From my very first post I wanted to pay homage to the speech which inspired the title of my blog, Ain't I a Woman? by Sojourner Truth. Such a beautiful speech, such a beautiful name, such a beautiful woman. It is one of my favorite pieces. I strive to emulate this style in my own work. Poetic and powerful. Honest and unafraid. Memorable. And I like brevity. It too is beautiful. This is the standard I wish to be held to as I explore the question with you ~ ain't I a writer?
"Obliged to you for hearing me, and I do have a few things more to say..."

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Happy Veteran's Day

    Here is an image of the original Purple Heart (C. 1782) as it was designed by General George Washington to reward soldiers of any rank for "unusual gallantry" and "extraordinary fidelity". He is only known to have presented it to three men. This moment in history is included in my novel To Get Quit, currently seeking representation.

                                    badge_merit.jpg (350×235)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Blank Page Poetry - Words and Shadows: Truths That Arise Remembered

      Last week I was part of a volunteer cast that participated in an extraordinary multi-disciplinary event called Blank Page Poetry - Words and Shadows: Truths That Arise Remembered.      
      The show was conceived of and directed by visual artist Jerome Meadows of Savannah, Georgia. Jerome first came to Portsmouth to design the memorial park acknowledging, for the first time since it was built over, our town's African Burying Ground. Blank Page Poetry was an offering of artistic responses to the memorial. I was one of the eleven poets chosen to share a response poem. We performed behind a blank screen showing only our shadows, along with a few words we chose to take from our poems to be digitally projected on the screen during our recitations. The readings were enhanced by choreographed movements we designed, with Jerome's input, to accentuate our words. The audience saw only our black shadows on the white screen, with a few of our words highlighted, while we recited and embodied our poems. The Neoteric Dance Collaborative also performed an ekphrastic piece choreographed by Brea Cali.

    It was an incredibly meaningful experience to participate in, about a subject that already was so meaningful to me. Beyond that it was wonderful to tackle a new art form, and to collaborate with others to communicate to a wider audience. I hope that the SRO crowd of two hundred was as moved as I was, and from the few reports that I have heard, they were. I was privileged to have stood "for those who survived upon these shores."
     I share below one of the two poems I wrote that were part of the show, along with an image of
Jerome's sculpture that inspired it.

I'm on the left with poet Priscilla Cookson on right.
These four photos by Sarah Flause.

The Female Figure

Mother Africa reaches for her children
but her hand can not get to them.
They, like so many of her treasures,
have slipped from her grasp.

And no one can see
her great mother grief
as her quiet tears
fall into the sea
that takes her young.

And no one can feel
the searing heart pain
in her engorged breast
as her milk dries
for want of suckle.

And no one can know
her spiritual sorrow
as she wonders,     forever,
where now     will her children
be laid to rest?

all rights reserved

                                PH-528009998.jpg&cb=480&Maxh=623&Maxw=738&border=0&Q=65 (720×480)

Seacoastonline gallery photo of artist Jerome Meadows speaking to a crowd near The Female Figure at The African Burying Ground in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Back In My Own Room

A Little ChickLit for my 2015 AROHO Sisters
     “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!’ yelled Chicken Little. She’d been running around for quite some time, crossing roads without reason, like herself with her head cut off.
“Yes, it is dear,” said her plucky elders. “Come and lie down with us. See, feel, hear, how beautiful the falling sky is.” They made a space for her on their blanket where they watched the enormous sky above, willing it to fall. Naturally, it did. Spectacularly, it did. Their collective energy moved the stars, created new constellations, reshaped heaven.
So she stopped being Chicken. Then she stopped being Little. Now she is a huge hen. Each of her feathers a quill for writing stories as big and infinite as the sky. She is content in knowing she will live mostly happily ever after if she does. Though she will stop occasionally to do that funky chicken dance.

     With the exception of the silly little ditty above, I have been putting off my post-AROHO blog post for a long time. Re-entry, as we like to call it, was especially difficult this time. Much more so than in 2013. That summer, upon my return to real life, I felt like a fish, immersed in a swift current I belonged in and knew how to navigate. This year, I feel more like a fish that has mishapped out of the stream, gasping and flopping about, foolishly expending energy meant for a more graceful purpose.

     But I am not a fish. I am quite capable of righting myself, and wading, or even taking a headlong dive, back in. So I'm now sharing my original thoughts. I thought of deleting them, but could not. Though delayed, they have not changed much. This is what I came home with.
    The opportunity to work and commune with Maxine Hong Kingston, Janet Fitch, Breena Clarke, and more than 100 other women writers, is to make constellations on the surface of the earth, while at night the heavens try to tease with the fast bright trains of the Perseids. It is all meteoric. A transient brilliance. A big, ballsy, white hot celestial rarity. You can bear it witness, but you cannot hold it. Yet, I've decided, to bear it witness is enough.

      My Post-AROHO Post

      Maxine Hong Kingston came to Ghost Ranch. Like the rest of us she brought her ghosts. All of our ghosts, too many thousands to count now, are happy that here they can spread out and relax. Ghosts find freedom on the ranch.
     Tiny though she is, Maxine lifted us all up and hugging us fast around our waists, she hung us from the windows. She urged us to call out clever lines to the grandfathers as they pass by, waving, maybe applauding. But the applause is of no real significance. The important thing is not being shy, which means afraid of falling. The important thing is knowing that your elders are behind you, holding you fast with their strong sure hands.
      Later, we will take our places, inside the rooms of our own, and we will hold the tender young ones who come after with our own strong, sure hands. We will dangle them out the windows and watch their pretty hair blow in the breezes. We will say, "Tell your poem, yell your words, do not be afraid."
     And they will tell.
     And they will yell.
     Dangling unafraid.         

