BHM Series 2023 (28 Days, 28 Stories) – Week 1

My 2023 February Black History Month series is (unlike previous years when I mostly showcased books by other writers) spotlighting stories by me which have appeared in journals or other serialized publications. I hit on this idea when I realized while doing some housekeeping in other publications, updating the poetry section, that there have been 28 journaled short stories and February is typically 28 days (28 days, 28 stories). I worried and still do about keeping up with a daily upload schedule. So to incentivize myself and make it not feel like a totally indulgent exercise, decided to create a companion project; every time I post, I’ve got to work on my short story collection in progress (short story in, short story out) with the goal of concluding by the end of this month (because there is some foot dragging at this point). This provides a bit of cheerleading/encouragement to that process and represents a commitment/rhythm to the writing and revision process. Due to time constraints (and the tedium of editing), the video readings uploaded to a playlist on my Antiguan Writer YouTube channel, and shared across my social media, are only one minute long. Nothing fancy – just my voice and the journal cover, if I have it. Some of the stories are freely available in full online and some are not; some of the journals can be ordered. If there’s a story you’d like to read in full which isn’t linked through my page of journaled fiction, ask and I’ll think about posting it at some point.

I, of course, hope you’ll follow or subscribe to continue to receive updates in this daily series of one minute reads; even if you’ve read my books, hopefully it will show more of my range, and if you haven’t, it will be an introduction to my fiction. I appreciate you taking the journey with me; feel free to share your comments on any of the stories you read or listen to…and hopefully this journey will result in more published stories to read sooner rather than later.

Each day’s blog posting related to this series is linked below and below that I’ve shared some notes on how they got published (which aspiring writers may or may not find useful):

February 1st – “Bitter Memories”, published in Collective Soul, 1998

February 2nd – “Martin, Dorie, and Luis: A Love Story”, published in Jamaica’s Sunday Observer Literary Arts, 2004

February 3rd – “Rhythms”, published in The Caribbean Writer Volume 18, 2004

February 4th – “Soca Night”, published in the Daily Observer 50th anniversary of Carnival arts supplement, Carnival Is All We Know, 2007

February 5th – “Friday Night Fish Fry”, published in the Sea Breeze Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writings, 2008

You can listen to my full reading of this one at the 2008 Breadloaf Writers Conference, at which I was an international fellow, here.

How did I get published –

“Bitter Memories” – I was asked to contribute to this by a local writers’ group, which was, at the time, hosting poetry readings; it was 1998 and I was not yet published but I was working in media, so I was on the scene. How did I get published? By connecting with the local writing community.

“Martin, Dorie, and Luis: A Love Story” – This was during a period when I was actively looking for regional publishing opportunities (which, with no easily searchable engine, would have been more challenging then – scrolling the backs of literary journals for publishing credits is a hack). This may have been my first creative writing cheque too. How did I get published? By tapping regional markets.

“Rhythms” – While scouting, I would become aware of other publications and continue submitting, six rounds of submissions in the case of this journal, on the boundary of regional and international (being located in the US Virgin Islands). The challenge here was to keep submitting after each rejection. How did I get published? Persistence.

“Soca Night” – I was freelancing by this point, a period during which I continue to learn what I can do, and this was a case of me, as someone both passionate about Carnival and the arts in gene,ral, mindful of milestones (it being the 50th anniversary of Carnival), pitching a publication I worked with to edit a Carnival arts supplement. My priority was featuring other artists but I was an artist too. How did I get published? Creating my own opportunities.

“Friday Night Fish Fry” – In one of the aforementioned publications, I came across a writer whose writing I liked and whom I reached out to. When she was editing (guest editing, I think) the journal she reached out and I seized the opportunity. How did I get published? Networking and responding when opportunity came knocking.

Only one of these was a paying market but each had value to me (as I tried to make my way in to the canon), and, reflecting on the path to publication, I note that I started local and kept widening the circle. I hope that insight proves useful to any writer needing to get started or (myself included) keep going – write, do not be discouraged, scope for opportunities, and embrace them when they come.

This is my Sunday post.

