Art, memory, and expression: International Holocaust Remembrance Day 1/27/2016

holocaustremembranceJanuary 27th, 2016 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. We spread red flowers to honor those who lived and died in what Roma call, The Hungry Smoke. The Holocaust was an ugly genocide of those from the Jewish faith as well as those who were ethnically “Gypsies,” the racial slur used to describe Romani and Sinti people. The Sinti are a clan (or tribe, as some prefer that word while others argue that ours is not a tribal society) within the Roma, and the word Roma refers to the many different cultures and subcultures that exist within Romani society, all of which are distinct with their own dialects, customs, and beliefs. Many Sinti prefer to be called Sinti and not to be included under the Romani umbrella, but I am comfortable being referred to as Romani, both because my heritage is very ethnically mixed anyway and because I like the inclusiveness that the word “Roma” suggests. My grandmother and many of her family members survived O Porrajmos, or the Great Devouring, by hiding their ethnicity, something that many were not able to do, and others among her friends and family were not so fortunate. The Roma and Sinti are often forgotten alongside the other groups targeted, such as LGBTQ* people, people living with disabilities, Catholics, Communists, and many others. Even though half of the Romani population was obliterated during WWII, because of systemic racism, few organizations or countries recognize our loss for what it was: genocide. This is slowly changing, however. This year the UN is hosting Sinto survivor, Mr. Zoni Weisz, to speak at their event for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, so if you are in NYC or can make the trip, I hope you attend. It’s important for all of us to band together for everyone touched the the dark maw.

I’m re-sharing Drunken Boat‘s Romani Folio, an issue completely dedicated to Romani writing and art, in honor of this day. Much of Romani

Romani Folio Cover

Drunken Boat, Romani Folio cover

literature and art is shaped by The Hungry Smoke, as well as the antigypsyist legislation, sentiment, and violence that still dogs the Roma all over the world. My short story, “Why the Pyres are Unlit,” though fictional, was heavily inspired by my grandmother’s survival, the stories she’s shared, and the mark that violence has left on my family.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about inherited and perpetuated trauma (by lately, I mean since I was a child), and I believe that the only way to change cycles of violence and fear internalized passed down through generations is to acknowledge, feel, discuss, and then release them. Silence, forced or self-imposed, is what breeds violence. Art, writing, expression, discourse, and remembrance– all of this frees us. I will spread flowers, but I will also imbibe Romani and Sinti literature and art, such as the paintings of Ceija Stojka and the words of Rajko Djuric. Pick up a good anthology (I love this one, Roads of the Roma) or browse the web for new discoveries. You can start with Romani writer Qristina Zavačková Cummings and her list of Romani authors, or my list of “20 Gypsy Women You Should Be Reading” for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. May we remember, may we create, and may we journey toward healing and liberation together.

 

Fresh off the press! Issue 32.2 of The Southeast Review

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Cover art by Alexa Torre

The Southeast Review issue 32.2 is out and available for purchase! It’s chock full of gorgeous poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. I’m the current Art Editor, and I’m so in love with the artwork in this in issue. Alexa Torre’s exquisitely beautiful photography captures the liminal space between contemporary and traditional Mexican culture, and Julia Gfrörer’s dark mermaid comics tantalize and chill you to the bone. Order your copy today!

What is Literary Activism? A chorus of voices answers in The Poetry Foundation

Activism-quote-by-Alice-WalkerAmy King, WNBA Award Winner, member of VIDA Executive Committee, and Women’s National Book Award winner, has now asked us all “What is Literary Activism?” and then answered it for the Poetry Foundation, but the coolest thing in the world about Amy is that she takes all of her actions seriously. Her angle is that literary activism is about inclusivity and visibility. So what does she do? She asks a diverse array of writers to answer the question along with her. I am so honored to be among them talking about the necessity of Romani literary activism, because as far as I’m concerned, the very act of writing is activism  for Roma. So read Amy, and read Samiya Bashir, Rosebud Ben-Oni, Ana Božičević, Emily Brandt, Ken Chen, Melissa Febos, Suzi F. Garcia, Eunsong Kim, Jason Koo, Lynn Melnick, Shane McCrae, Laura Mullen, Héctor Ramírez, Metta Sáma, Melissa Studdard, and Arisa White!

Write your activism, baby! Opre Roma!

