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Reading Room and Gallery 24

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 24th one which means there are 23 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

NON-FICTION

“Culture is, of course, much more than the lifestyle patterns of a particular point in time, but those patterns are informed by the culture.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse’s How to Make Cassava Bread and Other Musings on Culture

MISC.

– dialect coach Erik Singer breaking down the performances of actors attempting the accents of real people.

CREATIVES ON CREATING

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“Carnival is mas, and mas is  an opportunity to showcase our creativity and that, the opportunity it provides to showcase our creativity, is the purpose of this post.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse (read full blog post on how the mango fairy from children’s picture book With Grace ended up in the parade of the 60th anniversary of Antigua’s Carnival )

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sweet gossip-“For me, Sweet Gossip is about the Bajan culture.” – Sheena Rose – watch the full video

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Leones tips

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“Descriptions are a lot easier to write when you consider who is noticing what and why.” – from Janice Hardy’s Fiction University online

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Analysis (of artists like Biggie, Mos Def, Andre 3000, Kendrick Lamar, MF Doom) which includes discussion of rhyme patterns by rappers like Rakim and Eminem, and speaks to the structuring of the poetry of rap.
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“Get out of your head—your head is good at convincing you that what is bouncing around inside is incredibly important. Usually it’s not.” – Andrew Foster Altschul 

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Kenwyn Murray on lessons he learned from other Trinidadian artists – in two parts – really interesting read and visually stunning. Go to Part One.

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“I’m always most interested in any version of the question, what am I most scared to write about? I try to answer it as honestly as I can every single time, and I often discover it’s something I did not know about myself, which is thrilling. I think that’s the direction I need to run to.” – Shivanee Ramlochan in Caribbean Beat

INTERVIEWS

“Treat yourself with respect and kindness. Make your writing time sacred. When you are not writing, you should be reading. Writers are never off duty because material can come from anywhere — a chance remark or when buying bread. Maybe it is just my sieve of a memory but I recommend note taking on the go. And don’t wait for the muse. That woman woke up late this morning and is stuck in traffic. She’s coming but best you start writing now. She’ll join you later.” – Ingrid Persaud interview

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“Any poet who is going to be more than very good better be prepared to disappoint, upset, puzzle or even scandalize some people.” – Vladimir Lucien in Pseudo Mag

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“I find it invigorating to constantly work in new forms and genres.” Alyse Knorr at Grab Life by the Lapels

FICTION

“This secret chocolate handover was our special sin. Everybody know that a little secret-sinning sweet too bad. If you don’t agree I know you lying through your teeth. In them sinning moments Reggie softened, forgot his constant pain and forgot to fight the big C. He even forgot to fight me.” – Sweet Sop by Ingrid Persaud is the winning story from the Caribbean Region of the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

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‘Granddaddy start to look uncomfortable. “Go and start getting ready for school. I gine mek you some breakfast.”

“It is Saturday.”

“Stop giving me back chat!!” Granddaddy yell. He turn and stomp back into he bedroom.’ – from Shakirah Bourne’s Corn Curls and the Red Bicycle in Adda

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“Arnav’s palms are cool and moist; I know he is frightened. He quickens his pace and I am afraid he will break into a run. I tell him it’s alright; they didn’t hear the asphalt hit the hut. I push him in front of me and clutch his shirt from behind. They will shoot him if he runs. They are shooting a lot of young boys these days. In the villages that flank our town, they are making boys run in the open fields, then shoot them down as if they were balloons at a hit-the-target game in funfairs. There is a name for it which escapes me now.” – Greetings from a Violent Hometown by Ritu Monjori Kalita Deka

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“Before he died, my father, who loved words, told me that the Chinese language has no past tense—that therefore all events recur and nothing ends. Similarly, he said, the Japanese language has no future tense and so, in order to imagine the days to come, all we have within our vocabulary is the present.” – The Second Waltz by Madeleine Thien

POETRY

“When I have fears that I may cease to be

Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,” – from When I have fears that I may cease to be by John Keats

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– Maya Angelou

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“Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size” – An audio of May Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman at Poem Hunter

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

Reading Room Xlll

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

NON FICTION

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

INTERVIEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more.

