Regardless, congratulations to the winners!
Good morning! I had a little bit of a snafu Sunday morning, so we’re doing things a little differently this week. Even though it’s Tuesday, here is the guest post that should have gone up then. I hope y’all will forgive me. Sometimes, despite my best intentions, I’m a bit of a wreck.
Today (go ahead and pretend it’s Sunday), we have author Aya Walksfar with us. She writes both murder mysteries and literary novels, and she gives us some insight in her blog today about what drives her as a writer.
Also, she’s graciously giving away two ebooks here at Women and Words. The first, Sketch of a Murder, Book 1, Special Crimes Team, is a murder mystery. The other, Hard Road Home, is a coming-of-age work of literary fiction. To enter the drawing, leave a comment below. I’ll draw the winners on Friday, April 3.
The Socially Conscious Writer
by Aya Walksfar
Words are powerful. Sitting at the feet of my mother and grandmother, listening to the oral stories they carried, I was transported to another era, a place far different than the ghetto in which we lived. The year of my sixth summer, my maternal, illiterate grandparents presented me the keys of freedom. They talked a Carnegie librarian into teaching me to read and write. With a speech impediment and lessons to be silent that were hard learned in my neighborhood and home, I didn’t talk very much. Not talking isolated me from children my own age, and most other people. Between the pages of books, I met numerous friends, partook of great adventures and traveled to new worlds. Many days, I crawled beneath the concrete city steps that went from our street to the street above and read to my dog. There, in that manmade cave, I shut out the violence that bled all around me.
Three years after my grandparents helped me learn to read and write, my beloved grandfather was murdered; his killer never discovered. Words are powerful. Through pencil and paper, they unclamped the talons of rage and pain that gripped me. I had gained an important weapon to battle the demons in my life.
My grandfather’s death heralded years of upheaval. Several times during my teen years, I arrived at the cliff’s edge of suicide. Each time, I picked up pen and paper and wrote myself back away from that abyss. Books waited to transport me to places far from my despair. Each time, I returned from between their covers renewed.
During my fourteenth year, cities across the nation erupted in flames and blood. Fired by Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and the bus riders, I wrote a seven part series called Racism: America’s Criminal Disease. A black-owned, black-run newspaper ran my article. For the first time in my life, my words reached beyond the circle of my family. The newspaper staff asked to meet me. They shared some of their dreams with me, a fourteen-year-old kid as if I, too, was a warrior for justice. At age sixteen, a mainstream newspaper published an article I wrote entitled The Forgotten Children: A Look at the Child Welfare System. Words are powerful.
Fast forward to the present. Words mold our subconscious; and, our subconscious guides our conscious. You are what you read. You are the stories you learned sitting beside your parents; listening to your history teachers. You are the words spit at you in anger; crooned to you in love. You live the images that you read over and over whether those images portray people of your gender, your race, your nationality, your religion, in a positive or a negative light. Little girls grow up believing they should aspire to be helpless princesses and wait for a knight in tarnished armor to rescue them. Years later they wonder why they are held prisoner in their own lives. Words create the glass ceiling as much as they build the rape culture. Words can shatter the glass ceiling; words can destroy the rape culture. We see it every day, inch by painful inch as people speak out and rip apart the cloak of acceptance and silence.
Words are my mantra; words are my weapons. I hone them with story plots and characters; with dialogue and narrative. I intend to change the world, book by book.
The first edition of Good Intentions, a coming of age novel and an award winning literary work, was published in 2002. I received an email from a young man who had been adopted. My book helped him accept the good intentioned lies his adoptive parents had told him; and, to heal.
Life intervened in 2003 and my days became consumed with other obligations, including the care of two elders who lived with my wife and me. In 2012, Dead Men and Cats, a novella about the impact of hate crime on an isolated community, was published. After that the books refused to be ignored; the characters woke me from deep sleep and chattered incessantly until I arose and wrote their lives.
