Tag Archives: edwidge dandicat

Two of My Faves

Cleaning out some files just now, I came across a release I neglected to share when it was still news (read it here: OESnews18-PresAward_6-2-2018). It concerns two Caribbean literary giants – Earl Lovelace of Trinidad and Tobago, and America-based Edwidge Dandicat of Haiti – being awarded by the St. Martin’s Book Fair. From the release: “The Presidents Award is presented to individuals and institutions whose work is noted
for its excellence and for combining literary, cultural, and liberation components in the service of progress, of their people or nation, and of humanity,” said Lasana M. Sekou, projects director at House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP). I saw the accompanying photo and wanted to share it along with a note on each of these writers, two of my faves and writers you should know if you don’t already.

nerissa golden pic of danticat_lovelace_BF18_6-2-18.jpg

Their books (the ones I’ve read)

Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994) – This was an Oprah’s Book Club pick (1998) right around the time a book club I was then a part of introduced me to it. Oprah being the literary king and queen maker at the time, it launched her in to the stratosphere not only as a major modern Caribbean voice but as a major author. It was uncomfortable and moving, dealing as it does with home, the mother-daughter dynamic, and purity tests for girls;  definitely a must-read.

The Farming of Bones (1998) – I credit the book club I was a part of at the time for introducing me to this one and unearthing, for me, a part of Caribbean history I knew  nothing about –  the massacre at the border between the two countries of Haitians by Dominicans at the behest of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1937. It rocked me in so many ways, thinking about how Haiti has inspired (as the singular example of Black people freeing themselves from bondage) and suffered (paying for their claiming of their ownership of themselves and their country) to this day; thinking of how so many Dominicans have, since the 1980s and continuing, made Antigua their home by that point, of earlier migration, decades before my birth of eastern Caribbean people to the Dominican Republic and other parts of Latin America, of Caribbean people moving for all sorts of reasons, economic and otherwise, of Black people, darker Black people especially, too often being treated as a stain upon the world, undesirables, of how to reconcile all of this ugliness, especially when from slavery to economic recolonization, we won’t even face it. What I liked about this book was the way it insisted we face it. The tensions between Haiti and the DR persist to this day (and Dandicat has become quite a vocal advocate for the humanity of Haitian people in these battles), Haiti is still treated like the world’s problem and not a self-determining nation that showed us the way, the colourist attitudes and their underpinnings in our enslavement is an issue we’ve barely scratched the surface of, but one of the things I like about fiction is how it mixes these big racial, social, historical, and geo political issues in to an engaging, and all too human, story that we can’t shake, long after we’ve forgotten the details. This is a masterpiece and easily one of my favourite books, period.

Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work (2010) – a collection of essays that while they spoke to the challenges of writing about Haiti, spoke to me as a writer trying to write truthfully, the bravery that that requires, and the fear that I may not be up to the task. I love this book for the insights it gives to Dandicat’s journeying but also for the ways it challenges me on my own.

Eight Days: A Story of Haiti (2010) – this gripping children’s book of a child trapped in the days after the major Haiti quake of that same year. I believe it was a fundraiser as the country struggled (struggles still) to find its footing; it was also a favourite of the Cushion Club Reading Club for Kids with which I volunteer (… or have).

Dandicat’s short fiction – of her loose short fiction, my favourite of the ones I’ve read is Ghosts which was published in the New Yorker.

Still on my to read list – Behind the Mountains (2002), The Dew Breaker (2004) , Anacaona: Golden Flower (2005),  Brother, I’m Dying (2007), Claire of the Sea Light (2013) – I’ve actually read excerpts of this one but not the whole book though the excerpts I’ve read make me want to read it in full, and Untwine (2015). Actually I could probably add all the books by her that I haven’t read yet to this list but I’m sticking with the ones already on my TBR.

I’ve read less of Lovelace (less even than I realized) and yet he looms just as large in my literary imagination – in part because he is always part of everyone’s conversation as a pure Caribbean artist who has influenced the way we tell our stories to the world, and is many people’s favourites. The one I remember reading, again with my book club back in the late 90s/early aughts, I believe, is The Wine of Astonishment (1982) – with that iconic cover and its use of Trinidad traditional stick fighting culture (an extension of Africa in the lives of these displaced Africans). The details are fuzzy but the Bolo character is one of the things/people/entities that imprinted on me from this book (and from many Caribbean books I’ve read); I love a great character. I’m now realizing as I write this that I may have only thought I read The Dragon Can’t Dance; it is one of those Caribbean classics you grow up with until it feels like you’ve read it because you know it so well…only, maybe not (this was me and Jean Rhys Wide Sargasso Sea for the longest while). I can’t say for sure which probably means I need to re/read it. So I’m going to put The Dragon Can’t Dance back on the TBR alongside the ones already there – Is Just a Movie and Salt.

Their impact

Lovelace is “celebrated for his descriptive, dramatic fiction about West Indian culture. Using Trinidadian speech patterns and standard English, he probes the paradoxes often inherent in social change as well as the clash between rural and urban cultures.” (Britannica)

“Earl Lovelace is well known for his groundbreaking novels about carnival and
religion in Trinidad and Tobago, The Dragon Can’t Dance and The Wine of
Astonishment. His more recent award-winning novels, Salt and Is Just a Movie have
advanced his regional and international standing as a noted Caribbean author.” (from the press release re the St . Martin Book Fair 2018)

I remember we did an informal poll on the now (unfortunately) defunct Caribbean Literary Salon re favourite Caribbean writer and Lovelace won easily.

His awards include a 1980 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 1986 National Endowment for the Humanities grant, the 1997 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for best book (Salt), being shortlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 1998, a 2002 Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of the West Indies, the 2011 Grand Prize for Caribbean Literature (Is Just a Movie), and the 2012 OCM Bocas Prize, fiction category and overall winner (Is Just a Movie) among others.

“Edwidge Danticat, (born January 19, 1969, Port-au-Prince, Haiti), Haitian American author whose works focus on the lives of women and their relationships. She also addresse(s) issues of power, injustice, and poverty.” (Britannica)

“Edwidge Danticat (Haiti/USA), a much in-demand writer around the world, is the
author of Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection; Krik? Krak!; The
Farming of Bones; and Claire of the Sea Light. She is the editor of The Butterfly’s Way:
Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States. A MacArthur fellow, Danticat
has written six books for children and young adults. Her memoir, Brother, I’m Dying, is a
USA National Book Critics Circle Award winner.” (from the press release re the St . Martin Book Fair 2018)

When this blog posted on Caribbean Favourites in 2010, four Dandicat books were listed with fans of the book crediting The Farming of Bones for “unflinchingly and vividly rendering (a brutal chapter in Haitian-Dominican Republic history)”, Breath, Eyes, Memory’s “simply beautiful writing”, Krik? Krak? as a book that “weaves love, heartbreak, pride, pain, and raw human emotion” in to its storytelling (this fan also described Dandicat as “truly gifted in her story telling”), and The Dew Breaker as an example of “truly amazing writing” and “a powerful exploration of the effect of political violence on individuals and communities”.

Dandicat was named by Harper’s Bazaar as ‘1 of 20 people in their twenties who will make a difference’, featured in The New York Times as one of ’30 under 30′ people to watch, and called one of the ’15 Gutsiest Women of the Year’ by Jane magazine. She received fiction awards from Essence and Seventeen magazines. She won a Pushcart for Between the Pool and the Gardenias’, Granta magazine’s Best Young American Novelist prize (1996), the American Book Award for The Farming of Bones (1999), the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for The Dew Breaker (2005), and the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature for Create Dangerously (2011), among others. She is a repeat National Book Award nominee (Krik? Krak?, Brother, I’m Dying) and the recipient of honorary degrees from Smith College (2012), Yale (2013), and the University of the West Indies (2017) – possibly more. She is a MacArthur Fellows Program Genius Grant recipient (2009).

“Both authors are also courageous advocates for the advancement of Caribbean
sovereignty and human rights” (from the press release re the St . Martin Book Fair 2018)

Our crossings

I’ve met each of these authors at least once – Lovelace at the International Congress of Caribbean Writers (2013) and Dandicat at the Miami Book Fair (2018). It can be fun to meet your heroes…it can be uneventful; one was one of these and one was the other but both remain as mental keepsakes for a writer (me!) very much inspired by them both.

As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight,  Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. You’re also invited to follow me on my author blog http://jhohadli.wordpress.com Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.