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My story “Why the Pyres are Unlit” in Drunken Boat’s Romani Folio

Drunken Boat has a special Romani Folio and I feel so honored to be included in it alongside Qristina Zavačková Cummings, Sydnee Wagner, Glenda Bailey-Mershon, Tamara Demetro, Allison Williams, and many others! It’s very cool to have a lit journal spotlight Romani writers in this way. Definitely take the time to check out all the wonderful writers in this issue. My short story “Why the Pyres are Unlit” came out of my first fiction workshop of my MFA with Robert Olen Butler, so a big thanks to him and everyone in that Fall 2011 class for helping me get it into shape.

And also in Drunken Boat, not in the Romani Folio but in the poetry section, is Brandon Lewis’s poem “On Solitude.” Another excellent read! While you’re at it, take a look at Brandon and Elissa Lewis’s poetry and drawing collaboration “Projected Lives” in Quail Bell Magazine— so beautiful.

Romani Folio Cover

Drunken Boat’s Romani Folio Cover

Fantasy Literature’s Expanded Universe: Romani Gypsy Power in Sci-Fi & Fantasy Part I

If you don’t know Kate Lechler’s new column “The Expanded Universe” over at Fantasy Literature, you’d best check it out. She thoughtfully features writers and their thoughts on the SciFi Fantasy genres, both the craft and the literary theory of it. One of my favorites is Micah Dean Hicks’ essay on Elite Groups in SFF.

I wrote a 2-parted essay on Romani (Gypsy) Power in SciFi and Fantasy, taking a look at who the Roma are, the role or function that Gypsies play in Fantasy and SciFi and why, and what that means for both art and politics. I’m so thankful to be a part of such a cool publication, and I’m excited for Part II coming up featuring one of my favorite Romani writers of SFF and why I think there is no such thing as magical realism. Stay tuned!

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Space Unicorn by SpieGirl

Esmeralda Declines an Interview: why I don’t interview for writers writing Gypsy characters

Sometimes I get requests from people to do interviews because they’re writing a Romani (Gypsy) character and want to use the life of a real live Gypsy girl to write her, and I always feel uncomfortable about the idea of divulging my life story for another writer’s creative gain. My friend, Misha Rai, urged me to turn those feelings into an essay, and because Misha’s advice is always brilliant, I did it. And now I’m honored and stunned to have “Esmeralda Declines an Interview” in The Missouri Review blog.

KickingNo offense intended to anyone who has asked me to interview with them as research for their book. It’s wonderful that you want to write well-rounded Romani characters, and I’m flattered that you thought of me. If you are struggling to include Romani characters in your work, then my advice to you is this: “If you want to be inclusive, then read and support the writers you want to include. Don’t ask to take our lives for your own gain.” I’m sure your intentions aren’t nefarious and I applaud your efforts to write mindfully. Just be mindful in your research too.

A good resource for you to find Romani writers is ‘ list of Romani Authors. I also have a list of “20 Gypsy Women You Should Be Reading” at VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. There are many more places to look, but this is a good start.

Happy reading! And thank you to The Missouri Review and Misha Rai– I love you to bits.

P.S. Check out “Housewives, Mothers” by Misha in The Indiana Review– it’s one of my favorite stories.

Writing & Yoga Retreat in Newport, RI: I’ll be the fortune teller

Can’t say how excited I am about The Great Gatsby-esque Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Newport, RI Writing and Yoga Retreat on April 2-5, 2015. Not able to make the whole weekend? Partial attendance is fine, too. Special tuition rates may also be available to students. Kathleen Spivack, Stephen Aubrey, Diana Norma Szokolyai, and Rita Banerjee will be teaching writing classes, and Elissa Lewis will be teaching yoga. I’ll be telling fortunes and offering energy healing (Reiki) sessions because that’s the kind of girl I am.

The deadline for admittance into this AMAZING retreat is February 20, 2015. There are limited seats, so apply early!

Check out the CWW Facebook page or go to http://cww.nyc for more information.

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Click to apply!

Excerpts from novel-in-progress, Zenith, & poems in The The Poetry Blog

A late post, yes, but a few weeks ago an excerpt of my novel-in-progress, Zenith, and some poems came out in The Infoxicated Corner of The The Poetry Blog, curated by Fox Frazier-Foley, author of Exodus in X Minor. The poem “Mina the Lotus” is also from Zenith, a love poem written in the voice of the Mina, the main character Coco’s mother, to the Romani (Gypsy) goddess of Fate, Sara la Kali. Mina’s character is a poet in some ways fashioned after Papusza. The other poems, “First Exorcism” and “The Gargoyle Back Scratcher” are not part of Zenith, but they were born out of The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop 2014 Yoga and Writing Retreat in Verderonne. Keep an eye out for this year’s upcoming retreats in New York City; Newport, Rhode Island; Paris; and Granada. I can’t express how exciting and terrifying it is to debut the first few pages of the novel, and how much it feels like I’m tempting hubris. Much of my writing has been delayed by enormous life changes and helping to care for my Aunt and other, who are both terminally ill– but in the face of the illnesses of my loved ones and the comparatively small turbulence of my personal life, I am reminded that art and love (and all of that what makes life worth living, et al.), are the only truly present things. So I am writing through it, perhaps more slowly than I hoped, but I am writing. And I am very honored and appreciative for the space and support that The The Poetry Blog has given me. Thank you, Infoxicated Corner! Please forgive my delay– a snow storm took down the farm’s internet for quite some time, and I live in the middle of nowhere, which I actually quite like.

