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WORDS FOR THE WEARY

Trying to write and publish our stories can be filled with doubt, frustration, and rejection. So I've invited successful authors to share their ups and downs, as well as their advice, to give you company and encouragement.

Words for the Weary

Marcia Butler – When Things get Tough

by Susan Henderson on April 17, 2019

I know many of you are working on memoirs and novels that require years of dedication. In a world filled with distractions and discouragement, I offer you a moment with Marcia Butler to refuel and refocus.

Marcia is an oboist, a filmmaker, a memoirist, and now a novelist. She has fought depression and addiction to create a life filled with extraordinary art and extraordinary artists. Her newest book (Pickle’s Progress, out last week!) is a story of identical twins–equally reckless and vulnerable–struggling to figure out what they want from life. Check it out, as well as her poignant, lyrical memoir, The Skin Above My Knee, about her 25 years as a professional musician.

But today she is here with some hard-earned wisdom just for you…

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My Lovelies,

Sit at your computer for ten minutes. You can endure almost anything for ten minutes.

In the event that you do not produce words, sit there for another five minutes. This is meant as punishment. But you might write something, in which case, view it as a gift.

Proceed to the next task in the event that you do, or do not, produce words.

Take a bath. Bubbles are preferable. Gandhi believed in restorative ablutions. I think. (Or maybe that was a commercial I saw in the 80’s.) In any case, this bath is meant as a reward for having produced words. It is a one-time only avoidance tactic for those who did not produce words.

Towel off. Get dressed. Notice how awful your nails look. Get your emery board out and file the nails, followed by washing the hands. Then apply lotion. Understand that this whole nail thing is also procrastination.

Resume sitting at your computer.

Think about your novel/story/essay. Read through what you last wrote (maybe this was months before, though maybe it was yesterday) and decide whether you will produce new material or edit what you already have. Strongly err on the side of producing new material. If you do this, you will feel better. If you decide to edit (against suggestion) you will feel fine, but not as good as when you produce new words.

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In either case, work for thirty minutes.

At the end of thirty minutes (regardless of whether you actually produced words or edited old words, or did neither) you will have an overwhelming desire to check email/social media (if you have not already done so during the thirty minutes you were, or were supposed to be, writing.)

Think about this deeply for seven seconds. Do not give in to this urge. It is the devil.  When you dogive in, go ahead and feel moderately awful.

Wonder briefly whether you are a grown up or an addict.

Decide you are a grown up. Install Freedom (or like program) on your computer and lock yourself out of all internet for the preset time you have given yourself to write.
Face your computer with the Freedom all set to go. Get up and stretch. Bend over and allow the blood to flow to your brain. Run in place really hard for fifteen seconds. Shake out your hands. Sit back down at your desk. Face your computer. Be that adult you know yourself to be.

And write.

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If you’re searching for love, or even for reasons to wake up in the morning and keep going, this book will speak to you. It also happens to paint a passionate portrait of New York City.

Write, because you have a great story to tell. Write, because you are the only one in the world who can tell that story. Write, because someone once, when you were very young, noticed your talent and encouraged you. Write, even though your parents would rather you become a dentist or take over the family business. Write, because now you can actually admit that you have talent. Write, in spite of the fact that you’ve understood that talent is not enough. Write, like a ditch digger in chains because you know that is what it often feels like. Write, because you know that this is also, exactly, what it takes. Write, because once in a while your private alchemy floats across your brain and you are in heaven. Write, because you know how words have changed your life. Write, because you have a secret notion that your words will mean something to others. Write, because you suspect that words in general (including yours) can change the world. Write, because you feel you might die if you don’t. Write, because it is the only way you can truly live. Write, because everyone in the world is waiting for the beautiful gift of your voice.

Remember all of this as you stare at your keyboard.

Review the above as much as you need: every day, every hour, every minute, every fifteen seconds.

My darlings. Write.

