I haven’t been to Atlanta yet, but after coming across For Keeps!, I may be planning a visit soon! This quaint, little store located a few blocks from The Martin Luther King Jr Church, may seem unassuming from a distance, but it holds quite some significance.
image via new york times
Rosa Duffy, the 29 year-old artist and owner of For Keeps!, has run this store for rare and classic black books since 2018 and hopes to maintain it with enough effort and diligence so it can eventually become a neighborhood treasure. But regardless of what its future may look like, Duffy hopes to maintain the book store’s reputation as a rare place in her hometown that honors and preserves black history.
image via wabe 90.1 fm
Her picturesque store harbors not only hard-to-find and classic books by African and African American literary legends like Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni, Ralph Ellison, Octavia Butler and others, but also carries album covers, unique artifacts and even copies of the iconic black magazine, Jet. Some of the items here are from her personal collection, many of which were swiped from her family members, probably while they weren’t looking.
The aspect of opening a space dedicated solely to rare black books came to Duffy while she was a student at the New School in New York. As an avid dweller of the city’s bookstores, like Mercer Street Books and Records, the Strand, the Alabaster Bookshop and East Village Books, she eventually gathered up the courage to open her own sanctuary.
image via librarything
Duffy’s infectious enthusiasm about books is extremely admirable. Finding a rare book by one of her favorite artists, Carrie Mae Weems, made her ecstatic, as did a copy of Ceasar D. Coleman’s Beyond Blackness to Destiny, which was published in 1969.
She admits that initially there were concerns that mixing passion with business may cause issues, but has been pleasantly surprised because so far, it’s been fantastic! And when asked, why Atlanta, Duffy quickly replied, “Atlanta was the only place to do it. It’s home and I wanted it to represent the vastness of blackness and allow people to read about their history in a welcoming space.” — which is exactly why For Keeps! is for keeps!
Featured image via theAtlantic Voice
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Instagram poets like Rupi Kaur, Charly Cox, and Fariha Róisín have taken over the Millenial creative realm and have devoured the hearts and minds of impressionable youth.
It has been said that these poets misuse what William Carlos Williams did. William Carlos Williams was an actual poet at the head of the Modernist movement who invented the ingenious line-breaks these Insta-poets now supposedly exploit. Rupi Kaur has gone on record and said she treats her poetry “like a business.” By the rules of logic, you can then presume she is not writing actual poetry. None of them are. But if you’re curious what they write about, and how they write, read on.
Timothy Green from Press-Enterprise established this not-writing-actual-poetry nonsense in a kinder way:
Instagram poetry is the exact opposite (of real poetry). It’s self-aware and entirely useful. It is designed to sell and so it sells. It’s not exploration, but expression. Rather than poesis, it is mimos, “to mimic,” or better the Latin mirari, “to look at and admire.” Rather than a door to new meaning, it’s a mirror held up to the reader, reflecting and rendering beautifully back what the reader already knows.
image via amazon
Rupi Kaur confronts taboo and turns it into cliché. She mixes metaphors and writes inelegantly. In her first book, Milk and Honey, there are lines like, “he put his hands on my mind” and “how can I help I begged my heart…”
However you feel about the discussions she has with her internal organs, this Indian-Canadian writer has a massive following. I never thought I’d say that about a poet, maybe about a Rolling Stone, but not someone who calls themselves a poet.
Image via Amazon
Charly Cox uses mental health as her taboo. In her book, She Must Be Mad, you can see she swings from pole to pole when it comes to line breaks, and doesn’t believe in revision. It’s about more words, more alliteration, like, “spanking new anticipation twirling twines that tie knots in your chest, frayed ends tickling your stomach to stir hot queasy…”
…did someone say queasy? It’s a stream of consciousness modern-day extravaganza! James Joyce jubilation? No. Not quite. Look, the problem with Cox is that she isn’t confronting anything; even if this prose-laden punctuation-less madness is followed by a pared-down ‘poem’ (ugh) she ends up just confronting boy-craziness which is not taboo, not outrageous. It seems people are purposely searching for a lack of originality. Are people just not up for a challenge anymore?
