Tag Archive | women’s history month

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!

Hear Becky Roar!

Unfortunately Women’s History Month (March) has ended but I’ve found a way (aha!) to keep the spotlight on women history makers while also acknowledging National Poetry Month (April).

National Poetry Month

I am blessed to have met several women poets who are amazing wordsmiths and lovely survivors. Two in particular are Becky Baggett and Serena Wills. I asked these two poets the same question I asked Lovenia Leapart and Carol Balawyder, two women writers that I featured in March. That question: what woman/woman writer influenced you and/or your literary career? Both Becky and Serena agreed to answer the question in article form and share their articles with me. I, in turn, am happy to share them with you. First up is Becky.

Becky blogs at Sweet Alchemy Poetry Farm and there you can enjoy some of her poetry as well as her article on Adeline Hornbek, pioneer and woman history maker. Click here for a treat…https://sweetalchemypoetryfarm.wordpress.com/

Poetry

Hear Carol Roar!

I am continuing the Women’s History Month celebration by sharing an article written by Carol Balawyder.

Carol Balawyder

Carol is a fiction and non-fiction author who writes about things that matter to her such as justice, mid-life dating, grief and writing workshops. She also publishes several blog series: How I Got Published, Femme Fatale, Nobel Prize Laureates, Writers’ Desks and Ten Great First Dates. Her recent book-length works, Getting to Mr. Right and Missi’s Dating Adventures are receiving starred and high-praise reviews from readers. I know this reader (me!) personally enjoyed both books and can’t read more from this talented lady.

When I asked Carol which woman or female writer had the greatest influence on her literary career, she, like so many others, had a list yea-long. But after much thought, she settled on one person. Read on to learn about her greatest influencer…

Sara Paretsky

Sara Paretsky

Honoring a History Maker

by Carol Balawyder

There are so many women writers who have inspired me and from whom I’ve taken something and applied to my own collage of writing. They range from Jacqueline Susann to Nobel Prize Laureates. But no writer, whether male or female, has had such an impact on my choice to write crime fiction than Sara Paretsky.

In 2011 Paretsky was named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. She is the recipient of many awards, including the prestigious Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for lifetime achievement from the British Crime Writers’ Association. She is also considered the founding mother of Sisters in Crime, an organization which supports and promotes women in the mystery field.

Traditionally in noir fiction, women were either helpless sex symbols tempting the man (usually a detective) into illicit behavior or they were portrayed as cold and selfish. However, through her V.I Warshawski private investigator, Paretsky transformed the role and image of women in noir fiction.

V.I. Warshawski is no helpless femme fatale. Nor does she fit into the Chandleresque female role of vixen, vamp or victim. Warshawski is a woman who isn’t defined by sexuality and needs no rescuing.

She is physically tough but no bully. Courageous and yet self-doubting. She is introspective and has a strong moral conscience. Warshawski is smart and well-educated, having attended university on an athletic scholarship to earn a law degree and worked in the Public Defender’s office before becoming a private investigator.

Sara Paretsky created the first credible female investigator in American crime fiction –  a feminist detective with high ideals. One who is concerned about the effects of racism, classism and sexism. She is out to right social wrongs most often found in the crook and crannies of white-collar crime. Paretsky, through her sixteen bestselling V.I. novels (and still writing), has made it her mission to speak for those in society’s margins who are underheard.

For that, I believe, she merits honor in Women’s History Month.

References: (http://scholars.wlu.ca/etd/3/)

(http://www.saraparetsky.com/)

(http://www.sistersincrime.org/)

Thank you Carol for sharing your thoughts on women history makers, and specifically Sara Paretsky. I had no idea Paretsky challenged the noir crime fiction status and thereby changed the genre for all times. Good for her; good for us, women; and good for the world.

If you want to learn more about Sara Paretsky, visit her website by clicking here. To learn more about Carol, visit her website here.

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.

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.