Showing posts from January, 2014

Diary of a Creative Writing PhD Student: One Thing My Research Allows Me to Do

My research allows me to study nonfiction texts like newspaper articles, scholarly journals, narratives, studies, and letters as well as contemporary fiction to establish a historical context that helps me create well rounded characters; characters who adapt and challenge their reality and to write a work that reflects the individuality of my characters’ experience. 
There is no quintessential slave story and I do not endeavor to write a narrative that pretends to capture all of the possibilities between the pages. My hope is to capture characters as they exist within the world I create which is based on fact. Slavery relied on a relationship between the slaver and the enslaved; my research shows for some slavers the need for the enslaved to act as if they were in some way appreciative and happy. My hope is through language and dialogue to capture some of the psychological aspects of slavery.
I’m interested in the stories of mothers trying to find their children and of mothers who had …

Diary of a Creative Writing PhD student: Why Write About Emancipated Slaves?

There is a recognized formula for grief. Experts say we grieve in stages; in cycles. Because everyone grieves differently, there is no set time frame for the stages. Still, society often tells those in grief when enough is enough. When we grieve a marriage friends, family and coworkers have a certain amount of sympathy before encouraging us to “move on” romantically. If we are adults when our parents die, we are granted a period of mourning before returning to work, a little sad and less productive perhaps, but we are expected to reach full capacity within a few weeks. For most losses there is an imagined timeframe, an allotted time for grief.
How long are we granted to grieve a child?
The loss of a child is an ongoing loss with consistent reminders throughout life; there are lost birthdays, holidays, graduations; there are no weddings, no grandchildren, no continuation. The loss resonates in the laughter of school children; the cry of random babies; the familiar shape of an eye, a wal…

Diary of a Creative Writing PhD Student: Reflections on Research--One Year Later

Today marks the one year anniversary of my family and my move to the UK.  As I prepare for my One Year Panel Review I have the opportunity to see the last 365 days titled, page numbered and revised; it’s a wonderful thing. Over the past year, I have crafted almost 30,000 words in fiction, thousands of words in reflection and research and read thousands of pages. My practice based research encourages me to build relationships with researchers, historians and professionals from around the world; as I write about relationships within the past I am building relationships for my future.
My research is taking me into new areas: I’m focusing on my place on the shelf, in the genre as well as crafting opportunities for other writers of color to publish and have their books read. My objective is to write stories rich with “Black themes” like family, love, friendship, and success, forgiveness.

I’m not just crafting stories here; I’m revising myself, my family. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m lovi…

Choosing a Username: What Does Your Username Say About You?

Since I heard about Mumsnet a few weeks ago I’ve been skirting along the edges trying to decide if I was going to dive in. I’m a mom, I’m a writer and I’m a mom who writes about Momming; so why not join a network?
I spent longer than I planned coming up with a snazzy user name that wasn’t already taken.  I thought I would make up one that captured my many roles: MotherWriterPhDtobe. But I don’t like guess work: will readers pause where I want them to pause? Will they recognize my play on words or will they think what I think when I see usernames with acronyms, creatively spelled (ok, misspelled) ones or names that challenge me to multiply, subtract and divide to add meaning to them?
I settled on battlefelton; a version of my last name.
After I selected it I thought: why didn’t I capitalize it? Why didn’t I at the very least hyphenate it like I do in life?
What does a lower case “b” and a run-on name say about me? I thought about creating another account, one with Battle-Felton capitalize…

I'm a Mumsnet Blogger

I talk about being a mom all the time--to friends, colleagues, strangers; it's a part of who I am. It's only natural that I blog about it. Of course, being a mom is not all I blog about, just like it's not all I talk about. It's a part, a component, a sliver of the pie that is me.

"How do you like uni?" a man from a local store asks my daughter.

"It's great," she answers.

I smile and walk away.

"How does he know I'm at uni?" She asks less than an aisle away.

"It comes up in conversation."


"You know: how's the weather, how are your comes up."

She doesn't believe me.

"Are you all here for the holidays?" I'll admit, I had never seen these people before.

"Sort of," I answer. "I go to school here so we're here all year round. My daughter studies business at another university. She's here for the break."

My daughter and I set off a few minute…

42 Blocks to Nirvana

I found this post in my writing attic--my writing past. It is from nearly five years ago and in some ways is still true and in others not as much.

Except for the accents, we could be standing in any one of the brightly lit GameStop/EB Games stores we frequent on a far-too-regular basis in Baltimore.  GameStop/EB Games have developed a brand: a unique blend of computer-geek/technology-nerd paraphernalia capturing the illusion of some sort of Nirvana for gamers of an appropriate age, and beyond it.  My gamer is thirteen.  We are at the counter of GameStop #1234 in New York City, one of the first spots on My daughter’s mental list of places to go on her birthday trip to NYC. Her brown eyes sparkled when she saw the familiar GameStop logo in the middle of 7th Ave and Broadway.  We are spending the day doing whatever my teenager wants to do; if that means stumbling around another video game store, it means doing so and pretending I like it.  Searching for new Play Station 3 games and com…

Look Down When You Walk: A Lesson Learned and Forgotten

I said my goodbyes, locked the door and practically ran down the twenty-eight stone steps. If I hurried to the car, sped down the street, and raced along the highway I would still be late—but I had to try.
I slid into the car, placed one foot—ever ready—on the brake pedal, began closing the car door and sniffed: shit, literally.
Between stepping off the last step and stepping in to the car, one of my feet had sunk sole deep into a pile of dog poop.
I didn’t have a dog.
I tiptoed up the steps, kicked off both shoes and leaving them outside, I rushed back in the house. Armed with paper towels and cleanser I tried scraping the offending goo from my shoe but stuck for time, I searched for other shoes to match my outfit. Ten minutes later I was again at step twenty eight.
I scraped residue of poop off of the brake, tossed the wasted paper into the trash can, slid in the car, turned the key, sniffed and inhaled deeply.
I had cleaned the poop from my car but not from in front of the car door; I h…

The Fountain of Youth

It turns out the ancient dreamers and philosophers were right; there is a fountain of youth. 
For some, it might be dressing or acting younger; others feel younger by surrounding themselves with older people. By now most of us have found that the fountain of youth is not an elixir, a potion or an incantation, but it does involve time travel. The past is the key to a younger future.
On a good day, my best friend and I text via Skype; on a great day we talk. We’ve been best friends for 30 years. Through all of the many stages of our lives, no matter where in the world we were, we’ve been there for each other or tried to be.
There’s nothing quite like having a friend who remembers your past but doesn’t use it against you; who loves you when your future doesn’t match your predictions and who sets you straight when you lose perspective.
When we talk, stress unknots and the illogical makes sense; I gain a new perspective, an energy that I just can’t put a price on.  I’m reminded that we’ve been…

The Writing Life Out-Takes

I spent last year collecting career advice on the Writing Life and making a living out of words. I received useful advice on entering contests, submitting to publications, interviewing agents and other insights from industry professionals.
Still, one of the best pieces of advice came when I was off the air. The advice that made me laugh? Marry well.
Though we laughed about it, the person who gave me this advice was being serious. He had freedom to craft a career out of words because his livelihood did not depend on his income. He had married a woman who could and would support the family.

If you want to make a living as a writer, marry someone who can support you. Will you take his advice?