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

POETRY

“But I am woman

conditioned

to nurse

my scream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ernestine Johnson, not your average black girl…

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

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

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

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

BLOG

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

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

FICTION

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

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

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

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

WRITERS ON READING

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

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

WRITERS ON PUBLISHING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VISUAL ART

Arianna by Antigua-born filmmaker Shashi Balooja:

Shashi

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Noel Norton photography Washer Woman

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

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


WRITERS ON WRITING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READING ROOM Vlll

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

This one is uncategorizable (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that’s not a word; not the point). It’s the PEN World Voices
online anthology 2014 and I’m sharing the whole thing because I still can’t believe that I got a chance to be a part of this wonderful and prestigious activity. For me a highlight will just be sitting in the audience and listening to the greats read and discuss; but getting the chance to do my own salon style reading was pretty damn cool too. I want you to get the chance to experience some of what I did by sharing some of the other writers who participated via these anthology excerpts. It covers poetry, fiction and non-fiction and includes a piece of my Amelia and all of my Ah Write! as well as, from other Caribbean writers, who I’m happy to say I got along really well with, Barbara Jenkins and Sharon Leach.

INTERVIEWS

Elizabeth Nunez being interviewed on NPR about my book Oh Gad!

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Elizabeth Nunez being interviewed about her book, the memoir Not for Everyday Use.

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What is the last book you read?
“The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. – Jus Bus. Read more of this Texas born, Antiguan-Barbudan raised producer-artiste’s interview with Luxury Locations. And just a reminder about this interview with him right here on Wadadli Pen.

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Opal Palmer interviews Jacqueline Bishop in Moko.

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Jack Neely interviews Nikki Giovanni for New Millennium Writings.

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“This was my main problem when I was just starting out: I was trying to say something. When I began to write, I was deeply self-conscious. I was writing stories hoping they would say something thematic, or address something that I was wrestling with philosophically. I’ve learned, for me at least, it’s a dead road. It’s writing from the outside in instead of the inside out.
But during my very early writing, certainly before I’d published, I began to learn characters will come alive if you back the f*ck off. It was exciting, and even a little terrifying. If you allow them to do what they’re going to do, think and feel what they’re going to think and feel, things start to happen on their own. It’s a beautiful and exciting alchemy. And all these years later, that’s the thrill I write to get: to feel things start to happen on their own.
So I’ve learned over the years to free-fall into what’s happening. What happens then is, you start writing something you don’t even really want to write about. Things start to happen under your pencil that you don’t want to happen, or don’t understand. But that’s when the work starts to have a beating heart.” – read more of this Andre Dubus lll interview.

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Loved so much about this interview, but, I’m biased, as I love all things Edwidge Dandicat…well, all things Edwidge Dandicat’s writing…don’t know her personally at all. Among the things I liked in this Guernica interview, the phrasing of the questions (How did you find her? – about Dandicat’s main character); the insight that Dandicat reads and re-reads to re-immerse herself in the world of the story and the sense she has of eavesdropping on her characters because I do that too; the judgments about certain writing choices e.g. English or Creole – I’m not an immigrant (she contextualizes it as a problem of immigrants writing in English) but I can relate to this: “people think it’s primarily a commercial choice. But for many of us, it’s a choice that rises out of the circumstances of our lives. These are the tools I have at my disposal, based on my experiences” – yep; her take on book reviews and categorizations and the burdens put upon fiction and her point that “fiction is not journalism or sociology or anthropology. Every story is singular. The way we get depth is by putting a bunch of singular stories together to tell larger more complex and sometimes even contradictory stories”… and more… I also find her description of her book as a hybrid between a story collection and a novel interesting and her references to books like it will be added to my reading list because one of my current writing projects seems to be veering into this hybrid territory. Anyway, reading interviews with great writers is always a master class for me, and Edwidge is one of the best in my opinion. Check out the full interview here.

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Michael Anthony, a Caribbean favourite, talks about his favourite meal, his favourite calypso, and more in this interview.

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New Orleans writer and journalist Missy Wilkinson about how being a journalist fuels her fiction and being a shape-shifter. Found this very relatable. Read the whole thing at Grab the Lapels.

VISUAL

Sandra Sealey talks about her journey as a writer.

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This Pinterest link is all visuals of Caribbean writers of fiction for children, teens, young adults. The clip, lifted from the site, features Tamarind publisher sharing in a very personal way why such diverse books are absolutely essential.