With love, Marcia

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Marcia Butler has had a number of creative careers:professional musician, interior designer, documentary filmmaker, and author. As an oboist, the NewYork Times has hailed her as a “first rate artist.” During her musical career, she performed as a principal oboist and soloist on the most renowned of New York and international stages, with many high-profile musicians and orchestras – including pianist Andre Watts, and composer/pianist Keith Jarrett. Her interior designsprojectshave been published in numerous shelter magazines and range up and down the East coast, fromNYC to Miami. The Creative Imperative, her documentary film exploring the essence of creativity, will release on June 9, 2019.

Marcia’s nationally acclaimed memoir, The Skin Above My Knee, was one of the Washington Post’s “top ten noteworthy moments in classical music in 2017”. She was chosen as 2017 notable debut author in 35 OVER 35. Her writing has been published in Literary Hub, PANK Magazine, Psychology Today, Aspen Ideas Magazine, Catapult, Bio-Stories and others. Marcia was a 2015 recipient of a Writer-in-Residence through Aspen Words and the Catto Shaw Foundation. She was a writing fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in 2018. Her debut novel, Pickle’s Progress, is published by Central Avenue Publishing. She lives in New York City.

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Wayétu Moore asks, Who Makes Up Your Village?

by Susan Henderson on September 10, 2018

I am so thrilled to share Wayétu Moore with all of you who don’t know her yet. She is one of my favorite writers with an old soul, an astounding ear for dialogue, and the courage to tackle big issues in her work. She is also one of my favorite humans, from when we first met as roommates at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, to laughing and telling stories back here in New York, to seeing all she has done for others, particularly those who live in Liberia, her first home.

Wayétu is the founder of One More Book; she owns the only bookstore in Monrovia, Liberia; and she’s a Margaret Mead Fellow at Columbia University Teachers College.  Her debut novel, She Would Be King, is out tomorrow, and it is a masterpiece.

This is the blurb I was honored to write for it: “This magical retelling of Liberia’s beginning is so original, so bold and poetic, Wayétu Moore is destined for comparisons to Yann Martel, Markus Zusak, and Paulo Coelho. Her unforgettable heroine, Gbessa, leads those who’ve been stripped of their homes and their language to rise up and defend not only their own futures but the memory of those who would never see freedom.”

And this is is Edwidge Danticat’s blurb that’s on the cover: “Epic, beautiful, and magical, this astonishing first novel boldly announces the arrival of a remarkable novelist and storyteller.”

So here is Wayétu, on the day before her book launch, with a letter for those of you who feel weary and beaten up by the writer’s life. Hang in there!

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Dear Writer,

I have to admit it’s odd offering advice on writing because I find myself still negotiating the madness associated with this process every day. I suppose rather than guidance on the many events on your pages and screens, the best words I can offer are those relating to the world off the page, the one you have to navigate and at times even protect yourself from to preserve the part of your spirit most vital to your craft.

You are sensitive and you cannot help it. At times this is what you hate the most about yourself, but this frustration about your soft heart and fragile skin is coupled with the realization that your sensitivity is needed to move about your craft in the way that you do. If you are anything like me, this sensitivity causes a number of functions in your life, and at times is at the root of undesirable interactions. So, my advice speaks to those.

Who Makes Up Your Village?
We all know the saying, “it takes a village.” Growing up, my parents abided by this, and were very strict about who my siblings and I spent our time with. It used to infuriate me, but later I understood their wisdom, and that they were only trying to protect us from the heartaches that stem from bad company and influences. I would honor their methods later in life—the care they took in choosing their friends and those they let into our home, and their circle. This circle, this village, has power. The members of this group give counsel, and bad counsel can sometimes lead to devastating outcomes. You’re pursuing a profession that is competitive, stressful, and to be honest, downright hard. None of us become writers to become rich. This may perplex those closest to you who aren’t writers or artists. Why pursue something with no guarantee of monetization? Those who are around you will either be your greatest encouragers, pushing you toward that extra page or chapter, or be the reason why you abandon (ed) those stories in that unnamed desktop folder. Choose them wisely and choose them well.

