Tues. September 16 – Words Without Borders

13 Sep

Hello Dear Friends,

I am pleased to be featured in a reading this Tuesday, September 16th - a Bookend event in the Brooklyn Book Festival.  Hosted by Words Without Borders  an organization dedicated to publishing, and promoting works in translation to English readers, I’ll be reading a beautiful short story translated to English taken from their September issue.

September 16th, 7pm Brooklyn NY

September 16th, 7pm Brooklyn NY

“Did you know that literature in other languages makes up only 2-3% of English language publishers’ output?”  This BBC article describes the issue and looks at why there is such a poor rate of translating works into English.

The author writes, “Literature – fiction especially – offers a crucial window into the lives of others, promoting empathy and understanding in a way that traveling somewhere rarely does. By not translating more widely, publishers are denying us greater exposure to one of reading’s most vital functions.”

Recently on FaceBook, there was a “chain post” where people are asked to list 10 books that had an impact on their lives.

I challenge you to post 3 books, that were translated to English from another language, that have had an impact on you.  Let’s pay attention to how important translated works are.

Then, come to the reading this Tuesday and meet folks who are interested in making literature as rich and interesting as possible. Hear wonderful works from authors you might not have had a chance to know about otherwise.
… And say hi to ME!

Reading is Fundamental

Reading is Fundamental

Can’t make it?
Bookmark Words Without Border’s webpage and read their monthly magazine.  To date they’ve published over 1,700 pieces from 124 countries and 101 languages.

Hope to see you soon!

Event RSVP: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/writing-exile-tickets-12741986625?utm_campaign=new_eventv2&utm_medium=email&utm_source=eb_email&utm_term=eventurl_text

Brooklyn Book Festival: http://www.brooklynbookfestival.org/bookend-events/writing-exile

History as Territory

1 Jul
image by Luba Lukova

image by Luba Lukova

 

 

 

 
I went to a wonderful talk last night organized by the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance on reclaiming feminisms at the grassroots.  The inspirational speaker, Sandra Moran, spoke about planting.  The first part of creating something new is developing an idea, planting a seed.  To do that, you must reclaim what is yours and decide that territory will be where something new can grow.

She mentioned 5 types of “territory”:
1. Your body; 2. Land; 3. Nature; 4. History; 5. Memory

This past year, I’ve been deeply engaged in reclaiming my territories of history and memory, and I’ve done that through writing and reading.  As I continue to revise my play, Tree of Seeds, I’m continually uncovering new connections to my Parsi history, especially that of Parsi women.  This article in particular, about Indian suffragettes in England, struck a chord with me. The first play I wrote (and produced in the 4th grade) told the story of a suffragette who organizes women to march for their rights, and is ultimately killed.

http://fwsablog.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/001489-Asian-suffragettes.jpg

Women’s Coronation Procession, 17 June 1911, courtesy of the Museum of London

 

 

Knowing the history of my people, makes my art more relevant and vibrant. As I reclaim this territory for myself, I can populate it with new knowledge, resonance, and meaning.

 

 

What task, what activity could help you to reclaim one of these territories for yourself?  It doesn’t have to be something public, but the simple act of doing something new will lead to regeneration and new revitalization.

 

Remember that? I'm going for another one!

Remember that? I’m going for another one, in a sari!

 

 

This year I’ve decided to write as much as I can.  I’ve started a novel and a TV pilot.

 

T.V. writing is leading me to fun and whimsy.

 
Yes, my TV pilot is about an undocumented teen growing up in Queens, but it is a half hour sit-com filled with humor and a light touch to explore a heavy reality.  I’m learning to go with the joy of using my mind and writing what comes.

The novel writing is the most personal writing I’ve done in my life and is giving me insights into how I see the world, how I see my own story.  I am looking at hurtful memories, crying while I write, and then writing some more.

So what might you want to reclaim for yourself? Which territory do you need to access and repopulate with your own power and brilliance?  Start something, use the talents you have, it will undoubtedly lead to a bigger and more hopeful world!

