Please check out the latest episode of Train Your Brain to be Creative! Lisa and I discuss a really interesting article about how motherhood affects creativity, and we also dive into how children, in general, can help spark creativity. You don’t have to be a parent — you can simply be around children!
This is a re-post from the excellent Women Writers, Women’s Books…
Damyanti Biswas lives in Singapore, and supports Delhi’s underprivileged women and children, volunteering with organisations who work for this cause. Her short stories have been published in magazines in the US, UK, and Asia, and she helps edit the Forge Literary Magazine. Her novel You Beneath Your Skin will be free between 7th and 11th August […]Improving Writing Productivity Amid a Pandemic — Women Writers, Women’s Books
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might know that I love podcasts! Well, a friend, fellow writer Lisa Logan, got me started on Anchor. It’s a site that lets you create your own podcasts for free, and I was immediately hooked!
With Lisa’s encouragement, I’ve begun recording short (about 6 mins) podcasts about how to spark creativity. They’re especially geared for people who are convinced they are NOT creative, but anyone can enjoy the brief lessons on how to get your imagination going.
Lisa will join me on some episodes, as she’s one of the most creative people I know! So, if you’d like, please give a listen!
I recently listened to an episode of the excellent podcast Hidden Brain by NPR, hosted by Shankar Vedantam. This particular episode focused on the author Gail Shepherd (who sadly passed away in February this year) and her novel The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins.
Originally, Shepherd had written her main character as half-Vietnamese, based on the life of a very close friend who is half white and half Vietnamese. But after much research and talking with friends of different races, Shepherd decided to re-write her novel with a white protagonist. Despite already having her good friend’s “blessing” to write the story, Shepherd worried that critics would say she was appropriating another culture.
Listening to the podcast, I remembered that while in graduate school I had written two short stories with Chinese and half-Vietnamese main characters. I wrote the stories based on my own knowledge (my boyfriend and now-husband is Chinese-Vietnamese, and we’d traveled to Vietnam together). I also had Vietnamese friends, so I didn’t think too much about it.
Today, I’m more educated about and aware of white privilege. I understand Shepherd’s decision. She had to consider dynamics of the publishing world, her own feelings about cultural appropriation, and her readers’ feelings. I was pretty much oblivious to all that in graduate school!
But I also agree with a point that host Shankar Vedantam made — Shepherd’s original version of the novel included insights about race and growing up Asian in the American South. Possibly, some American-Asian girls could have benefited from reading this story. While Shepherd was not Asian, she knew her friend’s story very well. She was telling an authentic story. That version could have been very insightful.
Shepherd argued that while people of color are not fairly represented in the publishing world, she didn’t feel comfortable writing as a different race. But if her friend wasn’t a writer and couldn’t tell her story, wasn’t better that someone she loved and trusted did?
It’s the job of fiction writers to tell lies to describe truths about life. Of course, there are some stories we can’t write — I don’t know how to write from a Black character’s point of view. I feel okay about writing from a 3rd person perspective of an Asian American character — but maybe not as much as I used to. If we are creating from a place of honesty and empathy — NOT using cultural stereotypes — I think it can be useful to have these stories told, regardless of the writer’s race.
And as one of the guests on the podcast, philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, said a person’s identity is not wholly their race. They are also parents, grandparents, teachers, artists, philosophers, plumbers, athletes, and a multitude of other roles and identities.
But I am a white person and, so, can only see through the lens of a white person. What do you think? Story tellers use their imaginations, but are there some things we just can’t imagine well enough to write about?
During the “lockdown,” or whatever you want to call it, I’ve continued to listen to podcasts to keep my brain busy! Here’s a rundown of the latest ones I’ve enjoyed. Feel free to add suggestions for podcasts you like in the comments section!
Hosted by Terry Carnation (a.k.a Dwight from “The Office”), Radio Rental is pure wackiness! The premise is that Terry runs a video rental store (remember those?) and shares real-life “video” stories from listeners that are weird and creepy. My favorite is the one about a doppleganger…
If you’ve ever been fascinated by self-help books, you might want to listen to Guru by Wondery. (They’re the same folk who produced “Dr. Death” and “The Shrink Next Door.”) James Arthur Ray was big in 2009, touted by Oprah and charging thousands for his so-called “sweat lodge” retreats. The results were tragic, and even scarier, Ray is still out there today.
Another podcast by CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), Uncover is an investigative series that uncovers the dirty truth behind botched investigations and unsolved mysteries. Season 7 concerns a man who was wrongly imprisoned for murder. Uncover is gritty and honest, so be forewarned.
To read more about my favorite podcasts, click here and don’t forget to share your own!
I love listening to podcasts, especially true crimes and cold cases. I’ve listened to a LOT put out by Wondery, “the largest independent podcaster in the world,” according to their website. Wondery is a network, launched by a former FOX CEO, so it’s no small potatoes. They’re responsible for “Dr. Death,” “Over My Dead Body,” “Dirty John,” “The Shrink Next Door,” and the series I’m listening to right now — Accused.
While the other series are, in my opinion, a bit sensational, Accused is much more straightforward. The series is produced by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Cincinnati newspaper, The Enquirer and its associated website http://www.cincinnati.com, It was created by Enquirer reporter Amber Hunt and photographer Amanda Rossmann in 2016 and is now on its third season.
