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!

 

 

 

Embracing Creativity, Writing Tips

A repost: “I Thought” writing prompt…

I thought I would pull some weeds,But I didn’t.I thought I would cook healthy,But I didn’t.I thought I would keep in touch,But I didn’t.I thought I would write something new,And I did. Please use the open space below to share your first 50 words on the topic “I thought.”

via I Thought — First 50 Words – Prompts for Writing Practice

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

Author experiences, Book Marketing, Embracing Creativity, employment, Job search, podcasts

Patreon for creative types…

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.

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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!

money pink coins pig
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

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!

 

Author experiences, Embracing Creativity, Fiction, History and culture, Writing Tips

My Mother’s Blessing To Be A Writer — Women Writers, Women’s Books

This is a re-post from the excellent Women Writers, Women’s Books website… Wonderfully written and, I believe, many writers and artists can relate.

It’s been eleven years since my mother passed away, eleven years since I last heard her voice. She was sixty-three years old, unquestionably too young. After she died, I began paying attention to the experiences friends had with similar losses. Some of them spoke of messages they believed their loved ones had sent – birds…

via My Mother’s Blessing To Be A Writer — Women Writers, Women’s Books

Author experiences, Nonfiction, Writing Tips

Why I Read and Write about Illness Catherine Lanser — via Women Writers, Women’s Books

This is a re-post of an excellent article about how illness can affect you in so many different, unexpected ways…

The thought of a hospital scares some people. Some people think hospital cafeteria food is awful. Some people expect to read a whole book without any bodily fluids making an appearance. I am not one of these people. I love the hospital, the food, and those free little booties they give you. I have had…

via Why I Read and Write about Illness Catherine Lanser — Women Writers, Women’s Books

politics

Are you marching?

Hundreds of marches are going on next Saturday. Check the website mentioned below if you are interested in finding one near you…

is March For Our Lives! Join the movement for change in Washington or your local community (or internationally). I will be joining in from Brussels. Follow the link to find out what your community has planned. https://marchforourlives.com/

via MARCH 24th! — ellisnelson

Nonfiction, podcasts, politics

Highway of Tears

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.