In 2009, Shea Serrano was a middle school science teacher in Houston about six years away from the overwhelming success of his first book: New York Times best seller The Rap Yearbook. Since its release in 2015, Serrano has become a well-known internet personality and climbed to the top of the best-seller list with his second book, Basketball (and Other Things). With the help of his dedicated FOH (“fuck outta here”) Army of followers, Serrano raised thousands of dollars for Hurricane Harvey and has helped drive donations to a number of causes he believes in. He’s a San Antonio Spurs fanatic with a passion for pop culture, and this is what he does On Texas Time:
On a Texan he looks up to:
I really, really like Trae Tha Truth because of the importance he puts on community service. He’s a rapper, but he’s a beloved figure in Houston because of how much time he spends helping people out. He was out there during Hurricane Harvey helping to rescue people. He could do much less or nothing at all and still be beloved, but he’s dedicated to his community.
On his go-to San Antonio meals:
For breakfast, I have to have a bean and cheese and a carne guisada and cheese from Mendez Cafe. For lunch, there’s a place right by my office where my favorite thing is this chili cheese Frito pie with jalapeños.
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On dealing with a Spurs loss:
It used to be a lot harder for me when they would lose when I was younger. Even a couple of years ago, if they would lose a big game, or lose against the Rockets, I was just grumpy. I didn’t want to eat, drink, or do anything—it would throw off my entire schedule. Now, there’s not as much pressure since we don’t have Timmy, Manu, and Tony anymore.
On his writing routine:
I’ll get up around 6:30 or so. I have three sons that go to school, and that’s about when they start stirring around. I make sure they’re brushing their teeth and getting ready. After we drop them off at school, I leave and get to the office by 8:30 or 9 at the latest. Once I’m there, I’ll just sit at my computer for eight hours and type. That’s it. I’ll throw in lunch and some tweets in between.
On his latest book:
Right now, I’m working on Movies (and Other Things), a sequel to the basketball series. It’s the next book in a three-part book series, so I’m looking forward to being done with that soon. There’s a whole chapter in it about Mexicans that I’m really excited about. There are only a couple of Mexicans in the history of the NBA, and there aren’t a lot of Mexican rappers, so I didn’t really have the chance to write about it in my other books.
On how he became a writer:
Writing was my side hustle. I was a teacher for nine years, and I thought that’s what I was going to do forever. When I started off writing, I was pitching everything I could think of and trying to turn every interesting thing I read into a story. For a while, I wrote a nightlife column about bars, despite the fact I don’t drink and don’t like being in bars. One day, the writing just took off, and I was making more money writing than teaching.
On his professional progress:
With The Rap Yearbook, I didn’t really get any input on the cover and they came up with a version I didn’t like, but I couldn’t do anything because no one really knew who I was at the time. By the time the basketball book came out, I had a best seller, it had been optioned for a documentary, and all of a sudden I had leverage. The only reason they let me do what I wanted was because of my following.
On finding a community online:
Having a community means so many different things. For one, it’s a way for me to feel like I have friends. A lot of these people that follow me are people I won’t meet in real life, but it feels like we’re connected. We’re rooting for each other, and that’s cool because I don’t have that community in San Antonio. Professionally, it’s also allowed me a certain level of autonomy. I can do almost whatever I want because I have a group I can lean on when I need them. It’s like having a big brother or big sister behind me, protecting me.
On overcoming self-doubt:
It’s really easy to sit back and look at someone from far away and feel like there’s no way you could possibly do that. I see how someone could look at me and think that, but the only reason any of this happened is because I kept walking forward. I barely got into college, I had to take remedial classes, but I never let it get to me. The only thing that separates someone who’s not successful and someone who is is that one of them keeps trying. For me, it took eight or nine years of hard work. Are you willing to put that time in?