Poets of SMITTEN Interview Series: Hoda Essa

Hoda Abdulqadir Essa is a New Orleans native with roots hailing from East Africa. Hoda is a maker, writer, lover, shapeshifter and soul traveler, searching for heaven or hoping to construct it with her own bare hands.

How does being a poet inform your views on expressing emotions through writing? 

As a poet, I’m consistently working from a place that many people call “emotional intelligence” – in other words, I am dreaming out loud when I open my mouth or put pen to paper. So, for me, being a poet comes with a subtle responsibility to always tell the truth. Poetry is not a soundbite nor is it a news-clip. To me, poetry is the rhythm that lives in each person individually. It’s important to express that and writing is a powerful medium to do so.

When you found out SMITTEN was about women who loved women, without the emphasis on erotica that is usually the case – could you immediately think of ways to express that love through writing? 

Absolutely! My friend and I talk about bringing intimacy to life and to me that is what art is. No one has ever written ballads about an intellectual conversation they’ve had but we pause to capture the gentleness of a lover’s brush against your own skin – to me writing is a way at grasping moments that we ultimately have no language for. The erotic, especially, can be more greatly understood as we wrestle with it on the page.

What does it mean to you to be part of something like SMITTEN and have your work alongside other women who love women? 

To me, this is a declaration of the time’s we are in. Standing together in creativity unity is the most empowered place for many women, myself included. It means to me that I have graduated into a time space reality that is being carved out by the very people writing and experiencing love for and from a woman.

Why is love a worthier subject than erotica to write on? 

To me they’re intermingled. You have to love a moment to be inspired enough to write about it. Erotic writing is being so in love with an intimate moment that you want to recreate it for others. The two are closely related as far as I am concerned.

Have you ever been SMITTEN and if so, do you feel it’s possible to summarize those feelings in poetry? 

I am smitten and often. As often as possible. And I love this word as the title for the anthology (kudos to you all) because that word encompasses how wistful it is allowing oneself to be overtaken by simply being fond of another. I’ve tried my entire life to bottle this feeling and give it to the world so yes! It is absolutely possible to summarize these feels in poetry, until we can market the sensation of course!

Your poem in SMITTEN was excellent, why did you choose this particular poem and what did you hope it would convey to readers?

I chose this poem because I was inspired by a woman who took my breath away. She was beautiful, inspiring, deliciously sad in all the right places and talking to her moved me. We never formally met but my hope in writing “WOMAN” was to zoom in on how explosive this connection was without any physical intimacy. I am not even sure if I felt romantic ideations towards this person up until this day – I just knew that I wanted her inner-flame to be safe. I wrote this poem to honor her fire; to protect it.

SMITTEN is available by ordering it in your Barnes & Noble, purchasing it online at Barnes & Noble or Amazon or asking your independent bookstore to order it via Ingram. SMITTEN is available on Kindle and in print form.

For updates on SMITTEN visit the Facebook SMITTEN page.

This is a huge project of 120 female authors – an anthology that is testimony to the power of love and connection between women. Support SMITTEN by purchasing a copy for someone who supports LGBTQ equality, women or poetry.

 

 

Poets of SMITTEN Interview Series: Wil Staley

I am a writer, painter, and more. I received my BA in Psychology, MA in Education, and 50 graduate credits in Counseling before coming out; as being queer was grounds for dismissal. I am now seeking my MSW, so I can help those marginalized by society and be a voice for the LGBTQ community. When I met my wife, I knew I had found myself and I’m learning to love the human I have become. Wil Staley

Do you find any stereotypes in lesbian/bi work that you would personally remove?

Absolutely! Most books for same-sex attraction focus on sex and erotica. Very little exists for same-sex love and companionship. Not only that, but I haven’t seen many books that have lesbian or bi characters who are just people; it almost always focuses on their sexuality. I think it’s important to remember we’re all just human and we are not our sexuality though that is an amazing part of us. Being a lesbian or bi is a normal part of life and I hope this anthology is able to portray that truth.

What does it mean to you to be part of something like SMITTEN and have your work alongside other women who love women?

This is such an honor to me. I’m being published alongside those like me who want to speak their truth for others. Not only that, but I can’t believe I’m in a book with so many amazing artists! I appreciate knowing so many other writers hope to make a change in the way our community is viewed.

Did you ever want to be a voice for the lesbian/bi community? If so, why?