Make Friends With No
Rejection is not only a rite of passage in one’s path to seeing the book on the shelf of their favorite bookstore, it’s an active, enthusiastic component of your relationship with writing. It’s the mention of that ex, or the nagging recurring argument, the in- law, or the one stubborn thing your partner won’t let go of. “No” isn’t going anywhere. It comes in different shapes. It may be from an agent, an editor, destroying your “darlings,” a publisher, a magazine, or, even readers. It’s inevitable and it isn’t going anywhere. Making friends with that word will diminish the chances that you eventually become resentful of writing, and of the literary industry in which it exists. When I became okay with rejection, and stopped taking ‘no’ so seriously, my writing suddenly felt like it belonged to me again.

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Govern Your Sensitivity
Someone said something to you that felt like a jab. Or they did that passive aggressive thing to get under your skin. Suddenly, you can’t think straight. It’s difficult to concentrate on any task following that encounter, especially your writing. I will tell you something that I have to tell myself: govern your sensitivity. How people treat you exposes more about that person than it does about you. Dissecting and internalizing every conversation or interaction doesn’t only take away from valuable time that can be used toward productive ends, but over time, it can affect your overall health. Govern your sensitivity. It is okay to feel in the way that you do. Empathy is a gift. But, learning to discern which slights were worth my attention and which I should tune out took a long time. The stricter I became with myself about preserving my energy, the more energy I had to produce.

I hope these three things are helpful. Good luck, today. Happy writing.

With love, Wayétu

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In 2009, I went the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley to see if I could get unstuck with the novel I was writing. What a gift it was to meet Jennifer Haupt there! She was on her own quest, and we bonded right away over our love of literature, our broken spirits, and our struggle to create a story from traumatic material.

In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills , her profoundly moving novel, out this month, takes readers on a journey that spans from the turmoil of Civil Rights Era Atlanta to an orphanage in Rwanda born of unspeakable tragedy. In this hopeful story that transcends race and cultural differences, Jennifer Haupt guides both the survivors and readers toward the courage to believe in love again. An important story reminding us that when a crime is unforgivable, only grace will do.

I asked Jen if she’d write a letter to you because she is full of wisdom and heart. I had no idea she was going to give you something so beautiful as this. Enjoy!

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Dearest You,

Every author dreads hearing these words from their agent or editor or mean little voice in their head: “Well, that’s the end of the road. Time to put this novel to rest and start writing something new.”

I heard these words from my then-agent, seven years ago after the novel I had been working on for three years was rejected by, as I recall in my memory warped by time, every editor in the universe and their mother. I cried every day for at least a month, my soul ached for much longer. I was ashamed. I was embarrassed. I was grieving.

(Spoiler alert!) Thankfully, there’s a happy ending to this story: That novel became In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills, which was finally — finally!! — published this week after 11 years of work.

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No wait, I just lied. Yes, it’s been 11 years since I first started writing this book but I did put it aside several times. That first time was not my choice, and it was extremely painful. The second time, the time I really want to tell you about, was my choice. I want to spare you some of the pain, self-doubt and humiliation I heaped on myself that first time, before I found my footing on a new path (and a new agent!) because these are the tools that resistance uses to keep us all from writing.

I want you to write and be happy. That’s why I’m sharing some strategies I gleaned over the past 11 years for how to stop writing — at least for a little while. Here are six tips for putting your WIP aside, without declaring it RIP:

Tip #1: Buy yellow tissue paper and gold stars.

