Sundai Johnson

SundaiJohnson.png

Sundai Johnson

Writer/Educator, Founder of the wrtng house

Los Angeles, CA

website: suhnde.com | thewrtnghouse.com
instagram: @sraejo

 

WHAT DO YOU DO?

I like to think of myself as a designer—but for words. I am a multidisciplinary creative on a journey to foster profound social impact, through writing, education, arts and culture.

In my own personal creative practice, I am writer of poetry, fiction, non-fiction and so forth. I have various intellectual and creative interests ranging from film to design and seek to remain fluid in my work.


In my relational creative practice, I conceptualize, develop, and edit, creative, professional and academic content, and provide writing support services to youth and adults through my company the wrtng house. Through editing and tutoring services I work alongside creative professionals, youth and students of life, to build the narratives around their work and promote empowerment through language. With language and writing having been so significant in my own life, using my work as a means to empower others in their identity and provide greater access through the expansive nature of storytelling, is at the center of my work.

IMG-2127.JPG
 

WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW?

What’s funny, and interesting (and recently terrifying), is that I didn’t quite take the steps to get here. I took steps for sure, but they shot me out of the cannon at a different trajectory than I anticipated. After receiving my BA in English and African American Studies from my home state and home school (University of Michigan) I went the route of education at the secondary level, and received MA.Ed from Stanford University. I then taught high school English, resigning after two years to freelance and write as a primary career. However after ten months of “the hustle”, I’m now moving in the direction of a combination of freelance and full-time, and I’m still dabbling in education. I am redefining and reimagining how I can integrate the work I seek to do as a writer with that which I wish to do as an educator, in a way that is sustainable, transformative, and establishes financial security--the sweet spot.

HOW DO YOU STAND OUT IN YOUR FIELD?

A few way. (I'm a bit longwinded)


1. I don’t believe language should be prescriptive. I think rules are made for breaking, and are important to know in order to do so. There are foundational practices, sure, but there is also so much freedom and opportunity to take risks in your writing and the telling of your narrative. I not only practice this in my own writing, but support others in doing so in a way that is the most authentic and effective. I very much believe that language is attached to our identity, and can be used as a weapon against others, or as a tool of empowerment. My work is positioned in the latter. I ask questions like: How do we BEST tell this story, in the way that is the most authentic, engaging and transparent?  Who controls the narrative? How do we get the narrative back into the hands of those being spoken about? What is most valuable for people to know?

2. The work that I do is at the intersection of arts, culture and education so every project is influenced by multiple perspectives and spheres and there is a lot of opportunity to work from various angles/disciplines within the creative industry.

3. Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration. My clients own their narrative so they are the directors and I am a resource. Together we determine the best strategy and the best way to translate their vision into content that reflects it, in its purest form. Since I’m a storyteller, love stories, and love for others to tell their stories, I have a personal investment in the work! It is never just another project or client-- we’re a team creating something really special and great for clients to showcase to the world.  

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?

Others.
Alongside my work in education, I’m continuing to work on freelance projects for clients, both independently and as a member of the Craft Circle at the Stanford d.School (Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford).

Myself.
As much as I work to streamline my creative process-- and essentially work on one project at a time-- it is that area of my life that is at the whim of an overbearing imagination and lacks the kind of order that exists in nearly every other area of my life. Thus I am currently working on: developing a collection of poetry, a really rad and incredible editorial project with a very talented and gifted creative-partner, a couple short stories and essays, and a few longer form fiction  works.

WHAT'S YOUR STYLE/PERSPECTIVE/TASTE? DO YOU HAVE A PROJECT THAT REPRESENTS THIS?

I aim to produce nuanced work that engages critical thought, promotes agency and accessibility and centers narrative--particularly through topics in arts and cultures.  My chapbook you always lose something in the move is an intimate collection of poems that encapsulates my experiences with movement and transition and is a breakout project for what I hope to be a full body of work in the years to come.  Other samples of my writing work can be found here.

