Featured Poet: Kasia James

katkasia:

Today I’m honoured to be the ‘Featured Poet’ over at ‘Sappho’s Torque’ blog, where Angelique has been featuring many poets (both famous and infamous) this month for National Poetry Month. Enjoy!

Originally posted on Sappho's Torque:

Today’s featured poet is the marvelous woman who brought The Milk of Female Kindness to the light of day; the anthology was her brainchild.

Kasia James writes primarily speculative fiction but has started to wonder if it is her mission in life to complete books in as many different genres as possible. She is the author of The Artemis Effect, which is an optimist’s science-fiction dystopia, and was contributing editor of The Milk of Female Kindness — An Anthology of Honest Motherhood

She lives in Melbourne, Australia, with a hydrologist, an ankle-biter, and a big black cat called George.  Enjoy her blog here.

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Train Traveller

Whisker rasped whisky
Dirty camouflage reflected in sunglasses
Rumbling with surprising calm
Before the amber bottle

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It takes courage to grow up…

katkasia:

A wonderfully honest review of ‘The Milk of Female Kindness’ – I love EllaDee’s comment: “It was like reading science fiction – women but another life-form, inhabiting a planet unfamiliar to me.”

Originally posted on elladee:

Sandra Danby emailed me and asked if I would like to review The Milk of Female Kindness: An Anthology of Honest Motherhood by Kasia James (Contributing Editor).

“I’ve just had two of my short stories published in an anthology and wondered if you would review the book on your blog? It’s called ‘The Milk of Female Kindness’ and includes short fiction, poetry, art, memoir and medical writing on the theme of honest motherhood. Some of the writers have recently given birth, others are grandmothers. Some, like me, are childless; my writing is inspired by memories of my own mother. Some of the pieces will make you smile, others are heartbreaking.”

I responded “… be happy to… given the theme which is close to my heart also”. Of course. I have been around mothers my whole life. Many of my family, friends and colleagues are mothers.

But my reactive…

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the MILK of Female Kindness – an ANTHOLOGY of Honest Motherhood by Kasia James (ed.)

katkasia:

Our first review of ‘ The Milk of Female Kindness’. Delighted that Karen found it thought provoking – exactly what we were aiming for! :)

Originally posted on My train of thoughts on...:

MOFK
My rating: 
4  of  5  stars

Plot
(by Goodreads)

‘Mother’ is a word heavy with associations.

Becoming a mother is surely one of the biggest changes and challenges in a woman’s life. It is at once an absolutely unique experience, and yet one which is so common that it is often overlooked. Motherhood is intense, relentless and absorbing, in all senses of the word.

Popular culture seems to have a split personality when it comes to motherhood – at once holding it up as a sacred ideal, and yet being a little dismissive of women as mothers. A diverse international group of women have been brave enough to share their stories, poetry and artwork to encourage you to think and feel about this most influential of relationships in a new and enlightened way.

***Contains Reading Group Questions***

My Opinion

This book is clearly structured. Cover, Contents, and Introduction are followed…

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Welsh cakes

March 1st is St David’s Day – the patron saint of Wales. I am perhaps a little late, but being Welsh-born I celebrated today by making Welsh Cakes for the first time.

In my memory, my mother always made Welsh Cakes on St. David’s Day, and on various other days, although this is probably the gilding of time. However, I can tell you that I loved them, and ate them in gluttonous quantities, for they are what my partner describes as ‘very more-ish’. For those of you know don’t know – they are small flat cakes – perhaps more like pikelets – full of currants, which are cooked on a griddle.

Mine don’t look quite like this…these must be the caucasian version.

Making them proved rather more time consuming than when I recall my mother doing it, which I suppose is true of a lot of the things in childhood. However, it made me happy for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it was nice to be doing something for relaxation – it’s been rather busy of late, as evidenced by my atrocious lack of attention to my blog lately.

Also, we don’t have a lot in the way of family traditions, but I like the idea of passing along the enjoyment of Welsh cakes to my lad, who has a Welsh name. I can report that he likes them just as gluttonously as I.

Finally, as I rubbed in the butter and rolled out the dough, I found the words from that great Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, trickling through my mind.

