Writing Does Not Have to Be (Nor Should it be) a Solitary Endeavor

As someone who enjoys and craves her solitude writing is the perfect activity for me. I can write or think about writing anywhere, anytime. I don’t have to rely on another person to write the words for me. It’s not like some activities that have multiple people involved.

It can though. That’s what I’m learning and completly embracing. How can I need my alone time and want collaboration at the same time? Easy. In a word it’s all about Community.

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Sitting down to write is definitely, more or less, the part of writing that requires you to “work alone”.  Other people can be in the room while you write, you can even engage with them, but the thoughts and words you put down are yours until you’re ready to share them. You have to figure out how the story goes, the who, what, and where.

That is not to say that’s all there is to writing. Your writing community includes workshop and writing partners, your draft readers, your editors, and the folks who support you. (I even like to include the folks I read as a part of my writing community. Their interviews and insights help me too. If they’re willing to share their experience, why not use that to my advantage?) Think about it, writing involves so much more than just writing. First and foremost writing is reading. But how do you choose what to read? Maybe you take a suggestion from an avid reader you know, your librarian, a popular blogger, or a friend. In doing this you’ve just engaged in community.

Writing is also critique. Getting feedback and alternate perspective from your peers. Hearing someone else talk about your writing breaks open the bubble where you think you have it all figured out. It introduces new ways to think about your story. Whether you end up using that is up to you.

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Writing is open mic night at your local coffee shop or bookstore where you get to share your voice with intent listeners. This sets the stage for you to give an audience an experience.

Writing is showing support to other writers at their readings and signings. Not one of us can do it alone.

As much as I absolutely need my time I also need other writers and this community. It can be lonely talking to the characters you create (sometimes they pout or ignore you). I’m constantly reminding myself to get out of the house and engage with real flesh and blood people.

You should too.  The community is there so acknowledge them, interact with them, and let them help you grow as a writer.

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Putting Words into Action

The West End Poetry Festival is taking place

Oct. 18th through Oct. 21st in Carrboro NC

If you’re around, check it out!

 

 

What Books Make the Writer?

Did you ever read Bridge to Terabithia or Tuck Everlasting? What about The Phantom Tollbooth? Any of the Ramona Quimby books?

I did. I remember reading all of those books. While some of the details of what goes on in those stories are hazy, I remember how they made me feel. Adventurous, brave, curious. I couldn’t get enough. I wanted to “do that”, create worlds and stories that readers just didn’t want to put down.

It’s funny. All I’ve ever wanted to do is write and I’ve managed to do so in some way for a while now.  I’ve been lucky, besides the time I got caught writing on the living room wall with a red lipstick, that my love of reading and writing has been praised and encouraged.

I know that I write because I truly enjoy it. I feel the most like myself when I’m actively putting words down to figure out what’s happening or could happen in a story. Writing is also therapeutic and healing to me.

But when did this love turn into the thing that I must do? When did it get serious for me? Was it gradually or all at once?

Recently the Lit Hub article The Books That Made Your Favorite Writers Want to Write came across my Facebook timeline. Writers like Sherman Alexie and Zadie Smith know the exact book that made them want to be writers. How cool is that? Something locked into place for them and they knew or decided that they wanted to “do that” too.

The last few days I’ve been wondering which book(s) made me want to write. Was it Ramona Quimby, Age 8? Onion John? Maybe a short story from the anthologies I read in high school. An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, maybe? Was it poetry in college? Nikki Giovanni’s Ego-Tripping, perhaps?

At this point it would be nice to know what tipped the scales for me, but I don’t think it really matters.

I’m writing. I am a writer.

My Writing Group is Everything

I met with my writing group this past Sunday and it was wonderful. I’m always excited to connect with the members of the group because we get so much done. We share our writings, discuss the work, give feedback, and encourage each other.

I’ve been in other groups before, but none have ever felt as authentic and purposeful as this one. None have ever felt as Black, women centered, or queer. I’m not the only black person; I’m not the only lesbian. I don’t have to be one or the other or prioritize my identities. For that alone I feel like pumping my fist in the air and giving a “whoop, whoop” every month. And, it’s strange to say, this group feels writing focused.  I mean that’s the point, right? But I’ve been (briefly) apart of some writing groups that were more about dating than about writing and it was so disappointing.

Everyone in this group is smart, talented, and capable. We all want each other to succeed. Do you know how good that feels? Knowing that your sisters want the absolute best for you? That they want you to grow and improve so you can put out your best work? Maaan, that is some deep, deep love that keeps me inspired.

Essentially these writers save me from myself when I feel like my writing isn’t good enough. They encourage me, hold me accountable, and give me the perspective I need to see my work more clearly. I’m so thankful for all of the support.

Basically my writing group is everything. I love these black women writers!

10 More 2017 Releases To Look Forward To Pt. 2

Lists of books make me so happy! Who cares if my TBR is growing out of control. 🙂

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2017 books 2 fertig

We’re halfway through 2017, how did that happen!? But at least on the bookish side of things, the next six months are going to be amazing. My budget is pretty small, but one can dream right? So here’s my wish list of 10 releases for fall/winter 2017, mostly not including YA lit cause you all covered this extremely well already!

