Jane Eaton Hamilton

"We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. We must always take sides. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." — Elie Wiesel

Category: articles by others

Dionne Brand: Writing Against Tyranny and Toward Liberation

Dionne Brand

In this talk and reading at Barnard College, the Canadian poet, speaks to our questing, wanting hearts.

“I don’t believe in the notion of justice, since it presumes a state of affairs that is somehow formerly good but for certain anomalies is legitimate. In our case, I think that we live in a state of tyranny and to ask a tyranny to dismantle itself, to claim, to ask for, to invoke justice is to present our bodies, already consigned in that tyranny to the status of non-being, to ask that tyranny to bring us into being and that is impossible and it won’t.” -Dionne Brand

This talk is an excerpt from “Poetics of Justice: A Conversation Between Claudia Rankine and Dionne Brand,” part of the series Caribbean Feminisms.

Dionne Brand: Writing Against Tyranny and Toward Liberation

 

Caroline Leavitt, folks, on the discouragement of writing and how to overcome it

This terrific essay by Caroline Leavitt on Susan Henderson’s LitPark: The Sticky Subject of Success

“I wasn’t successful. I knew it. My friends were getting prizes and important reviews and bookstores so filled that people had to wait outside. When people asked me what I did, I said, “I’m a writer?” with a questioning lilt to my voice because I wasn’t so sure, since success seemed so scarce.

I roamed the bookstores and looked at books and I couldn’t figure out, why was this bestseller better than my book? Why did friends of mine get the things I yearned for—and get them so easily? Was I doing something wrong?” -Caroline Leavitt

Sweet criminy, Warsan.

Just read it.

The House, by Warsan Shire

Writing and Disability: She used to be a writer, but then she got sick

At the wonderful Lit Hub, Emma Smith-Stevens writes about the shock of illness, and how losing physical capacity threw everything else in her life into question.

I Used To Be a Writer

Literary spaces for just women? Or not?

Should we publish at women-only presses? “…female literary magazines and collectives are organizations and communities that have been born out of a need, they are voices that deserve to be heard, a necessary force in an ongoing resistance, but also a symbol of how much more work has yet to be done for the literary world to ever solve its gender problem. These women are not only challenging the literary canon with all-female spaces; they’re rewriting it.”–Thea Hawlin

The Rise of Women-Only Literary Spaces, UK Edition

Lidia Yuknavitch’s Survival Guide for Writers

A while back, the electrifying Lidia Yuknavitch talked to Anna March at Bustle. Two more recent of her books (The Small Backs of Children, The Book of Joan) weren’t published when this interview took place, but the article remains a wonderful piece to guide the working writer back to sanity, and I recommend it.

Bustle

“Matthew Klam’s New Book Is Only 17 Years Overdue” and other tales of failure

 

the new book

Over at Vulture, Taffy Brodesser-Akner has a terrific feature about Matthew Klam’s career and his new book. Every writer should read this. We all deal with self doubt and castigation, I think. The article is a really a good look at Klam’s early fortune; about how just as he was deciding he’d quit writing, he got a yes from Dan Menaker, editor at the New Yorker, for one of his stories. (My stories got lots of comments from Menaker in my time, and once we even moved into editorial, but I never quite got the yes. The story that came closest was published in the Alaska Review.)

The world opened for Matthew Klam, and his list of early awards and honours was daunting. He had it all except for a second book. As the years passed, he still didn’t have a second book. He wrote continually, he tossed continually, he taught instead for its anonymity.

For me, the world never opened, and my talent, which was substantial but wanting, withered from lack of support. I didn’t have an MFA program to weed out weaknesses. I learned slowly. Sometimes folks went mad for one story or essay, but when they wanted more, the more was always so different they didn’t like it. This is a problem with range and writing across genres (and letting my heart have its way).

I needed an imprimatur I didn’t have. A Menaker imprimatur, maybe. Once Ellen Seligman at M+S spent six months telling me yes, telling me no, telling me I don’t know, I go one way, I flop the other way, and I wonder what would have happened if she had said yes eventually, whether that profound novel about child rape in the world of wild mustangs I was then working on would have come to fruition. All these years later, I’m still curious about what would have broken out of me if by chance I had just been valued and nurtured, and really had to work to an editor’s expectations. I would have risen, I know, because I am like that, but in what way, to what end?

What literature did I not produce because I:

a) wasn’t quite good enough?

b) wasn’t repetitive enough?

c) there was discrimination (even inborne and unacknowledged) against certain categories of writers (disabled/queer/feminist)?

d)  wasn’t from the US?

What would those stories and books have been?

I was low-income and a sole-support parent a lot of those years. And of course I asked the same questions Matthew Klam asked himself: What does this matter? Who needs another story? Another novel? To what purpose? To win a prize and still be unable to pay the bills? I certainly never cared about a postmortem reputation–that and $5 I’d get a plastic glass of latte at Starbucks to set on my gravestone.