Evans the Death, the undertaker,
laughs high and aloud in his sleep and curls up his toes as
he sees, upon waking fifty years ago, snow lie deep on the
goosefield behind the sleeping house ; and he runs out into
the field where his mother is making welsh-cakes in the
snow, and steals a fistful of snowflakes and currants and
climbs back to bed to eat them cold and sweet under the
warm, white clothes while his mother dances in the snow
kitchen crying out for her lost currants.

I’m sure I’ll be making them again in the future. They are delicious, even if mine did come out just like my mother used to bake – slightly burnt!

What are your family traditions? Do any of them have links to literature? Would love to hear about them. :)

Valentine

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I gave my love a poem
on Valentine’s Day
Ignoring the prescriptions
of roses and bears
to write my own
prescription

I wrote it on red paper
Black ink bleeding
My soul laid vulnerable
and exposed
Hoping for his protection
Cradled

I cut a heart in the corner
The scalpel scraping fibres
two voluptuous arcs
The paper tears a little
And I think
How apt.

Practical advice for the beginning novelist

Today, I’m delighted to be able to host a Guest post by the talented Cheri Roman, fellow blogger at The Brass Rag, and author of ‘Descent’.  A lady who understands how hard it is to fulfil that dream…

“How do you come up with all that cool stuff in your novels? Your characters and settings are awesome. When I’m reading your novel, it feels like I’m right there. And your villains…” (shudders delicately) “…super evil.”

This is a portion of the fantasy conversation I’d love to have with a reader someday. It ends with the fan asking for my autograph and assuring me that I deserve a Pulitzer. For writing fantasy genre fiction. Hey, if you’re going to dream, go big or go home, I always say.

My fantasy also includes a secluded writing spot; four clean, white walls and a huge bay window through which I can see little forest creatures cavorting on a wide, green lawn ringed by ancient redwoods. No phone, TV, or (gasp) Facebook. Best of all – hours upon hours of uninterrupted writing time.

But the operative word here is “fantasy.” These are rare scenarios, unless, of course, you are Dean Koontz or Nora Roberts. (Seriously, have you seen their houses?) For many authors, the writing life looks more like this:

Get up at five a.m., go to your day job. Work all day, constantly distracted by story ideas, terrified that they will escape before you can capture them. You steal the odd moment and write on whatever is handy: file folders, notepads, the desk calendar, napkins. Frustration sets in because you end up accidentally filing, covering, losing or throwing the notes away. You consider getting a notes app on your phone, but you worry that your boss will accuse you of making personal calls on company time.

The work day is over; you hurry home. Ideas are still buzzing between your ears as you maneuver through traffic. You arrive home and the kids/spouse/pets need your attention, so you feed and brush everyone and then, finally, the house is quiet and you hurry to your writing space and….your mind goes blank. You fear you’ve used all your creativity just to get through the day. But you power through. You pull out the crumpled napkin, power-gulp an energy drink and you write. Sometime around four a.m. you stumble into bed where your spouse gives you a sleepy side-eye but you are too tired to notice. You fall into the bed, already unconscious. The alarm goes off at five. Time to start over.

Alternately, you save your writing energy for the weekend and your spouse complains that they never see you, because you spend Saturdays and Sundays behind a closed door with this sign on it:

Warning.pdf-page-001

The writing life is challenging whether you work a day job or not. Business, family and writing pull you in opposing directions. Plus, you have to sleep sometime. But for authors, giving up isn’t an option. Not writing causes mental and emotional agita. So you steal the moments and write the words that torment you until you put them on paper. It isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. So do it.

That’s my best advice. Create the space in your life for the passionate art of writing well. Surround yourself with like-minded people who support your efforts and dreams. Explain to your significant other how important writing is. Ask for their support. Be courageous enough to say, “no,” in order to guard your writing time. And write. Every chance you get, consistently, creatively, bravely. Write.

Giving yourself a Green Light

ImageHave you heard of slashies?

It’s a label that is being attached to people who do multiple things, typically actor / writer / dancer / superheroine, etc.