This is a variation of advice I received from our very own Susan Henderson when we met at the Squaw Valley Writers Conference, a month after my agent told me to bury my novel. I shared my secret shame with this lovely woman, and she told me her debut novel recently sold after years of turmoil. She told me she had to fight for her novel, including sending it to editors wrapped in colored tissue paper, scattered with gold stars. (This may not be exactly correct but it’s how I remember it.) Susan, along with other writers I met that week who had their own stories of perseverance, inspired me not to give up.

I went home with a renewed commitment to deepening my characters and their plot lines. Long-story-short: After another three years, I sent my novel to three agents. One took me on as a client and sent my novel to a handful of editors.  All of them had nice things to say, but none offered a publishing contract.

This time, it was my choice to put aside my novel, and I did it with love. I printed out my manuscript, wrapped it in yellow tissue paper (because sunflowers were my spirit flower for this novel), and lovingly placed it in a drawer of my desk. (Not the bottom drawer, that seemed a little cliché.) I didn’t know exactly when I’d unwrap those pages again, but I knew I would not forget it was there. You may actually buy whatever color tissue paper speaks to you and your WIP!

Tip #2: Don’t forget about your WIP — even while it’s in the drawer.

You’re probably wondering about those gold stars from tip one. Here’s what I did with mine: I put them in a sea-green glass jar, along with a note that said, simply: Don’t Give Up. I kept that jar on my fiction alter, a small table next to the chair I like to sit in (and nap in) while working on a novel.

I didn’t want to give up, to lose the characters and world I had spent six years lovingly creating even though my novel was still flawed and I had no idea how to fix it. This helped ward off the grief I had experienced when I hit the end of the road three years earlier; I knew my WIP was still alive and well. We just needed some time apart.

Tip #3: Start a new, totally unrelated, creative project.

Remember this: it’s not cheating on your WIP to write that essay you’ve been mulling over, taking painting lessons, weed the front garden and plant spring flowers… all of the things you haven’t had time for because, let’s face it, WIPs can be high-maintenance and jealous of the time you spend away from them.

The thing I learned, while my WIP was slumbering in yellow tissue paper and stars is that waking up other passions, broadening my creativity, was actually good for my WIP! I spent a few months cooking, gardening, taking longer walks in the woods, reading — lots of reading! — and when I re-entered novel-land I had more to bring to the pages.

Tip #4: Practice self-compassion.

This tip is closely related to the last one. Do what you love, and the story will follow. (I give no guarantees about the money!)

In retrospect, I was so very mean to myself the first time I put aside my WIP. It’s impossible to be compassionate with your characters, or real folks for that matter, when you aren’t practicing self-compassion. So, don’t beat yourself up for taking a break from your WIP — sometimes, that’s the best thing you can do for yourself and your book.

Tip #5: Don’t stop working on craft.

Sorry, but I’m afraid you aren’t going to become a better writer without, well, actually writing. The good news is that putting aside your WIP leaves more time for studying the work of authors you admire. I’ve taken a lot of workshops over the past  11 years, and I truly believe the most effective way I’ve upped my skills is studying the books I love reading. I underline passages I wish I had written, and then I copy them into a notebook and rewrite them using my own words. Most of these passages make it into whatever WIP I’m working on.

I actually kept my first novel wrapped in yellow tissue paper for two years and wrote a completely new novel, instead of carving up my poor first novel yet another time. I set 50 pages at a time to a consulting editor who worked part-time at a major publishing house, had launched a successful literary magazine, and was the author of a bestselling novel. I also took workshops at Hugo House in Seattle, I read a lot (again)… I invested in what I wanted to be my career.

Tip #6: Set a begin-again date.

One thing that keeps writers from putting aside their beloved WIP is the fear that it will, in fact, wind up being the end of the road — and with good reason! Setting a begin-again date, even if it seems arbitrary, helps to soothe that worry. Although, the truth is, your gut will tell you when you’re ready to re-enter novel-land.

