March 2, 2013 § Leave a Comment
A few months back I was invited to be a part of the forthcoming anthology, Long Hidden, from Crossed Genres Publications. Crossed Genres publishes speculative, sci-fi, horror and fantasy fiction. The first book I read from this press was Daniel J. Older’s Salsa Nocturna, a collection of linked speculative stories set in New York City, detailing the adventures of one half-dead, half-living Carlos Delacruz and his comrades, all at various degrees of living and fully dead, as they fight with the ghost world to preserve and protect the city they love. I am so happy to have met Daniel through social media, but I can’t help but think of how many people haven’t read his book and don’t know about his exciting, new voice. If you haven’t, buy and read Daniel’s short story collection, Salsa Nocturna. If you don’t have the funds to buy it, pick it up from the library. If your library does not carry it, urge them to purchase it and offer to lead an evening book discussion. Use it for your book club’s selection or blog about it. We have to discuss the literature we love and care about.
Saying that, Crossed Genres is putting together the aforementioned anthology, Long Hidden, of speculative fiction from the margins of history. This anthology will be edited by Daniel J. Older and Rose Fox who are both incredible authors of speculative fiction in their own right. Some of the contributors include celebrated fiction writers Victor D. LaValle, Tananarive Due, Beverly Jenkins, Nnedi Okorafor and Nisi Shawl. Contributing emerging writers of fiction include Rion Amilcar Scott, Troy Wiggins and myself.
To make this anthology happen, Crossed Genres is asking for help through its kickstarter campaign. We know there are a million kickstarter campaigns and you don’t have the funds in this economy. Consider these questions: When was the last time you read an anthology of contemporary speculative fiction? When was the last time you rooted for a protagonist of color who had her own ideas about the world, her own community, lover, family and mission that was separate from saving her white friend during the end of the world?
How many $4 cups of coffee will you have this week? Trade a few of those corporate cups in and support living, working artists. The Long Hidden kickstarter has raised $2,000 of the $12,000 goal. Please contribute today.
Here’s why you want to support this anthology:
- You care about the publication of marginalized voices and revisionist history.
- You care about literature where you, your politics and interests are reflected.
- It matters to you that worlds are created in scifi and speculative literature where black people don’t exist, brown people don’t exist, women don’t exist, gay people don’t exist.
- You care about misrepresentation, misappropriation and erasure.
- You want to hold this anthology in your hands and give it the kind of rigorous attention and discussion it deserves.
- You’d like to see it in a college classroom as opposed to some of the other things you read.
- You care about artists getting paid for their work while they’re still alive.
Here’s how I want to help see this happen:
Although Crossed Genres’ co-editors invited writers to the anthology, submissions will open up on April 1st. I would love for you to be one of the contributing writers!
An Owomoyela, published author and speculative fiction writer, has pledged to critique a story of up to 8,000 words in exchange for a donation to Long Hidden. I bought An’s pledge, and I am donating it to an emerging writer of speculative fiction. Here are the contest guidelines:
1. In a blog, on your site, in the same manner that I am sharing this, tell me a little bit more about your writing interests in speculative, scifi, horror and/or fantasy fiction. How long have you been writing it? What’s your preferred genre? Are you working on a novel, short story collection, poetry collection, creative non fiction? In what ways do you consider your literary voice marginalized?
2. Discuss the Long Hidden anthology. Why does its publication matter? Have you read any other titles by Crossed Genres Publications that you’d like to share? Be sure to discuss the kickstarter campaign and link your readers to it.
3. What was the last book of speculative fiction from a marginalized voice that you read? Talk about it! Make me and your other readers want to buy it. Link us to it!
That’s it! You can either do a blog or a vlog and link me to it by March 31, 2013 by leaving a comment here AND linking me directly on twitter. My twitter handle is @kima_jones. I will announce a winner on April 1st. Preference will be given to emerging writers who have not attended writing conferences, retreats and MFA programs, who lack the most access to professional mentorship and critique.
Best of luck and happy writing! Feel free to ask any clarifying questions.