Free Expression — Free Dimensional

16 Apr

Friends,
I’m using this blog space to make you all aware of a wonderful organization I am on the board of – Free Dimensional.

Since 2006, fD has worked with nearly 200 artists and culture workers, from over 35 countries, who are at risk because of their art.  We help find them safe haven in artists residencies, small living grants, and we develop tools for our partners to use in supporting artists in danger.

Right now we need to raise money for:

  1. One-to-one case management for artists, culture workers and communicators in need of critical personal and professional support
  1. Design and translation of our DIY guidebook for artists at risk (called The Creative Safe Haven Advocacy Kit) into the languages where artists are most in need
  1. Development of 5 ‘artist safety networks’ around the world to provide immediate and accessible response when individuals are in danger

Your contribution will make a real difference in the lives of artists, culture workers and communicators who find themselves at risk, around the world.

Artists inspire us and their communities, but in return they may be harassed, face physical violence, torture, imprisonment or worse fD defends these essential voices, but to do so we need your financial support today.

Below, Lawman Lynch, a political asylee who we helped, writes about his experience.

We want to continue being in the world, helping other artists in danger. Help us to keep going.

by:  Lawman Lynch

Staying in the United States was not by choice, I had to. I woke up to see my car ablaze as a result of it being firebombed while I was asleep – the consequence of stating my opinion as an advocate on a sensitive matter in my home country, Jamaica. Reluctantly, the decision was made to seek political asylum for my safety in the United States.lawman with car

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was granted political asylum in January 2011, I realized that to survive in the U.S. with limited resources is a great challenge, but to survive in New York without a support system is an even greater challenge.

… I had no relatives in the U.S. and there are limits to how much friends can help.  The minute I thought I was putting a strain on friends or “helpers”, I felt it was my cue to move on: I moved 17 times within the first 10 months of being an asylee.

fD opened the door for my stability and made my transition to life in the U.S. much easier. fD facilitated 6 months of live/work space at the Flux Factory, giving me a safe and stable space to live while I got on my feet. fD also ensured that I was connected to a network of individuals who were not only able to assist my growth and development, but also share experiences and strengthen each other. The first financial support grant I got from the Rory Peck Trust was facilitated by fD and that grant helped to offset critical living expenses I had, especially in my first year as an asylee.lawman profile

fD plays a pivotal role in the NGO sector, bridging culture and human rights, complementing other programs and building support networks within civil society. fD also makes the transition process of asylees and other vulnerable individuals much easier by connecting us to a network of not just “sayers” but “doers”.

Today I am the Center and After School Program Director for a Salvation Army location in Brooklyn and I’m happy that “The Lawman Lynch Foundation” is building a base here in the United States so that my philanthropic work may continue….

fd-donate-2011-button

 

Donate today! -  make your donation online or send a check payable to freeDimensional to P.O. Box 301, New York, NY 10276

 

 

New Day (Now Rouz), New Waves

19 Mar

Happy Spring! — Nowrouz Mubarak!

For those of you who have been thrashed around by the waves of winter, do not despair! The shore is near.

Spring Shoots

This winter, my experience of being in the world has felt like one of a sea lamprey attached to the fin of some great whale.  Yes, I get food, great soul-enriching sustenance from doing what I was born to do, but the ride is not an easy one.

I have been dragged down to the unmoving depths of the ocean where the pressure felt like my skull would cave in.  From this a single seed emerged! I completely rewrote my latest play, Tree of Seeds.

The reading in London, this past December, brought with it the opportunity connect with theater community outside of NYC, and to hear the words come alive.  It also submerged me into the world of this story and forced me to rework it furiously.

The postcard for my play

The postcard for Tree of Seeds

Small bubbles of air are rising up from that place and the latest version will have a staged reading at Queens College on May 15th.  Rewrites are still coming but the form will be brand new!

Come see it. (Literary agents and producing theaters wanted!)
Alternatively, I was being slapped and flapped about on the surface of the sea.

