The Practice of Creativity

Archive for the ‘people of color’ Category

One of the best occurrences in my writing life this past year has been getting to know writers in the ‘UnCommon’ anthologies community. The UnCommon anthologies are published by Fighting Monkey Press, founded by Pavarti Tyler. The series includes UnCommon Bodies, UnCommon Minds and UnCommon Origins and they all have a speculative fiction edge. Last year, my story, “The Curl of Emma Jean” was selected to appear in UnCommon Origins: Collection of Gods, Monsters, Nature and Science.  As part of the process of being published in the anthologies, Pavarti invites authors to a private Facebook group. The Facebook group includes many authors from the anthologies and everyone is committed to helping make each anthology successful. I have learned so much about indie publishing through this group and have been grateful for the encouragement we give each other.

I recently discovered that there is a new UnCommon anthology launching soon. Yay! It’s titled, Uncommon Lands: A Collection of Rising Tides, Outer Space, and Foreign Realms and it will feature a fabulous lineup of writers. I have invited one of those writers to share some insights about being a Native American speculative fiction writer writing across communities. She provides a behind the scenes look at her submission to UnCommon Lands.

I’m delighted to welcome Ashleigh Gauch to The Practice of Creativity!

Shamanism and Navigating as Native in a White World: Walker Between the Worlds

“Walker Between the Worlds” was inspired by the shamanic journeys I took under the watchful eyes of my aunt and grandmother, and by the identity struggle I felt when transitioning between being bullied at school in a predominantly white community and the beautiful native stories and experiences I had on Whidbey Island. The more I learned about my heritage, the more I realized the way shamanism and native spirituality is portrayed in the media is a gross misinterpretation of what it means to be a shaman.

In early drafts I mentioned my protagonist Shephard had a lighter skin tone, and everyone who read the story thought he must be white. I was even lectured about what shamanism is and isn’t by a middle aged white member of my group – who based his theories on Carlos Castaneda’s work and movies he’d seen when he was younger!

There’s a cultural perception about what it means to be native, and “reddish” skin is a must. If you don’t look like a Midwestern native, you must not be indigenous. I had to change the description to tawny—something I was deeply against—in order for people to believe he was Haida, despite details about his growing up on the reservation and receiving shamanic training.

The story centers around Shephard’s having to give up pieces of himself, breaking his most sacred code in order to fit in with the high-stakes world of trading securities. His identity as a native man was always overshadowed by his ambitions in the white world he found himself in, as the identities of those who try to navigate through a world that no longer tries to understand them often are. When his girlfriend’s soul is stolen by Ta’xit, the god of death in battle, he has to go on a true shamanic journey in order to recover her soul – and his sense of self.

It was a challenge to write, in part because of fear that I was the “wrong” person to tell this story. There are so few of us left in the tribe, and my family isn’t even registered because of fears of racist repercussions my great grandfather had when he removed us from tribal rolls. It took a lot of courage to accept that my experiences were relevant and very real, despite the cultural demand that my family be more “red” in order to be native.

Because my stories take a dark slant, people often ask me who my influences are. Ray Bradbury, Clive Barker, Margaret Atwood, Garth Nix, Mercedes Lackey, Robert Jordan, Piers Anthony, and Orson Scott Card all top the list. Ray Bradbury and Margaret Atwood in particular—their lyrical, authoritative voices still fill me with wonder.

I strive to one day find my place among these inspiring voices, to touch the hearts of readers who’ve struggled with their sense of identity in a world that refuses to accept them. I hope one day we will all be equal in the truest sense—able to be ourselves, embrace our identities, without fear of retribution or rejection.

Ashleigh Gauch is a Haida author currently living just south of her hometown of Seattle, Washington. She went to college for nutrition but ultimately found her true passion not in the study of science, but in the genesis of science fiction.

Her work has been featured in the online periodical Bewildering Stories, Starward Tales from Manawaker Press, Uncommon Minds from Fighting Monkey Press, the upcoming anthologies UnCommon Lands and Starward Two, and the magazine Teaching Tolerance.

Story Summary: When Shephard Mercer breaks the greatest law found in Haida shamanism and uses his powers for his own personal gain, his love, Aria, pays the price. Now he must go through live burial and a series of trials in the World Between to earn her soul back and prove himself worthy enough to return to the world of the living.

Pre-order UnCommon Lands here.

 

Tonya Liburd is a speculative fiction writer and poet. Tonya is having a fabulous writing year. She’s had several short stories published and one of her poems was nominated for the Rhysling Award given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA). Her new story, “A Question of Faith” with Book Smugglers Publishing was recently released. [Another win for the Book Smugglers family! ]We’re in some of the same online writing circles and I noticed that I kept seeing her name pop up and her work mentioned. I read her essay, “Adventures in Gaming” in Mosaics: The Independent Women Anthology, and was blown away. The essay explores her experiences as a gamer spanning two decades and highlights the chronic misogyny, racism and homophobia that are endemic to gaming culture. I also am inspired by the fact that Tonya moves between writing speculative poetry and fiction. I wanted to know more about her work and writing practices.

