does not describe me fully
it is where to start

Sunday, May 22, 2011

New Short Story - "Coins Dropping"

Cacti tendrils brim over the clay pots below the peeling Rita’s Resale Shoppe sign. With her mitten, Ana picks at the hoarfrost at the window’s edge, trying to read the movie poster stuck inside the window. She has uncovered “Sandra Dee, Romanoff and” when Mami pulls her to the shop door.

For the rest of the story, please continue reading at Writes for All literary review.


Back Story to "Coins Dropping"

Years ago, this story was accepted by another literary review, but I withdrew it before publication. The Editor wanted to change the title, but I felt strongly that the title was at the heart of the story. Usually, I am very responsive to editorial suggestions. They result in an improved story and, furthermore, accepting editorial change is a normal part of the publishing process. This has been the only time I have dug in my heels and refused to accept an Editor's suggestions.

In the years since, I have had ample opportunity to reflect on my decision to withdraw the story and to second guess my being so adamant about not changing the title. It was only a title, for goodness sake! My second guessing only became more insistent as the story did not find a home; in part, I was told, because it was a period piece. Thankfully, Writes for All recognized that "'Coins Dropping' takes us back in time while addressing stereotypes still relevant today."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Back Story for "The Details"

Rose & Thorn Journal has a recurring feature, called "Back Story," in which authors published in their journal discuss how their work evolved. As was previously announced here, they published my short story "The Details," about a young couple whose wife is dying. How three unrelated nonfictional experiences influenced the development of my short story can be read in Rose & Thorn here.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Education of a Writer

At a local university, I recently attended a Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o lecture titled “The Education of a Writer.” This University of California professor, novelist, essayist, and Kenyan refugee discussed the influences which shaped him as a writer.

Thiong’o's varied life experiences as political activist, prisoner, exile, and literature professor have all informed his writing. It was when he spoke of the storytelling tradition of his native Kenyan village, though, that I took special notice. Members of his childhood village frequently gathered to tell stories as a group. Those gatherings, Thiong’o suggested, had a critical impact on him as a storyteller. The spontaneity and audience participation of those gatherings motivated him to seek in his later years a participatory form of storytelling.

I had an aha moment as I heard him describe his village experience. I realized I had an equivalent experience in my own life. My childhood “village,” the church, had gathered every night (yes, every night) to sing, give personal testimony, and share Biblical stories. It was done with music, chant, and prayer, as well as with lecture.

I have often spoken of my father’s influence on me as a writer. I have not highlighted though how the nightly church services of my childhood impacted me as a storyteller. Layered throughout my writing are the cadences and voices of those nightly services. It was in church then that I learned to tell stories with song and meaning. It was there that I became a storyteller, even if my own stories later turned out to be vastly different.

Was there an equivalent collective experience which formed you as a writer?

Pilgrim Soul