Somehow I’ve managed to become a slashie, and I can tell you, at times that slash feels like a physical one. Personally, I’m a writer/ mother/ landscape architect. But with the writer part, there also comes the baggage of writer / publicist / marketer, which I’m really not all that keen on. There are other slashes I could add, but let’s not go crazy here. Yet. Going crazy might let some of the things I’m balancing topple.

The other day, all my slashes were starting to wear me down a bit, I confess. I think particularly because I have a little one, time out without him is so precious that I feel I have to stuff in something useful. I’m new at this parenting lark, so I guess I’m still trying to find the right balance, but it had gone too far into the “All work and no play makes Jane a dull girl,” territory.

So I chucked it all in, and in my precious free time, ripped into the garden. I pulled out weeds, snapped dead branches, and stuffed them enthusiastically into the green bin. I clipped and pruned and freed poor light starved plants. It was tiring, but so cathartic. At work, I try to remind myself that I need to get up from my computer and go for a walk in the park at lunchtime. It may not be directly productive, but I’ve come to the conclusion that some green time is like sleep.

You need some time out, preferably in nature, to recharge.

It’s actually one of the principles that they use in Bhutan to measure how happy their population is, and they are a country taking happiness seriously, since they use it instead of GDP to see how they are doing as a nation.

My best ideas usually come not when I’m slogging away at my keyboard, but when I’m idle – although sometimes that mental idleness has to be forced upon me, like when walking with my bub in his pusher, or when the trains have been cancelled. I understand that it’s actually a recognised phenomenon, which has something to do with allowing the right brain to have a bit of a kick outside the controlling influence of that stern task-master, the left brain.

So if I have a New Year’s resolution, it’s to give myself the Green Light. ‘Go’ to getting out there: ‘Go’ to a bit more balance: and ‘Go’ to some guilt free idleness. :)

Have you resolved to be more idle too? Would love to chat about the idea.

Happy New Year!

A great New Year to you all! Hope it’s filled with adventures, calm, deep satisfaction, and new experiences.:)

That’s what I’m hoping for, I think. As usual, I’ll probably be going for it with all the enthusiasm of my little guy.

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It’s been a big year for me – I spent a lot of it looking after my bub, some of it compiling our new motherhood Anthology, The Milk of Female Kindness, and some of it working in what must be admitted was a somewhat half-hearted fashion, considering everything else going on.

I think I need to take advantage of some of that calm I was talking about earlier to consider whether or not I will try and publish my short story collection this year. They are a rather eclectic mix, rather like me – science fiction, speculative fiction, and some which are probably best described just as ‘odd’.MOFK COVER front final

Anyway, if you are looking for a new experience to start off with, I am currently running a Giveaway on Goodreads for The Milk of Female Kindness. It’s not a how-to guide, but a creative look at being a mother, with artwork, poetry, essays, stories and interviews. It will make you think. there are five paperback copies available to the lucky winners, and it’s free to enter, so pop over there and give it a shot! :)

 

Author interview: Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

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The latest in this series of Author Profiles is Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali, who is also one of the wonderful women who have contributed their thoughts and feelings about motherhood to the newly released ‘The Milk of Female Kindness – an Anthology of Honest Motherhood’, with a letter written to her 21 year old son. As you’ll read below, she is a fascinating person….

I love the way that you must blow away people’s stereotype of a Muslim woman. What is your take on this? Is the stereotype annoying, baseless, or just a lazy and convenient way of putting people into boxes?

 Yes to all of the above, especially the lazy part. It is easy for people to stereotype because it frees them from having to engage, and learn, and overcome their own insecurities and fears. Overcoming stereotypes requires effort… or someone like me who is more than willing to kick down the door of stereotypes for you.
But seriously, as much as I would like to say that I purposefully work to deconstruct stereotypes, the fact is I don’t. I’m just me. It just so happens that the me that I am won’t fit into a box.
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You have a very varied and exotic list of interests, including zombies, video games, sewing and maintaining an organic garden. Two questions: how did you develop such a diverse range of passions, and how do you find time to indulge them?
 