I’m excited to welcome her to The Practice of Creativity.

-You write both speculative fiction and poetry. Can you tell us a little about your work?

Well, my first love is music; and I’ve been told that my writing leans on the literary side, and can be lyrical. I don’t have a favourite piece that I’ve done, because I have a good feeling about several pieces, but I do think the best thing I’ve written, craft-wise, is “Through Dreams She Moves”.  It made the longlist for the Carter V. Cooper (Vanderbilt) short fiction competition in 2015. Author Nisi Shawl uses my first ever published piece, “The Ace Of Knives” – which was reprinted as part of People Of Colour Take Over Fantastic Stories Of The Imagination Magazine – in her workshops to demonstrate “code switching”.  Last year a literary poem of mine, “You Don’t Want to Know Me”, won 4th prize in Ve’ahavta’s 2016 Creative Writing Competition, and this year my poem “The Architect of Bonfires” was nominated for a Rhysling Award. So here’s hoping I keep getting noticed for these things as I work harder on my writing!

-How did you get bitten by the ‘writing bug’? Did you always wish to become an author?

Ever since I could remember, English has been my best subject. My mother encouraged me to write down things in a journal, so it would improve my writing skills. I remember knowing three things I could be when I grew up: a singer/musician, a writer, or an actor. Well, one of the three panned out!

-You are the Associate Editor of Abyss & Apex Magazine. What do you enjoy about this position? What lessons have you learned about being an editor that you apply to your own writing?

I enjoy finding new voices and pioneering new things – Like I did with Celeste Rita Baker and her story “Name Calling” – and I have learned SO MUCH, thanks to Wendy Delmater (editor and publisher), being so hands on. My learning curve is still happening. I have learned that a lot of my writing was, in first draft and edited by myself, fell into the ‘so close (but no cigar!)’ territory, and I got to see what that looked like, via submissions. I have learned that grabbing an editor’s attention and making everything tight from the get-go is crucial when dealing with the sheer amount of subs they have to deal with; and that’s an important step, learning how to tighten one’s writing. Ask me this time three years ago if I would say I could write flash fiction and I’d laugh right in your face. I wrote LONG. The first thing I seriously sat down to write outside of high school was a horror novel.

-What do you say to yourself on days when the writing feels especially difficult?

I go to friends and seek emotional and moral support, and in this case they will remind me -and I will try and remind myself – that some days are easier than others. But it’s hard sometimes to tell yourself that, and just having that validation outside yourself makes the negative thoughts easier to dismiss and the positive ones harder to.

-What’s on your bookshelf, next to your bed (or in your e-reader)? What are you reading right now?

Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson, and Hunger by Roxane Gay are on my bookshelf. I’m reading The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco on my kindle right now; so good!

– What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Keep writing; make it a habit and it’ll come even though you don’t feel “inspired”. Edit, edit and edit some more!

 

Tonya Liburd shares a birthday with Simeon Daniel and Ray Bradbury, which may tell you a little something about her; and while she has an enviable collection of vintage dust bunnies to her credit, her passions are music (someday!) and of course, words. Her poetry has been nominated for the Rhysling award, and her fiction has been longlisted in the 2015 Carter V. Cooper (Vanderbilt)/Exile Short Fiction Competition. Her story “The Ace of Knives” is in the anthology Postscripts to Darkness 6, and is used in Nisi Shawl’s workshops as an example of ‘code switching’. She is the Associate Editor of Abyss & Apex Magazine. Check out her Inspirations and Influences essay about the story, “A Question of Faith” here. You can find her blogging at spiderlilly.com or on Twitter at @somesillywowzer.

 

Hi folks,

Today, I am thrilled to be featured on Graveyard Shift Sisters, a site highlighting Black women’s and women of color’s contribution to the horror and “dark fiction” field. I embrace the term speculative fiction writer and am increasingly embracing the fact that I often write stories that could be labeled ‘”dark fiction” and are in the territory of horror. I was interviewed by the amazing writer, Eden Royce and we went deep talking about creating characters that explore the bonds of friendship and sisterhood during adversity, what scares me (and how those fears fuel my writing), how to stay motivated as a writer and much more. I really enjoyed this interview. It was the first time that I was sent questions ahead of time, answered them and then had a follow-up conversation with the interviewer (Eden), to discuss my answers. Neat process.

http://www.graveyardshiftsisters.com/2017/08/black-women-horror-writers-interview.html

ALSO:

