Photo credit: Nick Turner

The “indubitably” honest Ashley Ford

Ashley Ford - writer, blogger and speaker from Brooklyn by way of Indianapolis. Ashley is part of the Harnisch Foundation team and a former staff writer at BuzzFeed LGBT.

If you were me, interviewing you, what would you start with?

I’m always interested in what someone thinks is the most important thing they’ve done so far that same day.

And what would be the answer?

Today (March 12th 2015) the most important thing I’ve done is walk three miles for the first time since tearing my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament).

You mention on Capioca that you’re anticipating your first time leaving the country — what are your plans?

There actually isn’t a finite plan, my partner and I are still figuring that out, but it’s a priority. I don’t want to leave 2015 having never left the United States of America. I’m done with that part of my story. It’s time to expand my perspective. After this trip, we’ll plan the next one. And the next one. And so on. My wanderlust can’t be tamed any longer.

What is your story?

My story is one of rough starts, forgiveness, and luck. Lots and lots of luck. I’m not sure I can ever be grateful enough for all the luck I’ve known.

What can you see right now?

My sleeping partner’s back, two brown moles on his shoulder, and his hair curling around his ears.

What was the last thing you wrote?

I wrote an essay for a web publication called TueNight about how I want to live like I’m in my 40's while I’m actually still in my 20's. I’m surprised by how many people responded to let me know they really resonated with the piece. I thought it was just me!

Can you describe a typical day?

On a typical day I wake up earlier than I need to and scramble out of bed. I spend too much time in the bathroom, kiss my partner goodbye, then scramble out of the apartment. I take two trains to work neither of which is ever on time. I read on my commute, an hour both ways. I work straight through the day from 9:30-ish to 6:15ish. Then I either have drinks with a friend, or I come straight home for dinner. Then I either have tea and write, or have tea and read. Just know there will be tea.

You write incredibly honestly and personally, why did you start doing this?

There was a catalyst, though I can’t remember exactly what it was, but there was a moment where I realized there were all these things I was ashamed of that I hadn’t chosen. I didn’t choose to be sexually assaulted, have an incarcerated parent, or have a mental health issue. Those are just circumstances of my life, things completely out of my control. The shame I was carrying over these facts was making it near impossible for me to lead a full life. It was also terribly isolating. Shame can only thrive in darkness where it can convince you that you’re all alone, disgusting, or damaged. Bringing that shame into the light proves quickly that you’re not alone. Shame can’t survive being spoken or written. That’s why I started. I keep writing about it because I’m fascinated by it.

Which 5 Things blog post was the hardest to write?

The first one I wrote after my grandmother died. I knew I couldn’t avoid writing about her, and I didn’t really want to, but I also knew it would be difficult because she means so much to me. Technically, I should write “meant so much to me”, but no. I think about her every day. Her life has current meaning.

Do you think your writing has changed over time?

Well, I hope so! I’m always trying to be a better writer and make better art. If that’s not coming across, then I’m not doing a great job.

Whose words have had the most impact on you?

My grandmother’s words. She taught me to read, so her words set the trajectory for my life’s passion.

What is your favourite word?

I love the word “indubitably”.

What are your favourite blogs/magazines and why?

I love Real Simple magazine because it’s a beautiful, brilliant, and useful lifestyle magazine. I also love Cup of Jo, Afrobella, Gluten-Free Girl (which is never simply about food), and Roxane Gay’s tumblr blog.

What would you change about the literary scene?

More people of color with equal voice and representation, and a much greater respect for women’s writing.

If you could have dinner with any writer from history, who would it be and what would you ask them?

I would want to sit with Zora Neale Hurston, and I would ask her to tell me about the greatest love she’s ever known.

Tell us one thing we would be surprised to know about you.

I don’t like large crowds unless I’m addressing them from a stage. Being IN a large crowd absolutely frays my nerves.

Who do you believe is brave and why?

Anyone who has ever known fear and decided to be a good person anyway, or do the right thing anyway, is a brave person.

What are you creating right now and what would you love to create in the future?

Right now, my first priority is to finish my memoir, and co-edit an anthology on rape culture. But I also have a a more visual project I’m really excited about that combines stories of grief, glamour, and clothes. One day I’d like to finish the couple of screenplays I’ve been working on as well. I just want to live a life that is encouraged and sustained by art and making. I want to be a maker.

What inspired your photography and how is it going? Do you have other passions? What else do you do to escape?

I’ve always had an interest in photography, but never thought of myself as a visual artist. In the past few years I’ve been drawn to photography more and more, and this visual grief project I’ve been wanting to work on finally gave me a good reason to buy a camera. Of course, I’m obsessed with the thing now. I have a lot of interests, but the only passion I’m sure of is writing. I’m also still figuring out what it looks like for me to really “escape”. Right now, it just means doing more work!

I do enjoy long walks. I’ve never had an issue a long walk couldn’t help me process.

If you were president, what would be the first thing you would do?

Fire myself. I would be a terrible president.

You’ve finished the interview — what are you going to do now?

I’m going to take a big first step on my visual grief project, then I’m going to fly back to NYC. Thank you so much for reaching out!

Ashley and her partner, Kelly