Happy National Novel Writing Month, everyone! Since I first joined the (actually, international) frenzy to write an entire novel in the thirty days of November, 2004, I’ve participated more years than not. This year, unfortunately, I’m dealing with the Epic Struggle for Survival and its overwhelming demands on my increasingly disabled, decompensated, and poor self.
Regardless, I have more writing resources, following up on my prior post on resources for diversity and inclusiveness in writing fiction.
First off, #OwnVoices! I am so frakking excited for this one. The hashtag spawned out of an intense discussion on Twitter in September 2015 about young adult novels with characters with marginalized identities being written by writers actually with those marginalized identities, recommendations tagged with #OwnVoices bouncing back and forth across the internet. It’s expanded far beyond that scope, however. I highly recommend this interview with the hashtag’s originator Corinne Duyvis to learn more about it and why it’s so important to social justice to promote awareness and accessibility of the work of marginalized people. You can skip to the end for her top #OwnVoices recommendations. You can just dive right into this #OwnVoices Twitter search, or type it into Google and come up with lots of cool recommendation lists like this one for disability and neurodiversity #OwnVoices that also links to a longer curated Goodreads list. And here’s a really helpful Q&A post from Lamar Giles discussing how this applies to those of us authors who want to read and write more socially conscious and diverse works.
Second, Writing With Color, “a blog dedicated to writing and resources centered on racial & ethnic diversity.” You’ll find book recs, information on stereotypes and tropes, advice, guides, and more.
Third, Abulafia. I both love it and am overwhelmed by it. It’s an enormous wiki of user-contributed random generators. There’s the Story Games Name Project, which is a bunch of generators of character names from so many different cultures—contemporary, historical, fantastic, and even humorous (like spammers, ridiculous hoboes, and trappelensteink). You can instantly fill your burning need for a new film noir monologue, Rufio (from the movie ‘Hook’)-style insults and beatdowns, as well as plenty of more practical generators for character and place names in cultures other than one’s own. Many generators, like the Art, Grace, and Guts Oracle and the set called Crunchy Bits tickle the imagination and can stimulate inspiration. A lot of it is geared toward Role-Playing Games, however, unlike:
Language is a Virus. Oh how I LOVE this site! If you’re a sucker for surrealism, the Beat Poets, or messing with language (and your own mind) I heartily recommend it. You can generate masses of original text in various forms from haiku to Shakespearean Sonnet. There’s a wealth of writing techniques described here, including William S. Burroughs’s classic Cut-Up Technique, Anais Nin’s Collage Technique, and Charles Bernstein’s 66 Writing Experiments. The site also features interactive Writing Games, a random generator of writing prompts, a section exclusively devoted to poetry gizmos well as an ENORMOUS set of guides to all kinds of poetry and poetry elements from a diversity of cultures (and historical forms as well as contemporary), and a collection of text generators.
I was delighted to find a massive list of non-binary gender names on NonBinary.org (also an excellent resource). Unfortunately most aren’t tagged with their culture of origin, though there are a lot of non-Eurocentric entries.
And finally, though this isn’t a resource, I found this article on Doris Lessing particularly inspiring to me. Outsider/visionary writing (or art) generally refers to a self-taught artist rather than a more conventionally schooled one. This really speaks to me, but also to the artists whose work is deemed ‘unmarketable’ because of its lack of appeal to/representation of the culture and people with the most privilege and power. Especially in the past, but even today, many marginalized people have limited or no means or access to adequate, effective arts education. Or the arts education available is nearly inconsequential as education budget cuts overwhelmingly target arts programs and devalue the development and nurturing of all-important imagination and innovation for STEM subjects that drive up those superficial test scores by which we too often tend to measure individual and institutional success. And then we complain about how cookie-cutter, mass-produced, and pandering popular culture seems. But that’s another rant for another time.
The point is, you don’t have to have a schmancy expensive piece of paper and several thousand dollars of student loan debt to be an artist. Especially in this age of mass information and communication and innovations that reduce and eliminate traditional ‘gatekeepers’ (like record labels, publishing houses, and film production companies), and the capacity to connect with people who have vastly different life experiences to ours all over the world, and increasing public free access to the internet, we have more tools than ever to educate and express ourselves. We can find our own voices. We can learn (albeit with lots of uncomfortable trial and error!) how to honor and raise awareness and visibility of marginalized people’s experiences rather than appropriate and exploit them. We can jam the culture and make our own kind of music.
In his song ‘Anthem’ Leonard Cohen sang, “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” To me, we are all lighthouses. All our myriad ways of speaking, creating, and expressing are how the light gets out.