Close Your Eyes Now Breathe: Digging Deep in Flose World

Author. Poet. Creative. Truth-Teller. Black, Educated and Empowered.

These are some of the words that come to mind when I think of Flose Boursiquot. A little over a month ago, I connected with Flose and we initially talked about a blog post that I had just posted earlier that day. She explained to me how well she resonated with it and the conversation went on from there. She then started telling me about her book and as an avid book reader myself, I got excited. I could tell that this was her baby, she was like a proud mother unintentionally sharing her love and admiration of her work. You could tell she was passionate about it, which spiked my curiosity.

Shortly after I got ahold of her book, Close Your Eyes, Now Breathe.

If there's one thing I had to pick out about this book that I love, it would be the honesty behind every word. Flose has a special way of making you feel what she is saying. Every book makes you think, but the visualizations of what she's sharing and what you're receiving give you a much deeper interaction level. It really makes you think of things that are important. It makes you feel spoken for. It hits home. The poems range from short to long, but each one leaves you craving for more. Flose has a unique and powerful style of delivery. What I liked most was that she touched on topics that need to be discussed. Such as feminism, sexual abuse, black empowerment, mental health, love, loss, family, and religion. Flose covers it all. Passion and activism are poured into a diverse compound of deeply rooted eloquence on every page. Her influence leaves you inspired. Her words, a breath of fresh air.

Following my conclusion of the book, I just wanted to know more. I wanted to see the woman behind the words. Her thought process and how she see's herself in this world. What she strives for, what drives her.

I made it my duty to dig deeper, on a much personal level. To see what all lead her to where she is as of present. I get inspired by women like Flose and it's always a determination booster to keep my pedestal for myself high in terms of what I want from life. Flose shows that going after what you want passionately with no withdrawals, is the first step to a life of fulfillment in your purpose.

Get to know Flose

Where were you born and raised?

F: I was born in La Vallee, Jacmel, Haiti. My family moved to Rockland County, New York, in the fall of 2000. I was eight when we emigrated so I like to say I grew up in Jacmel and New York because I have vivid memories of both upbringings.

What was your childhood like growing up?

F: My family was quite privileged in Haiti so I had an abundant childhood. I never went hungry, we had family vacations, and I even had a Disney cassette collection. However, when we moved to Rockland County we were pretty poor. I barely saw my parents. My father worked 12 hours at ALUF plastic factory and my mother spent eight hours at Burger King and the other parts of her day cleaning homes in Monsey, NY. I channeled all my energy into my schooling and sports.

Current city you live in?

F: I currently live in Delray Beach, Florida.

What do you think are common traps for aspiring writers?

F: Believing that if we are flawed we aren’t good enough, or giving up after being rejected.

What drives you personally?

F: Why

It’s the first question they ask when I say I’m a writer.
I look down at my wrist and think to say,
because words preserve my veins.

Instead, I smile and improvise to preserve the moment.

Writing is my passion. It’s the reason I haven’t channeled my pain in unhealthy ways. I’ve had to deal with demons early in my life, writing was the place I went to lay my burdens -- it’s still the place I go. The cool thing is now that I am at a better place, I can now write for creativity and not emotional survival. That’s not to say that I don’t return to writing during difficult life moments -- it’s still the best way I know how to communicate and be.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

F: What a great question! My knee-jerk thought is yes, they could, but probably not a great writer. Especially being a poet, I can’t imagine other creatives producing great work if they don’t feel -- you have to feel. But your question is if they don’t feel emotions strongly, I imagine one could still be a great writer if they feel at an average level; whatever that means, right. This question is also interesting because I have anxiety -- without medication, I’m in a constant state of fight or flight -- worry. I started taking anxiety medication for the second time just this week and I feel differently. My mind isn’t running on frantic which is new for me, but I’d like to think that I’m still able to produce great work -- we’ll find out.

A writer is also broad. I imagine poets and fiction writers need greater empathy than one who writes instruction manuals.  

I want to leave you with this James Baldwin quote: “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world. But then you read.” To match the pain of others, to create a space for them in history, I have to feel emotions -- all of them -- and there are times when I might have to feel some emotions strongly to capture the extent of their reach.

What other authors are you friends with and how do they help you become a better writer?