FICTION

“She breathes deep like she learned from the weekly yoga classes she paid for but eventually dropped. Deep breathing makes her dizzy. Too slow. Too many text messages buzz in the time it takes to exhale.” – from Empty by M. M. De Voe. More here.

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“And you!” Adele said “I raised my quivering arms on high; I laughed and laughed into the sky…. Edna St. Vincent Millet. You were so romantic!” – from Time Capsule by Carol J. Arnold. Read more.

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“We pushed north, praying for the aurora borealis, a whale breaching, something. An eagle dropped fish entrails on the deck. We studied the water’s flotsam for glass floats and fished out styrofoam cups.” – from The Famous Writer by Norma Shainin. Read more.

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“Najua had been in the room one night and Kate had asked Seth if people went to heaven when they died. Seth hadn’t hesitated to tell her yes, and to go on to say what he remembered from his childhood Sunday school lessons: heaven was a place of pure eternal happiness and joy, where no one suffered and no one got sick or hurt. He’d felt a twinge of guilt as he told his girl what he did not himself believe, but Najua smiled and nodded her reassurance that he was doing the right thing, her dark eyes moist and full of admiration. At the time, he’d taken it for more than that; he’d thought she might be falling for him too.” – Hush Little Baby by Vic Sizemore. Read the full.

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‘Cerberus closes both eyes, dreaming of the old man’s future, death waiting in the threshold to cradle him as it will never cradle Cerberus. He twitches in his sleep, wakes to the sound of Alma’s footsteps running through the front door, across the hardwood floor, out of breath, “Hi, Cerberus,” passing him like a warm, Aegean breeze.’ – from Cereus Sleeps by B. K. Loren. Read the full.

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“He is looking at her, has no wings to flick and she has none to fly off with and she knows from one moment to the next that nothing can get her out of the situation without leaving some sort of residue.” The tension is palpable and, unfortunately, if you’re a woman, all too relatable in Doro Boehme’s Thief Knot, Fastening at Canopic Jar.

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Coo Yah by Tammi Browne-Bannister, an Antiguan writer who now resident in Barbados, captures the shifting, dark poetry of a hurricane lashed landscape.

POETRY

Esther Phillips reppng for Barbados on the BBC’s Poetry Postcards.

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Alone by Maya Angelou. May she rest in peace.

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“Nothing understands the ecstatic wine
of this music like your body” – from Shostakovich: Five Pieces by Pamela Uschuk. Read also her poem Learning the Theremin.

NON FICTION

An interesting and important conversation and one of relevance to writers like us, far far far off the map of mainstream publishing. NPR’s To Achieve Diversity in Publishing, a Difficult Silence beats Silence.

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‘The hit or miss nature of words is well suited to navigating in the dark, and this story proves that words have great power even if the speaker knows they only have a 50% chance of being true. And even when the speaker knows they are 100% untrue, pragmatic words get a person past the gatekeeper and into the circus. Or, words can be thrown out into unknown territory like hooks on a line. Our friend Judith, who spoke Hebrew and Dutch before learning English advised my husband, “If you want to find your way in a foreign language, you must guess a thousand times a day. Be bold—guess!” Words infused with longing and thrown like dice—left, right, or straight ahead—can get you home.’ – from The Resiliency Gene by Ellen Graf. Read the full.

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Martin Scorcese on the difference between plot and story. You know, I just finished watching his film Shutter Island before posting this and, though he references other filmmakers, it’s as illustrative as any of them of the point he makes in this short clip. Watch and learn.

BLOG

From Shakirah Bourne’s Get Write! – On Dialect: How Caribbean People Supposed Tuh Talk In A Story, Eh?

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So when did you begin falling in love with books? Read Kamy Wicoff’s blog here – and feel free to share your responses in the comments section below.

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One writer’s journey to publication. She Writes.

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Antiguan and Barbudan Leonard Tim Hector is one of the greats of Caribbean thought (i.e. among those who researched, observed, analyzed, and offered insight to our lives, in his case, various areas of our lives – politics to sports to the arts). JAmerican writer Geoffrey Philp acknowledges as much in his preamble to a re-posting of a Hector piece on Caribbean literature and why it matters. Read here.

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Writers Read by Jeff Goins.

*NEW* REVIEWS
A section for books I haven’t necessarily read as yet but, thanks to these reviews, now kind of want to.

