be crowded and busy, but it can’t be too loud. Things have to be passing by. And I like to be inside in front of a window. Or a mirror.
CB: Do you use any sources for your material aside from experience?
ZM: I always Google things and end up down a rabbit hole of ridiculous facts. I look at art, watch a lot of tv and movies. In my head, I am very visual, but I’m a born writer.
CB: Where can we find more of your work?
Read Zuri McWhorter’s “Bait” in issue 2.1 of Coffin Bell!