Tag Archives: Kevin Jared Hosein

Kevin Jared Hosein: a writer with a plan | Closeup

‘Kevin Jared Hosein meets me for our interview on the day V.S. Naipaul dies. The 2018 Commonwealth Short Story Prize winner is neither dismissively snide nor desperately heartbroken at Naipaul’s passing. It may seem surprising that a prominent literary son of the Trinidadian soil has no strong feelings about Naipaul, one way or another, but it’s true of Hosein, who fields my queries on the 2001 Nobel Laureate with an unperturbed equanimity. This isn’t hubris. Hosein doesn’t imagine himself superior to Naipaul’s influence or legacy. This is something else entirely: it’s the year in which Kevin Jared Hosein finds himself a household commodity, at least in homes lined with books.

“A lot of it is luck,” Hosein says baldly, referring to his success. This from a man who tried to inveigle his way into a bachelor’s degree in literature or journalism (whichever would have him), despite not having studied literature for “O”-levels. It wasn’t on offer at his secondary school, he explains, though this didn’t dampen his desire to live in worlds of books. The opposite seems to have happened: from early on, Hosein wrote prolifically and read with deep appetite. Stephen King was a childhood staple, followed by Cormac McCarthy. Ask Hosein which Caribbean book has most influenced his sensibility as both reader and writer, and he’s likely to reach for Harold “Sonny” Ladoo’s 1972 novel No Pain Like This Body. “It made me understand how diverse this whole setting is,” Hosein says, referencing the small agrarian Hindu community in which Ladoo’s brutal, uncompromising narrative unfolds.’

Read the full article here.

If you’re thinking you’ve seen Kevin’s name around here before, you’re not wrong:

Kevin Jared Hosein Breaks It Down

An article about him in the Cyprus Mail linked in Reading Room & Gallery 29

and more. Use search to find him.

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.

 

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Reading Room and Gallery 31

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. Share by excerpting and linking, so to read the full story or see all the images, or other content, you will need to go to the source. No copyright infringement is intended. 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 31st  one which means there are 30 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

POETRY

“The woman is perfected.
Her dead
Body wears the smile of accomplishment…” – Edge by Sylvia Plath

***

‘“Unwritten: Caribbean Poems After the First World War” is an attempt to address this gap in the narrative.’ Those poets commissioned by this project, writing and researching new work, come from both the Caribbean, and the Caribbean diaspora. Performing are: Jay Bernard, Jay T John, Ishion Hutchinson, Kat Francois, Tanya Shirley, Vladimir Lucien, Charnell Lucien, Malika Booker and Karen McCarthy Woolf.’ – Unwritten

NEWS FEATURES & OPINION

“The fact that no importance is placed on storytelling makes me very frustrated not only because it puts so little value or emphasis on children’s creativity, but also because storytelling is more than simply an art – it is a crucial skill for life and commerce.” – Ditch the Grammar and Teach Children Storytelling Instead by Tim Lott

***

“Simon was a four-time Oscar nominee and a staggering 17-time Tony nominee; he won three times and received a special Tony in 1975, along with virtually every other honor a playwright can win, including the Pulitzer Prize for 1991’s Lost in Yonkers. Because he was so prolific, churning out more than 60 plays, screenplays, teleplays, and even contributions to musicals over the course of half a century, it’s hard to home in on his most important works, or even his most important decade. But here are four Simon works we think every theater lover should know.” – Vox on late American playwright Neil Simon

CREATING

“When I was 24 years old, I chanced upon this style of comedy. I was doing a very small cable TV show, it was a public access show in England called F2F and I was playing an early form of the character that became Ali G. In that version he was  called Joseline Cheadle Human. He was an upper-class wanna be rapper, skateboarder, lover of hip-hop. In this show, I would go out and shoot little segments and then I would sort of pop them into this live show. I shot a little thing with this character and then I saw a bunch of real-life Ali G’s. The director with me at the time, a guy called Mike Toppin, a brilliant ex-editor of evening comedies who happened to be working on this public access show. I said, those guys are like me and he said, go and speak with them. That moment changed my career. I interacted with them, I started trying to get on my skateboard and they are going, ‘you’re wack, man. That is ridiculous.’ They were mocking me, and after two minutes I came out of character and I said, ‘guys, I’m pretending. It’s not me.’ They were shocked, and I realized oh my God, I’ve found something. Suddenly a tourist bus turned up. I jumped on the tourist bus with a camera. I grabbed the microphone. I started rapping into the microphone. We got off the bus, I went into a pub and started breakdancing on the floor. They called the cops. I then went into the lobby of some big business firm and I said my dad ran the business, and security threw me out, and I was completely invigorated.

I took the stuff and would cut it into the live show, and by the third segment everything was cut. It went black. Somebody had pulled these pieces that we’d shot. I was pulled in front of the station chiefs afterward and they said, never do that again or I’d get sued. I knew at that point that I had found something. It was by chance, by luck. I chanced upon a new style of comedy, which was putting comedy characters into the real world. A week later there was a pro-hunting rally in England, which every member of the upper class was there, save the royal family, and I decided to go undercover as a foreign character. I’m driving down there and in the back seat. There’s a hat from Astrakhan in Southern Russia. I put it on my head and I come out of the car and I am basically an early form of Borat.

Hello, my name is…[he assumes the Borat accent]. I would start asking people, ‘excuse me. When we went hunting in Moldova, we like to hunt the Jew. Would you hunt the Jew here?’ And they’d start answering…[assumes upper crust British accent] ‘Well, actually…yes, so long as he was given a fair start. Yes, I would.’ And I suddenly realized here was a method that allowed people to really reveal their true feelings on camera. I came back home and I said to my flatmate, I think there’s a new style of comedy here that I’ve accidentally chanced upon, an undercover character comedy. I just started working on that and when the cable access show got shut down, I started developing a show for Borat, which was going to be undercover in a house with students with hidden cameras for three months, kind of an early form of Big Brother. It was not commissioned, but that is how all this happened.” – Sacha Baron Cohen

****

“To know a character, I have to understand what they want and what they’ve lost.” –  Bret Anthony Johnston

***

‘The short story is well placed for putting twists on simple things. Unlike the novel – in which the author is primarily concerned with world-building – the short story is typically centred on a moment or event and charged with a more playful energy. An author of three novels – The Beast of Kukuyo (2018), The Repenters (2016) and Littletown Secrets (2013) – Hosein felt ‘Passage’ was better suited for the short form, for its warmth, tension and confusion. “‘Passage’ works because of its set-up and quick deflection of expectations,” says Hosein. “There also had to be continuously rising tension that’s a lot more difficult to maintain in a novel, especially a novel that entails such few players.”’- Kevin Jared Hosein on The Culture Trip

THE BUSINESS

“1.Give anything you’ve just finished some time and space before you submit.

