In the most recent issue, #157 August 2017, Rowena Macdonald offers 10 tips for writing dialogue, offering this advice: ". . . remember, when it comes to writing dialogue in prose you need to convey the impression of reality rather than verbatim speech." Silas Dent Zobal [pictured] offers a meaningful exploration of finding the heart of the story and the difficulty of writing about what can't be written: "That's what I want to tell you. Here, right here, is where you can find the heart of the heart of your story. Not in a place but in no place. Not in clarity but in ambiguity." And Joshua Henkin provides commentary on developing character background: when Mia comes from Montreal instead of Maryland, it changes how her family got there and the impact of their choices on her character in story - and the writer's responsibility to the "seeds of a narrative."
Three excellent essays that would be great semester kick-off reading for any creative writing class, and some great basic craft conversation for all writers to consider. Signing up for the bulletins is free.
Given the times we suddenly find ourselves living in, is there even more pressure to write in the moment?
Yes, absolutely. I was thinking so much about how my next book, which is not out yet, is going to be called Scald. [The book came out in February 2017, after this interview.] It’s about feminism and it’s dedicated to three different great feminists. I was so in the zeitgeist of a Hillary Clinton presidency and women, and now I feel so unmoored. But I’m so glad I wrote it when I wrote it because, while I wasn’t thinking of Hillary necessarily when I was writing it, I felt this movement towards women and the feminization of power and saving the planet. Now, we really have to stay in the moment and not stick our heads in the sand. I mean you may have to stick your head in the sand for a week to survive, but then we have to come out strong.
I felt like I often heard people say, “We are having more conversations about race during Barak Obama’s presidency and we will talk more about gender with a female president.” Do you feel like we will talk more or less about gender given the president we ended up with?
He’ll talk a lot less about gender and even his wife will say less. I was reading something just this morning about how she wants to be more like Jackie O. It’s so retro and cultural regression to the max, right? She really wants to go back to the 1960s pillbox hat and not even say anything. We are in big trouble, but I also think because this election is so egregious and Clinton didn’t lose to a man who was moderate or even a Mitt Romney or John McCain, she lost to a misogynist who calls women the worst possible names, I think women are not going to give him a pass. We are going to come back strong, especially since we had a taste of what could have been. I can’t imagine women going, Oh well, we’ll let it go.
I think we’ve been letting it go for decades and centuries and I don’t think we can let it go anymore.
I think that’s also what I admired about your book. You didn’t let it go. You talked about it.
Read the full interview on Aquifer: The Florida Review Online.
Authors whose works are featured in this special issue include: Ocean Vuong, Chen Chen, Rajiv Mohabir, Hoa Nguyen, Kazim Ali, Khaty Xiong, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Zubair Ahmed, Cathy Linh Che, Kimiko Hahn, John Yau, Sarah Gambito, Li-Young Lee, among others. Read the full contents here.
But, alas, what about when there is NO response? What about the silence of a Facebook post? "Writers have always known that theirs is a lonely art," Kuebler comments, "but after spending time on Facebook it’s as if we have to learn this all over again. We have to remember that the audience for literature is largely silent; it takes its time."
Read the full editorial here, and Kuebler's closing comment of appreciation for writers, even if it is only ever offered in silence.
Issue 43 of New Orleans Review is themed "The African Literary Hustle" and opens with the editorial by Mukoma Wa Ngugi and Laura T. Murphy, "This Hustle is Not Your Grandpa's African Lit." The two issue editors examine the historical 'presentation' of African literature published in Western culture as "all too often realist, in English, and in the spirit of Chinua Achebe. But romance, science fiction, fantasy, epic, experimental poetry, satire, and political allegory all find expression in Africa, though not necessarily publication." The editors confront this disparity, "Those who are called to write often have to hustle to get recognition by writing a coming-of-age colonial encounter tale or hustle even harder to have their unique voices heard. So the post-Achebe generation writer faces all sorts of firewalls."
Thus, the call went out for this issue, and writers responded with the editors hoping "to provoke some interesting and unpredictable writing and thinking that would reflect and respond to the spirit of the hustle." Oddly enough, the editors note, "eighty percent of the submissions were from white non-African-identifying writers who thought they could hustle their way into a volume of African literature and had no qualms about it." Seriously.
The editors close on the comment, "But what is African literature? Is there, can there be, was there ever and African literature? In asking you have answered your question. African literature is a question. It is an open question that invites, and has to keep on inviting, different geographies, languages and forms."
Thus, this issue of New Orleans Review: The African Literary Hustle.
Elizabeth Girdharry writes of math and sciences with "Filling Empty Spaces," including the lines "Mathematical formulas, / on how to stay tangent to the line, / somehow slipped my mind," and "There Was Geometry" begins: "There is geometry in my junk drawer." And comes back around to, "More importantly, / there is geometry in my junk drawer. / Angles and tangents twist out of circles / the same way you smooth back flyaway wisps of baby hair / when you're pondering a hard science theory."
Elise Wing crafts strong imagery to draw her readers in. "The Microscope" begins "Dead diatom / Crisp as a leaf skeleton," and "The Living That Terrifies" begins with the amusing but poignant, "Your ears are the trees for egrets to nest in," and "Tomorrow, the Seagulls" starts, "The future is as frightening as a three-headed hyena."
NewPages includes Hanging Loose in our Young Writers Guide where we list publications written by and for young writers and readers as well as a vetted, ad-free list of contests for young writers.