My gut told me, after I spent two years writing my second novel, that the book I really wanted to be my debut was wrapped in yellow tissue paper. I felt absolutely no sense of failure wrapping novel #2 in lavender tissue paper. My begin-again date was one year. I knew it would take me that long to not just revise, but restructure my first novel. (Restructuring… that’s another story for another time!)

So there you have it, permission to set aside your WIP. I’m quite certain that’s a huge relief for some of you! For others, I hope it’s a safety net. When you begin to feel your book is a burden instead of a joy, give yourself permission to set it aside — without burying it for good.

Love,

Jen

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Jennifer Haupt went to Rwanda as a journalist in 2006, twelve years after the genocide that wiped out over one million people, to explore the connections between forgiveness and grief. She spent a month interviewing survivors and humanitarian aid workers, and returned to Seattle with something unexpected: the bones of a novel. Haupt’s essays and articles have been published in O, The Oprah MagazineThe RumpusSpirituality & HealthPsychology TodayTravel & LeisureThe Sun and many other publications. In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills is her first novel.

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Marisa de los Santos – It’s a big world, honey.

by Susan Henderson on March 6, 2018

I’m so excited to introduce you to Marisa de los Santos—a mom, a dog lover, and author of I’ll Be Your Blue Sky… out today!

My copy of the book is dog-eared to death with lines I loved. And Library Journal says this about it: “De los Santos…here revisits the next generation of her beloved characters, moving the family saga forward with this engrossing story of unshakable love, personal ethics, and a commitment to life’s larger truths.” I don’t know how to tell you what it’s about without giving away the book’s best secrets and surprises. But I will say this… it’s both a BIG book and an intimate one, and someone’s going to snatch up movie rights for it, I’m certain.

So here’s Marisa, who has written a letter to those of you who feel discouraged and need a lift.

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Dear You,

Here are some things people have said about my books:

            “I thought this was going to be a romance, but there’s so much other stuff going on that I lost interest.”

            “This book was way too wordy, too many big words and long sentences.”

            “Annoying and pretentious. If I wanted poetry, I’d read poetry.”

            “If you want a light, fun read, this is not the book for you.”

            “You need a PhD in English to appreciate this.”

            “Too long, too deep, too slow.”

            “I like books that just tell the story without all the fancy language.”

And here are some things that other people have said about my books:

            “I don’t usually read fluffy books like yours, but my friend gave me your book for my birthday, and I thought, hey, why not.”

            “I usually go for more literary books, but I needed something light and fun for the beach.”

            “Ugh. Saccharine.”

            “Maybe one day, this writer will put her considerable talents toward a book that is actually worthy of them.”

            “Someone needs to tell Marisa de los Santos that nice characters are boring.”

Every single one of these remarks—the ones that were said to my face and the ones that I read in reviews or blog posts, even the ones that I’m pretty sure were meant as compliments—hit its mark, left its bruise.

Not because these remarks outweigh the positive ones. They don’t, not in number and not in my own estimation of them. I never stop being astonished by the kindness of my readers, by their generosity in telling me what my books have meant to them, exactly why and how they love them.

Not because the comments I listed are especially mean-spirited. They aren’t. I’ve had much crueler dismissals of my work hurled at me full-force, and I’ve easily dodged them and walked away.

And not even because I am particularly thin-skinned. When my kids have come to me upset because someone was mean to them, I have never (okay, almost never) tried to explain this meanness away by saying, “She’s just jealous,” or “He’s just insecure.” Instead, I tell them, “It’s a big world, honey. Not everyone is going to like you.” While these words might not be especially comforting, I believe them; I apply them to myself. It’s a big world. Not everyone is going to like your books. Get over it. And mostly I do get over it.

No, these criticisms hurt because, in my lowest moments, I am afraid they might be true, all of them. All of them? But they contradict one another! How can a book be fluffy and deep? Lightweight and requiring an advanced degree to be appreciated? These comments cancel each other out, don’t they? They can’t possibly all be accurate, so why not forget about them? But it’s precisely the contradictory nature of them that stings because it gets right to the heart of my own identity crisis as a writer.

