Last chance to join me in France for yoga & writing! I’ll be at the Château.

Quail Bell Magazine was so sweet to make this announcement that I’m teaching writing workshops this summer in France on the Yoga & Writing Retreat at the Château de Verderonne, France (Aug 7-20, 2014. I’m so honored to be teaching alongside Cambridge Writers’ Workshop superstars Elissa Joi Lewis, Rita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai (recently one of VIDA’s “20 Gypsy Women You Should Be Reading”). They are all so talented, smart, and divinely sweet. And I’m wildly excited that I’m teaching “Yearning & Character Motivation” and “Magic & Trauma– Writing from the Unconscious,” and there are a bunch more awesome writing workshops on the schedule including writing workshops, craft talks, art classes, adventures to Paris & Chantilly, and yoga twice a day. In France. A couple of spots have opened so apply ASAP or by July 15th.

Enjoying yoga with magnificent Elissa Joi Lewis. I'm the one, all in black, lounging beside the thousand year old moat.

Enjoying yoga with magnificent Elissa Joi Lewis. I’m the one, all in black, lounging beside the thousand year old moat. Image Source: Quail Bell Magazine

 

 

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“Writers Of Color Flock To Social Media For A New Way To Use Language” NPR

This NPR article by Kima Jones, “Writers Of Color Flock To Social Media For A New Way To Use Language” struck a chord with me.

“The poem can’t find its audience until the poet has turned on the little hallway light of empathy and mercy and meaning. Those are the building blocks of understanding and reconciliation. That is the foundation.

For too long, writers of color have been told there is no audience for our work. That unless we write towards the universal human—which, of course, is code for white person—our work would not be understood, or read or taught. We are told that regardless of the work the poem is doing, we should codify it in a way that it is accessible and understood and praised by the universal human.”

This is why I use social media to raise awareness of Romani (“Gypsy”) culture and Romani rights. One of the most important things, I think, is spotlighting Romani writers, activists, and artists– Roma are “real” in a world where they are cast as romantic or villainous fantasies, and much of Romani arts and culture touches on the human rights crisis. It’s an issue that seems to have practically no audience, but once I started writing and publishing through social media, I found an audience. I was offered a position as a staff writer at an Quail Bell Magazine, and encouraged to write poetry, fiction, and non-fiction about Romani issues. The response has encouraged me to write a novel about a half-Romani woman who seeks retribution for her people after the Holocaust, and people seem to give some fucks about it.

That’s really what the whole #RealGypsyWarrior thing is about– I want to shine light on powerful Roma and Romani allies who are doing good work, and hopefully that kind of awareness will change the face of “Gypsies” in the media. People will think before appropriating the word “gypsy” or using it to define what have become harmful stereotypes about Roma. For instance, people often use the word “gypsy”  to describe whimsical or irresponsible nomadism, but Romani nomadism was born out of persecution, and using the word in a romantic or pejorative way erases the persecution that Roma have suffered for centuries and continue to suffer today. Also, “gypsy” with a lowercase “g” is an ethnic slur, so that’s not great either.

Social media has also made it easier for me to connect with other Romani writers, artists, and activists in what is a very scattered and (understandably) secretive community, so I’m not only finding an audience, I’m finding my own community. Social media as been great for the Romani Rights movement (Opre Roma) in general because of this beautiful combination of visibility, accessibility, and connectivity.

How do other WOC use social media to create an audience for their work and passions?

Courtney Barron’s publishing debut in Quail Bell Magazine’s “Why I do what I do” series

Courtney’s first published work is very fittingly “Blood, Ink, and Soul” in Quail Bell Magazine, a lovely essay on why she writes. I love it and I’m so proud of her. Courtney and I have been friends since we were five and six respectively, and she is one of the most creative people I know. One of the reasons I’m writing a novel is because she wrote her novel a few years before I started my MFA and encouraged me so much that I just had to believe her. Keep an eye out for her in the future– she’s in the editing phase right now and it’s a very cool dark fantasy tale set in Romania. She’s also a gorgeous and unique visual artist and just started an internship as a substance abuse counselor. This girl doesn’t mess around.

Once upon a time, Courtney visited me in Ireland and we took an awesome picture in a pub bathroom

Once upon a time, Courtney visited me in Ireland and we took an awesome picture in a pub bathroom

“Why I Do What I Do: an Eldritch Phantom,” a (gorgeous) essay by Jonathan Bellot in Quail Bell Magazine

I’m in love with Jonathan Bellot’s essay, “An Eldritch Phantom, part of Quail Bell’s “Why I Do What I Do” series. You have to read it. It’s crazy that you haven’t read it yet. Crazy.

“I write to learn the language of lost galleons, to understand the blueblack sadness of girls made of wood.”

 

I’m lucky enough to be at Florida State University with Jonathan and I can assure you that he’s as wonderful a person as he is a writer. Keep an eye out for his novel-in-progress.