Sunday, September 18, 2011


Hey, ya'll, this is Petronella Nightshade, what am Punkin, reportin again for Tales From The Monster Shop. We are gon' be gettin riled up for Halloween pretty soon, but today I am doin another segment of Writers On The Storm, what features writers from our Mad Doctor Mr. John's home territory. Today I am speakin with the very lively Miss Katrina Renee Byrd, who is based out of Jackson what is in Mississippi, and this lady is somethin right enough. She is an author, playwriter, performer, actress, and ever other kind of thing, which probly makes her one of them Renassiance folk what does a whole lot of creative things and gets up to all kind of didoes. So here is me and Miss Byrd talkin.

Welcome to the Monster Shop, Miss Katrina! Please tell my readers out there all about yourself and what you are doin.

Thanks, Punkin. I’m so glad to be here. Oooo, Grrl, I like your hair.

As a little girl growing up in Jackson, Mississippi I always knew that I would be a writer. I used to write stories as a child and teen. My first piece was titled “Tony the Turkey,” which was about Tony’s frightening moments as he sat, roasted to perfection, on the Thanksgiving table.

Several years ago I decided to actively pursue my dream of being a writer. As I became immersed in the local artist community I found I had other talents as well. I’m a writer, playwright, actress, performer and teaching artist. If I had to use only one word to describe what I do I’d use the word storyteller. As a writer and playwright I tell stories with my writing. As a performer and actor I use the stage to tell stories and as a teaching artist I share the story of how I tell stories to help others create and enhance their own stories.

I understand that you're both an author and playwriter. What inspired you to do them things?

I was born with a hereditary eye disease, congenital cataracts. I also had a wandering eye and I wore thick glasses. I was teased and bullied a lot so as a way to escape the insults I wrote stories. In these stories I was always the hero and those who treated me badly were the bad people who had to be conquered. Now, however, my inspiration to write comes from my experiences and the people that I meet.

Well, there is an awful lot of inspiration what comes from adversity. But who is your favorite author or playwriter?

I have several authors that I really love. Stephen King, Ann Patchet, Barbara Kingsolver and Erica Spindler. I love the way these authors engage the reader. When I read their books I gain a better understanding of writing as an art. For example, I read Run by Ann Patchet about three years ago and I still find myself thinking of pieces of the story over tea or when I’m knitting or working in the yard. These writers use words like an artist uses his brush. They paint vivid images by using phrasing and words.

I think I have way too many favorite playwrights to name! (laughs)

Our Mad Doctor likes that Stephen King feller too. I hear that some of your work has been performed, and I understand you're also a performer. Can you tell us about that?

I have had some of my short plays performed locally. Several were performed as a part of the Fondren Theatre Workshop’s Twenty-Four-Hour Ten-Minute Play Project. This process is amazing because the playwrights write the plays on Friday night. After the playwright brings the finished script to her team (one director and three actors) they learn lines and blocking and by Saturday night the play is performed. In addition to having a brand new piece, the writer also gets to see it performed and see how the audience accepts it.

I have also had staged readings of several of my plays. Dinsmoor’s Last Stand was read at a historical ceremony hosted by the city of Ridgeland. A staged reading of Death Rattle took place at Rainbow Co-op. The project was funded in part by an Artist Mini-grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission. There was a reading of Justice Is Blind last November during my service as the Center Players' Playwright in Residence.

I am also an actress and performer. One of my most memorable roles is Dutchess in the play HATS: The New Musical For The Rest Of Your Life, directed by Robby Scuchi. Dutchess was a 66 year old diva. The play was based on the Red Hat Society Experience. I loved the character Dutchess because she was confident, creative, full of life and she lived life to the fullest. I have been in several plays since HATS, performed for talent shows, several programs including a voice and piano recital hosted by Cynthia Stuart.

My experiences as a performer and as a writer seeing her work performed have been truly amazing. I am more nervous when I watch my plays being performed than I am when I am when I perform! (laughs) I know that’s a little weird. I am awed, however, that I am able to use all of my artistic abilities in helping others. Oftentimes my work has been a part of fundraisers for programs such as HeArts Against Aids, The Women’s Fund, Contact The Crisis Line, etc. At this point in my life I’m not able to contribute financially to these worthy organizations. It is a wonderful feeling to know that I can help by writing or performing.\

Miss Katrina, you probly got a heart as big as all outdoors to do all them things. You call yourself a "teachin artist." Can you explain what you do there?

One goal of the teaching artist, according to Eric Booth, is to create lifelong learners. A teaching artist’s job is to awaken an awareness in “culturally suppressed yearnings” in all ages and then guide this “aliveness” into artistic engagement.

As a teaching artist I share the art of story telling through arts integrated activities, telling my story and listening to
the stories of others. During my service as a teaching artist I have developed several workshops, talks and performances. Dramatist to Dramatist is a play writing workshop where participants learn principles of play writing, funding sources for serious literary artists and how to get their ideas on paper. The Story Goes On is a talk that I’ve developed for college students. During the talk I use Justice is Blind, a story that I have written in both short story form and play form, to illustrate the difference between fiction writing and play writing. The other workshop that I’ve developed is titled Story Recipe. This workshop is for children third to fifth grade (it can be modified for any grade level). In the workshop students analyze text, discuss the process of writing a story then create their own stories which are read at the end of the lesson.

This summer I had the privilege of working with young playwrights, actors and directors at the Spectrum Camp hosted by the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation in Vicksburg, MS. In one week we wrote ten minute plays, designed sets, learned lines and blocking. All of the plays were performed at the end of the camp. That was an amazing time.

Also, as part of my job as a teaching artist, I do performances. I have been invited to Sunnybrook Independent Living Facility for their Red Hatters’ Tea. So, basically I show up as Dutchess and I do a couple of Red Hat numbers. On my last visit the ladies got up and danced with me!! We had us some fun that day, YES we did!!

I swan that you did! But where can folks what wants to read it find your published work?

I have two short stories that have been published by Black Magnolias Literary Magazine. I also have a chapbook titled Justice is Blind. Justice is Blind has one of my monologues and two short stories. To place an order send an email to my email address here. I am currently working on a project titled Portrait of a Woman. It is a collage of my fiction, poetry and play writing all centered around the female experience. I received an Artist Minigrant from the Mississippi Arts Commission to do a staged reading of this piece on March 11, 2012 at Lumpkin’s BBQ in Jackson.

As I’ve grown as a writer I have also been able to learn more about me and the way the world works. As a child I always wanted to be normal. I prayed and prayed to have eyes like everyone else’s. In April of 2009 I had a surgery that straightened the right eye. In July of 2010 I had a lens implant in the right eye and in September of 2010 I had a lens implant in the left eye. It is so amazing the things I have to relearn now that I have better vision. And, of course, this makes for more interesting and humorous stories!!

Grrl, this has been fun. Thanks so much for inviting me here today.

You are so welcome, Miss Katrina, and thank you!

So that there is my interview with Miss Katrina Renee Byrd. If you are readin this postin and are on that Facebook, you can follow Miss Katrina and all her doin's right here. I got to go now, cause we got all kind of things to be doin for the upcomin season, but I shall see you soon, and blessings be on you!

Petronella "Punkin" Nightshade