2.Try to be as objective as possible when you finally do return to that piece.

3.Be ready and willing to revise.

4.Know thyself. Be brutally honest.

5.In the end, go with your gut. If you think it’s ready, send it.” – Matt Mullins in Atticus Review newsletter

INTERVIEWS

“A sense of the inner wildness, the “untameness” that is always beneath the surface of people and places, is what drives many of the poems. In the process of writing and editing Doe Songs, I tried to access that inner wildness and to learn to see it in everything, to acknowledge that the domestic and the wild, the gentle and the feral are bound together so closely in all living things and places.” – Danielle Boodoo Fortune 

***

***

“What is the first thing you wrote?

When I was in sixth form, I studied literature for my “A” levels with Dennis Scott. We had finished with the syllabus fairly early, so Dennis invited his friends, Rex Nettleford, Mervyn Morris, Lorna Goodison, and Christopher Gonzalez, to name a few, to talk to us about music, art, and poetry. I believe it was after a lecture by Lorna Goodison that he gave us an assignment to visit any gallery and write an essay about what we saw.

I had arrived at the gallery late and begged one of the cleaning ladies to let me in. I told her it would only be a few minutes. She smiled with me and said, “Only ten minutes.”

When I walked into the gallery, a security guard was walking past a statue, “Eve” by Edna Manley. As he walked by the statue, he slapped the statue on the buttocks and said, “Big batty gal.” Talk about a visceral reaction to art.

I wrote the essay and then, published my first poem, “Eve (For E.M.)” in the Daily Gleaner.” – Geoffrey Philp interviewed for the Caribbean Literary Heritage website

***

“You know I think the jokes that work for white guys and their white guy comedian friends don’t work, always, for women of color. …” – Amber Tamblyn

***

What advice would you give to new writers starting out? Where to start? Kill adverbs. Use nouns and verbs. Adjectives are less useful than you think. Think about what you’re trying to say and then do that, plainly. Be kind to yourself – writing is hard. Read lots of stuff, everything, but try including some good ones, you know, that have critical acclaim. It does count for something. Grammar. Jesus Christ – fixing that is not an editor’s job, or it shouldn’t be. Go looking for your inspiration – be active. There is no bolt from the blue that will deliver you literary perfection – it takes work. READ. Most of the time the story will not just seek you out – you have to go find it. READ. Oh, and if you’re a poet, I beg you not to read poetry in that sing-song voice that so many put on at worthy events. Sorry, I know I’m supposed to be talking about shorts. READ. ” – Leone Ross

***

“For writers, dreams are where it’s at.” – Angela Barry

***

Who made reading important to you? When I was little, my older sisters read to me from time to time. I also have one memory of my father reading to me. He was not a very fluent reader and I remember him struggling with the words, but he tried very hard and put a lot of heart into it. I was about five or so and was very moved by it all; that reading experience fueled something and has remained with me on many levels.” – interview with Marcia Douglas

***

***

“If you’re prepared to be tough with yourself. That’s hard to instill in people – that you can have a lot of confidence and still be really tough. And also know it’s not factory work, it’s not office work, it’s not going to come out the same every day. And because this is the only place we write from, this self that we are, some days it’s a bit fucked up.” – Jeanette Winterson with Marlon James

***

‘And when someone asked me that [authority question], I said, “You mean… talent and imagination?”’ – Marlon James with Jeanette Winterson

FICTION

“The obit didn’t say how he died. Just that he left a wife, one son, a brother, and a mother behind.” – From Where We Rush Forth by Rachel Ann Brickner

***

“In the autumn of Maria’s eighteenth year, the year that her beloved father—amateur coin collector, retired autoworker, lapsed Catholic—died silently of liver cancer three weeks after his diagnosis, and the autumn her favorite dog killed her favorite cat on the brown, crisped grass of their front lawn, and the cold came so early that the apples on the trees froze and fell like stones dropped from heaven, and the fifth local Dominican teenager in as many months disappeared while walking home from her minimum-wage, dead-end job, leaving behind a kid sister and an unfinished journal and a bedroom in her mother’s house she’d never made enough to leave…” – Mary When You Follow Her By Carmen Maria Machado, Illustrations by Sergio García Sánchez

***

“‘Well me wasn’t there, but people say it, so I believe it,’ the man said, chuckling through a smile of missing teeth.” – An Elephant in Kingston by Marcus Bird

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!, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, Musical Youth and With Grace). 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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Reading Room and Gallery 29

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. ( share by excerpting and linking, so to read the full story or see all the images, or other content, you will need to go to the source. No copyright infringement is intended. 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 29th one which means there are 28 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

POETRY

“The thing about friends, I thought to myself, is that it’s hard to know when to let go.” – Ben Loory, The Friend with the Knife in His Back

***

“Long after the laugh track, it seemed
only rational, practical: this new thing.
Not because we were too stupid to know
what was sad, but because, as in the logic
of the canned guffaw, the producers
knew something about us we did not…” – The Invention of the Cry Track by Bruce Bond

CREATIVES ON CREATING

“This fall I want to start a Short Story Club. I want to read them and then write them with students. Since I’m all about mentor texts stories, writing them is right along with my teaching style.” – Tammy L. Breitweiser

***

“It’s a matter of feeling and it’s also a matter of sound.” – Aretha Franklin (on creating)

***

“WARNING: I know amazing writers who struggle to progress because they don’t know their novel’s essence. Maybe something in us resists summing up our complex book in simple terms because we’re DEEP, don’tchaknow. Yeah, yeah. Find out. Say it. Commit.” – Leone Ross

VISUAL

A video dissecting the artistry of Aretha Franklin

***

EarthSky_03_LSimpson_2016

“Black women are the beginning and the end. 
Black women are the law.
 Black women are the ground and the sky, the horizon. Black women are the lucky number seven.

Black women are all the books in the Ancient Library of Alexandria, Egypt. Black women are Hammurabi’s code and the Rosetta stone: vexation and answer, secret and revelation.

