Why writers need community, Part 2

hands-in-teamwork_headerThis is a myth we often buy into as writers: that it’s solitary work. The stereotype is romantic — the novelist or poet locked into a small room, hunched over a typewriter, pouring inspired verse onto a page. Genius happens in solitude. Friends can be found and parties attended after the writing is published. Whenever that happens.

I don’t buy it.

Sure, we all need periods of quiet and focus to get our work done. But if writing is such a solo endeavor, why do we writers often get so much done in a class or workshop or write-in or group? Company — the right kind of company — bolsters creativity because it energizes and inspired and reminds us that we’re not alone. Others know this path, others can relate to our struggles, others appreciate our efforts and we will not languish in obscurity because we’ve already arrived in community. Continue reading

Why writers need community, Part 1

It’s well established that writing is a solitary art form. It takes discipline and focus to forgo the social events and TV shows in order to slowly compose and polish a poem or short story or essay. And there are lots of books and blogs and, probably, TED Talks about how to make that happen. I mean, there’s an entire month — November — dedicated to writing a novel in 30 days.

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Beat writers at a cafe in New York City. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

But what’s equally important to the writer’s life — and this is less-often discussed — is community. I’ve spoken about this, recently, to creative writing students at my alma mater and a writing/marketing class, and was met both times blank stares and skepticism and protest. And I get it. We’re all too busy and meeting new people is weird and we’re comfortable with our own writing voice/style/process and don’t need outside input. Only, the thing is, we really do. Here’s why: Continue reading

Sponsor me during Mountain of Words

Now through Nov. 17, I’m participating in the fourth annual Mountain of Words, a Write-A-thon to support the work of Asheville Writers in the Schools and Community. I’ll be writing like a madwoman. You can help by sponsoring me.

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This organization changes lives through engaging children, teens and families with innovative writing and arts programs for those too often overlooked and unheard. Programming is centered in communities of color and provide learning and healing spaces where powerful voices can be shared and amplified to create a more just and equitable world.

Your donation will help to fund:
• an online magazine program for youth of color, who produce Word on the Street/La Voz de los Jovenes, a bilingual online arts and culture platform for youth.
Family Voices, a family writing and arts program for schools and community programs.
Artist mentor residencies in schools, afterschool, summer and community programs .

Click the link below to sponsor me for the amount you feel comfortable in giving. All donations are tax-deductible.

DONATE HERE

Want to send a check? Make it out to Asheville Writers in the Schools, mail to P.O. BOX 1508 Asheville, NC, 28802 and put my name in the memo line!

Music venues shouldn’t be white spaces. Not even accidentally.

What is the responsibility of venue bookers, music promoters, club owners, and festival organizers to create a platform for artists of color? It’s a tricky conversation to introduce, because there are so many issues — ticket sales, popularity, potential tokenism — but I think it’s more important to have the conversation than to be graceful about it.

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Photo by Jorge Salgado from this year’s Neon Desert Festival

So I’ll start here: Asheville, where I live, is a predominantly white town with a nationally recognized music scene and a high per-capita number of excellent concert halls and listening rooms. But peruse the lineup of at least three of the most popular venues in town and you’re lucky to find one person-of-color-led act in any given month. I recently browsed the calendar for one such music hall that lists no artists of color from September through December. Continue reading

Arts, equity, and the whitewashing of Riddle Fest

I learned something this week: There are no artists of color performing at the upcoming Riddle Festival, an annual event celebrating Lesley Riddle. What you need to know here is that Riddle was an African-American musician from Burnsville who greatly influenced the Carter Family. So think about that for a minute: The first family of country music has a black musician to thank.

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Lesley “Esley” Riddle, right, with guitarist Brownie McGhee.

This is not the only story where mountain, Appalachian, country, folk and roots music — much of which seems so of the domain of white folks — is actually closely tied to and even originating from the creative efforts of people of color. But because the white narrative has long been the dominant narrative, people of color tend to be diminished or overlooked or left out altogether. Or not invited to participate in a festival commemorating a person who looks like them and represents the history, hopes, talents, and ingenuity of their community.

I don’t think the organizers behind Riddle Fest intended any harm or slight, but I do think these kind of oversights pile up, one on top of the next, until we really can’t see past them anymore. Words like “appropriation” get bandied about — for good reason — but I see a greater harm. Yes, when white musicians record and profit from the songs of unrecognized musicians of color, it’s plagiarism and Continue reading

Weekly reading 7

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“Skull House, Mississippi, 2014,” by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

You guys. I love Junot Díaz and really love both this writer’s use of a Díaz quote and just where he’s coming from in general.

• “Dragons Are for White Kids with Money: On the Friction of Geekdom and Race” by Daniel Jose Ruiz in The Millions: “There is progress; we now have an unapologetically black super hero series in Luke Cage. There is BlerDCon (Black Nerd), and Blerds (the term is typically inclusive of any non-white nerd) even get a shout-out in a song (thanks Childish Gambino).”

• “The Loneliness of Donald Trump” by Rebecca Solnit at lithub.com: “Instead of the dictator of the little demimondes of beauty pageants, casinos, luxury condominiums, fake universities offering fake educations with real debt, fake reality tv in which he was master of the fake fate of others, an arbiter of all worth and meaning, he became fortune’s fool.”

• “Let’s Play: Intuition, Imagination, and Black Creativity” by Maggie Millner at PW.org: “There’s a diversity within the black arts community that we don’t always acknowledge. … There’s no one way to be black or to celebrate our lives.”