Amber Hunt is as sharp as a tack, no-nonsense, and thorough. Accused shines the spotlight on wrongful convictions and cover-ups. I’m listening to Season 3 right now, as Hunt investigates the 1984 disappearance of a man working at the “Fernald Feed Materials Production Center” (A.K.A. a uranium processing plant owned by the government). David Bocks went to work one day and simply vanished. Suspicious remains were found in a vat of molten salt (temperature = 1350 degrees Farenheit). His death was ruled a suicide.
Accused goes after the crimes others have forgotten — or have swept under the rug. I like Hunt and her team’s doggedness to ferret out the facts. They follow a lead to the very end and are a voice for victims and the truth.
Have you heard of Patreon? I started hearing about it a year ago during my favorite podcasts. They would say something like, “Please support us on Patreon.” So, I checked it out, and it’s pretty cool.
Basically, it’s a website that lets you collect donations for your creative work. It’s kind of like crowdfunding, but I like Patreon better because you offer “rewards” for your subscribers. For example, if you donate $2/month to your favorite podcast, they might give you access to ALL their episodes, rather than just a few.
Or your favorite YouTuber might reward a $5/month subscription with behind-the-scenes videos that only patrons can see. You set up your own subscription rates and your own rewards. I’ve seen Patreon sites for writers, podcasters, illustrators, people who create video games… there’s seems to be no limit!
I recently set up a Patreon page for my kids’ magazine, JUMP! My goal is to raise enough money to print out lots of copies for children in Alamance County, NC. My mag is tiny — more of a newsletter — but I pack pictures, book reviews, craft ideas, science stuff, and much more in there. I’d like kids (and their guardians) anywhere in the county to be able to pick up a copy for free from the library or their doctor’s office. The overall goal is to promote learning in a fun way!
If you’re a writer or other creative type who needs to raise funds for a project, you might want to have a look at Patreon and see if it’s right for you. I’ll keep you posted on how my page does!
I’m listening to another CBC podcast: “Missing and Murdered: Who Killed Alberta Williams?” Reporter Connie Walker investigates the 1989 unsolved murder of a young indigenous woman. Alberta Williams was found along Highway 16 in British Columbia, now known as the Highway of Tears because of the number of women (mainly indigenous) who have been murdered or went missing along the highway.
As she interviews people who knew Alberta, Connie Walker peels back the layers of a terrible past that may be unknown to many non-Canadians.
From the 1880s until as late as 1996 (!!!), the Canadian government operated “residential schools,” or boarding schools for indigenous people. Children as young as 6 were forcibly removed from their homes and taken from their families to spend years in cruel institutions where they faced sexual abuse, forced starvation, and even death. Their hair was cut, and they were not allowed to speak their ancestral languages.
The legacy of residential schools continues today, passed down by grandparents and parents who were treated less than human. Alcoholism, PTSD, poverty, domestic violence, and feelings of worthlessness are remnants of the residential school system.
I just finished listening to Episode 3, where Connie Walkers begins to connect the past with the present — why are indigenous women 3 to 4 times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous Canadian women? Unlike all the other podcasts I’ve listened to, Walkers draws from her own childhood experiences and links the culture to the crime.
Walker’s approach underlines how no crime stands by itself. We are all products of our upbringing, history, and society. And it reminds me how every country has its shameful past — the U.S. being no different — that affects its citizens for generations.
For the past few months, I’ve been on a podcast binge. It started with S-Town, then went to Dear John, then Someone Knows Something, and from there it’s kept going until today. I just finished Missing Richard Simmons, so now I have to find a new series to listen to while I walk the dog, wash dishes, brave the exercise machine, or fold laundry. There’s nothing like a good podcast to make excruciatingly boring tasks enjoyable!
So, here’s a rundown of my top three favorites, and if you have any suggestions of great podcasts, please share them in the comments section!
S-Town: Produced by Serial and This American Life, S-Town feels to me a little like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil but with a lot more cursing. The main “character” is John, who hounded journalist Brian Reed for months and months, wanting Reed to come down to Alabama to investigate a murder. At least, what John thinks is a murder. From there, the story unravels like a prickly spool of mohair yarn, itchy and bright colored. I have mixed feelings about S-Town. Part of me feels like it exploits the quirks of the deep South — but what saves it, I think, is Reed’s affection for the eccentric and troubled John.
Someone Knows Something: This series is by far my favorite. Produced by CBC Radio (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) and hosted by David Ridgen, Someone Knows Something covers cold cases — murders and missing persons — compassionately and extremely thoroughly. Its first season delves into the case of a missing five-year-old boy from 1972. The second season looks into the disappearance of Sheryl Sheppard in 1998, and the third season helps solve a 1960s murder by the KKK. I can’t wait for Season 4!
Unconcluded: I just listened to the latest episode of Unconcluded last night. Friends Shaun and Scott are currently investigating the 2006 disappearance of Jennifer Kesse from Orlando, Florida. To me, this podcast feels the most urgent because it deals with a somewhat recent case, and as Scott and Shaun find out information about the case, they share it with listeners. We are on the journey, too. This podcast, like Someone Knows Something, feels compassionate and honest, with real hope of helping the Kesse family find answers to a horrible crime.