-Being a voice for anyone is incredibly important to me but being a voice for the lesbian/bi community is even more precious to me. I know what it’s like to be hated for something you can’t control and to lose many people close to you because you want to love another human who happens to be the same sex. I come from a religious community who turned their backs on me when I came out. I still had a few people who stuck around and taught me what unconditional love was really like and I am so thankful for them. I hope I can help give others a voice and let them know they’re not alone.

Do you feel your voice is heard? Do you believe anthologies like this can help you be heard?

-Writing is really the only thing that has ever helped me feel my voice is heard and has made a difference. Being in this anthology will help my voice expand. I think anthologies like these are amazing because it caters to all types of people and offers many different styles of writing for our readers so they undoubtedly will find something that speaks to them and helps them feel heard.

Your poem in SMITTEN was excellent, why did you choose this particular poem and what did you hope it would convey to readers?

-I had three accepted pieces and the poem “Nakedness” really speaks volumes. I wrote this to show others how beautiful love can be; how healing it is to be able to give your all to someone leaving nothing uncovered; even the painful or ugly pieces of life. My wife and her love took away the shame I felt in being out and open and the pain I felt growing up in trauma. I am forever grateful for her gentleness.

SMITTEN is now LIVE and can be purchased in Kindle and Print format!

Please support this worthy and important project by purchasing a copy or more. Your support goes a long way to helping the visibility of LGBTQ authors, poets and artists. For up to date information please go to www.indieblu.net

The creation of SMITTEN; Interview with Kindra M. Austin

Interview with Kindra M. Austin one of the two co-founders of Indie Blu(e) publishing by SMITTEN editor, Candice Daquin.

Candice: Indie Blu(e) is a young, edgy and finger to the pulse type of micro publishing gig. What went into its inception? What forces created Indie Blu(e)? What influences?

Kindra: When Christine and I first encountered one another, we recognized straight away that we share a passion for not only writing, but for helping other writers hone their creative voices. I think we first began talking about joining forces to build a publishing company in 2017. In 2018, we realized we already had the bones to build upon with the Indie Blu(e) Network, which we co-founded. The IBN began as a source for readers and writers to discover indie authors, and authors published through small presses.

Our shared vision has always been to represent the unconventional and underappreciated. Knowing what we wanted to represent was the easy part: razor edged, badass, blow a hole through societal norms types of writing. Christine and I spoke at great length regarding our mission, which is to work in a close partnership with our authors to create books that shine, and reflect the talent of the writers. Speaking for myself, I can’t imagine operating a press that didn’t focus on the aforementioned. My influences come from those who do things their own way. I don’t have the heart to do anything otherwise.

Christine and I definitely bet on our combined reputations as writers and editors when we announced the birth of Indie Blu(e) Publishing, and I know we were both happily surprised by the volume of submissions we received early on. Our submissions list continues to grow, and that is a personal success because it speaks to the trust we’ve earned in the writing community. The level of faith these writers have in us is humbling, and drives us to best ourselves with each new project.

Candice: I was fortunate enough to be asked by the founding members of Indie Blu(e) to come onboard. It struck me early on that Indie Blu(e) are unique in that you are not just a typical micro publishing house. As conceptualizers and publishers you have a very strong principle in the choices you make with publishing and it can be said you galvanize and bring together people over very powerful themes.

What do you think are the reasons you operate this way? What benefits do you believe come from linking your beliefs with your publishing acumen? How has IB shifted the micro publishing world by combining strong ideas with publishing? Did you feel a moral responsibility to do this? Did you talk about why this was important? After the Kavanaugh hearings and the #metoo movement, how did We Will Not Be Silenced come to be created?

Kindra: We make it easy for one another to use our individual platforms, sources, and Indie Blu(e) Publishing as a vehicle for advocacy because we all believe in the power of the collective voice. Personally speaking, I have always believed that as a writer, I have the power, privilege, and duty to speak for those who aren’t being heard, and who are marginalized.

I’m incredibly proud that IB has marched to the front line with We Will Not Be Silenced, and that the proceeds from WWNBS go to charities. So yes, I felt a moral responsibility. During the Kavanaugh hearings, there was a fire burning in the pit of me. When Christine suggested a collection of writings and art imparted by sexual assault and harassment survivors, I was all in without hesitation. And I think that a micro-publisher willing to speak so loudly and intimately about its beliefs shows its golden balls. In my dreams of success, Indie Blu(e) Publishing will be at the forefront of anthologies that shatter the foundations built by bureaucrats, hatred, selfishness, fear mongering, and willful ignorance.