Annie Paul reviews Jamaican writer, and fast Wadadli Pen patron, Diana McCaulay’s Huracan.

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, and Oh Gad!). 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. Respect copyright.

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R. I. P., Maya Angelou

Yes, before she became one of the iconic writers of our time, Maya was a performer. This is one of my favourite images of her.

Yes, before she became one of the iconic writers of our time, Maya was a performer. This is one of my favourite images of her.

…until we see you again, we’ll think of you laughing, singing, dancing, living, and writing the next chapter of an amazing life.

Maya Angelou, 1928 – 2014.

Btw, you can find some of Maya’s writing in our reading rooms. Just use the search feature to the right.

 

 

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Reading Room lV

Yep, it’s a new Reading Room; lots of stuff to share so it was time to expand from Reading Room and Gallery, Reading Room and Gallery II,  and Reading Room and Gallery III. But I still hope you’ll check them out.

DISCLAIMER: By definition, you’ll be linking to third party sites from these Links-We-Love pages. Linked sites are not, however, reviewed or controlled by Wadadli Pen (the blog, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize nor coordinator/blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse); and Wadadli Pen (the blog, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize and coordinator/blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse) disclaims any responsibility or liability relating to any linked sites and does not assume any responsibility for their contents. In other words, enter at your own risk.

Here you’ll find stories, interviews, reviews, poems; you name it…a totally subjective showcase of (mostly) Caribbean written (sometimes visual and audio visual) pieces that I (Joanne) have either personally appreciated or which have been recommended (and approved) for posting/linking. If you’re looking for the winning Wadadli Pen stories (and I hope you are!), check Wadadli Pen through the years. You can also see the Best of Wadadli Pen special issue at Anansesemwhich has the added feature of audio dramatizations of some of the stories.

POEMS
This poet acknowledges that her English is broken an not by accident. The poem’s a quick read but it will stick with you.

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Tanya Shirley’s poetry is vivid and steeped in the rhythms of rural Jamaica and the tensions between the characters that inhabit it…if these three  (Matey*Shall not Conquer, Waiting for Rain (Again), and Every Hoe have him Stick a Bush) are any example.

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I had mixed feelings about the poems in Aloud Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café Nicole Breedlove’s An Open Letter to Myself was one I liked. Also her ‘Front Page or Bust’ but I can’t find a link to that one. Also on my must-read list
Diane Burns’ Sure You Can Ask me a Personal QuestionTough Language and American Sonnet by Wanda Coleman;
Martin Espada’s Two Mexicanos Lynched in Santa Cruz, California, May 3 1877  and Latin Night at the Pawn Shop ; Pedro Pietri’s Telephone Booth Number 905 ½ , La bodega sold dreams , the Book of Genesis according to St. Miguelito , and the Records of Time by Miguel Pinero; Born Anew at Each A.M. by Piri Thomas; Asha Bandele’s In Response to a Brother’s Question about what he should do when his Best Friend beats up his Woman; and For the Men who still don’t get it by Carol Diehl.

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When Antiguan and Barbudan folk history writer and poet Joy Lawrence said this is her favourite poem, I had to look it up. Like she said it has a force that impresses on all the senses.

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W. H. Auden’s Musee des Beaux Arts is one of my all time favourite poems. I also like Stop all the Clocks.

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“My beauty was never the common beauty of a pampered and petted whore
Whoever seeks such beauty deserves whatever uselessness he finds.
Tepid and tasteless like watered down coffee.
My beauty is so fierce,
so dark, so thick
so ancient, so strong,
you will have to grow new eyes to drink it in.” – love these lines from Donna Aza Weir’s Uncommon Beauty in the Afro Beat Journal… in fact I love the entire Haiti-themed poem.

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Opal Palmer Adisa writes of

“Obedient daughters.
Patient women.
Compliant wives.
Loving mothers.”

in Watching and Waiting.

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Poetry posting by Althea Romeo Mark – I especially liked ‘Whisperer’ and ‘Because I am Woman’.

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She by Eric Merton Roach – posted to the Caribbean Writers tumblr.

