Patrick A. Howell spoke with Tori Reid about writing, catching dreams, and her forthcoming memoir, Love Yourself Through It.
“The wound is the place where the light enters you.” —Rumi
In Japan, there is an artform known as Kintsugi (金継ぎ, “golden joinery”), also known as Kintsukuroi (金繕い, “golden repair”), it is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Basically, pain or brokenness is repaired with light and excellence. The space of broken pottery is now art. Kintsugi is an apt metaphor for the pastel quilt work that is Love Yourself Through It, a debut work of nonfiction by Hollywood insider, creative producer, and emerging cultural tour de force Tori “L.A.” Reid.
Tori and I initially met at Connie Briscoe’s beta format of Craft Your Novel, an online writer’s craft workshop by The New York Times bestselling author. She left the group and after I had my first collection of poetry published, I reached out to her. Her writing is characterized by an effortless grace and a philosophical panache is hemmed in all her writing like little jewels. Her writing—self-activist craft—is reminiscent of Alice Walker’s We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For or Amy Tan’s Where the Past Begins, nonfiction opuses without any of the fuss of pity, just a wholesome pure determination to change and evolve into a poppin’ loving light.
I recall the wise words from 1993 Nobel Laureate (the greatest storyteller in a generation) Toni Morrison, that the readers in her circle were precious commodities with whom she spared no expense. As much as I can, I have tried to emulate this mantra with my own courtier of writers, editors, and poets.
(Reid family picture shot by stranger)
Love Yourself Through It (LYTI) promises to be a brash harbinger of a new culture beyond the old tropes of the feminist movement, beyond the flimsiness of #TimesUp and #MeToo and the authentic self that is the hallmark of innovators. LYTI touches base on the 30-year-old crime of a rape at a historically black university and the self-sabotage, self-care, tribulation, and eventual ascension of the human spirit. It also deals with the illusion of the Hollywood myth from a second-generation insider; being at the center of that solstice of artificial manmade light of that particular industrial complex. It makes light of density.
In two recent appearances—the Pasadena Literary Festival panel discussion (Black Memoirists in Los Angeles) and on the pilot for your podcast, Simply, Tori!, you said something about “dream catchers.” Specifically, you mentioned that you come from a family of “dream catchers.” Talk about what that means to you and your family. What is the difference between a dreamer and a dream catcher?
My family dreams big.
But more importantly, we take the necessary steps to bring our dreams to fruition. That’s the difference between a dreamer and a dream catcher.
A dreamer can dream endlessly but never fulfill their aspirations and desires. The key is to venture beyond any limits to catch the dream. And that’s what we do. For example, my father built the second Black-owned, full-service movie studio. Ever. The first was the great pioneer Oscar Michaux exactly one hundred years ago. We believe in hard work, and take the necessary steps to accomplish the dream, whether it’s taking risks, sacrificing time or money, seeking wisdom and direction, or using available resources. I come from a family of warriors. We go for it, no matter what. And to me, one succeeds when he or she fulfills their dream.
My family of dream catchers dream the big dreams. Catching dreams is everything.
You’ve been working on your memoir for just about a decade. Speaking with literary agents in NYC, Atlanta, and across the nation, you seem on the cusp of a breakthrough in the literary world. What is the secret to literary success according to the Tori “L.A.” Reid bible?
For me, the secret to literary success begins with having a well-written and effective book proposal. Now, this may take weeks, maybe even months, to write and rewrite, and perfect, but once you do, you’ve harnessed gold. It took many months for me to reach the gold. A few more to shine it. But if only the process ended there. At, nonfiction proposal—you’re just getting started!
The next secret is developing solid genuine relationships with agents and small publishers. For this, you really must not focus on getting the book deal, but really paying attention to the person on the other end of the email or phone. “Listen” is a verb. This is tricky because, of course, you’re in sales mode. Your only priority is to convince someone that you have the next best thing for bookshelves around the world. But I found during the pitch, there actually was a spirit listening and maybe even hoping that you blow their mind. And so, you do your best, but you also get to know the person you’re dealing with. “Applying” is a perfect present verb.
Persistence is key. Rejection never feels pleasant (it can be painful), and my patience was tested a time or two. But what fueled the process was reminding myself why I wanted to write my book in the first place. To heal. To help. For me, it was to write something that I needed during a time in my life that I also believed would help other women to know that, they too, are “enough” no matter what. Something comforting, candid, and truthful at the core. And you will have to remember your reason to keep you going. Trust me, it works.
You recently began work on your podcast, Simply, Tori! Can you talk a little about that venture?
I think of Simply, Tori! as a deep dive conversational podcast of all the things I love and am challenged with, and ultimately what it means to become your ultimate self. From relationships to staying in your light to sexual assault to the art of becoming unstuck, I explore all these topics with vibrancy and love. These open-minded talks are with people who inspire me, those who I love, and there are some celebrities throughout as well.
Why do you love writing? How long have you been writing and what do you love most about it?
Writing has always been my air. Winning my stratosphere.
I express myself better on the page. I love writing because it affords me the opportunity to express my dreams, my fears, my thoughts, and my journey. My hopeful belief is that women understand that they are capable, significant, powerful, and, ultimately, worthy. This is something that is all at once simple and profound.
I love the self-discovery that happens during the writing process. For example, during a UCLA writing course, my insightful instructor asked the question, “What is the wound that drives your life?” She explained, when one discovers the answer, all the questions and doubts would disappear and what was left was your driving force. Writing the answer to that question became a defining moment.
Writing began as therapy for me in adulthood. As a child, it was my favorite way to let my imagination run free. When I should have been on some doctor’s couch, I would open my journal, and it would listen. Comfort. Support whatever was on my mind and challenge me to do better. Be better. And through writing, I’m able to do just that.
What was your first publication(s)? How old were you? What was the title of the book? What was the book about?
Ah, yes, my first “publication” or story I told on the page was called, “Tori and the Bubble Factory.” I still have it, as well as the several that followed. My writing improved the more I wrote, and the stories became more interesting and original. I was nine years old when I wrote and illustrated what I thought then could be a bestseller. Insert laughter here. It was about a little girl who stumbled into a bubble factory and because she was so sweet, she could live there with her mother.
(Photography by Bobby Holland/MPTV © used with permission)
Love Yourself Though It is the debut nonfiction by Tori Reid, the Hollywood producer and scion of a Hollywood family.