Tag Archives: Jessica Strawser

Reading Room and Gallery 22

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 iterations of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 22nd one which means there are 21 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.

AUTHOR PROFILES

‘Goodison, who is married to the author and academic J. Edward Chamberlin, divides her time between Toronto, British Columbia, and Ann Arbor, where she teaches Caribbean literature at the University of Michigan. Though she no longer lives in Jamaica, the country, she insists, will always be the focus of her writing. “Part of it has to do with the sort of ways in which I feel a lot of people don’t know Jamaica,” she says. “They only have one image of Jamaica, from the news, or from meeting some Jamaican person who’s a creep or something, and they think all Jamaicans are like that.” She describes the Jamaica of her childhood as “a very complicated, complex, rich place” but concedes things have gotten worse. Does she feel a responsibility to correct the misconceptions? “I don’t know that I can do that, but I can just tell you — I can be a witness. I can say, ‘In my life I saw this, and I knew this about Jamaica. If it doesn’t exist now, believe me, it used to exist, and hopefully it can exist again.’ ”’ – from She comes through: Lorna Goodison is one of the best writers you’ve never read by Mark Medley

NON FICTION

“I had no way of knowing then the extreme ways we’d learn to hurt one another.” – Give Hostages to Fortune by Mehdi Tavana Okasi

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“I had this image of throwing yourself out into the water, only to have it spit you back out, over and over again. I didn’t need to ask why he’d kept trying, what he was looking for, because the answer was apparent. If there is nothing where you are coming from, then you are looking for something, for anything. No matter what you find, it will be better than what you had before, it will fill your empty hands. It was like casting a net out, if you were the net, your life unfurling out into an unknown adventure, falling over danger, looking for something to pull back in. I couldn’t imagine the kind of leaving that entailed—where your family faded into a previous life—what home could mean then, if every ship-taking was a search for somewhere else to belong.” – The Texture of Joy: A Stowaway Story by Akwaeke Emezi

CREATIVES ON THE BUSINESS

“While my own experience as an editor informs my approach to my writing, as a writer I’m still learning about working with other editors. Having your personal essay red-inked by someone at The New York Times is a different experience than having your roundup of local Irish pubs tidied up by your regional paper. And working with a professional on a novel you’ve labored over for years is another thing entirely.” – Jessica Strawser on 4 Truths that will Change Your Perspective on the Writer/Editor Relationship

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“Mastering other things taught me that one becomes something not by wishing to be, but by learning to be. Mastery is the result of hard work. And ardor.  And the slow accretion of knowledge that comes from study and from practice.”- Mary Jo Bang

VISUAL

“After each morning run, we would come home and raid the mango tree.” – go here to view Danielle Boodoo Fortune’s Mango Morning

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tpa-islandEric Fischl’s A Visit To/A Visit From/The Island uses two adjoining large canvases to contrast vastly disparate groups of people seemingly in the same setting. On the left he depicts what appears to be a white upper-middle-class American family of four vacationing at a sunny, holiday resort. The second panel portrays a frantic scene in which a group of black men and women, who appear to be refugees, try to pull themselves from a bluish black churning sea. Rendered in much darker, ominous hues than those of its counterpart, the frenzied image was based on a photograph of Haitian refugees arriving on the Florida coast. While the two canvases depict jarringly different scenes, the similarities between the images also emphasize their polarity. For instance, both depict foreshortened naked bodies lying diagonally in the foreground, highlighting the stark shifts in color and context between the panels. The relaxed laziness of the tourists pitted against the desperation of the Haitians emphasizes the inequalities between the two groups and the irony in the choices that racial difference and privilege allow—the whites are paying to visit an island that the residents risk their lives to leave.
Artist: Eric Fischl
Image: “A Visit To / A Visit From / The Island,” (1983)
Source: The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York website

CREATIVES ON CREATING

“I haven’t managed to draw my main character yet because even her image is giving me trouble…With Kieran, I learned that he was more than just a warrior and a prince but he has plans of his own.” – Want to know your characters? Try a character sketch by Dana Nuenighoff

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“Good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognise them when they show up.” – Stephen King and his big desk

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“Normally I enjoy the writing process, but in this case it was making me miserable. I would spend most of the day procrastinating before sitting down and forcing myself to hit my word count (1000), and even then I would find myself adding adjectives to beef it up. More than once my mother commented on how I’d clearly lost my love for writing, which she found alarming. But I didn’t listen to her because I thought I could get through it and turn my uninteresting story into something worthy of publishing. I was wrong.” – Maria Murnane on When to pull the plug on your book

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‘We need to be humble and dedicate ourselves to a lifelong study of the craft of writing. What I think he meant by “contempt” is trying to take shortcuts. Becoming a writer must involve reading widely, learning techniques from others and committing to a daily practice of developing the craft. If you don’t do this, if you just write something and publish it, then write more and publish that, then you’re showing contempt for writing.’ – Andrew Blackman reporting on a workshop he attended at the BIM lit fest