SHORT STORIES

NON FICTION

West Virginia native Natalie Sypolt writes of her struggle with writing what she knows in a way that resonates as both powerful and true: “My decision to move away from ‘what I knew’ to safer stories also had to do with the rejections I’d been receiving from literary journals, the models I’d been reading in class (which were nothing like my stories), and, ultimately, the old fear that who I am and where I’m from is seen by the rest of the world as a joke.” The last one is what really bites. Read the whole piece here.

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What to call this? A reverse rejection letter? Not throwing any shade but it’s fun when writers are able to get their own back now and again. Here’s the End of the World of Books from Letters of Note – a pretty cool site with letters of note like that. Such as the letter exchange re the evolution of the Outsiders, a movie I remember for its beautiful sunsets and poetry (nothing gold can stay…) and music (Stevie Wonder’s ribbon in the sky), the delightful teenage angst and suburban style class warfare, across the tracks romance, the epic rumble at the end and all the Rob Lowe-Matt Dillon-C. Thomas Howell-Ralph Macchio hotness; a movie both my sister and I loved back when we were tweens crushing on Pony Boy and Soda Pop.

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I found this to be an interesting read. It includes references to teaching Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy and other Caribbean books in college/university level courses in the US where the culture of the book is so different from the students’ lives; how do you access and understand the nuances of that culture without having a knee jerk sort of superior response. Here’s an example:

‘One of the things students often say when I teach a book like      this (Lionheart Gal) is “Oh, my gosh, their lives are so rough. They’re      so mistrustful of men. It’s supposed to be nicer than that.”      And “Why can’t they just get along?” I ask them to      answer the same questions that the women in Sistren were asked      to answer in order to create these stories. Questions like “When      did you first realize that you were oppressed as a woman?”      not just “What is your life like?” I ask my students,      “If you were to ask the same questions, what would your      story come out sounding like?” That is often a very good      way to make them understand the parallels between the issues      they are dealing with and the commonsense wisdom, the women’s      wisdom, articulated in these stories.’

Beyond the themes, it also talks about the challenges surrounding how students (including creole speaking students socialized to reject the creole in an academic space) engage with the language in these texts. For these and the other issues it explores, I found this article by Professor Rhonda Cobham-Sander to be share-worthy.

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So I’m intrigued by this Lorna Goodison interview for a few reasons. Because she’s a kick ass poet. Because of what she said about measuring (or not measuring) yourself against others. Because she always comes across like a cool down to earth Caribbean sister in spite of the lofty heights to which her talent has taken her. Because she loves Keats. And because of the question and answer re Antigua at the end.

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Beware self censorship…that’s the moral of this story.

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“These days, I have been learning to write with optimism. The kind of writing that enjoys life, whether it’s a talk on the phone, sunlight on a pier, or the wild joy of a rumba.” This is from Summer Edward’s article, On Writing for Adults. It’s a novel idea for too many of us writers who write from such dark spaces. I like this idea.

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Two things…what she said here… but also how our stray words can sometimes stifle an emerging creative light… one of the things Wadadli Pen urges is to write/draw/express your truth freely…if you can’t be free in the imagination, then where.

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“It isn’t personal. It feels personal, you’re sure it’s personal, how could be anything BUT personal…but it isn’t. The work is simply a widget, and this particular widget didn’t fit. So try again. If it comes back, re-examine your widget and edit as needed. Then try again.” Yeah, you guessed it, this is about processing and handling rejections (the bane of every writer’s existence).

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“Truth be told, some of my most rewarding research didn’t feel like research at the time I was experiencing it; it just felt like life.” Read more.

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Rex Nettleford wrote of dance:

“So, you know, the power of the body, it’s your instrument, it doesn’t  belong to anybody else, and you can use it to carve designs in space — by  which I mean create a vocabulary. I learned from early that just a turn of  the head, the drop of a shoulder, can say a thousand words.”

Read More.

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Words can be powerful deterrents; this blog post by Danielle Boodoo Fortune is a reminder that we should be about using our words to encourage our young people to express not repress.

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That fine line between when it’s still yours and when it isn’t anymore is not an easy one  to walk. But the writing is still… you just (just, ha!) have to learn how to switch gears.

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Publishing may be changing, and this article breaks down how, but it also says in simple terms that what we do remains the same – tell good stories.

