Tag Archive | women writers

A Continuation of Women and Poetry

A few weeks ago, I was pleased to introduce Danette Cross, a fellow author in the recently released Voices from the Block. I am continuing my series on women writers who are also poets as a nod to Women’s History Month (March) and National Poetry Month (April). This time out I am super excited to feature Kisura Usiku.

Kisura Pic

Kisura writes poetry and fiction and freelances in her spare time. When she’s not writing, she’s making the world a better place through her role as Special Educator in her local school district. In Voices from the Block she has the most diverse offering–a poem, a fiction start (the first few scenes of a novel in progress) and a creative non fiction essay.

I asked Kisura a few questions so we could get to know her better and below are her responses. I hope you enjoy reading her comments and learning more about this dynamic young writer.

  1. What prompted you to pursue writing as a creative outlet?

I’m not sure if I’ve ever pursued it…writing sort of strolled up to my house one day, knocked, and when I opened the door, writing moved in. I guess that means we just clicked. Writing showed up and the connection felt like the most organic thing that’s happened to me.

  1. How do you get in the writing mood?

Reading, listening to great music or watching other creatives work…I also get into the mood to write via emotional pulls: if someone pisses me off or if I am overwhelmed with love, lust, bitterness, rage or snark…I write it out.

  1. How do you know when a poem, short story, novel, etc. is “finished?”

It’s different for different forms for me…with a short story, I enjoy writing endings that leave you wanting more…you know, that’s the end of that conflict, but there’s something lingering or something that makes a reader wish the story went on. A poem, I know it’s done when I’ve conveyed the message in a way that vibrates…like the message echoes in the head of the reader. It’s difficult to pull that off, at least it is to me, so sometimes I will leave a poem unfinished for awhile because I’ve lost the mood or I’ve gone through the emotion that has caused me to pen the poem in the first place. I usually come back to it when the emotion resurfaces.

  1. What or who has been your greatest writing influence?

Um..well there are quite a few and the list is still growing, but some of my favorite writers are Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Lucille Clifton, Gwendolyn Brooks, Toni Morrison, J.K. Rowling, Amy Tan, John Steinbeck, Gillian Flynn, Colleen Hoover, Paula Hawkins, Caroline Kepnes, Robert Dugoni, Robert Bryndza, and quite recently: Yaa Gyasi and Angie Thomas.

  1. Do you have a preferred writing form? Poetry, short story, scripts, essays, etc.?

No preference…just write what moves me.

  1. What are your future writing plans?

I plan to finish and self publish a labor of love: a book of poems about, for, and to my husband…as my first self published book. I have no intention of marketing or doing anything that falls within the traditional realms of publishing/self publishing with this book and will only publish one copy…it’s personal, just for him, but an accomplishment for me because it will be my first published book. It’s the most romantic gesture I can offer…and he deserves that and then some. From there I’m working on a mystery and a literary fiction novel…

  1. What do you say to people who tell you, “I want to write a book?”

Ha, me too, let’s stop talking and do it.

  1. What was your first thought when you held your first published work in your hands?

I still can’t believe it…I held it in my hands and just looked at it and thought, WOW! I’m in here (regarding Voices from the Block)? I half expected to open it and discover that I was the victim of some cruel joke and my writing was cut out of the anthology at the witching hour.

  1. What was the most challenging thing about the publishing process for you? What was the most rewarding?

What isn’t? But if I had to pick I’d say the most challenging thing to me is finding a great cover designer and editor. The most rewarding is avoiding clichés while writing.

  1. How/What do you feel about the future of publishing?

That’s a question that goes against me living in the now…LOL. How do I feel? I feel that I am the future in publishing…not in a self centered way, but in a visualize and manifest my dreams, law of attraction type of way…so I see published works in my future. As for the industry of publishing: it’s controversial…the big five have clout but there is a growing eclipse with self publishing and indie authors. It’s no longer looked down upon…and that’s a great thing for ALL writers in my opinion. You get total control over your art from start to finish…

To check out Kisura’s writings, click here! And I’ll be back in a few weeks with more women as poets.

One Month Wasn’t Enough

Last month we celebrated Women’s History Month and this month we celebrate poets and poetry during National Poetry Month. Because LIFE has been hectic since January, I wasn’t able to post my usual features on fabulous women authors and women groundbreakers. So without consulting the gods, I decided to carry over March and mix it up with April to feature some amazing women poets, some of whom (who vs. whom, anyone know?) I happen to share publishing pages with in Voices from the Block.