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“Currently completing the fourth draft, stalling somewhat as I approach the last eight passages that I believe need to be added in; experience has taught me that determining the end of a draft is rather like running towards the end of the rainbow.” – Louise Mabey blogging What an Unfinished Novel Looks Like

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“You have to learn how to interpret and not just imitate” – Jake Gyllenhall, breaking down his process

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“Don’t tell anyone the story until you’ve written it.  At least this is advice I wish I’d heard and listened to, early on.  I’ve found that if I tell my friends about any story or book I’m working on, I begin to lose enthusiasm for it – not because of their reaction or anything they’ve said but because, having said it, it’s like I feel less need to actually write it.  That’s difficult to explain but perhaps other writers will understand.” – Eugenia O’Neal blogs ‘My Top Writing Tips’

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“A slight girl with fawn’s eyes offers a plastic cup of water-angels to my mother. A fallen bamboo ceiling swallows the moon whole. There is so much wonder, awe and terror in every gesture, every movement. The moon washes the dust from her face, becomes her true self in the forest. Then it solidifies, comes together…” – Danielle Boodoo Fortune blogging on her Moon Water series of paintings

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“Here I was trying to get my daughter to stick to a specific formula for writing, and she was forging her own path. What worked best for her was writing by the seat of her pants, starting on the computer and editing as she wrote. The funny thing is, it is the same method I use.” – from One Size Fits All by Jewel Amethyst

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“On my way home from work tomorrow, I will bring myself to stop at Kinko’s and print out all one-hundred and seventy pages of my crappy first draft. I will hole-bunch the pages, stick it into a three-hole binder and get up Saturday morning, procrastinate a lot, curse out my editor, and then bring myself one step closer to the sweet pain of publication.” – Kara Stevens on what you need to know if you’re serious about becoming an author

POETRY

“Brown men crowd an island hilltop,
voice French-Creole and Spanish,
not the English patois of generations
assembled there before them.” – The Nation Builders by Althea-Romeo Mark, read it on her blog at Aroma Productions or view her reading of it (above) at the Medellin Poetry Festival in Colombia. Romeo-Mark was born in Antigua, grew up in the USVI, and has lived in the US, Africa, the UK, and now Europe.

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“Unexpectedly,
The street light began
To malfunction,
Coming on and off,
Plunging me into bouts of
Darkness and light.

Buzz, crackle, darkness,
Buzz, crackle, light.” – From Kimolisa Mings’ Dark Warrior

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“What if I told you
I’d never made love before” – from What the Spirit Knows by Soyini Ayanna Forde at SX Salon

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“I was left there, tutu shredded,

I couldn’t dance

anymore.” – This did not happen by Thylias Moss

INTERVIEW

“Many of my poems start with an image, but these started with language and weaved through images bringing me places I hadn’t been in a while.” – Angela Voras-Hills at the KR Conversations

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“One thing that I went in to Yale with was to make to sure I left exactly how I came in, because that’s who they accepted. Take what you need, get what you need for your tool belt, but don’t lose the essence of who you are. I think I did it.” – Atlanta’s Bryan Tyree Henry (aka Paper Boi)

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“The revolution for all Black lives starts in the mind and manifests in the physical, so I hope this book that contains so much true history mixed in with fiction can help people understand that nobody gets free unless we’re all free.” – Brooke Obie

FICTION

“This supposed to be our country. You shouldn’t have to sell your soul to feed yourself.” – Nassau Burning by Keisha Lynne Ellis

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‘For long minutes he forgot his knobby knees, scars and grizzled body hair. He forgot his big flat feet and narrow buttocks. Her gaze gave him beauty and grace. Her soft eyes pulled him out of his role as Cowboy and into the role of sweet pure lover. “Come, let me bathe you.”’ – The Cowboy’s Mermaid, or, A Story of Wet Love in the Dry World by Shannon Barber

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“She had looked him down, vaguely surprised and annoyed, with the air of those who are never asked where they are going.” – from Le Silence de Chagos by Shenaz Patel

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“Sometimes I’d stare in the mid-darkness at how white he was. If I pressed his skin, he’d bruise deep fuchsia and you’d be able to see it even in the dark. I was very dark compared to him. He was so white it was freaky, sometimes. Othertimes it was kind of cool and beautiful, how his skin would glow against mine, how our bodies together looked like art.” – from Gideon by ZZ Packer

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“You’re in this together now, and some part of you hopes you die together for the sake of simplicity.” – Last Chapter on Hotel Stationary: a Short Story by Ursula Villarreal-Moura

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Reading Room and Gallery 19

I’ve counted as high as I can in Roman numerals (not as high as they go, just as high as I can go using them…because, math). So, I’m using English numbers now (still math but in a language my brain understands) and this is the 19th Reading Room and Gallery. 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 and beauty, 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.

