NOTEBOOK PEOPLE: An Interview with Anilia Hornsby // Trina O’Gorman

NOTEBOOK PEOPLE: An Interview with Anilia Hornsby // Trina O’Gorman

For Christmas 2022, I did a 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway on Instagram, where people who followed me could enter the drawing by commenting. I gave away a bundle of analogue goodies for the 12 days preceding Christmas. I shared a photo of each day’s prize, things that appealed to them; but, I could only think that not every item in every bundle would get used by the winner. I am personally overwhelmed by the accumulation of stuff in my own house, many of which were given to me with all of the best intentions, but that will never get used because I simply have no use for them, or they are not my style. I find it to be burdensome; even the process of getting rid of these things is stressful for me. Because of that, I decided to change things up the next year, and instead of giving away “things,” I gave away seats for an 8-week writing workshop. I hoped that on a platform that seemed to be obsessed with things and eye-candy, there would be some takers. As it turned out, there were plenty of takers; and, because I found it difficult to leave people out, I added as many seats as I thought I could add and still keep the workshop intimate and manageable. 

A diverse group of twenty writers met every Sunday night, starting at 8 PM, for a wonderful hour of writing and discussion. After our hellos, we would first write for a short time about a prompted topic, then we would spend time discussing what we’d written – our insights, thoughts, and questions. During this process, we were able to work on finding our voices and hearing the diverse voices of others. The experience was rewarding on so many levels. I think everyone would say that they learned and grew during those eight weeks, making it hard to say goodbye when our time ended. Quite a few people expressed interest in keeping the workshops going. I told everyone I’d give it careful consideration, and we said our goodbyes. While I fully intended to give it serious thought, I will be the first person to admit that I have a lot on my plate these days, and it doesn’t take much more being added to it for me to feel overwhelmed. At first, second, and third glance, it didn’t seem like anything I’d be able to manage long-term or with any consistency. The idea of it nagged at me, though. The community was great, but I just couldn’t see how it could work. 

One day later, I received an email from Anilia, who was offering support to me so that I could put some real thought into it and direct my energy into keeping the group going. Anilia and I connected through Instagram when she started following my account years ago. I scrolled back through our DMs and found that the earliest one was from 2017. Seven years ago! She also reminded me of an interview we did in 2020, when she interviewed me about journaling for a public speaking class she was taking while pursuing her degree in anthropology. For the past seven years, we have exchanged many Instagram comments and DMs on various topics as we align or at least aren’t afraid to engage in discourse and discussion on many topics. 

During the last few weeks that I have been working with Anilia, I’ve learned some important lessons – the most important being that sometimes we need help. Some things require a team or a partner or a support system, and that it’s more than okay to need help. Being overly self-reliant can be a disadvantage and a hindrance. I have the pleasure of working with Anilia every week now. It’s a blessing, and it is my pleasure to introduce you to this kind, compassionate, insightful, and courageous human being.


When I asked Anilia when she started keeping a notebook and what inspired her to do so, she began with this story: 

“Well, so it's really funny because I was thinking about this, and I tend not to, you know, dig into those memories all that often, but I have this, like, very, very particular memory of being on an airplane. We were the kind of kids that my parents would take to the airport and put on the airplane, and then our grandparents would meet us on the other side….I was, like, seven-ish, maybe, in this memory. And I had my notebook on the airplane, you know, and I was writing a novel because, I mean, obviously.” 

Obviously. Right? 

For many of us, the compulsion to keep a notebook dates back to childhood, and it was the most natural and obvious choice for how we would spend our time and express ourselves. However, Anilia never finished that novel, realizing early on that that type of writing wasn’t for her. The pivot came easily and naturally to her, and she discovered that she does enjoy expressing herself when, as she puts it, she “comes to the page”. Anilia likes to practice expressive writing/journaling and also loves to draw or glue mementos into her notebook. She does this almost daily, mostly in the morning with a cup of coffee in a quiet spot. It helps her start her day with the right mindset because, as she tells me, “If I write down the things that are spinning around in my head, first of all, I almost never have to think about them again, which is a delightful experience. I don't want to do it twice.” Clarity is of the major benefits of expressive writing for many people.

Personal writing can be a lifeline or has been a lifeline for many of us. Reflecting on her own experiences, Anilia tells me that she struggled with depression when she was younger, and during those times, her notebooks were “integral to [her] survival.” She went on to add that the things her mind was telling her were lies, and those lies became evident when she put pen to paper and saw them on the page. Sometimes, the ways in which we talk to ourselves in our heads sound far harsher and unacceptable when we confront them in writing. 

When it comes to the tools that Anilia uses, she does have a lot of “stuff.” Having grown up in Haiti until she was seven years old and moved to America, she grew up seeing people living in poverty in a place where there just weren’t that many options. Like many of us, the values she has today are rooted in childhood, including those that center around her notebook, but even with that, she noticed the impact that social media was having on her behavior and modified it. She had to restrain herself from wanting what she saw other people consuming online. “I'm not a minimalist, but I really like things that are useful. It's really important to me not to collect for collection's sake, but I found myself sort of starting to do that. One notebook at a time is all I can use.” 

With all of that said, Anilia does have her favorites. She loves Midori paper and uses a refillable Pilot Precise Point pen right now. Her favorite needle tip size is 0.5 mm. If you have the urge or desire to keep a notebook or journal, she suggests that you grab a notebook that you like the feel of but isn’t too precious. She reminds us, "it’s a tool, not a prize, so write in it.” And she shared this insight, which I love: “If you show up to the page, what you need to get out will eventually get out.” 

I continue to find it so incredible that the practice of carrying a notebook, which began when I was a little girl, has connected me to all kinds of people all over the world. What would

have been the chances of me meeting someone like Anilia, who was born in and lived in Haiti for the first part of her life, experiencing what it was like to live in a place where she was “the other” because she didn’t look like everyone else, only to be the other once her family moved back to the States, settling in southwestern Virginia, where there no diversity and she looked like everyone else, but felt like a stranger because she didn’t think or sound like everyone else. What are the chances that we would have met and become friends? What are the chances that we would have then decided to join forces to create a community for people to be bold and courageous in their writing, in community with others? 

Thank you, Anilia, for sharing your story with the BK community and for constantly pushing me out of my way.



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