Writing Like Me

james-baldwin-the-fire-next-timeAuthenticity: n. The quality of being authentic; genuineness

On my first day of Senior Fiction, my teacher asked me to write down my personal definition of this word. For a Monday, starting my final semester as a senior in high school, I thought this was pretty heavy duty thinking. But after sitting at my computer, watching my cursor disappear and reappear a million –well, more like seventeen- times.

To me, being authentic is what babies are: one-hundred percent human, one-hundred percent embedded in their emotions—what they feel precisely in a singular moment— and completely uninhibited by what others do. If a baby wants to cry, no amount of food or rocking or begging on one knee will stop them from being heard. That’s what telling an authentic story is like to me.

While reading James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, I found myself fluctuating between two extreme emotions: awe (the man is a philosophical genius and an incredible wordsmith) and a high level of uncomfort. One of my favorite quotes from this book is “The person who distrusts himself has no touchstone for reality—for this touchstone can be only oneself.” It is always my greatest fear that I won’t tell a story honest, that I’ll sugarcoat a character or over exaggerate the plot.

Doubt is the number one killer of good writing and after four years of trying to find my own voice in my writing I completely understand why. To doubt your writing is to, by extension, doubt a part of yourself. There is no greater justice to telling a story than by telling it how you see fit for it to be told, and this is the best way to be sure that you will be proud of what you produce. To be authentic is tell all parts of a story— the beautiful, the ugly, the stuff your mother should never know about.

And in the end, that— the moment when you no longer fear what your voice has to say— is one of the most defining moment of a writers’ life.

-Shamiya Anderson, Nonfiction Editor 

Sometimes, It’s Hard to Walk Away

indexWriting is built on relationships. Writing is composed, constructed, resurrected, and thrown together with a relationship in mind. In literature, readers -myself included- are quick to judge the characters without in depth analysis or benefit of the doubt to the situation unfolding. As readers you place your struggles and the concepts of your own personal relationships into the text, sometimes letting it overshadow the new way of thinking the writer wants you to experience.

For example, last year, I read the book Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston. This book is sewn together with beautiful language as it follows the life of Janie, a mixed race woman in the early 1900s. Though I connected to the strength and determination the main character had the entire time in the book, I couldn’t understand why she stayed married to a man who abused her. Even after reading this book, I weighed the argument that Janie had a nice life married to a pastor but was muted into submission by him. I didn’t understand why she didn’t just pack her stuff and leave. As a senior in high school I have already begun to mentally pack my bags for college and have grown to understand Janie. I’ve learned that even when the front door is open it’s hard to leave the people and the place you’ve called home for so long, that there is a relationship you have to even the drippy faucet you’ll only notice when you’re gone.

As the year progresses I take the idea on relationships Hurston gave her character Janie and now look for it in other stories. Relationships run deep. They don’t need to be subjected to a list of archetypical characters. In the long run, they are really hard to walk away from.

-Chrissy Thelemann, Submissions Editor