Black women are surpassingly beautiful, and that is why you cannot stop looking at Lorna Simpson’s pictures.” – Elizabeth Alexander on Lorna Simpson’s Collages (at Lit Hub)

NON-FICTION

‘Her (Roxane Gay’s) advice to writers? “You have to be relentless and you have to find a way to grit your way through all that rejection. … It’s OK to feel dejected and hopeless, as long as you don’t let that keep you from continuing to write and continuing to try and put yourself out there.”’ – 10 Writers and Editors who have changed the National Conversation

***

“That was the beginning of the end of Jacob’s poetry writing, but the poet himself never disappeared, animating each novel and short story he was to write. Jacob himself has been astounded by people talking of the ‘amazing lyricism’ even in the noir whodunnit (The Bone Readers)- amidst all its raw grittiness. This semi poetic mode of his style is an unconscious part of him, stemming from his eye for the metaphor, the sharp, clearly defined and unusual image, and an unusual way of seeing things and saying things.” – The Sunday Times on UK based Grenadian writer Jacob Ross

***

“The memory of music goes down very deep, deeper even than language, maybe even to the very bedrock of personality.” – Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Peter Trachtenberg

***

‘And now? The practical value of the prize he’s just won is significant. “There’s not many publishing opportunities in the Caribbean”, and name recognition is vital to attract foreign publishers. Would he go live in London, though, as VS Naipaul did? Would he quit the teaching job, and abandon small, problematic Trinidad? Kevin pauses: “Yeah, people ask me this”. He pauses again: “Yes and no, right?”.’ – Prize-winning Trinidadian Writer (Kevin Jared Hosein) Leads Double Life in Cyprus Mail Online

***

‘I explained to him (Austin Clarke) that I wanted Brother to be about the generation after the one he was the first to chronicle, about children growing up in a land their immigrant parents needed to imagine as one of clear promise, but which the children knew also posed often unacknowledged dangers. I wanted my novel to be about youth shadowed by poverty, by the racist gaze, by the threatened violence of those in authority. But I also needed my book to reveal beauty, and to show how toughened youths and young men could brave great acts of tenderness and love. I wanted it to be a novel of painstaking attention to both language and narrative form. And as Austin drew inspiration from the music of his generation, from the legacies of jazz, soul, and reggae, I wished to honor the music that was closest to me as a youth—the hip hop of the late 80s and early 90s, including the advent of turntablism, all set within a Toronto that had rocked and found its own voice years before the “breakthrough” emergences of artists like Drake and the Weeknd. I dreamt of celebrating the completion of this novel with Austin, but he died before it was published. I ended up dedicating it posthumously to him.’ – David Chariandy

INTERVIEW

“I had posted some stories just on my Tumblr, and she read them, and shared them, and Jacques who runs The White Review asked me to send in some stories for consideration, accepted “Agata’s Machine” for his website then signed me for a collection based off “Agata’s Machine” and “Waxy” with his publishing house.

Then I wrote him a bunch of new stories over a period of several months in 2016. I sent them off to him as I finished them, and he edited them as I wrote more and sent them back to me with notes, which is perhaps an unorthodox way for a short story collection to be written. I imagine most writers have a polished collection to present to an editor at the beginning. Jacques chose which ones he wanted to include in a collection and I insisted on the title. It was an intense seven months, at least for me. It was all through email, I’ve never met Jacques. I guess he is some sort of 21st-century European James Laughlin. Now I have a box of blue books in my bedroom, that’s about it. It doesn’t feel any different to be published. It’s all happened in Britain which is quite far away. You have to just focus on the next writing project if you are to keep your sanity.” – Camila Grudova interviewed by the Culture Trip

***

“Philip Levine advised his students: don’t be in a rush to find your ‘voice’. I am in my mid-fifties, and I try to not bore myself by writing poems that are always in the same voice, form and style. I want continually to be learning and surprising myself as I write. Still, something of a recognisable voice emerges in my first book, The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman. The second book, Ricantations, is different in approach: there are more marvellous and speculative elements: mythic creatures, animals and anomalous beings, such as a flying gargoyle, a man who wears a Green Lantern suit at his wake, a Spanish Baroque girl with hyperphagia and a circus family of high-wire walkers. However, in both books the voice combines the quotidian and the luminous, the beautiful and the atrocious, grim humour and what Vidyan Ravinthiran, remarking on Ricantations, has called the ‘exact, terrible word’ to portray the realities of a colonised society ransacked by debt, mass migrations, narcoculture, gender violence and hurricanes.” – Loretta Collins Klobah

***

“The poem presents, word for true word, what different men said to me when I was walking on the street, riding a bus or taking a taxi. I could have included so many other instances that got left out of the poem; for example, once I was walking on Hope Road when a man driving past leaned out of the window to say some kind of sweetness to me (while a woman was in the passenger seat of his car!). I truly felt bad when he mashed up his car, hitting the back bumper of the car in front of him.” – Loretta Collins Klobah in an interview with Jacqueline Bishop for the Bookends series in the Jamaica Gleaner Loretta Collins Klobah interview – the first part
Part 2 of the interview is below in two parts:
Jacqueline Bishop interviews Loretta Collins Klobah 1
Jacqueline Bishop interviews Loretta Collins Klobah 2

***

“The majority of people on this earth work a job they hate all their lives and life is precious…how many lives have been ruined because their parents told them you can’t make any money being a musician, you can’t make any money being a writer, you can’t make any money dancing, and we know the sacrifices that our parents have made so we bend in to parental pressure and we end up choosing a  major, choosing a direction in life, choosing a job that is now what we want to and we end up miserable and hating our parents…and that’s why I thank my parents who from a very early age, they didn’t know I was going to be a filmmaker, but they wanted to give us exposure to the arts, so everything I’m doing today is because my mother was dragging me to the movies.” –Spike Lee with Pharrell Williams

***

“The Caribbean population is small but it is teeming with writers – has been for a long time.” – Pamela Mordecai

***

“TC: On the plus side, I think it’s made it easier to connect with other critics—and, in many cases, link up with editors, which is useful for a host of reasons. On the negative side, I worry that social media has changed the perception of book reviews in some unhelpful ways as well. I have no issues with GoodReads (I’ve had an account there for years) and I understand why a lot of people review books on Amazon, but I am more than a little alarmed at the idea that those can or should be viewed as a replacement for a good book review.” – Tobias Carroll on Geek Love, Goodreads, and the Books that Haunt Him

***

“Gowdy: I return to the childhoods of one or two of my main characters in most of my books, I think. It’s nothing I plan on doing ahead of time, but I guess it’s as if I need to establish certain propensities in the child before I can fully create the adult. And then there’s the joy of writing about children because they haven’t yet formed a shell sturdy enough to hold in their souls. Children are so expressive and hilarious. They’re all poets in that they’re trying to get a fix on the world, so they’re comparing everything to everything else, sounding out words, taking what you say too literally, even as they believe in magic. I hope the young Rose is recognizably the grown Rose, but neither is quite the other, and that’s where I live as a writer, in the place between the living, personal self and the remembered self. Or in the place between the living self and the different self.” – The Impossible is Now Possible: A Conversation by Barbara Gowdy and Helen Phillips