 

 

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Reading Room and Gallery 28

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 artistes by rippling the water together. For earlier installments of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 28th one which means there are 27 earlier ones (can’t link them all). 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. – JCH

ESSAYS/NON-FICTION

“I’ve referred to mas as some of my earliest exposures to theatre and storytelling. I especially enjoyed the huge King and Queen of the Band costumes which have largely disappeared from Antiguan mas but which, after showing off on the stage, would take up the whole of Market Street as the parade inched along. The younger ones lobbying for Carnival to be moved from the city to the wider, less cramped, safer spaces on its outskirts can’t imagine how intimate and joyful that feeling was. We would sing the calypso, dance to the soca, and as the costumes floated by, or were dragged or carried by revelers who, despite their size and presumed weightiness, seemed buoyed rather than burdened by them, our eyes would open wide at their grandeur. They were shiny and colourful, a moving canvas; big and bold, inventive and daring. The costumes designed by Heather Doram, still one of Antigua’s finest artists, and built by her husband Connie Doram, come to mind – this would have been later, I think, in my pre-teens, during the costume segment of the Queen Show. Time bends in memory. The when isn’t important, just that it was all mas, and that mas at its best was like visiting the L’ouvre in France or the Museum of Modern Art in New York; only it was our art, from arwe imagination, telling our stories, and it was beautiful, and powerful, and magical. Of course, I wasn’t thinking all of that back then, not at three or thirteen. Back then it was just a feeling that exploded in my body like fireworks. That’s what mas is at its purest, that feeling: pure joy.

I would capture that feeling from the inside for the first time the first time I played mas in 1989.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse, A Life in Mas in Moko: Caribbean Art and Letters

VISUAL ARTS

“This color scheme is quite challenging at the moment. It’s a weird variety of colors. I’m taking my time and I know I’m working slower than normal, but the final product matters more than just rushing every moment.” – Brandon Knoll at Chaotic Works discussing a work-in-progress

***

Madonna– “In Jamaica, all archetypes of the Virgin are painted white. Referencing images of black madonnas in several European countries, I am going back to archetypes of ancient Egypt, the continent of Africa, archetypes like Isis, from whom it is believed the patriarchs modelled the Virgin Mary. Archetypes who expressed wrath, anger, and revenge – not the present day image found around the island churches, but one who when you call on her justice will be served.

I am using a common ‘Mary’ mold which I have painted as a black female archetype and have installed her at various locations in the corporate Kingston area. Some were removed or stolen and only one remains in Manor Park, Kingston where the men sell newspapers and cigarettes.

…I created another Madonna to replace the one that was damaged. When I went towards the same newspaper, cigarette men in the wee hours of the morning, they asked me what I wanted. I told them I have come to replace her (she was missing her head). They just replied ‘we love Mary’ and they helped me by taking the statue out of the car and placing her in what they felt was a safe spot. They believed a mad man had pushed the other black Madonna down causing her to lose her head, but they promised to keep watch over this one.” – Kristie Stephenson re her ‘Lady Justice’ sculptures, in Interviewing the Caribbean Spring 2017, p. 148-152

INTERVIEWS

“A lot of critics think A Brief History of Seven Killings is horrifying, but I don’t think so, and I don’t think the characters think they’re living in horror. The fact is that even the most terrible situation is normal for the person living in it. In a lot of ways, this is the funniest book that I’ve ever written. It has the most humor and the most ridiculousness—certainly, it’s the most experimental. I don’t know about horror, but there’s violence and brutality. It opens up with a dead guy, but then again, death and horror is a Western association. It’s certainly not that way in the East. It’s certainly not in non-Anglo storytelling. This character’s horror comes from something quite living, not from anything spiritual—it comes from the fact that he was murdered. The horror that exists in the book isn’t supernatural: it’s the basic cruelty that human beings commit against each other. That is the scary stuff. Anything might happen at any time, and that’s what’s unnerving. It’s real, upfront, everyday fear.” – Marlon James

***

“Rumpus: Claire of the Sea Light is set in the fictional seaside town of Ville de Rose, a town shaped by its beauty—hence its namesake—but also the mountains above it, the sea at its border, the buzz of its single radio program, and the corruption of its civil servants. Talk to me about building this world. Specifically, I’m interested in how you break up and bring together social classes using topography.

(Edwidge) Danticat: When my first book, Breath, Eyes Memory, came out, I wrote about many real Haitian towns and a lot of people who were from those towns would say “you got this wrong” and “got that wrong,” so I decided to write about my own town by borrowing elements of different places. If you are inventing a town, you have all freedom. I added the lighthouse. Langston Hughes has a children’s book called Popo and Fafina, set in Haiti during the U.S. occupation because he used to travel to Haiti quite a bit. And I remembered that the story has a lighthouse in it, so I reread it and thought, I want a lighthouse, and the lighthouse went in. I could visually see the town and see myself walking around in it, but that takes many, many layers of writing. Sometimes in writing you have to live with things before you inhabit them, and that takes a very long time for it to stop feeling constructed and to start feeling like something real.” Read the full interview.

***

“Who do you write for?
Myself, who else? A great deal of stories that I ever write have been based on things I see in the news or people I hear about. Just the other day I sit down listening to my aunt and cousin talking about somebody who smoking out their whole house for ghosts.

There’s also another story that was in the news way back when in La Brea—where a whole family, granny and all, was taking care of this dead baby. The story fall out of the news a week later—we never get to know why any of this happen. Writing gives me the ability to imagine the bedlam of some of these situations. To figure out why.” – Kevin Jared Hosein interview with Caribbean Literary Heritage

***

‘What is most attractive and crucial about Kamau is that the world he creates erodes the invisible structures that govern how/why/what/from where we write. Walcott’s “White Magic” in The Arkansas Testament [1987], for instance, has always troubled me in the way it defends and argues for a world that, in tone and outlook, it is so distant from. The world of a spirituality that is quite real to me. Now, had the epistemic underpinnings of “White Magic” been different, we would’ve had a different poem. These underpinnings determine how we understand metaphor and what we can or do draw upon in creating figurative language. It decides what devices become the engines of our expression. Kamau gives me this, both through what he has done and what he gives me the courage to attempt.’ – Vladimir Lucien in conversation with John Robert Lee about the work of Kamau Brathwaite

***

“Because nothing in Brief History started the way it ended up. The first page I ever wrote is now on page 458. I was writing a crime novel starring a hitman who was trying to kill this Jamaican drug lord. I remember writing that, and thinking in the back of my head, “He’s one of the guys who tried to kill Marley.” But that was just going to be this sort of “Gotcha!” at the end, and my brief 120-page novel would have been finished. I just couldn’t finish it. I got to a part where I just couldn’t go any further. And I just figured, well, let’s find another character. So I created this character, another hit man, called Bam Bam. Then it was the same thing: writing the character for maybe forty, fifty pages, until I ran into a dead end.” – Marlon James in interview with Joshua Jelly-Schapiro

***

‘“Get Shorty” showrunner Davey Holmes asked Calderon Kellett if she feels an added pressure to get her show right, to which she replied: “For sure, especially when there aren’t a lot of Latinx shows right now on TV. Tanya and I know each other and we’ve done a million panels together. We’re like ‘the two.’”

To the horror of her fellow panelists, Calderon Kellett recollected the story of how when the two showrunners previously worked together in a writers’ room in 2012, they were called “sp– and span.” The only show that the two have worked together on is “Devious Maids.”

As she described looking back on her career when the Me Too Movement broke out, “everyone did a self-audit. I went through mine and thought: ‘Oh, my God. I’m so broken.’”’ – from Variety’s A Night in the Writers’ Room with Michael Schur (The Good Place), Peter Farrelly (Loudermilk), Tanya Saracho (Vida), Gloria Calderon Kellett (One Day at a Time), David Holmes (Get Shorty), Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Judd Apatow (Crashing), Andrea Savage (I’m Sorry), Gemma Baker (Mom), Jennie Snyder Urman (Jane the Virgin), Stephen Glover (Atlanta)

***

“Arimah: I often don’t care what things are called, or what the right word for something is, as long as what is said is understood. Magical realism, speculative, fantasy, science fiction—these are all terms I (and others) have used to describe my work, and I’m fine with all those labels. I’m sure there are arguments for the appropriateness of one or the other, but I’m not heavily invested (unless someone is trying to disparage any one of those genres. Then I’ll likely come to its defense).” – Lesley Nneka Arimah

***

“(BRUCE) MILLER We had a very long discussion in our room about what it actually feels like to get your period and how can you tell or not when you start to bleed. And the room, all they did was disagree with each other.

(LENA) WAITHE Because everybody has a very different experience.

MILLER Right. And it’s funny because you think, “Oh, there’s a universal answer to this.” And really, I just need a line. (Laughter.) But it doesn’t help if you just have one person. It’s one person’s opinion and there is no one to challenge it.”  – Courtney Kemp (‘Power’), Peter Morgan (‘The Crown’), Bruce Miller (‘The Handmaid’s Tale’), David Shore (‘The Good Doctor’) and Lena Waithe (‘The Chi’) in conversation with The Hollywood Reporter

***

“NPR’s LYNN NEARY: Woodson says she’d love to get rid of labels like struggling reader or advanced reader and encourage young people to concentrate more on how a book makes them feel or think.