F: Some of my dear friends are writers, but of course I have many acquaintances and mentors who are as well. I’d like to call out one really special person and that’s Nana Adjei-Brenyah. Nana and I have known each other intimately as friends for about four years now, but we both grew up in Rockland County, New York, and were often around each other. We had mutual friends. He has helped me become a better writer because he helps me become a better human. Totally cliche, but totally true; he’s one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. Nana also works really hard at being a great writer and he’s critical of himself and others, so when I share material with him I know I’m getting the truth from someone who loves me and wants me to get better. It’s important to have someone who loves you but who also understands the craft in your corner; Nana is that for me. Nana might not know this, but I also use him as my marker. For example, he just earned a publishing deal and will have his first book out in about a year. Because Nana did it, I know it’s possible for me if I put in the work.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

F: Writing to publish was interesting. I found myself censoring and editing down the character of my pieces more than I normally would. Close Your Eyes, Now Breathe is raw as it is now. I mean, I have a piece in there about my insecurities when it comes to my excess body hair, about my childhood sexual trauma, grieving death, anxiety, etc… so it’s raw work. Even still, I wanted to make it more acceptable so my parents would be proud enough to tell their friends about the book. The distance from my family, I live in South Florida and them in New York, was necessary to publish such a vulnerable piece.

What has been the highlight of publishing your book? (ex. recognition or awards)

F: Being named one of BET’s millennial feminist poets is at the top of the list, but also selling out my first South Florida solo debut at the Arts Garage is up there. Earlier this year, I performed “March On Sister” at the Women’s March in West Palm in front of about 7,000 people so that’s for sure a highlight.

The biggest highlight has to be how the book allows me to connect with other people. When a parent comes to me and says, I am buying this book for my kid because …. it touches my heart and at times has moved me to tears. I love people; there are moments when I can be cynical but for the most part, I love abundantly. Close Your Eyes, Now Breathe has allowed me to share intimacy and friendship with thousands of people, nothing has topped that yet.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

F: So far, Close Your Eyes, Now Breathe and book two are stand alone, but who knows what the future holds.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

F: You’re just full of great questions! I feel like a fake calling Mama Day my favorite under-appreciated novel because I haven’t read it in so long, but it’s the first book that came to mind. The first and last time I heard about this Gloria Naylor classic was for an African American Literature class at Syracuse University. I remember loving the book because of Mama Day. She reminded me of old medicine women in Haiti who may be illiterate but know how to move the wind through the power of God and voodoo. Nature mystifies me so the scene with the chicken egg and moving the storm are bits of the book that I haven't forgotten. Now I have to go re-read Mama Day!

How do you balance making demands for the reader with taking care of the reader?

F: Close Your Eyes, Now Breathe demanded a lot of the reader. I’m not sure I did anything to take care of them-- maybe inserting those shorter, light-hearted pieces was the care. Book two will be a bit more balanced. 

Part of me wonders if it’s my job to take care of the reader. I think in some respect, yes, but in others, my only job is to tell the story. This is definitely a question I’m going to spend some time conversing with after this interview.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

F: Right now, I have two unpublished manuscripts that have the potential to be a book! Ha-ha. One is further along than the other.

In your opinion, what is the best way to market your books?

F: Honestly, I think social media is a great way for independent writers to market their books because it’s free, but that’s definitely an area I need help with.

How many hours a day do you write?

F: On Sundays, I write anywhere from three hours to like eight hours in intervals. During the week, maybe an hour. Since I’m actively working on a manuscript, I spend much of my time editing. That’s another way writing to publish changes my routine; less of my time is spent creating new material.

What did you edit out of this book?

F: About 130 poems. Ha-ha. I mean, I edited the stuff that I was not ready for anyone to have access to, I guess.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

F: Some of my pieces are life-inspired so I’m sure there are people out there who could identify themselves in my work, I don’t actively plant treasures though.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

F: My day job. If I could sustain myself without needing something to pay the bills, I’d write full-time and I’d keep applying to retreats, workshops, etc… I do that now, but of course, time is limited so I miss out on things.

I, myself have given some thought into publishing a book or two one day, any encouraging words for those who hope to achieve that milestone?

F: Do it. There’s no right way to publish. The traditional way might make you more money, and might get you better editors and a team who markets for you, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t publish if you want to. As much as getting a publishing deal is a goal of mine, I admire Solange and Chance The Rapper so much because both have found success as independent creatives. I want to do the same, I just can't afford to devote all my time to writing, paying editors and marketing my work at the moment.  

I say, find footing in your voice, and get a good editor and maybe some folks who would be willing to read your finished manuscript and provide feedback. I was lucky to have Dr. Diane Allerdyce edit Close Your Eyes, Now Breathe because she understood my voice but gave great feedback, look for that.

The other thing I’d suggest is that you take a writing class in the evening or on weekends. Surround yourself with writers in your genre. And if when you publish, the book doesn’t sell well, don’t give up. Keep pushing; there’s learning in failure and imperfection.

Flose words for her readers?

F: Thank you. I mean, there are people out there falling asleep with my words at the tip of their fingers -- a lot of people I’ve never met. That’s amazing. I want yall to know that I work to get better day by day. Please keep believing in me. Share my work. Leave my book somewhere random. And most importantly, chase your own passion and reach out if there’s a way that I can hold you up in the way you have done me.

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