My main goal is to make readers happy. No, my main goal is to make readers think. I don’t care about the New York Times “Book Review.” I read that sucker cover to cover every Sunday. I want to charm and make people laugh. I want to give people raw insights into pain and loss. I don’t care that I will never win a Pulitzer or a National Book Award. Of course, I want to win a Pulitzer and a National Book Award!

Truly, if I were to think too long about these tricky, confusing matters of career and identity and purpose and worth, I might just stop writing altogether.

Look, rejection hurts. You know that. I know that. I am not talking about thoughtful criticism from those who have faith in you and your writing. That can be a gift. It can make you better. But casual—or not so casual—dismissals of the work you spend your time and heart on? They don’t help. At their worst, they can paralyze you or send you reeling, wrecked by self-doubt, away from all that writing you need to do.

You can’t let that happen. You cannot. I forbid it.

Here is what I do when I find myself near that calamitous edge (and there is no uncorny way to say this): I remind myself of why I write.

Do it. Remind yourself. Mine your memory, clear away the clutter of ambition, competition, injured feelings, rejection, do whatever it takes to find the reason you write, the reason you started in the first place. And when you find it, walk straight into it the way you’d walk into that house you remember from your childhood, the one you’ve measured every place you’ve ever lived since against, the touchstone house. Home.

See what you find there.

What I find is a woman sitting in the center of a group of characters and making sentences. Choosing. Listening. Lifting one word, then another, arranging them, rearranging them. Being in love with cooing vowels and L-sounds and consonants purring or sharp as flint. Apart from this music she makes, the woman isn’t listening to anyone but her characters, as they teach her how to tell a story that no one else—not a single other person who has ever walked on the planet or won a Pulitzer—can tell.

It’s a big world, honey. Not everyone is going to like you. Get over it. And then go home.

Go home and write your book.

Love,

Marisa

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Bio:

I became a writer because I love the sound and texture of words (current favorite consonant sounds: Ls and hard Cs) and love to hear what happens when they bump up against each other. I was a poet for a long time (my first book is a collection of poetry called FROM THE BONES OUT), and then, one day, unexpectedly, I found that I had a voice inside my head. As you might imagine, this was a bit alarming. However, in time, I discovered that the voice belonged to a character named Cornelia Brown, so I wrote a novel called LOVE WALKED IN about her and an eleven-year old girl named Clare. After that, I became addicted to writing novels. I wrote a second one called BELONG TO ME that continues Cornelia’s and Clare’s stories, and then wrote a another book for adults called THE PRECIOUS ONE, about two sisters, and co-wrote two for middle grade readers with my husband, David Teague. Those are called SAVING LUCAS BIGGS and CONNECT THE STARS. My new novel I’LL BE YOUR BLUE SKY completes the Cornelia and Clare trilogy (if it doesn’t turn into a series because–who knows?), and I’m working on another one, probably titled I’D GIVE ANYTHING. I live with David Teague, our two kids, Charles and Annabel, and our ridiculously cute Yorkies, Finny and Huxley, in lovely Wilmington, Delaware, home of Joe Biden and tax-free shopping.

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LeConté Dill, Back for the First Time

by Susan Henderson on January 29, 2018

I am so honored to introduce you to one of my personal heroes, Dr. LeConté Dill, who has something to say to those of you who feel beaten down by rejection or overlooked by the writing community. LeConté is a professor, a brilliant poet, and a powerful advocate for social justice, particularly in the area of public health.

After you read the letter she’s written to you, check out some of her poetry in berfrois and as part of the National Academy of Sciences’ Visualize Health Equity Project (I find this direct link easier). Or read this groundbreaking piece for the National Institutes of Health.

