I had the pleasure of being selected to participate in a blog hop called My Next Big Thing. I was tagged Angela Belcher-Epps, a fellow writer and member of the Carolina African American Writers Collective. All those who participate in the blog hop are asked to respond to ten questions. Here is my foray into the coversation.
1. What is the working title of your book or project?
2. Where did the idea come from for the book or project?
The collection of poetry arose from my concern for the welfare of children. I have had the great privilege with working with underserved, marginalized and disenfranchised youth for my entire career as an educator. My classrooms have been those with no windows and mice. My students have been military dependents, adjudicated youth, young parents, abused children, frequent absentees, children who harm themselves. My classrooms have also been those with plenty of computers and digital aids. My students have been the cheerleaders, drama kids, nerds, school leaders, geniuses, writers. Sometimes those places and identities were distinct, and sometimes they overlapped. Whatever the place, what has often struck me is our immense hope for our children and yet our inability, despite our best intentions, to provide the guidance to facilitate the community membership and invested citizenship of our children while also giving them the space to be the leaders and change agents that they already are. Unfortunately, in our attempts, we end up trying to mold children into what we want them to be, and this leads to disastrous results.
3. What genre does it fall under, if any?
4. If applicable, who would you choose to play your characters in a movie?
If these poems were made into short films or the epigraphs for short narratives, I would want to hold digital storytelling workshops so that foster children, child survivors of abuse, adjudicated youth, military dependents, children in failing schools, survivors of school shootings, young parents, and youth in general could tell their own stories in their own languages.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your manuscript or project?
There are only two answers to the question of what happens to the boogeyman when the dawning sun burns away the night: he disappears into his own night world or he slinks into the shadow within ourselves.
6. Will your book or story be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will be published by Salmon Poetry in April 2013.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The first draft of my manuscript took about a two years to write although some of the poems are older than when I first began assembling the manuscript. I started writing it right before my first book, Canticle of Idols, was released and before I went to Germany to teach military dependents (one of the best gifts ever. I learned so much from those students and families and from my colleagues). I went to Ireland for a residency in 2010 at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. This was right after the collection had been a finalist for the Naomi Long Madgett Book Prize. While I was there, I read a significant part of the poetry collection within the library. A view of the lake from a haunted house, thin showers of rain in the day and wicked creaks in the night made it the perfect place for consuming books. I found many were published by Bloodaxe Books or Salmon Poetry. Mary Dorcey, a poet who had been published by Salmon Poetry, happened to be at the residency. Because of meeting her, I decided to submit some poems to the press. With a few weeks, Jessie Lendennie, the founder and publisher, requested my manuscript. Within a few months, I had a book contract. From the first poem to the publication date, it will be almost 5 years. All the while, I sending out the individual poems. Most of the collection has been published by journals already.
8. What other book or stories would you compare this story to within the genre?
I want to say that this book is pretty distinct in its viewpoint. The first book that came to mind was Mother Love by Rita Dove, if only for the explorations of possession and the battle of youth to a parental figure as she tempts fate in her own way. I would not deign to compare this book to Mother Love; rather I think that Boogeyman Dawn would be an interesting companion to it.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book or story?
It was a song that pushed me to start assembling the poems within a thematic arc: “Piece of Clay” as sung by Marvin Gaye. I heard the song while watching Phenomenon (1996). Some of the lyrics by Pamela Sawyer and Gloria Jones:
“Father, stop criticizing your son
Mother, please leave your daughter alone
Don’t you see that’s what’s wrong with the world today
Everybody wants somebody to be their own piece of clay
Everybody wants somebody to be their own piece of clay”
That song shaped my whole vision of this book. What happens when you are trying to shape someone into your own image is that the beauty of the original person is destroyed. We are not gods. In any creative process, there is brutality, but even more so with people, in my opinion. I am not arguing within this book for Rousseau’s Emile. I do think that our young people need guidance. I also believe in educating global citizens, invested in their own local and global communities. Still, in working with children, I believe that the educator, parent and society as a whole must approach the future with a spirit of love, inquisitiveness, and imagination, rather than an attempt to make that future fit our present. If not, we will repeat the same stories.
10. What else about the book or story might pique the reader’s interest?
This is a book that pulls no punches. It explores paranoia, child abuse, the effect of a military deployment on a child in school, politics, civil war, child support services and their flaws, school shootings, inter-ethnicity intolerance, cancer. It is a book that may make you weep or shout with anger. While there are moments of rest and hope within the collection, that reaction is what I want the reader to feel. I want the reader to feel something, because that is how change happens. That is how transformation comes.
The following writers and authors will be discussing their latest projects on their blogs or websites. Visit their blogs and comment. Keep the circle moving.
Rich Villar on February 6 will be writing about his work on his debut collection.
Oscar Bermeo on February 20 will invite us into his creative world, extending from his chapbooks, Anywhere Avenue, Palimpsest, Heaven Below and To the Break of Dawn.
Dan Lau February 27
Alexandra Mattraw on March 13
will close out this hop, just in time to talk about her new project, in the way of harbors, which is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press