January 28, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I am singing Shalimar’s 80′s hit as I write this. Tonight, I read for the first time, publicly, with the other five PEN/USA 2013 fellows. It was an amazing night and an amazing credit to the hard work we’ve all put into our emergent careers. The crowd was warm and the space was perfect. No detail went unnoticed from the beautiful floral arrangements to the pomegranates floating in champagne baths. The staff at PEN went out of their way to make sure our experience was rich and memorable. I am so privileged to be part of such an exceptional group of writers. This is more than I could have ever asked for.
Elle read an excerpt from her memoir about a mother, two kids in tow, off to visit her imprisoned husband. It was funny without forsaking the underlying sadness of the piece. (And Elle’s shoes were bossy, bossy, business.)
Krisserin read an excerpt from her novel detailing a young girl’s struggle with her growing breasts. Again, funny and heartbreaking and altogether awesome.
Terrance read a really wonderful excerpt from his memoir about the heartbreaking cycle of finding and losing surrogate mothers to fulfill his dream of one day being a dad. I was completely undone by his honesty and spot-on humor.
Tommy read an excerpt from his short story collection about a dysfunctional girlfriend and the trials of managing that dysfunction. Tommy is amazingly cool.
Lilliam read an excerpt from her young adult novel about two young girls in the Bronx confronting sexuality and consequences. Absolutely hysterical writing with a deep seated understanding of fear, loss and youth.
Harryette Mullen called my poem riveting. The end!
This was a night to remember til the end of days. Please enjoy the pictures from our reading at the Duncan Miller Gallery, Santa Monica.
January 23, 2013 § 1 Comment
A few housekeeping notes before I get into the blog hop!
My PEN/USA fellowship experience is keeping me very busy. I jumped to the moon when I found out my mentor for the year was none other than award-winning poet, Harryette Mullen, author of Sleeping With the Dictionary. Harryette’s input on my poetry collection is priceless as I am tied up reading the collections she’s assigned, rewriting poems, writing poems and going to classes. My first public reading as a fellow will be January 27th at the Duncan Miller Galley in Santa Monica. Come if you’re not a creep.
Simon Jacobs of PANK Magazine interviewed me on my poem AD 2012 that appeared in this year’s Queer Issue. I would love it if you read it.
Now, on to the hop! I was invited to participate in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop by fiction writer, Sheree L Greer. Sheree is the author of the short story collection Once and Future Lovers; a VONA alum, her work has appeared in the Best Lesbian Romance 2012.
What is the working title of your book/story/whatever?
I am at work on two major projects (and several minor): a first collection of poems titled, The Anatomy of Forgiveness and an untitled novel draft of about 26,000 words. I started writing my novel back in July of 2012, and I hope to have a first draft completed by the end of Spring.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I decided to write a family history and felt poetry would be the best avenue for it because poetry protects the confession in a way that memoir simply can’t. Besides, I don’t read memoirs, so writing one would be hypocritical.
My novel idea came to me from newspaper clippings. I am a newspaper clipper, or rather, I am a newspaper copy and paster. There are a lot of really fantastical, remarkable and sometimes heartbreaking stories that are begging to be transformed into fiction. My novel draft is comprised of heartbreaking stories and a lot of imagination.
What genre does your book fall under?
Poetry is poetry. Fiction is fiction.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
All unknowns like me. All unknowns with a point to prove, just like me.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The Anatomy of Forgiveness is a collection of poetry detailing the trauma before and after an infertility diagnosis.
My untitled novel draft is still growing its legs, and I would not want to cripple it with a synopsis. I’m not really interested in discussing it too much because it’s so new, and I need to protect it from, you know, biters, copycats, soul snatchers and the like.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
That’s a good gotdamn question. Well, poetry works much differently in terms of publishing than fiction. I am going to diligently submit my collection to several contests and see who wants to play with me. As far as my novel draft, when I finally have a final draft, I will seek agency representation, but, again, it’s a hard fought war.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I’m still writing and revising. I hope to have a finished poetry collection by winter. I want to start sending it out for submissions at the top of 2014 or at the very latest mid-2014. As for the novel, again, I want to have a first draft by the end of Spring. I want to rest and recharge this summer and do nothing but read, sleep late, swim and enjoy fruit salads.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
This feels like a really odd question, and I am not sure how I should answer it. Fucking failure inspired me to write this book and every other book I want to write. I just don’t want to be a failure, and the weight of that fear keeps me working. I work hard, and I like a full plate with lots of projects on it. Too much time on my hands and I’m off doing God knows what. My writing partner and I have plotted about five years’ worth of work in Google drive; as soon as we are done with one thing, it is on to the next. The most important thing is to do what you say you’re going to do. Every day I remind myself to do what it is I’m supposed to be doing, and that’s always, always writing. Always, always reading.
