Jelisa Jay Robinson is the woman behind the faith-based writing space called Light Write — a virtual meet-up of writers who seek to worship with words.
Like many of us, Jelisa began to reconsider her priorities during the pandemic. “Every time I wrote out my list of priorities, my faith and my writing came in the top six,” says the Houston, Texas native. “I wanted a space where the two can come together.”
And Light Write was born. During these virtual writing sessions, participants are invited to write in response to prompts. These sessions also include prayer and worship music, but Jelisa strives to make Light Write a faith-based writing space that’s open to all, regardless of their beliefs.
It’s because of her commitment to cultivating community that Jelisa — a playwright, theatre teacher, wife and step mom — is the See Jane Write member of the month for November 2022.
Jelisa is hosting two Light Write sessions this month: one on Saturday, November 5 from 10 to 11:30 am CT (register here) and a special NaNoWriMo write-in edition of Light Write on Monday, November 21 from 7 to 9 pm CT. You can register here.
Read on to learn more about Jelisa and Light Write.
How did you get into writing?
I’d like to say I was born a writer, but I became a writer because my mom wouldn’t let me write crappy essays. She would always read over my work and make sure that I put in descriptive words and that my grammar was on point. I’ve journaled for as long as I can remember, but playwriting found me because college freshman me wanted to be an actress. Well, at the time nobody was casting a “thick quirky Black girl.” So I wrote the roles that I could play.
“College freshman me wanted to be an actress. Well, at the time nobody was casting a ‘thick quirky Black girl.’ So I wrote the roles that I could play.”Jelisa Jay Robinson
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on creating a journal that’s focused on inspiring and supporting Black women playwrights. If there is one thing I love more than writing (besides God, my family, and good food) it’s a journal. So I figured, why not make one?
You also have a play in development. Tell us more about that.
We Both Suck Our Teeth is a play birthed out of my conversations with my husband, who is Nigerian. I am a Black American who grew up curious about the African diaspora and often spent time learning about other cultures, particularly those in the African diaspora. My play tells the story: Igbo class is a safe space for Black students at Texas Light University. When that class becomes the backdrop of a viral video of an intense argument between Faith, a Black American senior, and Uchenna, a Nigerian American graduate student, the divide between the African community and the Black American community on campus is pushed to the forefront. In order to alleviate her campus’ issues, Dean Thompson assigns Faith and Uchenna a mandatory project that will seek to connect the members of the Black community — if only they can put aside their differences long enough to create it. In this funny, ensemble-driven love story, We Both Suck Our Teeth explores the division and unity within the African diaspora.
It’s really me getting the chance to explore, question, and learn about those connections between Black people from all over the world.
It was originally developed in the Rec Room Writers group in Houston, Texas. Additionally, grants came from Scriptworks to further support the play. Also, the whole idea was conceived in an Esurient Arts class in Houston.
Light Write Faith-Based Writing Space
When did you decide to start an online faith-based writing space?
I started Light Write in 2021. Unfortunately, it was cut short because I was dealing with my dad’s passing. I did one session that year, took a break, and resumed in January when I was in a better space. But the people that came together during that session inspired me. One of our regular members, Orael, sang; another one of my actress friends spit the most honest and beautiful monologue. Others shared their hearts and souls. I cried tears of joy after that first session.
This is why God had me to create this space; to encourage His creations to create art.
What do you hope people get out of Light Write?
It’s honestly a space where writing can be an act of worship. A space where we can be vulnerable and honest. A community. A prayer circle. A space where God can intervene. I hope people leave with encouragement, love, and peace. I hope their faith is strengthened and renewed. And I hope they get some pages done too.
Do you see writing as a spiritual act? If so, why and how do you incorporate writing into your own spiritual practices?
Writing is very much a spiritual practice. There was a part in your book Find Your Way Back where you talked about writing your prayers in a journal. That’s me. I don’t just pray to God, I write to God. I tell it all. My joys, my stresses, my questions…writing is a part of my prayer practice. I also journal in my bible. Writing notes, questions, anecdotes, questions, and all of that. I wish I could make mine look Instagram-worthy like the people who post that stuff, but mine is just between me and the Creator. So it doesn’t have to be perfect. I’m not perfect. Life is not perfect and the scribbled prayers in my cursive and print hybrid writing reflect that imperfection in my humanity.
So, yes. Just like going to church, writing is my way to connect to my faith. I also have a vision journal where I write about my vision as if it’s already happened. I pray over it. I get grateful for it. I praise about it. I thank God that it’s already done.
“Life is not perfect and the scribbled prayers in my cursive and print hybrid writing reflect that imperfection in my humanity. ”Jelisa Jay Robinson
How do you make time to write and juggle that with being a teacher and a wife?
This year I read a book by Aine Greaney, called Writer with a Day Job, and the best advice I got from it was that writing is not just something I do, but something that I have to do. I know I’m not just a writer; I wear many hats in this life. But writing is one thing that I’d do if no one paid me. It’s the one thing I continue to do (even when I have creative writer’s block) because I’m gonna journal. It’s the one thing I do without anyone prompting me. I’m a wife, a stepmom, a teacher, a daughter, a sister, a friend and so many other things. I’m grateful for it all. But at my core, I’m a writer. A storyteller. An artist.
What inspired you to join the See Jane Write Collective? What do you enjoy most about being a member?
See Jane Write was on my to-do list for quite some time. It was the amazing women that would post on the Facebook page, and I would get inspired by everyone. People would post about their accomplishments, thoughts, and questions. It just looked like a wonderful space to be. I love a good write-in, so having a built-in community for me to write with helped too. I also enjoy the diversity of age groups, cultures, and identities in this group as it helps me to see various perspectives and connect with people who are different than me but have a passion for writing!
I keep coming back because it’s a space of inspiration and makes me happy. It reminds me that I AM A WRITER, something that the day-to-day grind tends to make me forget. But See Jane Write reminds me that I am a writer. And I’m grateful for that!
Follow Jelisa on Instagram @jelisathewriter.
Who should be the next See Jane Write Member of the Month? Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org and don’t be afraid to nominate yourself! Not a member? Apply to join here.