Thursday, December 21, 2006
It's all about championing the cause of transitioning young boys to men, and young girls to the ladies that we adults cater to. As responsible men and women we should be on missions to see to it that we set the stage for good order. Our children need us in ways where effective leadership is measured by acts and deeds that would be right for them to follow. How often do we stop to ask ourselves -- "what do we have within ourselves for somebody else to benefit from?" Individually, it may be "How can I be a worthy role model for children to see me much more than an icon?" No easy task to tackle, or questions to be answered without closer inspection of self-worth as an advocacy for kids. To be worthy of talent that God has given us are to be thankful of gifts that are not ours to keep. It is this awareness that would force us to go much deeper within to adhere to giving something back.
Our children are embracing norms that do not do them good. Besides, if our communities continue to be disenfranchised and families within them are torn apart, is it any wonder that children of this generation are lost, and without discipline? Daily, the former and the latter gives credence to the ills that have defined problematic issues unique to, but not limited to something of this order that may be familiar to you. The family and community are always synonymous with each other, addressing a multitude of circumstances and misfortunes within our collective lives on raising children the right way, and for them to be able to look up to us for noted value.
I look at the lack of affordable housing, school systems that are undeserving, healthcare gone awry, rampant unemployment, decadent crime, and drugs so deep-seated in communities that it robs the citizenry of self-respect and estimable choices. I'm concerned and want to make a difference...so much so, that when I see a child needing me to give advice I do so without compromise. When I know that they could use consultation and consoling, I do so because they depend on my knowledge and expertise to latch onto a learning curve. I do so supremely because I want to know and understand the role of modeling for my community so children will know who I am. Be where you need to be -- embrace a child and be responsible!
Friday, August 11, 2006
Never one to shy from the camera, the Photogenic One manuevers me over to an ideal spot, sports that 'killer' smile and renders me helpless to a candid camera persona complete with the virtual flashback to this memory. If ever there was cause to celebrate time and place, just ask the young Mr. Romer for his tips for camera mugging, or how to dress so that people can pay homage to that 'just one look is all it took' syndrome to be subjective to his modus operandi. I, like most other people will probably shake my head and know that I'd just been hoodwinked by a little genuis dressed for the part!
Here's hoping that every father and son, uncle, nephew, brother, and grandfather realize that libation is poured to honor those before us who gave their idelogical whim and lives to make it better for us...the least we can do is to make all attempts to make sure that those after us have the same opportunity.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Am I good enough to be a writer with style, substance, and enough talent to be among the published authors with books already on bookshelves? Yes, I ask myself this constantly, and have given it much thought. Your lifelong dream is to write a book, have it published and to see your name among other authors and titles on those same shelves. How daunting is this task if you’ve persevered beyond the nuances and obstacles along the way? You carry your pen and pad savoring poignant and pensive moments by writing it down so that you won’t lose thoughts and mindsets for a future article, or essay for your journal. You may even be reluctant to share at times, not wanting people to see that perhaps you’re not ready to be unveiled. You eschew workshops and other writing classes because you’ve been there and done that.
You lobby in your mind more time to perfect the craft, and be crafty in how you can still be considered worthy. You’re driven by wit, words, and wisdom from your creative mind to be productive and provocative. You have some modicum of success as an Independent Book Reviewer, you have written columns online, and consider yourself an Essayist with at last coun,t 51 essays written within a year and a half; you have joined a number of online book and reading groups to stay vibrant and in touch with the literary Diaspora, and you blog. Blogging is fun, I have three of them and I love It! The website you’ve produced gives you a certain sense of success, but only within the margins of acceptability, but who wants only marginal success?
Obscurity. That word makes me cringe, and I admit it unnerves me in a way that I began to feel like success will elude me. When I sit down to put words to paper, be it via computer or what, I feel the butterflies in my stomach from anticipated fervor knowing that something is going to happen. My creativity is like that, so full of nervous energy until the ink flows indelibly without any inhibitions. This current essay purports to give insight to the persistence of the unknown writer. Ask me am I committed and you wouldn’t find anyone more determined to belong. I know Jean-Paul Satre and his defining principles of existentialism and commitment – the necessity of defining oneself by choosing, continually choosing, always an uncompleted act but simultaneously completing, needing to feel accomplished! I was a young man as far as I can remember being someone who wanted to be accepted as a writer – no, I was already sure that I was a writer, even though I had not started my freelance writing career, and hadn’t yet seen anything published with my name attached to it.
