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.
REFLECTION AS INSPIRATION by memoir magazine founder, mARY MCBETH
As a writer, activist, and woman of color, I created Memoir Magazine to foster more empathy for the women of color experience, particularly African-American Women. I wanted to create a place where our stories could make the most impact in society at large, where people everywhere could experience more of the rich tapestry of our lives, our hearts and minds, as well as the vital roles we continue to play in the cultural collective of this nation. After all, nothing fosters empathy like a walk in another person's shoes, and memoir offers that opportunity.
I knew that we, as women of color writers, needed a literary magazine that would fairly consider our reality in the wider literary landscape, and I wanted to create a safe space for us to tell our stories, without judgment, because I know the power of writing to heal the writer as well as the reader.
"WE HAVE BEEN YOKED BY THE NOTION THAT WE MUST PRESENT OURSELVES AS CLEAN AND GOOD AND PERFECT TO BE ACCEPTED—INSTEAD OF THE BEING OURSELVES, BEING REAL PEOPLE WITH REAL PERSONALITY FLAWS, REAL ILLNESSES, REAL EMOTION, REAL NEEDS, ALL OF WHICH CONTRIBUTE TO THE REAL BEAUTY WE HOLD INSIDE OF US."
For example, writing ushered me through much of my challenges with perfection and acknowledging the pressure put upon us to be perfect. My father used to tell me that I had to be twice as good as everybody else to get anywhere in America. He was right of course, but a side affect of what I call the “walk it off” belief is that, just like society at large, I too began to discount my own emotions. For far too long, we have been yoked by the notion that we must present ourselves as clean and good and perfect to be accepted—instead of the being ourselves, being real people with real personality flaws, real illnesses, real emotion, real needs, all of which contribute to the real beauty we hold inside of us.
We writers are charged with churning this notion into dust. Not only does this idea of perfection create obstacles to good writing, but also it is a kind of (often tragically self imposed) abuse to our intelligent women ancestors. By adhering to oppressive standards of perfection, we are silencing the stories and struggles of our ancestors, maintaining a status quo where we are expected to be and stay silent about our realities—at the cost of ourselves and society in general.
We can stay silent no longer. We cannot leave our feelings and valuable self-reflections out of our narratives.
With Memoir Magazine, I want to contribute to a world in which every woman of color feels like an integral valued part for society and has greater empathy for herself, by fostering an environment for more vital emotional truth-telling in our work and the healing that comes from laying our collective burdens down.
MEMOIR MAGAZINE IS CURRENTLY TAKING SUBMISSIONS! CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE: mEMOIR MAGAZINE sUBMISSIONS
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