Candice: I came onboard to work with you during the creation of We Will Not Be Silenced. In turn this influenced me to consider SMITTEN. Thanks to your idea of bringing voices together, I could see the value of an anthology of poets writing about love between women. You were open to the idea – why do you care so much about giving voices to those who are usually not heard?

Kindra: I’m too empathic not to. A lot of people don’t get upset enough over injustice and uncaring to rise up and help. I don’t understand that at all, and I don’t want to. I never want to know what it’s like to live quietly while my brothers and sisters of this world are suffering.

Candice: Since I have known you both, I have seen a powerful wave of influence coming from ideas you regularly have, where you create projects and communities and collectives and this raises the awareness and voices of authors we may not otherwise hear from. What are your influencing reason(s) for being so socially conscious? Do you think it is a prerequisite of someone in your position as publishers?

Kindra: A lot of my writing influences are authors who are/were involved in raising awareness and advocating in one way or another. Again, I see it as a privilege, and my duty to do the same. A lot of writers we are introduced to have important messages and sensitive life experiences they want to purge, and we hear the call to give them safe and secure outlets to speak their truths. If I weren’t socially conscious, I’d make for a poor publisher, I think.

Candice: Recently you have had a very successful series of poetry prompts on feminism and feminist books including many lesbian classics. Many of the authors in SMITTEN have participated and become part of your growing community of authors – thanks to your inclusive approach to authors and good ideas. Is this a necessary part of being a relevant and sensitive publisher?

Kindra: Absolutely. If IB ever lost that, I’d have to walk away. But that would never happen, so no worries.

Candice: What goals do you see going forward with Indie Blu(e) based especially on the wide influence you have already had in the writers communities?

Kindra: I’d like Indie Blu(e) to publish fiction. I’m a novelist at heart, and I’d love to work on crazy good novel. Also, we have a lot of great anthology ideas. I’d like to see IB at the front of micro-publishers who represent the best up and coming writers.

Candice: Is Indie Blu(e) a publishing house with a social conscience and if so, do you believe we should all aspire to consider this when committing to creative endeavors?

Kindra: Yes, we have a social conscience, and IB gravitated toward social issues and advocacy naturally. While I do believe we should all develop a strong social conscience and stand by our principles, I don’t think that every project needs to address feminism, sexual abuse, domestic violence, etc. IB is in a position where we can represent both gripping, entertaining fiction, and collections like WWNBS and SMITTEN.

Candice: With SMITTEN you were gracious enough to be a huge support in its creation. Why are you able to tap into the depths of a project and relate to it, even if it’s not exactly like your own lives? How did you learn to be responsive to subjects diverse to your own lives? And sensitive to the needs of minorities when dealing with neglected subjects such as rape, sexual abuse, lesbianism and inequality at large?

Kindra: I don’t know exactly why I can relate to people and experiences different from me and my own, other than to say that I’m highly empathic, and I’ve been around diversity my whole life; I’ve always had friends who were different from the majority, and I saw them struggle with misunderstanding and cruelty. I’ve also experienced a lot of direct disparagement.

I’ve been close with women who’ve been raped, my mother and sister being two of them. I grew up around domestic and sexual violence. I’ve spoken up for my cousin, and the children of some of my friends who are mistreated because of their sexual orientation. For me, it’s all about being human. To see another human being suffering in any way makes me ill, and the only level of relief for me is to use my platforms to address the issues.

I’m incredibly proud to be a part of SMITTEN. There’s no way I could have passed on the opportunity, and I thank you, Candice, for including me in this stellar project.

For information on SMITTEN please go to https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/ and if you want to purchase SMITTEN it is now available via KINDLE and hardback at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1951724003/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=Candice+daquin&qid=1572275732&sr=8-3 among other book sellers. If we all purchase one copy we raise this projects awareness and make it more possible for future necessary projects to exist!

For up-to-date information about who Indie Blu(e) is publishing, check out their site at www.indieblu.net or their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/indieblupublishing/\

Kindra M. Austin can be found at https://www.facebook.com/kindra.m.austin.author/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SMITTEN Poets READ: The Girl Who Always Cries – Crystal Kinistino

 

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net 

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/

SMITTEN Poets READ: Walking By Hot Topic While Announcing Queerness, or So I Hoped by Kelsey Hontz

 

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net 

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/

SMITTEN Poets READ: Ephemeris | Morning Senses by Cristina DeSouza

 

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net 

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/

SMITTEN Poets READ: Friday Karaoke by Kindra M. Austin

 

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net 

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/