***

“(Danielle) Boodoo-Fortuné is a fresh new voice on the poetry scene. This collection creates vivid images of the rural Trinidadian world, where the real and the mythical rub along together.” – Esther Phillips, Barbados’ Poet Laureate speaking with Zing on her new role and 5 Great Works by Caribbean Poets

***

 – Juleus Ghunta

FICTION

pahe_life_0208_2– from “Life of Pahé” by Pahé Translated by Edward Gauvin

***

“Maria has a big ass. My grandmother tells Maria this regularly. She has reached that age where she lacks tact. Despite my grandmother’s concern about the size of Maria’s ass and her unwillingness to call Maria by her given name, they get along quite well. Maria treats my grandmother like her own. She brushes my grandmother’s thin, silver hair each night before bed. They love to argue about the shows they watch. They talk about the islands where they were born, the warmth of suns they once knew.” – Sweet on the Tongue by Roxane Gay

***

“But this is a good book, he said. And he explained the plot to me: the story of a young Muslim, polygamous, with four wives, a revolutionary and a terrorist, but who one day finds himself calling into question the Koran and its teachings and ends up converting to Christianity and casting off three of his wives. Except that some time later he’s assassinated by a conspiracy of the abandoned women who subsequently roll dice to decide which of them should keep his penis that they’d severed at the base . . .” – The Bestseller by Germando Almeida translated by Daniel Hahn

***

‘“Sorry, no one’s allowed through,” he said in a rough manner, while raising the window to keep the conditioned air from reaching me.’ – Cat’s Eyes by Ahmed Alrahbi

***

“As soon as I locked myself inside, I smoked everything I could reach. But the pain is still here. And I’m still here.” –Eve Out Of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi, trans. by Jeffrey Zuckerman

***

“It’s 4 a.m. in Zagreb, Croatia, and you’re wide-awake. You and your husband are on your honeymoon. While he sleeps, you admire his black curly hair and thin nose, envious of his ability to rest. As he rotates to his side, you wonder what images are crossing his unconscious and whether he’s ferried a phantom of you into his dreams.” – Last Chapter on Hotel Stationery: A Short Story by Ursula Villarreal-Moura

***

“Bills gather in heaps at my feet. I watch them beat about on the paint encrusted tiles, in the slight breeze seeping in under my door through a space big enough to let in the lizards, centipedes and mice which use my house for shelter when the rains come.  But the rains have not come. A week to Easter, and still no rain. Not even back to back cricket matches, usually enough to entice the rains to douse the field just when our team is winning, can sweeten the rain to fall. Young fruit die sunburnt under confused mango trees that flower and bear at the same time. The plants look like when you drink something sour and your face falls into itself. The cow itch vine, whose windblown fibres make me want to scratch skin off my bones, head in the ground. Even the weeds are seeing trouble.” – A Whiff of Bleach by Suelin Low Chew Tung

***

“In those days, it was the custom to roll out a lemon from the delivery room. The midwife in charge always had a lemon at hand. As soon as the baby arrived she would roll it out of the room. The exact moment that the fruit exited the room would be registered and used to cast the horoscope. Ayya did not have much faith in this fruit-rolling practice. He would wait for the baby’s first cries. He contended that the wail was enough to give him the time of birth. Amma’s vote was for the fruit. The accident that followed my birth made Ayya change his stand.” – Horoscopes by Appadurai Muttulingam, translated from Tamil by Padma Narayanan

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, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page Jhohadli or like me on Facebook. Help me 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, The Business

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.

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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

Kevin Jared Hosein Breaks It Down

repentersKevin Jared Hosein is a Trinidadian writer who this year made the Bocas long list with his fictional work The Repenters. We’ve met once, at the Trinidad launch of Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean in which we both have stories. At that same Bocas event I bought a copy of Kevin’s Littletown Secrets as a gift for one of my nephews, a reluctant reader if ever there was one. He started reading the book right away and, more importantly, finished it, and wonder of wonders, liked it. I read and liked it too (as I shared in Blogger on Books). Kevin’s also been gracious enough  to approve the use of his Commonwealth winning short story King of Settlement 4 in a couple of my workshops, to include providing a copy of the story in the draft stage for comparison with the final which proved illustrative re the editing process. I am legit happy at his breakthrough on the Bocas list. Kevin did something recently that I try to do here, and to some extent on my other blog,  school and encourage on the journey and the process – with the understanding, of course, that each person’s journey is his/her own. I asked his permission to re-share what he described in his facebook note as The Colossal Post About Writing and Publishing in the Caribbean. Here it is.

The boat.

There are many people who horde great stories and manuscripts under their bed—and dwell in anger of not being recognized. I know, because I was one.

You’re in a boat with the line up in the air, expecting the fish to leap to your feet. Cast the line—see what bites. But it’s not that easy, is it? Not when it’s your own drowning confidence being used as the bait.

Four years ago, I was nothing. Publishing a novel through Peepal Tree Press; winning the Commonwealth Short Story Prize; making the longlist for the OCM Bocas Prize—the numerous accolades and publications I have under my belt—were all so far away four years ago.

KJ

This isn’t a case of, “Ah reach!”

I am nowhere close to doing everything I want to do, but I can step back and gaze—and realize the milestones surpassed in this relatively short timespan. Why I’m writing is to enlighten those about the overall literary scene here in the Caribbean and to outline my own ongoing journey. I stress that everyone has their own path and mine is not to serve as a template. But hopefully, it can help another budding writer clear the bushes to their own road.

Writing groups.

The art of writing is an enormous and ultimately rewarding undertaking. It is the business of it that resides on the bleak, dark side of the moon.

I came into this business knowing nothing about it. I knew nobody and nobody knew me. Like many, I had stories but I had no idea how to get them out there. I had no mentor or link. My degree is in the natural sciences and my secondary school alma mater (Pres. College, Chaguanas) didn’t even offer English Literature as a subject while I was there.

So, with writing, I was always on my lonesome. I have always stayed away from writing groups, because I could never find a good one. Writers get easily disappointed or offended, they get finicky and vengeful. To be short and blunt, most groups devolve into circlejerks, afraid to criticize each other, in fear of being criticized themselves. And there is no shame in that. That’s just how it is. I can understand that.