AUTHOR JACQUELINE WOODSON: Labeling is not the best way to get young people to deeply engage in reading. I mean, at the end of the day, you take the qualifier away and they’re a reader. Childhood, young adulthood is fluid. And it’s very easy to get labeled very young and have to carry something through your childhood and into your adulthood that is not necessarily who you are.” Read the full interview.

FICTION

“We are in a graveyard,” Dionne said. She traced the name of her ancestor while Trevor’s hand worked its way beneath her dress and along the smooth terrain of her upper thigh. She liked the way it felt when Trevor touched her, though she hadn’t decided yet what she’d let him do to her. She’d let Darren put his hands all the way up her skirt on the last day of school. But here, where girls her age still wore their hair in press and curls, she knew that sex was not to be given freely, but a commodity to ration, something to barter with.’ – Excerpt of The Star Side of Bird Hill, by Naomi Jackson

***

“As she can no longer see the shore, The Woman has decided it is time to bail ship, to jump into the water she cannot swim in, wearing her heaviest shoes and heart of great mass. She leaves on her red hat, hoping it will be her grave marker, should anyone wonder what happened to the boat and why it is floating out in the great lake.” – Zombie V. by Melanie S. Page 

***

“We all got married — Suzanne, and Virginia, and I — and it was all we ever wanted to be at the time. I fought with my parents to get married, and Suzanne ran away from home with her boyfriend to get married, and Virginia saved her money for a year and eight months, eating a bag lunch at work every day and walking up from the square to save the five cents for the transfer and making her own clothes and only seeing movies when they came to the drive-in — all to get married.” – We by Mary Grimm

***

“I like Markham, but I’d like to kill him. I dream of doing it in front of a huge pack of boys. Clinically.” – Stickfighting Days by Olufemi Terry

***

“Two white boys sat on a bench outside the closed door while a white man in a billed cap kept watch over them. Walter thought maybe the Funhouse couldn’t be so bad, with white boys here too—until a crack of leather striking flesh came from inside, and a boy’s scream. Walter had never heard anyone scream that way except Mama, in her dying. His blood burned cold.” – The Reformatory by Tananarive Due

THE BUSINESS

“She (Kima Jones) reminds me that the first step in breaking out is actually taking the time to turn inward and look within.” – Poets & Writers in conversation with literary publicists Lauren Cerand, Kima Jones, and Michael Taekens

CREATIVES ON CREATING

‘When I taught writing, I told my students there was no reason to worry about punctuation until they had written something worth punctuating correctly. I was trying to show them that the important part of writing—the part their teachers didn’t teach them—was the revision process. The stopping and starting, the rethinking, the crossing out, the sharpening of a thought—that’s writing. It’s a verb, after all. Punctuation, which their teachers had “taught” them, was simply politeness, no different from covering your mouth when you sneeze.’ – Piano Lessons: Do Writers Need a Teacher or a Coach? by Jim Sollisch

***

‘TD: This was a very, very tough moment for me to write in the story. But it was always the moment I was writing up to, which is beyond the violence, trying to find some hope on the other side—how to process that violence. Why is there so much? There is even more violence than the excerpt I read that I cut out. This is the bogeyman, for the most part, this whipping shed. In real life it was called “The White House.” I call it “The Fun House” in my story. But this was the place where these boys very often lost their innocence and where their lives were in some ways damaged a great deal for the rest of their lives. Just the trauma of the violence. And there were also accusations of sexual abuse. But for the most part the accounts I read have been about the physical beatings. A man to my face, and this was a white man, talked about how he had the skin whipped off of his back. He could not see his parents on visiting day because of the damage to his skin and the doctor literally had to remove the fabric from his injuries. This is brutality, brutality against children. To me it would be a cheat not to express the full brutality of the experience. And it is difficult to do that to a twelve year old protagonist, or even have him witness it, or be afraid it would happen to him, frankly, when I think of my own son. But it would not be fair to the survivors of this school, and the survivors of the system overall, to gloss over the violence, because violence and sexual abuse mark so many experiences in the criminal justice system. Where you are removed from a home environment, where you have measures of safety and control, and put in an environment where you have no control, no name. There are statistics that show that the majority of sexual abuse in juvenile detention centers is not perpetrated by other prisoners, it is perpetrated by guards. Horror, typically, is violence by the monster, the daemon, the zombie.  In this story, the horror is human, and the ghosts are just survivors in their own way.’ – Tananarive Due on writing The Reformatory

***

‘Yeah, the president is just such a different joke world, because it’s a moving target that’s constantly evolving and it’s constantly changing. You could write 20 minutes about one thing and then he reverses his opinion. Well, now what are you going to do with that material? I could start writing my act today, but in five weeks when we go and tape, 20 different things would’ve happened by then. It’s not something I enjoy because it forces you to stay on topic with an issue. To report every week on what Trump did, you’re just saying he did this, here’s a joke about it, and here’s why you shouldn’t think that way. There’s got to be more. There’s got to be something bigger to that. To me the issue isn’t Trump, it’s the people in office who don’t stand up to him. That’s the bigger deep dive. Because if you look at all of the president’s antics since he’s been sworn in, the one consistent narrative is that nobody stands up to him. So to me, that’s what I want to talk about. I want to talk about who are all these people who don’t go, “Hey, man, don’t fucking tweet today.”’ – Roy Wood Jr. on writing jokes

***

‘From the moment the idea for the story first came to me, I imagined it as a story in which the main character is falling and is considering the most important moments and people in his life. I think that framework gives some flexibility to the narrative, some elasticity, because that experience would be very different for each of us, depending on our personal and larger history, who we are, what we value most, and who or what we are most concerned about. Another news item that often catches my attention here in Miami is how many construction workers fall while working to build very expensive hotels or apartment buildings that they would not be able to afford to stay or live in—so that became one of the elements at play in “Without Inspection.”’ – Edwidge Dandicat

As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight,  Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.

Leave a comment

Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery, The Business

Reading Room and Gallery 25

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 artistes by rippling the water together. For earlier installments of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 25th one which means there are 24 earlier ones (can’t link them all). 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. – JCH

MISC.
– re storytelling lessons from the screenplay.

ON BEING A WRITER

“A lot has to happen from the time you finish your book until it is published. ” – from 10 Things I learned as a New Author by Phyllis Piano

***

“If I had been deterred or demoralized by the initial rejections, if I had given up then, the manuscript would still be sitting in some drawer.” – Leonard Chang

***

‘Thick Skin. I wish you the covering of the cascadura, since you must endure many disappointments and discouragements. Rejection slips are never welcome, and, unless you are very lucky, you will get many of these. Harder, though, may be the tossing-aside of people who dismiss your work, or folks, some of whom you may count as supporters or friends, who pigeonhole you. “A genre writer! Good at fantasy!” “Not bad at children’s stories.” “Good at travel writing — not much else.”’ – Pamela Mordecai

INTERVIEWS

“Most poems begin for me with the very basic, almost physical need to write. Then comes the process of finding the right words, finding images that are both unexpected and easy to relate to. I write, then roll the words around in my mouth a bit, make sure that the texture is right. Read, edit, re-read and repeat!” – Danielle Boodoo Fortune. The post includes three of her poems.

***

“This was one of the things I learned about creativity. You have to let go of self-consciousness. When I started thinking about this book, I knew that if I felt self-conscious while writing, it would probably come out bit by bit and it would not be as honest.” – Amy Tan

***

“We were just in an atmosphere …that said it was okay to write…there was no separation for me from the West Indian street outside and the work that I was reading, sometimes even in French….I would say that it’s the duty of any parent to check out the talent of the child and to make sure that that talent is not smothered, that you don’t divert that child’s ambition, especially in terms of a writer; we would have more writers if we didn’t have a system that said you have to be a doctor or engineer.” – Derek Walcott in conversation with CBC Radio

***

“When you’re creating, it’s not always automatic. Many days in the studios were just days of talking and listening to music that had nothing to do with our music. Sometimes she’d say she wasn’t coming in. We treated it much more as a creative thing than an emotional process, but we knew there was a lot of emotion involved. Literally she’d sometimes say that she just was not coming in, so we’d create new tracks or tweak something or comp a vocal. We always had things to do even when she didn’t come in and we’d pick up where we left off.” – Jimmy Jam (producer) discusses the making of Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope

CREATIVES ON CREATING

“Drop the hints. Don’t point out the clues.” – Janice Hardy on Telegraphing

***

“My advice to aspiring writers is the short story is a fantastic form to commit yourself to, but don’t to put all your eggs in the competition basket. Subscribe to your local literary journals, read them, submit your own stories: when accepted, add a line to your literary curriculum vitae; when rejected, take another look at the story and see if there’s anything you want to change before submitting it elsewhere.” – Confessions of a Prize Winner by New Zealand writer Craig Cliff, at Commonwealth Writers