The impulse to tell a story inspired me. I can’t shake it. I have so many stories inside of me; I have got to do something with them.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Hmm, well, the poetry collection is something of a genre bender, and I’m excited to introduce it to an audience. The novel draft contains a murder if you like dead bodies in your literature.
I’m really delighted to invite you to check out PEN/USA Emerging Voices 2013 Fellow in fiction, Lilliam Rivera’s, blog next week, Wednesday, January 30th, when she discusses her work in progress, My Shelf Life.
January 4, 2013 § 1 Comment
I typically celebrate New Years in September, on my birthday. Something about the last days of summer and memories of heading back to school with new clothes and shoes make me eager to align and commit to improvement. September is a time for sowing– a time to focus, buckle down and do the hard work.
By December, I am still in love with the cold weather, sweater dresses and donning heavier perfumes. September to December is a pleasant time for me as I celebrate my birthday and the holidays. I have a million Christmas pageants to attend, cookies to bake with the children in my life and up all-nighters with my mother preparing the most rich and decadent soul food. My sisters and I enjoy hanging out and watching movies. Basketball season starts, and I am glued to the television. Life is calmer and joyful.
Some winters, some seasons are better than others.
This season did not come without its pitfalls and trials. The most frightening question, one I’ve asked my remarkably patient writing partner several times this week, is what will I do if I don’t finish this manuscript? Yes, I have been awarded an amazing fellowship. Yes, I have some pretty cool publication credits under my belt now, but what will I do if I don’t finish? How can I come back home? It took a lot of effort for my family to see me as “the writer” in the family. I have a recurring nightmare of coming home empty handed. I have no explanations, no books, no magazine articles. I have nothing but a set of luggage and a well-traveled body. I am standing on the porch teary-eyed. My mother opens the door and looks at me and just looks.
Every word I write is for fear of seeing that look. The look that says, I love you anyway. It’s okay. I don’t want it to be okay; I don’t want to be loved in spite of my personal failures. Take me as I am, sure, but I want to be the daughter who comes home and places a book in her mother’s hand. There is a popular refrain in many churches where the call and response looks something like this:
Preacher: And on THAT day, when the Lord looks at the sum of my life, on THAT fateful day, oh, saints, you don’t hear me! I want the Lord to look down on me and say just one thing. Church, tell me what we want to hear from the Lord. Saints, what do you want the Lord to say of your life?
Church: Well done, well done, well done, my servant, well done.
My mother is certainly not the Lord, but she is the reigning figure in my life. When I think of my mother setting aside her dreams of being a librarian to parent her children, when I think of the love of books she instilled in me, when I think of the walks to the library (never forbidding me the adult section), when I think of coming home with scholastic readers, when I think of her fishing through her pockets for change to give me for the used book sale in the cafeteria, or rolling my hair with brown paper curlers for my oral reports, or the curious look she gave each poster board presentation before okaying it, when I think of my mother and our sometimes hot, sometimes cold but always committed relationship, my faith is reignited. I am walking in the world with the blessing of my mother. Who can touch me?
I have cried every day for the past week, packing to return to California. There is no missing like the missing I feel when I don’t have my family, my girlfriends, my little people who come to me for homework help and snacks. Last year, I had to ask my family to shift the dynamics of our relationship. I was the one asking for support, for help and understanding. Last year, I was not refused. When I came home in September, my sister jumped into my arms before I could take the luggage from the backseat of the cab. We hugged and kissed. My nephew followed right behind her. We walked next door to our mother’s house and the celebration was anything but climatic: my arrival woke my mother up from an afternoon nap. When she was tired of feeling annoyed she said, “well, I guess I should take more meat out of the freezer.”
