It’s almost been a year…..
Went to MidSouthCon yesterday for the writing panels and to meet some of the Sci-Fi writers. It was my first time going to a Science Fiction convention, so I was a bit unprepared for the cosplayers commitment to their characters. But boy was it fun!
The panelists provided a wealth of information on the business of writing, the art of the short story, effective self-editing and many other topics. However, the networking was amazing. Looking forward to next year!
I went to the opening of Fiber| A Tribute to Black Femininity at the Orange Mound Gallery last night. It was a fantastic event and a great opportunity to see familiar faces again. It has been a while since I have done anything truly social–excluding the dating auction and we are definitely excluding the dating auction. Everyone asked what I’d been up to and all I could say was: “Writing. Working and writing.”
I’ve submitted a few poems for publication, but most of my writing is still in here with me—in my apartment. Chillin’ in journals and skipping around my laptop. My mom says they might as well still be in my head. That is a hard truth to accept, but she is right. Such effort and energy and it never goes anywhere.
At this point, I feel like Gollum roaming about my cave cradling my Precious. I write it. Rewrite it. Polish it. And hide it, protecting my precious words from exposure and criticism. Hissing at anyone who comes near.
But the irony is my writing will never improve until I do expose it the type of informed criticism that will hone and refine it.
So that is what I’m doing now, crawling out of my cave with my Precious in-hand. Squinting at the light.
Original Meaning: Broken bench
In 16th century Italy when a merchant could not pay their debts, the bailiffs would publicly destroy the merchant’s bench so he could not do business any longer. It was considered financial and social death.
I just finished reading Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild and Other Stories.” I’ve read “Bloodchild” several times as I work on my own short stories. But there is something special about reading the collection. Butler, a confessed novelist, but her short stories are masterfully clear, engaging, concise and impactful. She relays the most graphic and disturbing content as if they were announcements in a pew bulletin.
Butler also wrote with freedom. She wasn’t bound by tropes, rigid structure or “approved” content. She wrote HER stories her way and waited for others to experience the brilliance.
Upon reflection, I can see the cowardice in my own writing. I write in anticipation of readers’ questions or desires. I spend a tremendous amount of time on description, backstory, and minutia that really don’t approach let alone advance the plot.
It’s like making pasta sauce, but letting your dinner guest pick the ingredients, proportions, and timing, whether they can cook or not. I can’t even imagine it! I don’t even let people IN my kitchen when I’m cooking, so I do I let strangers all up in my stories when I write?
In short, I’m not telling MY stories. I’m trying to get readers to affirm that I am a good writer –this is artistic cowardice at its finest.
Good writing is about the work, not the writer.
I regret not reading Octavia Butler earlier in life. But I am grateful for the opportunity to feast on the results of her talent, hard work, and the ZERO fucks she gave when they tried to tell her what should be in her sauce.
A friend of mine posted the following on Facebook:
“Grab the nearest book. Flip to page 117. The second sentence. This is your life in 2017.”
The first book I grabbed was Shrunk & White’s Elements of Style, which is only 85 pages, so I looked to the right and pulled Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer from under a stack of papers.
My passage read: All such easy and minor exercises are excellent for you if you really want to write.
Can it really be as simple as doing the exercises? Not just any exercise, but the easy and minor exercises. So this will be my year.
Doing the exercises. Doing the work of the writer. I can live with that.
And I can think of no better place to start than revisiting Dorothea’s timeless classic.
If you haven’t read it, I invite you to read-a-long with me.
I get out of my car and open the truck to retrieve the first draft I want to review while at the doctor’s office. As I close it, a sister in a blue shirt and jeans walking down the street flags me down.
“Hey” she said, as I take my headphones out of my ears. “Might wanna adjust your dress. Your whole ass was showing when you got out of the car.” I pulled down my dress with gratitude. No one else is in the parking lot.
I love black women. We’ll tell you like it is, and help you cover your ass at the same time.