The reading Room and Gallery is a space where I share things I come across that I think you might like too – some are things of beauty, some just bowl me over with their brilliance, some are things I think we could all learn from, some are artistes I want to support by spreading the word, and some just because. Let’s continue to support the arts and the artists by rippling the water together. For earlier iterations of the Reading Room and Gallery, go back to XVlll and follow the links for the previous ones from there. Remember to keep checking back, this list will grow as I make new finds until it outgrows this page and I move on to the next one.
“Don’t worry about failing. There’s a great video where Ira Glass explains that when you start in a new field, your work won’t be as good as your taste. It will take years for your taste and the quality of your work to intersect. (If ever!) Failure is essential. There’s no substitute for it. It’s not just encouraged but required.” – Mike Birbiglia’s Six Tips for making it Small in Hollywood. or Anywhere
“I quit my job, bought a one-way flight to Italy, and moved into a four-room farmhouse overlooking a valley. The Umbrian sun was as profound as it was supposed to be in pastoral Italy (after you quit your job, etc.). The valley was a patchwork quilt of olive grove and sunflower field; the row crops were bordered by copses of downy and turkey oak, as run through with pheasant and boar and stag, and, when seasonally appropriate, hunter. There was even an old paisano, Otello, who showed up now and again to instruct me on how to tend a newly-planted orchard of olive saplings. He spoke no English. I spoke no Italian. Va bene. Perfetto.” – Odie Lindsey, on becoming a writer…and a cliché
“Inspired by Anne Frank, she kept a diary, which her parents discovered and read aloud before other members of the family, an experience that deeply traumatized her and kept her from writing for decades. The incident provided the starting point for the title story of the collection ‘Bodies of Water’ (1990).” – on the passing of Michelle Cliff
08 Home Suite – Prelude No.1 & Mvt.1 – (Song For Loma) – Khan Cordice Live From a Music recital 2015.
“Henry’s shoes were on his team, and they weren’t leaving him anytime soon.” – from Tonya Liburd’s Shoe Man
‘The next morning, Naga complained to her mother, “De man beat me and tear me up last night.”
“Yuh go have tuh get used to that. Yuh is a woman now,” her mother said, handing her a cup of hardi tea. “Drink this, yuh go feel better.”’ – “Naga” by Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming
“It got me in a lot of trouble, that wanting to fit in…and so when that light bulb went off in my head that I could do something artistic and get paid at it…I gravitated…I found something that one, held my attention, and two, didn’t feel like work.” – Michael K. Williams being interviewed by Charlie Rose
“I have mentioned that the novel was born out of deep nostalgia. If I was back at home, and I saw my siblings every day, the space for the depth of reflection that birthed the story would not have happened. Since the work we do is imaginative, there is much value in trusting the power of hindsight. If I sat across from you at a cafe and I was to describe that moment on the spot, I would write about the obvious things you did. But if I lie down in my bed later that night, and the light was off, and I closed my eyes, the fine-grain details will trickle in. I will remember the unobvious things, the person scratching their wrist, or hawking into a napkin—those fine details that enrich fiction. That is, it is then, when the person is gone and the meeting is ended and the day is forgotten that things become closer, clearer.” – Chigozi Obioma
“My grandmother was Caribbean and Caribbean folk are very private; they just don’t believe in sharing a lot of their personal history.” – Bernice McFadden on MPR talking about her Book of Harlan
“If most days are not filled with writing, they are filled with the thought of writing – the fixing of a sentence I haven’t even written yet, testing it on my tongue, trying to figure out its pauses or its cadence, or else the chasing of some strange idea, the way I imagine Jamaican maroons would have once chased wild hogs through the thicket. And always I want to grab hold of this idea, to wring its neck then flop it down on the table like some mad surgeon, as if to determine how many poems or stories or essays can be removed from its guts. I have a bad knee though, and seem to chase elusive and slippery things. Most days I do not grab hold of anything. Most days they slip away, grunting happily in the undergrowth. I go to bed most nights, disappointed, but I say to the sound in the bushes just beyond me, tomorrow! Tomorrow I will catch you.” – Kei Miller. Read the full Guardian interview.
“We shouldn’t have to travel to Ghana and visit this castle to have this history.” – Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing on The Daily Show. “If you want to paint a full picture of the slave trade , you have to include the African side of it.”
