Post-Panel Thoughts: Representation

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I am a member of the DC Metro area-based creatives group Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction (DWASF). We are authors, poets, artists, filmmakers, and publishers. That’s us (Diane Williams, K. Ceres Wright, Stafford Battle, Chad Eric Smith, and me; not pictured: John Edward Lawson and Lisa Wood) above at AwesomeCon in DC last weekend. We presented a panel on Black*(Panther+Indie Comics+Characters) and this is what it looked like from my view:

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I loved the hypeness, positivity and energy of the audience. We have done panels together at BlerdCon and Capclave, but this was the first time we’ve done one so large. You walk up on that dais, take a seat, look out into that large room, and wow! It was almost full and no one wanted to leave afterwards! Why? Because the topic that we were discussing–representation–was so meaningful to those there.

When we talk about the phenomenon that is Black Panther, we have to talk about the bigger concepts contributing to it: the profundity of seeing oneself positively, the envisioning of a people and place, and the convergence and timing of an entire movement of futurist and forward-thinking thought. It was like having a conversation with friends with an audience listening and chiming in, and it was great.

I always love to tell audiences about this fantastic quote by Walidah Imarisha (from the book Octavia’s Brood). It gets a collective gasp every time:

“And for those of us from communities with historic collective trauma, we must understand that each of us is already science fiction walking around on two legs. Our ancestors dreamed us up and then bent reality to create us.”

Essentially, our very existence–how we live, our accomplishments, even being free–would have been considered science fiction to our ancestors who could not have possibly imagined our lives today. It is incredibly important that we see ourselves in literature, music, art, and on film as part of a future that we are helping to create and not invisible in favor of the “default.”

It’s like ripples in a pond that keep going and going and going.

For me, as a historian who writes speculative fiction, it is interesting because I see us drawing upon our pasts in the present to inform our representations in the future. You can not disconnect one from the other, and that’s OK.

Many thanks to the attendees out there for helping to make it a great panel! It was a joy.

An Exercise in Lyrics

Hey there…I am so hyped to be a part of FIYAH Literary Magazine’s Winter 2018 Issue #5: “Ahistorical Blackness” along with Monique L. Desir, Irette Y. Patterson, Shari Paul, Phenderson Djèlí Clark and cover art by Trevor Fraley!
IMG_20171201_142345In addition to fantastic stories, essays and interviews every month, FIYAH releases a Spotify playlist in conjunction with the issue. The FIYAH team asked us to contribute three songs that complement our stories. I don’t know about anyone else, but I sat there for a moment like “Whoa…” as I hadn’t thought about it before. And I’ll be honest, I really enjoyed every minute of trying to decide.

I thought about my story’s themes and decided upon the main ones: freedom, dreaming, beginnings, creating. The lyrics of the songs themselves were also very important. Without telling you much more (you’ve gotta read “With These Hands” for yourself!) I went with Nina Simone‘s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free”: “I wish I could live/Like I’m longin’ to live/I wish I could do/All the things that I can do/Though I’m way overdue/I’d be starting anew.”

The third song I chose, “Golden” by Jill Scott, has always felt like a celebration of self to me: “I’m taking my freedom/ Pulling it off the shelf/ Putting it on my chain/ Wear it around my neck…”

But the first one, “Fantasy” by Earth, Wind, and Fire, is a true love for me. It is one of the first songs that I ever knew in my life. I sang a part of it (“It’s your day/ shining day/ all your dreams come true”) to my baby when he was born. Its beautiful, hopeful lyrics have always spoken to me of dreaming, freedom and faraway places: “Come see victory, in the land called fantasy/ Loving life, a new decree/
Bring your mind to everlasting liberty.”

Enjoy the playlist and issue and support the hard work of the team at FIYAH by getting a subscription already!

See y’all next time…
~L.

 

 

 

Walk Down the Path

I’ve been struggling with what to write in these posts, so I think that I am going to just go ahead and get personal with it. Let’s talk about perseverance.

This past year has been one of the hardest of my life. My husband needing a double lung transplant. Caregiving. Moving. Helping my son with autism transition through these changes. Feeling financially nervous (who doesn’t?). Finishing my thesis and graduating from grad school. A sick mom. Now needing to move yet again.

Yet, through it all I have been positive as an writer and now I’ve been recognized as a poet as well. Had a story come out in an anthology (Sycorax’s Daughters) and a poem published in Apex. And then there’s a project that I can’t even discuss yet. These are exciting, encouraging times for me right now. I see this momentum. I’m gonna walk right on down the path it’s taking me on. It might seem hokey, but writing has been my constant in the face of upheaval.

There have been times I have doubted my existence. There have been times that I wanted to close my eyes and just be done. We all have these moments of crisis when we are overwhelmed, when we are confused, scared, or want to give up. But that is just it. Please don’t.

The Ancestors are looking out for you. The Creator/Universal Energy that we are all a part of has a path for you to follow–and there is room along the way for your dreams. For writers and other creatives out there who are struggling: I know that it feels hard, but don’t give up.

Make it happen.

It will.

Until next time…
~L

Clarion West Write-a-Thon: Sprint #2

Today was the second Clarion West Write-a-Thon writing sprint. The goal today? An article rough draft. Word count minimum of 500 words. Again, I journaled my spree…

8:15 PM: So, the two Short Dudes are gone. Time to get my writing on. I want to work on a rough draft of an article about speculative fiction for the first issue of Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction (DWASF) Magazine. The catch? My computer’s dead.

