Clutch: Who or what inspired you to become a professional writer?
CM: When I was a child, books meant everything to me. When I read a good story it was as if the author had given me a fantastic gift. I got so much out of books that I felt it was only fair to try to offer that experience to someone else.
Clutch: You were recognized as one of the “Ten Most Promising Young Magazine Writers” by the Columbia Journalism Review. Can you tell us a little about how you began writing for various publications?
CM: When I was about fifteen and a half my mother met a young man who’d been working for Youth Outlook, a youth media service in San Francisco. They published a newspaper that was distributed in local high schools, and the best pieces got picked up by grown-up newspapers around the country. That was my way in. Up until that point I’d been writing letters to my local paper, asking them to let me write for them, which I’m sure amused the editors over there.
Clutch: Do you feel your prior experience in writing articles and other editorials for magazines helped to prepare you for a career as a novelist? If so, in what way?
CM: There are both benefits and drawbacks, but on the whole I think it’s a good thing for would-be novelists to work in journalism because you learn about pacing and organizing a story that should matter to the reader. In the case of editorials, it’s about pacing and organizing an argument — which is what a novel is, in a sense. Every moment you’re making an argument to the reader about why they should stick with you and your characters.
Clutch: Tell us about your current book, The Golden Road?
CM: It’s about learning how to navigate all the pitfalls that anyone who wants to make something of herself is going to have to navigate in a way that doesn’t compromise herself. Pressure around achievement — not just as you’re trying to achieve but also once you have achieved — is huge, especially for young people, and there aren’t many guideposts along the way. This book is a guidepost.
Clutch: Many people find it hard to open up about life events. Did you find it difficult to be open about your thoughts and feelings in this memoir?
CM: Sometimes, but I didn’t see any other way to do it.
Clutch: Will there be more memoirs in the future?
CM: Not for awhile! It took 23 years of experience to write the first one, and I think I’ve got to give it a bit of time before round two.
Clutch: Are there any other genres you write in or that you are interested in writing in?
CM: Fiction. I’m working on a novel right now.
Clutch: Do you still contribute editorials and/or articles to magazine publications?
CM: I’m still on the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle. That keeps me plenty busy these days.
Clutch: Is there any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers trying to find their place in the industry?
CM: The most important thing is to read, and to read widely in all genres. That’s the best way to learn the craft, and it’s not an easy business, so you have to really love stories. Apart from that, it’s about patience, persistence, and making sure you’re prepared when opportunity comes knocking.
Clutch: We definitely expect to read more from you. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers.
CM: Thank you.
To learn more about Caille Millner please visit www.caillemillner.com
The Golden Road
Growing up in northern California in the ’80s and ’90s, Caille Millner learned early on how to move between the very different cultures and communities of her native San Jose. Raised in a Latino neighborhood, Caille adopted every aspect of her neighborhood’s culture until her family moved into the more affluent but quietly hostile white-bread suburbs of Silicon Valley. It was here—where the schools were superior and yet rife with racial slights—that Caille first sought refuge within her own private African-American community. In her unforgettable memoir THE GOLDEN ROAD: Notes on My Gentrification (The Penguin Press; February 19, 2007; $22.95), we follow Millner on her far-flung, adventure-filled journey to find her true identity among the various communities—black, Latino, techno-utopian, Ivy League, activist—competing for her allegiance, each one with its distinct allures and perils.
Millner’s parents felt that California had saved them from lives of poverty and oppression as black Americans living elsewhere in the U.S. and had provided them with free education and opportunities for advancement into the middle-class. But the California fantasy of reinvention can collide with reality in messy ways, leaving a legacy that Caille would carry with her East, to Harvard University and its own durable fantasies, and then beyond, always in search of the next promised land. Throughout THE GOLDEN ROAD, Millner questions the authenticity of identity labels such as Silicon Valley skinheads, do-gooder Harvard elite, and acquiescent, post-Apartheid South Africans. Reluctant to subscribe to any of these identities, Millner prepares for a return to her family and the “golden” land of California, where she challenges herself to incorporate the skepticism and lessons her travels yielded.
Poignant, honest, and powerful, THE GOLDEN ROAD is a true and incomparable depiction of a young woman’s relentless attempts to find herself, and her ultimate journey home.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Caille Millner was first published at age sixteen and recently named one of Columbia Journalism Review’s Ten Young Writers on the Rise. She is the co-author of The Promise: How One Woman Made Good on her Extraordinary Pact to Send a Classroom of First Graders to College and her work also appeared in Children of the Dream: Our Own Stories of Growing Up Black In America. She’s received the Rona Jaffe Fiction Award, as well as prizes from the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts, the National Press Club and the New York Black Journalists Association. Currently on the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle, she has also written for Newsweek, Essence, The Washington Post and The Fader.