ON PUBLISHING

“The goal of the query letter is not to tell the addressee what you want or need; the goal of the query letter is to convince the addressee why they might want to work with you.” – Jeanne Kisacky with tips for writing an effective query letter

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“There are any number of reasons why a piece may not make the cut. A few of these are…” – Dan Burgess

POETRY

Jesse Williams dropped fire about social justice at the BET Awards June 2016 just as he’d been doing for years before that even while looking pretty on one of TV’s most popular shows. One of the people he inspired is one of the writers who inspires me, Alice Walker. She wrote poetry in response as writers do:

“Try to think bigger than you ever have
or had courage enough to do:
that blackness is not where whiteness
wanders off to die: but that it is
like the dark matter
between stars and galaxies in
the Universe
that ultimately
holds it all
together.” – Read the full poem at Afropunk.com

p.s. the speech keeps getting pulled down as hate speech as fast as people can put it up; so I’ll post this discussion about the speech (because they seem to get that it’s not about hate it’s about love and respect and courage):

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Annotated lyrics for Coming of Age (Da Sequel) by Memphis Bleek and Jay Z from Hard Knock Life (the Jay CD I listen to the most because it’s the only one I bought and have). Jay Z’s Decoded is on my To Read list but until then, there’s this

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“Eventually, one becomes—either as a psychological fail-safe or simple breakdown—numb to the repeated experience of loss.” – Kyle Dargan

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“Britney Spears doesn’t have to prove to us that she is not a robot.” – Megan Levad on “Auto Tune”

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“I stand above the angry sea,
above the gulls that circle me.” – The Lighthouse by Damian Balassone in Anansesem

CREATIVES ON CREATING

“If you want to write 140K words from the perspective of a tree, go for it. Write a prologue. Hell, write a prologue for your prologue. Fill your prose with adverbs. Write all your dialogue in italics without dialogue tags. Have your characters speak in emoji. Use profanity in exposition. Describe every square inch of an ordinary dining table. Do whatever it takes to get your story out of your head and on to the page. Do it without doubt or censorship.”  – Jo Eberhardt

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“She said that when a writer is in the midst of drafting a new story, everything that happens in their life in those writing months is filtered through the writer and into the story. Some things pass through and some flow into the fictional realm. I used to think of this process as a writer being a human lint filter. But I like Hoover’s more elegant word.” – Karen Harrington

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“Don DeLillo is a serious reader of American history and JFK’s death impacted his formative years, Vonnegut’s wild writing strategies were informed by existential trauma, Patricia Highsmith was by most accounts a very dark-minded, hedonistic, and guilt-ridden woman, while JK Rowling’s passion is the golden age of children’s literature and, she happened to write her Potter novels while experiencing the trials of single-motherhood.” – David Savilli on writing what you know, among the popular writing tips he unpacks (not debunks) in Five Lies Creative Writing Teachers Tell

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“You’ll notice in the images there is a tiny version of one of Glaser’s book design covers. I kept that image right next to my illustration in Photoshop the entire time so I could constantly check and see if my work was Glaser enough. It was really helpful, especially when it came to creating the pattern on the dress. I used the colour picker to pull colours from the cover design.” – Bryanna Chapeskie

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“In some cases, my setting would surely fall short of reader expectations. What’s a writer to do?” – Adria J. Cimino on creating settings when reader expectations are high

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“As part of our approach to the revision process, my students and I developed a sort of checklist, expanding on one in Writing Fiction, that may help some people with rewrites. These are the questions we finally decided on as being the most useful…” – Cary Groner on Revision.

INTERVIEWS

“I didn’t think about being Antiguan, what that meant, how that made me special until I went off to college.” – Cray Francis

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“I tried to show the Guyana that I know without being critical or without being worshipful.” – Imam Baksh, Burt Award winning author of Children of the Spider, interviewed by Petamber Persaud

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“2. Some anthologies are tied together by a genre, and others by a theme. I love that this one—“Stories of Love and the Great War”—is both. Was there ever any concern that some of the contributions would be too similar to one another? Was there anything you did to be sure each writer was focused on distinctly different characters or themes?

I knew this might be an issue early on, so I sent all the co-authors the main pitch and set a deadline. Once they submitted their individual story pitches, I put them together and forwarded them to the group so we could ensure there wasn’t a lot of overlap. We did a little tweaking—there were two nurses at first—but surprisingly, each of our pitches was quite unique. The only other overlap is the Armistice Day theme, as intended, and also we included some sort of visual of poppies to tie in the title.” – Writer’s Digest editor, Jessica Strawser interviewing Heather Webb on How a Fiction Anthology is Made

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“Everything I write is autobiographical, but none of it is true in the sense of a court of law—you know, a lie is just a lie. The truth, on the other hand, is complicated.” – Jamaica Kincaid

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“There is a new crop of writers based in and writing from the Caribbean that is starting to gain notice beyond the region. How can publishers support these new writers and develop literature in the region?

