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.

I’m a Scary Sister

Hey there…Just wanted to let y’all know how excited I am about my short story “Here, Kitty” being included in the Black Magic Women: Terrifying Tales by Scary Sisters anthology edited by Sumiko Saulson (Mocha Memoirs Press). IMG_20180129_015451For years, Sumiko has been keeping track of us scary sisters out there writing horror and supernatural suspense stories (because we do) with her “Black Women in Horror” series. Black Magic Women is a selection of stories by authors profiled in her guide (me included!)

I support her project and love of the genre and I am proud to be a part of this. You can support Black women horror writers too. Get yourself a copy of this e-book ASAP!

Until next time!

~L.

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

My Hypeness is Real…

apexApr2017 coverThe latest issue (April 2017, Issue 95) of Apex Magazine is out!

I am incredibly excited because my poem “Vox” is published in it! Not only does this mark my debut as a poet, but I am so honored to be in it with luminaries such as Walter Mosely! Guest edited by Maurice Broaddus, it has fiction by Sheree Renee Thomas, Chesya Burke, and Kendra Fortmeyer and poetry by Linda Addison. It also has an essay by Tanya DePass and interviews with Sheree and artist Angelique Shelley, whose cover is stunning! My hypeness is SO REAL!

From the site:
Apex Magazine is a monthly science fiction, fantasy, and horror magazine featuring original, mind-bending short fiction from many of the top pros of the field. New issues are released the first Tuesday of every month.”

Please check it out and also support Apex‘s subscription drive so that you can continue to get wonderful, quality publications such as 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!

Don’t Forget the “Story” Part!

St Lawrence Hall was an important site in the Canadian anti-slavery movement

St Lawrence Hall was an important site in the Canadian anti-slavery movement

The pic at left is of Toronto’s St. Lawrence Hall–an important site in the Canadian abolitionist movement. The Anti-Slavery Society (founded in 1851) invited lecturers such as Frederick Douglass to speak there and the North American Convention of Colored People met here.

I was in Toronto since a very good college friend of mine–now a professor at the University of Michigan–was attending a symposium entitled “Tales of Slavery: Narrative of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Enslavement in Africa.”

Since my best friend (his wife) and I are writers, he thought we would enjoy a panel on “How Novelists Construct Past Slaveries.” He was right. Given that two of my published stories involved slaves, I was absolutely fascinated. Moderated by Kofi Anyidoho of the Univ. of Ghana, the panelists all spoke on their challenges, inspirations and realizations as they tried to turn history into a story. The panelists included African-Canadian author Lawrence Hill (The Book of Negroes, US title: Someone Knows My Name); South African authors Manu Herbstein (Ama, A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade) and Yvette Christanse (The Unconfessed); and historian Natalie Davis (Fiction in the Archives, Slaves Onscreen, and Women on the Margins).

I found Mr Hill’s and Ms. Davis’ papers and answers during the Q&A to be the most compelling as I know the feeling of how going through an archives and reading things like lists can get you hyped and trigger questions that become inspirations, such as “Who were they? What were their lives like? What are their stories?”

I also liked Ms. Christanse’s honest answer to a question of “Can anyone write the story of another culture?” Her take on it was that in theory–yes–but there are certain stories that she’d be nervous about taking on, such as that of a Jew during the Holocaust. Chesya and I debate this question constantly, as, is it a matter of “appropriation”? Or as writers, shouldn’t we be able to write about anything or anyone if the facts are straight and the voice is true? That’s a whole other post for another time though.

Having been a history major myself and considering that I write historical fiction, I could see one problem if a historian wishes to create a work veering more towards creative writing than not. A comment was made about “Wondering what other historians would think.” I remember muttering, “We don’t necessarily care what you think. Who are you really writing for?”

Don’t get me wrong. No writer ever wishes to have their facts incorrect or to misinform others, but a creative writer is not the same as an academic writer. We can take some liberties where a historian writing a more non-fiction or scholarly work absolutely should not. We are not writing for scholars, we are weaving a story for the reader and there’s nothing worse than reading a novel that is just a stringing together of the author’s research notes. While I believe historians have the capability to write an engaging story, they have to be able to be skilled enough as a storyteller as well.

History is a great inspiration for fiction, without a doubt, but to make it come alive…one can’t forget the “story” part of it.