I’ll answer the question about time first.I work full time and I have a family. I don’t have a lot of time but I do believe in putting that time to the best use that I can. I make conscious choices about what I’m willing to give my time to. I try to spend every free moment doing the things I love. So, I’m not doing all of those things all of the time, but I get around to all of them in time.
As for how I developed such a range that is more difficult to answer. I started sewing years ago because I couldn’t afford to by the kinds of clothes that I wanted to wear. So I learned to make them cheaply. I spend a lot of time with my children and I’ve learned as much from them as they have from me. I developed an interest in video games late in life from watching my kids play them. They’re now ages 22, 20, and 12 and they still play video games. I play right along with them and we have a blast. Zombies are the only horror trope that gives me pause. A little. Most other horror bores me to tears. I’ve always wanted to grow my own food, so when I moved into my home seven years ago, I decided to give it a go. I’m not always successful, but I always try.
I don’t want to be the type of person who in later years says “I wish I would have…” so if something interests me, and it isn’t harmful, I see no reason not to indulge, right now. Life is but the blink of an eye.
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I understand that you work as an oncology nurse, and have spoken at seminars about this subject. Does working with cancer patients change your outlook on life? I’m particularly wondering if it makes you reassess your priorities for life, rather than just drifting along as many of us do?
 
I think that in many ways I have become a bit desensitized. I often see death in a very compartmentalized way. It’s one stop on the continuum of life. It is the thing that happens to other people. The times when I reassess my life is when I meet that one patient who having faced their own mortality has accepted their fate. Notice I that didn’t say that they had given up hope or faith. That’s different. Accepting the inevitable, facing that frightening fate is a miracle and not an easy place to journey to. When a patient reaches that place, they have given up their anger and disbelief and have resolved to live their last days with peace and grace. Seeing a person make that journey is soul warming and a lesson for me that my petty concerns really aren’t worth the effort it takes to give them thought.
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When did you start writing? Did you have to take a break while your children were small?
 
I’ve always written. But there was a time in my early to mid 20s that I forgot about writing. At the time I was trying on new selves. I was learning who I was and deciding who I wanted to be. That took about seven or eight years. Then in my late 20s (about 1998), when my children were still small I started to write An Unproductive Woman. It took me about two years. AUW sat in a box in the closet or garage for the next several years while I went to nursing school and started working. I decided to publish AUW in 2008 and I’ve been writing in some capacity since then.
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Your novel ‘An Unproductive Woman’, has very different subject matter to the field in which I first found you, where you were involved with the Yuva science fiction anthology. Do you write across many genres? Do you find that a challenge as an indie author?
 
ImageI wrote An Unproductive Woman a lifetime ago. I was a different woman then. Since then, my tastes and self-confidence have grown exponentially. In short, I write the types of stories I would like to read. At the moment that falls in the range of SFF, dystopian/utopian fiction. It may change later, and if and when that happens, my writing will reflect likely that.
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Tell me about the Yuva anthology. How did it start? How are things progressing?
 
The Yuva anthology started with a comment I made on Matthew Williams’ site (http://storiesbywilliams.com/) wherein I mentioned how I’d always dreamed my son would become an astronaut and go to space. Matt responded by saying how inspired he was. I challenged him, if memory serves, to organize a group and do an anthology about space and space travel. He met that challenge and that is where you found us. Since then there have been several contributions to the anthology but we still need more people to come forward and contribute, so we’re in a holding pattern.
If you know anyone who might be interested…
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Forgive me for being nosy, but I’m fascinated to know if you ever find philosophical contradictions between your faith and science fiction?
 
Yes, and no. On the most basic level, my faith validates science and science validates my faith. There is no contradiction for me between science and my faith. Science fiction can be stickier. For me, the contradictions present themselves when science fiction works to debunk God, or reinvent God, or ignore his presence. It is usually the latter and I question this often. Science fiction tends to be more comfortable with fictional faith. I’m not certain why that is.
My current project meets matters of religion and faith head on, which I think can be difficult to do without scaring people away or making them feel as if they’re being preached at. I think I was able to do that with An Unproductive Woman though. Most of my readers have been non-Muslim, and most of them loved the story regardless, if my 4+ stars is any indication.
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Thank you for this opportunity Kasia!
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You can find Khaalidah on Facebook, and at her Blog.