While writing, you constantly surprise yourself. You might blow yourself away with a scene. You break your own barricades down and step your farthest steps constantly. It is a difficult emotion to keep internalized and there is an intense yearning to share it with someone else. That being said, never share unfinished work. If you have to talk about it, limit yourself. Two minutes. That’s it. The more you talk about something you’re not finished with, the more you feel like you’ve already finished it. Let the yearning stay there—it will be your driving force to completion.

Even when work is complete, it’s not. Read over old work every year. See if it holds up. You will be surprised how often it doesn’t. But this is a good thing—you’re growing. You’re setting higher standards for yourself each year. Literally, time will tell if your work is good.

Writing is a constant comparison of other writings. Not comparison that leads to cockiness and arrogance, but that of doing a peer review. I believe there is some universal constant in writers, harkening all the way back to Greek theatre. It is difficult to describe but there is something in us—something transfiguring the darkness around us.

For me, writing has always thrived in the hinterland of solitude. To improve in writing is to narrow that gap between your own ability and your expectations. You have to fail privately and realize when your own characters and scenes fail before someone else can point it to you. Writing is simply about overcoming failure. You know how the sayings go—scar tissue is tougher than regular tissue; you have to fall to know how to get back up. Such platitudes may not make for good literature, but the sayings exist because they are true. The more you read, the greater you’ll hone your ability to do this.

Traditional publishing

First off, if you’ve started writing today—don’t think about publishing until at least five years down the road. Enjoy the art of writing before you even put yourself through these worries.

I’ll come right out and say it: traditional publishing opportunities for Caribbean authors are scarce. We simply do not have the support. Even smaller, highly reputable publishers such as Alma Books, which did Roland Watson-Grant’s Sketcher don’t take submissions from outside of the UK. There are two main publishers who take special interest in us:

1.Peepal Tree Press, based in Leeds, UK. Peepal accepts a general minimum of 40,000 words per fiction manuscript. However, because they are a small press, they have to be very selective, only publishing a handful of books per year. I’ve worked with Peepal Tree Press rigorously and can personally attest to their passion, knowledge and expertise.

2.Akashic Books, based in Brooklyn, NY. For periods of time, Akashic does not take unsolicited submissions—but don’t let that stop you!

Both publishers have immense respect among Caribbean literary folk. Getting a reader audience is a different story.

I think it’s an unspoken rule that before you can be considered by these presses, you must have a respectable writing resume. The traditional publishing route is crucial if you want to be taken seriously in this region – a litmus test for quality, if I may. To be blunt, Trinis just don’t just other Trinis’ taste unless it’s backed up by a foreign opinion.

Both being small presses, however – you shouldn’t expect a fortune or any sort of lump sum upon being published. The only money comes from the royalties, which is just a small fraction from the overall sales.

My contract put 12.5% royalties for first 3,000 copies sold and 15% for every copy after that.
Simply put, don’t quit your  day job.

Feel free to seek out a literary agent and submit to the big ones like Simon & Schuster and Jonathan Cape, but I have no advice on that. Not yet. You’re better off trying the small presses for a debut, in my humble opinion.

Competitions & writing resumes

Before you even think of publishing, it is necessary to have a few things: to have written a treasure trove of words—good words; and a flourishing writing resume.

A writing resume doesn’t entail how well you can write, how many stories you’ve written and have under your bed, or read aloud at an open mic, or which workshops you’ve taken. It is an account of what you have out there in solid print—publications, accolades, articles, mentions. Your writing resume is your name.

Pepperpot

The two best ways to build a writing resume is to enter competitions and submit to anthologies (which are like competitions themselves, aren’t they?) I’ve spoken about scar tissue before for a reason. Concerning entering competitions, you have to know one thing—you will get rejected. Sometimes it’s ten to twenty times in a row. That’s a given. Even most regional competitions, such as the Small Axe Literary Competition, receive hundreds of entries. International ones such as Commonwealth Short Story Prize receive thousands. You’re going to have to get used to those cold, impersonal emails that begin with, ‘Dear entrant, thank you for entering! Unfortunately…’

Regardless, enter them. I had entered the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for four years before winning. I hadn’t even shortlisted before. But that’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is this—despite not even having given a mention, my 2014 entry, The Monkey Trap, was read by an editor over at Akashic Books. Their imprint, Peekash Press, emailed me and told me they’d like to include it in their upcoming collection, Pepperpot. This was how I sold my first short story and how my writing resume really began to take form.

Even if your name ends up on a short- or longlist, you can include that on your writing resume. That’s in your name forever.

But realize this: a competition judge is not God, and in the history of this Earth, there has been no universally loved story. Do not seek to write such a thing. Some who read my story, The King of Settlement 4, said it was too obscene and over-the-top. Fred D’Aguiar and the rest of the Commonwealth panel thought more of it than people on my Facebook list. Opinions differ. Sometimes, it works against you. Sometimes, it’s in your favour.

Either way, if you win something—don’t congratulate yourself too much.

Here are three reputable, regional competitions you should consider:

•The Small Axe Literary Competition, which is usually starts taking submissions around May and reveals their winner in October or November. There are two categories: Prose and Poetry. No entry fee.

• Wasafiri New Writing Prize, which takes submissions around October. There are three categories: Life Writing, Fiction and Poetry. There’s a reading fee of £6.00 for one category. Not exactly regional, but it has been very kind to Caribbean writers.

•Commonwealth Short Story Prize, which takes submissions around September or October and reveal their shortlist at March/April. Winners are chosen by region before an overall winner is chosen. No entry fee.

Aerogramme Studios publishes a monthly list called “Opportunites for Writers”, filled to the brim with international writing competitions. Consider these as well. Also keep on the lookout for times when places are accepting unsolicited submissions, such as what Granta did a few months back. The chances are slim—but the more you cast that line, the better. Remember this: you’re not losing anything by entering.

In addition to entering competitions, I would also suggest submitting to journals and magazines. Many places use a site called Submittable to track submissions (and rejections), so get used to it. Here are a few you can consider:

•         The Caribbean Writer
•         Moko Arts & Letters
•         POUi
•         Akashic’s Duppy Thursday series
•         Guernica Magazine
•         Lightspeed Magazine (if they can publish me, why not you?)
•         Nightmare Magazine

Note that the latter three are international publications of very high caliber, but have shown great appreciation for Caribbean writers lately.

Enter as many competitions as you can. Think of them as challenges. For example, I entered  the Mogford Short Story Prize this year. The theme was “food and drink”, something I wouldn’t normally even think to write about. The longlist was announced this month and I was not successful. But that’s okay – know why? Because now, I have another short story in my collection!

