|Photo by Stu Jenks|
Linda D. Addison is an award-winning poet and author who uses words and phrases the way artists use the tiniest of brushes - subtle nuances abound in her writing, which can range from bright and colorful to dark and somber, often in the space of a single phrase.To date, she has more than 200 poems to her credit.
What It Takes to Write Strange Stuff
by Linda D. Addison
So here we are in February, Black History Month and I’m a triple threat: Black, Woman, Horror Writer. I’m old enough to remember a time when these descriptions weren’t celebrated. The thing is that I’m a quietly, stubborn person. I realize now that I was like that as a child so I wrote my weird stuff regardless.
I wish there wasn’t a need for a Black History Month or Women In Horror Month or Black Women in Horror Month, but unfortunately it’s sadly clear that they are needed. Too many people still don’t get that a human being is a human being, no matter what the color of their skin, etc.
Being a humanist, I expect to be treated equally and I treat everyone with respect. When it’s not reciprocated it’s disappointing and makes me angry, but I haven’t faced that problem overtly too often. I’ve been told I have an edge (even though I’m pretty friendly), and no problem speaking my mind. Maybe it’s my personality that keeps ignorant people at bay, I can’t say.
I never completely believed the negative things about being Black and writing weird stuff but I couldn’t deny their existence. Growing up they crept into corners inside of me, but I fought their attempt to takeover, my imagination wouldn’t allow it. No matter what I did stories and poems always surfaced that had some strangeness to it.
I was a skinny, shy kid from mostly rough neighborhoods and spent most of my time helping my Mom take care of my eight brothers and sister and reading everything I could get my hands on. I was too busy to be depressed at the fact there were no black female images for me to model myself on (later when Star Trek came on TV Nichelle Nichols was my hero). When I read books from the library I would become the character I related to the most. I became Every Person.
More than one teacher said my biggest problem was day-dreaming in class. I didn’t find reality as interesting as my ‘what if’ about reality. In my early years I read a lot of fantasy and science-fiction so I preferred looking out the classroom window and imagining UFOs were landing rather than listening to a teacher list what history dates to memorize. Even now my best ideas come when I’m day-dreaming.
Being shy allowed me to spend more time observing people. I watched everyone: my parents, brothers and sister, teachers, other students, people on the street and wondered why they did what they did, said the things they said and more importantly didn’t say. I spun everything I didn’t like into some kind of story in my head.
It never occurred to me to choose to be a Writer as a career. I had read enough about the life of a writer to know that wasn’t the way to make a living. I went to college, got a B.S. in Mathematics and ended up working in the computer field. All the years of the day job, I went home and wrote, after work, weekends, and vacations. After writing came the rewriting and then submitting. For years submitting was followed by rejection letters, lots of them.
The quiet stubborn part of me kept going: writing, rewriting, submitting, rejections. Until one day the first acceptance letter arrived! In 1994 I sold my first three poems (my first published poem is below from Just Write magazine, remember this was 1994, per the technology word usage):
(serves 365, except on leap years)
Take a year of health
sprinkled with fulfilled dreams
Add lots of laughter
with a few tears on the side.
Mix in an ample supply of ideas,
with characters you know
and strangers (or strange-r).
A dash of a well-turned phase, as needed.
Two fists full of hard work and frustration.
or stir roughly--depending on taste.
Pour into a 3.5" or 5.25" floppy
and print when done.
Garnish with a SASE...
Per serving: 0 calories, 0 cholesterol, infinite possibilities of being published
In a conversation with another writer (Tonya Liburd) I said “I exist to sing the song of the Universe.” Leave it to a poet to say something like that. I’m here to do more but that’s the essence of my approach to writing. I get quiet, I listen, I write.
Even though I made a career in computers I still wrote, all the time. Poems and stories run like songs in the back of my mind. It wasn’t a matter of turning them on, I couldn’t turn them off. I tried different kinds of subjects, genres, poems and stories, right not I’m trying my hand at novel writing. I read a lot about the business of writing and how different writers process worked. I took workshops and studied to write better. Even now I’m always looking to improve my writing.
What does it take to write strange stuff?
-something has to be in you to want to tell a story, whether as a poem or fiction
-start writing a piece and finish it
-rewrite it until it’s as good as you can make it (I read my work out loud to see if anything seems awkward)
-submit your work (spend time researching the right places to send your work, what the submission guidelines are, etc.)
-if it’s rejected and you can make it better, change it, if not, send it back out.
Writing was never was a choice for me. I stopped writing for a period of time many years ago and I was beyond unhappy. So back to writing/submitting/rejection/acceptance I went.
I don’t know if you have to be driven, possessed or stubborn. Being a writer is not an easy road to travel. As much as I believe society needs artists, we aren’t honored or supported for the most part. If you choose not to walk this rocky path, then don’t. Life is full of choices that we can make.
Linda D. Addison is the award-winning author of four collections including How To Recognize A
Demon Has Become Your Friend. She is the first African-American recipient of the HWA Bram Stoker Award® and has published over 300 poems, stories and articles. Catch her latest work in the upcoming anthology Scary Out There (Simon Schuster). Follow her at www.lindaaddisonpoet.com. And for a little taste of her writing, check out: http://www.cith.org/linda/stories.html