***

“Foreshadowing can be a little confusing. It’s a single word used to describe a narrative technique that can be used for two different purposes. Probably there should be two different words—one for each purpose—but there isn’t. So to make this discussion a bit clearer, I’m going to borrow a word from film studies: planting (as in: planting and payoff).” – Don Allmon

***

“To me, structure always comes about as a result of trying to answer the issue of point of view.” – Christopher Nolan discussing Dunkirk

***

“I decide to dissect myself” – Sheena Rose

POETRY

“What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?” – from Harlem by Langston Hughes

***

“I am the great mother boa
turning the soft egg of the world
beneath my ribs. I will tear myself in two
and heal before morning.” – Danielle Boodoo Fortune

***

“I sat on the throne
drinking nectar with Allah
I got hot and sent an ice age to Europe
to cool my thirst.
My oldest daughter is Nefferttiti
the tears from my birth pains created the Nile
I am a beautiful woman” – Ego Trippin by Nikki Giovanni

***

“The night she tried to beat me, I slept on the veranda
of the shop in the square. At dawn, a man hauled
me home. She dragged me to school, whipped me
with the principal’s cane.” – Wounds by Juleus Ghunta

FICTION

“Hyacinth Ike wanted to kill himself because he had lived a fulfilled, successful life and couldn’t think of anything else he was loitering in the world for.” – By Way of a Life Plot by Kelechi Njoku

***

-excerpt from The Wide Circumference of Love by Marita Golden
***

“God thought of ways to punish the woman for what she had done, without immediately killing her.” – from The Day After by Stephen Greenblatt in The Paris Review

NON-FICTION

“I remember a Haitian radio show I was on years ago, after my first book was published. This woman called in to say, ‘That’s all fine and good, but you better get your nursing degree.’” – Edwidge Dandicat

***

‘It doesn’t matter what pisses you off, she says, as long as you pay attention to that feeling. “Writing against” is a good compass “until you know what you’re writing for,” she said.’ – Katherine Boo’s 15 Rules for Narrative Non Fiction

***

“Most of us are not compelled to linger with the knowledge of our aloneness, for it is a knowledge that can paralyze all action in this world.” – The Creative Process by James Baldwin

***

Sojourner Truth’s Ain’t I a Woman speech is a powerful piece of speechmaking (note the use of tone and rhetoric in the words and in this Cicely Tyson interpretation of them).

***

“You stay because it’s your home, you have to stay and take care of it.” – Luis by Jo-Anne Mason

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Fish Outta Water, With Grace, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. Do not re-use content without permission and credit. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Filed under Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery

Reading Room and Gallery XVlll

This page is for sharing links to things of interest around the internet. It’ll be sporadically updated; so, come back from time to time. For the previous reading rooms (1, 11, 111, 1v, v, v1 , v11, v111, 1x, x, x1, x11, x111, x1v, xv, xvi, xvii), click the links or use the search feature to the right, to the right.

ON PUBLISHING

“#3 Not following guidelines.
Double check all guidelines before submitting to a magazine. Is there a word count requirement? Should your name be removed from the piece? Should your document be in Word, pdf, or rich text format? If it’s an email submission, do they want the document attached, or pasted into the body of the email? Do they accept simultaneous submissions? Don’t risk getting your piece being tossed out because you didn’t follow the rules.” – (here at Wadadli Pen I know this one well) – read the rest of the list of mistakes writers make when submitting.

CREATIVES ON CREATING

“My advice for young writers is to keep reading widely and for pleasure. And don’t get discouraged! So much of it is just mule-like persistence. That’s what I feel I learned this time around. There were many times when Swamplandia! failed and I had to pick it up and try and write it again. There were stories in my collection that were just duds, they’ve been voted off the island, and it was only because I had this material commitment to getting them out the door that I was willing to keep working at them. I really do think that’s the best advice—to keep at it.” – Karen Russell

***

“An interesting insight into the process came when the pair considered how they had arrived at rather different descriptions for the location of the windmill-giants – Jull Costa has them ‘on that same plain’, whereas Bush situates them ‘in the nearby field’. It transpired that, rather than seeking a literal translation of the Spanish ‘en aquel campo’, each had pictured what they read the original to mean and then found a way to render the image in English.” – Ann Morgan on dueling translations of Don Quixote

***

“Not only do I not see movies as I write, I can’t visualise, well, anything. At all. I don’t even dream in pictures. I have absolutely no concept of what it would be like to see things that no one else can see.” – Jo Eberhardt

***

“It happens too often that beginning fiction writers fail to give their characters jobs or occupations. Weak stories by beginning writers often feature adults who are wealthy without any discernible means of income or who perform the indiscernibly ambiguous task of “work.” Characters are described as working each day, but the reader is never told what they do or how their daily jobs affect them or their interactions with others. Characters do not earn money; they simply have it. There are no bills, no expenses, and, of course, no financial struggles.” – Amina Gautier

***

“So here you have a man at the beach, but he can’t enjoy it; he has to sit, because of his paranoia, with his back to the water, sitting in a chair; he wears a Hawaiian shirt but there’s a bullet proof vest under it; he likes a red wine spritzer but it tastes like Skittles which is very loaded…Trayvon Martin had a pack of Skittles.” – Rowan Ricardo Phillips, born in New York to Antiguan parents, reflecting on his poem News from the Muse of Not Guilty after a reading of the poem, from his collection Heaven, on CBC Radio.

***

“You start from building this world with their rules, and then you just follow logic in order to come up with the rest of the details. So once you have this simple fact that you’re treating couples in a certain way and single people in another way—and there’s a bit of a concept that this is almost like a prison drama or something, at least in the first half of the film—then you pick up on those things and you borrow things from other kinds of situations … We tried to get into the heads of people that would be in charge and what they would come up with.” – Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos on the making of his film The Lobster

***

Writing other…Mary Robinette Kowal provides some insight to culturally sensitive approaches to doing so.

***

“The second thing is reminding myself: You don’t have to write anything that you’re not deeply interested in. Every time I remember this, it’s a relief and a surprise.” – Rita Mae Reese on curing the affliction of not-writing.

****

“I use traditional women’s techniques, such as sewing, beading and applique. I incorporate found objects in my work; they are clues towards understanding my story and that of women in general.” – Heather Doram

***

“So much of what the filmmakers did in creating and then editing their work is what we writers strive for when polishing a manuscript: pinpoint the heart of the story and stay true to it, cut what can be lost, and always direct conflict and pacing.” – Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton w/ Elena Greene discuss The Lord of the Rings’ adaptation from book to film and what writers can learn from the choices the filmmakers made. It’s a five part series that begins, here.

***

A long form interview on the arts is a rare thing, especially in a Caribbean print publication, so kudos to Jamaica’s Observer for this series of poetry month features, this one spotlighting American Tim Tomlinson, co-founder of the New York Writers’ Workshop, in conversation with Jamaican-American poet and artist Jacqueline Bishop. Tomlinson’s book Yolanda, an Oral History in Verse, is focused on the Phillipines but his connection to the Caribbean – his time spent visiting and diving in various islands and countries but most especially the Bahamas is explored as well. Essentially, this interview is about both his journeying as a person and how that has informed his writing, how he creates, generally, and specifically in the case of Yolanda. W/thanks to Jacqueline Bishop for sharing, here have a slow as you sipping your iced tea kind of read:

Tim Tomlinson 1Tim Tomlinson 2Tim Tomlinson 3

***

“That was one of those magic moments. That came out pretty much whole cloth. Every now and then you ride the tiger. Most days the tiger rides me, but every now and then I ride the tiger. That’s my favorite chapter in the book. The opening chapter of The Given Day is another example. It’s my favorite chapter in The Given Day. It was written in two nights. It was rewritten extensively for prose, but it just came out.” – Dennis Lehane

***

“When I closed my eyes, I could smell flue-cured tobacco. I could feel the hot sun beating down on me. I could hear the southern accent of a teacher whose voice reminded me of poetry.” – Shannon Hitchcock on the inspiration for her book Ruby Lee & Me

VISUAL ART

Online gallery of Netherlands artist Marijke Buurlage.

***

***

Technically this is musical and literary art (lyrics) shared via a visual medium but that’s not the point. RIP, Prince.