That is my mother’s love, and that’s the love that raised me. We have not always been close or friendly because my mother was very deliberate in letting me know that I was her child. I was not her friend. Even in her darkest places, she was a mother to me. No backtalk. No sass. In her darkest places, my mother mothered.
And taught me that I cannot outrun the dark places. Everyone’s dark place is different. My sad song isn’t the same as hers, but damn if it isn’t played. The dark places are coming. They are quick. They are as sure as first love. My mother taught me, through her own painful trials, that there is a way out of despair, families can heal, people can be forgiven, love can be had.
I have hurt people I never intended to for shameless, inexcusable, petty reasons. I’ve also rekindled some of those relationships. The dynamics had to change some, the expectations had to be reevaluated, but we managed. My mother taught me that.
I don’t like a lot of folks having access to me because I don’t believe everyone is well-intended.
What a blessing it is to have someone to call on who understands you. I have several, and that is a testament to the people who love me and deal with my highs, lows, drama and fickle temperament. I have people who don’t throw my secrets in my face when it suits them. I have people who believe, as they believe blood runs through the veins and to the heart, that I will do everything I say I will.
I cannot let them down. I cannot face that look.
For the first 32 days of 2013, I am writing every day. You can check my word counts on the accountability calender.
I want to have a draft of my first novel finished for Spring and a completed manuscript of poetry for my September birthday.
I resolved most things in my life before the new year rolled in.
There is a single resolution left– one I share with my incomparable writing partner– when my draft is done, I am going to walk into the ocean.
October 27, 2012 § Leave a Comment
One day I will write an essay about the ups and downs of California, of moving, of leaving, losing and gaining. I sweated over a group of poems, several essays and in a swift act of faith, walked to the post office and mailed the packet out. I would be lying if I said I never dreamed I would be chosen. Not only did I dream it, I believed it. When I got the phone call that I made it to phase two, I screamed. The interview was another story. I was nervous, I repeated phrases, but I answered fully and honestly. I explained my work, my collection and what the fellowship would mean to my career. Two days later, I found out I won gold. I am PEN USA’s Emerging Voices Fellow in poetry– the only poetry fellow chosen and the first poetry fellow since 2009. #accountability wins over all else. I cannot wait to share this incredible journey with you.
September 25, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This month has been full of family and goodness. I’ve been spending much needed quality time with my mother, siblings, girlfriends and the adorable 10 month old pictured above. My primary goal this trip home was to enjoy my family but also remain answerable to my writing so much so that I’ve added an accountability calendar to the site. It has not been easy, and I’ve learned that I get more done when they’re asleep. For the first week, I did nothing but eat massive amounts of food (pizza and home cooked dinners) and watched “Law and Order” (all three iterations) with my mother. When my brother and nephew arrived, I took over the task of “night duty” with baby while my brother rested (for the first time in 10 months) and everyone else slept. Because I’m Nocturnal Myrtle, this choice felt obvious until it started cutting into my writing time. After about a week, I found my groove and picked up a few valuable writing lessons, reminders really, that I’m going to hold on to for awhile.
1. Top Heavy
Babies have big ass heads. Their heads are so heavy that it causes them to topple and fall. Unless you run over screaming and gasping, babies will usually roll over onto their bellies and continue with their business. My novel in progress is top heavy. Right now, it is mostly research, outlines, notes, character sketches, journal entries between my writing partner and I and twenty pages of manuscript. Sometimes I look at it and sigh and close the document (the equivalent of the topple) or avoid it for a day or more (the fall) but eventually I roll over on my belly, shake my dust bunnies off and get back to work. My work in progress, whatever I’m working on, will not always be top heavy. It will grow, stretch and expand in the same way that we all do. It is a process. Nephews don’t grow overnight and neither do books.
2. Feed Me, Change Me, Bathe Me, Play!
Sometimes I forget to take care of myself! Do my nails, trim my split ends, soak my feet, make lunch, call my friends, search the internet for upcoming Prince concerts (Fuck Chicago). Sometimes life is all about what needs to be done, what’s not getting done, how can I get it done, when will it be done and who is going to pay for it to get done. I have to-do lists for my to-do lists, a blog to maintain (is anyone really out there?) characters to study, emails to answer, dinner to make, sexts to answer, toes to paint, retreats to apply to, essays I’m trying to finish, a novel, a poetry collection,and the added duties of being a responsible daughter, a playful auntie, an oldest (weirdest) sister, a generous lover, an attentive writing partner, a living google calendar, a part-time vegan chef, collector of fine leather goods and big earring rocker. It is all hard, hard work. And I still have to make money!
