Tag Archives: Maria Murnane

Reading Room and Gallery 22

The Reading Room and Gallery is a space where I share things I come across that I think you might like too  – some are things of beauty, some just bowl me over with their brilliance, some are things I think we could all learn from, some are artistes I want to support by spreading the word, and some just because. Let’s continue to support the arts and the artistes by rippling the water together. For earlier iterations of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 22nd one which means there are 21 earlier ones (can’t link them all). Remember to keep checking back, this list will grow as I make new finds until it outgrows this page and I move on to the next one.

AUTHOR PROFILES

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

NON FICTION

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

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

CREATIVES ON THE BUSINESS

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

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

VISUAL

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

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

CREATIVES ON CREATING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POETRY

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

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

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

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

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“I was left there, tutu shredded,

I couldn’t dance

anymore.” – This did not happen by Thylias Moss

INTERVIEW

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

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

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

FICTION

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

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

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

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

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

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Reading Room 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

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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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