A sIT down with Contest winner and kitchen table member kathryn m. sharon featuring the story "Solomon's choice" (2ND ANNUNAL SPRING MICRO-FICTION CONTEST winner)
A conversation with Kathryn M. Sharon about her story, “Solomon’s Choices,” her writing journey, and how she self-designed an "MFA program" to develop her creative voice.
Q: The global pandemic created turmoil the world over, and the "George Floyd Summer/Breonna Taylor Summer" reflected a broader response to racial inequity and state-sanctioned violence than ever before. As a writer, how did you handle the challenges of being an artist and professional with everything that was/is going on? What challenges or opportunities did the pandemic create or open up for you in your writing?
A: When the pandemic first hit in early 2020, I found it frightening and destabilizing. Equally triggering was the racial and social upheaval that resulted from the murder of George Floyd in May of 2020. During this time of great tumult, it was hard for me to write. I felt numb, unfocused, dispirited. My focus was on getting through the day and staying healthy. I was in self-protection and self-preservation mode; But a few months into the pandemic, I felt this tug to get back to writing. What kept coming for me is the Toni Morrison quote: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal."
So, I gathered myself and registered for Kitchen Table Literary Arts’ s Learn ‘Em, Break ‘Em five-week fiction course, where I was put through the rigor of writing and revising a series of short stories. Taking the course helped me stay on track with my writing practice. I must say, I was proud of myself for pushing through during a very difficult time.
"Sometimes we need to check ourselves, examine our values and responsibility to our community, and
As far as opportunities during the pandemic, a lot writing conferences, book tours, and other literary events that would have typically been held onsite and in person, were held virtually. And this afforded me the opportunity to attend countless literary events that I normally would not have had an opportunity to attend, either due to their location, costs, and a limited number of vacation days. But in 2020 and 2021, my calendar stayed booked.
Q: What tips or advice do you have for fellow writers?
A: Take advantage of the plethora of writing resources out there such as writing communities (e.g., Kitchen Table Literary Arts and Association of Writers & Writing Programs) and podcasts (e.g., the Manuscript Academy and The Shit No One Tells You About Writing). Get to know the bookstagram community, read voraciously, and most importantly stay true to your creative vision and keep writing.
Q: What do you hope readers taken away from the story, “Solomon’s Choice”?
A: A key takeaway is that sometimes we need to check ourselves, examine our values and responsibility to our community, and make difficult choices. That is, if one is in the position to do so. In the case of the protagonist in “Solomon’s Choice,” it was her cousin who checked her.
"Stay true to your creative vision and keep writing."
Q: What encouraged you to submit your story to our Spring Micro-Fiction contest?
A: I had never submitted my work in a writing contest and I wanted to see how I would fare. But more importantly, this 750-word micro-fiction contest presented me with the challenge of distilling my short story down to its essence, down to the core critical elements. And for me, this was an invaluable creative exercise.
Q: What can we expect from you in the future?
A: The great Toni Morrison famously said, “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it". So, that is what I have set out to do. I’m currently working on my debut fiction novel set in the mid-20th century about a Black woman navigating life in the American South. I just finished my first draft, and plan to start querying in the latter half of this year.
CONGRATULATIONS again to our 2nd Annual Spring Micro-Fiction Contest Winner Kathryn M. Sharon.
sOLOMON'S CHOICE BY Kathryn m. sharon
Brooklyn-native, Kathryn M. Sharon is a writer whose work has been published in the Word Works poetry Anthology, the Bronx Press Review, and Streeterville News. She was a former stringer for The New York Times. Kathryn earned masters' degrees from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and The University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Peace and Conflict Studies program, where she studied structural violence in Black communities. She’s currently working on her debut novel.
Writer and publisher stephanie outten shares her writing journey
I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve gotten the question, “Why did you decide to write a book?” I smile every time I get asked. I’m grateful, though, that I can smile now because when I was writing my first book, there were so many tears. Whew!
Writing, for me, has been cathartic. Coming from a place of hurt, it was exactly what I needed in order to begin the healing process. I needed to get things off of my chest without having to speak them. The words on the pages needed to speak on my behalf, at the time, and shift me from a place of emotional bondage, to a place of liberation deep in my soul.
It’s pure peace and joy when I’m able to take what’s inside my head and put it on paper. Whether I write in my journal, type into my phone, or type into an electronic document, I write to bring myself to a place of wholeness - a place of feeling full and complete. I believe everyone should have that type of experience when they write.
"Writing, for me, has been cathartic."