So without further delay, the first featured woman poet,

Danette Pic

Danette Cross

Danette is not only a soul-stirring poet, but also…

  1. a gifted vocalist
  2. an inspirational blogger
  3. an expert proofreader
  4. a newlywed
  5. and an all around good person. She’s one of those rare people you easily bond with because she has such an accepting, loving spirit.

I asked Danette to share a bit about herself as a creative person and here’s what she had to say from her soul to her pen to you…

  1. What prompted you to pursue writing as a creative outlet? I love creative expression and realized over time that writing repeatedly gave me the most comfort to the point that I, on occasion, crave the feeling of a pen in my hand.
  2. How do you get in the writing mood? I try to create a relaxing environment, sometimes with instrumental music. This allows my thoughts to flow uninterrupted.
  3. How do you know when a poem is “finished?” A poem is finished when the thought is resolved in some way. Typically, it stops “speaking” or “doing”.
  4. What or who has been your greatest writing influence? My love for reading and words as well as various poets and authors, like Maya Angelou, e.e. cummings, Emily Pound, Victoria Christopher Murray, Francine Rivers, Frank Perretti, J. California Cooper, Donna Hill and Cornel West.
  5. Do you have a preferred writing form? Poetry, short story, scripts, essays, etc.? Poetry. It’s my way of getting my thoughts on paper without strict grammar rules.
  6. What are your future writing plans? More poetry and hopefully some storytelling.
  7. What do you say to people who tell you, “I want to write a book?” Go for it and take it seriously. Use other critical pairs of eyes to produce a good read.
  8. What was your first thought when you held your first published work in your hands? “Wow. I’m printed on a page.” I was blown away, humbled and exposed. My secret was out. 🙂
  9. What was the most challenging thing about the publishing process for you? What was the most rewarding? The most challenging was adhering to deadlines. The most rewarding was completing each step along the way.
  10. How/What do you feel about the future of publishing? 2 things. 1.) I am excited for those who self-publish. Why wait on some select group to approve your work when you can approve yourself? 2.) I hope physical books last forever versus electronic everything. I love hardcovers and am fond of paperbacks.

A big thanks to Danette for opening herself to the world both through this interview and through her lovely poetry. You can learn even more about Danette and read some of her beautiful thoughts by visiting her blog at frolicfinagle.tumblr.com.

Thanks for celebrating women, poetry and more with me. I encourage one and all to go out and discover a new poet this month…maybe it’s you!

Loving Lady Lazuli – A Book Review

I do most of my reading in the early morning hours between two and four a.m. So since I’m sacrificing valuable sleep to engage in my absolute favorite pastime – reading – I want to make sure the book is really, really good. And I’m happy to share I’ve only had a few misses. Most of the stories I’ve read this year have been great, enjoyable, recommendable. As is the case with Loving Lady Lazuli by Shehanne Moore.

loving-lady-lazuli

When you have a story where the heroine has a wicked background and the hero, too, there are soooooo many interesting ways the story can work itself out. So many interesting ways for the characters to grow and change…or not. So many interesting ways to put a nice, red bow on the ending. And that’s exactly what Moore has done: created an interesting story that is ripe with potential and the fulfillment of expectation; one that doesn’t disappoint.

Page three puts the main characters—Devorlane Hawley and Sapphire—in a forced encounter, which we quickly learn is not a first for them. Their attraction is rekindled immediately, and readers, hold on to your e-readers because it goes fast from there. In the next few hundred pages, there’s lies, sex, betrayal, bloodshed, sex, conditions, misunderstandings, sex and finally, love (breathy sigh!).

I won’t spoil your enjoyment by sharing story details but I do want to point out that this is a historical fiction novel. Moore expertly blends English customs, various dialects, and factual points of history into the telling of the tale. All combined, it adds even more depth to a story pregnant with strong story conflict, a cast of savory and unsavory secondary characters, humor, and an ending to please.

You’ll be glad you read this one and here’s an additional bonus (drum roll!)…it’s book one in the London Jewel Thieves series. That means there are more gems (characters and books) to come.

Loving Lady Lazuli is a creatively-thrilling and engaging read. I hope you’ll join me on this wickedly jeweled reading adventure.

To learn more about Moore and additional titles she’s written, click here.

Happy reading and happy holidays!

Hear Lovenia Roar!

LoveniaLLovenia Leapart, Writer, Author, World Citizen

Meet one of the most courageous writers I know…Lovenia Leapart. Some years ago, Lovenia and I belonged to the same writers group. We clicked on so many levels that even though time has marched on and many miles separate us, we have remained connected. I am so proud of her and all she is accomplishing, so much so that when I considered women writers to profile this month along with the woman history-maker that they admire or were influenced by, I thought of her. Below is Lovenia’s article and I’m sure you’ll be as impressed and inspired as I am.

