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This conversation with Aya still inspires me–it is a necessary look, for writers, at what we can do to effect political change, as well as a motivating look at structure, deadlines, and momentum. Aya gives us a view into the experience of having a commercial publisher and four books under contract, and her thoughts on the pros and cons and consequences of literary apartheid between literary and commercial fiction. And then we talk politics, progressive politics for the era that is being inaugurated tomorrow. This is a vital, must-hear talk to get your hopes up and your pen into action–creative and political action.

 We also discuss
  • the hero’s journey
  • genre expectations
  • outlining and organizing
  • second drafts
  • scenes and plots
  • sexy feminism
  • the black girl spy novel
  • writing quickly



Poetry for the People UCBerkeley


Robin Benway

Ally Carter

The Hero’s Journey as described by Christopher Vogler

Linda Villarosa

Jewel Gomez

George Lakoff (re terms of the conversation)

Steve Phillips Brown is the New White.

Life after life by Kate Atkinson

Aya de Leon

Aya de Leon

Aya de Leon directs the Poetry for the People program at UC Berkeley. Kensington Books published her debut feminist heist novel, Uptown Thief, in July 2016 and will publish the next book in the series The Boss in June 2017. Her writing and performance work have received acclaim in the Village Voice, Washington Post, Oakland Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, SF Bay Guardian and the East Bay Express. A graduate of Harvard College, with an MFA from Antioch University, Aya has been an artist in residence at Stanford University, a Cave Canem poetry fellow, and a slam poetry champion. She publicly married herself in the 90s, and from 1995 to 2012 hosted an annual Valentine’s Day show that focused on self-love. She has written for for various media outlets such as xojane, Ebony, Huffington Post, Guernica, Huffington Post, Reductress, Essence, Writers Digest, Bitch Magazine, Racialicious, Fusion, Quartz, and The Toast. She also blogs and tweets about culture, gender, and race. Visit her at @ayadeleon.

Story Makers is a podcast that features in-depth conversations with accomplished writers, filmmakers and industry experts about story craft, technique, habit and survival–everything you need to know to stay inspired, connect to your creativity, find others’ wonderful stories and your own success.

The hosts:

Elizabeth Stark is a published, agented novelist and distributed filmmaker who teaches and mentors writers at

Angie Powers is a distributed filmmaker and published short story writer with an MFA in creative writing and a certificate in screenwriting from UCLA who teaches story structure at