Refrain from submitting your story into an online publication that both offers no payment, and is without academic reputation. I understand some of the smaller e-zines cannot afford to pay—but if they have no means of granting you a readership, stay away. Why I say this is because once your story is published online (not in your personal blog), it becomes ineligible for many other competitions and publications, which can potentially net you payment, a prize or mention of shortlist. While it is a cheap, easy way of bulking up your writing resume, it is simply not worth it. Be patient.

Self-publishing

When I was in UWI, I wrote a collection of linked short stories titled Littletown Secrets. I didn’t do much with it until a few years later. I re-read it and still liked it—remember what I said about re-reading your old work? The main problem was this: it was very short (close to 25,000 words) and it was fantasy. There isn’t a big pull for fantasy here, not so far, and certainly not back then. So, I decided to self-publish. It was self-publishing, but at the same time, it wasn’t.

Lyndon Baptiste and his small publishing company, Potbake, agreed to print the book and work with me. It was a simple process. I handed him the manuscript. He put it in book format. My girlfriend, Portia, does amazing illustration work, so that made finding a cover artist easy!

The Trinidad Guardian stated it as one of the best children’s books of 2013, and Caribbean Beat Magazine (the in-flight magazine) also highlighted it. This is important if you want to self-publish. It is no secret that being in the company of other self-published books isn’t flattering. Many of them are riddled with spelling errors, unprofessional formatting, clichéd characters and overall amateur writing. You’ll need those newspaper reviews to separate yourself.

This makes folks wary of your work.  It was perfect to bridge the gap between primary and secondary school literature, so I received orders from both. A teacher from St. Joseph Boys’ R.C. Primary taught the book in his Standard Five class and exercises were done with Form Ones of San Fernando East Secondary. Even my own school did it during a reading camp.

The Bocas Literature Festival invited me to do readings with children three years in a row. Sales were made, little by little. We ran a batch of 500 books for about $8,000, all of which sold out. We walked right over to Trincity Mall’s R.I.K. outlet and gave them 15 copies and priced the book at $60 right there. That’s about a $20,000 (taking away $2000 for manuscript editing costs) profit right there from that batch. As I said, the little book put in some great work. That money is chump change in the end compared to other businesses. But you’re a writer – expect that kind of money. As I said, don’t quit your day job.

Little Town Secrets

Even modest sales numbers like these are rare for Trinidadian authors, however. It is simply not practical to depend on local retailers to stock your books. Sometimes they do, they sell out and they simply do not bother to restock. Sometimes only a few outlets stock them. Either way, making the books available has always been a problem. A good example—it is probably easier to find The Repenters in the Cayman Islands right now than in my own country. Having total control of sales, making deliveries by post, taking orders from schools—these contributed more than the major local bookstores ever could’ve.

Aside from the late, great Angelo Bissessarsingh’s books, local retailers have zero confidence in their West Indian section.

The people over at Paper Based Bookshop in Normandie Hotel (St. Ann’s) and Metropolitan Bookshop will be your saving graces. Without them, you’ll probably never see your book on a shelf.

You get to create your own selling opportunities. You get to approach the business side of writing from different angles. It’s a good learning experience. I marketed the book hard with as little cost as possible. I even sold about 20 copies at an Upmarket. You have to be creative. Fish aren’t going to leap at your feet, I said.

So, you shouldn’t write it off.

I self-published for one main reason—to get my foot in the door. It was a risk, but that’s what it’s all about. I used a short manuscript that was appropriate for all ages and did my own illustrations to keep production costs low. Children loved the book. I know a few who still read it over and over.

I even made a video teaser for the book for a Christmas promotion, utilizing my video-editing skills and having my own friends record the voice-over narrations. Even the background music was a composition by my friend, Brandon Abley.

I’ve dabbled in Kindle Publishing, but I just used it to give away the book for free. Availability is important. If people read it and like it, they’ll buy it if they see it on a shelf – if not for themselves, then for someone else. However, if you do want to set a price, $4.99USD seems fine as a starter. As of right now, I think I need to read up more about marketing a Kindle product before I can speak any further on the subject.

Editing

Editing is essential to elevate your work into something great. It is also tedious and, as a result, expensive. I’d say the average editor charges a little under $1,000TTD per 10,000 words. You’re thinking—you can do this yourself, save some money. What an editor is supposed to provide is at least the following:

•Improvement of syntax, i.e. reducing ‘clunkiness’ of sentence structure.
•Ensuring that continuity and verisimilitude (truthlikeness) are maintained; that plot details and descriptions flow without errors in logic or plot holes
•Ensuring character flaws are kept to a bare minimum; pointing out jarring actions or dialogue by characters.
•Ensuring the writing is economical; paring down of excess words that weigh down the story and its impact.

If your editor is charging you premium for simply correcting typos, drop that person and run. An editor can function as a proofreader but their prices are supposed to be much, much less for that aspect of the job.

It is important to note, however, that many publishers have in-house editing. Before I published The Repenters, I had the manuscript edited by Shivanee Ramlochan. She did a bang-up job, good enough to get Peepal Tree Press to consider publication with me. They, however, wanted me to expand certain plot points. When I did, they did the final editing themselves (free of charge, of course, since the book became their interest). However, if I had sent The Repenters without editing, I most likely would’ve gotten a flat rejection.

Get your work edited by a professional. But you have to be professional as well. Ensure those are good words you’re sending. Most editors flat-out will not edit a manuscript they deem as unsalvageable. In addition, it is crucial to know about manuscript format before you even send something to an editor.

Networking and image

This is the dreaded part, isn’t it? Establishing those links and connections. Trust me, this part is the most frightening for me. However, I don’t think I’ve ever really worked to give off a certain image. I am who I am. However, I do wear the same clothes all the time—like I have a uniform of sorts (akin to Earl Lovelace’s white shirt). More than once, people who meet me cannot believe I am a writer. I don’t look like one or give off the vibe, they’ve said. It figures.

I’m a Chaguanas Indian who attends Super Smash Bros. tournaments, collects Legend of Zelda paraphernalia and still headbangs to nu-metal.

You don’t need to live and breathe an image. Just do good work consistently. That’s much, much more important. Who cares in the long run about writers who can only talk and don’t write well?

