The Writer’s Life: Killing Your Darlings

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When I finished my first complete draft of The Twisted Circle: A Novel in 2016, the total word count of 92,602 had exceeded the desired 80,000 words that literary agents and publishers require for newbie authors. Subsequent revisions in tightening sentences and scenes did not achieve the magical number. In 2017, I took the undesirable and difficult step of removing a beloved minor character. This is known as ‘killing your darlings.’

Over the years, the phrase ‘to kill your darlings’ has been attributed to many famous writers: Oscar Wilde, G.K. Chesterton, and William Faulkner. But many literary scholars credit British writer and University of Cambridge Professor Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. In his 1916 book On the Art of Writing, he recommended writers to “murder your darlings.”

After spending over a month researching details of her background, I killed off Sylvia Flores since her character played a negligible role in my story’s main plot line. It hurt. This fictional character was my way of memorializing a Filipino woman whose tragic, premature death in Guyana’s northwest rainforest region has stayed with me after all these years.

The real-life woman was the wife of the Filipino resident doctor in charge of the Mabaruma Hospital at the time I lived and worked in the region. Owing to the isolation of the region and lack of proper medical facilities, Guyanese doctors then and now avoid the post like a death trap for their medical career.

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Daylight Come by Diana McCaulay

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Front Cover: Daylight Come by Diana McCaulay
Photo Credit: Peepal Tree Press

Around 120 world leaders and Heads of States, as well as about 25,000 delegates, are meeting at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow from November 1 to 12, 2021. COP26 is humanity’s “last, best chance” to secure global net zero emissions by 2050 and keep the average global temperature from rising 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels. Failure to achieve this threshold will make extensive regions of our planet uninhabitable. Some areas are already facing famine, loss of coastlands to the sea, and other climate change disasters. Many of these areas are small-island nations where their cries for help have yet to be heard. Listen to what Barbados Prime Minister Mottley had to say at the Climate Summit.

In her latest book of speculative fiction, Daylight Come (Peepal Tree Press, UK, 2020), Jamaican author and environmental activist Diana McCaulay envisages a future when daylight kills. In 2017, after reading about the impact of extreme heat on construction workers, farmers, and people without shelter in India, McCaulay began thinking what it would mean for a tropical country like Jamaica if it became too dangerous to be outside during the day.

“Suppose it got so hot that we all had to work at night and sleep in the day?” McCaulay asks in her Author’s Note (p.195). “And suppose there was a girl, a teenager, who simply couldn’t sleep during the day?”

Daylight Come begins in 2084 on the fictitious island country of Bajacu. Sorrel, the restless heroine, is fourteen years old. She lives in the dying city of Bana with her forty-five-year-old mother Bibi. Situated in the coastal Immersion Zone where the Domins rule with brutal force, the city faces daily threats from the encroaching sea.

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Thought for Today: Climate Science Denial

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Front Cover: The Truth About Denial: Bias and Self-Deception in Science, Politics, and Religion by Adrian Bardon

The climate change issue is a perfect storm for conservative personality and conservative ideology. It is a form of impact science that represents a massive threat to the existing social and economic order, and in so doing, incidentally threatens demographic identity groups invested in the status quo. Solutions will require massive government intervention, the prospect of which is particularly threatening to the especially individualistic, small-government aspects of American conservative ideology.

Excerpt from “Science Denial” (Chapter 2, p.109), The Truth About Denial: Bias and Self-Deception in Science, Politics, and Religion by Adrian Bardon, Oxford University Press, New York, USA, 2020.

CHECK OUT: The Yahoo News/YouGov survey on U.S. climate change attitudes conducted online from October 19 to 21, 2021.


DR. ADRIAN BARDON is a professor of philosophy at Wake Forest University, North Carolina, where he teaches courses on political philosophy, philosophy of religion, philosophy of space and time, and the history of philosophy. He is the author of A Brief History of the Philosophy of Time (OUP 2013), as well as numerous scholarly articles on time, perception, politics, and the history of philosophy.