8:39 PM: I don’t know how many words I have so far. I’m just flowing. Words down. Get this draft as far as possible. Edit later.

9:00 PM: I just made a Chrissy Teigen face about how often I’ve used a certain word.
9:15 PM: Whew! Made the minimum word count. That’s a nice start and I have a decent rough draft. Not bad for banging it out on my phone! Thanks Word app!

Wanna sponsor me? You can if you want. You can also find out more about Clarion West and the Write-A-thon and how it helps authors to be their best.

Clarion West Write-A-Thon: Journaling the Frenzy

2017-06-21 20.46.59So tonight was the first writing sprint or as I like to think of it: “My Hour Of Writing Frenzy.” I decided I’d keep a journal of my crazy thoughts…

9:00 PM: WRITING SPRINT BEGINS! Annnnd we’re off! Soexcitedsoexcitedsoexcited!

9:02 PM: Crap…what story do I want to work on? What do I want to work on? What am I feeling tonight? Goddammit…I’ve wasted two minutes already?! Planning ahead is everything? Is it really already 9:04???

9:04 PM: So I decided to go with a fantasy novel WIP called “Between the Mountains and the Sea” (working title) that I’ve been really digging lately and wanting to work on. It already has 476 words. Okaaay…I can roll with that.

9:30 PM: I’ve been kind of obsessed with this for a while and wanted to work on it. I’m at least trying to add to it? 711 words so far. Alright, alright, alright.

9:45: I need a bio break SO BAD. No, no…I don’t yet. Peeing is for the weak! I can power through this. I NEED TO WRITE.

10: And that’s a wrap! Went from 479 words to 1150. My fingers were flying. I’m going to look at a lot of it tomorrow like “WTF?!” but it felt good to get words down like that.

Wanna sponsor me? You can if you want. You can also find out more about Clarion West and the Write-A-thon and how it helps authors to be their best.

 

Clarion Write-a-Thon: Day One

So, last month I signed up for the Clarion West Write-a-Thon, a month-long writing spree that kicks off today. I thought “Why not?” thinking it’d be a good way to hold me accountable writing-wise.

It is also the well-known writing workshop’s annual fundraiser, so you can sponsor authors (like me!) as they try to meet their writing goals.

Me? I’m going to use it to bang out some short stories and add to a novel in progress.

Computer? Check. Imagination? Check.

Let’s do this!

NYC Book Signings!

Last weekend I rolled up to NYC for signings in Harlem and Brooklyn for Sycorax’s Daughters! The first was at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. I was joined by authors and poets (from l. to r.) Kiini Ibura Salaam, Nicole Sconiers, Joy Copeland, Amber Doe, Tracey Baptiste, K. Ceres Wright, Zin Rocklyn and Sheree Renee Thomas.schomburg sycorax 3-10schomburg syc authors 3-10We had a really nice turnout and a great crowd! We read excerpts and answered questions and had a lot of fun…
schomburg syc crowd 3-10Saturday night we were at Quimby’s Bookstore in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. It’s a great little bookstore that you have to check out if you’re there. Here we (A.J. Locke, Sheree, me and Kiini) are with the shop’s owner Steven Svymbersky…quimbys sycorax 3-11Had a good time laughing and chilling out in the corner with the fantabulous Sheree!
2017-03-11 20.58.30I had so much fun in NYC and it was wonderful meeting and being in the company of so many talented writers and poets. So much good energy going. Hope we cross paths again soon! Thank you to both venues for having and supporting us! Want to read Sycorax’s Daughters? Contact your local bookseller or grab a copy HERE.

DC Signings!

I joined K. Ceres Wright, Joy Copeland and L. Penelope at the Howard University Bookstore in DC for the first signing of our anthology Sycorax’s Daughters!2017-03-04 12.07.38We then headed over to Sankofa Video Books & Cafe for the second signing. Being two blocks from where I went to high school felt like being back home! Was I hyped? Yes. Definitely yes. Just look at me…
2017-03-04 13.24.36Sankofa is devoted to writers of African descent, founded by filmmakers Haile and Shirikiana Gerima. The vibe there was so nice and that cafe! Mm-MMM! We have to support independent booksellers!
2017-03-04 13.24.51For this signing, we were also joined by L. Marie Wood. She’s looking pretty serious in this pic, doesn’t she? We were actually smiling and laughing a lot. Book signings are especially exciting when there are more than one of you.
2017-03-04 15.43.14We all really enjoyed reading excerpts and discussing the book with everyone. We had a great time taking questions and talking about the craft and how we view horror and speculative fiction. What you will find in the anthology is a range of what horror can be. To me, it is a redefinition…and that’s a whole other post for another time.
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Contact your local bookseller or pick up a copy HERE!

Letting the Words Come to You

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Sometimes the words just come to me. In a dream, or as I hear something on TV or on the radio or in a passing conversation. They jump out at me and force me to pay attention. It can be a fragment, or even a whole sentence. I was always told that you should pay attention when that happens. They might go into a poem or one of my stories.

I want to tell you all more about how I think when I write (and do more of it!) I recently wrote a short story called “A Little Not Music.” There is a part in it: “‘You didn’t listen.’ It was all she could do not to.” That came to me just before I went to sleep one night and stayed with me. I just knew that I had to do something with it, it felt so strong.

Pay attention to things like that. The words that just jump out and stay with you. I’ve found things written on the backs of receipts, napkins, jotted down in my phone, scribbled on scrap paper…

…But I know that even those scraps are holding gems.

What’s your process when the words come to you?