“Kitchen Ghosts” by Samantha Lê published in Copper Nickel

In this poem about mental illness, there’re two speakers weaving their thoughts together into one tapestry of consciousness. Mother and daughter shared the same narrative of shame and guilt as each started out as the inadequate caregiver who then became the confused, frightened patient. As the disease threaded its way through the generations, their history of pain and secrecy repeated itself.

[…] Your dough palm
covers my face and silences
closed-lid admissions.
Listen.
A history of mothers
and daughters splitting
into halves the way
of green apples.
[…]

Read complete poem at: “Kitchen Ghosts.” Copper Nickel  (University of Colorado Denver), Denver, CO, Issue No. 29, Fall 2019, pp. 128-129. Copper Nickel is a national literary journal was founded by poet Jake Adam York in 2002 and housed at the University of Colorado Denver. Work published in Copper Nickel has appeared in the Best American Poetry, Best American Short Stories, Best Small Fictions, and Pushcart Prize anthologies, and has been listed as “notable” in the Best American Essays anthology.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

“In the Presence of the Kitchen Gods” by Samantha Lê published in Copper Nickel

In this simple poem about limitations and boredom, we see a woman’s life reduced to the daily tasks of cleaning a house, but in the mundane minutes of that stalled life there’s still a glimmer of hope, for she dances when she sweeps.

She sweeps evening dust
off grout lines with the straw
broom that hangs like sadness
behind the old fridge.

[…]
The only time she looks
as if she were dancing
is when she stirs air into dirt.
[…]

Read complete poem at: “In the Presence of the Kitchen Gods.” Copper Nickel (University of Colorado Denver), Denver, CO, Issue No. 29, Fall 2019, pp. 130. Copper Nickel is a national literary journal was founded by poet Jake Adam York in 2002 and housed at the University of Colorado Denver. Work published in Copper Nickel has appeared in the Best American Poetry, Best American Short Stories, Best Small Fictions, and Pushcart Prize anthologies, and has been listed as “notable” in the Best American Essays anthology.

Photo by Steve Rybka on Unsplash

Art Exhibition: Brushstrokes 2019 Comes to Cambria

If you missed it last fall in San Luis Obispo, you have another chance in Cambria…

For this exhibition, I’ll be featuring a series of four Cuba-inspired paintings:  

  1. “Portrait of a Cuban Woman” (22″ x 18″, watercolor on paper)
  2. “Young Boy in Blue Sweater” (9″ x 12″, watercolor on paper)
  3. “Papa (Hemingway)” (8″ x 24″, acrylic on canvas)
  4. “The Old Woman and the Sea” (8″ x 24″, acrylic on canvas)

SAVE THE DATE!
The Opening Reception is on Saturday, January 11, 2020 (4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.) at the Cambria Center for the Arts Gallery See you there!

Exhibition date: January 9 – 19, 2020
Where: Cambria Center for the Arts Gallery (1350 Main St, Cambria, CA 93428) 

This event is free to the public.

Photo by Raychan on Unsplash

Art Exhibition: MBAA Annual Juried Exhibit – 2019

Join me for a national art event!

MBAA juried event is a collective of exceptional paintings spanning the United States. Many of the artists are internationally acclaimed. In addition, MBAA will feature the three dimensional art of Guyla Amyx. My selected painting is titled “Kitchen Waltz,” (22″ x 18″, mixed media).

SAVE THE DATE!
Opening Reception and Award Ceremony is on Sunday, September 22, 2019 (2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.) at the Art Center Morro Bay. See you there!

Exhibition date: September 19—October 29, 2019
Where: Art Center Morro Bay (835 Main Street, Morro Bay, CA  93442)
Juror: Dennis Curry

This event is free to the public.

Photo by Deanna J on Unsplash

Art Exhibition: Brushstrokes 2019

Join me for my first art exhibition!

Brushstrokes is a biennial California-wide juried exhibition, and my painting that was selected is entitled “Portrait of a Cuban Woman,” 18″ x 22″, watercolor.

SAVE THE DATE!
Opening Reception and Award Ceremony is on Friday, September 6, 2019 (6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.) at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art. See you there!

Exhibition date: September 6—October 27, 2019, 
Where: San Luis Obispo Museum of Art (1010 Broad St, San Luis Obispo, California 93401) 
Juror: 
Jerry McLaughlin

This event is free to the public.

