Without further ado: A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME: a lunchtime conversation over a loaf of Quincy's freshly baked bread. (Soundtrack: first the
Luther Vandross version
, then the
Quincy: I just finished the first conversation with my Trajectory crew and it was the strangest thing. Like, I’m truly weirded out by the fact that I came out of a meeting feeling genuinely supported. I’ll be honest: until three or four years ago, I always thought of “community” as something I had to “bear," not something I got to build. After all, community is other people. What did Jean-Paul Sartre say—that hell is other people? I’ve never felt a sentence ring so hard.
Steffani: [laughing. Because it's true that Quincy is not a “people person” in the traditional sense.]
Q: For real, though: It's always been most natural for me to be alone. I used to always think of communities as just a bunch of rules and other crap that you inherit. Either you fit or don’t fit (and I never fit). Actually, here's an even better way to put it: I always considered communities to be forces that I, as a free-thinking individual, had to protect myself from. I thought of myself as a human being who could only truly process ideas alone. Now, of course, I realize that the world is full of misfits, other people who also feel marginalized or oppressed or pressured to conform, and I can find strength in conversation with them. There is something so valuable and tender about allowing the chorus to affect my individual voice within it.
S: Did you ever play in a band? I think that's when my teenage want-to-be-an-indie-star self (yes, I played guitar) first recognized the value of being an individual
others. A chorus can also be a home. Sometimes it's a whole lot easier to find your pitch and your rhythm with a little support. And just look what you can get done together. Can at Louis Place be a band?
Q: “A chorus can also be a home”—yes, that's exactly what I mean. I never knew.
The website for at Louis Place references James Baldwin: “Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.” It's a popular quotation from Baldwin's novel
that is tossed around a lot. People often focus on the first half of the sentence, the idea that home is not a physical location. But for me, that’s the least complicated part. Of course
“home” is not a place
: from kindergarten to 12th grade, I went to seven different schools across Georgia and Florida. I know that home is not a place.
Instead, I have been digging deep into is the second part, the “irrevocable condition.” I take Baldwin seriously when he says “irrevocable”—like, there's no going back, no way to recover. I know that this irrevocability can be positive, as in the permanence of a parent's love, but it can also be pernicious.
For me, these conditions have a lot to do both with family and with language, and maybe the entanglement of these. I love my parents, but even as a kid, I questioned some of their values and approaches. My parents are
. The rules are the rules, and there’s no room for discussion. As a child, that was intolerable. I automatically kicked the world I rejected away from under my feet. The kicking was necessary and automatic and instinctual. But there's no getting around it: the ground where I grew up is the most solid ground I'll ever have. I’ve never truly been able to lose it, never even been able to loosen it. Maybe I've stomped up a little mud. But the atmosphere, the constraints, the shape of my upbringing—all of those conditions really are irrevocable.
SJ: This is a beautiful meditation. Also, "AN IRREVOCABLE CONDITION" would be a good name for our first album.
After the seventh draft, I wanted to give up.
No one had asked for this novel. No one was expecting it. Why was I torturing myself? But the characters wouldn’t leave me alone.” On becoming a debut novelist at 62 🙌🏾, and the ten-year journey of revising her book:
an interview with Alka Joshi
, author of
The Henna Artist
When I look at [my students] I see true intellectuals.
I know they are going to tell me something I’ve never heard in my life before, or that they will say something in a way I’ve never heard before
. I know I’m the teacher, and I know that I know more than most of them—probably all of them—but we are a community, and we are really enriched by each other. Not paraphrasing them comes naturally, then. They meant what they said, and they said it perfectly. There is no need for me to take over their words and change them to mine.
👉🏾 Are you a verb or a noun? Here's Vito Acconci on Aram Saroyan's one-word poems:
Because while the rest of us tried to be verbs, like everybody told us to do, he had the nerve to stop at nouns.
Because he took a deep breath and willed himself into the self-confidence of naming. Because it wasn’t “nouns,” it was “noun,” only one noun, because he boiled it all down to one. Because then he let himself go, he let himself stutter, he let the one go and let the one double and go out of focus: while the rest of us ran for our lives all over the place and over the page, his noun shimmered and breathed and trembled and moved—shh! softly, softly—from within.
Are you reading Brittle Paper yet
? Founded and published by Nigerian writer Ainehi Edoro, it's one of our favorite blogs for readers and writers of African literature.
A few opportunities that caught our eye this week.
Paper Machine Residency for Print-Based Artistic Inquiry
Deadline: October 23, 2020
Antenna’s Paper Machine Residency supports artists and writers in the development of creative projects and public programs that explore and expand the possibilities of print-based artistic inquiry. The program annually welcomes up to 5 local and national/international creators to realize unique proposals for print-focused projects. Over the course of a month long residency at Paper Machine, Artists-in-Residence will: 1) develop original editioned work under the broadly-defined rubric of printmaking, including publications, sculptural books, zines, multiples, and other such works; and 2) will present complementary programs that engage the public in their artistic process, which could include a participatory composition, workshop, or artist talk. Selected Artists will be awarded a $1500 honorarium, paid travel to and from New Orleans, a month long stay in the Paper Machine onsite residency space, and assistance in development/execution of an edition with a portion given to the creator (Please note that all of these resources are shared or split for collaborative projects). The typical edition is 300 with 50 copies provided to the artist, but that may change based on how complicated or ambitious the final project ends up. All materials will be provided by Paper Machine for the production of the edition, the portion of the edition left with Paper Machine will be sold to benefit the program.
The Dzanc Books Diverse Voices Prize seeks brilliant, daring, and imaginative book-length manuscripts of fiction or nonfiction by writers from minority, underrepresented, or marginalized communities. The winning submission will be awarded a $3,000 advance and publication by Dzanc Books. Finalists will be assembled in house and then passed along to our guest judges: Charles Johnson (
Middle Passage, The Words and Wisdom of Charles Johnson
), Chaya Bhuvaneswar (
White Dancing Elephants
), and Robert Lopez (
Kamby Balongo Mean River
All Back Full
Novels, short story collections, memoir, essay collections, and cross-genre works are all welcome. In consideration of the fact that reading fees can be a burden on financially disadvantaged writers, who are disproportionately writers of color, this contest has
no reading fee
This contest is open to new, upcoming, and established writers alike. Agented submissions are also eligible, and we ask that you include all agency contact information with the application. All submitted works must be previously unpublished book-length manuscripts and should include a brief synopsis, author bio, and contact information. The full work should be formatted as a Word .doc or .docx file or a PDF.
We will accept submissions from April 13th, 2020 through midnight on September 30th, 2020. (Note: we will not accept physical entries.) The winning submission and a short list of finalists will be announced on the Dzanc web page by January 2021.
Here's what's on tap in the community this week. Use the Daily writing room ✍🏽 link in sidebar at
Shoot the shit
Monday, September 14
5pm EST / 4pm CST / 2pm PST
Orbit workshop: in dialogue
Wednesday, September 15
6:30pm EST / 5:30pm CST / 3:30pm PST
The first monthly Orbit workshop at Louis Place will focus on what it means to be in dialogue—on strategies for building polyphony and friction through the collision of multiple voices in our work.
Our Orbit generative writing workshops are a quick series of exercises—we think of these as tools for staying flexy and limber and strong, whether you're searching for new resources and directions in a current project or building something new or just playing around.
Like all workshops at Louis Place, this follow-along session is open to all members, and will be available after the fact for those who can't make it live (audio or captioned video for those who'd like to follow along, and a text PDF for those who prefer to read will also be available). If you're part of our community, read more about what to expect