Wrapped in Rainbows

Most people know Zora Neale Hurston almost exclusively in terms of her writing, but not many know her as an adventurer. At a time when most women lived lives of quiet domesticity and it was extremely rare for blacks to travel internationally, Zora Neale Hurston, driven by her deep and enduring curiosity about people and culture, traveled alone throughout the deep South (reportedly carrying a chrome-plated pistol for protection), and spent time living in Jamaica, Haiti and Honduras. It was through reading Valerie Boyd’s exceptional work (aka masterpiece), Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston, that I was able to really gain a true understanding of the fearless kind of way in which Ms. Hurston lived. And ironically, soon after reading this work, I found myself entertaining opportunities to go abroad to live and work. Needless to say, I had to deal with a myriad of fears that threatened to keep me from doing what my spirit was calling me to do. But having read about Ms. Hurston’s travels, it was clear that there were times when Ms. Hurston found herself quite outside of her comfort zone in these foreign lands, and at a time before cell phones and internet access could have cushioned the fallout from any number of misadventures. Reading that, I thought, if Ms. Hurston could follow her heart’s urgings and live so boldly in her day, in this time of modern technology surely I can find the internal wherewithal to do the same.

I did. So off I went to China, not knowing a drop of Chinese and not having the slightest idea about what to expect from myself or the culture. And the trip blew my mind so wide open that I have been irrevocably changed by the experience. So, beyond sharing a love of the craft of writing, I also feel a “kindred connection” with Ms. Hurston that now includes a passion for adventure, exploration, and discovery that comes from traveling and living internationally and off the beaten path.

It often takes tremendous courage and internal fortitude to break away from the herd and go after one’s dreams and live life on one’s own terms. To honor that, Evelyn Bourne and I have created a podcast called Working Your Mission, which is an interview series that highlights people who are making a living doing work they love. Through this project, we hope to provide inspiration and useful advice to others who would do the same. I think all artists have within them an innate level of fearlessness (otherwise, we simply could not do the work that we do) and I’ve come to believe that allowing that fearlessness to unfold in areas of our lives beyond our work not only makes us better artists, but ultimately, more fulfilled and self-actualized human beings as well. Zora Neale Hurston certainly did that, and the bold and courageous way in which she lived her life continues to give me inspiration to do the same.

Lovenia is the author of the paranormal romance novella, Marked by Temptation. She is currently at work on the sequel, as yet untitled, and is planning to release her novel, Consolation Prize next spring. She partners with Evelyn Bourne on the Working Your Mission podcast series.

Hear Us Roar

I am always excited when a new year rolls around because it offers three great months—back to back no less—to celebrate greatness. In January we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In February we trumpet the achievements of African-Americans and in March we shine the light on the accomplishments of women.

Due to a writing deadline and a series of family situations, I was unable to celebrate Dr. King or Black History Month. This means I must do March BIG, and I am. I am merging two great things—Women’s History Month and A Tour through Blogland (an online tour of various blogs that deserve recognition) to spotlight four remarkably talented women writers (who have amazing blogs or outstanding content on their websites) and the women in history who influenced them. These four women have agreed to blog on my site this month and I am proud to present them to you now. They are:

Becky Baggett – week of March 8

Carol Balawyder – week of March 15

Lovenia Leapart – week of March 22

Serena Wills – week of March 29

Some of the guest writers will answer four questions about their creative selves and their creative process (this is the A Tour through Blogland portion) before sharing remarks about their chosen history-maker (this is the Women’s History Month portion). I am so excited to learn more about them and I can’t wait to read their articles because I know it will be yet another opportunity to stick out my chest and proudly call myself a woman.

To start off this great month, I will present my history-maker. She is not a woman who is known worldwide and she is not recorded in any history books that I am aware of, but she is an historical figure nonetheless. She is Rev. Bonell Fields, my mother.

Honor the Choosing

It is an established fact that education for girls and women is the most effective way to elevate the living conditions (wealth, health, emotional stability, future, etc.) of families and subsequently communities. I can attest to this in my own life.

