Alumna La’Chris Jordan: ‘At the core of it, I’m fundamentally a writer’
La’Chris Jordan (B.A., 2001) began her career as a journalist, working as a feature writer for a magazine in Dubai, United Arab Emirates for three years. Although she has had a variety of professions since then, they all have writing in common.
“It just made sense for me [to study journalism]. I was young and learning so much about myself and was curious of the world around me,” Jordan said. “Being a journalist and understanding issues on a global scale was really important to me.”
While in Dubai, Jordan discovered theater and started acting. She had taken a few acting classes before leaving for Dubai and was looking to hone those skills when she returned to the States. During her stint as an actor, she also discovered playwriting.
“I found that I really loved playwriting too, and that expanded my world a great deal,” she said. “With Seattle being such an amazing theatre town, I was able to take it a lot more seriously, meet some great people, and become immersed in it.”
Jordan was named one of the “50 to WATCH” by the Dramatists Guild of America, an honor that is at the top of her list of accomplishments.
“It came at a time when my mother had passed away, so writing was really difficult,” Jordan said. “When that honor came, I was not expecting it. But what it told me was that there was a voice I had and that people wanted to hear it. I had to keep going. I had to keep pushing through and continue to live up to the reputation that I created for myself.”
While always managing several projects at once, Jordan has been able to dust off one particular project that has sat on the shelf for a while. She will be releasing her first novel the summer of 2014. It is the first of a trilogy entitled “The Memories of Bellevue” – but not the Bellevue that may come to mind for those from the Pacific Northwest.
“Bellevue means ‘beautiful view’ in French. The novel is set in New Orleans which has a lot of French influence,” Jordan said. “But it was funny, because when I was working on the novel, I was commuting to Bellevue, Washington at the same time.”
The novel, which is set on a plantation in 1861, is influenced from Jordan’s time when she lived in New Orleans during her teen years. The third book of the trilogy will be set in Seattle.
More recently, Jordan moved to Los Angeles where she works as a development assistant to an executive producer, helping to create and develop unscripted television series, specials, and documentaries.
“Everything I learned in theater allowed me to obtain this job. I always say that the only real difference between TV and theater is that there are bigger budgets in TV,” she joked. “You still have to cast, find venues, produce and put on a show. In the end, I feel really lucky to have this opportunity to be able to work in television and learn something new while supporting my dreams and my goals as a writer.”
In the past, Jordan has always looked for jobs that support her interests as a writer.
“You have to have a strong sense of what your goals are,” Jordan said. “One of the things I did with my employers is be upfront with them about who I was and where I was going. I was always focused on my work and gave my day job 110 percent. But I also let them know that I was a playwright, an actress, and had other interests outside of work. Fortunately, I was really lucky to have bosses and mentors that were supportive and let me do what I needed to do to pursue my craft.”
While the balancing act can be difficult, she said time management is crucial. You also have to be willing to make some sacrifices. Having been a journalist, PR professional, playwright, television assistant, and more, Jordan knows that “at the core of it, I’m fundamentally a writer.”
“I love writing,” Jordan said. “It’s tough and painful work sometimes because you’re often accessing the really deep well of stuff from your life. It’s a roller coaster. But it’s because of profound moments from my life that I am able to go back to a character and certain words just fly off the page.”
Often writers get the advice to write what they don’t know, but Jordan said in order to do that you have to live and experience “before you can actually embark and write in such a daring way.”
“I think it helps to know yourself a bit more as a writer before you leap into the unknown,” she said. “Going through your own storms helps give you that courage to pursue unfamiliar stories.”
Even while pursuing unfamiliar stories, Jordan said it has to happen naturally and is not something to be forced.
“At it all, I love playwriting and storytelling,” Jordan said. “When you can tell a good story, you can really touch people in a way that sometimes changes people’s lives. I’m really fortunate as a playwright to have written stories where people walked away and had their perspective changed or triggered something in them emotionally. That’s what I love about theater…the live, rawness of it.”
Jordan gives credit to the mentors she has had throughout her career and emphasizes the importance of surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you.
“You don’t know how far you can go until you’re stretched,” she said. “Surround yourself with good people who will encourage you to push through the challenges. Writing looks glamorous from the outside, but the accolades are not immediate. You work hard for the honors.”
While everyone loves the money, the awards, and the fame, Jordan said you have to appreciate and love the process – the process that has gotten her to where she is today, and she still taps into what she learned at the University of Washington years ago.
“At the core, I’m still that journalist asking the tough questions and trying to understand the world around me. Now, I’m just doing it in a more dramatic and creative way and letting that happen through characters as opposed to real people,” she said. “When I’m curious, I find that the writing becomes more profound. Because it’s not about me or what is in my head; it’s about what’s happening out there in the world.”