Fly Ranch: Writers of Color to Become Heroines of Own Stories

From the moment I could read, I’ve been drawn to fantasy tales starring female heroines. Each time the heroine uncovers the magical destiny awaiting her, my heart races in excitement for the adventure ahead.

I never anticipated my own life following a similar path, but since finding Home at my first Burn in 2014, my life has been filled with transformation, magic and creativity. I launched my own wardrobe-styling business, wrote my first novel (now in the process of publication), and am now writing a memoir about my experiences as a black femme Burner. I’m driven to invite others to expand their lives and reality the way I feel each Burn does for me.

Last year, in addition to my fifth Burn, I attended an expedition at Fly Ranch. I had no idea what to expect but was excited to explore this remote land. 

I’m a city mouse and had never been to such a beautifully wild place. The geyser, wild horses and hot springs featuring Milky Way views transported my whole being to another plane. Overwhelmed by peace, I found my brain flowing with inspiration. I had to ask for an additional notebook to hold my thoughts.

On our final day, the Fly Ranch Team said they want the property to be fertile ground for whatever could be created there, and asked for our program suggestions. I was one of a handful of people of color at that weekend. I felt my ancestors guiding me in what I did and said next.

“Women of color are at a disadvantage for opportunities in the publishing or writing retreat world. I feel so inspired to create by being here and this has been such a gift for me as a writer. It would be wonderful if this land could be a safe space for the people who need it the most, women of color, to find their voices and create the stories that so need to be shared,” I said to the Fly Ranch team and 50 + attendees.

I remember shaking after all the words came out of me, afraid I was asking too much. Is Fly Ranch even open to servicing the needs of people of color? Does this kind of event align with the Fly Ranch vision?

 

Since that nervous ‘dream on a limb’ moment, I have been overwhelmingly impressed by Matt Sundquist, Zac Cirivello and the Fly Ranch Team. First, they welcomed me to speak on a panel at the 2018 Burn and share my outspoken views on inclusivity.

And then, the team suggested I submit a proposal. After talking with the Fly Ranch Working Group, we’re moving forward with a writing expedition for women and non-binary writers of color. Oh yeah! It’s happening, fam!

So, the expedition is titled “Writers Emerging @ Fly Ranch”. Matt and I, along with an exceptional advisory team, are planning to bring around 60 women and non-binary writers of color to the Fly Ranch property for five days this fall (tentative dates are October 15–20). 

The expedition will serve as a writing incubator, nurturing emerging writers over 18 and helping generate fresh writing and direction. Participants will learn about the writing craft and publishing industry through workshops and mentoring by a team of qualified writing coaches. Most importantly, they will have the experience of connecting to self and disconnecting from society while creating art in nature. 

One of the expedition’s goals is to create a place for discovering the strength to say, ‘I am a writer’. Achieving the internal evolution necessary to feel confident that you create art that should be shared is a real challenge.

This internal click of creative self esteem took me decades to find. But once I claimed it, my life transformed as I saw that my art is medicine for others. This event is being shaped with the intention to help participants find their voices, as it is brave voices that will help heal and shape our future.

Matt and I have dreamed of this being a minimal cost experience for the participants with as little barriers as possible to those who need this opportunity. To find out more and stay in touch about final dates and plans for the workshop, sign up to the Fly Ranch newsletter. 

In the meantime, we are also seeking support from the community to run this Burning Man event, which is inspired by the 10 Principles. We’ll be creating the event with Communal Effort, Participation, Leaving No Trace and Radical Self-Reliance. Let us know if you would like to be a Ranger for the event, organize a kitchen, help with set up and strike, or support the programming. To register your support, please follow this link.

We are looking forward to sharing a curated experience that will invite writers to leave reality and shift towards the fantasy of who they want to become.

Finally, I hope ‘Writers Emerging’ is just the first of many creative gatherings held at Fly Ranch. One of the goals for this expedition is to draft a template for future events. The team will be documenting our approach and updating the model for convenings on the property so other community members can propose and host events. 

Fly Ranch is a breathtaking space brimming with possibilities of new creations and transformation. I’m excited that this experience can serve as a pilot for future creative gatherings at Fly Ranch, benefitting new and seasoned members of the Burning Man community. 

To learn more about the space, visit the Fly Ranch website.

About the author: Yodassa Williams

Yodassa Williams

A powerful conjurer of black girl magic (70% Jedi, 30% Sith), Yodassa Williams is a Jamaican American queer writer, entrepreneur and award-winning performing storyteller. She is currently writing a memoir of the emotionally transformational adventures of five consecutive Burning Man expeditions and working with the Burning Man Organization to increase inclusivity. Yodassa is an alumna of the VONA/Voices Travel Writing program and the Fortify Writer’s Retreat. She has a storytelling podcast, "The Black Girl Magic Files", and teaches storytelling craft to young women through the nonprofit Girl’s Inc.

12 Comments on “Fly Ranch: Writers of Color to Become Heroines of Own Stories

  • Tim Loves Marry says:

    This is wonderful! Finally we found an African American Burner. I feel proud about this. I’m not racist. I’m not racist. I’m not racist.

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  • Vickie says:

    Your words are beautiful.

    These two paragraphs keep ringing in my head:

    “One of the expedition’s goals is to create a place for discovering the strength to say, ‘I am a writer’. Achieving the internal evolution necessary to feel confident that you create art that should be shared is a real challenge.

    This internal click of creative self esteem took me decades to find. But once I claimed it, my life transformed as I saw that my art is medicine for others. This event is being shaped with the intention to help participants find their voices, as it is brave voices that will help heal and shape our future.”

    You’re going to make a kick-ass writers’ retreat!

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  • I understand what you bring it very meaningful and useful, thanks.

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  • Nexus says:

    Phenomenal!! Making sure the DC Burner community stays updated about the opportunity. Thank you

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  • Megan Miller says:

    Thanks for having the courage to share your vision, and for working to make it a reality! Very exciting.

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  • Jess T says:

    Yodassa !!! HELL YES ! I love this and I love what you’re building ! After seeing your panel & our conversations last year, I am AMPED ! Bring Your Vision ! <3

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  • Sarahlynn Pablo says:

    Yodassa, I’m so grateful you were our heroine and spoke up for women writers of color in this space. Amazing! Congratulations! And I’d love to help, too! (Never burned, willing to learn!)

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  • Lone Wolf says:

    I am so so so excited to see this happening. I am so proud of you for speaking up. You made it sound like your “outspoken views” about inclusivity are somehow such a huge ask, when Fly Ranch should be already thinking about how to serve ALL people, not just those who were born in privilege. I hope you feel empowered to bring this to the table. Love it. Can’t wait. Hope there are more. Hope to meet you at BM this year.

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  • Dena says:

    I CAN’T WAIT TO APPLY FOR THIS WORKSHOP! Thank you for creating space for nonbinary folks in the workshop as well ^_^

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  • Eagle Eye says:

    Love. Love! LOVE!!

    Please come meet me over at BMIR. Would love to include you in one of my shows.

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  • Dear Yodassa!!! How divine to see your vision taking form!

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  • Zanne says:

    Yodassa, you are bringing a beautiful GIFT to Fly Ranch and to emerging writers. I hope it is such a huge success it becomes an annual event and supports generations of writers for years to come!

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