Image via Amazon
Then you have Fariha Róisín, who could possibly have something to offer. She identifies as a queer Muslim femme and chooses to talk a bit about it In her Insta-poetry book, How to Cure a Ghost. I don’t mean to imply that her background and how she identifies is what makes her interesting. Rather it’s because she rambles on and on, dancing around the point.
She does the line break thing without knowing who she learned it from. If her rambling were compressed, cut, it could be something more impressive. She writes, “…it’s no coincidence I turned out like this…a condition abbu refused to accept…all the sorrows of our sad, sad nations.”
Is it wrong to want a poet who is almost saying something to actually say it? For pages she goes on the way a seventh-grade jazz saxophonist might riff.
So there are many more Insta-poets, like Wilder Poetry, Atticus, Blythe Baird, Amanda Lovelace and so on. They all pretty much do the same thing.
Here’s the formula:
Pick a topic that deals with something illicit like sexuality, abuse, and so on
Make something with line breaks
Make sure it’s in a wordswag font!
Post to Instagram
Once they get popular enough to move up the ladder, publishing houses like to divide their books into four sections. It is a kind of pre-determined script for more insta-poets to come.
So, if you like aphorisms if you like word magnets then go ahead, but to rephrase what Green said, it isn’t poetry. We scratched the surface of some of Instagram Poets, but it seems there isn’t much below. In fact, after reading some of these ticker-tape word parades, I suggest everyone read real poets. Support those who are creating magic through craft and technique. Try Jean Valentine’s The Door in the Moutain. She’s not easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is, though. That’s a cliche, only because it’s true.
If you’re a writer, then you probably have at least two voices in your head, one in each ear. One voice tells you that what you’re writing is the best thing ever, the next Harry Potter/Game of Thrones/Hunger Games. The other voice tells you that you’re a terrible writer and you should just give up.
You suck down those fears and put a smile on your face. You’re a writer, and you have a short story of a novel or maybe you even have both. You submit your work and sit back.
It’s a stab in the gut, and the ‘thanks’ only adds salt to the wound. You suck it up and submit again. Maybe this time you’ll submit to a smaller agency, a tinier magazine. You hit send:
Image Via Twitter
Thanks to The Gotham Writers Conference, we at Bookstr were able to listen in on a lecture given by Kim Laio, author of the essay published on Lit Hub Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year. Since everyone had a paper and pen, she had the listeners in the audience go through two different exercises. The first exercise was as follows:
Writer down your hopes and dreams as a writer
After telling everyone to do this, the room was filled with a long contemplative silence filled only with the soft scribbling of pens and the soft groaning rattles of the radiator. When everyone’s pens were done, and after some time after that, Kim Liao said this:
Now skip a line. Protect your hopes and dreams.
After giving us a clear warning that her next two directions were “worse” then she first direction, she gave us the second:
Answer what’s stopping you from achieving those dreams
And then the third:
What’s underling these anxieties?
Image Via Twitter
She then turned to the audience, asking them what they answered. Don’t fret, the only people who answered were those who raised their hands and were given the microphone. One person told us a story about how they were writing a book about a “terrible cult” and the effects their actions brought upon their family.
A book about cults? Count me in!
She then said she hadn’t told anyone about the book for the longest time because, well, there was a certain personal conflict with the book.
What was the person problem? Her brother.
Her brother was a member of the cult. He left the cult, but became an apologist for the cult.
It was only after this person was able to tell her brother about the book and give him it that she was able to move on. She doesn’t know if he read the book, if he was angry or upset, but he had the book and it was out of her hands.
This story is about the third direction Kim Liao gave us: What’s underling these anxieties? Turns out the most common reason for anxieties about your hopes and dreams about becoming a writer is this daunting question, “What will happen if you tell the truth?”