Thursday, September 10, 2015

That was fun

    Had a wonderful time this morning as a guest on Seacoast Currents morning radio show at WSCA Portsmouth Community Radio 106.1 LP FM.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Elevator Pitch and Plea

     I've been working on my elevator pitch. What sounds so simple, encapsulating your novel in one sentence, is quite difficult, and I have been strugging with it for a year.
     Here is what I have come up with and am seeking your opinion. Please tell me what you think.

     Enslaved from childhood in the first president's household
Ona realizes freedom will not be granted, and chooses to 
right that wrong by running away, compelling George 
Washington to right that wrong in several ways, 
with enormous stakes for both.

     And here I am in an elevator last night,
 sipping instead of pitching...


    Wednesday, August 26, 2015

    Tickets on sale now

         I'm excited to be part of this special event, and can't wait to see what Patrick has painted after visiting me. I plan to read a lyric essay I wrote at Ghost Ranch while enrolled in Lauren Rusk's master poetry class. It is sure to be an entertaining evening.

    The Poet’s House at The Music Hall Loft
    October 4 at 4pm
    Art Opening & Poetry Reading
    Featuring Original Paintings of Poets’ Houses
    by Patrick Healey
    also featured are
    Betsy Sholl and Mekeel McBride
    together with…
    Bill Burtis
    Mark DeCarteret
    Shelley Girdner
    Kimberly Cloutier Green
    Nancy Jean Hill
    Jody Hetherington
    Kate Leigh
    Paul Marion
    S Stephanie
    Tammi Truax
    Andrew Merton
    Mimi White
    Poetry reading in The Music Hall Loft at 4pm.
    Live music by Agnes Charlesworth, Cynthia Chatis, Douglas Green
    Art opening, poetry, live music. Featuring paintings of New England poets' houses by artist Patrick Healey, this event at The Loft will also highlight readings by the poets whose houses are the subject of Healey's work. Original and arranged music by Agnes Charlesworth (piano), performing with Cynthia Chatis (flute and voice), and Douglas Green (bass). October 4 at 4pm, The Music Hall Loft, 131 Congress Street, 603-436-2400. $20.00. Reservations required.

    Monday, August 17, 2015

    Go Local

    Upcoming Author Event. A little something for everyone. Bring the kids. Bring the grandparents. Bring some strangers. Just come! Support local writers.

    Local Author Fair
    September 16, 6 – 8 PM
    Portsmouth Public Library

    Want to meet local authors, find some great autumn reads, and enter to win fabulous prizes? The Portsmouth Public Library will host a Local Author Fair on Wednesday, September 16 from 6 – 8 p.m. Special guests will include Portsmouth author Katherine Towler and award-winning writer James Patrick Kelly!

    Kelly is the science fiction author of BurnThink Like a Dinosaur and 1016 to 1. Katherine Towler is a poet and author of the trilogy of novels Snow IslandEvening Ferry, andIsland Light.

    This event is FREE and open to the public. Visit with local authors and enter to win prizes from the Music Hall, the Gundalow Company, Louie’s Italian restaurant, Bennett’s Store, Pickwick’s Mercantile, Strawbery Banke, and more!

    40 authors from the Seacoast area will participate:

    +        James Patrick Kelly     Fiction/Science Fiction                                                                       
    +        Katherine Towler        Fiction/Literary                                                                                  
    +        David Barnette            Fiction/Fantasy
    +        Jacquelyn Benson        Fiction/Historical Thriller/Romance
    +        Jeff Deck                     Fiction/Horror/Science Fiction/Nonfiction
    +        Tim Horvath                Fiction/literary
    +        Shelby June                 Fiction
    +        David Random             Fiction/Humor/Short Stories
    +        Amy Ray                      Fiction/Mystery/Thriller
    +        J.E. Seymour                Fiction/Crime
    +        Tammi Truax               Fiction
    +        Earl Yorke                   Fiction/Science Fiction           
    +        Michele Albion            Nonfiction/History/Women/Technology
    +        Nancy  Beveridge        Nonfiction/Moving & Decluttering
    +        Marilynn Carter          Nonfiction/Cookbook
    +        Bette Freedson            Nonfiction
    +        Jessica Kliskey             Nonfiction/Self-Health and Nutrition
    +        Rachel Leah                Nonfiction/Death and Dying
    +        J. Dennis Robinson      Nonfiction/History/True Crime/Travel
    +        Barbara Sedoric          Nonfiction
    +        Stefany Shaheen         Nonfiction/Memoir/Health
    +        LeCain Smith               Nonfiction/ Holistic Health Care/Integrative Medicine
    +        Donald Trefethen        Nonfiction/Local History
    +        Ellen Walker               Nonfiction/Memoir/Autism
    +        Robert Wheeler          Nonfiction/Travel/Photography
    +        Richard Winslow         Nonfiction/ History
    +        Nancy  Grossman        Nonfiction/Poetry
    +        Crystal Kent                 Nonfiction/Youth
    +        Steve Carter                Poetry
    +        Kate Leigh                   Poetry
    +        Peter Horton               Young Adult/Local Historical Fiction
    +        Joyce Shor Johnson     Young Adult/Middle Grade
    +        Valerie Lofaso              Young Adult/Paranormal Fiction
    +        Robert Miller              Young Adult
    +        Pat McDermott           Young Adult/Historical Fantasy/Paranormal/Romance
    +        Susan Benedict            Children’s
    +        Denise Brown              Children’s
    +        Carol Lincoln               Children’s
    +        Alvin Walker               Children’s
    +        Stephanie Workman   Children’s

    Contact:     Laura K. Horwood-Benton, Public Programming & Community Relations Librarian
  | 603 766 1711