Remembering those days before the monies started coming in were dark and wistful, but I always found the courage to stay the course. To understand the elements that went into Satre’s work, is to be existential and the determining agent responsible for my own choices, and this is what drove me, and continues to give me that burst of psychological energy needed to keep focused. I feel no negativity being connected to his idealism because to some extent, all writers will have experienced what I’ve felt in wanting to be accepted. Talent notwithstanding, vestiges of existentialism is present in the form of terms that are synonymous with productivity, often the harbinger of doubt. We tend to call it anxiety, writer’s block, ennui, angst, or my favorite – melancholy blues. But is this the best way to define moments when nothing of note comes across your pad, the times when you fail to connect the dots?
It gets back to how committed you are and want to be. I’m aware of what needs to be done to give me mental stability and to keep my head above water to reach that higher level. I think about the stages and initiatives to let the powers that be to know whom you I am, and why I write as I do. It means not bowing down to those that may not understand or even have the type of intellect I do to allow them to see me as being pedantic. And yes, I have had a few of them who feel that I must come down to their level to be accepted and understood. I shrug and admonish them to get a bigger dictionary, or turn the other cheek when they see me coming. The persistence of the unknown writer will always be to harness obscurity, and get his/her work out there to be seen. I’m challenged all the time when I write, because I want to know that each and every bit of work I produce can be the parts of a greater whole to obtain that seemingly obscure notoriety. When there’s no check in the mail I feel the sharp edge of terror gripping me, and reality is much more than the imagery I tend to substitute it for.
I lament the fact that no agent has called me and asked for my manuscripts; no editor has offered me a chance to be redlined and marginalized with trial and error; and certainly no options to be given a pink slip of rejection, even. I suppose that there’s a consolatory rung on the ladder toward acceptance for a writer of my caliber, and it’s the hope that perseverance would continue to prevail against all odds, and that continuity is the core of it. What is the lesson for others to learn having to deal with obscurity? For those of us still languishing in obscurity we have to remind ourselves that we STILL have to keep plying our trade...and that we are not yet part of that viable network until and when we produce something that will be prominent to someone in the right time and the right place. Ralph Ellison in his superb Invisible Man classic in the portrayal of the ‘Battle Royal’, gives an excellent analogy of Black men blindfolded and put into a boxing ring in which they strike out blindly until only two are left standing depicting winners, but actually winning nothing in the process! We are sure that there have been writers who have been told in many ways that their writing is of no significance, who face this serious and continuing crisis every day. I get people e-mailing asking what does it take to be a freelance writer, or what is needed to write with clarity, etc.
There problems are no worse than mine, being obscured waiting for that chance to be seen, recognized and accepted. I tell them to pick up the gauntlet and run…for our proverbial pen will yield the necessary ink one day to smear obscurity with determined moxie. We will honor what it took to get us where we are today, because insatiable desire has always rendered us thirsty enough to not drink only a half-filled glass as long as there’s room at the top with it running over with our inexhaustible desire to make it!
Monday, July 03, 2006
Then during the latter part of June, I tackled the majestic heights of the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee (Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge). As far as the coastal island were concerned, it was nothing to do my daily Bible study with the sun peeking out on the horizon...on the beach no less, I imagined Paul starting his day gathering the needed ammunition to shoot straight and true armed with the Word with this same setting!
Of course, I happen to know the historic value of this area, where the Gullah tradition lives on today. Oh yes, I know my history: The name, "Gullah", itself probably derives from "Angola" (and possibly from the large number of slaves who arrived from that part of Africa in the early 1800s). "Geechee" -- another name for the language and culture of black Sea Islanders -- comes from a tribal name in Liberia. Traditions, language and myth stayed longer with the coastal Carolina Gullahs, who were allowed greater latitude of self-sufficiency and were relatively isolated on the Sea Islands.
Most Beaufort slaves in the first decades of the 1800s may have been first-generation African arrivals. So it was not merely the remoteness of the Sea Islands that preserved the African culture and language influences among Gullah speakers. An exorbitant number of slaves came to South Carolina from Africa between 1804 through 1807, and approximately 14,000 of these according to Grolier's Encyclopedic Index originated from Angola, Congo, or "Congo and Angola". The newly arrived slaves breathed new life into African traditions already established on the islands. A new infusion of pidgin influences would have had a profound impact on the existing Creole language. With this bit of information firmly imbedded in my consciousness, my pride knew no limits as I walked the sacred ground where my ancestors labored and lamented against all odds for survival...And here I am some 400 years later blessed enough with the opportunity to be in the write place!A few miles to the South, there's Cumberland, Sapelo, Jekyll, and St. Simon's Islands all of which are exclusive in their own individual right, but it's the collective beauty of the whole area that allows God's penchant for bucolic beauty to shine forth.
