04 March 2006

The Debut

Hello and welcome. I'm starting this experiment in blogging after reading a number of other writers do some amazing work over the past year or so. I make no promises about how often I will be able to update this blog, and illusions about my ablities as I step into the blog community. I'm constrained by the pressures of my day job, time, and my own occasionally questionable physical and mental health. Also, there are so many fantastic people in the blogosphere (check the blogroll to see what I mean), and I suspect that quite often I will be saying "Hey check out what so and so has said."

On the otherhand, I do have an original thought every now and then that I'd like to share with others, as well as the usual shameless plugging of my own work. So here we go.

I really began thinking seriously about starting this blog last week, upon hearing of the death of the great writer Octavia Butler. Her passing has touched a number of my friends and fellow writers, as well as Science Fiction/Speculative Fiction fans, and readers around the world (I had the great pleasure of meeting her once at the American Library Association convention in New York in the 1990's, and want to write something about what's turning into her very curious after-death experiences in a later post). Her passing struck me very deeply, and reinforced the fact that none of us knows how much time we have in this life, so we need to make the most of it. And most particularly need to do what we can to do the work we were put on this planet to do. Ms Butler's last lesson for me was to get off my butt and get to work. So here we go.

I'm fascinated by people like Octavia Butler, who started writing SF when there were no other black women in the field and only one other African-American, the amazing Samuel R Delany. She went somewhere 'black people don't go.' Who were her 'role models'? Did she even need to see someone who looked like her to make the decision to be a writer, to enter into this space? What kind of strengths did she have to enter into such spaces? Watching the Winter Olympics with my partner, we were, of course, caught up in the drama surrounding Gold and Silver medalist Shani Davis, yet another ground breaker, someone boldly going where no black man had gone before.

Ground breakers, rule breakers, 'transgressors' of various written and unwritten codes -- these are the people I admire, who are my heroes and she-roes. People who don't 'fit the profile' of what either other African-Americans or the majority culture in the US consider to be 'truly black.' These are people I wish to learn more about and celebrate. Not all of the people who I like and admire are African-American, but I think that the 'elbow room' (thank you, James Allen McPherson) that other 'non-traditional' black people make for themselves gives all of us greater ability to be who we are.

So here we go: Welcome to my world, and (among other things) an exploration of Non-Traditional Blackness.


I'd like to end with excerpts from Octavia Butler's essay "Furor Scribendi", which appears at the end of her short story collection, Bloodchild and Other Stories (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1995). Butler sold her first short story in 1970 and then went five years without having another work accepted (Five years of rejection slips -- think about that for a moment). I encourage you to read the complete essay, and the stories in Bloodchild if you've not done so, and her two Parable books, Kindred, her latest novel, Fledgling, and.....

"Writing for publication may be both the easist and the hardest thing you'll ever do. Learning the rules -- if they can be called rules -- is the easy part. Following them, turning them into regular habits, is an ongoing struggle. Here are the rules:

1. Read. Read about the art, the craft, and the business of writing. Read the kind of work you'd like to write. Read good literature and bad, fiction and fact. Read every day and learn from what you read....

2. Take classes and go to writers workshops...Learn from the comments, questions, and suggestions of both the teacher and the class. These relative strangers are more likely to tell you the truth about your work than are your friends and family who may not want to hurt or offend you....

3. Write. Write every day. Write whether you feel like writing or not....

4. Revise your writing until it's as good as you can make it...Let nothing substandard slip through....Make a habit of doing your best.

5. Submit your work for publication...If the idea of doing this scares you, fine. Go ahead and be afraid. But send your work out anyway. If its rejected, send it out again, and again. Rejections are painful, but invevitable. They're every writer's rite of passage...

6. Here are some potential impediments for you to forget about:

First, forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable...Habit is persistence in practice.

Forget talent. If you have it fine. Use it. If you don't have it, it doesn't matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent.

Finally, don't worry about imagination. You have all the imagination you need, and all the reading, journal writing, and learning you will be doing will stimulate it....


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