Photo by Adrien Olichon on Unsplash

NaNoWriMo Write-in Session Recap

You always meet with something surprisingly great when you give a little bit of yourself. I facilitated my first NaNoWriMo write-in session yesterday and found the experience inspiring and uplifting.

My workshop on “character development” turned into a lively discussion about character history, motivations, conflicts and evolution. We also touched on the relationship between the writer and his/her characters, as well as the challenges of knowing when to let your characters run free and when to reign them back. Everyone in the room offered unique insights to the discussion, and when it was over, I was bubbling with new ideas for my own work and a re-energized outlook on my place in the world as a writer. 

Read: Tips on Character Development in Novel Writing

I want to give a shout-out to everyone who came out to write with us yesterday. We writers tend to be cave creatures, but when we do emerge and come together to examine and appreciate the thing that we love, the craft to which we give so much of our selves, magic happens.

Thank you to Erica Thatcher at the SLO Library for putting the event together. And a huge thanks to Megan Barnhard for putting out a vlog about what she found helpful about the session. Watch Megan’s vlog: My First NaNo Day 19: Character Evolution.

Write-on NaNoWriMo-ers! There’s only a few days left to meet your goal, but think of what you’ve already accomplished.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” 

― Ernest Hemingway

Tips on Character Development in Novel Writing

Most readers prefer to be drawn-in by narratives with intriguing characters with whom they can relate rather than complicated plot-driven stories that lack well-established characters. The more rounded your characters are, the more believable they are and the more empathy you’ll be able to elicit from your readers.

Below are a few points to consider when you’re creating a new character.

adult-alone-concrete-720362

Background

  • Know your character’s personal history. Focus on the experiences and memories that define the character’s personality and existential place in the world.
  • Don’t just include random information, instead zero-in on the pivotal moments that shape your character’s decision-making process, allowing past experiences to inform future behaviors.
  • Include memories, good and bad, that your character revisits when he/she is alone, afraid, joyful, angry, resentful or envious.

Mannerisms

  • If your character has quirky traits or a phrase that he/she repeats often, then it should be something profound, alarming or interesting enough to add to his/her overall development and drive the plot forward.
  • Exercise restraint when using this device, the occasional, well-placed quirky trait or phrase is always more powerful than randomly scattered ones.

Appearance

  • What does your character look like? Focus on something unique or play with the idea of appearances playing a role in the outcome of conflicts and/or plot twists.
  • Consider the possibility that the character’s perception of self may not align with how he/she actually appears to others.

Motivations

  • Interesting characters are usually caught in a moment of indecision or near-decision at some rest stop along the highway of their inner journey, consider the factors that propel your character towards or away from his/her intended destination.
  • What or whom is your character willing to risk to achieve his/her goals?
  • Perhaps it would be more satisfying if he/she were to meet with failure instead of success.

Conflicts

  • All characters face external conflicts, but the more interesting ones harbor deep-rooted internal ones.
  • Do the conflicts in your story satisfactorily disturb your character’s ability to self-actualize?

Evolution

  • For better or worse, every character should undergo change throughout your narrative. A character’s evolution should be something that readers can track and understand: what events inspired this change, how much has he/she changed, does this change work with or against the momentum of the plot, etc.
  • By going through a personal evolution, does your character also affect change on his/her world and/or other people in it?
  • Evolution, by its nature, is gradual. Change shouldn’t happen spontaneously. It should be something your character earns throughout the narrative.

by: Samantha Lê, poet & novelist

NaNoWriMo 2018 Workshop

action-adult-analog-1043512If you get your kicks from discussing the mannerisms, behaviors and back stories of people who don’t exist, then I’m your gal!

I’ll be leading a workshop on character development as well as facilitating the National Novel Writing Month session on Tuesday, November 20, 2018 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m at the San Luis Obispo Library (995 Palm St.). Come with your novel and spend the afternoon writing with your fellow novelists.

Write on NaNoWriMo-ers!

This event is free to the public.

