No one knows the power of a good story like Ashley C. Ford. As Ashley told the Longform podcast, she still remembers the childhood moment when Lois Lowry’s The Giver made her realize exactly how much possibility the world could hold for a curious and determined young Black girl, even one growing up poor in Indiana. It’s been a long, winding road from young bookworm to author of the critically-acclaimed New York Times bestselling memoir Somebody’s Daughter. But that same passion for story still saturates everything Ashley touches – which is exactly why Narratively is thrilled to have her as a guest judge for our inaugural Spring Memoir Prize. She’ll be joining fellow expert storytellers Nicole Rocklin and Glynn Washington in selecting revealing and emotional narratives from overlooked points of view, and choosing a Grand Prize Winner who will receive an intimate video call with each of our judges to talk shop and gain insight into the craft of storytelling.
Ashley’s own love of storytelling is rooted in a love of people, and an unyielding curiosity for what makes different individuals tick. That curiosity has fueled Ashley’s work in several different mediums: Allure cover features on Serena Williams and Janelle Monáe, the Buzzfeed News interview video series PROFILE, and hosting multiple podcasts including Audible’s Authorized and HBO’s Lovecraft Country Radio (which Ashley co-hosted with Shannon Houston). With the versatility of a creative Swiss Army knife, Ashley has written or guest-edited for The New York Times, Slate, The Guardian, ELLE Magazine, BuzzFeed, OUT Magazine, Teen Vogue, New York Magazine, Netflix Queue, and plenty of others, and she’s also taught writing at The New School and Catapult, and helped develop web series and documentaries as part of Matter Studios. Her wide-ranging talents earned her a spot on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Media list in 2017, and we hear she even spends her personal time drawing.
Ashley’s career hit a new level when she turned from profiling celebrities to delving deep into her own life in Somebody’s Daughter. The book is a raw and emotional journey revolving around how Ashley’s childhood was affected by the absence of her incarcerated father. In 2021, it was named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle prestigious John Leonard Prize.
If you like reading memoir and you haven’t read Somebody’s Daughter yet, seriously, grab yourself a copy right now.
After nearly a decade in the New York media world, Ford recently returned to her native Indiana where she lives with her husband Kelly Stacy (a fellow writer) and their dog Astro Renegade Ford-Stacy (a fellow rebel).
We can’t wait for Ashley to bring her multifaceted storytelling expertise to her role judging the Narratively Spring Memoir Prize. Enter your memoir featuring your own unique perspective by June 27 for a chance to connect with this storytelling icon, and so much more!
After finishing Somebody’s Daughter, we had a few burning questions we were dying to ask Ashley.
At the end of Somebody’s Daughter, you’re just starting to break into the media world. Can you tell us a bit about what happened after that? How did your career take off?
I had a series of great successes and great disappointments. And I seem to be in a great success cycle right now that I hope continues.
What motivated you to move back to Indiana? Did it have anything to do with the experience of writing Somebody’s Daughter?
Writing my memoir made me miss a lot of the people who were part of my community in the book. I realized I wanted to be part of their community again so I came back here to be in community with the people I love and the people who love me.
Is there any other medium or form of storytelling you are itching to explore?
I do a lot of audio work already and I love anything I do with audio but I am having the familiar writer-to-screenwriter itch.
Any advice for writers from different disciplines (say, journalism) who are attempting memoir for the first time?
Read a lot of memoirs and don’t think about them as just instructive on how to write a memoir. Think of them as examples of how that person wrote their memoir and use that in your own personal process for writing yours.
What do you like to draw?
I like to draw shapes that when I look at them later on, I might find pictures or faces or animals in the overlapping shapes. It feels like a surprise I made for myself.