WE ALL HAVE MULTIPLE SKILLS OR WORK IN VARIOUS INDUSTRIES, WHICH ONE DO YOU WISH YOU COULD FOCUS ON MORE?

Visual storytelling. Mediums like photography, film and motion graphics. These are a significant part of my inspiration and I am really interested in learning the technical skills behind crafting stories in action. Additionally, in tandem with design thinking--building more technical skills in graphic design.

WHAT IS FRUSTRATING YOU RIGHT NOW?


I tend to get a bit of “idea overload” and am parsing out which personal projects to tackle in conjunction with identifying next steps for the writing house. Struggling to land has caused me to  feel stifled in my writing and creative process, and I am daily learning the value in creating in the midst of uncertainty.

IF YOU COULD HIRE SOMEONE FOR $20/HR, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE THEM DO TO MAKE YOUR DAY EASIER?

I don’t “love” the leg work behind web design social media marketing and would love to hire a super tech/design savvy creative to re-launch and maintain the website and digital marketing for the wrtng house.

LET'S BRING OUT THE TIME MACHINE. WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU COULD HAVE TOLD YOURSELF, WHEN, AND WHY?

Take your time.
Yesterday.
No need to try and live your whole life in your 20s.

IMG-2033.JPG

IF YOU COULD TALK TO AN EXPERT TO GAIN MORE INSIGHT ON SOMETHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE ABOUT?

I would be thrilled with an opportunity to gain more insight on the "ins and outs" of the publishing industry.

WHAT KIND OF OPPORTUNITIES/PROJECTS ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

I am particularly interested in creative writing (poetry, essays fiction), or arts and culture related work, but am open to any writing, editing, and education-related projects within creative industries or within the field of education. This can range from: creative writing workshops, one-on-one writing support, curriculum development, producing and refining the content/copy on a website or blog, writing a bio, or supporting an individual in the application process for an arts residency. The opportunities are [mostly] endless.  

I am also open to: short-term full time, full-time positions as well, short/long term contract, one-time projects, and so forth.


DESCRIBE YOUR IDEAL JOB/CLIENT/COLLABORATION.

I have had the opportunity to work with some incredible individuals that are working on awesome projects and deeply appreciate this collaborative process. What I have appreciated most about these experiences, outside of the work itself of course, is the level of passion, and communication within the partnership. In my experience, open communication and clear expectations are optimal in providing an infrastructure that can support logistical changes, while providing greater room for creative freedom and exchange.

WHAT IS YOUR HOURLY RATE, RETAINER, OR SALARY RANGE? 

Rates vary based on the project, and range from hourly, to flat, to retainer--depending on the scope and scale of the work, taking into account factors such as one time status v. recurring or contract work, and so on. So please reach out!

WHO IS A CREATIVE THAT HAS HELPED YOU ELEVATE YOUR WORK?

Tarah Douglas | tarahedouglas@gmail.com | http://www.tarahdouglas.com/ | @teafortarah
Incredibly talented multi-medium artist.

Chloe Keene | chloeakeene@gmail.com | https://www.chloekeene.com/ | @chloe.keene
Brilliant Jeweler

Greg Goss | fitzgearld2@gmail.com | Work Example | @gfgoss
Skilled photographer and vibrant visual artist

HOW SHOULD SOMEONE APPROACH YOU ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER?

Email is the best way to initially reach me. After that, I love a nice phone chat and/or coffee date to get to know more about you and your project.

Details to include in an initial email:

Who you are
a brief intro! a photo! A gif! website/social media links! Whatever a client feels is a reflection of their most authentic self (as much as you can do this in an email)

What you want
Your project and scope! Is it finished? How long is it? What stage are you at? What are you looking for? What’s the sitch? Your Budget?  Details like this.

When you want it
Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines.

Questions/Concerns
What else do you need to know from/about me?

HOW DO YOU STAY CREATIVE?

Bake. Sing. Plant. Move my body.


This member profile was originally published in April 2019.