3. Catch Me if You Can!
My nephew has got to be the fastest baby around. He is crawling, taking steps and we are rearranging the livingroom several times a day to put things out of his reach. He moves so fast and gingerly towards whatever has caught his eye that my mother is rubbing down with “Icy Hot” at the end of each day. My novel in progress is like that. I am moving so, so fast towards the end of said chapter sometimes, so eager, so excited that I lose sight, get overwhelmed and need to back up a little, revisit Mat Johnson’s rules and continue on my journey. I am working on slowing down the draft, the writing. I am paying attention to time and the way it moves in works that I really love. I don’t have to whiz through a week in a single page. I’m learning the slow grind. Of course that means fretting about going too slow. Too much back story? Am I spending too much time on a minute detail? AM I WRITING A TURTLE CHAPTER? When I start to fret, I write a journal entry on how I feel about the work and changes I foresee in the second draft. Just expressing those feelings has been enough. I’ve been able to return to writing the draft after I’ve vented some. Unnecessary anxiety doesnt do anything but create writer’s block.
4. Poop Happens
My nephew, like everyone else in the family, eats whatever my mother cooks. That said, he goes!
Once again, first drafts, of anything, are shitty. What joy it is when that shit is finally cleaned up!
5. It Takes Two To Make a Thing Go Right (Write)!
My nephew is a lot of work, needs lots of love, playtime, baths, hugs and kisses. He likes to crawl around on his own, but also likes to be cradled and rocked to sleep. The work is more than enough for one person, so the more, the merrier! He has the benefit of adoring aunties, uncles, grandmothers, parents, his brother. The boy is loved.
So is my draft. Sharing work, especially new work, is a very delicate process as Tayari Jones, author of “Silver Sparrow,” explains. Sharing my work has been a hard thing to do. I kept all of my writing to myself for almost a decade. No magazines, no journals, no readings. I had a writing partner during this decade, but the relationship was a dysfunctional one where I critiqued and supported their work only. That relationship was complicated by mistrust and insecurity. I’ve since moved on. My current writing partner of nearly two years is an amazing writer, a thoughtful reader, resource library, culture connoisseur, music maven and cheerleader of all things my draft, my poetry, my essays, and my getting to a spa and having downtime when I need to. It’s important to have someone who is as invested in your work as you are. It’s equally important that this someone is accountable to their writing so that you have something to read also! It’s important to me that my writing partner is in the same place that I am regarding their work. I don’t need someone who isn’t sure if they really want to write, or isn’t willing to make time to write, or is unwilling to share writing, or isn’t trustworthy with my shit. I’ve been there and done that before. Those exchanges aren’t exchanges at all; they’re useless. In addition to my amazing writing partner, I have an incredible digital #accountability team of writers. We check in with each other regularly and make time to do this writing life thing together even if it’s only a text that says “You good?” or tweet that says, “I sent out submissions today.” Maybe it’s a gchat that starts out, “Are you busy? Can you look at this?” Keep folks around who love your work as much as you do: not just the words you write but the fact that you’re writing them. And remember to love their words back.
September 5, 2012 § 2 Comments
How you kill a novel: 1250 words a day, at least 4 days a week, 4 weeks out of the month, for three months.
And by kill he means finish. I’ve had several novels swimming around in my head for years, partially written down on scraps of paper and stuffed into my kitchen’s catch all drawer, timelines and timetables scribbled on the backs of envelopes and whole treatises written on sticky notepads. While that’s great, I’ve never dedicated time to fully researching, developing or writing a novel because although it is the goal of a lifetime, it’s a long process. I am a great starter but a terrible finisher. I have good ideas but sticking to one idea and seeing it to its end has always been a problem for me. Poems have been easier because the finishing is so immediate and gratifying. Even if a poem takes a month or two to compose and edit, when it is done, I have a poem. I have a single, finished piece of art. Curating those poems around a specific theme and forming a collection, well, that’s another task I’ve avoided for just about a decade. There is nothing easy or quick about anything- not writing, not laundry, not dieting, not anything. I have finally gotten that notion through my thick skull.