See, if you’re a writer, then you probably have at least two voices in your head, one in each ear. One voice tells you that what you’re writing is the best thing ever, the next Harry Potter/Game of Thrones/Hunger Games. The other voice tells you that you’re a terrible writer and you should kill yourself.
Both of these voices are toxic.
Image Via QuoteHD.com
Fiction, non-fiction, they all deal with truths. Even if the book takes place on another planet or another dimension, there is always a person connection the writer has with the work. It came from them, and now it’s out there on a bone writer paper written in black ink. It’s literally out there in black and white, and most often we are afraid to show it because of fear.
That right there is a personal rejection. No one has rejected the story except you. If you’re thinking about your worst review, as one person at the conference was, stop that. Any craft, be it writing or construction or electric or running, gets better as you do it more and more. So keep it, and silence the voice that tells you you’re a terrible writer and know that the story you are telling is one that only you could tell.
Image Via PlayMelnc
Now sit back. Remember that voice that tell you you’re writing is the best thing ever, the next Harry Potter/Game of Thrones/Hunger Games? Bring down your expectations. Humble yourself.
Image Via PInterest
Even the authors of those books didn’t know they were writing something as huge as those. Heck, I’d bet George R R Martin has days where he’d wish Game of Thrones wasn’t as big as it was so the pressure would be off as he finished up Winds of Winter.
Tamper your arrogance, erase your fears
Now you’re ready to submit. Then you get a rejection. And then another one. And then another one after that.
So what do you do?
Well, what do you think that Kim Laio, author of the essay published on Lit Hub Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year is going to tell you?
Image Via Girl Meets Fornosa
Get 100 rejections of year
This is how you do that:
Set up an excel spreadsheet
Set up one column for the number
Set up one column for the story
Set up one column for the publishing house/agent
Don’t worry, we understand. One-hundred rejections a year? A hundred times of people stabbing you in the gut with that “No, thanks,” as though the ‘thanks’ at the end of that sentence means anything? No, thanks, you go, but don’t reject me now!
According to Kim Liao, she heard this advice from a friend and thought it was the “best advice ever.” By collecting a hundred rejections a year, you’re making it yourself mission. Your goal now isn’t to get published, but to wrap up the rejection list. When you get a rejection now, you can now log it into the spreadsheet and get that rush of a dopamine because you’re productive. That rush, that split second happiness, makes you feel motivated to go and put yourself out there again.
It isn’t about collecting those rejections slips so you know who to stick it to when you make a ton of money, that’s not why Stephen King collected his rejection slips, it’s to give yourself a goal, to turn your disappoint into a mission to keep going and wrap up the rejection list. You’re accepting that you’re going to get rejected and now you’re striving to do so. Odds are at least one person will accept your story. Plus, if you want to be a writer, you have to get used to it.
“For a writer, it’s mostly rejections.”
Image Via Writer’s Digest
Rejections aren’t all bad. Remember: “The door isn’t closing, the path if shifting.”
Rejections can create relationships. Your expert query letter may prove that while the agent isn’t interested in your current work, he/she might be interested in your work as a writer. They might ask to see something else or, worst case, they now know your name. Your name is out there, like a plane traveling across the beach, and you never know who might see your banner.
At this point in the conference, Kim Liao gave us the audience a second set of direction. With pens and notebooks at the ready, the silence was palpable. These are the sets in full:
List 5 or more things you can do in the next year
List 4 things you can do in the next 6 months
List 3 things you can do in the next 2 months
List 2 things you can do this month
List 1 things you can do this week
So what’re you waiting for?
Image Via Author Media
Go on Twitter and search for submission calls. Look for agents and editors, most agents and editors post their emails on their Twitter.
Image Via Webnode
Maybe you should set up a blog; just remember to “write lots of posts in advance.”
