Sunday, November 18, 2007

Finding My Literary Voice

Over the past few years, I've tried to define literary voice as I strip away the excess en route to establishing my unique voice. Each person has a way of expressing themselves, and I've come to realize that my short stories feature strong ethnic women and their emotionally weaker male counterparts. I didn't set out to create less than ideal men, but know that my absentee father, title and subject of a poem written years ago, shape my perceptions and reality of what a man can be.

I don't know if this is cause for concern that the men I create aren't as strong as the women they're married to or are dating.

I think most writing is autobiographical. With that in mind, my characters and some of the situations that populate my writing are a direct reflection of my Texas upbringing. I grew up with dominant, caring, and sometimes controversial African American women. I try to create men on the page who aren't superheros just for the sake of standing up to the women characters. The most compelling people and characters are flawed. Why then has it been difficult to create three-dimensional men?

There are two noteworthy profiles in the Nov/Dec 2007 Poets & Writers Magazine; the first is Afaa Michael Weaver, the other is Benjamin Percy. I enjoyed each profile for different reasons. Afaa is a poet who struggled with debilitating depression, and Benjamin bases all stories in his native Oregon. What are the lessons, if any? We are more alike than different. We all have bumps along the road, and home is where we always return.

While I've never been ashamed of where I was born or raised, I've yet to fully mine where I come from and the people who shaped me as a child and young adult. It's time I remember who I am when looking in the mirror and in my writing. Perhaps I'll figure out why I originally relocated to the East Coast without knowing a soul, and the root of my disconnected familial feelings.

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