My transition from reader to writer began as a way to heal from past emotional scars that had reopened. After having gone through a failed in vitro-fertilization attempt, I was at a place where I had to confront a series of other painful experiences that had been weighing me down without ever realizing it. I was still emotionally and spiritually bleeding. I was hurt, embarrassed, and my hormones were all over the place from all of the treatments. I needed a place to bury all of the pain, so the Lord released me to write my story in a fictional way.
Now that I’ve written one book and contributed chapters in two other books, I spend my time coaching others to write the stories the world has been waiting for them to share. Also, as an independent publisher, I help them get their books into the marketplace.
So, as a writer who is also a publisher, here’s my advice as you prepare to write your own fiction stories:
STEPHANIE OUTTEN'S TIPS FOR WRITING FICTION
I hope this helps you along your journey to becoming a great fiction writer. When you’re ready to write and/or publish, let me know!
a review of dr. nnedi okorafor's binti: home
by silk-jazmyne hindus
The second book of Dr. Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti series is a story of return and growth. Binti: Home takes places a year after the protagonist Binti experiences the death of all her classmates on their way to Oomza University. The first scene is in mathematics class, when she begins to feel intense emotions. At first she’s confused then realizes that it’s her connection to her Meduse friend, Okwu. Knowing that his rage will result in killing his professor, she rushes to his weapons’ presentation to deescalate the situation. Soon after, Binti decides to return home in order to go on pilgrimage in hopes to calibrate herself, ridding her of the conflicting emotions she’s felt for the past year. While at home, she quickly learns that not everyone is excited to see her and were angered by her leaving. Things go from bad to strange when a figure shows itself to Binti that typically only reveals itself to men. This prompts a group of people, her grandmother included, to arrive at her doorstep ready to whisk her away to destiny.
The author carries on the originality of the first book while delving deep into sensitive topics. The reader gets to see Binti’s growth while understanding her challenges. There’s an incredible amount of time spent on mental health. From instances of panic attacks to night terrors. Often times in science fiction when disasters occur, the protagonist is sad for a moment then goes on to save the day. The reader is able to see her strength through moments of pain.
“For the first few weeks, I was okay, but eventually I started having nightmares, day terrors, I’d see red and then Heru’s chest bursting open.”
There’s even a moment when Binti challenges her own preconceived notions.
“I felt a sting of shame as I realized why I hadn’t understood something so obvious. My own prejudice. I had been raised to view the Desert People, the Enyi Zinariya, as a primitive, savage people plagued by a genetic neurological disorder. So that’s what I saw.”
During the first book, the reader is only given a glimpse of familial ties and man does she give the whole picture in this one. We get to see Binti’s siblings exactly how they are and how their bond has been shaken by her leaving and near death experience. There was a moment I was so angry and sad for the protagonist because the moment was so real and raw. Okorafor gives us such strong fiction, we can’t help but feel the human truths.
With one hundred sixty two pages to work with, the author uses simple, concise sentences for the majority of the book until she deems it absolutely necessary to expound. She slows the narrative down in the big moments to allow the reader to fully soak up what’s happening.
“In one sentence, she explained something that had been bothering me for a year. That’s all it was. The random anger and wanting to be violent, that was just Meduse genetics in me. Nothing is wrong with me? I thought. Not unclean? It’s just … a new part of me I need to learn to control? I’d come all this way to go on my pilgrimage because I’d thought my body was trying to tell me something was wrong with it.”
The plot progresses quickly. There’s quite a bit of movement in this book, especially compared to the first which took place mostly in one location. This book goes from university, to ship, to home, to desert, to the priestess, back to Binti’s home. Entire days are covered in a few pages but never does the journey seem rushed; the element of urgency and plot occurrences keeps the reader from feeling hurried.
This book is an ode to growing up, letting go and evolving. The first book was about leaving home and the second is about returning. A navigation of balancing who you were raised to be and becoming who you are and want to be. Coming home after being on your own is very hard (ask any college grad who’s had to move back in with their parents after graduation). This book was about how moving forward doesn’t mean forgetting the past but also not being afraid of becoming who you were meant to be, even if it makes people uncomfortable.
Binti: Home is the story of every golden child who has fallen from grace. It’s about family and culture. How following your dreams can feel like turning your back on a collectivist home. I found myself genuinely tearing up at some of the more pivotal moments. There’s a level of beauty in the rawness. The author doesn’t shy away from giving you a complete view of Binti in her strength and weakness. This book is an encouragement to anyone scared to branch out from their traditional family. When I finished, I couldn’t wait to get into the third book to see how this character’s story ends.
MISSED THE FIRST BINTI REWIEW? READ IT HERE!
review of dr. nnedi okorafor's binti
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