Networking obviously helps—not that you have to be a high-falutin literary type or anything like that. If you’re like me and are terrified of being judged by people in real-time, this is all you have to keep in mind if you find yourself in such a situation:

•Keep conversations very brief with your literary peers. The less they know, the better. It’s good to keep some mystery to you sometimes.
•Don’t talk about things you don’t know about. Don’t pretend to know.
•Be punctual if you’re invited to an event. Be professional.
•Don’t be too stoic. You’re not impressing anybody by being the brooding writer type.
•Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. It relieves tension. It makes life a little easier.

I was invited to a dinner with a Commonwealth Writers group about a year ago. It was terrifying, until it wasn’t. They’re just people. I was seated next to two South Americans, one from Argentina, the other from Chile. They each looked like they were in their mid-forties. They weren’t out to kill me. When I reminded myself of that, we spoke normally. They told me about things I didn’t know and I told them about things they didn’t know. It was as simple as that.

You don’t need to suck up or schmooze. Just be cordial to your fellow writers. You don’t need to get drunk with them and tell them your whole life story. However, if you’re a naturally charismatic person, by all means, go ahead and charm! I am simply not that type and do not pretend to be.

I’ll remind you of the most important contact you’ll have, though: Paper Based Bookshop.

In conclusion

I’ve tried to divulge as much information as I could in this post. It took a lot of time to figure out the ins-and-outs of the Caribbean literary scene and the many paths that can be taken to get your work out there. To those who are trying, keep casting the line. If you feel like you’re drowning, that’s okay—take a minute to breathe. The business of the writing scene is nails-tough, but it’ll make you tough in the end too. Write as much as you could. Worry about publishing after it’s done and fine. It’s there forever, anyway.

If this is something you’ve been interested in, I hope the information was helpful. I know it was very difficult to find any when I was starting out four years ago If you know it would be for someone you know, please share it with them.

 

A long read but both comprehensive and incisive, yes. Thanks for your clarity and candor, Kevin.

You can find more information on the publishers, journals, and contests mentioned – and others – on our Opportunities page (which also has programmes, project funding, etc.). You might also find the Resources page instructive re some of the business side of publishing touched on in his post.

I endorse much of what KJ says here (and learned some things too, though I’ve been at this writing and publishing thing for a while). This site, if you’ll dig around, also has interviews and other guest blogs about the journey with/by other (usually) Caribbean writers. Links to some of my own reflections on the journey that have published here on the site are copied below:

Writing off the Map

How to get Published

Submitting Something Somewhere: Things to Consider

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Fish Outta Water, Musical Youth, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, and With Grace; also a freelance writer, editor, writing coach and workshop facilitator). Excerpting, reblogging, linking etc. is fine, but PLEASE do not lift ANY content (images or text) wholesale from this site without asking first and crediting the creator of that work and/or copyright holder. All Rights Reserved. If you like the content here follow or recommend the blog, also, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. Thank you.

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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

***

“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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Reading Room Xll

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.

VISUAL

“From its exposure, Negro Aroused (by Edna Manley) excited the public’s imagination and was acquired by public subscription and presented to the Institute of Jamaica to form the nucleus of an exhibition…” Read more about it here.

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From the MoMA website: “(Wifredo) Lam painted The Jungle, his masterpiece, two years after returning to his native Cuba from Europe, where he had been a member of the Surrealist movement. The work, ‘intended to communicate a psychic state,’ Lam said, depicts a group of figures with crescentshaped faces that recall African or Pacific Islander masks, against a background of vertical, striated poles suggesting Cuban sugarcane fields. Together these elements obliquely address the history of slavery in colonial Cuba.” See it here.

INTERVIEWS

“The Irish were the bastards white, so even they were black” – McDonald Dixon says this and other interesting things in this interview with Vladimir Lucien.

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“Of course you have to love music. It’s unlikely you’ll ‘make it’ in the first couple of years or make a whole lot of money, so you have to build your career and work hard to make it grow. It takes time to let the world know who you are, so if you don’t really love music then it is best not to get into it.” – Etana’s talking music but this applies to writing and probably all the arts. It’s not an easy road but the passion drives it. Read her full interview here.

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“Don’t let fear of blundering hold you back, either—accept that you will likely blunder, and that to err is human. We all make blunders, but learning how to apologize and do better next time is also very important. Learn to listen and respond politely to feedback before you publish, and to change what needs to change. And learn that even after doing all you can, you will make mistakes. Learn from them and move on to do better next time.” – Tu Books editor Stacy Whitman on writing outside of your race and culture; and other issues at the intersection of publishing and diversity. Read the full interview and find out what her imprint is looking for as well.

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“I’m not convinced that this is something I can live on. I have the time and space to do this now, but in terms of writing being viable I’m still not sure. I’m still not published yet.” – Sharon Millar in the Trinidad Guardian, 2013. Her first book The Whale House and Other Stories, reviewed right here on the blog, was released in 2015.

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Uncomfortable exchanges typically make me uncomfortable …but this one amused me. Jean-Michel Basquiat being interviewed by Marc Miller… and sorta not there for some of his questions. It’s worth watching the whole thing.


STORIES

“She was a widow and she had no close relatives to write to in the evenings, and more than one moving picture a week hurt her eyes, so smoking had come to be an important punctuation mark in the long sentence of a day on the road.” F. Scott Fitzgerald is best known for The Great Gatsby. This is another of his writings, a short story entitled Thank You for the Light.

AUTHORS ON PUBLISHING

“Know this: no time is ever wasted. Every year you spend on your work is another opportunity to document your creative journey, and grow as a writer. Now why would anyone impose a time limit on that?” Read more.

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“But it’s still essential for an agent to be a good negotiator. Why? Because it’s the agent who negotiates the initial offer (that’s what you’re paying them for!), not some hired contract professional. And often that necessitates some savvy pre-negotiating skills during the offer stage—before a contract is even generated. For authors further along in their careers, this is a given; they know it needs to be done. It’s not a maybe. And if your agent is not a good negotiator, you can see pretty clearly how that is going to impact your level of success and your long-term writing career. Your agent might not know how to do this.” – Kristin Nelson with Karen Dionne on what makes a good agent.

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“I am not saying that my grandchildren are brilliant beyond words. I am not suggesting that you use your grandchildren for proofing, though it might not be a bad idea.  Rather, it’s a post to warn you about the importance of proofing, even of 500 words; the challenge of  self-publishing – it is essential to use professionals even if you, yourself, are a professional, or perhaps because you are a professional, and too confident by far. (That’s why you should also use an editor.) I tremble to think what might have happened, had I not unexpectedly (magically) come to Barbados.” – Diane Browne blogging about transforming her Commonwealth award winning story The Happiness Dress into a picture book.