***

“Nature is completely indifferent to the human endeavours whether they are good, evil, otherwise, whatever.” – Lori Landey and Beth Harris discussing Joseph Mallard William Turner’s Slave Ship

NON FICTION

“How many times over the years
I have explained
This.
Celie and her “prettier” sister Nettie
are practically identical.
They might be twins.
But Life has forced on Celie
all the hardships
Nettie mostly avoids…” – Is Celie actually Ugly? By Alice Walker

***

“Why, I asked my brother, did you like the film so much? So many messages. Look at the title. Everyone has problems underneath. Just because you are smart doesn’t mean u can work everything out yourself.” – Sejal Shah writing on Ordinary People

***

“You must read to develop a deeper understanding of literary elements, such as character arc, subtext, voice, and narrative distance.” – Chuck Sambuchino in his article The Pros and Cons of getting a Creative Writing MFA at Writer’s Digest

***

Kei Miller’s essay in this BBC piece resonates with me – it’s truthful and thoughtful and bold as so much of his writing is even when speaking of his tentativeness writing the issue of race -how our whiteness and blackness mediate our interactions. That said, I feel that same prickle of disagreement I feel stir in me whenever a black person, black writer (especially if they’re from colonized or formerly colonized places like I am) say, I didn’t know I was black until… because it’s not my truth (my blackness didn’t limit my sense of possibility but the reality is that, like class and other things, our blackness or shades of blackness was and remains a way of separating ourselves from ourselves) even in the predominantly black places I have lived (including Kei’s Jamaica). The Caribbean is not insulated from these issues, though they are not as starkly or sharply or consistently experienced in whiter places like the US and UK. Beyond my own experiences (some touched on in my February 2016 Essence article Mirror Mirror and issues of colourism/shade-ism explored in my book Musical Youth), this fairly recent memory comes to mind: being in a roomful of children of different shades of black, in a public child-friendly space, right here on our predominantly black island, only to have another adult, call out to one of the children, “black boy, black boy” with a tone and cadence that suggested “bad boy, bad boy” and to have him look up, in full acceptance of this (internalizing it). My aside aside, give the audio clip a listen; it’s a really engaging and touching reflection from one of the Caribbean’s best.

INTERVIEWS

“A writer always benefits from being a kind of outsider. That is why I try not to belong to anything too much. [Alienation] makes you an insider-outsider . . . sharpens [your] sense of observation. You look at things with detached eyes. Even some words. Pondering these English words with your Creole eyes. . . . There always is a sort of dialogue going on [within] most artists anyway. They just soak things in that they ultimately try to reproduce some other way. I think having this dual lens has been very helpful.” – Edwidge Dandicat

***

“Grounded in the realities of our history and geography, but unbounded in their imaginative possibilities” – Philip Sander describing the work of Nalo Hopkinson jumped out at me as the very thing I’ve been trying to define when I speak of a Caribbean aesthetic as a criterion for (but not a limitation of) Wadadli Pen submissions.

***

“Shorter doesn’t mean faster or easier! Short story writing is a very different art from that of the novel, from pacing to character development. So for a novelist, it can actually take longer and be more of a stretch to try her hand at writing a short story. A rewarding challenge, certainly, but definitely a challenge.” – Lauren Willig

***

“I remember myself as a young child, my mother had books inside here, and one of them dealt with the Haitian Revolution. I was ever so proud of Toussaint L’Ouverture. I was just proud. I mean, there he was, sitting in the same book with Napoleon and all of these other great men. So, for me, the Haitian Revolution was very significant. I don’t know how it is in popular memory, because right now everybody’s sorry for the Haitians—and “sorry for” in the sense of, “We’re better off” or “They can wear our old clothes.” So I don’t know about it in the popular memory. But certainly historically, Haiti served to frighten late-eighteenth- and nineteenth-century governments. Frightening them, and as a matter of fact, had them even more repressive towards their black enslaved workers because their fear of Haiti was so strong. So, I don’t know that it has popular resonances, but certainly for nineteenth-century politics, it did.” – Erna Brodber interview at SX Salon, a Small Axe Literary Platform

***

“What’s interesting to me is that of the women who have read this, every single one thinks that it is absolutely sexy and totally horny. Then I was like, ‘oh, so this is erotica’. And I was reminded again that erotica does not need to be explicit. And, of course, what is erotic and what we find sexy and will respond to viscerally in that way is entirely subjective.” – Leone Ross

***

“The fiction writer in me likes gaps in stories because I can jump into that gap and try to suggest something.” – Marlon James’ Vogue interview

***

“There’s a place for everything…” – says Barbados’ Shakirah Bourne in this NIFCA interview:

***

“To move past the ugly parts of history, you have to acknowledge them, on all sides, and this is what I think historical fiction can do so well: show how we got from there to here, but told through characters who see themselves not as history but as completely modern.” – Andrea Mullaney, author of The Ghost Marriage, 2012 Commonwealth Short Story winner for Canada and Europe

***

“The area where I spent my childhood years was surrounded my trees, and always seemed just on the edge of wilderness. That area has changed so much, but there is still that space in my imagination that’s the same…” – Danielle Boodoo Fortune, Woman of Colour interview

***

“What I’m trying to bring out is the power of words themselves, the power and musicality of words.” – Clifton Joseph

***

“Reading was such a sanctuary when I was a teenager, I wanted to see if I could tell a Jamaican story, a Caribbean story, that would interest even an urban teenager.” – Diana McCaulay re her new book Gone to Drift

FICTION

“In April of 1945, after facing only minimal resistance, Rhett was part of the Allied force that liberated a concentration camp named for the beech forests that surrounded it. The day was damp and overcast, with a heavy ground mist that sometimes hid the heaped bodies and sometimes revealed them. Living skeletons stood at the fences and outside the crematoriums, staring at the Americans. Some were horribly burned by white phosphorous.” – Cookie Jar by Stephen King

***

“In death, we live far more richly than we do in life. Our lives are pale shadows in which we are preoccupied with the business of living. It is in death that we take on nuance and colour. We seep through the floorboards of houses, spread out and nestle there. We whistle through windows, ruffle curtains and inhabit the minds and memories of others. We take on a resonance that only memory provides. We become deities. We become ancestors.” – from Ayanna Gillian Lloyd’s Walking in Lapeyrouse

***

“There was no rebuttal. She ended the call. From the decanter on side board, she poured herself a drink. The rum quelled the chill in her stomach — a chill reminiscent of rain-fly wings brushing against her skin. Where did they find him? They were hunting him for so long. Did he put up a fight? Errol had a point: There was really no need for her to kill him herself. But she wanted to.” – H. K. Williams’ Celeste in Moko

***

“They’ve taken you, in the rolling melody of their steps and song, to the river Aripo inside the forest, and when they sit and beckon you to come join them, their feet, you notice, are not as they’re supposed to be. It’s a peculiar thing to miss, really, backwards feet. You sense that your own feet have been treading air when they come into contact once again with the marshy forest floor. You look back into the bush where you think you came from, and you want to go home.”- Wenmimareba Klobah Collins

***

Edwidge Dandicat reads and discusses Jamaica Kincaid’s Girl and her own Wingless. And here’s Girl, so you can read along.

***

“My wife is happiest on Sunday afternoon, when I leave the house. We have been married five years – too soon for us to take pleasure in each other’s absence.” – from Radio Story by Anushka Jasraj – Commonwealth Short Story winner for Asia

***

“After years of working like a dog, clawing his way to fame and fortune—forfeiting family in the process—Desiree and the people of the island had broken down his mighty reserve and rewarded him with passion, friendship and the happiest times he’d ever experienced. He loved living in a place where everyone was aware of who he was, but not impressed or intimidated by what he had done. He admired the lack of social divides, that the Chief Minister played dominoes with ‘The People’, and that his best friend and “liming partner” was her cousin, and his Captain.” – Trudy Nixon’s Anguilla Boat Race, part of Akashic’s Mondays are Murder series

***

Mary Akers said about ‘Viewing Medusa’ after it had been posted at The Good Men Project: “For all you writers out there, this story’s publication is a testament to persistence. It won the Mary Mackey Short Story Prize, it was the story I submitted for my successful Bread Loaf waiter application, but for ten years, I tried unsuccessfully to get it published. I submitted it to 101 journals, 100 of whom rejected it before Matthew Salesses believed in it and brought it out into the world.” Here’s an excerpt from the story:  “I found myself unable to look away as she slurped her soup, dipping the pieces of dasheen in the broth and sucking them dry after each dip. When the soursop was served, she peeled away the bumpy green skin and slurped the fruit into her mouth, rolling it around until the smooth brown seeds were free, spitting them onto her plate. Soursop juice ran down her wrists and dripped off her elbows to the floor. I thought of Miss Connie, later, on her hands and knees, wiping up the stickiness while shaking her head at the lack of manners displayed by scientists.” – the voice/point of view and descriptions work well together to create a clear picture of the part of Dominica in which the story (which feels less fiction and more here’s how it happened) is set – the beauty and ruggedness in the landscape and the character of the people as compared with the visiting (presumably white) scientists, to create as well a certain mood of foreboding, and to suck the reader in…even if it spits that reader out the other end with questions, or rather one lingering question: so wait, she nar go do nutten? – Read the whole of Viewing Medusa here.