In her twenties, my mother was a divorcee with three young children. We moved in with my grandmother and my mother immediately enrolled in nursing school at a vocational and technical school. After completing her studies, she worked full-time as a pediatric nurse and focused the rest of her time on raising her children, managing to send all of us off to college. In her forties, with her children grown and gone, she began work on her undergraduate degree at seminary and graduated within four years with a higher grade point average than any of her children. This while also working full-time in nursing and raising one nephew and two of her teenage nieces. She then embarked on a five year pastoral study to receive her license to preach and pastor. Ordination was next, followed by her first assignment–pastor of St. Stephen’s AME church in Enid, OK. This marked the occasion of the first female African-American pastor in Enid. And when I tell you she went through hell in those early years, that’s an understatement. In the Christian world, one would not expect pastors to be judgmental and unwelcoming, but that’s exactly the treatment my mom received. She was ostracized, criticized and harshly judged. Sounds an awful lot like the treatment Jesus received, huh? But, she endured and today although she is retired from both nursing and pastoring, she mentors neophyte pastors, both male and female, and writes about her life experiences.

I thank God for choosing my mom to be my mom. She is an amazing woman! Even though her name is not in the history books, she is my history-maker, my role model, my positive influence, and I love her dearly. So in honor of Women’s History Month, I salute my mother—Rev. Bonell Fields.

Happy National Poetry Month

I’m a little behind in sharing my well wishes for an extraordinary and exciting poetry month. There are many events and programs planned throughout the month of April which will highlight the gift of poetry and its importance to humanity. I, too, am planning to shine the light on poetry through my weekly blog posts. In my posts, I’ll focus on the poet laureate position, presidential inauguration poems, poems as songs, and poetry giants. So without further ado, my first nod to National Poetry Month…

When I first heard the title Poet Laureate I was intrigued. I had just learned that Gwendolyn Brooks, a Black woman, like me, had been appointed poet laureate for the United States. I was so proud but also ignorant. What the heck is a poet laureate? I wondered. What do they do? I don’t remember what life event was going on at the time that prevented me from researching answers to my questions, but here it is years later and I now have the answers.

First, poet laureate is an appointed position. The Librarian of Congress selects a status poet to the position. A status poet is one who has published a collection(s) of poems, has achieved some level of recognition for their work, has probably won awards for their writings, and is involved in promoting the art of poetry, and more.

Second, the position’s length of term is one year but some terms have been extended at the pleasure of the librarian such as with the current poet laureate, Natasha Trethewey. While in the position, the poet laureate is responsible for pushing the agenda of poetry. It is up to the poet laureate to determine how this is achieved but most conduct readings, lecture, host literary events, conduct radio and TV interviews and programs, compose poems for the nation, etc.

Third, there is not only a poet laureate for the United States but also for each state. Well, for many of the states; a few states do not have a poet laureate position. Responsibilities and requirements at the state level may differ from the national role.

NTrethewey

Trethewey, our current United States Poet Laureate claims Mississippi as her home state. She is the author of four books, one of which Native Guard won the Pulitzer Prize. Her work tends to focus on history, tragedy and mixed race issues; all subjects that have touched and therefore shaped her life. Below is a list of her other titles:

Domestic Work

Beyond Katrina

Bellocq’s Ophelia

Thrall

This April during National Poetry Month, I encourage you to take some time to check out one of her books. Her words will move you beyond belief.

Until next week, happy reading and writing of poetry.

(Photo copyright Jon Rou)

Alas, The End

Today, another Women’s History Month comes to a close. It’s been a fun month of spotlighting many fine women who also happen to be talented writers. Prepare to meet the last of the seven soul-deep, inspiring women writers who I chose to feature this month. These women writers pooled their talents to make “Voices from the Block: A Legacy of African-American Literature” a five-star anthology; a must read!

Meet

Ingrid Lawton & Breggett Rideau

Both Ingrid and Breggett have rock’em, sock’em poems in “Voices,” and Ingrid also has a short story that will leave you gasping in surprise.

Ingrid Lawton
Ingrid is a native Texan, who writes poetry and short stories. She has also completed a screenplay for young adults. The short story “Cornbread and Buttermilk” and the poem “Schizophrenia” which appear in “Voices from the Block” are her first published works. She enjoys reading and spending time with friends and family.

Breggett Rideau
Breggett was born in New Orleans and is a graduate of Louisiana State University, where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Science. After college graduation, she worked as a food microbiologist for years until it gave way to her passion—being a jazz singer. Her interest in jazz started when she was three years old, as her father, a jazz purist, had Nancy Wilson and Carmen McRae records playing day and night.

After her first CD, The Opportune Time dropped, Breggett garnered critical acclaim not only from local publications, but also from international institutions. By the invitations of Dr. Gene Cho, Ph.D., Regents Professor, University of North Texas and the Hang Zhou Conservatory, Breggett performed and lectured at Shanghai Conservatory, Shanghai, China in the spring of 2005. She was the first woman of color and jazz artist from the United States to perform and lecture at the conservatory. Currently, she travels extensively singing and sharing her love of jazz.