Journaling Writing 04-02-23

My brain was still only halfway to waking when I found my hand moving for my journal. Found it but unable to find a pen before the image and feeling floating around in the in-between drifted away as dreams do on waking, I turned on the lap top, which felt too slow to power up in the moment. Since I started journaling again, I’ve been creating first on the page (old school, just writing) rather than straight to screen. By the time the lap top went through its powering up ablutions, a process that never seemed so slow, slower still with my computer not being itself, not unlike the character in the scene (from the novel in progress) I was trying to hang on to, I typed what I could but it was a short paragraph that didn’t feel as … pure(?)…as the thought and feeling that first gripped me. Like if I had been able to write it as quickly as I saw and felt it, I might have had so much more. I was a child when I watched the first Terminator making it one of my fairytales and as fairytales do it helped shape my idea of the world, which I say to say, while not a technophobe I side-eye AI like a muthafucker…but if there had been a way to download the thought and feeling from my brain to something solid, I might have seized it. Because the getting there took too damn long and feels like an echo and not the real thing. But still I write.

I’m going to go continue work on the short story collection in progress now but, per my Feburary (28 stories, 28 days) project, sharing each of my journaled short stories, here’s the fourth one minute read.

A bit about this publication – it was a first for me. I’d edited articles, supplements, even magazines for clients by this point as a freelancer. But I birthed this one. Carnival’s 50th anniversary was coming up and I pitched an Antigua-Carnival themed arts supplement to the Daily Observer which paid me to edit it. I commissioned the pieces, worked with the authors and artists (including cover artist Heather Doram) in securing permissions etc, and edited the copy (light editing mostly), and was just so excited about the project overall (which made the rollout that much more anti-climatic for me but that’s another story). Of my own writing, I included an excerpt from the as yet unpublished novel Oh Gad! and the short short (essentially flash fiction) story “Soca Night” which I remember was in part shaped by experiences of some of the calypso and soca artists I had interviewed – including the veteran who reflected on receiving a bottle of rum as their prize, something Calypso monarch Short Shirt referenced in one of his calypsos (I now recall) in comparing the prize given to the queens with the “two bottle ah rum” given to the calypsonians.

Anyway, on to write.

Journaling Writing 03-02-23

…indeed, January is thought of as the longest month typically (as mentioned just now in an email in my inbox – which I am TRYYYYING to clear dammit!) but this January felt different for me and I think it had a lot to do with my mindset going in to it (which with some exceptions made me better able to cope with the bumps) and, not unrelated to that mindset, the fact that I was writing as a daily habit again. February came too quick if you ask me because there has had to be a priority shift for me in February and my spirit isn’t adjusted. I’m trying to make space for that January energy even with February t’ings.

Case in point, I journaled first thing this morning as has been the pattern a few mornings but I can feel the urgency of other life things pressing in – the pressure. I didn’t get to work on the short story collection in progress (per this month’s goals) until later in the day but I did a little work on it – and identified another incentive related to that. So things aren’t cooking but they’re bubbling.

The other part of those February goals is of course posting a one minute read of one of my journaled stories (28 days, 28 stories). Today’s was “Rhythms” in The Caribbean Writer in 2004. I remember this was a big deal for me after six years of straight rejections.

The journal that this appears in, The Caribbean Writer Volume 18 is available for purchase on their website and there’s video of me reading a different excerpt from it during Caribbean Writer virtual event also on my Antiguan Writer YouTube channel.

Carib Lit Plus (Early to Mid February 2023)

Wadadli Pen

A reminder that the process with these Carib Lit Plus Caribbean arts bulletins is to do a front and back half of the month, updating as time allows as new information comes in; so, come back, or, if looking for an earlier installment, use the search window. (in brackets, as much as I can remember, I’ll add a note re how I sourced the information – it is understood that this is the original sourcing and additional research would have been done by me to build the information shared here – credit and link back if you use).