***

“The fuel tank was empty. He’d collapsed from sunstroke and dehydration. He’d been raving incoherently. When he finally recovered he’d lost all memory of where he’d left his men. A Lysander was sent out to look for them but nothing was ever found. The unforgiving maw of the Sahara had simply swallowed them up.” – Bully Beef and Biscuits by Guy Carter – this was the 2015 winner of the Mogford Prize for Food & Drink Writing

POETRY

“In Trinidad, everyone knows

the Pitch Lake but few have been

few have seen the dark and strange

surface, the vast dirt a mind of its own:

asphalt lake as constant as change.” – from La Brea. Read that and other poems by Andre Bagoo in Moko.

***

“No one sees my tears
wafting through the branch clusters
weeping airy patterns into the jungle silence.” – from Mangrove Armour by April Roach in Moko

***

“We read menacing messages in the scowls
of passers-by. Some circle around,
mark the territory with treads of footprints,
count down days to our departure.” – Camp by Althea Romeo-Mark in Moko

***

“…crushed lemongrass
overcooked tourist flesh sizzling in the noonday sun
barnacled, rusted boats off Devonshire Dock
my neighbour’s garbage ripped open by feral cats
overpriced perfume – from Trimingham’s, I think
‘mountain fresh’ detergent scent of laundry drying on the line
frying fish and sun-ripened fish guts
Baygon and stale beer
overripe cherries
Limacol and sweat..” – from Kim Dismont Robinson’s Scents of Bermuda: Or, All De Smells That Accosted My Nose One Day When Ahs Ridin My Bike From My Momma’s House on Norf Shore To My House in Smif’s Parish

***

‘In the roaring of the wolves the doctor said “Do you feel tenderness”
She was touching me’ – Niina Pollari, sharing and discussing her poem Do You Feel Tenderness

***

“There’ve always been Sunday mornings like this,
when God became young again
and looking back you see
that childhood was a Sunday morning.” – Kendel Hippolyte (Sunday) – be sure to also check out the Dunstan St. Omer Red Madonna that accompanies the poem.

BLOG

“I think I had a very different vision of myself when I was young, and definitely thought I’d have a family and be a loving parent by now. Instead I’ve birthed books” – Zetta Elliott

***

“Neglected authors fascinate me. While the particulars for their disregard may vary over time and from culture to culture, one thing remains constant: their perseverance despite official recognition. Such is the case of Eliot Bliss, a ‘white, Creole, and lesbian’ Jamaican novelist and poet whose collected poems have been resurrected by Michela A. Calderaro in Spring Evenings in Sterling Street.” Geoffrey Philp

***

“Getting to the place in yourself that is beyond influence is the radical edge.” – Brooke Warner

***

“…exploring a new space is a thing of wonder and an entirely individual experience…” – Sonia Farmer, blogging her Fresh Milk residency in Barbados

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Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery, The Business, Wadadli Pen News, Workshop

Reading Room Xlll

This page is for sharing links to things of interest around the internet. It’ll be sporadically updated; so, come back from time to time. For the previous reading rooms, use the search feature to the right, to the right.

NON FICTION

“‘I didn’t know blacks were Catholic!’ she stammered.” – Toi Derricotte

INTERVIEW

with Mary Robinette Kowal:
“It’s okay that you don’t understand it, she wasn’t speaking to you” – Read More. Trivia: I’m mentioned in this interview for my involvement in this project (i.e. the book she’s discussing Of Noble Family). Listen to the interview to find out how.

***

with Erna Brodber:
“Well, I write because I am too shy or too lazy to do something else—go around and preach, for instance. If I could do other things, I don’t suppose I would write.” Read more.

***

with Quincy Jones:
“You want to see kids getting into music instead of shooting each other.” Read more.

***

with Angela Davis and Toni Morrison:
“This is a bit of an aside, but it relates to what you just said about creating firm boundaries with people. Once, I saw you reading at Columbia University, and a woman stood up and said, ‘Toni Morrison, I would love to read you this poem I wrote,’ and you said, ‘No.'” – Read more.

***

with Isabel Allende:
“I don’t have a plan when I start writing. On January 8th, my starting date, I turn on the computer and open a vein. Books are written with blood, tears, laughter and kisses. Usually I have a vague idea of a time and a place where the story may happen and that’s pretty much it. In the daily exercise of writing the characters come out of the wallpaper; at first they are vague shadows but soon they become real people. My job is to be flexible, not to impose on them my own ideas, allow them to act and tell me their stories, like actors in a play. I never know when or how the book will end and often I can’t even describe it until I print it and read the whole manuscript on paper. Only then I know what the story is about.” Read more.

***

with author Edwidge Dandicat:
“I think mostly in English and in Creole. There’s a constant flow of translation going on in my head. I hear the characters in whatever language they’re speaking—mostly Creole and sometimes also French—and I’m like the scribe in the corner taking notes.” Read more.

***

with author Stephen King:
Lahey: Great writing often resides in the sweet spot between grammatical mastery and the careful bending of rules. How do you know when students are ready to start bending? When should a teacher put away his red pen and let those modifiers dangle?

King: I think you have to make sure they know what they’re doing with those danglers, those fragmentary and run-on sentences, those sudden digressions. If you can get a satisfactory answer to “Why did you write it this way?” they’re fine. And—come on, Teach—you know when it’s on purpose, don’t you? Fess up to your Uncle Stevie!

Read more.

***

with Mud Season editor Rebecca Starks:
“What I’ve learned is that it’s no good rationalizing, as a writer: the poem, the story, the essay—they have to work. Readers feel the flat lines, they puzzle over plot or characters that feel under-motivated, they are really looking for something in some way transformative. Once you realize that real people are reading what you’ve written—taking it very seriously, debating it, wanting to root for it—you realize that what you send out has to be able to stand up to that. You don’t abandon the work—you go back and finish it.” Read more.

POETRY

“But I am woman

conditioned

to nurse

my scream

like a mute child” – Madness Disguises Sanity by Opal Palmer Adisa

***

Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit is still haunting, still iconic. I used it recently in a workshop, looking at the symbolism, imagery and other literary devices employed by the writer of the song, Abel Meeropol.

“Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.”

I recently came across this NPR report about the writer of the song, and this page about the evolution of the song. Both are work checking out. And if you don’t know the song, you absolutely have to give it a listen:

***

“It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?” – Marianne Williamson

***

Ernestine Johnson, not your average black girl…

***

It’s White House Def Poetry featuring Esperanza Spalding. It counts.

***

“…but you know my food in de wild
going be fasting and prayer, my Mums.
I sure you don’t want my Papa up so…”

and him turn him eye up to de sky,
“to vex wid me right as I start out?”
“Why you can’t pray here, son?

I will keep food and drink far from you.
I will honour your fast. Is a thing I do for
Joseph plenty times when him was still wid us.” Read More of Pamela Mordecai’s Jesus Takes Leave of Mary and Goes in to the Desert from De Book of Mary a Performance Poem by Pamela Mordecai

BLOG

“I couldn’t go anywhere without thinking about the brutalities of the past and wondering what happened here, in this particular spot where I am standing now.” – Australians Halcyon McLeod and Willoh S. Weiland re their residency at Fresh Milk in Barbados.

***

“I took the  mission to heart because I had to find out for myself what is possible, what can be done, when The Work is more important than feeding The Suits. Some got it, totally. Many others poked fun at our efforts.” – Joanne Gail Johnson speaks of answering her soul’s question

FICTION

“Can this be death?” Prince Andrei wondered, with an utterly new, wistful feeling, looking at the grass, at the wormwood and at the thread of smoke coiling from the rotating top. “I can’t die, I don’t want to die, I love life, I love this grass and earth and air . . .” – The Death of Prince Andrei Excerpted from War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Constance Garnett

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“At Barnard, then-Marlene Boyer had been a theater major. Jess had seen her perform in several college productions: The Wife of Bath from ‘The Canterbury Tales’, a brown Hester Prynne in a modernist version of ‘The Scarlet Letter’. But now Marlene had the stage to herself. And she wanted Jess there to witness it and to tell the world about it.” – Quality Control: a short story by Edwidge Dandicat

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“The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green. The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank, around ten o’clock; in some towns there were so many people that the lottery took two days and had to be started on June 2th. but in this village, where there were only about three hundred people, the whole lottery took less than two hours, so it could begin at ten o’clock in the morning and still be through in time to allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner.” – so begins The Lottery by Shirley Jackson; read the full story here.