“My Empire” by Iranian American Poet Kaveh Akbar

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Iranian American Poet Kaveh Akbar
Photo Credit: Poet’s Website

My Poetry Corner October 2021 features the poem “My Empire” from the poetry collection Pilgrim Bell: Poems (Graywolf Press, 2021) by Iranian American poet Kaveh Akbar. Born in Tehran to an American mother and Iranian father, Kaveh was two years old when his family migrated to the United States, first settling in Pennsylvania. When Kaveh was five years old, they moved to the Midwest, living in Wisconsin and later Indiana. Since his parents only spoke English at home, the poet speaks little Farsi, his first language.

Akbar earned his MFA at Butler University in Indiana and a PhD in creative writing from Florida State University. He currently teaches at Purdue University (Indiana) and in the low-residency MFA programs at Randolph College (Virginia) and Warren Wilson College (North Carolina). Since September 2020, he also serves as the poetry editor of the progressive magazine, The Nation.

Pilgrim Bell is Akbar’s second poetry following his recovery from alcohol addiction. In “Seven Years Sober,” he writes: Trust God but tie your camel. Trust / God. The bottle by the bed the first / few weeks. Just in case. Trust…. He acknowledges in “Cotton Candy” that his mother wept nightly for eight years / my living / curled its hands around her throat / not choking exactly but like the squeeze / of an outgrown collar…

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Forest Spirits or Bush Spirits of Guyana’s Indigenous Peoples

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Silk Cotton Tree – Santa Mission Indigenous Settlement – Guyana

On October 8, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a presidential proclamation declaring October 11th as a national holiday in celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Does this mean that we will no longer remember this day as Columbus Day? Growing up in what was then British Guiana, I was taught to regard the Genoan explorer Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) as a hero. During his four voyages to the New World, he explored a vast area of the Caribbean Region that he called the West Indies. The gentle and kindhearted indigenous Arawak peoples who first welcomed Columbus and his crew knew not the misery that this encounter would later unleash upon their world.

Based on what Columbus told Peter Martyr, who recorded his voyages, Martyr wrote: “They seeme to live in that golden worlde of the which olde writers speake so much, wherein menne lived simply and innocently without enforcement of lawes, without quarreling, judges and libelles, content onely to satisfie nature, without further vexation for knowledge of things to come.” [As quoted by Edmund S. Morgan in his article “Columbus’ Confusion About the New World”]

Not until his third voyage (1498-1500) did Columbus sight the coastline of Guiana but made no attempt at landing. The Dutch, the first to settle Guiana, referred to this forbidding region of dense tropical rainforest, stretching between the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers on the South American mainland, as “The Wild Coast.” After two centuries of Dutch rule (1600s to 1803) and another century of British rule, the indigenous peoples of then British Guiana, called Amerindians, had lost sovereignty over their territories. Beginning in 1902, the British forced them into reservations.

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Dog Bone Soup: A Boomer’s Journey by Bette A. Stevens

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Front Cover – Dog Bone Soup: A Boomer’s Journey by Bette A. Stevens (USA, 2014)

In Dog Bone Soup: A Boomer’s Journey, Maine author Bette A. Stevens reminds us that being poor should not define who we are as individuals. With determination as well as the helping hand and guidance of those who care, we can become the person we aspire to be. Herself a boomer, Stevens takes us back to America of the 1950s and 1960s. On leaving home to enter the U.S. Army, eighteen-year-old Shawn Daniels looks back on growing up in Lebanon, Maine, where his family was scorned as “nothing but poor white trash.”

Shawn’s narrative contains no mention of the year or his age. Only his school grade records the passing years. His earliest memory is of watching mice scamper across the rafters as he lay in bed at nights. Having one as a pet appealed to him. Their home was a two-room log cabin with two small windows. About four years old at the time, he was too young to understand how harsh conditions were for his mother to raise three kids without electricity and indoor plumbing.

When his mother moved out, taking only his baby sister with her, Shawn’s life and that of his younger brother took a downward turn. Gone were his days of fishing with his dad. For about a year or so, the brothers lived in a foster home with strict rules. They went hungry and were often confined to their room as punishment for misbehavior or bad table manners.

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The Twisted Circle: Latest News

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I am pleased to announce that The Twisted Circle: A Novel is now also available as an eBook at the booksellers listed below:

Rosaliene’s Shop at Lulu (Both Print & Ebook)

Amazon (Both Print & Ebook)

Barnes and Noble (Both Print & Ebook)

BAM! Books a Million (Print Only)

Book Depository (Print Only)

IndieBound (Print Only)

Rakuten Kobo (Ebook Only)

Thought for Today: For how much longer?

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Photo by Anni Roenkae on Pexels.com

We humans have re-created the surface of our planet in our own image. Then, for control of the masses by a few, we have constructed multiple realities of what it means to be a human. To further manipulate and distort facts and reality, we have entered what some regard as “the post-truth age.” With the aid of algorithms, disinformation whips across social media networks like hurricane force winds, rupturing human interactions within the physical spaces we share. For how much longer can our communities withstand this mounting chaos without implosion?

“That Moment an Enormous Tail” by Brazilian Poet Alice Sant’Anna

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Brazilian Poet Alice Sant’Anna

My Poetry Corner September 2021 features the poem “That Moment an Enormous Tail” (Um Enorme Rabo de Baleia) from the poetry collection Tail of the Whale (Rabo de Baleia) by Brazilian poet Alice Sant’Anna. Born in 1988 in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Alice grew up in a very artistic home: Her father was a photographer; her mother was a fashion producer. As a child, she learned to play several musical instruments. Then, at fifteen years old, her artistic future veered toward poetry. Such was the impact after she read the poetry of Brazil’s “marginal generation” poet Ana Cristina César (1952-1983).

During the 1970s the “marginal generation” poets published their books independently, earning the title “marginal.” Following the oral tradition, their poetry used a colloquial and informal style.  

Sant’Anna credits her experience of studying abroad in learning “how to be alone, in silence,” critical for her creative process. Her first trip abroad was to New Zealand where she spent a semester as a sixteen-year-old high school student. There, she began writing poetry while adapting to life in a very small town.

As a twenty-year-old undergraduate in journalism at the Pontifical Catholic University (PUC) of Rio de Janeiro, Sant’Anna published her first book of poetry. In 2009, a year before her graduation, she went to Paris for a semester, providing an impetus for working on her second book, Tail of the Whale (Rabo de Baleia).

In 2013, the year she earned her Masters’ Degree in Literature and Culture at PUC, Sant’Anna’s poetry collection was published to great acclaim, winning the APCA Poetry Prize from the São Paulo Art Critics Association. The collection was published in English in 2016 with translation by Tiffany Higgins, an award-winning American poet and translator.

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Breaking Free…

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Breaking free from the Roman Catholic Church did not happen overnight. The fear of Hell, embedded since childhood, is a powerful force. I began questioning the Church’s religious teachings and practices during my seven years in the convent. A beginners’ course in Anthropology, taken as a final year university undergraduate, led me to reconsider the nature of being human and our roles as male and female. I recall having an epiphany about the need to change the rules regarding the Church’s Sacrament of Matrimony that was out of touch with our times.

After leaving the convent, I began exploring other religions and spiritual teachings in search of a more expansive vision of The Divine. Having grown up among Hindus, I was aware that they believe in reincarnation after death. The Buddhists, too, I discovered, also embrace reincarnation. The thought of being born again in what I’ve experienced as a violent and unjust world did not appeal to me.

During the year I worked at the University of Guyana Library, a librarian recommended that I read Reincarnation & Karma by Edgar Cayce (1877-1945). The American psychic struck me as authentic. Instead of condemnation to Hell for eternity, reincarnation gives our soul several chances to make up for mistakes made, wrongs committed. Justice beyond the grave. I began looking at my life and our world with different lenses. Who did I wrong or hurt in past lives?

I was pregnant with our second child when my husband and I joined the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement started by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India. Since receiving my mantra from our certified Guyanese TM teacher, I continue to practice the daily mantra meditation. With varying degrees of success over the years, I have used the technique not only as a form of awareness and stress relief, but also to access a higher state of consciousness.

My break with the Catholic Church occurred about a year and a half after we migrated to Brazil. That’s about ten years after leaving the convent. South America’s largest country and economy also held the top-ranking position as the country with the world’s largest Catholic population. The poverty I witnessed every day on the streets of Fortaleza, capital of the Northeastern State of Ceará, shocked me. Though Guyana was numbered among the poorest countries on the continent, I had never seen hordes of children, including toddlers, roaming the streets in search of food. Where was the Catholic Church? What were they doing to address the poverty and destitution in their midst?

I could not identify with such a Church.

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