Just when the Afghan radio drama (One Village, A Thousand Voices)  I helped create for the U.S. Institute for Peace was getting a little international notice, it was also scrambling for funding and put on hold. We’re back now, temporarily.  OVATV HeaderChallenges appeared and plans evaporated.

The one thing I could figure out to do in this time was to be around other writers, artists, and social change-makers. In fact, it was a great contradiction to the chaos around me to have a few places to safely land and be myself. I joined a wonderful memoir and autobiographical fiction writing workshop at the Asian American Writer’s Workshop which has inspired me to write some short stories, which might end up as a novel!

I’ve found that writers and artists need to create spaces for themselves (duh!). For me, it isn’t about networking or getting in the right circles but about having a place for my work to grow within a thoughtful and creative community.

Day 1-3 (29a)

C’mon guys, let’s get together.

Moving away from a competition-based paradigm, working for financial confirmation of my work’s value, to one of camaraderie and closeness confirms the old adage, “another world is possible”.

In fact, the ladder climbing aspect of the work doesn’t even feel as important because my vision isn’t focused on riding a wave of popularity but on the expansive possibilities in building relationships and dreaming with other human beings.

It is not the rumbling ocean but the shore ahead.

This spring, may the waves of chaos bring you in sight of your own safe place, whose fertile terrain you already have the map for.

Love,
Kayhandokht (My full given name. It means daughter of the universe.)

Longest Night

21 Dec Tree of Seeds by Stedroy Cleghorne
posted by Farvartish

posted by Farvartish

 

 

 

Tonight, we will pass through the longest night of the year.

We will regain a tiny bit of light, with each new day.

 

 

The end of 2013 seems to have opened a thousand little doors of terror inside me.  This is the first time I am “properly” developing a play.  That means I’m not jumping right into a production process but taking time to write, re-write, show it to others, share my thoughts, and hear the words read aloud. It’s brought me face to face with many of my feelings of inadequacy, superiority, futility, and desperation.  It’s been a long night in the life of this artist.

(What corner of your life needs a tiny bit of light?  Where are those dry, cracked places that can be softened by the heat, smoothed over by warm touch?)

Tree of Seeds by Stedroy Cleghorne

Tree of Seeds image by Stedroy Cleghorne

 

I’ve just returned from London where I was able to attend one of the two readings my play was offered.

Hearing the words read aloud brought clarity to what isn’t working and offered me a sharp view into what needs to change.  Sharp and pointy and slightly painful, but that’s my own inner critic.  The world outside my head offered ripe fruit and juicy seeds to chew on.  It reminds of the thoughts in my previous post about how people, human beings, are the most sustainable and valuable resource we have.

Sharing my misshapen, oozing, little work-in-progress has been a magical window into kindness and consideration.  People across the globe are offering their soft hands, their light touch, to guide this piece along.  Friends and family rallied to help me get to London.  The cast and crew in London offered their talent, their time, and their best thinking  to help  move the work forward.  I returned home with over 60 pieces of paper, audience feedback forms, that give me strength and energy and new thoughts!  And, there are a few theater companies waiting for the new script.

In Central and West Asia, people celebrate Shab-e-Yalda (solstice) by staying up all night together, eating red and orange and yellow foods, especially pomegranate.  They make wishes and recite the poetry of Hafez to each other.  You are supposed to open to any page in a book of his poems and read the first thing you see.  That excerpt is meant to offer some guidance, some insight to you.  Here’s what I turned to today:

“…And the hundred graceful movements
Your body now makes each time
The wind, children and love come near.”
― حافظThe Subject Tonight Is Love: 60 Wild and Sweet Poems of Hafiz

Thank you to everyone who helped me to move along with grace this past year. In the darkness, your hands, your voice, propelled me forward.

The warm wind blows up the edges on the thin grey shroud.  You can reach up and pull it down now.

It’s time.

Happy Shab-e-Yalda, Happy Solstice.

 

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