If you’re in North Carolina and close to the Triangle, I’m inviting you to come help me celebrate my first book reading and signing for Reenu-You on Saturday, August 26, 2pm at McIntyre’s Books, Fearrington Village in Pittsboro. I am so excited! I’ll read, share insights about staying inspired on the creative path, take your questions and sign books. There will be yummy refreshments and DOOR PRIZES. I look forward to celebrating this milestone on my writing journey with you.

https://www.fearrington.com/event/michele-berger-reenu-you/

 

Octavia Butler was a visionary science fiction writer who influenced a generation of writers, artists and scholars from the 1970s until her death in 2006. She broke new ground as one of the first African American women writers to achieve critical success in the speculative fiction arena, a field historically dominated by white men. In celebration of what would have been her 70th birthday and in recognition of Butler’s enormous influence on speculative fiction Twelfth Planet Press is publishing a selection of letters and essays written by science fiction and fantasy’s writers, editors, critics and fans. There are letters from people who knew Butler and those who didn’t; some who studied under her at the Clarion and Clarion West workshops and others who attended those same workshops because of her; letters that are deeply personal, deeply political, and deeply poetic; and letters that question the place of literature in life and society today.

 Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler is available for pre-order and is due out by mid-August. I’m thrilled to be in this collection! I’ve written elsewhere how I almost talked myself out of submitting and why you should never self-reject your work! The lineup of writers in LT, both new and established, is amazing and includes Tara Betts, Nisi Shawl, L Timmel Duchamp, Steven Barnes, K Tempest Bradford, Jewelle Gomez, Bogi Takács,  Sheree Renée Thomas, Aurelius Raines II and many others.

I wanted to know more about the editors of Luminescent Threads, Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal, and what they learned from tackling a project of this magnitude. They kindly agreed to a joint interview and I’m delighted to welcome them to ‘The Practice of Creativity’.

Senior Editor Alexandra Pierce is editor of the award-winning Letters to Tiptree and co-host of Hugo award-winning feminist SFF podcast Galactic Suburbia alongside Alisa Krasnostein and Tansy Rayner Roberts. She is also a part-time teacher, blogger, book reviewer and columnist for Tor.com.

Editor Mimi Mondal was born in Calcutta, India. She is a 2015 recipient of the Octavia E Butler Memorial Scholarship at the Clarion West Writing Workshop and the Poetry with Pakriti Prize in 2010. Her stories, poetry and social commentary have appeared in The Book Smugglers, Daily Science Fiction, Podcastle, Scroll.in, Muse India, Kindle Magazine, among other venues.

 

– Tell us about your new book. What inspired this project?

Alex: For me it was a desire to hear from people who have been inspired in different ways by Octavia Butler, as well as having the opportunity to get her name and reputation out to a wide audience. Butler was an amazing author and a remarkable person, in terms of how she has influenced writers and readers in lots of different circumstances. I wanted to help to celebrate that.

Mimi: I came in later into the project as the replacement for another editor, so the concept wasn’t mine. I had been the Octavia Butler Scholar to the Clarion West in 2015, so when someone asked me whether I’d be interested in co-editing an anthology of readers’ letters to Octavia Butler, I was immediately excited, even though socially and emotionally it wasn’t the best time for me to take up a new project. I wasn’t acquainted with the team but I admired their work on Letters to Tiptree, which assured me that this was a book I would enjoy being part of.

– How have you been influenced by Octavia Butler’s work?

Alex: I’ve been challenged by the way she thinks about power and consent and family. Power and consent are huge parts of many of her books, and she’s usually not presenting a straightforward argument about them. Family, too, is often complicated in her novels, and I’ve been intrigued to think about what it means to have a family, to be a family.

Mimi: I grew up in India, where I had practically never heard of Octavia Butler.

The most powerful thing I probably learned from her work is that weird, complex, imaginative, speculative things don’t only happen in white-people stories. For a long time my reading included only realist fiction by writers of color, and all the speculative, dystopian, space, superhero, monster, apocalypse stories seemed to be written by white people, featuring white people, for other white people. It made me feel awkward to even write those stories, because the terrain just didn’t feel mine. Butler’s work, to a large extent, helped me break out of that painful narrowness of perspective.

– What did you learn about yourselves as editors while working on Luminescent Threads?

Alex: I learned that I love helping people to express themselves! And I really like bringing different thoughts and perspectives together to present something greater than the indivisible pieces.

Mimi: I learned that people’s words can both make me cry and make me stronger. As an immigrant student in the United States, these past few months haven’t been kind to me. Editing is what I do for a living, but never have been so strongly moved by a book I edited.

– What’s one thing you wish more writers understood about submitting work for an anthology?

Alex: That guidelines are there for a reason! But also in terms of this project that neither Mimi nor I were doing this as an actual job; we both do other things in real life, as it were, and the editing is additional.

