(For the last 12 weeks of 2014, in thanks for my phenomenal year of growth here at Negression and in my overall writing life, I am offering my Spirit of Writing practices here. I have taught these lessons and sessions in schools, libraries and community programs in Chicago and New York City. I will post new segments each Wednesday. Happy writing!)
Writers should not expect to just solely focus on their works. You have to give attention to other writers and their writing as well. If you are here to read this, thank you, for giving attention to my writing. One of the biggest lessons given to writers is to self-teach yourself and READ! I want to add to that: READ and SHARE.
There are many more than you out here who are looking for creative bonds, fortification collaboration and moral support. Although it appears solitary, writing is a collaboration at all times. It is an exchange. Normally, when people write just to get out feelings, it is called a journal or diary. However, anything a writer would like to share needs readers. It is perhaps unfair, and certainly more difficult, to expect people to read your work if you do not read any one else’s. And, even if you are so busy writing your own work it is hard to read others’, you can also be a champion for other writers.
I first read most of my favorite books because someone told me to: either a teacher, relative or a friend. My only all-time favorite book I can recall finding all on my own was Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, which I discovered on the library cart when I was an adolescent (the book gave me permission to start creating brown girl characters like me in my stories, and not white characters I saw in books predominately). So, the words from your mouth may often be the most powerful collaboration you can make with your fellow writers (and easiest).
If you do like a book or a blog, let people know. Of course, use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and WordPress to publicize what you’re fanatic about. But it gets crowded in these venues; so many other people are doing what you are doing because it is so quick to do. When you actually speak something and put the words out personally to someone, I think it kind of sticks better.
Once in a while, leave a note on a blog you like. Find a book and review it, or just tell others to read it. If you feel it is stellar, write a review of the book alone or a comparison of it to another work you feel is similar. If you feel it was a bummer, I don’t see any good in announcing that to the world unless you are a professional book critic who has to do so.
I remember it took me many years to finally read the book PUSH by Sapphire. I’d first only seen the cover and title shrouded within what appeared to be a media attack on the novel. The reviewer or critic did not like the novel, its characters or its contents. This reviewer’s disgust was expressed was so strongly I fled from the work just from the sense one review gave. I do not even remember where I saw this, but it was not a major publication. Did not matter. I had had enough.
I only picked PUSH up years later because I was bored in a bookstore, waiting for a friend to finish chatting with an author she knew. The first few pages of PUSH had such a powerful and profound effect on me I wound up moving to New York to study with its author. The story was nothing like I imagined from a critic’s words, its framing in the press, etc… It was elegant, painful but triumphant, about love and friendship and effort and trying to survive. That is my particular taste and we are all entitled to our own tastes. However, what you say and write about art, books and literature do matter. In the long run, the very powerfully negative review stuck with me until I read the book to see for myself.
I am still trying to finish them up so I will not fully review them, but books I can champion and put out there for others to try is Bridgett Davis’s Into The Go-Slow. Another one out there is Death Comes to Pemberley, the 2011 novel from legendary mystery writer PD James, who passed away in her home in Oxford this year. PBS aired a television adaptation of the work last month. A blog I have found especially powerful is My Dreams Matter, accompanied by videos and other creativity reinforcers. Any others?
7 thoughts on “Spirit of Writing Week 8: You Have To Give To Get…”
*I meant I haven’t yet published the blog post where I give some background on my short stories that I published this year.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Well it’s funny that you say that Kalisha, because I’m a big fan of YOUR writing. Of course I first knew about your novels, one of which is sitting facing forward (Upstate) on my bookshelf. It was the kind of book I needed to read at the time, and still one of my favorites until this day.
Years later (as in earlier this year), I discovered your blog. I don’t remember how, but I kept coming back. And I realized how much I liked your non-fiction writing to on this blog. I started commenting organically because your topics really interest me. So I started off looking up to you as an author, and then you started following me and writing me back…and I was (*smile*) lol. I’ve met a few other writing/blogging friends this year and I feel it’s from having a genuine interest in what they’re doing and it’s reciprocated.
So it’s a great feeling. Because writing can definitely be lonely. And while it is a mostly solitary endeavor, it doesn’t always have to be so isolating. Oh I’ve been meaning to share my short story with you that was inspired by Upstate (I just haven’t published the blog post yet). But here it is, “Love, Diamond”: http://candacehabte.com/2014/03/12/love-diamond-short-story/
I loved the idea of two Black teens communicating through letters, so I decided to give it a shot.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks so much…I was not aware you knew my novels and I am glad I found a real true fan, writer and supporter of Black women’s books! I love the writing community here and its targeted, deeper communication goals beyond Facebook likes and self-glorifying selfies. Because I have tendency to stay away from that I have time and mind to really “talk” in here.
I look forward to reading your story. Ironically, a short story in Edwidge Danticat’s Krik? Krak! was on my mind when I started Upstate, very affirmative to find a story of two black lovers writing each other while in separate perils. It somewhat inspired my ideas for Upstate so who knows…this could be the start of something big for you! Keep writing, Kalisha
Oh wow, you know what’s funny? I’ve never read Krick? Krack! (I know, Edwidge Danticat AND short stories…I’m tripping) but I’ve read Eyes, Breath, Memory (several times) and had a chance to meet her many years ago at one of her readings for the book. Thanks to my old English prof (I didn’t major in English but we were still close). So it’s funny that her writing inspired you in a way, and your writing inspired me.
The short story I wrote made me think more about the characters, and a couple years ago I started writing (and finally finished, yeah! lol) my first novel. And somehow Upstate was a part of that, so I’m grateful. The novel isn’t written in letters, and bears no real resemblance to Upstate or the original short story but I know how it started, so it’s a good feeling. A beautiful cycle, right?
Anyway, I’m not very into FB, etc. either but I do like blogging for the same reason that you stated. And I’m grateful that I’ve gotten a chance to connect with people like you 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yes Candace it is a beautiful cycle! I never at all think about other people out there feeling about me the way I felt about other books. Yes, Krik? Krak! and also The Bluest Eye at one point, where I felt I had no choice but to write as well after them. The fact that my work would be considered in that category of helping another woman and writer wield her sword is a blessing. I appreciate our connection and would love to see the novel published. This is a good time for black women writers and there are many people out there who want to publish our work, read our stories and know us! Keep me posted, Kalisha
I am a big fan of PD James’ Adam Dalgliesh mysteries; I first discovered her when I picked up a used copy of Cover Her Face at a garage sale. Death in Holy Orders may be my favorite of all. May she rest in peace.
And yes, there’s no such thing as bad publicity but as a former paid book reviewer, I don’t have the energy to slam anyone else’s work these days (been there, done that, and it may still come back to bite me in the butt, now that I’m a published solo author as well). When I mention a book on my blog, it’s usually because I enjoy it and encourage others to check out the book/author as well.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hello Tiffany, I am glad to know another PD James fan!! Yes, those used/vintage dimestore copies brought me there too…then my writer’s group Sisters in Crime reminded me of her all over again. I never was able to review books because I can’t lie and if I don’t like I can’t say I do. But that comes with the territory of critical work and is understandable. However, like you, I really just do not have the energy to slam another author’s hard work by choice. Who has time…? I believe this blogger/author code of conduct is one to share! Peace and Blessings, Kalisha
LikeLiked by 1 person