Tag Archives: Maaza Mengiste

Reading Room and Gallery 36

Things I read that you might like too. For previous and future installments in this series, use the search feature to the right.





“The different sides of freedom was another thing that was always interesting for me to see.” – Alice Yousef on Poetry Influence on Origins: the International Writing Program Podcast


“Photography is not just about what you put within an image but what you choose to leave out of that frame.” – Nadia Huggins


“Even Jesus had to pass through a punnanny” – Staceyann Chin talking about her life and work, and in conversation with Nicole Dennis-Benn




“Through the edit, we wanted to give the suspense and a little bit of hope. That was achieved by letting the scene breathe.” – How Spencer Averick Built Suspense Through Editing Ava DuVernay’s ‘When They See Us’


‘The questioner said he was a journalist and had trouble making his mind switch from the journalistic style of writing to fiction. “I have students who have this same problem. I understand you. There is one thing you can do; interview the character/person you want to write about. Ask him anything, then you will have enough information to move them forward,” answered McFadden.’ – by Maryam Ismail writing on the Sharjah International Book Fair and specifically a session by African American author Bernice McFadden


“Imagine Hirut on the top of a hill, rifle ready, prepared to ambush the enemy. Along the way to this war, she is forced to contend with sexual aggression and then rape by one of her own compatriots. The smoky terrain of the front lines has expanded to engulf Hirut herself: her body an object to be gained or lost. She is both a woman and a country: living flesh and battleground. And when people tell her, Don’t fight him, Hirut, remember you are fighting to keep your country free. She asks herself, But am I not my own country? What does freedom mean when a woman—when a girl—cannot feel safe in her own skin? This, too, is what war means: to shift the battlefield away from the hills and onto your own body, to defend your own flesh with the ferocity of the cruelest soldier, against that one who wants to make himself into a man at your expense.” – Writing About the Forgotten Black Women of the Italo-Ethiopian War: Maaza Mengiste on Gender, Warfare, and Women’s Bodies By Maaza Mengiste


‘But she was a reader, in the fiercest sense. Susan knew exactly what she wanted. When I finished my last book, she said, “I love that Paris chapter. I want more. Could you please turn it into a novel?” She said it again and again, so often that I began writing the book in my head. Last month, when Susan fell ill, I asked what I could do for her. The reply came shooting back: “The best gift would be to write me that book.”’ – ‘I Think You Need to Rewrite It’: Ruth Reichl on What Makes an Editor Great



“This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, out of character to assure you that The War of The Worlds has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be. The Mercury Theatre’s own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying Boo! Starting now, we couldn’t soap all your windows and steal all your garden gates by tomorrow night. . . so we did the best next thing. We annihilated the world before your very ears, and utterly destroyed the C. B. S. You will be relieved, I hope, to learn that we didn’t mean it, and that both institutions are still open for business. So goodbye everybody, and remember the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody’s there, that was no Martian. . .it’s Hallowe’en.” – from the script of the 1938 radio broadcast of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds which you can also listen to (I recommend listening to it first)


“We do not need permission nor expensive equipment to play the game or make art” – video essay re Steven Soderberg and his film High Flying Bird which was shot entirely on an iPhone



Flow presents the results of its 2019 amateur mobile short film contest


“You feel like is fire inside you
a fire twisting you insides into ash
a fire that sucking the earth beneath you dry
But you watch her dancing” – Tricia Allen

“…it almost I who came
back out of each punishment,
back to a self which had been waiting, for me,
in the cooled-off pile of my clothes? As for the
condition of being beaten, what
was it like: going into a barn, the animals
not in stalls, but biting, and shitting, and
parts of them on fire? And when my body came out
the other side, and I checked myself,
10 fingers, 10 toes,
and I checked whatever I had where we were supposed
to have a soul…” – How it Felt by Sharon Olds from her collection Arias

‘Fool neber ‘fraid w’en moon look bright,
Say, “Crab and jumbie lub dark night.”
Jumbie like moon as well as we—
Dey comin’ waalkin’ from de sea.
Deir foot tu’n backward w’en dey tread,
Dey wearin’ body ub de dead
Dat fisher-bwoy dat wu’k on sloop,
He watch dem waalkin’ from Guadeloupe.
Dey waalk de Channel, like it grass;
Den, like rain-cloud, he see dem pass.
Dey comin’ steppin out ub Hell,
Wit burnin’ yeye an’ a sweet smell.’ – Lullabye by Eileen Hall from her 1938 collection

“It is far from here now, but it is coming nearer.
Those who love forests also are cut down.
This month, this year, we may not suffer;
the brutal way things are, it will come.
Already the cloud patterns are different each year.
The winds blow from new directions,
the rain comes earlier, beats down harder,
or it is dry when the pastures thirst.
In this dark, overarching Essequibo forest,
I walk near the shining river on the green paths
cool and green as melons laid in running streams.” – from The Sun Parrots are Late This Year by Ian McDonald


‘The book starts with an epigraph from Jamaican blogger Paul Tomlinson’s reproach to the commissioner of police to “go inna the bush and catch” the criminals who “always escaping in nearby bushes.”’ – Vahni Capildeo on Kei Miller’s ‘In Nearby Bushes’


“She writes intuitively from her own rural Jamaican childhood through to her becoming a global citizen, and because she writes from a searing past of aloneness and pain, her self-discovery and choice of self makes her work relevant, not only to people of the Caribbean who appreciate that she deals sensitively with race, class hierarchies and cultural oppression ­ the legacy of colonialism – but to all sensitive people of the world who respond to her quiet assertion of personal identity.” – One on One with Olive Senior in the Jamaica Gleaner, 2004


“Canadian writer Margaret Atwood and British author Bernardine Evaristo split the Booker Prize on Monday, after the judging panel ripped up the rulebook and refused to name one winner for the prestigious fiction trophy.” UK-based Evaristo is Ango-Nigerian though those of you who’ve read her previous novel Mr. Loverman might remember that it features an Antiguan character (I remember meeting her when she was here in Antigua researching that character). Her Booker winning book is Girl, Woman, Other; tied with Canada-born Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale sequel The Testaments. Read the judges’ reasoning here.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator 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 – Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe). All rights reserved. 

