This week we’re letting the 2020 Debutante Class talk a little about themselves! We spun the mirror around and asked them to answer the same questions we usually ask our guests.
Our first new Deb, and the one who’ll be taking over Mondays for you, is Lisa Braxton! An essayist and short story writer, her debut novel, The Talking Drum, will be out May 2020 from Inanna Publications.
Lisa Braxton is a fellow of the Kimbilio Fiction Writers Program and a book reviewer for 2040 Review. Her stories and essays have appeared in Vermont Literary Review, Black Lives Have Always Mattered, Chicken Soup for the Soul and The Book of Hope. She received Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest magazine’s 84th and 86th annual writing contests in the inspirational essay category. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Media from Hampton University, her Master of Science degree in Journalism from Northwestern University and her Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Southern New Hampshire University. She is a former newspaper and television journalist.
Have you ever traveled to do research for your writing? Where did you go?
The trip I took was only 30 minutes from my home in the Boston, Massachusetts area, but I felt as if I was a world away. I wanted to find inspiration for Omar, the Senegalese drummer who is central to my debut novel, The Talking Drum. Drumming is a key part of Omar’s life, both personally and professionally and I wanted to understand the techniques behind the art form and the hold drumming had on Omar’s life. I enrolled in a master class taught by master drummer Mamady Keita. Keita was born in a small village in West Africa. He is also an international performer and recording artist. At the age of two he was given his first little djembé. At the age of five, he began his formal instruction and training. Much of Keita’s story sounded like the story I was building for Omar and I was excited to see Keita in action.
Grand as it was, the city hall chambers where the master class was held was a tight squeeze for the dozens of drumming aficionados who showed up, drums in tow, ready to learn new rhythms from a man they revered. Keita was small in stature, but commanding. The room was silent as he played a combination of rhythms. Then he beckoned us to repeat them. On the beat, he walked around the large circle of us, eyeing our hands closely, nodding when he was pleased, narrowing his eyes when a tone or slap was made without confidence. I loved his swagger and confidence and knew that I could use what I had learned to add depth to Omar. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a talent for drumming. I know Keita was aware of this because he kept stopping to correct my hand positions. A drummer seated next to me said he kept coming over to me because he wanted to flirt with me. I had a laugh at that thought. Maybe it was true.
What was the first piece of writing you ever published or saw in print?
The first piece I got published was a short story called “Kitchen Fan.” It was published in a small literary journal in Georgia called Snake Nation Review. The story centers on a man, who is at the end of his life, laying out his funeral clothes and thinking about his regrets. It was based on a great uncle of mine who lived alone and passed away sitting in a chair in his house. He wasn’t discovered until days later when his best friend, after repeatedly coming by the house to look for him, realized that the kitchen window fan had been running for days. Getting that story published breathed new life in my effort to write creatively. After so many rejections, I had just about convinced myself that I didn’t have the talent to write fiction. Once “Kitchen Fan” was published I renewed my efforts to keep at it.
Thank you, Lisa! I can’t wait to see what y’all do with the Debutante Ball in the coming year!
Latest posts by K.A. Doore (see all)
- Introducing: Lisa Braxton, author of THE TALKING DRUM - Monday, August 26, 2019
- Scream Until We’re Hoarse - Monday, August 19, 2019
- Interview with Stephanie Burgis and giveaway of SNOWSPELLED! - Saturday, August 17, 2019
- Share Your Joy - Monday, August 12, 2019
- Announcing Your 2020 Deb Class! - Sunday, August 11, 2019