As a socially conscious writer, my first sacred duty is to entertain. The stories of my mother and grandmother first captured my imagination, then they grew their morals in the fertile field of my mind. Any storyteller must first entertain her audience or the audience will walk away. Sketch of a Murder, Book 1, Special Crimes Team, is an action packed story about a unit of renegade cops who are set the task of stopping a serial killer who murders wealthy men in gruesome fashion.
The second sacred obligation of a socially conscious writer is to enlighten, but not in a preachy, in-your-face manner. In order to do that, every book I write is researched. The management of the crime scene I learned from police officers; how fast a house fire burns I learned from a fire fighter; the length of prison terms for women convicted of violent crimes in 1957, I learned from treatises on the prison system. Through character action and interactions with other characters and their environment, I broach the subject of the impact of gender stereotypes on the workings of a unit of cops. In Sketch of a Murder, I dismantle the generally accepted image of homeless people through Molly the Pack Lady. And near the end of the book, I explore how some women discover their sexual orientation.
Empowerment is the third sacred obligation of the socially conscious writer. Words are powerful and they plant the seeds of what we believe we can do; of what we see as life’s possibilities. In Sketch of a Murder, Sergeant Nita Slowater, a mixed blood Native American, co-leads a team of difficult cops on a case that has stumped three other police departments. In the end, she learns about love and she prevents her superior, Lieutenant Michael Williams, from being killed. Women are written as complex people. They don’t wait for Prince Charming or Princess Charming to rescue them. They act on their environment; for good or bad, they control their lives; they impact the world in which they live. And, when a reader closes the cover of Sketch of a Murder, the seed of women as powerful people is planted in their minds.
In Backlash, Book 4, Special Crimes Team, to be released in early summer 2015, successful women are being stalked. They are snatched from their cars, from their homes, from public spaces. Raped, they are discarded and left to die. How these women react presents a realistic picture of what women face in our culture, and in most cultures. Women don’t curl up and hide. They band together, they fight, they learn self-defense, they refuse to be intimidated, they continue to grow and to succeed.
It is long past time for women to be celebrated for such strength in the face of terrible adversity; for the strides they have made, not because men allow it, but because they refuse to be stopped.
On February 14, 2015, I released Hard Road Home, a stand-alone coming-of-age novel, Casanita Redner is battered by life, abused by those who are charged with her care. She refuses to be a victim; and though she sometimes loses her way, she never gives up. It is a story of terrible abuse and the ultimate triumph of a young woman.
This book illustrates how a work of fiction while entertaining, can also enlighten and empower women. As a socially conscious writer, this is my sacred obligation. Words are powerful is my mantra.
Aya lives on 12 acres of wildlife/wild bird habitat designed by her and Deva, her wife of 26 years, at the foot of White Horse Mountain. One old red pony, two Papillons, and four German Shepherd dogs live with her. When she isn’t chained to her computer by her characters, you’ll find her working on the land, reading, riding her motorcycle, traveling, or visiting with family and friends.
Social Media Hangouts
- http://www.ayawalksfar.com (blog)
Sketch of a Murder – Back Cover Blurb
Hot-tempered Sergeant Nita Slowater and Lieutenant Michael Williams, a cop known to bend the rules, lead a team of renegade cops on a trail of mutilated bodies as they chase the Avenger. Can they stop the killer who has eluded three police departments before an innocent man dies?
Hard Road Home – Back Cover Blurb
When eleven-year-old Casanita Redner’s beloved grandfather is murdered, her life takes a drastic downward turn. Her mother’s drinking and drugging escalates then she brings home a man who destroys what little peace Cas has found. But Cas isn’t a normal child-victim. She’s a fighter. Bounced from home to the streets to foster homes and then back to the streets, Cas refuses to be a placid victim. When John Downing becomes her caseworker, Cas is drawn to him. He gets her like no one ever has, but is he savior or predator? In a world where manipulation, lies and violence; drugs and alcohol are rife, Cas loses her way. Can she find the path that will lead back to her grandmother’s Tsalagi Teachings? Can she find healing?