I’ve dedicated 2012 to acquiring bylines and sharing my work. My hope for 2013 is finishing my first collection of poetry, The Anatomy of Forgiveness. While I was happy with the progress of the collection, I was beginning to feel like my fiction chops were getting rusty. I complained to my writing partner who suggested I work on more than one project at once. My writing partner told me that playwright Suzan Lori-Parks often works on more than one project because she bores easily. I was intrigued but fearful that I wouldn’t make it to the finish line on either project. Duke Ellington was quoted as saying, “I don’t need inspiration. I need deadlines.” Mat Johnson has given me deadlines; in fact, he has given me several.
1250 words a day: Means write 1250 words down.
4 days a week: Is sitting my ass somewhere- home, library, coffee shop, park- for four days a week to write.
4 weeks out of the month: That’s the whole gotdamn month, Mat.
3 months a year: A season. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall. Pick your passion.
I haven’t always been accountable to myself, but that has changed- drastically. More than being accountable to myself, I like to be accountable to my writing partner and my writing community. One of my new rules for cultivating discipline and practicing what I preach is writing for two hours a day every day. Sometimes that writing starts out as a half hour of trying to find the right music, but I am committed to sitting down for sixty minutes and doing the work. I’m averaging just about 600 words per hour session sometimes more. My novel in progress is research intensive, and there are times when I spend my writing time reading case studies, viewing video, reading interviews and making notes. That is part of the writing and necessary for the writing, but it isn’t writing. When that happens I make the time up. Writing has to be writing. I’ve learned that I don’t have to back burner my novel while I finish the poetry collection. There is enough light, energy and discipline in me for both.
While killing this novel, I have learned how to look at things that once depressed me in a different way.
- Instead of fretting about my current word count, I subtract a little off my goal number each day. The shrinking number is evidence that this baby will one day find itself bound and on a bookshelf.
- Rather than stop writing when I’m stumped, I move on to a scene or chapter that is clear in my mind and work it out. I joke with my writing partner about how shitty my draft is because it is shitty! It is a first draft! In my head I’ve planned my “First Draft Finished” party. Small victories are victories. It will be proof that I can get from A to Z on a project. Once the first draft is done, I can start killing the second draft and then the final draft. Who knows how many drafts?
- I have a blueprint, courtesy of Mat Johnson, that says 1250 words a day, 4 days a week, 4 weeks a month for 3 months. That’s exactly what I’m doing. On my three days off, I commit one day exclusively to reading articles I’ve bookmarked all week and didnt have a chance to get to. I read through The Boston Review, The NY Times, The Atlantic, The Rumpus, Matchbook Literary Magazine, PANK, Specter Magazine, Drunken Boat, Muzzle Magazine, Hippocampus, Poets and Writers and many of my other favorites. The other two days are mine to sleep in, not exercise, catch up on my writing partner’s novel in progress and skype with friends far, far away. By nature, I am a slow writer, slow reader, slow so many things, but I am changing because I recognized a change was necessary.
- I don’t beat myself up for not writing more when I don’t have more to give. If I’m not feeling so poetic, I start feeling fictitious.
- I don’t feel guilty for hanging out with my girlfriends or going to movie premiers or out for dinner. I leave the house knowing that I’ve done what I had to do for the day. I gave my one hour that morning, so I can enjoy life without feeling like a bad, lazy, uncommitted writer. If an engagement is happening in the evening, I switch my evening writing session to the afternoon. It’s akin to muscle training or potty training: The more you do it, the more your body becomes used to doing it.
My little itty bitty draft is toot toot tooting along. It is all over the place and messy and growing, and it’s mine. According to Mat Johnson’s formula, at the end of three months, you should have 60,000 words. I have 55,944 words until my goal is met. There was a time when that seemed too big to think about let alone start. But right now, it just means 1250 words today and 1250 words tomorrow. That’s all. One hour in the morning. One hour in the evening or night. The rest of my day is mine and all for me.