‘“I’ll give you two positions. One is the position of these writers who feel that they will overtake me,” he says. “That’s fine, if they’re going to write better work than me…. I assure them that I will be writing when I die. The second position is my own. I consider them to be competitors, and I’ve told them so.”’ Robert Edison Sandiford’s 1998 interview with Austin Clarke, the esteemed Bajan writer who passed in 2016
“Caribbean fiction writing has really been hit hard on the publishing end; I spoke to Macmillan Caribbean who noted that they were focusing only on textbooks at this time. Other Caribbean publishing may be doing the same. Even when they publish children’s books, you have to market your books yourself on the side so that it would get a second print. We are a textbook publishing region because there is money in it.” – Marsha Gomes-McKie, interview on her role as Regional Advisor, Caribbean South Chapter of the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators and more
CREATIVES ON CREATING
“Once you’ve chosen a setting, be specific about its nature. Your setting should never seem vague or half-imagined. Some writers will draw landscape maps. Some will create a layout for the house in which their characters live. If your story takes place outdoors, be aware of the terrain, the season of the year, the foliage, the weather, the color and texture of the sky. If your story takes place indoors, be aware of the architecture, the kind of furniture, the feel of the room (stuffy, open, cozy, cluttered), the amount and quality of light, the smell of the air. This does not mean you must describe all these elements in detail, but the more aware you are of your setting, the more you will be able to capture it and integrate it into the story.” – Abby Geni
“I wanted to write about the life of children and the lives of their parents without everyone thinking it was about me and my children and their life,” she said. “And of course, everyone thinks it is. It is not. I maintain it is not.” – Jamaica Kincaid speaking about See Now Then
“But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that only Romeo & Juliet would work. Middle grade readers know this play even if they haven’t read it or seen it performed; it’s embedded in our culture. My plan was to use the play as much as possible, plotting Star-Crossed on a track parallel to Shakespeare’s play: The Capulets and the Montagues became rival school cliques. Willow (Tybalt) throws a Halloween party but doesn’t invite Mattie, who sneaks in, disguised as Darth Vader. That’s where she meets and flirts with Gemma, who assumes that underneath the costume, Mattie is a boy. And so on.” – Barbara Dee
“Now that I’ve read through my manuscript a few times I’m starting to notice some little things that I never necessarily thought about during my first (or second or third) pass. I’m going through and carefully adding more layers to all of the characters so that they talk and feel like real people – complicated and varied the way we all know real people to be. During this process I can’t help but notice what may or may not be a big issue: I never described what my main character looked like.” – from Caitlyn Levin’s post ‘How do I look?’ at She Writes. In it, Caitlyn Levin notes that only at her third or fourth pass through her finished novel length manuscript did she realize she’d not described what the main character looks like. But does it matter, she asked. It’s a worthwhile read if you’re wondering how much or too little to reveal of character. Good insights in the comments section as well. Below, I’ll share excerpts from the ones I found most interesting (and perhaps most helpful to us all here at Wadadli Pen):
“If you choose not to describe your character, do make sure that’s an aesthetic choice used to maximum effect. For example, Dickens’s narrator in ‘Bleak House’ is so unreliable that we never realize she is beautiful until the final chapter, a ‘minor’ detail that sends us reimagining the entire book and feeling even greater empathy for our heroine…You might think of Dickens’s choice as setting the bar. If your reason is less compelling, less essential to the plot, consider going back through the manuscript to make one quick pass where you take an objective look at how much of your protagonist is truly on the page.” – ST
“I’m a visual person, so when I read a book, I flat out want to know what the character looks like. Our minds will always fill in the blanks, regardless. Tell me someone is blonde with blue eyes, and I will picture someone different than you. But at least it gives me enough to form a mental image to proceed. … She can twist a piece of her curly auburn hair around her finger, she can think of the size of her hips as she’s squeezing into a pair of jeans, someone can have an eye color just like hers.” – LGO
“Consider TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Scout doesn’t waste a word describing herself, but don’t we see her clear as day? She’s someone cantankerous tomboy we know from our past, the closest approximation in our lives, and that makes her personal to us. Neat trick, huh?”
This was my response:
“I think it comes down to what serves the story…what the character notices (or doesn’t notice) about herself and others says something about her. So I don’t have a problem with the author choosing to reveal or not reveal what a character looks like as long as it’s in harmony with the larger narrative. For instance, in my book Oh Gad! the main character’s struggles with her own place in things, her identity within her family is in part explored through the physical likeness and differences between her and other members of the family…that her mother largely exists in shadowed memory with a physicality that suggests an imposing persona is important to the narrative (and the understanding of that relationship) but what’s more important is her hands so that’s where the detail lies…that another characters’ peculiarities are illustrated often by his ‘strange’ physical appearance becomes important in the telling (as does her response to that ‘strangeness’)…in general, I tend to give something of the physicality because there’s usually a visual in my mind from which these characters are drawn but I give to the extent that it serves the story.
Bottom line, I do like detail that add texture to the world of the story (including the characters), but not if it gets in the way of the story. It’s a balance I’m still working to master.”
“A few weeks ago, I read a column by a young columnist in one of our newspapers. It was after The Olympics and we were just full up with gratitude to our athletes, and especially happy for our Usain Bolt. The writer said that he had read this book when he was in school about great sportsmen of the world, Mohammed Ali and Pele ( I think he mentioned those), and he wondered if he would ever see any greats like that again in the world, and here he was seeing our own Usain Bolt, as great an athlete as ever there was in the world. I was amazed.I wondered if he was referring to the Dr. Bird Series (he remembered the books arriving at his school in a box), provided by the Ministry of Education, and written by Peggy Campbell (of blessed memory), Karl Phillpotts and I.” – Diane Browne
“When I finished the novel I began to think about ways I could use the story with my fourth grade students.” – Patrick Andrus
“I am sun-smothered, round, smooth, quiet in my mind and spirit.” – Bernice McFadden writing from Egypt
Books can introduce children to tough topics in an age appropriate way. Kate Messner blogs her experience with one school after her book The Seventh Wish was deemed too tough for the kids to handle.
“Faced with seemingly infinite lists, calls for submissions, classified ads, databases, and fair-and-festival tables, how do I select which journals and magazines to send my work to with the hope that, after editorial review, my pages may indeed find proverbial “homes” online and/or in print?” – Erika Dreifus on 13 Questions to Ask Before Submitting to a Literary Journal
“Find databases of agents at Absolute Write, Query Tracker, Poets & Writers, and Lit Rejections.” – Eight Essential Tips for Getting Your YA Novel Published by Jenny Manzer
That’s Antiguan and Barbudan Arlen singing on this track. Big up.
“More of one thing
Doesn’t rhyme with one thing.” – from Violins by Rowan Ricardo Phillips