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Beautiful and powerful and heart maddeningly sad …Light by Lesley Nneka Arimah

WRITERS ON READING

“Tell your story. Don’t try and tell the stories that other people can tell. Because [as a] starting writer, you always start out with other people’s voices — you’ve been reading other people for years… But, as quickly as you can, start telling the stories that only you can tell — because there will always be better writers than you, there will always be smarter writers than you … but you are the only you.” – Neil Gaiman

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“The prison industry needs to plan its future growth – how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be, 15 years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldn’t read. And certainly couldn’t read for pleasure. It’s not one to one: you can’t say that a literate society has no criminality. But there are very real correlations.” – Neil Gaiman

WRITERS ON PUBLISHING

“It’s a reality check for many authors just how much editorial work may be needed before their manuscript is publish-ready. And editorial work is largely undervalued. Most authors expect to pay good money for design. Less so for editorial work.  Many authors think that because they’re a good writer, they’re a good editor. Not so. I’ve had writers tell me they don’t think they need an edit because they’ve taught writing. Believing you can be the editor of your own work is presumptuous at best. It’s important to remember that you don’t have distance from your own work when you’ve been toiling away at your project for months or years. Few people have the discernment required to execute a final draft of a manuscript that only needs a proofread.” – Brooke Warner

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I like Kenyon’s Why We Chose It series in which they explain, well, why they chose a particular story for publication. It can be instructive to writers. And as I write this I’m reminded of what we try to do with Wadadli Pen, this labour-intensive system of having the judges provide edit notes, returning the short listed pieces to the writers with these notes so that they can consider ways of improving their submission before re-submitting for the final round of evaluation. I’m reminded that not every person submitting appreciates how rare that is; with most contest and/or journal submissions either you’re in or you’re out (rejected! rejected! rejected!) and they don’t have time to hold your hand. So it’s always a little baffling to me when the short listed writers don’t take up the opportunity to at least consider the edits. It’s not obligatory and failure to take up the edits won’t result in penalization but as a budding writer why wouldn’t you take the benefit of the wisdom of those with a bit more experience wrangling words? I remember in particular this poem from a few years ago that was a favourite of the judges but parts of it were messy; the writer though opted not to revisit it and another strong piece made stronger by the writer taking the opportunity to review the editors’/judges’ suggestions edged it out. At least in my mind that’s how it played out; maybe it wasn’t that close. But I do remember the piece being strong and I do remember the writer blowing off the idea of revisiting the piece (just seeming disinterested); and I do know that though the writer didn’t go home empty-handed, another writer’s name made it on to the Challenge plaque that year. Anyway, the Why We Chose It series reminds me of those kinds of opportunities, missed. The explanation in the post linked here made me not only think of Wadadli Pen but of my own submission experiences and of being on the other side of this when editing Tongues of the Ocean. In the latter role, there was a part of me that wanted to give every story submitted a shot and so for the more promising ones I tried to work with the writer, offering edit suggestions…some of which were considered, some of which were completely ignored (not ignored as in, yes, I’ve looked at it, I disagree with you and I think it works as is; but ignored as in editing what’s that, huh, I can’t be bothered). In the end, I’m happy with how the issue turned out but I think I gave myself more work than I needed to (I should’ve just let go of the ones that were non-responsive or the ones that needed too much work to be publishable). But I really wanted to SHOWCASE the NOW Antiguan and Barbudan literary arts scene. We are here-ah we yah became my mantra but sometimes it felt like I was the only one who gave two bleeps about that. The process gave me a better appreciation, even after my years managing Wadadli Pen, of how a story can come just that close and still not make it across the finish line. Kenyon Review is one of those publications I’ve submitted to but failed to get into. But I’ll keep tinkering and *knock on wood* someday get across that finish line. Until then, I keep paying serious attention to posts like David Lyn’s Why We Chose It – The Seige at Whale Cay by Megan Mayhew Bergman.

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“Sooner or later, despite your best efforts, your book will go out of print. Either the publisher will notify you, or royalty statements will indicate that the book isn’t being sold any more. If you’ve protected yourself by including the contract clauses I suggested, you’re in good shape.

Not sure what your contracts say? Go to your files and check all contracts for your existing books. There’s a good chance your con­tracts contain these clauses. If you don’t have a clause reverting the rights of your out-of-print book to you, the going will be tougher, but not impossible.” – Robert W. Bly on What To Do When Your Book Goes Out of Print

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“My two cents is this: Be aware of the sea change we are in right now. Don’t assume anything. Do your homework and ask questions. If you get a traditional deal with no advance, I’d advise you to look elsewhere, or at least negotiate for much higher royalties. Save for publicity, no matter what path you choose. And if you have a publisher—whether it’s traditional or hybrid, be the squeaky wheel, though not to the point of becoming so annoying you start to alienate the team that’s working for you. You’re competing for attention at every turn on this journey, so don’t be afraid to make yourself noticed. To ask questions. To think creatively—and big. Work with your team to think outside the box about creative publicity and platform opportunities. Copy what’s been done well. Try to have some fun while you’re at it. Don’t ever ever give up on your publishing dream.” – Brooke Warner

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“Most important of all, I’m writing most days. I now understand viscerally (I took a while to really get this) that since the only variable I can control is the writing, I should make that my unrelenting focus. I get the occasional editing job, which I also enjoy. And from September, if all goes as planned, I’ll be teaching again–part time, of course. Writing must come first, whatever the hell is happening on the publishing front.” – More from Liane Spicer on her publishing journey.

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“send it out there and risk the rejection” – Maeve Binchy

VISUAL ART

Arianna by Antigua-born filmmaker Shashi Balooja:

Shashi

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Noel Norton photography Washer Woman

“(Peter) Minshall in his stunning and definitely spectacular King and Queen costumes employ(s) kinetic constructions, animated by the wearer and sometimes by modern technological devices such as the electric compressor in the King costume Man-Crab (1983). compressor pumped blood over a canopy of white silk. Minshall’s band, in this Morality Play, with Man-Crab as an allegory for the destructive power of modern life…and the Queen – Washerwoman who was the embodiment of purity and harmony. Washerwoman was killed, a surprising  victory of Evil over Good. It is a stunning piece of visual collective art.” – Tim Hector in the Art of Carnival and the Carnival of Art, originally published in his Fan the Flame column, recently reproduced in The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books Volume 8 Number 1 Fall 2015. Images taken (borrowed) respectively from the online photogallery of Noel Norton and a Caribbean Beat article on the man himself.

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In this short film, a 13-year-old girl and her grandfather, hiding out in a wooded cabin after a plague, meet the challenge of their lives when her birthday trip to a trading post goes horribly awry. Starring Frankie Faison (The Silence of the Lambs, “The Wire,” “Banshee”) and introducing Saoirse Scott (“One Life to Live”). It’s directed by Luchina Fisher and is based on a short story written and adapted for the screen by Tananarive Due and Stephen Barnes – you may remember them from the first Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival in 2006.


WRITERS ON WRITING

“Rap is a poetic form, in fact one of the more strict and stringent poetic forms according to rhyme and meter”  – Roger Bonair-Agard

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“In The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal torments Clarice with memories of lambs being slaughtered on the farm where she lived as a child.” – Amanda Patterson on Torturing your characters

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“I am always far more impressed by writers who are able to craft complicated plots, for example, since this is an aspect of writing I find difficult.” – Writing Dialogue by Rowena MacDonald

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“A few years ago, at a venue in Manhattan, I read the title story from my collection — when I only hoped it would be a collection.   There was a nice little audience — other writers, friends, friends of other writers….my mother.   It went well, there was lively response and positive feedback afterward.  But most of all, the next day my mother sent me an email that said she was “proud” of me.  My West Indian mother, a woman of a certain age.  She’s encouraged me and supported me throughout my life, but she is not one to boast or to throw around words like “proud”.  That’s a level of permission, no Permission, that is invaluable.” – Anton Nimblett, author of Sections of an Orange

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“On writing, my advice is the same to all. If you want to be a writer, write.” – Anne Rice. Tips from my favourite author of vampire lore plus Madeleine L’Engle, Anne Lamott, Stephen King, Joss Whedon, E. B. White, Doris Lessing, Maya Angelou, Ray Bradbury, John Green and much more. Read them all here.

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“The truth is, in real life I’d treated this man poorly. The couch had been my sister-in-law’s doing — she’d been moving a bunch of stuff out of the apartment we shared, and she had the movers drop the couch at the car-repair garage where this guy worked. (It was actually pleather, the first lie.) I didn’t even know she’d done it until he called to thank me. He said nobody had ever done anything like this for him, given him a couch. He said it was like coming home to a room full of rose petals.It got me thinking: What if I had given him that couch? What if I’d been a person turned generous by pain, rather than stingy? So I wrote a story — created a kind of fictional terrarium — in which that possible version of myself might thrive. I tell this story to suggest that writing doesn’t correspond to lived experience just by reflecting or deploying it. The relation can take other forms: inversion, distortion, opposition; not merely wish fulfillment but hypothetical catastrophe. Fiction offers a set of parallel destinies.” – Leslie Jamison on Is It Okay to Mine Real Relationships for Literary Material? in the New York Times

As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight,  Fish Outta Water, Oh Gad!, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. And using any creative work without crediting the creator will open you up to legal action. Respect copyright.