Mimi: I agree! When you’re writing for a specific call for submissions, make sure your work fits their guidelines, and you submit and communicate with the publication in the way they require. The speculative fiction community is far more informal than many other artistic communities. Everyone’s in it because they love the stuff. But that lack of a strictly imposed hierarchy shouldn’t mean that anything goes. You may have met or hung out with the editor(s) at a convention, but that doesn’t make you exempt of the word limit, deadline or theme they have put down for the anthology.

– What are some exciting trends in speculative fiction that you see in terms of diversity and representation?

Alex: the very existence of an understanding of the need of diversity is exciting at the moment. That people are becoming more vocal in speaking out about occasions when the importance of diversity clearly hasn’t been considered.

Mimi: The fact that I am here at all is something I find exciting. Growing up in India, I always wanted to be a writer but never knew if it was possible, because I don’t come from the kind of background writers traditionally came from back then, and the stories of the only kind of people I knew didn’t end up in books. I grew up reading pretty much only white male writers, and right now I probably read one white male writer a year, if that. There are so many other stories that are way more fun to read! I love it that this has come to be so, and I love it that I’m living in these times.

– What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Alex: Pay attention to the guidelines and communicate clearly with your editor!

Mimi: “Write a little bit every day, even if you’re not in the mood.” is a wonderfully effective tip that, unfortunately, I don’t follow. It has improved my writing exponentially in a very short time every time I’ve managed to do it for short periods, though, so maybe it’s worth passing on!

 

Alexandra Pierce is an editor, blogger and book reviewer. Connect with her at http://www. randomalex.net   Twitter: @randomisalex

Mimi Mondal is a writer from India, and the Poetry and Reprints Editor of Uncanny Magazine. Connect with her at: www.mimimondal.com   Twitter: @Miminality

 

 

 

 

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Today is the beginning of my fifth full day in Portobelo, Panama and I have fallen into a great writing rhythm. I’m awake by 7 and I usually do a little bit of exercise and meditation. I then settle into writing for an hour or two and then go downstairs and have breakfast made by Soledad, a wonderful cook.

After breakfast and a bit of socializing with some of the other guests, I then get some more writing done until lunch which is usually served by 12:30.

 

With great food like this served daily, I am having to up my exercise game.

It’s the rainy season here so if it looks sunny then we’re pretty spontaneous about taking a walk or heading over by boat to a beach.

This was on a hill overlooking Portobelo on a clear day.

 

I couldn’t get a great picture of this heron but I was fascinated by it as I watched it go about catching fish. This was taken on a little beach that we took a boat to get to.

It is rumored that the famous pirate and sea captain Sir Francis Drake is buried on that little island. He was a scourge to the Spanish.

 

I’ve never actually seen an ant cutting leaves in the wild, but they were on this beach!

Wandering around town is also an option, if it isn’t too hot.

Writing prompt: There is great public art all over the town. Make up a story about this figure on the wall. Who is he? What’s he up to?

 

Writing prompt: There is a tradition of ‘the Black Christ’ in Panama, especially Portobelo. What does this image provoke in you?

 

Writing prompt: What is this wall made of? How would you describe the texture? Why does this wall exist?

 

Writing prompt: Who owns this monkey? What has been the monkey’s life up until this day? Tell a story about how the monkey escapes.

After that, I usually take a break from writing and do some reading and research.

If I’m lucky, I’ll catch a quick nap in one of the hammocks!

Another writer here has lent me James Scott Bell’s Conflict and Suspense which is packed with great ideas about building up conflict in one’s work. He suggests to make sure the stakes are high for your main character and that they face either physical death, professional death (“something on the line here that will make or break the Lead in the area of her life’s work”) or psychological death. It’s great if your character faces more than one type of death, especially in a novel.

After dinner, I usually get another few hours of writing under my belt. I love staying up late and either listening to a writing podcast or doing a bit more reading.

Over the weekend, I’ll be tackling some of the harder projects that I brought with me that need a lot of attention.

More soon!

 

Dianna L. Gunn – one of the other authors in The Novella Initiative by The Book Smugglers – is hosting me on her blog today! We chat about the inspiration behind Reenu-You, the rise of novellas, and how publishing must change to support diverse voices. https://goo.gl/zZmFmT

I’m was so happy this morning that I probably started running around in circles, like this pug:

Why?

Because today I’m featured on John Scalzi’s blog in his ‘Big Idea’ section. He selects science fiction writers, with new books, to write about the ‘big idea’ that is connected to their work.

I get deep talking about why hair matters, racial legacies, questionable beauty practices, what it meant to grow up being told I had “good hair” and how those themes inspired my new novella, Reenu-You.

It was an honor to be chosen for ‘The Big Idea’. I loved having a chance to share my passion discussing the intersection between hair and culture with his audience.

Read the essay here and feel free to leave a comment on his site!


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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