 

2018 San José Poetry Festival

The Fourth Annual San José Poetry Festival, a celebration of diversity and cultural heritage, will begin with a day of readings and performances on Saturday, October 13, 2018, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Blessing/Invocation (9-9:30 a.m., Markham House): Kanyon Sayers-Roods
  • Yuki Teikei Haiku Society (9:30-10:20 a.m., Renzel Room)
  • Pranita Patel & Aparna Ganguly (10-10:50 a.m., Firehouse)
  • VeteransWrite (10:30-11:20 a.m., Renzel Room)
  • Keynote Address (11:30-12:20 p.m., Markham House): Matthew Zapruder;
  • Lunch (12:20-1:30 p.m.)
  • Yosimar Reyes (1:40-2:30 p.m., Firehouse)
  • Samantha Lê & Barbara Jane Reyes (2:00-2:50 p.m., Renzel Room)
  • Kalamu Chaché & Lisa Rosenberg (2:40-3:30 p.m., Firehouse)
  • MK Chavez & Yaccaira Salvatierra (3:00-3:50 p.m., Renzel Room)
  • Spoken Word (4:00-5:00pm, Markham House)

San José Poetry Slam & Yesika Salgado (7:00-10:00 p.m. Works/San José)

Saturday small press fair and author tables, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.


2018 San José Poetry Festival presented by Poetry Center San Jose
When: Saturday, October 13, 2018 (9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
Where: The Edwin Markham House in History Park (1650 Senter Road, San José, CA)

Please visit Poetry Center San José for October 14 workshop information and ticket information.

“Down River” by Samantha Lê published in The Journal

A young girl watched her big sister from across the riverbank as she threw their pet dog into the water, where he was carried off and drowned.

His rag body swung
into the swells
of her rage.

The big sister denied this memory, but the young girl insisted on remembering.  And though time marches on, it cannot erase this betrayal that has wedged itself between them once upon a time when they were both still young.

Big sister and I stood
on opposite banks
The phantom stink of water
coated the inside of our mouths.
We tried to gag it out,
but it lingered.

art-beautiful-beauty-1229771.jpg

“Down River.”  The Journal (The Ohio State University), Columbus, OH, Volume 42 Issue No. 3, Summer 2018, pp. 48. The award-winning literary journal of The Ohio State University, The Journal has recently had poems reproduced in the Best American Poetry anthology.  Founded in 1973 by William Allen The Journal has published prominent writers such as Carl Phillips, Mary Jo Bang, John D’Agata, Terrance Hayes, Lia Purpura, Ander Monson, Brenda Hillman, D.A. Powell, Jericho Brown, and Donald Ray Pollack.

“Phôi Pha (Wither)” by Samantha Lê published in The Journal

“Phôi Pha (Wither)” is a poem about old age, about being the only one left to tend to the dead, about there being no one left to send you off when your journey begins again.

no one left to burn spirit money
and paper houses
incense dust grows into ant hills

The subject of the poem remembers her youth, when she once was the “village beauty …body pink and firm as pomelo flesh.”

[…] she recalls
girlhood dreams the way a fictional
woman remembers love faithful
to an altered truth

If all that she is are her memories, then how is her existence defined now that all the witnesses to her life are gone?

grayscale photography of brown and black bench

“Phôi Pha (Wither).”  The Journal (The Ohio State University), Columbus, OH, Volume 42 Issue No. 3, Summer 2018, pp. 47. The award-winning literary journal of The Ohio State University, The Journal has recently had poems reproduced in the Best American Poetry anthology.  Founded in 1973 by William Allen The Journal has published prominent writers such as Carl Phillips, Mary Jo Bang, John D’Agata, Terrance Hayes, Lia Purpura, Ander Monson, Brenda Hillman, D.A. Powell, Jericho Brown, and Donald Ray Pollack.

Delusion

poem by Samantha Lê, music by Ryan Loyd

woman looking at sea while sitting on beach

Delusion

Carried a single branch inside my river,
downstream through milky lashes,
tattooed lips and deceitful thighs.
We are unreliable and cruel like the water.
Carried you into goodbye fingers
of spicy savage lickers…  carried you
like a burden… like a shameful secret.
You are the life, and I am the delusion.

Do you know me, or I, you?
The irresistible melancholy of the miracles
that have soiled the currents ruptures
like stardust above the greatest cycle of life.

Time will eventually trot away
like dogs on parade. Love will scorn
like the mundane minutes of a lifeless day.
Without the right words to say,
the right hip sway, I am not
the right person to convince you to stay.
I can only promise you that I will hate you
just as much as I love you today.

~ by Samantha Lê
With a special thank you to Mr. Ryan Loyd, friend and fellow 312.
__

Copyright © 2017 by ​Samantha Lê
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form, without the prior written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, please use the contact form.