“I shall be a bestselling writer. My novels go onto the bestsellers list on or shortly after publication. My books will be read by millions of people. I will buy a beautiful home in an excellent neighborhood. I will send poor black youngsters to Clarion or other writer’s workshops. So be it! So see it!” These are just some of Octavia Butler’s self-inspiring affirmations throughout her illustrious career, which is now the focus of a new exhibit in San Marino, Calif.
Natalie Russell, the curator of the exhibit of the author’s personal papers, attributes Butler’s motivational notes to a way of thinking that’s uncommon in the literary world. “She was very interested in the mind and its power … While I can’t speak comprehensively, I cannot think of notes like these in another writer’s archive,” she tells Huffington Post.
Currently installed at the Huntington Library, “Octavia Butler: Telling My Stories” explores the Kindred author’s life and pioneering career. It highlights notebooks of encouraging notes to herself, journal entries, drafts, earlier editions, and photos, all of which turn a lens on Butler’s brilliant self-love and lionhearted will to succeed. As a black woman born in 1947, Butler’s foray into the world of science fiction would have been no different had she attempted to write in a different genre, as white men dominated in just about every field.
“Should a woman who is black have to spend her writing life wondering whether the praise or criticism she is receiving comes because of her sex, or her color, or because her work is deserving of it?” Butler poignantly writes in one of her journal entries. But it’s evident the Pasadena-born scribe had long decided to write her own destiny, despite the hurdles of day jobs and self-doubt. Perhaps Virginia Woolf’s quote, “a woman needs money and a room of her own if she is to write,” still rings true today.
Read more on the sci-fi queen and her new exhibit, here.