Karen Lord: Before they can support, they must listen and learn. Don’t overlook our excellence because you can’t recognise what it looks like. Gain exposure and training in the region’s existing literary tradition and do not expect carbon copies of Western works. Let go of stereotypes – there are many different stories being told by our writers, and not everything takes place in the village, on the beach or at carnival. Understand the flexibility of West Indian standard English and its various dialects and respect their validity in dialogue and narrative. Develop in-house expertise that connects to our literary communities, festivals and conferences. We have a rich source of story and many talented writers who would be an asset to any publishing house. We are not a charity project.” Read More.

MISCELLANEOUS

“I decided to come to Canada to become a writer. You can’t be a writer in Jamaica. You can’t live as a writer in Jamaica. … Everybody used to ask me: ‘Why are you still here?'” – Garfield Ellis as quoted in Annie Paul’s column in the Jamaica Gleaner, on the plight of the Caribbean writer. Read more.

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“From an early stage, he took his inspiration from film and animated media to produce unorthodox story-driven visual novels.” – Arts Antigua writes about local artist and animator Nuffield Burnette whose work you can see in some of your favourite animated films out of Hollywood.

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“As people from the Caribbean, we inhabit a spectrum of language, and you actually hear it when you go into the cultures,” Philp says. “You can hear somebody code-switching. You might start off saying something in Standard English and midway switch into the dialect or the vernacular.” – Pidgin, patois, slang, dialect, creole — English has more forms than you might expect on The World in Words, produced by Nina Porzuchi

image2

Paule Marshall.

I wasn’t sure where to put this but I wanted to shout out Paule Marshall, the Barbados-descended American writer who received a lifetime achievement award at the BIM Lit Fest. She wasn’t there but her son accepted on her behalf (as you can see in my Festival blog here) – and this is her when it was finally presented to her in the US. But I also wanted to take the opportunity to re-introduce you to an author you probably already know and if you don’t you should. I was introduced to her work in university through Praisesong for the Widow and have since read Browngirl Brownstones, Daughters, and her powerful essay ‘From the Poets in the Kitchen’ in which she wrote “The group of women around the table long ago. They taught me my first lessons in the narrative art. They trained my ear. They set a standard of excellence. This is why the best of my work must be attributed to them; it stands as a testimony to the rich legacy of language and culture they so freely passed on to me in the wordshop of the kitchen.” Read more about Paule Marshall.

FICTION

“You had to place what was placed on your back for you to tote.” – Zora Neale Hurston’s The Conscience of the Court

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Feeling depressed about your latest rejection letter, consider this, all the greats have been turned down at some time or other. I wanted to share this story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of the American classic, The Great Gatsby, in part because (as explained here) it was rejected by the New Yorker back in 1936 finally earning a spot in the venerable publication in July 2012. The name of the story is Thank You for the Light. And I quite liked it.

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‘The hall was flooded with people every evenin now. But it wasn’t meetings no more. It was battle royales. The hall was an accusation chamber, a kangaroo court. People screeching out names like crazy, convince that they know who is the ones that bringing the rain.

Grampa get to decide on the first name: Dr. Rahamut. Dr. Rahamut had a room set aside in his house, that Grampa call the Slipslide Office—where the doc could pull out babies from wombs. “It have a metal clamp he like to use!” Grampa proclaim. “When he have to remove the baby, he pull it limb by limb! And he use the clamp to crush the skull! Then he would piece together the baby on a table, like it is a broken doll, like it is a jigsaw puzzle! Tell me what kinda sick village would allow a man like that to practice his business here?”

The next night, somebody damn near torch Dr. Rahamut’s practice to the ground. Grampa never tell anyone to do that, but you coulda depend on somebody doin it, anyway. We rush out of their house to look at the tendrils of fire fastenin to the house, even as the rain pelt down on it. Thing is, the rain didn’t stop. So the people needed another name.’ – Midnight in Raintown by Kevin Jared Hosein

BLOGS

“My passion, my joy, my enthusiasm about the books I bring into my classroom sends a message to the readers who join me there.” – Mindy Rench: Third Grade Teacher and former junior high literacy coach

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“He offers no panaceas for the messy present and pasts of the Trinidad he represents in his fiction: his eye is as clear as that of his famous contemporary, Naipaul, but his vision is far less bleak and punishing.” – a blog posting on Earl Lovelace

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“…his world-building skills are and always will be second to none. He makes Middle-Earth seem so real, as if the stories are chapters from its history.”  – Tolkien Talk at Pages Unbound by Sara Letourneau

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, 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 Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

 

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