Apr 24, 2008

a shout out to...

There will be a new writer-in-residence at Northwestern next fall and I just read a couple of the short stories on her website: http://www.sefiatta.com/

Her writing style is intimate, intelligent, and intriguing. I am going to buy her novel this weekend. I hope you check her out. Here's some bio info that I stole from Wikipedia.

Sefi Atta
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Sefi Atta was born in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1964, to a family of five children. Her father( Prince Abdul Aziz Attah ) was the Secretary to Federal Government and Head of the Civil Service until his untimely death in 1972, and she was raised by her mother.
She attended Queen’s College in Lagos and Millfield School in England. In 1985, she graduated from Birmingham University and trained as a chartered accountant. She moved from England to the United States in 1994 with her husband, Gboyega Ransome-Kuti, a medical doctor. They have one daughter.
Sefi began to write while working as a CPA in New York, and in 2001, she graduated from the creative writing program at Antioch University, Los Angeles. Her short stories have appeared in the Los Angeles Review and Mississippi Review, and her radio plays have been broadcast by the BBC. Her debut novel entitled Everything Good Will Come was published in the United States, England and West Africa in 2005.
In 2005 Sefi Atta won the International PEN David T.K.Wong Prize for Short Fiction for Twilight Trek. The award was judged by David Lodge (Chair), Caryl Phillips & Eva Hoffman and is accompanied by a prize of £7,500.
She currently lives in Meridian, Mississippi with her husband and daughter and teaches at the Meridian Community College and Mississippi State University.

Apr 22, 2008

My Squirrelly Nature

When I was in high school, my nickname was Pengwen. Although I adore penguins and would like to be one, I think my personality is more akin to a squirrel’s. Like those fast, furry creatures of our yards, I am often alert and neurotic, scurrying about getting things done. There’s also a big part of me that can be very silly.

I was a bit squirrelly about last weekend’s “pop-in” visit with my family in Ohio. There was plenty for me to fret over: flight delays and weather conditions, what are we to eat in an airport that will be halfway healthy, will there be drama, and at whose home will we sleeping? Each item piled onto the other…and then we saw the children.

First of all, two-month-old Rose Mackenzie is just beautiful like a doll-baby and sweetly quiet except when she’s pooped to her heart’s content and wants to be changed. Four-year-old Dave, eager for attention from anyone and everyone, talked nonstop of his favorite comic book heroes. I couldn’t tell if his favorite was Spiderman or Wolverine. The toddler, Zeke, happy to be running around and getting into things, was a constant source of amusement. To top things off, Jason wiggled on Dave’s Batman mask and I nearly died laughing.

Life is ever changing, in nature and in our own (seemingly monumental) environments. But we wish we could play it safe. We only want things to change within our rules and with our permission. When will I really learn that control is merely an illusion? There are unknowns and uncertainties and these pesky things are always in our way.

Unless we go on a walk. And we let things happen. We see what will happen if we pay close attention to a pile of rocks, or follow duck poo, or laugh just being the wind feels good on our skin. That’s what I learned from my mom when she and I took my nephews on a walk around their housing development. And just before we were about to head back to the house, because I am always afraid of being late—just once I should allow myself to not be on time—we went a little further and found the ducks and a Canadian goose. I was happy. Zeke, Dave, Mom, and I all waved to swimming creatures (who look as if they haven’t a care in the world, but of course, they must) and our adventure was complete.

It was perfect and reminded me to take it easy, on myself and on my world. Life is not meant to be controlled, but to be enjoyed. So, when our flight got delayed and then transferred, I didn’t stress. I opened up my book, Ellen Foster, and read for a couple of hours. Enjoying the down time that Delta Airlines had given me.

Apr 18, 2008

Procrastination Fever

For the past few weeks, I’ve been crippled by the dread of actually finalizing my first novel. I’ve spent nearly my whole life writing stories, creating characters, and daydreaming about being a “real” author. But, as I near the finish line, I’m sweating. I can't breathe. I think I'm sick.

It’s finally hitting me: people are going to be reading my novel. Not just my best friends, but people who won’t read it through the rose filter of knowing me. Those people will be judging me. Criticizing me.

I am paralyzed. I want to fast forward to when brittle critiques of my writing won’t give birth to questions of my inherent value. I want to rewind to when I didn’t even know that stories were sliced up and then branded bad or good. When the enjoyment of the story was all that really mattered.

But…but…a little voice is chirping. What about the characters? I can’t leave them frozen in some sort of limbo, half alive and fading. The creation of this world will be incomplete if I don’t persevere. Denise Stone, Haley Fisher, all of them deserve to be fleshed out. To become as real as they are in my imagination. I owe it to them.

I will finish.

Apr 12, 2008

Eek! Cont.

Spring is here! Warm breathe gloriously unseen and budding trees and new life! I’m scrubbing off the remnants of a nervous half-sleep clinging to my skin. (This mid-westerner turned San Franciscan has not quite recovered from the Chicago winter.) The new year started with the blooming of little miss gnomide: this sporadic blog of one bespectacled girl’s journey to find her voice.

And now, the finishing touches of Cast the First Stone are being made. Wiley adjectives and adverbs are being tossed, replaced, and then rethought again and again. Scores of pages are marked up with ink; some entirely torn up. Meanwhile, David has been feverishly designing a professional website for me. (Sometimes, appearing like a mad scientist in the throes of the night.) Finally, after throwing a terrified tantrum or two (shadows of the monster momentarily disrupted the creative process), I am anxiously delighted to present the beautiful handiwork of my terrifically talented husband: www.gwendolynglover.com

The complete text is not available yet, but there is a lengthy, downloadable sample. Check back to the site often: for this brave, little story will be boarding the digital train, puffing toward the elusive dream of publication.

I want to especially thank all of the fire-starters: Sarah (who giddily read the first rough draft), David (who wouldn’t let me quit), my writing comrades, and everyone who has commented on my blog. I wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for your support.

Thank you.

“remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted.”

--Sylvia Plath