On my bookshelf

I’ve finished my Tana French detective series and didn’t want to go to bed without another book in hand. (Nevermind there are three on my bedside table).

bookshelf.pngI began browsing my bookshelf, which is semi-organized: books I’ve read and loved. Books I want to read. School books. Writing books. and, of course, Poe books

I also have something mixed in that would seem, at first glance, not to belong. Books on psychology, the law, philosophy. I assume many writer’s bookshelves are this way.

A writer needs a wide variety of knowledge.

I know we have google at our disposal; however, I find reading books about, for example, the Psychology of Marketing allows me to get an in depth look that a wikipage or a few short articles are not going to give me. This allows me to create a more realistic character or more thorough background to make the story more believable.

For West End, I needed to understand two things, the idea of an absent or unloving mother, and the different forms depression can take. Anxiety runs throughout my work from Of Strays and Exes to Life of Clouds – which features children affected in different ways by the disappearance of their father.

I’ve heard handymen say they are the jack of all trades. I think writers are akin to that. We need to learn many things in order to live many lives.

 

 

 

 

Influence

Billy Collins (poet) believes we must read to be influenced, and suggests young people mimic their favorite writers in order to develop their skills and to develop their own voice.

I think many young writers do this. It’s a natural form of development.

Other writers are afraid to read when they’re lion.jpgwriting; they don’t want to be influenced. I think by the point you develop your own voice, you won’t so easily be influenced.

I think reading Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion was imperative for me to stumble across. I’d never attempted to intimate him – but he took my understanding of writing and voice to a whole new level. The storyline, the use of language, and the originality of his voice was unlike anything I’ve ever read and it blew my mind.

What reading Ondaatje did for me was to help launch my voice and style. I say this because at the time, I was mired in instructors and writers telling me no, no, no. They so strongly believed in their own way of doing things, they didn’t allow other writers to develop in other ways. It was limiting.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – read far and wide! Do not be afraid of being influenced – open yourself to learning something new!

 

Free Reads

cofffee.jpgWhat’s better than coffee?  FREE COFFEE!  Or coffee that someone else bought for you.  And that’s what happened to me the other day. I ordered my coffee and the guy said – “On me – because you’re a great teacher!”

That coffee tasted better than any coffee I’d had of late.

So – for you – free reads.

Here’s a story of mine – originally printed in Avatar: All the Beautiful People.

And here’s some freebies from other authors: 23 Free Stories

If you’re a kindle subscriber, there are many more stories!

Disabilities in fiction

People_with_Disabilities.jpgI was thinking how few people with disabilities are featured on regular television shows and movies. And rarely do we see people with disabilities in fiction, unless they are the main character.

There are a number of children’s book, teen books, and mainstream novels wherein a physical disability is the main feature and/ part of the main character and therefore the thrust of the storyline, but I think we need to incorporate people with disabilities into our secondary and background characters.

In one show I watch, they had to replace a minor character, a secretary who might be seen once or twice a week, and be required to answer a mundane question like, “Where’s the boss?” This show (which shall remain nameless) receives kudos for being among the first (many years ago) to feature minority characters, an interracial affair, gay characters, and, now, even a gay relationships; yet, they don’t have any characters with disabilities.

It’s really up to the writers – us – to push this envelop. We don’t need to know the whole back story if our main character walks into an office to say, “Where’s the boss?” and receives the same sprite answer, “if only someone would tell me!” from someone in a wheelchair.

 

 

Blocked? How to shake it loose.

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Creative blocks are brought on by various reasons.

Writers, poets, artists, musicians need to express themselves. Sometimes, something plugs our flow of creativity.

My friend and I have found release in other creative outlets. She took a watercolor painting class. She feared, at first, that she was taking away from her writing; however, what she found is that it opened her flow and she felt even more creative and was able to add even more to her usual creativity.

I take art and other classes on a regular basis. Most of the time their directly related to writing, but sometimes they are not – but they still feed my imagination and add depth to my writing.

The Healer’s Daughter will be released on May 15th in The Ear. This story came pouring out after a six week drawing class I took at a local museum/gallery. And… I feel like it’s one of my best, filled with color and meaning.

Shake something loose by trying another outlet. You may come back stronger and more creative than before.

Not writing scares me….

ghostly.pngWrite what scares you…..

This is a poetry prompt given to me in one of my graduate level classes.

I don’t think it has to be just for poetry.

Experts tell us we should do something that scares us every day. I don’t know. I’ve done quite a lot of things that scare me – crossing the highest bridge in North America, swimming with sharks, – but those are kinds of scary that gives you a rush. Still valid to write about.

But in that assignment and poem, I wrote about a missing girl. Because those are the types of things that do scare me – when children go missing.

I wrote:

Have you seen her pass this way?

Shoe found, white.

Blood on the laces….

 

Write about what scares you….

 

Feel free to share!

 

Old School Inspiration

Yuself Komunyakaa is one of my favorite poets. He writes about love and passion, loss and war – all kinds of war, including the Vietnam war in which he served many years ago. Although he’ll write about, he won’t talk about it.

One of the many mysteries of poets. Sometimes purging our pains in poetry is so much easier than clearing our mind with conversation.

I love reading poetry because it inspires me. Does it inspire you?

 

The Soul’s Soundtrack

When they call him Old School
he clears his throat, squares
his shoulders, & looks straight
into their lit eyes, saying,
“I was born by the damn river
& I’ve been running ever since.”
An echo of Sam Cooke hangs
in bruised air, & for a minute

the silence of fate reigns over
day & night, a tilt of the earth
body & soul caught in a sway
going back to reed & goatskin,

back to trade winds locked
inside an “Amazing Grace”
that will never again sound
the same after Charleston,

South Carolina, & yes, words
follow the river through pine
& oak, muscadine & redbud,
& the extinct Lord God bird
found in an inventory of green
shadows longing for the scent
of woe & beatitude, taking root
in the mossy air of some bayou.

Now Old School can’t stop
going from a sad yes to gold,

into a season’s bloomy creed,
& soon he only hears Martha
& the Vandellas, their dancing
in the streets, through a before
& after. Mississippi John Hurt,
Ma Rainey, Sleepy John Estes,

Son House, Skip James, Joe
Turner, & Sweet Emma,
& he goes till what he feels
wears out his work boots
along the sidewalks, his life
a fist of coins in a coat pocket
to give to the recent homeless
up & down these city blocks.

He knows “We Shall Overcome”

& anthems of the flower children
which came after Sister Rosetta,
Big Mama Thornton, & Bo Diddley.
Now the years add up to a sharp
pain in his left side on Broadway,
but the Five Blind Boys of Alabama
call down an evening mist to soothe.

He believes to harmonize is
to reach, to ascend, to query
ego & hold a note till there’s
only a quiver of blue feather
sat dawn, & a voice goes out
to return as a litany of mock
orange & sweat, as we are sewn
into what we came crying out of,

& when Old School declares,
“You can’t doo-wop a cappella
& let your tongue touch an evil
while fingering a slothful doubt
beside the Church of Coltrane,”
he has traversed the lion’s den
as Eric Dolphy plays a fluted
solo of birds in the pepper trees.