Accolades

The Dublin Literary Award longlist 2023 (culled from titles nominated by libraries across the world) has been published and I didn’t note any Caribbean titles (with the exception of An Unusual Grief by Yewande Omoto, listed as a Barbados/Nigeria/South Africa). So I decided to share it because there should be…

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Journaling Writing + Reading 02-02-23

Yes, this is a two-fer, a reading AND writing journal not because I’ve had abundant time for either but it’s high day, my eyes are heavy with lots still to do, so time is contracted but I want to continue to feed this part of my life. So here goes.

Re reading – while running errands today, I pushed forward in Natasha Lightfoot’s Troubling Freedom: Antigua and the Aftermath of British Emancipation, and after a rough start (due to the academic nature of the work), I’m finding it quite interesting (and has already inspired two creative works including “Lucille and Clifton” and “Black Gregory” – the former available for reading in full here on the site) as it digs in to the social history, the players and the stakes of the post Emancipation period on my island, the differences between what happened post-Emancipation on my island and our sister island, Barbuda. It’s an education and has prompted me to update the media history of Antigua and Barbuda (specifically the section re anti-slavery advocate, newspaperman, and free coloured Henry Loving, the physical attacks on him for his advocacy and how those he stood up for – Black people enslaved in Antigua – retaliated on his behalf) on the other blog I manage. In the reading, I’m reminded that the tensions between the islands are not new and for enslaved people, slavery, and the labour restrictions bakkra (local name for enslavers) employed, was never a choice. Slavery ended legally in Antigua in August 1834 and by December 1834, bakkra who controlled the economy, the government (locally – the islands themself were held by Britain), and the courts had legislated new controls enshrined in the Contract Act that would define the lives of Black labourers in Antigua (less so Barbuda, it seems, given the uncertainty of their situation) for another 100 years. I’m up to p. 98 so about six pages read while running errands today.

Re writing – still journaling, still needing to transfer some of what I’ve been journaling which I have identified as related to creative works in progress or trying to be born; and then there’s my February project (I’m sharing the opening excerpt as a one minute read, one a day from each of my 28 journaled works of fiction for Black History Month). You can catch the ones you miss on the related playlist on my YouTube channel Antiguan Writer. This is the latest one, from “Martin, Dorie, and Luis: A Love Story” published in 2004.

This is one of those stories I could upload in full to the blog – let me know if there’s interest in that.

Sharing these stories is only half of the February (28 days, 28 stories) project, the other half is advancing work on my short story collection in progress toward the goal of closing that chapter (that chapter being the wip stage of that collection). It means that every day I post, every day I must also work on the collection; the every day part is a challenge but so far not a challenge I don’t wish to take on – having found the creative urge again, I am desperate to hold space for it amid all the other musts of life. So I’ll keep pushing. Even if it means taking the writing with me everywhere I go.

Journaling Writing 01-02-23

I journaled first thing this morning (ETA: i.e. February 1st 2023), then did the first upload of my February project (see video below), before today’s excursion (a time out but not wholly so as I took my laptop with me and did some revisions on a couple of stories). All told, it’s been a long day and I am some weird combination of tired but rested, and I’m glad that I continue to engage with the page. I hope I can keep up with this February project to share one-minute-reads of my journaled short stories (while trying to wrap up my short story collection in progress). I’m excited about it but there’s a lot to do – send help (lol).

Happy first day of Black History Month (only 27 days to go).

Story excerpted, “Bitter Memories” published 1998 in Collective Soul. It is one of 28 published short stories listed among my journaled fiction.

Journaling Writing 31-01-23

Dreaming, waking, that wasn’t real?, what’s that noise?, and why is it getting louder?…I’m not a you must write in the morning person but the instinct to do so as your brain and body try to catch up with the world is a thing, or was my thing, today. A usually silent character in my wip showed up, and I was curious and excited by that. I don’t feel in control of my environment just now and it was that that drew the character out because he could relate. There was an instance in the writing forward where I scratched out instead of writing through (editing while writing) and chastised myself for doing so, write forward, girl, don’t look back, not yet (let whatever this is be messy). Write.

Got a few pages of my chicken scratch down… but real life says pause, have to review, edit, and submit my column, have correspondence I need to follow up on, all that stuff. Need coffee. And quiet. I can do something about one of those.

Can’t believe this is the last day of January; dreading and looking forward to my February project.