If you are a magazine editor or chapbook publisher and want to see some brilliant, important writing, or if you’re planning a local reading and want a vibrant speaker who will raise goosebumps on the arms in the audience, let me know and I’ll put you in touch.

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Dear You,

I’m approaching 40, and I feel like I’m back for the first time. When I was a college student in Atlanta, the rapper Ludacris put out his “first” commercial album, entitled “Back For The First Time,” because he has been a local radio personality and had already put out numerous mixtapes and a full-length album years before this commercial release. In a similar vein to Luda, I, too, have been honing my craft for a long time. Still, at times, perhaps like Luda in 2000, I feel ‘unseen.’ The invitation to even write this blog is a reminder that, nah, folks do indeed see me! So, I offer to YOU, I see you, too, Boo!

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Even if folks don’t seem to see you or don’t see you exactly as you want to be seen, write anyway! Write like a 1st grader filling time in the space between lunchtime and recess. Write like a 5th grader turning in a book report. Write like a 10th grader submitting to the high school lit magazine editors who meet to review submissions on Tuesdays at 2pm. Write like a college student with a minor in Creative Writing, navigating your way from the science labs to the social science libraries, looking for a major, but always having a home in the English Department. Write like you’re applying for your first writing workshop, first learning the leap-and-land routine that is this writing life. Write like you’re actually sitting in that writing workshop, surrounded by strangers who emerge as writing partners and wind up as dear friends. Write by building community—going to readings, even when you’re not the one reading, buy the books that will topple off your bookshelf, meet up for “writing dates” with your folks or even with just yourself and your pen. Take the writing classes, the webinars, the workshops—the free ones that you still contribute a donation, the ones that take sliding scale payments that you save up for, the pricey ones that you crowdfund. Teach the writing classes and workshops to young folks, to peers, to elders. Whether you call yourself a “Teacher” or not, just teach your work, share your practice, learn with the community of learners you’re gathering. Write like you saw your work in a major publication for the first time, and want to feel that warm feeling in your chest again and again. Take care of yourself when you get that “no,” that “thank you, but…,” that “we’re sorry, but we had an unexpectedly large amount of submissions this year.” Pout! Definitely pout! And engage in any selfcare and squadcare practices that you lean on… or that you’ve put on your to-do list to try out. And continue to write like you claim “writer” in your bio, in your intro, on your webpage. Write for your own page, whether you call them morning pages or evening pages, a gratitude journal or a blue day journal, the back of the light bill or the corner of a cocktail napkin.

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At least that’s been my journey since I was that 1st grader, finding my way from writing as a hobby to writing as praxis and writer as identity. This writing now feels urgent. This writing now feels hopeful. This writing now can hold bold urgency and hope together. I am urgently working to publish my poetry chapbook, and hopeful that it will enter the world this year. I am urgently working on an ethnographic book manuscript that also integrates biomythography, autoethnography, and poetry, and hopeful that it will thoughtfully articulate how young people of color across the U.S. activate resilience in their lives. I am urgently developing a poetry workshop/community intervention that will engage Black girls in Central Brooklyn in reading, analyzing, writing, and sharing poetry, and am hopeful that our emerging community will conjure strategies of resistance in our everyday lives. I am urgently remembering to play!, and hopeful that I’m actually back… for the first time.

Love,

LeConté

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LeConté Dill was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles and is creating a homeplace in Brooklyn with her husband Umberto. She is an alumna of Spelman College and holds graduate degrees in Public Health from UCLA and UC Berkeley. LeConté has participated in VONA Voices and Cave Canem workshops and was a 2016 Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop Fellow. She’s been published in literary journals, online magazines, and academic journals, such as Poetry Magazine, The Killens Review, Berfrois, The Feminist Wire, Very Smart Brothas, and Journal of Adolescent Research. Her creative writing, community work, and applied research focus on safety, healing, wellness, and justice, particularly for urban Black girls. Currently, LeConté is an Assistant Professor of Public Health at SUNY Downstate.

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