The International Youth Empowerment Retreat, under the auspices of the Seventh Day International Ministries (Church of God) invited me as a special guest to mentor and talk to a group of youth for spiritual and literary growth. The Sea enclave, originally settled by John and Charles Wesley, held this retreat on St. Simon’s Island within the Epworth founders of the Methodist movement in 1735. I got a chance to fellowship and give a keynote-like speech on the importance of self-esteem and finding purpose to life. Four days of worship, workshops, and lectures gave youths in attendance both challenge and choices. In June another wonder of God's work unveiled itself. The Great Smokey Mountains in the vicinity of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee was next. Koinonia Worship Center (www.kwcfl.org) , a non-denominational church with their charismatic Pastor, Eric H. Jones, conducted its annual marriage retreat for matrimonial couples and singles alike. Five days were spent here where a series of workshops were inherent along with a dynamic banquet that featured Evangelist and Author, Kenneth Scott who delivered a spirited sermon on familial order and the importance of prayer, devotion, and meditation. There's something about that rarified air that allows eagles to soar and elevation to define a sense of separateness seemingly from the pangs of iniquity.
We stayed in state-of-the art log cabins where privacy begat hot tubs, Jacuzzis, wrap-around porches complete with rocking chairs that I used daily to read one of many books I brought on the journey. Peaks and valleys were abundant, where winding mountain streams and riveting rivers gave rise to 'running free' carving rustic routes to champion good flow. Ah, the wonders of God's work never ceased to amaze me. He gave us awakening sunrises to meditate and start days off on the right foot; He made sure that sunsets wasn't meant to be the end of anything; Gave us reasons to expect the highs and lows of majestic mountains housing valleys and dales where rivers run free, and where precipitous mists of moisture rain supreme! A good time was had by me as I was able to give insight to distinguished gentlemen and young sophisticated ladies...I participated in the various workshops, lectured to the Kids of the Kingdom, and watched with awe as I gave homage to all the wonders that have made God's work majestic and miraculous!
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
The ink flowing from the psychological pen in my mind is legible and visible. There’s not a day that goes by that I fail to ‘write it down’. Writing it down is just the natural inclination in me to savor every thought worthy enough to savor from mind to paper. Thus, the pad that I keep within reach, especially mentally, more often than not invariably won’t be a vain attempt at procrastinated penmanship. As an author, am I always supposed to have a ready writings created on the fly positioned to proliferate from the tip of my pen? Shouldn’t my fingers automatically find the home row keys across the keyboard any time I sit in front of the computer? I resoundingly say YES! to both observed inclinations.
There are, and have been times when the words didn’t materialized instantaneously, or I found myself juxtaposed between imagery and realism just to admit reluctantly that writer’s block can happen to the best of us. I’m okay with that. Some days are more productive than others, and there will be times of ennui and blasé routine. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a freelancer and don’t have problems finding writing projects. My research analytical duties and penchant for grant writing gives me ample opportunities to forage for ideas, and be in position to accept assignments. I do my best work when my back is against the wall, or when one of my editors calls with an assignment that’s due yesterday! But I like the lifestyle of ink flowing from my pen when adrenalin is heightened and anticipation is rushing to meld with great expectations. I move with moderate and deliberate speed, creating my own Karma where cruise control is the only option for that type of contentment.
My ‘To Be Read’ pile is getting higher and higher at the expense of the review copies and ARC’s that garner priority. I don’t allow time to dictate or commandeer when and where I write. But I do adhere to that ever-present still small voice that loves to whisper vociferously enough into my ear for clarity, control, and charisma. God is like that. I can’t write anything but what He feels necessary for s me anyway. Like most writers I get excited when I know I’m onto something. There’s a tendency to overwrite and you find yourself with so many rewrites that stifles creative flow…but not the ink! I know that what works for me is finding adequate spacing and not become exasperated when anxiety renders me with too many directives and not enough of anything to carry on.
Are rules meant to be broken? It is said that the craft of writing has so many rules…rules that have defined some, and some that have defeated others. Is the finished essay, poem, or narrative any less discernable if each concerted effort doesn’t end with what my readers expect out of me? It just may be the fodder needed to light that proverbial fire under me for continuity to be more than status quo. The writing life is quirky like this and I wouldn’t trade any of it. I rely on God’s favored hand to guide me and keep the inks flowing – literally!
