Author experiences, Embracing Creativity, Fiction, History and culture, podcasts

What is authenticity in writing?

Hidden BrainI 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? 

Conferences, Embracing Creativity, Getting Published, Writing Tips

Don’t let COVID stop you writing

I remember back in March when I posted the information about spring writers’ conferences…hmm. Well, here are some opportunities for writers that are STILL going on, despite COVID-19.

If you are a resident of NC (or don’t mind taking online writing classes), check out the North Carolina Writers’ Network. Right now, the Sally Buckner Emerging Writers’ Fellowship is going on. The deadline is June 30.

“The 2021 Buckner Fellowship will support an emerging writer of creative nonfiction. Fellowship recipients will use the $500 award to allay the costs associated with the business of writing: paper, printing, writing supplies, submission fees, research expenses, travel, conference registration fees, etc. In addition to the cash award, recipients will receive a complimentary one-year membership in the North Carolina Writers’ Network, as well as scholarship aid to attend the Network’s annual Fall and Spring Conferences.”

Also through the NC Network is the SQUIRE ONLINE summer writing workshop, a weekend’s worth of intensive, socially-distanced study in one of three genres. Registration ends JUNE 29. Writer Patrice Gopo (see photo) will lead the workshop “But It Really Happened Just Like That: Our Stories, Our Truth: Creative Nonfiction.”

Another great resource is the national group Sisters in Crime. It’s not just for women, either! Their site has links to webinars with writing tips, and you can check out your local chapter to see what’s being offered via Zoom. NC alone has 3 chapters in the Triad, Charlotte, and Durham!sistersincrime

For all kinds of writer news, online classes, contests, and more, check out the NewPages Blog. Just be sure to double-check that upcoming conferences (such as Killer Nashville in the Fall) are still on, or if they’ve been canceled or turned virtual. Who knows what surprises COVID-19 holds in store for us…

Regardless, keep on writing!

 

 

 

Education, Embracing Creativity, Magazines

Support learning on our “sister blog”!

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a “sister blog,” but I wanted to let everyone know about an announcement on my other website jumpforkids.wordpress.com/. This is where I post my kids’ magazine JUMP!

I’m selling the summer 2020 issue for $2 each to help raise funds to print free copies of the magazine for local kids in my area (Alamance County, NC). I put them in Little Free Libraries and the children’s section of the local libraries (when they are opened again!).

If you have a couple of bucks and know a kid who’d like a fun magazine to read this summer, please buy a copy! It’s online, but you can also download the pdf and print it out. We’ve got coloring, spot-the-difference, and a ladybug maze!

Author experiences, Book Marketing, Conferences, Education, Embracing Creativity, Fiction, Getting Published, Nonfiction, Writing Tips

Spring writers’ conferences in NC

With the weather heating up (at least in the southeastern USA!) and the flowers starting to bloom, it’s a great time to think about upcoming writers’ events! In North Carolina, we’re fortunate to have lots of creative writers — of both fiction and non-fiction — who are really motivated and ready to learn.

Please share any upcoming conferences you know of (wherever you live) in the comments section!

NC events coming up …

JoCo Writers Conference 2020

March 28 — the Johnston County Writers Workshop in Selma looks fun and very affordable! If you are in the area, I’m sure it will be well worth the visit — but sign up soon, as seating is limited!

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April 17 – 19 — Asheville Word Fest offers a whole weekend of speakers and workshops with a spiritual and cultural slant. Prices for tickets start at $25 and are based on what you can afford. Presenters get 80% of funds, so be generous if you can!

April 18Charlotte hosts the 2020 North Carolina Writing Workshop, a full day of classes with the theme “How To Get Published.” Literary agents will be on-site! Seating is limited, so call head to make sure there are still places available.

April 27 — the NC Writers’ Network have their one-day spring conference at UNCG (Greensboro). I’ve been to this before, and their workshops are in-depth and focused on improving your creative writing. Limited scholarships are available.

May 2Write Now! is an excellent one-day conference hosted by the Triangle Association of Freelancers in Raleigh. I try to attend every year — the classes are very practical and are geared for writers who want to sell their articles and creative work.

So, that’s just a taste of upcoming events — there are sure to be many more! Keep writing and reading, y’all!

 

Author experiences, Book Reviews, Embracing Creativity, Health, Nonfiction, Writing Tips

Writing and the Arts as Therapy — Women Writers, Women’s Books

A repost from the excellent blog “Women Writers, Women’s Books.” Marilyn Kay Hagar talks about how embracing creativity in your life — in any form — helps unearth the inner “wild” part of us that needs expression!

I remember the day in eighth grade when our teacher, Mr. Johnson, stood in front of the class and called us to attention. “This is the best piece of student writing I have come across in my twenty-two years of teaching,” he told us. Our homework that night was to write an essay. What he…

via Writing and the Arts as Therapy — Women Writers, Women’s Books

Education, Embracing Creativity, Magazines

Halloween special issue is here! — JUMP! The mag. for creative kids

If you have little ones in your life, please share this free Halloween mag. with them!

We have a special Halloween issue, just for you! Look out for monsters, shadow puppets, scary books, and much more! The back page even has some stuff for the grown ups!

via Halloween special issue is here! — JUMP! The mag. for creative kids