(bell rings) (jazzy music begins) - [Tara] Hi, I'm Tara M. Stringfellow.
I'm the author of "Memphis," my debut novel.
(jazzy music continues) I really wanted to write a long epic poem, a sonnet, a love letter to Memphis, to my city, to the black women living in my city.
It's a black fairytale in a way.
I really wanted to write a black love story too.
So there's all that in there.
I think it is in itself black joy.
(groovy music) - [J.T.]
It's kind of unbelievable that this is your debut.
- [Tara] This is my first time writing fiction ever.
I'd never written a short story before.
- And you're a poet?
- [Tara] Yeah.
- You're a poet by trade, you're a lawyer by trade.
- Yes, I say poet by birth.
That's my birthright.
- I just became an attorney 'cause I needed to eat food and pay for things.
- That's a very legitimate reason.
- Yeah, but going to law school did teach me how to write, I think, a lot better.
- Your dad shaped you as well?
- [Tara] Oh yeah.
- Can you tell us very quickly the story of when you were three years old and he pulled a book off the shelf that changed your life?
- It was a collection of greatest poems of all time, something like that.
And he started reading this poem.
I was three, I stopped him.
I said, "Start over."
Like what is, this is the most beautiful thing I've ever heard in my life.
And so he started over, and I stopped him again and I said, "I will be a poet.
This is for me."
And my dad pointed at the book.
He said, "Okay, well you have to write three times better because you're a black woman."
And I said, "I got that."
And so that's always been what I'm thinking of every single sentence I put down, like, is this a purely beautiful sentence?
- Tara, thank you so much for sharing your light with us today and sharing your gift.
We really appreciate it.
- Thank you so much.
This has been a delight.
- And thank you for watching "A Word on Words."
(bell rings) - [Tara] I'm really appreciative for the fact that the Marine Corps let me grow up in Okinawa, Japan, in a tropical paradise.
I was a black little girl and I could just be that, just a black little, and no one made me feel less than.