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“It only takes a couple of these poems for you to sigh whenever you see certain themes emerging from the words in front of you.” Read on to find out what themes make Oyez Review editor Hilary Collins sigh. And if you still want to submit, knock yourself out.

POETRY

“And what is praise but the offering up of one’s self…” from Let this be Your Praise by Tanya Shirley

***

Mindy Hardwick was one of the very first bloggers to interview me when my book Oh Gad! was getting ready to come out. And for a writer way under the radar of the big publications and critics (even the ones right here in the Caribbean) that usually cover the literary world, bloggers and readers posting online reviews have been invaluable to whatever ripples I’ve made in the water. We’ve never met but she’s been on my radar ever since. Recently, I read on her blog about this project she’s involved with, the Denney Juvenile Justice Center Poetry Workshop. I have a friend, Brenda Lee, who runs a similar project at 1735 (Antigua’s prison) without the kinds of resources suggested by Mindy’s donor funding list which includes the BECU School Grants, Greater Everett Community Foundation, Terry & Cheryle Earnheart Fund for Children, Tulalip Tribes, Everett Public Schools Foundation, and the Blanche Miller Art Exhibit Program. Because there’s really next to no support for the kind of project that Brenda has going (I don’t know of any support for the project than that of Gender Affairs under whose umbrella she does this volunteer work). I’ve shared here on the blog some of the poetry Brenda’s interventions have helped the incarcerated produce. The purpose of this post is to pass on some of the work Mindy has shared from her workshop (but I also want folks to keep in mind the work B has been doing here at home too). Both projects I’d venture have the ability to do a lot of good and, frankly, these kinds of arts initiatives need more support. If through the arts we can get the incarcerated to start thinking about their situation and giving voice to their feelings, then maybe we’ll begin to do more than cycle them in and out. The poems shared by Mindy, written by Teen Boy, suggest as much. They are One Last Chance and Fake Faces.

AUTHORS ON WRITING

“I never feel more clueless than when I’m asked for wisdom…because I’m still terrified with each sentence, with each word I write! I do believe you have to write for yourself and not for others, that in your writing you have to reach for what frightens you,  that you have to be a good literary citizen and support other writers. That you can’t wait for the Muse to show up and invite you over – you’re the hostess, you have to sit at your desk first, and start the party all on your own. Other than that…just keep the faith.” – Tara Ison

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Mary Robinette Kowal posted this writing/puppetry exercise that’s entertaining to watch even if you don’t try it. Check it out.

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“Exploring inner lives/outer facades, character wardrobes, and sleeping conditions are just three ways to begin to layer your characters in exciting, memorable ways.” – Kathleen Shoop tells you how at Writer’s Digest

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“Whether it’s your manuscript, your author bio, your book description, or any of your other marketing materials, it’s important to keep them free of errors so your readers can focus on the most important thing: the content.” – Maria Murnane with grammar tips.

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“Being lonely and beastly had little to do with getting into writing. But the solitude did help. As well as the misery through secondary school. I had plenty anger to get out. Thank God it didn’t have Facebook back then, else I woulda waste all that anger and emotion, scouring for ‘likes’ instead of moulding it into creative writing.” – K. Jared Hosein on how he became a writer and a beast.

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“And so I reached for empathy. Writers know about imagination, but it takes something more to truly occupy our constructed characters. It takes a conscious process of empathy, of asking ourselves – how would I feel if I were a young boy bullied at the standpipe every morning? What emotions would this catalyze? How would my future look from the mud beside the standpipe? For many months I went to bed with potential scenes in my mind, seeking the feelings that went along with them, and I wish I could tell you I had dreams of my novel in embryo, but I didn’t. Trust the darkness, I would tell myself staring into it, channeling Anthony Winkler’s advice. And somehow, that conscious commitment to empathy brought me words when I sat at my computer each morning, seeking the mind and heart of a twelve-year-old inner city boy. Were they true words, the right words, in the end? That is for a reader to decide. Over the years of Dog-Heart’s gestation, I learned that empathy was different to sympathy and I was far more familiar with the latter. In a place like Jamaica sympathy is frequently aroused. As I tried to understand my main character, I realized I needed more than sympathy. Sympathy is simple – something appears painful to me, and I feel sorry. Empathy seeks a more nuanced understanding of where another stands. Empathy is less willing to decide what is good or bad.” Read more of Diana McCaulay’s reflections on empathy and tapping in to character, when that character is so unlike you.

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“Writing the novel was much more about confronting uncertainty and the unknown. As I began to write, ideas, themes and characters slowly emerged. I had no idea that I would end up writing a scene where my main character butchers a deer, but as I began to explore her situation and the emotions she was battling with, it suddenly seemed strangely inevitable.” Read more about what Lucy Wood learned while writing her first novel.

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“Unreliable narrators tell a story in a way that is misleading or distorted. The unreliable narrator’s version of the story is skewed from the true understanding of the story.” Read Mindy Hardwick’s tutorial on wrestling with the unreliable narrator.

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“I LOVE seeing the craft in action. I love seeing students clear away the cliches, overwrought verbiage, the excess adverbs, the ridiculous formality, and just…express. Trust their writer’s eye.” – Leone Ross

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“Write where it hurts.  Write where it feels real.” – Jen Falkner, Why It Works: Making Guava Jelly by Sharon Millar

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“A huge amount of information about character and backstory can be conveyed through small detail.” – Sarah Waters, Tips on Writing.

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“you must now enter the silence alone and listen
Wait
Wait for the translation of the first line
Write
Write with your fingers searching the pigments on the palette…” John Robert Lee talks writing with Vladimir Lucien (both of ST. Lucia)

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“It’s about the degree to which we allow ourselves not to censor and do the work we should do on the page, and take the risk that we should. To do so without apology is my directive.” Read more of Myriam Chancy’s very interesting, very enlightening interview not just on writing but on the history and philosophy that informs it and informs some of our lives and reality as Caribbean people.

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This space is usually reserved for writings I come across by other people. But I was reading a piece just now on dialogue and I’ll share it. But it occurred to me that this is something I’ve written about to, posted to  my blog, and so though I don’t usually recommend writing by me in this space (because who does that?), I’m giving in the urge to share it in case you’re not following both blogs. So here’s what Maria Murnane wrote and here’s what I had to say on dialogue. My post is about listening, her post is about saying it out loud; I do both actually and like her I have been told that the dialogue is realistic so hopefully I’m doing something right. Anyway, just sharing.

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“Later, I read out what I had written to the rest of the group, received a fantastic reaction from them and, more important, the motivation to carry on.” – author John Teckman on the workshop experience. Read the full.

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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