Journaling Writing 30-01-23.2

I picked dumms on my walk today and wrote this.

Dumms Picking with Daddy

Don’t eat the snatty ones

They taste like how they sound

Don’t be fooled by the yellow ones

Sometimes the green much much sweeter

Don’t pick without looking

Some trees aggressive, will dig you soon as you stretch yuh hand

Don’t think just because a tree bitter, e cyaarn sweet

Try pulling from the next limb and see what flavour you meet

It’s the simplest of pleasure, one every Caribbean child should know

As you wander, stop and taste the land; know where you come from

Watch where you stepping though

Dumms tree love tangle up with cassi and cow doo-doo

Explainer:

The voice is that of the boy in my book The Jungle Outside in which his father briefly makes an appearance in flashback.

Dumms are a small, yellowish-green, greenish-yellow, brown if overripe seeded berry (fruit) ubiquitous in the Caribbean (where it has numerous names; dumms is the Antiguan name). See the online Caribbean Dictionary for more.

I don’t remember if dumms were mentioned in The Jungle Outside and wasn’t really planning to share this bit of spontaneous verse, but I was tickled by a twitter post I came across referencing another fruit from the book – gynep – posted by a father who tweeted, “Just had to look this fruit up after it turned up in my daughter’s reading book (The Jungle Outside by Joanne Hillhouse).” I think that’s kind of neat, that a simple mention of a fruit so common in my world opened up a path of discovery for someone in another world.

I hadn’t planned to write more in the world of Dante (the little boy in The Jungle Outside) but today’s detour opened a path for me as well. & since this moment can’t quite convey how horrible smelling the budding of this sweet tasting fruit is, I just had to insert a reference to cow manure, a euphemism for what that horrible smell…smells like.

Journaling Writing 30-01-23

Thought I might try to catch the fading images of a vivid night (or morning) of dreaming, but they wouldn’t catch and I ended up writing about heartbeats instead.

January is coming to an end and it’s a little saddening but if I can decree a birthday month, I suppose I can decree a birthday year and not think of it as an ending. It’s all about how you look at things…

I like those ellipses. The future is yet unwritten and isn’t that exciting.

Journaling Writing 29-01-23 (Plus Reading Journal and Sunday Post)

Yeah, this is kind of a catch-all. I’ll link it up with the Caffeinated Reviewer’s Sunday Post.

Journaling Writing – had my second impromptu roadside writing activity this year. The last one was over coffee; this one was so much more unplanned (neither one was planned but yesterday’s was coffee-less) – some combination of walking the streets of my old neighbourhood and a recent conversation about school times producing an urgency to put pen to paper. I sat on the steps of a closed up corner shop and filled several pages and when I stopped writing plot threads related to the story were still unravelling and trying to find their way to each other. I may have a new story (watch this space).

Reading Journal – I finished the book I was asked to blurb and wrote a review but I won’t share it until the public rollout of the book begins. I DNF’d for now slain Guyanese writer and activist Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, and, as usual, especially with books I think are worth reading even if I have temporarily or permanently shelved them, explained why in Blogger on Books. I read a bit more of British writer Ann Morgan’s Crossing Over and the only reason I’m not more than 20 pages in is time. Dipped in to a few literary journals, Sky Islands with its various stories of an alternate Caribbean, including my own story “Ixie and Izzy“, Dappled Things, a Catholic journal which just published my poem “Happy New Year”, and Speak Out! 4 (be sure to check out my reviews of 1, 2, and 3).

Life things – …besides it being entirely too loud this morning for a Sunday and me missing the island rhythms of my childhood when Sundays were organically mostly stiller than the rest of the week???…I’m trying to strike a balance between staying on top of things and not killing myself with anxiety…writing is helping…but even with journaling again, it’s hard to get things ordered, some ying yang beween trying to hold too many things in your hand and dumms picking.

My Antiguan Writer YouTube channel hit a milestone, vote in the poll under the community tab of how we celebrate, and check this post from the Wadadli Pen blog to see what other content and writing goals I have coming up.

Okay, enough procrastinating; I have cleaning to do…and hopefully lots more writing.