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What I like about this article (Extended Family: When Fictional Characters show up in your Living Room by Nancy Kricorian) is how it illustrates what a slow, subtle, deliberate process writing often is. Ten years sounds like a lot especially compared to the “six months” or less spouted by other writers but this is a reminder that it’s not about time but about space, about worlds inhabiting each other. And that’s not to say that that can’t happen more quickly than 10 years; after all Zora Neale Hurston wrote one of the classic works of literature Their Eyes were watching God over seven weeks while on a trip to Haiti. But there’s no rush (publishing deadlines notwithstanding). I haven’t read Nancy’s book (All the Light There was) but the author’s attention to detail in building the world of her characters makes me want to. Plus I can relate to the need to steal time from the demands and expectations of your life, time to write.

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“That is how I feel sometimes with my art, that you have ideas but to some persons, it looks like nothing. But to me…nothing is something.” That’s a quote from Bajan artist Sheena Rose’s first performance piece (if you don’t count this intriguing Sweet Gossip project). I like this review because it gives enough of a play by play that you can kind of see it but it also provides an interpretation of the actions that it’s not simply a play by play. As a long distance fan of Rose’s, I’m liking the daring suggested by this brave new step. I had an online discussion with someone who wondered if the nudity was necessary to communicate all the piece hoped to. Necessary? Perhaps not…but gratuituous, I sense not…there is substance behind the artifice and figuring out what that is is the interesting bit.

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This is an interesting piece on publishing from the Caribbean Book Blog. It addresses what to do if your book goes out of print. This is something I’ve actually had to deal with with my first two books which were originally published with Macmillan and which despite positive response didn’t sell as well as the publisher anticipated and as such were allowed to go out of print. It was a low point for me, but I rebounded when after seeking the reversal of rights, I was able to get The Boy from Willow Bend so far back in print with Hansib. This article deals with one of those things writers need to consider about publishing contracts when it comes to rights. Now, it would be ironic if I posted this and found myself, despite my best efforts to be well researched and well advised each time before signing on the dotted line, ensnared in the very things it warns against down the road…but I won’t let that possibility stop me from sharing this because if you’re thinking of publishing, you need to be mindful of the pitfalls and the potholes. We all need to be.

INTERVIEWS

Emily Raboteau on memoir writing and her book Searching for Zion.

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Maya Angelou’s poetry and prose are legendary; so too the woman herself. Here’s a recent interview. In it she talks about her writing rhythms, heartwarming encounters, Martin Luther King, James Baldwin and much more. Part of what stood out for me was the challenges of the writing process itself because sometimes you imagine that it comes easy for the greats while you struggle to find the right word. She said: “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” and every writer, every writer struggling for the right word, feels the truth of that. I was struck by the condescension with which one writer spoke of her decision to write for Hallmark. To quote Rick Santorum (and I never thought I’d say that), what a snob. Glad to have Maya confirm that not only does a well worded greeting card have the power to affect people as surely as a work of great literature, it’s just as difficult to find the right word: “I would write down a paragraph that expressed what I wanted to say, and then try to reduce it to two sentences.”

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Recently someone who knows Edwidge Dandicat indicated that she’s just as warm and generous as she appears to be in her interviews. All that and talented too. She remains one of my literary inspirations. Check out her frank discussion on women writers, tokenism, and more hard truths from the world of publishing…don’t worry, while she doesn’t sugar coat, she still manages to inspire. Oh, and like her, I, too, think Alice Walker’s In Search of our Mothers’ Gardens should be required reading especially for black women writers. As for Dandicat’s books, for my money you can’t go wrong with the Farming of Bones and Create Dangerously.

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Junot Diaz interview at the Caribbean Literary Salon. If you haven’t read Diaz yet, you should; meanwhile, go read this interview.

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Zadie Smith on The Root, frank discussion on a lot of literary issues including reviews …my favourite line on the question of multiculturalism “We are people; we exist.”

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My interview at PhD in Creative Writing; a blog that asks writers in five not so easy questions, how’d you become a writer.

VISUAL ART

The relationship between sisters is so much a part of my writing, how could I not share Claudette Dean’s Sisters? One of the things I find beguiling about it is how at first glance you see the obvious similarities – notably the shape of the face and eyes but that the longer you look you see that each of those eyes tell a different story. I find myself wondering what those stories are. It’d make a great writing prompt.

Love this! (Requiem for Haiti by Chantal Bethel)

N.B. For some of my stuff, visit http://jhohadli.wordpress.com

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