Happy Halloween from Dianca London Potts (’14)

Happy Halloween from Dianca London Potts (’14)

Hallowed Hell House

How I left behind a Christian childhood to adore Halloween.

From the Lenny Letter

The year was 1989, and I was a jack-o’-lantern. Wearing the costume equivalent of footed pajamas and a hat with a stem and felt leaves, I gripped my dad’s hand as we walked down the carpeted hallways of our apartment building. I remember the weight of my plastic candy bucket as I held it outstretched toward Frankenstein’s monster, witches, and ghosts sporting penny loafers and house slippers. Later that night, I sorted through my sugary loot and decided that Halloween was my favorite day of the year.

The following year, I was a witch. I wore a cape and striped tights. I trick-or-treated with my dad, adjusting my pointy black hat and practicing my cackle before we knocked on each door. I sunk my teeth into spider-shaped cookies alongside my neighborhood friends while our parents chatted and the flicker of crudely carved jack-o’-lanterns cast shadows against the wall. I bobbed for apples with a princess and a Ghostbuster, unaware that this Halloween would be my last.

Something changed in the months that followed. My parents started going to church again. They rededicated their lives to Jesus and became followers of the Word of God. They weren’t merely “religious.” They became devout. We attended church every Sunday and spent Wednesday nights at prayer meetings. My Disney VHS tapes were replaced by The Greatest Adventure series. My dad started listening to gospel music instead of jazz, and my mom got rid of her Nefertiti necklace in order to adhere to the Second Commandment. They explained that all of this would bring us closer to God, that it would allow for us to guard our ears, our eyes, and our hearts from worldly distractions and sin. Their reignited passion for Jesus meant that I would attend Christian school. It also meant that Halloween was no longer a day of fun. It was unholy, pagan, a doorway to the occult.

Read the rest of the post here: Hallowed Hell House

Jamie Moore (’14) is Writer of the Month at DRUNK MONKEYS

Jamie Moore (’14) is Writer of the Month at DRUNK MONKEYS

A Beating, A Prayer

After they took the body of my friend away, I lost my ability to move. They’d left the twisted sheet he hung himself with, still tied to the curtain rod. The noose taunted me, its wide mouth ready to claim another black body.

My father thought the Word would save us. It would save me from the uncertainty and panic that kept my knees buckled. “Real men stand up straight, son. Real men hold themselves with the confidence of the Lord.” It would save Satchel, my best friend, from his sweetness, his lilting voice, his soft, piano-player fingers that reached for your arm when he spoke. He believed if we left what we knew and traveled, if we focused on memorizing the Word, repeating it over and over to those sinner-bent strangers with outstretched hands, we would find salvation. We would find our manhood.

Satchel’s reclamation of his body weighed the air in the already stuffy room. I knew that what he did was supposed to be a sin, but in a way it was also an assertion. Even though I wasn’t all the way grown yet, I knew that Satchel had given in to his heart and couldn’t bear a world filled with men like my father: brutal, unwilling to change.

Read the rest of the excerpt from WALK WITH ME here.

Also read HAVE MERCY, HOLD ON

Kima Jones (’14) Interviews Colson Whitehead for GQ

Kima Jones (’14) Interviews Colson Whitehead for GQ

Colson Whitehead made his debut in 1999 with the publication of his first novel The Intuitionist. At the time, the country was in the middle of a Y2K meltdown, Whitehead introduced us to Lila Mae Watson, a black, female elevator inspector under investigation after one of the lifts she inspected has failed. Lila Mae, a one-woman arsenal, would test an all-male corporate authority, teeming with integration angst, in search of the perfect black box, the elevator that would lead the people to the future—to freedom, or, at the very least, a kind of freedom. If there was a glorious future ahead for us on the other side of the Y2K bug, Lila Mae was getting us there.

Whitehead promptly garnered critical praise for the novel with comparisons to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. GQ enthusiastically called it one of the “most emphatically favorite works of fiction from the new millennium.” Just two short years later, when his second novel, John Henry Days, was published novelist John Updike would properly crown Whitehead in his review for The New Yorker: “The young African-American writer to watch may well be a thirty-one-year-old Harvard graduate with the vivid name of Colson Whitehead.”

