December’s Featured Blogger: Danica of Living a Beautiful Life

This month my featured blogger is Danica of the Living a Beautiful Life Blog

Her writing has a wonderful sense of adventure.

  1. Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging despite the fact that I had no idea what I was doing.  I created Living a Beautiful Life when I left the hospital emergency and was waiting to learn whether I’d need eye surgery or would simply lose my eyesight.  Living a Beautiful Life is my first blog and I hope to continue for a long time.

  1. I’m glad you didn’t lose your eyesight: What caused the doctors so much concern?

I’m not sure I want to go into more detail…the medical stuff kind of creeps me out.  It was the result of injury though, not a condition or degenerative issue.

Would it be fair to say that the crisis over the potential loss of your eyesight precipitated a crisis of identity?

Interesting question.  I love reading – and have since I learned how to read.  When I was a kid a big treat for me meant going to the bookstore and picking a book to bring home.  I’ve always felt that one of the best gifts I’ve ever received is exposure to books, and how fortunate I am to be literate.  When I was at risk of losing my eyesight, I thought, “Oh no!  Why can’t it be a limb or something else?”  It would be fair to say my identity is wrapped up in reading, ideas and learning.  Writing was always on the horizon for me and the possibility of leaving that unexpressed was devastating.

 

 

“No matter what, nobody can take away the dances you’ve already had.”

~ Gabriel García Márquez

 

  1. When was the first time you felt an urge to write?

I’ve wanted to write for most of my life.  I only started taking that vague notion off the back burner and putting it into action with my blog.

 

  1. How did you decide on the name, ‘Living a Beautiful Life?

When I started my blog I didn’t know what I’d write about or even what my general theme would be.  I thought about having a tiny speck of a space on the internet – what that would mean and what I wanted to contribute.  On a fundamental level, I believe there is always room for more beauty in the world and it wouldn’t hurt to focus on that.

 

Digital photograph of a Hedgehog
For more about Hank the Hedgehog click here
  1. You say you knew nothing the day you started your blog, what have you learned about blogging and bloggers since that day.

    I’ve learned the importance of what I call “blogging your love”.  The closer to my heart a blog post is, the more rewarding it is for me to write and publish.  It’s also more risky too; it just matters more.  I still expect to hear crickets when I post something.  Reader response is amazing.  The fact that one other human reads something I wrote and takes time to comment just tickles me.  I also enjoy reading other blogs and getting to know other bloggers.  The blogging community is amazing and I’m so lucky to be a part of it.~ Danica – (Living a Beautiful Life blog)

 

 

 

November’s Featured Blogger: Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha

It’s my pleasure to introduce Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha  as my featured blogger for November.

She is the creative force behind ‘A Cooking Pot and Twisted Tales,’ and ‘The Art of Beautiful Expressions,’

How did you decide on the name ‘A Cooking Pot and Twisted Tales,’ for your blog?

Choosing ‘a cooking pot and twisted tales,’ is as literal and as mundane as it gets.  Following weeks of coining names for feel and size, I failed to find anything that settled with me. One Saturday afternoon as I prepared lunch with my children, we swapped stories whilst cooking – it’s the way that my mother raised us. She entertained my siblings and me with folk tales or songs, somehow that made the chores lighter, happier and faster – that was when the name came to me, and as it settled in my heart it felt just right.

You write in the about me section of your blog: “If I blog successfully throughout the next year, I would have cultivated the discipline of settling down to write and ramble. I would (hopefully) have finished the drafts of the three novels that I am working on.”

Have you achieved those goals?

I have blogged consistently for two years and I must say that I am glad that I started. From my younger days, I journaled my thoughts in a diary, wrote stories and poems on scraps of paper. I started stories I never finished. I hoped that cultivating the habit of writing daily would give me a disciplined approach to my writing. I’ve written far more than I expected in the past two years. My novels are still in draft form because I am still reluctant to go the route of self-publishing for my novels – not just yet.

In two years, I’ve successfully published two of my poetry books – Out of The Silent Breath and Unbridled and the third poetry book is practically ready to go. I aim to release that in January 2018 because I have another book that sits in my soul and presses for my attention. Surprisingly, it’s a self-help book and inspirational. I have a need to get it out because I know it will help people.

Photograph of blogger Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha holding a copy of her book of poems, 'Unbridled' Photograph of blogger Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha  (c) Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha  Used with permission
My poetry book ‘Unbridled,’

Did you always want to be a writer, or did writing come to you as an adult?

My love for words and expressions led to my participation in school dramas/dance, writing dramas and short stories, and lead speaking at debates.

As a child, I didn’t know a lot of black writers except a few like Buchi Emecheta, Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Flora Nwapa and the esteemed late Chinua Achebe who happened to live a stone throw away from my folks at the University of Nigeria Nsukka campus, even then, I simply knew him as Nwando’s daddy – Nwando Achebe was my school mate. Most of the books available to us were written by Westerners and I had no idea that one could become a career writer.

I grew up in a place where a child’s course of study was determined by the parents and my parents thought my flair for the written and spoken word was better channeled into Law as opposed to Mass Communication or Theater Arts, which were my choices. In fairness to my parents, back then our actors and journalists were not well paid and I guess my folks worried about my future. Out of deference, I started out reading Law, then French language and my career has evolved over the years. Now, I am finding my way back to that which always had my name on it – writing and communication – though I must say that I’ve gained more from my diverse career background.

You mention that as a child in Nigeria you loved Nigerian Folklore: do you have a favorite story?