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Reading Room X

Like the title says, this is the tenth reading room. Use the search feature to your right and the term ‘reading room’ to find the others. Nine came before, pack-full-0 good reading: poetry, fiction, non fiction, and some visuals too. Good reading makes for good writing. So use the reading rooms like your personal library and enjoy. And remember, keep coming back; they’re never finished. As I discover things, things get added. And don’t be shy about sharing your thoughts re not only what you read here but also possible additions to the reading room.

POETRY

“De sun come idlin’

over de hills,

removin’ de shadows

from de tree limbs…” The poetry of Antiguan born poet Althea Romeo Mark, from her collection Palaver. Read more.

BLOG

“Reading inspires me and reminds me how much I love everything about literature. It makes me eager to join in the conversation.” – Tayari Jones. Read the full at her website.

INTERVIEWS/DISCUSSIONS

“Stories are incredibly powerful. They shape our understanding of history, culture, and ourselves. It’s why readers of all ages clung to the viral hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks recently: Seeing an honest representation of someone who looks like you when the world reflects a different norm can be life affirming. It says that your story matters. This is a fact that Andrea Davis Pinkney, an award-winning, bestselling children’s author and a vice president and executive editor at Scholastic, knows.” Read the profile and interview with Pinkney here.

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“In st lucia to a large degree the artiste has to create the kind of society that appreciates art” – Vladimir Lucien interview at The Spaces between Words.

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“I always wanted to be a writer. I did want to be a great violinist, too, but I had no ear or talent for it.” READ MORE of this Anne Rice interview.

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As well as directing The Coming of Org, you were also responsible for shooting, editing and scripting it. Will you continue to oversee every element of your work like this, or does it get quite exhausting?

It is quite exhausting, but I am a control freak, which is not good all the time because you don’t get enough distance from the project. Now, as I have stepped away, I see areas where I could have made the film much better. It is my first narrative film so I hope to learn from this experience; in follow up projects I want to focus on directing and writing… maybe editing too, but I can’t guarantee that I won’t shoot as well.

READ The Missing Slate’s full interview with Davina Lee.

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“My challenge to other publishers of Caribbean children’s titles would be: try and make books available throughout the region and beyond, make them affordable, translate as many titles as possible, and especially help create a literature with the readers in mind, not in a monolithic sense of “Caribbean,” but rather giving margin to different forms of expression that might work at regional levels. That means taking chances on local unknown writers and illustrators who may do well connecting with and inspiring their communities, if given a chance to reach them.” – Mario Picayo, publisher, Editorial Campanita/Little Bell Caribbean, participating in a discussion over at Anansesem on Broader, Better Conversations for Caribbean Children’s Literature

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Oonya Kempadoo interview on her book All Decent Animals.

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“She would later reveal that for her, writing was the pursuit of the perfect sentence and as well as an attempt to bring something new into the world. The laughingly stated that the hated learning that someone else had thought of something before she had.” – Read more of Kwame Dawes interview with Jamaica Kincaid at Calabash on the Susumba website.

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10 x 10 podcasts, a series of 10 minute podcasts with presenter and journalist Rosie Goldsmith. In each podcast Rosie spends 10 minutes talking to authors from five different parts of the world. This includes from the Caribbean region Jamaican writer Lorna Goodison and Belizean writer Ivory Kelly.

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This is one of my favourite writers Edwidge Dandicat (whose Farming of Bones and Create Dangeroulsly are among my all time favourite books) talking about another of my favourite writers Jamaica Kincaid (whose Annie John, My Brother, and Lucy are must-reads in my book). She also reads two Kincaid shorts including a personal favourite which I have actually used in workshop, Girl. Listen here.

NON FICTION

The essay featured in this post is the Texture of Fiction and in this excerpt you get to sample the texture of Kei Miller’s writing: “I remember a tree in Jamaica that bore as its fruit, prophecies. That’s what it seemed like to me. The tree was in a dust bowl right outside of my high school and there must have been a man or woman who used charcoal to write words like ‘Repent’ or ‘The Prime-minister must fall’ or ‘Know ye this day who you shall serve’ on squares of cardboard. These cardboard signs were hung up in the tree, and the branches had become overburdened with them, like a mango tree in season. Sometimes the wind would rattle these words, the cardboards would hit against each other, such a strange and terrible sound, as if angels were crowded together, back to back, and were beating their wings.”

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This edition of Antigua and Barbuda’s Historical and Archeological Society’s newsletter has information on early villages, traditions, why Guiana Island is an ecological gem (something to think about, all things considered), and the Silston Library – have a read: HAS Newsletter 2015 FINAL

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“What am I supposed to say to her?” I ask. “That it will get better twenty years from now? It sure didn’t get any better for me.” Read all of Saving April by M. J. Fievre.

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“To permit a book, to read a book, is not enough. We must engage with its history. Ask who challenges a text and for what reasons. When we read a book, let’s read with a mind for its censors: what is that thing inside The Things They Carried that stirs a parent’s need to protect?” – See more at: On Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried | PEN American Center

INDUSTRY TALK

“Write the best short story you can, submit to competitions and be ruthless about the quality of the piece. Of the millions of short stories written, there are a handful that are good enough to catch the attention of readers, and if they are good enough to do that an agent will be interested. Practice is essential – not every short story written, even by an experienced writer, will be good enough to be published, so working through any idea until you feel it can be held up to the light is part of the process.” More from literary agent Lucy Luck.

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First there’s this “It felt like possibility. It felt like hope” and then there’s this “I thought about where I submitted my work and what the editors would think. I imagined how the piece would fit in with the journal’s aesthetic. I wondered whether or not my work was too experimental or too trite or too coy. I worried that my work was too wrong for the journals I submitted to, too wrong for any journal, really, too wrong to be read by anyone at all.” Eventually, you realize though “(it’s) out of our hands.” – Emily Lackey on submissions.

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“I’m not sure where the idea got seeded that author platform equals social media, but it’s time to dislodge that from your head if you believe it to be true. Social media alone is pretty ineffective at moving people to action.” Read what else is needed.

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“Before I started working on the editorial side of the publishing industry myself, I had no idea how long it took for the publishing cycle to complete its orbit around a book.” – Jonathan Eyers on Understanding the Publishing Process.

ABOUT WRITING

“You give your character opinions, needs, likes, and dislikes; you give him fears, joys, anxieties. Let’s call these ‘personality markers.’ What are her pastimes, fantasies, hopes, memories, and preoccupations? Be sure that some of these are not connected directly to theme and story. Diversify. That’ll avoid creating a character who seems controlled by the needs of her creator, simply a representation of a type. A protagonist might be a lawyer, but certainly not all her waking hours will be spent thinking about the law. These personality markers serve to add surprising and interesting layers to your characters that may indirectly connect to the needs and movement of your story and the themes that compel you.” Read More.

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LIke Bridgett M. Davis infers in this piece, there’s no rush; you finish your novel when you finish it. So ease up on yourself. And keep writing.

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Writing Advice from C. S. Lewis.

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On building a collection and breaking with old habits, by Abby Geni.

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“The opening line is a promise to your reader of the type of tale about to unfold.” Read more of Opening lines: Rules of Engagement by Shelley Jones.

 

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Guardian Picks Best Caribbean Books of 2013

So since this is an Antiguan and Barbudan blog, you’ll want to know if any Antiguan and Barbudan books made the list. No resident Antiguan and Barbudan writers did, no…not yet. But there is Alscess Lewis-Brown, born in Antigua, raised and still resident in the USVI. Alscess is the author of Moko Jumbi Majorette which you may remember me previously listing on our page of Antigua and Barbuda Children’s Fiction. I also want to mention Carol Ottley-Mitchell, a Kittitian-Nevisian author, who’s mentioned for her book Fury on Souffriere Hills. Ottley-Mitchell has been and remains a friend to both the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project and the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize. In fact, she is the main sponsor of our Lead by Example Teachers Prize being introduced for the 2014 Wadadli Pen Challenge. If you’ve read my book blogs, you know I’m sorta obsessed with Haitian writer Edwidge Dandicat, so I have to mention that she’s on the list as well for Claire of the Sea Light, which I haven’t read yet but predict nonetheless will be great because she is consistently great. I’m sure the books are all great especially with talents like Debbie Jacob (of Trinidad) and Olive Senior (of Jamaica) also making the cut. Read the full list here.

As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved.

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