Despite brutal assault, writer finds her voice

Photo credit: Jen Starr Photography Makeup: Manu Horn
Photo credit: Jen Starr Photography Makeup: Manu Horn

Growing up in Altadena, California, Nahshon Anderson’s family was friends of Rodney Glen King, who was beaten by the LAPD in 1991. Anderson attended John Marshall Junior High School with actors Lark Voorhies, Tamala Jones and Jaleel White. One of her schoolmates was Tashauna Howard. Howard’s godfather was famed West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur. A chance meeting with Tupac eventually led to an internship and writing jobs in Hollywood. Things would never be the same after she was physically assaulted by someone she casually met.

How did your manuscript, Shooting Range, come together?
In July, 1997, I was employed on the Keenen Ivory Wayans’ late night television talk show as a production assistant. My first week on the job I survived a brutal assault and robbery. I was beaten, handcuffed, and shot. I faced death, but I lived.  The assailant was found not guilty. However, since October, 1998, he’s been serving a prison sentence for sexual assault on a child under the age of 14. In 2001, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Over the years, I kept in touch with one of my supervising producers from the Keenen Ivory Wayans Show. I began working with her again in 2007 on a documentary. After I revealed to her the details the horrific assault she encouraged me to write, insisting my story would make a great story. I took her advice.

How did you get into writing?
In the summer of 1998, I met Stanley Bennet Clay, at that time he published a black gay magazine, SBC, for several years. After I was evicted from my first apartment, Mr. Clay allowed me to move in with him and hired me as his assistant. Working for Mr. Clay and watching him self-publish a magazine, produce an independent film, and write  exposed me to other writers including Tina Andrews and I’d accompany him to her home in Malibu. I was being mentored to become a writer at age 20 and didn’t realize it. Mr. Clay always insisted I create something for myself. For my 21st birthday, he threw me a huge bash.

Where are you finding the resources to do this?
I have been fortunate to have distinguished gentlemen in my life who have contributed generously to my artistic endeavors. After relocating to New York I discovered the Foundation Center, the leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide. In 2014, I attended multiple workshops on grants for artists. It was there that I met writer Gigi Rosenberg and purchased her book “The Artists Way”. I also discovered the Lower Manhattan Council on The Arts which empowers artists by providing them with networks, resources, and support to create vibrant, sustainable careers. In June, they host a month-long workshop, Fundraising Fundamentals. LMCC’s core fundraising series is designed to help artists develop knowledge and skills in raising the resources to support their practice. After attending LMCC’s workshops and taking Ms. Rosenberg’s advice I began applying for grants, artists’ fellowships, and residencies. To date, I’ve received over 15k in support for my short film and memoir Shooting Range.

The tribulations — betrayal of a co-worker and a violent assault — you have experienced could break someone, but you were you able to use it in your writing, how did you do it?
In spite of the pain, I’ve endured. I’ve always received supreme joy in sharing my narrative with others. I knew I had a compelling story but had no idea how to unleash the writer within me. Curious as to why I became a victim of assault I wrote him in 2007, his response was insincere and  after a former coworker published his memoir in May, 2008 discussing three chapters of my personal and professional life that was the turning point.  Again in 2013, I wrote my attacker and he apologized and said I didn’t receive the “justice” I should have. He also took full responsibility for what I experienced.   With his cooperation, I began taking writing workshops, and won a nonfiction award for Shooting Range. After completing my first writing fellowship with Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation in the summer of 2015, exploring and practicing my craft; meeting new people in the literary community; and being immersed in a meaningful and multi-layered cultural exchange, I knew I desired to become a published author. MFA faculty, Guggenheim Fellow, and Whiting writer Andrew X Pham was my instructor, impressed with my 40-page manuscript, Shooting Range he shared it with his literary agent Jillian Manus. As a 2016 Lambda Fellow, I was recently awarded the Bryn Kelly Scholarship which allows me to study with Sarah Schulman at USC this summer.

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