I was raised in a loving, Nigerian family; I was fed the staples of folklore and proverbs. Words of advice from my parents and grandparents were always accentuated with proverbs that puzzled my young mind.  Being that our life was always busy with many chores and farming, to make these duties less cumbersome especially when peeling cassava, shredding the corn heap, making pap, weeding the farm etc, my mother told us stories and most of the tales were underlined with a moral or two.

These tales helped to hand down tradition and customs and I remember that tales of the clever Tortoise and the animal kingdom always made us laugh, while ‘AGABA, the eater of liars,’ firmly planted the moral to tell the truth in my mind.

 

book cover for Out of the silent breath
Out of the silent breath by Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha

What other kinds of art shape your writing?

My writing is influenced by a keen observation of things that go on around me daily. I am an avid people watcher and a people’s person. Sometimes, I simply take a seat and as people pass by, I formulate stories in my head about them. I love nature – who doesn’t. The wonders of the world that I see leave me in constant awe and appreciation. I draw from life’s experiences, past and present, from the handiwork of others, painting, photography, conversation with total strangers and music. Music kindles my spirit.

Do you see blogging as an art?

If art is defined as self-expression, then blogging which is a form of self-expression is an art and the blogger becomes part of the art he creates.

I see your blog as a centering influence, has anyone ever said that to you before.

Robert, words like yours keep going. I must tell you that when I started my blog, it was purely born out of the need to make some sense of my life, broken as it was. In real-time, I am attuned to community and society around me and for some reasons unknown to me, I draw others easily to me; I could say that I’ve unwittingly managed to carry this over to my blog.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about success as a blogger?

Blogging success for me is writing stuff and finding that it resonates with others. It still amazes me till tomorrow that people bother to read what I write. I will say that most times I’m tickled pink. If truth be told, I only expected a handful of humans to pity me and read an occasional post. I didn’t anticipate connecting with as many people as I have, and I must say that it humbles me.

Blogging has shown me latent parts of me that I had no idea existed. I knew that I had things to say, but I can’t believe that I have this huge well of untapped resources in me. What I’m learning is that the more I dig, the deeper and richer it gets. That I could take up blogging and stick to it has helped my self-belief, determination, and courage to grow. One thing I will say to anyone having self-doubt in their capabilities as a blogger or writer, ‘work through the doubts; they may never go away, but your can-do attitude will quiet them.’

You have a separate blog, The Art of Beautiful Expressions: how is it different from A Cooking Pot and Twisted Tales?

‘A Cooking Pot and Twisted Tales,’ is my first blog baby and the second blog baby ‘The Art of Beautiful Expressions,’ is a self-hosted blog set up to serve as a resource center for bloggers, writers and photography. I focus on the rudiments of blogging, writing and photography.

Please share a short piece of writing, a poem, or perhaps an excerpt from one of your books.

 

Excerpt from my poetry book ‘Unbridled,’

Us 

There are us.

Born at the edge of a void

where there is no beginning;

early memories blurred

by recollections of bouncing on uncle’s laps

where turgid erections caressed our baby butts.

 

There are us.

Sitting alone all night

erasing ourselves and playing cracked records

from torturous nightmares of useless rape

forcefully fucked and threatened with grim death

where safety is far, and we can’t seem to get away.

There are us.

Who have felt emptied

by those who take want they want

leaving us feeling less than whole

plotting their demise in inconceivable ways

where we pray for peace to find us.

 

(c) Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha 

 

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Angels Passing By

from Tammy Mezera ~ Poetry

Tammy Mezera

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Even a blind man could see Occam’s razor

and it’s blade glinting through fallen leaves

love comes and goes

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Even those whom never heard the symphony

knows when the hymn is born and finally dies

love comes and goes

.

Those whom have never caressed rhapsody

could feel angels passing by

love comes and goes

.

comes and goes

.

But it never

says goodbye~

.

.

© 2017 Tammy Mezera

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An Interview with Harold Norse, Part 2, Section 1: “But I’m still Gay.”

Part two of the Interview opens with Harold’s discussing his relationship to his peers, many of whom achieved fame and a place in literary history.

Norse describes them as outcasts and I reply that they are hardly outcasts now.

Norse feels like an outcast and I hearken back to Auden’s comment by suggesting that perhaps a saint is an outcast who survives as an outcast.

Survival in this context is surviving as an artist.

Norse says he wrote because, “I wanted to write about my deepest feelings about being Gay.”

He goes on to tell a story about conversation he had with James Baldwin who was new to fame  and Norse said, “Jimmy, you’ve got nothing to worry about, you’ve got it made.”

“Jimmy turned and said, ‘Whattaya mean I got it made! I’m still Black!'”

The cover of Giovanni's Room, by James Baldwin
Giovanni’s Room 1956, by James Baldwin

Norse goes on to say that no matter what he does, he’s still gay, he’s
still marginalized.

Norse describes how he met with Baldwin again, after Baldwin was wealthy.

Baldwin looks in a mirror and says, “After all, I’m still James Baldwin.”

Norse stopped himself from saying, “And who is James Baldwin.”

Norse describes it as a ‘Zen’ moment when he realized that we are what we’re conscious of being.

Interview with Harold Norse Section 2, part 1.

Please note:

When I turned the tape over I unknowingly enabled a ridiculous option
that stops the machine when it senses silence. The result is a little choppy.
I did my best to smooth it out.

To hear the beginning go to An interview with Harold Norse, Part 1, Section 1

(C) Rob Goldstein 2017 All Rights Reserved

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