Dancing in the castle at the CWW Verderonne yoga and writing retreat

Dancing in the castle at the CWW Verderonne yoga and writing retreat

Beat the block Southeast Review style

I like to do these little posts about beating writer’s block because writer’s block is bullshit. Right? Just write. But, it’s also a thing, and a thing I struggle with a lot, even though I supposedly love writing and have worked my ass off to do this whole writing professionally business, and it’s basically all I think about. That and puppies, and smoothies, and magic.

Here are some of my favorite ways to beat writer’s block, SER edition:

1. Visual art! The Surrealists did it, and before them the Romantics, and before them frickin’ everyone did it. Go to a museum, surf the web, make some art yourself, and check out The Southeast Review Vol 32.2 because we have two killer-great artists– Lita Cabellut and Dmitry Borshch. Both artists completely astound and inspire me. Cabellut is something of a personal hero– she’s a Romani (Gypsy) painter from Spain and her work haunts my dreams in a good way. And Borshch is one of the most striking and unusual illustrators I’ve come across in some time– his designs spring from Russian stories and some great place of blue ink creation. We’re proud to feature interviews with both artists.

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2. Read other people’s work! One of the best ways to find out what’s new and exciting in the literary world is to read more literary journals. You can drink your fill of art for free on ezines and electronic journals, but don’t forget to show your print journals some love, too. When you subscribe or order an issue, it keeps the art and the industry alive.

3. Writing prompts! The Southeast Review does these Writing Regimen packets a few times a year, and it’s a fantastic writer’s block cure, full of prompts, craft tips, and inspirational tidbits to keep your mind spinning, inspiration flowing, and words coming. All the good gerunds. The next round starts OCTOBER 1ST! Yes!

The Southeast Review Writing Regimen is for poets, essayists, and fiction writers who want to produce a body of work by introducing structure to their writing life, and, at the same time, finding new and innovative ways to approach their craft.

Sign up for The Southeast Review Writing Regimen and you will get the following:

  • daily writing prompts, applicable for any genre, emailed directly to you for 30DAYS! Use these to write a poem a day for 30 days, to create 30 short-short stories, or to give flesh to stories, personal essays, novels, and memoirs
  • a daily reading-writing exercise, where we inspire you with a short passage from the books we’re reading and get you started writing something of your own
  • A Riff Word of the Day, a Podcast of the Day from an editor, writer, or poet, and a Quote of the Day from a famous writer on writing

  • Flashback Bonus Craft Talks, where, as a little something extra, we repeat an earlier regimen’s craft talks from more writing heavyweights

  • weekly messages from established poets and writers—including tips and warnings on both the craft and the business of writing

  • a FREE copy of a current or classic back issue of The Southeast Review, featuring interviews, poetry, nonfiction, and fiction that will knock your socks off!

  • a chance to have your work published on our site.  Read the winning entry from our most recent Writer’s Regimen contest in June, “Vaquera” by Kim Henderson

  • access to our online literary companion—www.southeastreview.org—for interviews with up-and-coming and established poets, fiction writers, and memoirists, podcasts of readings from the Warehouse Reading Series, including such writers as Ann Patchett, Jennifer Knox, Matthew Zapruder, Barry Hannah, . . . as well as essays on the reading life of writers, book picks, web picks, and much more . . .”

So that’s all pretty great, and all are SER inspired to celebrate the birth of Vol. 32.2. I couldn’t be more excited.

Keep writing, friends.

Posing with a book of Shelley many years ago at Hollins University, my alma mater

Posing with a book of Shelley many years ago at Hollins University, my alma mater

Scrivner is %50 off– go write your book!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/scrivener/id418889511?mt=12

I don’t usually promote corporations, but Scrivner has been so useful to me in writing and organizing my novel.To each her own, of course, but I really love this and can’t imagine writing my novel without it. Just wanted to give everyone a head’s up on the %50 deal. It’s worth a try!

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