I won the CBC contest a couple times. I published in the NY Times, the Sun and other strong periodicals (back then and again this year). But no successes ever built, no one ever tucked me under her mentor wing. I still write in my self-propelled bubble without much response. I certainly write now without any hopes at all for the marketplace–really, only to please myself.

I had my perfect form and lost it. I quit writing stories and nobody noticed. I quit writing stories and only a friable piece of my heart noticed. I struggle to write novels, but I am no novelist. I am no novelist.

Maybe Matthew Klam is. I look forward to reading Who Is Rich?

The Vulture

 

 

O publishes “Flipping the Script on Race Expectations”

Chris Buck, photo

Here, at O and Afropunk, the great photo essay flipping the race script.

“For women who are difficult to love”

Warsan Shire, people.

For Women Who Are Difficult To Love

 

Dorothy Allison on Lenny

The inimitable Dorothy Allison on Why Working-Class Literature Is the Strongest

The Remedy for Monday

Here, by Hallie Cantor at the New Yorker, the cure for Monday: Everything I Am Afraid Might Happen If I Ask New Acquaintances to Get Coffee. Thank you, Hallie Cantor, for starting my week off right.

Geeking out on trees. So sexy.

“I came to that realization, first, through my studies of birds and my work with students — teaching them bird sounds. As part of that, we tried to open our ears to the whole acoustic environment, and after several years of doing that, it became very clear to me that trees around me had their own distinct voices and all sorts of stories were tied up in those voices.” -David George Haskell

The Songs of Trees

Field Guide to Dumb Birds

Just in time for spring comes the Field Guide to Dumb Birds. I am bird besotted, but who hasn’t thought “golden crowned dumb shit” to themselves once in a while? I went on the famous Central Park birding walk once, and somehow didn’t fall over a boulder while trying to spy a flash of red in a tree at 800 metres.

Laugh and the whole world laughs with you. I swear it’s true.

Field Guide to Dumb Birds

“Never Call Yourself a Writer, and Other Rules for Writing”

 

Really, this is all you need to know to get started and keep going, by Shawna Kenney, from Brevity:

Never Call Yourself a Writer

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 3.24.04 PM

Many Gendered Mothers

I edit for many gendered mothers, a project on literary influence featuring short essays by writers (of any/all genders) on the women, femme, trans, and non-binary writers who have influenced them, as a direct or indirect literary forebear.

This project is directly inspired by the American website Literary Mothers, created by editor Nadxieli Nieto and managing editor Nina Puro. While we hope that Literary Mothers might eventually return to posting new pieces, our site was created as an extension and furthering of their project (in homage, if you will), and not meant as any kind of replacement.

Even though we’re new, a lot of terrific pieces have already appeared. Catch up with the essays we’ve published so far:

 

“Alice began to undress the past.”

Here, then, from 2011, Jeanette Winterson peeking in at the cows between Gertrude and Alice. How, precisely, did Gertrude bring Alice to her bovine pleasures? Did Gertrude, too, have cows, whether self-administered or Alice-administered? From what acts did cows materialize? How often did they find each other? Did sex wane over the years as Gertrude took lovers?

I traveled to Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and after I had run my palm over the red kisses on Oscar Wilde’s grave I strolled around the corner to Gertrude’s grave, which seemed immense. I thought about fat corpses needing fat coffins needing wide graves, and I thought about how small the eventual skeleton would be underneath. I thought that when Alice, years later, was interred and recognized on the back of Gertrude’s gravestone, she could easily have fit, by then, into Gertrude’s box, with Gertrude, there to produce bubbles of heavenly cows for the rest of eternity.

Granta

Do blue butterflies eat parts of the sky?

NY Times

This stunning piece of filmmaking brought me to tears. I hope you’ll watch this and be as moved as I was. Answering these questions is one of our most sacred trusts.

“What is kind?”

“Can girls be robots?”

“How do you make water?”

“Why do boys cut their hair?”

 

“On Assault and Harassment in the Literary World”

After Bonne Nazdam’s recent article in Tin House (Experts in the Field) today’s compilation on LitHub talks about the murky, damaging world of sexual assault and harrassment in the US lit world, with writers like Anna March, Roxane Gay and Porochista Khakpour.

Lit Hub

 

So You Want To Write About Life

gillianjerome_sidebar_retina

Gillian Jerome is a poet and essayist from Vancouver, British Columbia and a contributing editor at GEIST. Her work has appeared in GEIST, New Poetry, Colorado Review, Malahat Review, Canadian Literature and elsewhere.

Life Writing

March 25 @ 2:30 pm7:30 pm

“I write to define myself—an act of self creation—part of the process of becoming.”
–Susan Sontag

“This workshop is designed for people who aren’t professional writers, but who have something meaningful to say about their lives. We will learn how to discover our stories and to focus our material using techniques of creative nonfiction and Life Review, an educational process that enhances our understanding of ourselves and our lives through storytelling. By reading, writing and participating in interactive exercises, we will be guided toward finding new ways to write about our lives, for ourselves and/or for others.”

Life Writing

%d bloggers like this: