Mother to Mother by Sindiwe Magona

A Book Review

By: Christen Rachow

On August 25, 1993, an American university student, Amy Biehl, was murdered in the South African township of Gugulethu. Five years later, South African writer Sindiwe Magona published her novel Mother to Mother, a deeply thought-provoking reflection on this historical moment of tragedy. On the one hand, Magona offers, first-and-foremost, the perspective of a mother trying to come to terms with knowing her beloved son participated in the mob mentality of that day, a mother to a son who was one of many hands stabbing blindly inside the chaos. And, on the other, this perspective of a struggling, tormented mother is written as a letter to another mother—Amy Biehl’s very own—in an attempt to explain why her daughter did not come home. Mother to Mother is a heart-wrenching tale of intense imagery and emotion that goes straight into the matter of South Africa’s past political violences with apartheid and offers up the question: Just how does a murderer become a murder? Magona’s book offers no apology for this murder, but a look into society itself. For any American, this is a must-read novel, as it will entice a rethinking of the nation’s entire justice system and the real, human truths of how social injustice creates society’s very own killers. 

WANTED: Inspiration

By Adrienna Martinez

With the fall semester beginning and my first time living on campus, there has been a lot of new information flying around. Where are good places to eat? Where are all my classes this time around? The atmosphere is hectic and schedules are piling up with every passing day. Due to the nearly overwhelming amount of happenings around campus, it can become difficult to take a step back and look around. It is in this chaos that you can find some interesting inspiration. There are stories in something as small as an ant using all its strength to pull a cheeto across the pavement to something as large as all the freshmen frantically looking for their next class. Similarly, an empty college campus on the weekends can spark an incredible piece. There is truly a story in everything you come across in daily life. That being said, if you are tired of writing about the same old topics, try looking at the subject matter from a perspective you aren’t used to. Perhaps view the Flint Farmers’ Market as an international meeting place of an already diverse group of people, instead of just a place you get your organic goods from. Leave your comfort zone behind and explore. Everyone has their own focus and style, but it’s never a bad thing to expand your horizons and try a new angle. Go out into the world and don’t let that inspiration pass you by.

Words: Creative Walls to Commodious Pathways

By: Benjamin Smith

It’s no secret that the writer’s most powerful tool is its most fundamental unit: the word. The word is what grants the writer access to securing the accuracy of the subject or theme for which they strive, regardless of the form they ascribe themselves to. All creative methodologies employed in the writing process, ranging from phonetic consideration and manipulation, literary devices, and simple figures of speech, are all a construct of and supported by the timeless bricks of words. Face it – it all comes back to words.

Words are seemingly endless in number, with nuances and variations with each defining a highly specific and distinct thing, action, description, etc. As a writer I find this to be fascinating, and some may even allow it to fortify a sense of hopefulness that there will always be a word out there that is the proper fit for their desired expression. After all, personal vocabularies expand by the second, absorbing terms and words encountered in audible exchanges, captured through curiosity, or adopted from the polarized social atmospheres that one is found in on a daily basis. However, I find the richest and most invaluable goldmine to leech off, in terms of words, is that which is opened through the reading of literary works.

The confidence writers can glean from being aware of the truly vast number of existing words available for prospective inclusion, especially when confronted by a creative wall, is not a reassurance that I receive when writing, however. See, I am burdened with a terrible memory. With this being said, it is oftentimes extremely difficult to recall the most exquisite of words while writing poetry, and as a poet I can say with utmost certainty that word choice is so, so very important in harnessing the true essence of one’s message in their work. Naturally, I strive to produce a poetic work that is seamless in its flow and potent in its theme.

A massive source of assistance with my aforementioned lousy memory and this goal, and now centralized component of my writing process, is the conscious collection of words while reading. If you ever happen to see me strolling around downtown Flint (you probably haven’t) with my messenger bag slung over my shoulder, know that is housing at least one book at any given moment. Being a constant reader, I happen upon words that I’ve never before laid eyes on or that I find utterly confounding. Instead of relying strictly upon the context they are being used in to assume a definition, I actively look them up on my smartphone, take a screenshot, and upload these to my Google Drive.

The truth of the matter is that English and Literature teachers have trumpeted this toward students for probably all of eternity, so I apologize if placing such significance in actually looking up the definition of unknown words comes off as common sense. This approach to reading, though, has enabled me to build an archive of so many rich, thoroughly descriptive, and diverse words to consult when I find myself in a bind. Even words that I’ve encountered in textbooks have ended up stored in my continuously expanding virtual word bank. Since we as students, and as humans in general, always seem to be reading something about some aspect or discipline experienced in life, to stumble upon a puzzling word is far from uncommon.

Of course, sifting through a digital folder full of images of words and their respective definitions may not seem nearly as efficient as utilizing the actual operation and feedback of a thesaurus or a quick internet search. The act, though, of slowly and meticulously scanning through my micro-archive not only affords me the repeated viewing of them, and the consequently increased likelihood of recalling them of my own volition, but also enriches the actual process of constructing a poem, with that once elusive word glittering within a stanza like the golden brick that it is.

Don’t hesitate to inquire when happening upon a word that leaves you at a mental loss. Do not be intimidated by words with visual appearances seem outside the realm of even the slightest possibility. Why not just look it up while your mind is still adhered to it? You’ll use it, maybe not in your current writing, or even your writing years from now, but you will undoubtedly, given the perfect alignment of planets and circumstantial opportunity, use it.

Redefining Writers Block

Here is the thing about writers block: it is not real. It does not exist. When you give such a term power, then it can take hold, intimidate and cause hesitation through fear.

Think about dreams, the way our mind must sleep in order to process, think about how our bodies and minds need to rest. If you have a healthy writing habit, perhaps you need a break. The words will come.

Traditionally I sort through my thoughts and feelings best through writing yet there are times when ideas and feelings cannot be put into words yet. I have to give myself space to “write around it,” meaning write about something else, anything else, or embrace moments of not writing. Breaks are part of a natural process, normal as breathing. We are unable to steadily breath out, we must also breath in.

In these times, the work is to remove the pressure. I write poetry mostly, and recently began to write prose about some highly personal subject matter. I began to feel friction with the pressure of keeping up on a steady blogging schedule rather than allowing my own natural process. I was further thrown off by what my reader’s expectations might be of who I am as a highly emotional and personal human as opposed to an outgoing writer.

Although it is always good to consider the audience, it can sometimes cause paralysis. In these moments, instead of stopping, I write about anything else without the pressure to produce on a certain topic. This is how I write my way out of hesitation. It is through the practice of free writing that my finished pieces evolve.

Also, while there are moments and topics too much to write about straight away, there are also moments that happen DURING the writing process that can cause a piece to take longer to finish or to share. For example, the last prose piece that I wrote took something out of me, as mostly all my writing does, that’s why it matters. But that’s also what makes it difficult. I will often finish a piece and then have to be alone and rest. Writing can be exhausting.

Accepting that every mind needs breaks and taking them is the best thing for my writing. But also, I continue writing about everything that strikes me, every day. Keeping busy and changing up my schedule if at all possible, having new experiences and connecting with new people is key.

It is a way to live and be in the world. For me, it is an act of love. (yes, hippie-talk). It is a way to embrace wonder and enjoyment of life, as well as a way to survive all of the darkest moments. Creating something is a productive way to pull myself out of heartbreak or tragic moments. Writing creates moments of learning, the opportunity to share that experience with others, and to connect in a meaningful way.

This definition of writing as a complex and varied process, which includes taking breaks, can alleviate the stress brought on by the idea of writers block and hopefully eliminate it altogether.