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Quotables ll

I didn’t think I had posted so many quotes but apparently I’ve posted enough to warrant creating a new Quotables page. Apparently I do collect more quotes than I realize. To see some of the earlier ones, go to the first Quotables.

“The ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.” – The Autobiography of Malcolm X 


“I spent three days a  week for ten years educating myself in the public library, and it’s better  than college. People should educate themselves—you can get a complete  education for no money. At the end of ten years, I had read every book in the  library and I’d written a thousand stories.” – Ray Bradbury


“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”— Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”


“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” – Audre Lorde


“I think, too, that the novel is a quagmire that a lot of younger writers stumble in to before they’re ready to go there.” – Stephen King on the short story


“No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting. She will not want new fashions nor regret the loss of expensive diversions or variety of company if she can be amused with an author in her closet.” — Lady Montagu, providing advice on raising her granddaughter, 1752


“Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read.” — Marilyn Jager Adams


“The beginning is generally the end; (it) sets up the promise of what will unfold later.” – Maaza Mengiste (on writing – at Callaloo)


“What I really want is that intimacy in which the reader is under the impression that he isn’t really reading this; that he is participating in it as he goes along.” – Toni Morrision, The Site of Memory, P. 121 of Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir


“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”
Emilie Buchwald


“The whole culture is telling you to hurry, while the art tells you to take your time. Always listen to the art.” – Junot Diaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.


“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” — Stephen King, from an interview in the London Independent (March 10, 1996)


“When I started writing Disposable People the story came out with such violence that I thought of it as therapy and catharsis rather than art. I knew from the outset that the novel was unorthodox; because of this, and the fact that it was self-published, I worried about whether it would be accepted by a mainstream audience. I am so encouraged by this recognition.” – Jamaican author Ezekel Alan after his book, Disposable People, won the Regional Prize – Caribbean in the Commonwealth Writers Prize annual competition.


“It’s exhausting for every artiste, to feel the world’s projection onto you of what you should be” – Lady Gaga


“I think it’s important to be open for surprise, to surprise yourself every stage of the way and it doesn’t have to happen at the beginning. It may happen when you’re working over material and something jumps out at you. Then you reorganize everything around that insight.” – Robert Hellenga, in Quiddity, 2008


All Writers are midwife of a kind, standing between those who have a capacity to persecute them and the people.” – J.O.J. Nwachukwu-Agbada, in Quiddity, 2008


“People have no problem telling writers exactly how they think the writers have screwed up. I don’t think people realize it’s something you’ve produced.” – Brock Clark, in Quiddity, 2008


I haven’t read Kevin Stein’s poetry but his 2008 interview published in the journal Quiddity makes me want to. Here’s some of what he said:

“Writing a poem is a wonderful thing to do. It’s like making a table or making a chair. And I love that aspect of ‘making.’ When I sit down to write, however, even if I had the wood in front of me, I wouldn’t know if I were going to end up building a table or a chair or an ottoman. But I start putting things together and if I’m lucky, the mind, the imagination, the muse, or whoever that is, helps me make something I didn’t know I was going to make in the beginning. To me that’s the most important element of a poem.

Part of what I like about writing and being a writer is being surprised by where I go. I like being surprised by how others influence me as well as how my own experiences influence and change me.

It was Wallace Stevens who said that poetry is what you turn to when God is dead. I don’t know that I agree with Wallace Stevens in that regard, but I do think that working with language and thinking about one’s life and one’s connection to others is a way of redeeming the self and others and one’s relationship with others.

Many of my poems have autobiographical elements I cook into some other weirder soup. And, like most poets, I’ll lie if I can make a better poem; I’ll lie because poetic truth supersedes factual truth. Imagination is the lie that tells the truth, as Picasso suggests.

To find a way to live one’s life fully is probably the best obligation of a poet.”

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Callaloo Quotables

Just came across some notes I made in summer 2012 while participating in the Callaloo Writers Workshop at Brown University. Though I’ve written up my Callaloo experience here and there, I thought I’d share some of these quotes (third time’s the charm?) as Callaloo, a project of Texas A & M prepares to come to the Caribbean, Barbados to be specific in 2014.

“In each case, the poem will suggest what it wants to be” – Gregory Pardlo

“Art kind of filters history” – Ravi Howard

“If it is not difficult, if it is not uncomfortable, then there’s no work being done.” – Gregory Pardlo

“Think about how you define things in their absence” – Ravi Howard

I don’t have the exact quote but I wrote this “I like what Maaza said about loving even the characters she doesn’t like” – that’s my other workshop leader, Maaza Mengiste

I also found these two notes to self…

“I am less interested in making my characters representative and more interested in making them people; and people are not representative. They are messy and confounding.”

“What do the characters want? What are they afraid of? What’s at stake? What are the consequences of their actions? How does the language tell the story?”

Don’t forget to search quotables for more…

As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C.
Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!), founder and coordinator of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize. 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 the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, are okay, lifting content (words, images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.


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Callaloo – Last Session

Here are some moments from the last session of the fiction writers group of the 2012 Callaloo Writers session (blogged about here). Thanks to the very talented and accomplished Tommy Mouton for the pics.

Maaza Mengiste and Ravi Howard,the workshop leaders, listen keenly.