The latter, while easy to read into something that is not readily assumed can be dauntingly misleading, has allowed lucrative financial boons to sway the opinions of today’s writers equal status with their peers from another era. I will always ask -- what are they comparing and from what standard? It is the unbalanced nature of what is considered ‘literary’ that always tend to give comparative analysis less than what is intended.
As a freelance writer and essayist who happen to be Black, I’m not pleased at how our work is not considered acceptable to what is considered good journalism in some literary circles. Incidentally, I balked at a survey conducted recently that asked to identify "the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years." The survey in my opinion was predictable and not quite surprising. Why? The poll wasn’t extended to enough of us, and when I allude to ‘us’ I’m referring to many people of color in my literary Diaspora that are just as influential as specific white folk are to their constituencies. African American writers have emerged and want to be recognized! We are strong and vociferous and are just as prolific as you would find in mainstream sections of the industry. We have produced work that, if given the same equal proportion that others get, would definitely balance the scales of competition and allow opportunity to be accepted in all annals of acceptance.
A.O. Scott in his recent article of the same subject alluded that “a study of this kind where you rank the ‘best’ is akin to something of a composite self-portrait as interesting perhaps for its blind spots and distortions as for its details”. I agree wholeheartedly, and applaud his contention that equally interesting in some cases the reasoning behind the choices as for the choices themselves. My whole premise in this has a lot to do with the fact that in the last 25 years the Black community has given the literary world quite a few gems worthy of consideration. Alice Walker and Toni Morrison, notwithstanding and certainly no disrespect to the two of them, are literary, and you expect for them to garner the pundits and accolades accordingly. Mainstream publishing circles will readily cite them and a few others that are ‘name’ authors by reputation in most cases.
The fact that they have earned the right to be placed in categories of superlative verve is not lost on me, but they certainly are not the only ones worthy of consideration. But you can’t tell me that what others have read based on their individual sensibilities couldn’t give credence, or shouldn’t be considered important and respected enough to make a list like that? The problem is that not enough ‘other’ people read our books, plain and simple; and if they don’t read us how can they purport to produce a list of ‘the best’ and exclude comprehensively other works considered to be just as noteworthy? I’m sure I won’t stand alone in this opinionated view, for I only want to be pragmatic, if not logical in this assessment.
It’s so hard to deem one’s work as the best - or even to establish a short, if not incomplete list of near-bests. I surmise it would be to risk the implication that no one need bother with the rest, and thus belittle the cause of reading or comparing anything without a wider network to adequately choose from. When man resorts to abstract means to deduce what is tangible and what is relevant in reading habits in producing the best of anything, it’s fraught with danger, lest you offend those that feel they legitimately belong in the first place. Literary merit is much more than eliciting opinions where not all books are read to really make the competition fair and equitable. Reasoned judgment with good persuasive points of contention should be the norm, and not some quirky answers given to support a system that plays to chaos and skewed opinions.
Mass public opinion has ways of going against the grain where divided loyalties are par for the course in swaying votes to sensibilities closer to racial affinity. America’s penchant to rank anything and everything causes more harm than anything where the competition is not given opportunities for fair play. I worry too, about not having judges if you will, who are familiar with their own kind as opposed to having someone judge product foreign to their sensibilities. Oh yes, this happens a lot. Just look at American Idol, and you can see how and why vestiges of fabricated competition can give superlative competition a sort of triviality.
In my mind I would love to point to one of my favorite authors, Walter Mosley and fondly place several of his books on that list, for I feel that no other writer, Black or white exemplify diversity in writing acumen. But then again, the idea illustrated here may be the fodder for others to give reason to discount and de-emphasize the need to be the best, if balanced scales are not allowed to legitimize logic for all intended purposes for the sake of fairness!
Saturday, May 13, 2006
During my formative years leading up to maturity, and even in recent times, I can remember being alone with only the words to console me in times of depression. Desire was within me yearning for escapism to give me confidence and clarity for ways for my writing to surface and grace my writing pad. But it wasn't always so easy to allow silence and peace of mind to work hand in hand for creativity's sake. I was the eldest of seven children and finding time, let alone space was fleeting as well as daunting. The insatiable need to write was strong and reverberating. My need for my own space in my own little world was defined early with frustration ever at the ready to thwart any attempts at reconciled satisfaction. I've heard many authors speak of the same angst and other maladies aiding and abetting this problem. I've also spoken to those that have said that they've had to resort to writing at odd times within any given 24 hour period, and/or finding any type of location to generate serenity.