Image Via Self-Publishing School
Set up a writing schedule. A writing schedule isn’t necessary just writing. Put time aside for pitching, writing, and querying. All three of these things have to do with writing, and you have to set time aside for each.
Before you query, take a step back and look at your writing. “Whenever you feel that you’re ready, take a week,” and remember that “[y]our writer’s group can help you solve your problems…not your agent.”
You can only query one agent with one project at a time. If you go back and make changes, odd are that agent doesn’t want to hear about that project anymore.
When you’re ready to submit your work, set up the excel spreadsheet and aim to get a hundred rejections a year. Rejection is a “necessary step,” in the writing process. “It can happen anywhere,” even to the most successful writer.
But keep writing and keep submitting. If you get a rejection, and then another one, and then another one after that, then guess what? You have only three rejections and need ninety-seven more to finish out your list! Odds are you’re going to be surprised because the best thing you write might be the thing people like the best.
And don’t forget: if you’re writing a novel and you go “Now I have an agent! I’m done,” then you’re wrong. You haven’t even gotten started yet, but you’re ready.
According to The Washington Post, fewer people are majoring in English than ever before, despite the fact that enrollment in higher education is at an all-time high.
This is likely the result of the United States’ turbulent economy, and a rising need for job security. Right now, more people are choosing to study STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), for the sake of a career path. More often than not, people believe that studying STEM leads directly to getting a good job more often than studying anything related to the humanities. Or, at the very least, college students fear the idea of a useless, $40,000 degree.
Image Via Town Hall Seattle
However, Robert Shiller, economist, author, and Nobel Prize winner, believes that English majors are more necessary to our struggling economy than ever before. In his new work, Narrative Economics, Shiller argues that the ways people talk about markets, and the stories we write about them, can have a huge impact on markets themselves.
For example, Shiller cites the phrase “anyone can be a homeowner” as a key contributor to the housing bubble. He writes:
“Traditional economic approaches fail to examine the role of public beliefs in major economic events – that is, narrative. Economists can best advance their science by developing and incorporating into it the art of narrative economics.”
The Washington Post cites several other economists with opinions similar to Shiller’s, but the most damning evidence comes from The National Center for Education Statistics. Data from this source shows that while a computer science major might make more money than an English major directly after graduation, English majors ages 25 to 29 had a lower unemployment rate than both math and computer science majors in 2017.
Image via ClickUp
On top of this, English majors tend to have skills that are less affected by the passage of time, than those who major in anything related to science or technology. The Washington Post’s Heather Long explains:
“After about a decade, STEM majors start exiting their job fields as their skills are no longer the latest and greatest. In contrast, many humanities majors work their way to high-earning management positions. By middle age, average pay looks very similar across many majors.”
Image via Inside Higher Ed
So, feel free to show your dad this article the next time he complains about your degree in medieval literature. You’ll be grateful for it in your forties!
In recent years, the Oxford English Dictionary has been the center of of linguistic controversy, due to their unconventional additions to the compendium. For example, in 2015 the OED announced that the recipient of their coveted ‘Word of The Year’ title was the ‘Face With Tears of Joy’ emoji.
Image via CNN
Oxford stated that the emoji was chosen, because it was the ‘word’ that “best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015,” though it wasn’t met without opposition.
Some of the words added only have definitions relating to their StarWars context, like the word ‘lightsabre.’ The formal definition now attributed to lightsabre is “in the fictional universe of the Star Wars films: a weapon resembling a sword, but having a destructive beam of light in place of a blade.”
The term Padawan is now defined as “an apprentice Jedi,” and Jedi is defined as “a member of an order of heroic, skilled warrior monks who are able to harness the mystical power of the Force.”
The word ‘force’ itself has also been updated. While the known definitions remain, the term now has another definition, one that reads “a mystical universal energy field.”
Alongside this Star Wars lingo, several sexual terms have been added as well, so use caution if you plan to browse OED’s list of new terms while at work. But, do feel free to call the interns in your office Padawans in all your emails. No one can stop you now!