Whitehead’s awards would rack up as quickly as his novels. Though not yet enjoying the commercial success of his contemporaries, Whitehead was a household name among literati yearning for the same critical attention. Following a Whiting, a MacArthur, a Young Lions and a Guggenheim as well as becoming a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Whitehead’s legacy seemed cemented. Whitehead could be called a writer’s writer, deserving of the awards and adulation. Have better flashbacks been written than Colson’s account of New York before the zombie apocalypse in Zone One? I would argue no, not since James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” where, till this day, we can still see those guitar strings flying. Is there a more dry, acerbic yet wholly captivating voice in contemporary fiction right now? Whitehead’s fiction is more expansive: sprawling, capricious narratives coupled with a lived wit: one that’s seen and knows too much.

 Read the interview here at the GQ website: Kima Interviews Colson
Kima Jones (’14) Discusses Publicity with NPR Code Switch

Kima Jones (’14) Discusses Publicity with NPR Code Switch

Kima Jones, who owns the publicity company Jack Jones Literary Arts, says, “There needs to be more women of color in publishing, in positions of power, period. As I see other book clubs and speaking series, reading series, organizations pop up that are dedicated to writers of color, queer writers, disabled writers, other marginalized writers, I’m like: yeah, do that! This is what we need.”

As a publicist, Jones is an expert in culturally specific marketing. The agency partners exclusively with writers who have been historically underrepresented in publishing; her client roster includes the New York Times bestselling novelist Dolen Perkins-Valdez, contemporary young-adult author Lilliam Rivera, and the writer and activist Sarah Schulman, among others. She also represents Kimbilio, an organization that supports and develops fiction writers from the African diaspora.

Read the full post on NPR’s Code Switch Blog: Kima Jones on Diversity in Book Publishing

Victor LaValle on “A Lucky Man” by Jamel Brinkley (’14)

Victor LaValle on “A Lucky Man” by Jamel Brinkley (’14)

From A PUBLIC SPACE

I tell you this longish anecdote as a way to prepare you for what I see as the magic in Jamel Brinkley’s stories. These stories deal in large-scale deceit and betrayal, there are painful things at work in this fiction, but much like the scene I described above, Jamel Brinkley regularly finds ways to pierce through the dramatic and find the subtle and humane lurking within.

Read the full post here: Victor LaValle on “A Lucky Man”

Kimbilio in honored to count Victor as a friend and advisor.

Friends of Kimbilio: Get $6 off a subscription to A Public Space by using code KIMBILIO at checkout. As a subscriber, you’ll receive three issues in the mail, as well as complete access to the online archives, where you can read two stories by Jamel Brinkley as well as ten years of fact, fiction, art, and argument. Subscribe today: http://apublicspace.org/store/subscribe

Advice from the Vets

Advice from the Vets

Returning Fellows Christi Cartwright (’13), Rosalyn Story (’13), and Andy Johnson (’14) will join the class of ’16 for the Annual Retreat in Taos.  We asked our vets to offer some advice to our Newbie Kimbees.

Christi Cartwright Says:

  • Accept writing friendships and kindnesses from whomever/wherever they are given. Writing is a lonely venture and kindness helps a writer to persevere.
  •  Remember every story on the page and from the mouth is a lesson (in some way) in how to be a better writer.
  • Be generous with your feedback. Try hard to help fellow writers produce their best work.  Ultimately, the helpful suggestions you extend to another writer regarding their work will end up helping you as well.

Andy Johnson Says:

  • I once met a young writer at Kimbilio in 2014. I won’t use his name, but his initials were Brian Gilmore. Brian Gilmore decided to go walk in the woods. I told him not to go. I told him bears and mountain lions think black people taste like fried chicken. I tried to help a brother out. But Brian Gilmore was hard-headed. He wouldn’t even wear the free bear repellent that comes in the Kimbilio survival kit.  Brian Gilmore got eaten by a bear.
  • Don’t be like Brian Gilmore.

Rosalyn Story Says:

  • Resist the urge to compare your work to others’. Everyone has something valuable to share, and every one of us, including the returning fellows, has an opportunity to learn. Further, I would give the first-timers the same advice I give myself – stay positive, stay flexible, and be open to change.