Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: Books

Author Nicholas Belardes and the Aboutness in Our Stories

Nicholas

In 2012, I went on a four-day writer’s retreat in Colorado, which was led by Random-House author and literary agent Cicily Janus. Cicily, a young mother of three children, brought many authors, editors, and publishers together through her retreats. She had a number of health complications and passed away last year, but those who formed friendships thanks to her visions and dreams have continued to inspire each other. One such person is Nicholas Belardes, whose career I’ve followed with admiration – especially when he posts Facebook pictures of the beautiful locations where he writes and takes walks.

NAMOU: When did you decide to become a writer?

BELARDES: There was a moment early in grade school where I was asked to write a story. It turned out to be one of the first moments I was confronted with the idea that actual, real people write stories, that someone has to imagine them, someone’s mind has to be filled with words, and somehow those words have to spill onto the page.

I remember writing about hairy outer space creatures. It was kindergarten. Mrs. Robinson was the teacher. She always wore her brown hair in a bun. We’d visit her house, play with her dogs and cats. