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

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Cure for writer’s block: The Southeast Review Writer’s Regimen (starts June 1st!)

The hardest thing about writing is keeping going– I get all my self-doubt and feelings in a tangle and suddenly I’m paralyzed. If this doesn’t happen to you, then you either have defeated your ego or your ego is so huge and dense that nothing can penetrate it. Or another reason. Whatever the root of your writer’s block, it helps to have prompts. (It also helps to do another activity, like yoga, to get you going). The Southeast Review does this fantastic thing called 30-Day Writer’s Regimen and the next cycle starts June 1st. Here’s a description from the website–

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 30 DAYS! 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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 . . .

All of this for just $15.00. That’s a mere 50 cents per day! Join us for a month and walk away with a new body of work! 

It’s pretty sweet– I use the regimens to teach, I buy regimens as gifts for writer friends, and I use them myself. If you can’t swing a retreat, it’s a good way to make your own retreat at home. Think about it, but not for too long because June is upon us! http://southeastreview.org/30-day-writers-regimen/

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“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. 

Contemporary Romani (“Gypsy”) Art

Romani art is an overlooked treasure. Of course a culture so rich with symbolism, song, lore, and history would produce incredible art! So few people understand that “Gypsies” are a real ethnic group with cultures and sub-cultures, tribes/groups, spirituality, cuisine, music, dance, folk stories, dress, and on and on, so naturally we don’t hear a lot about the contemporary Romani arts scene. And as Roma are an underrepresented oppressed minority, the opportunities for Romani artists are few and many assimilated Roma are not safe to disclose their ethnicity. The Romani human rights crisis has been called “Europe’s shame” by Amnesty International and the UN. But it’s not just Europe.

“With a population of 10 to 12 million, the Roma are one of the largest and most disadvantaged minorities in Europe. Six million live in the EU.

Hundreds of thousands of Roma have been forced to live in informal settlements and camps, often without heating, water or sanitation; tens of thousands are forcibly evicted from their homes every year.

Thousands of Romani children are placed in segregated schools and receive a substandard education.

Roma are often denied access to jobs and quality health care. They are victims of racially motivated violence and are often left unprotected by the police and without access to justice.

This is not a coincidence. It is the result of widespread discrimination and racism…” http://www.amnesty.org/en/roma

But thank goodness that the Roma persevere and that Roma and Romani allies speak out against injustice. Art gives voice to the voiceless, to cultures and generations, to nations and people united through symbols, stories, history, union, and discord. In the class I teach at Florida State University, “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves: Writing Creatively about Romani Culture” we discuss Romani arts, culture, literature, rights, and representation. Right now we’re writing ekphrastic poetry on visual artwork by Romani artists, and I thought I’d post a list of some of the artists my students and I have been admiring. Here’s our class blog if you’re interested: http://gypsyrepresent.wordpress.com/

Right now, I’m in love with the very successful, superfluously talented Romani painter Lita Cabellut. Keep an eye out for her work in the next issue of The Southeast Review.

“Born into poverty in Barcelona in 1961 and lived on the street before entering into an orphanage and being adopted at age 13 by a family that gave her the opportunity to develop her talents:“Actually, I learned to paint before to read and write.”
After studying the basics of drawing with a tutor, she had her first exhibit at age 17. At 19, she moved to study at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, where she continues to live today.“I married very young, my first marriage was with the art”. http://thegypsychronicles.net/lita-cabellut/ 

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Lita Cabellut, “Billie Holiday,” 2013, mixed media on canvas

Some links to Romani artists:

Here is a list of links to Romani artists’ names, works, and/or websites, as well as some other helpful resources:

http://www.romaniworld.com/artill.htm links to artworks by Romani artists

http://balval.pagesperso-orange.fr/ Marcel Hognon, Manouche sculptor

http://balval.pagesperso-orange.fr/ Mona, Manouche painter

http://www.romacult.org/en/catalog/2071/ a list of names of Romani artists that you can Google for images and information

http://www.rommuz.cz/en Museum of Roma Culture, Brno, Czech Republic

http://thegypsychronicles.net/romaartists-aspx/ Click on the artist that you want to learn more about

http://lolodiklo.blogspot.com/2011/02/art-by-romani-women-in-hungary.html Art by Romani women

http://lowegallery.com/artists/index-scrollbar.php?artist=lita-cabellut Lita Cabellut, Romani painter from Barcelona

http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/educators/how-to/from-theory-to-practice/formal-visual-analysis.aspx Elements and Principles of art

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Lita Cabellut, “Dried Tear,” 2013, mixed media on canvas

Robert Olen Butler, winner of F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Award, talks writing

Whatever kind of writer you are, learning about writing from “the white hot center” and considering “yearning” will give you food for thought. Robert Olen Butler talks with Professor Jarvis Slacks of Montgomery College about his writing process.

Here’s an over-simplified working method for writing a la Butler:

First, kill your ego.

Second, be patient because you’ll write a lot of terrible things at first. That’s cool.

Third, meditate, trance, dreamstorm yourself out of your brain.

Fourth, write every day straight into the white hot center (where yearning lives).

Repeat

Bob Butler is my adviser at Florida State University where I’m working on my MFA and my first novel, tentatively titled Zenith, and holy hell, thank goodness for that because I have no idea what I’m doing. He has helped me tremendously in workshops and as a thesis chair. His book, edited by Janet Burroway, From Where you Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction explores these approaches in detail.

“To be an artist means never to avert your eyes.” –Akira Kurosawa

So, a contributing editor nominated “We Rise Up” in Narrative Magazine for a Pushcart Prize. What?

I’ve been sitting on my good news for a while, mainly because I kept thinking, “Yeah, but, I’m sure it’s a mistake,” or “He was just being nice and I don’t really deserve it so I shouldn’t really tell anyone,” and “What?”. But after talking it over with genius friends, it became apparent that to say nothing would be really quite silly. So that’s it. The story, “We Rise Up” (Opre Roma) was Narrative’s “Story of the Week” back in August, and  I’m honored to the point of extreme awkwardness. And this Pushcart season is especially exciting because a bunch of super talented FSU writers were also nominated and everyone should read their stuff!

Much, much love to everyone, especially all my workshops! I’ve had a lot of smart people say smart things to help me out, and that particular piece came from my first MFA workshop with Robert Olen Butler.