Shauna Barbosa was one of the first people I met when I made my cross-country move to Los Angeles. We connected over our East Coast roots, love of writing, and being the first to hit the dance floor. Little did I know, I was building a friendship with a writer so talented that Kendrick Lamar, said of her book debut, Cape Verdean Blues: “These words feel like experiences. Some are personal, most are enlightening, but all connect. Connect on higher Level. A spiritual level.” Shauna’s work is much like her everyday persona relatable, introspective, and full of life.
I chatted with Shauna about her early writing influences, growing up in Boston with Cape Verde roots, and what it’s like to share her art with the world.
What was your first job and how did you land it?
When I was 15, I landed two jobs at the same time. One was a Domestic Violence Peer Leader for an organization dedicated to bettering the lives of women affected by domestic violence. After completing extensive training, I’d go around to shelters, schools, hospitals and after-school programs to give workshops on the cycle of violence. It’s still the most rewarding work I’ve done to date. The other job was as a cashier at an independent record store where I learned a great deal about the music industry and had the opportunity to combine my love of writing and music.
In high school, you had the opportunity to interview famous musicians for your school paper. How do you think having that real-world experience as a young adult affected you as a writer and poet?
I was 14 or 15 when I started interviewing musicians. Being able to talk to artists who were living their dreams made my own dreams feel tangible. By 17, I moved to New York City for undergrad. I was fearless. I was ready for anything. I wanted everything, and I knew it was possible.
By 17, I moved to New York City for undergrad. I was fearless. I was ready for anything. I wanted everything, and I knew it was possible.
You were born and raised in Boston, with a Cape Verdean father. How did each place impact your growth as a woman, creative, and writer?
Cape Verdean culture has taught me about family values. In both my connection and disconnection to it, I’ve learned and am still learning to live selflessly. As a writer, I’ve learned to navigate my own identity through both English and Cape Verdean Kriolu. Surprisingly, Boston’s segregation — its forever black and white issue —kept my eyes on my own people. I’ve always been interested in what makes black people get up every morning. I don’t know all reasons, but I’ve been lucky to discover some. As a woman, I wake up to make sense of our strength, to celebrate it, to document it.
How did you know you were ready to share your work with the world with the release of your book Cape Verdean Blues?
I’m going to guess that parents are never really ready to send their kids out into the world? That first day, putting them on the bus or dropping them off?! Gone with the wind. I can’t say that I was ready, but the book was.
What advice would you give to young women that want to publish a book? I imagine the process would be challenging.
Let the rejections roll in and roll off. If they don’t get it now, they will. Keep patient and keep going.
I’ve always been interested in what makes black people get up every morning. I don’t know all reasons, but I’ve been lucky to discover some. As a woman, I wake up to make sense of our strength, to celebrate it, to document it.
There is a certain level of transparency that comes with sharing intimate work like poetry. Does that scare you, or do you find it to be cathartic?
A quote from poet Hera Lindsay Bird, “Not all of my life makes it into my poems, but all of my poems are about my life.” Yes, yes, yes. I work things out before I work them into a poem. That can mean with friends, therapy, time. By the time I’m writing a poem, I’m chasing the high of storytelling, attempting to trap true essence. No fear, but always feelings.
You and I met shortly after we both moved from the East Coast to Los Angeles. How has the cross-country move impacted your creativity?
I can’t say for certain that LA has had an impact on my creativity just yet. What has been amazing is the support I’ve received in the past year. From you, readers, and the LA literary scene — everyone’s been so damn good to me. I’ve had more readings in LA than I’ve had in my hometown of Boston. Because LA has been so welcoming, I try not to be too critical about how it is impossible to walk anywhere.
Did you encounter any roadblocks when you were gearing up to for your first book release? If so, what helped you make it over those hurdles?
Other than dealing with a few difficult folks, it was pretty smooth. I put a lot of energy into this project. When I was spent, others put their energy into it. Everything I share, I like to share as a gift. I could not fathom anything or anyone getting in the way of this precious wrapping.
I had a chance to hear you read a few poems from Cape Verdean Blues, and I was moved to tears. I still can’t pick out my favorite just yet, but do you have a favorite?
Wow, thank you. “Welcome Back” is a lot of fun to read. But “Strology, Taurus” is my baby. It’s essentially about returning to yourself even when you can’t see yourself.
What does a typical day look like for you as a writer?
Lately, it’s been two-three hour walks in the morning. A lot of thinking goes down. Ideas translating into images, images breaking away from themselves. When I arrive back home, I usually spend a couple of hours doing admin (sending emails, submitting poems, etc.). I don’t write every day. I keep images in mind and jotted down until they’re ready to meet each other. Something that’s important (and that I need to work on), is leaving the house! If I’m not traveling, I’m usually at my desk. Writers need to leave the house. We need other people.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Not all doors have to close in turmoil.
What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
You are not in love. Who you think you love is a reflection of who you want to be. Be her.
Shauna Barbosa is The Everygirl…
Favorite place to write?
A cafe with outlets and good lighting.
Favorite song to dance to?
Yikes! I dance to everything. My dance life right now is: dancing up and down the aisles of Trader Joe’s to Keith Sweat’s “I Want Her.”
Kendrick or J.Cole?
Favorite inspirational quote?
“Have I endured loneliness with grace?”—Mary Oliver
If you could have lunch with one woman, who would it be and why?
I would love to break bread with Tina Turner about dancing and longevity. How performing leads to levels of healing. What’s at stake when we work through pain?