I've come to the conclusion that illuminating the way for the written word and authors’ commitment to literature has spawned the need for safe havens for the committed writer to continue the proliferation of titles in today's African American literal marketplace. Despite the many books that are flooding cyberspace and any other space to hold them, we writers are being deluged with deadlines, harangued with editing issues, numerous rewrites, and other maladjustments attributing to poor time management options. I'm constantly reminded of my freelance writing initiatives for finding peaceful settings amid chaos. This expose was written to give emerging and established writers to look into the wherewithal of writer retreats, or inner sanctums for retreat -- all for the purpose of finding legitimate spacing for sustained creativity. I, like many others would relish the idea of writing uninhibited and with comfort.
If you are an author and can identify with what has been ascribed above, I'd like to hear from you. Give your comments on why you feel that retreating to space designed specifically for your writing environs are important. What works best for you?
Friday, May 12, 2006
Ah, the seeds that are within me. Even within their embryonic stage they are positioning to be heard, clamoring to be recognized and claimed for artistic value. I thought about how ideas and ideals are treated when I allow them to languish across the scope of my thought patterns. I water them, change the soil at times to assure the proper spacing for pragmatic view, and give them adequate amount of continuity for later airing. Rarely do I dismiss anything that may have potential to be expanded for an essay. I love the pleasure of coming up with titles that elicit extra-curricular thought. I try to make them catchy and have hooks that tend to play on words. I'm big on alliteration where words just roll of the tongue for intrinsic value to all that those titles should embody. I came up with the title for one of my online columns – “Views from The Catbird Sea. (http://www.aakulturezone.com/lifestyle/catbird/index.html) with this concept in mind. Most of what I write about comes purely from an individually opinionated outlook that harkens back to going deep for yet another view from what's seen on the surface. I feel too, that whenever you can endeavor to allow people to see differing slants it allows supposition to be more than just a moot point.
I will purport with relish that seeds within you can germinate at any time. With me, I want the writer's life to resonate with a voice long on imagery and just short of a dare! I invite you to read more of the seeds that reside within me by visiting the Author's Den where all of my essays are archived. There, you see how I Germinate Seeds for Proper Growth: http://www.authorsden.com/alvincromer
Saturday, January 21, 2006
I never thought I’d elicit passionate pleas to have yea and nay edify such vociferous effect when asking a simple question. “There is a thin line between fiction based stories and factual information. It’s all about dramatic effect and how one spreads it among the pages of a great book. Literally speaking, any great writer can take a small substance of a story then aim for the stars to create a masterpiece. Realism and imagery is closer than you think.” The aforementioned was given when I asked the question, “How close is fiction to fact?” I suspect that I would generally get a myriad of answers to illustrate different points of contention -- and I was right. Personally, I liken the two to be dependent on how mindsets are positioned to illustrate whatever is relevant psychologically to accept what’s real or imagined.
I have been writing for years and have always marveled at how I arrive at subjective titles worthy of my penmanship. Who can deny sharp with at the expense of a fluid pen? Not I, and certainly not others who profess to be connoisseurs of linguistic fortitude. With this in mind, I consider myself a laborer of the mind…one who theorizes about the world and writes essays to share those thoughts. More particularly, I had become this way because fact and fiction is synonymous with how I’m able to project myself intrinsically within my literary muse. In the past, and even now, nothing intrigues me more than to write from an opinionated view, and with a conviction! I admire my ancestors – those of sharp wit and mind who have endeavored to give me flavor to savor and substance to build on. As a Black intellect, I want to be a laborer of the mind…to write among, and about my people sharing the odes and stories of how we survived, and how we continue to create laughter in the eye of storms.
I have been writing for years and have always marveled at how I arrive at subjective titles worthy of my penmanship. Who can deny sharp with at the expense of a fluid pen? Not I, and certainly not others who profess to be connoisseurs of linguistic fortitude. With this in mind, I consider myself a laborer of the mind…one who theorizes about the world and writes essays to share those thoughts. More particularly, I had become this way because fact and fiction is synonymous with how I’m able to project myself intrinsically within my literary muse. In the past, and even now, nothing intrigues me more than to write from an opinionated view, and with a conviction! I admire my ancestors – those of sharp wit and mind who have endeavored to give me flavor to savor and substance to build on. As a Black intellect, I want to be a laborer of the mind…to write among, and about my people sharing the odes and stories of how we survived, and how we continue to create laughter in the eye of storms. I want my words to incite joy, evoke tears, and initiate change. This is but one of the reasons why rhyme and reason will always allow me to know the difference when fact and fiction is part of the total picture. It's all about blending the two for dramatic effect!