I’m thinking about the writers who have come before me. I’m thinking about Nikky Finney. I’m thinking about Audre Lorde. I’m thinking about James Baldwin. I’m thinking about Toni Morrison. I’m thinking about the people who have written because they needed to break down barriers and create access and create change.
Alice Walker writes, “To acknowledge our ancestors means we are aware that we did not make ourselves.” I often refer to my mother, grandmother, and ancestors as people who survived the unsurvivable. This makes my existence a miraculous one. Every child of a diaspora, every marginalized person has survived a global project which intended to kill them. I want people to remember that they are not, and have never been, alone. Everyone who knows me knows I talk to my ancestors all the time. I see and feel them everywhere because I remember to look for them, and in so doing, I remember myself.
The “Writing and Illustrating Picture Books” roundtable, moderated by Cheryl Willis Hudson of Just Us Books, provided a fun and insightful look into the creative process behind picture books. Joanna Cardenas from Viking / Penguin Random House detailed the publishing process for writers and illustrators, revealing that oftentimes the two parties do not have direct communication but collaborate through the book’s editor. This helps preserve the creative license of the illustrator without the writer controlling the process.
As a writer who began in spoken-word, I believed for too long that to write in standard form (i.e. sonnets, sestinas, etc.) was to engage in white literary vehicles antithetical to my existence as a writer of color. At a recent lecture by Natasha Trethewey, she argued for poets of color to embrace white traditional forms as one of many ways to subvert the white canon.
Xenophobia doesn’t always look like a monument of shame. It doesn’t always look like ridicule and jeering. It looks like a room full of people and nobody to sit with. It looks like conversations buzzing all around me with no way in. It looks like one person at a time, taking notice of the ways in which I differ, and expressing quiet disinterest and revulsion. No one big public humiliation. Many small, private disappointments.
Kuwento: Lost Things began in 2011 as a search, an obsession, a need to excavate the stories our families told us of anitos (deities) and engkantos (spirits). When co-editor Rachelle Cruz and I first indulged in the idea of curating an anthology on Philippine myths, we were struck at how diverse and varied the retellings were: Was the Aswang a bat-like vampire woman? Or was she a shape-shifting beast, or a giant black bird with a long, fetus-eating tongue? We understood that the stories passed on to us from our fathers and mothers were varied but also culturally inherited. It was as if our bodies knew them, and knew them well.
Kweli readers can get a special 30% off discount on all print and e-book Lee & Low/Tu Books titles by going to www.leeandlow.com and entering code KWELI at checkout. If you’re looking for magical realism, try SUMMER OF THE MARIPOSAS by Guadalupe Garcia McCall. Dystopia: try TANKBORN by Karen Sandler. Post-apocalyptic Apache steampunk? KILLER OF ENEMIES by Joseph Bruchac, and its e-book novella prequel, ROSE EAGLE.
You gave me a nice segue to my next question which is what are some of the specific things that you are looking for in submissions now, if you’re open to submissions? Are there any particular stories you’d be really excited to see? Then on the flip side, what are some of your pet peeves when it comes to submissions?
Today’s conference is about diversity in storytelling and I am sort of curious about what that word “diversity” means to all of you now. I think that it can mean a lot of different things to different people. We can be talking about diversity in terms of race, we could be talking about cultural diversity. We could be talking about diversity in forms of storytelling. So what does diversity mean to you?
From the lovely Dawn Davis, I learned an agent’s name who would be interested in my Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) stories, and when our session was finished, she called me back on stage and said, “I read your first paragraph, Melissa, and I loved it. Make sure you tell XXX that I sent you, and I’d be interested in publishing your manuscript.”
Kofi Awoonor and I co-taught a Creative Writing workshop at the University of Ghana. Each week after the three-hour workshop, without fail, we would walk to Loggia, the drinking bar on campus. There, we would each have one large Star beer and two goat kebab sticks.
Once again, KWELI journal, helmed by Laura Pegram, has pulled off another smashing iteration of its can’t-miss annual writers’ conference! KWELI doesn’t disappoint. Even after the original venue experienced an electrical failure and shut down hours before the conference, Laura & Co. were able to move the event from Brooklyn to a lovely new venue in Harlem, Poet’s Den Theater at East 108th Street. Truly, the smooth transition in a situation that would ordinarily lead to cancellation is a testament to Laura’s leadership, work, and devotion, in creating a community of readers, editors, and writers that support KWELI.
It must be over two years ago now when Jennifer De Leon first mentioned to me that she was putting together an anthology of essays on the Latina experience in college. I had met Jennifer in 2009, when we attended the Macondo Workshop in San Antonio, Texas for the first time. For the ice breaker we had the pleasure of introducing each other to the group. That week I learned that the issue of Latinas in college was a very passionate one for Jennifer and so I wasn’t surprised to hear she was pursuing this project.