Diary of A Young Pro: A-lan Holt
2) How old are you?
3) What is your job title?
I am a Playwright. I write for theater and film. I often express myself through poetry. These days, I also hold the title of Associate Director at the Institute for Diversity in the Arts (IDA) at Stanford University. My work explores the relationship between art practice, spiritual practice and social justice.
4) How has the transition been from backpack to briefcase (college to adulthood)?
Like all the phases of the moon—it’s been dynamic. In the few years out of college I moved from California to New York City with my best friend to live as an artist, I fell in love and became a mother at 23, I wrote a lot of beautiful poems and plays that were performed by some amazing actresses of color like Tonya Pinkins, Lupita Nyong’o and Samira Wiley. By 24, I felt deep heartache and my friendships shifted. I intentionally lost over 80 lbs of body weight and found myself missing my curves more than ever. Now I’m back in the Bay Area continuing to make room for myself, my art, and my intimates. It’s been a dynamic experience, backpack to briefcase; but now, almost five years out of college, those transitions feel more like one major transformation. As an artist I cannot always separate my personal experiences from my creative urges and thus professional outputs. Each speaks to the other. I am more of the artist I want to become, and it’s due to the whole experience—all of it.
5) When you were in school, did you imagine your life the way that it is?
Yes. I knew I’d be an artist. I knew I’d be able to survive sustainably as one. I did not know that becoming a mother would get me there faster. When I first found out I was having a child, I fielded a lot of opinions about how having a child would derail my life and career. Throughout my early pregnancy, I felt shame around becoming a mother so soon. Many of my closest friends, though ultimately supportive, were not too keen on the idea at first. It was stressful. But that child, Indigo June, is my biggest blessing. Having her put me on the fast track to my dreams and goals. Her presence in my life gave me the mundane material to make magic in the form of art that moves people, including myself, to compassion. She matured me and my practice considerably. Now I understand why the greats like Toni Morrison and many black women writers wake up at 4am to write. It’s the best time for creativity. The baby is sleeping and the day has not yet begun. I am inspired by it all- artisthood and motherhood and womanhood and blackness-they are all parts of the same thing. If one is living, the others are living too. The strategy here is to create more living things within myself and my communities.
6) What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced during these transitional years?
Learning to transform my perceived curses into cures has become somewhat of a necessary practice for me post college. It’s a big challenge. Basically, it means remembering that all of my circumstances, messy or otherwise, are capable of healing and transforming me for the better. It’s very optimistic, I’ll admit. Getting a new job or falling in love. Cures. Being fired from a job unexpectedly or being cheated on by an intimate. Cures. All of it. I believe having this point of view makes me more miracle-minded, more capable of making sense of it all, and more able to hold space for myself when life hits unexpectedly. I am continually learning this lesson, and it’s done a lot for my mental and spiritual well-being. It’s also given me a healthier relationship to my career overall. I am better able to let the things that are not mine fall away, including the many jobs i’ve held on the road to financial and artistic stability. The stability i’ve found is within myself. I am my greatest cure.
7) What is the best advice you have received from a mentor about adulthood and/or careers?
This one is from my grandfather—Papa Al. “If your money holds out, your luck will change”. It’s an old gambling saying and I love it for many reasons. It reminds me that life is this dynamic experience. That luck is something you can conjure even with one penny in the bank. There is a lot of hope in this statement, which I appreciate especially as an artist. Change can happen all of the sudden, “If your money holds out, your luck will change.” Simple.
8) What advice would you give a young professional?
If you want to be an artist, its entirely possible. Make your art, learn your lessons, and be great. The creative world is yours if you commit to making it possible. There will probably come a time when you’ll have to personally finance your artistic endeavors. Whether it’s paying actors or buying new equipment or studio time. This is okay, and it’s all part of your rites of passage. Embrace it and invest in it. I promise the harvest will come with abundance if you do.
9) What is next for you and the next 12 months? Do you have any goals you would like to accomplish? How are you going to accomplish them?
I am releasing two projects this year. The first, is a collection of poetry published by Candor Arts called Moonwork. These are nu poems written mostly in New York and Los Angeles— they are all about love. The second project is a film I wrote and directed called Inamorata, produced by TRUE MVMNT. The film stars Sabina Karlsson and Natasha Mmonatau. It’s a story about sisterhood and infidelity. I am deeply proud of both of these works. They are beautiful and complex and deeply personal. My goals now are to finish them up and present them to the world.
10) What makes you special?
I’ve just kept writing. Since the seventh grade i’ve just kept writing. This commitment is something that I believe makes me special. It’s my greatest strength and continually proves to be my greatest ally. I can’t get enough. I am learning to set up my life so that I can do more and more of this—writing and creating.