Today marks the second day of the 2013 Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, held this year in the Africana Studies department at Brown University.
Sunday night’s orientation meant listening to some good old-fashioned tough love.
“No one in here is a Diva. All of you got here on your merit so leave that at the door.” “No drama. Take it outside.” “Learn how to act as a cohort.” “We’re are about to kill your darlings– all those sentences or paragraphs you love but don’t work– we’re about to kill them.” “Don’t take it personally. We don’t know you enough to love or hate you. All we care about is the work.”
Sounded real familiar. Orientation couldn’t have been held in a better place than Rites and Reason– in our black box named after George Houston Bass (and his School of You Don’t Like It? Then go build Your Own Shit!).
I would not have been able to participate in this workshop had it not been for the overwhelming support from my biggest fans – my mother and my husband. Mom has taken time off of work to help Julian take care of seventeen-month-old Xiomara so I can spend time in workshop, writing, completely immersed in my projects. Their belief in me has pushed me to new heights this year.
Working Moms who write have a particular set of needs–I never would have even considered applying to this had it not been hosted locally. I can’t imagine being away from Xiomara for two whole weeks. And in addition to being emotionally taxing, it would have been financially impossible for me to pay for travel, hotel, food, and childcare for two weeks. Momma Marsha and all those Rites and Reason ancestors must have heard my prayers, because Callaloo appeared when I needed it most.
I mean, really– how often does anyone get an intimate, rigorous writing environment of people of color almost literally come to your door?
I am dedicating my time at Callaloo towards working on my first novel. The story is about a Cuban – American(?) family torn across time, place, and revolution.
We workshopped my first submission today. I left with copious notes on what to work on, how to redirect the story, develop characters, and preserve the lyricism already present in the piece. I primarily consider myself a playwright and poet – fiction is a new experiment that I am blessed to have nurtured by Callaloo.
I will forever be indebted to the writers in the room that have already helped me so much in such a short amount of time.
And to Maaza Mengiste for all her wisdom in writing about war, which she stated tonight, is ultimately, about love.