1. When We Speak of Nothing by Olumide Popoola gr-pic

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Cassava Republic: July 3rd

Best mates Karl and Abu are both 17 and live near Kings Cross. Its 2011 and racial tensions are set to explode across London. Abu is infatuated with gorgeous classmate Nalini but dares not speak to her. Meanwhile, Karl is the target of the local “wannabe” thugs just for being different. When Karl finds out his father lives in Nigeria, he decides that Port Harcourt is the best place to escape the sound and fury of London…

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Wait & See

The other night I dreamed I was five months pregnant. Sitting in the back of a cab, my huge belly pressed down on me while I looked at a severance check. The cabbie drove me around for a while. Then I stopped at a building, went inside to use the restroom, and stared at my reflection in a wide mirror.

When I woke up I reached for my belly. I was startled. I knew my dream wasn’t literal, but I felt so uneasy.

It’s a metaphor, I know. The severance check symbolism isn’t lost on me either. An ending leading to a beginning. Something is growing within me, around me, for me. What is it though? An opportunity? A thing? A person? An idea?

Guess I’ll have to wait and see. 😉

 

 

 

 

My Grandpa, My Angel

I saw my grandpa a few weeks ago. Despite him not being of this world any more I can say with 100% certainty it was him.

I was outside with my dog on one of our jaunts around the neighborhood. He was being particularly curious taking his time sniffing the ground looking for the perfect spot. I followed behind him at a slow clip, nothing too much on my mind when I noticed an older Black man getting out of his car, gathering his  grocery bags. He was dressed like he’d just come from somewhere important. A meeting, church . Sharp arctic grey suit, pressed and fitting well. His tie was a goldenrod yellow with a sheen to it.

Instantly I thought of my grandpa Oliver.  Us kids called him Boop.

He was an impeccable dresser. Unafraid of color, keen on what looked good on him and what didn’t. My grandpa turned heads with every step. Even in his grass cutting clothes.

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My grandparents, Mary and Oliver Pipkin

The way this well dressed man looked in his suit wasn’t the only thing familiar to me. When we made eye contact I noticed he held a striking resemblance to my grandpa. He had a strong, clean-shaven jaw, bright brown eyes, a crease of lines in his forehead. His smooth carob colored skin looked moisturized and clean. Even his salt and pepper mini fro was the way my grandpa wore his hair. Full and neat.

“Hello, young lady,” he said to me. Warm energy carried his voice. “How are you?”

A stranger’s voice can be a gateway to a memory, to a feeling, in the same way a favorite song can transport you. The rhythm, tone, melody can make you feel safe and loved even from afar.

“Hello. I’m wonderful. I hope you are.”

“I sure am. Thank you.”

“I have to say, that’s a sharp suit. You look very nice.” I refrained from telling him that he reminded me of my grandpa.

“Thank you. Thank you very much.” He smiled and told me to have a good evening. I nodded assuring him I would.

Ahead of me my dog tugged on the leash and I reluctantly took a few steps away from the man. I stepped into the grass where my dog licked at blades of grass and what I saw made me laugh. It was an angel.

A large paperclip had been folded into an angel. It was adorned with a pearly white head and a red ribbon. I picked it up and stared at it while my dog tried to urge me forward. Over my shoulder the man gathered the last of his bags and moved away from the parking lot toward one of the buildings.

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The angel I found on the ground.

“I see you, Boop. I miss you, too.”

I held the paperclip angel in my hand and continued the walk. Every time I glanced down at the angel in my hand I smiled. Not just on my face, but in my soul. I hadn’t realized that I needed that symbol, that acknowledgement from the universe that I am loved and cared for. That this world is holding space for me and I am supported.

My angel now resides just inside my door. I like to think of it protecting me and my home. I see it every time I leave and when I come inside. I even speak to it sometimes.

“Hi, Boop. I’m home.”

 

A Pride Note

June is here! Happy PRIDE month, folks! What events and fun things are you planning?

Pride events don’t tend to kick-off until October/September in my neck of the woods, but I promise to be EXTRA Gay this month! LOL 🙂

Have a fabulous time partying, relaxing, volunteering and spending time with folks who love and celebrate you. Honor those who sacrificed and made coming out and being visible a little bit easier.

Love yourself and say nice things to your reflection in the mirror. (Not just this month, but Every. Single. Day. Even when it’s hard.) Be safe and lookout for one another. I love you!

P.S. Wear sunscreen and hydrate!

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Krystal A. Smith on Speculative Fiction and Writer’s Block

Happy Thursday everyone!

Here’s a snippet of an interview I did with Black Lesbian Literary Collective as a part of their new series. The full version will be available in BLLC’s literary journal, Serendipity.

The following excerpt is the first in our new interview series where we talk to members of the lesbian literary community. A longer version of this interview will appear in an upcoming issue of our literary journal, Serendipity

A North Carolina native, Krystal A. Smith (i.e. K.A. Smith) is a Black lesbian writer of poetry and speculative fiction. Her work has been described as “lyrical” and “intriguing.” Her poems have appeared in Tulips Touching (UltraVioletLove Publishing 2011) and recent short stories have appeared in Ladylit Publishing’s Summer Love: Stories of Lesbian Holiday Romance (2015) and Lez Talk: A Collection of Black Lesbian Fiction (BLF Press 2016). Her debut collection of short fiction Two Moons: A Collection of Short Fiction (BLF Press) will be released in 2018.

Two MoonsCover-Final copyWhen did you start writing speculative fiction? Who are your major influences in this genre?

I had imaginary friends growing up. Little Bruno, Bubba, Shubby. My older…

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