Creative Writing MFA from LSU, lauded novelist, national radio, and TV talk show guest, college professor, and now, New Orleans native Clarence Nero is working on adding screenwriter/movie producer to his list of accomplishments. We recently had a Q& A session with Clarence as he kicks off his fund-raising campaign for his latest project, bringing his first novel, “Cheekie, A Child Out of Desire” to the big screen:
Professionally, you didn’t start out as a writer. Did your childhood experiences growing up in the Desire Street Projects, probably the most dangerous neighborhood in New Orleans at that time, help you, or maybe push you, to start writing? I think what pushed me was a longing for something deeper and more meaningful in my life at the time. I was working as a chemist but I hated my job. The money was good but it wasn’t enough. And I also had issues from the past growing up in the Desire that I was running from and hadn’t fully dealt with. Writing was rewarding and healing at the same time. When I found the gift, I discovered my true self.
Your first novel, and soon to be film, “Cheekie, A Child Out of Desire” is based on your childhood. Were you worried, or concerned, at first about how relatives, friends, and/or people from the old neighborhood might react to your writing? I was definitely worried about how my family would react to the novel being based on their lives as well. So, what I did was allow them to read the manuscript before the book was published. There was only one person who wanted me to omit a few things and I did out of respect. But the story is authentic and it’s real. And I think everyone appreciated my brutal honesty. In the end, they, too, were inspired and healed.
You recently kicked off a fund-raising campaign for the film version of “Cheekie”. What’s it like to see, and share your story on film? Right now, we are running a campaign to help raise funds for the film. And I am also in talks with potential investors. We have an excellent team. The director, Willie Burton, has been in the film industry for over 30 years and has worked on every film you can imagine from “The Color Purple,” “Shawshank Redemption,” to “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “Straight out of Compton.” He won two Academy Awards in Sound Mixing for “Dreamgirls” and “Bird.” So, like I said, I have some good people behind me and it’s looking really good that it will be on the big screen for next year.
Obviously a success story, what advice do you have for today’s youth, especially aspiring young writers, growing up in similar circumstances? My advice is to never give up on your dreams no matter how difficult things get or how many obstacles are thrown in your way. You have to keep picking yourself up each time you get knocked down. It doesn’t matter where you grow up, but where you end up. You can choose to do the right things no matter how much negativity is thrown your way. And, of course, always put God first because without Him nothing else is possible.
What’s the one thing you hope your writing reveals, to readers/viewers? I hope that it reveals that no matter how difficult the circumstances, there is still always profound hope. I encourage everyone to visit Cheekiethemovie.com for more information about the book and the campaign. Thanks and God bless.
Clarence Nero grew up in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward and graduated from Howard University. He has received favorable praise from Dr. Maya Angelou for his novel “Cheekie: A Child out of the Desire,” who she described as “one of our most promising writers.”
Nero has an MFA in Creative Writing from Louisiana State University. He teaches at the Baton Rouge Community College. Please visit him at www.cheekiethemovie.com.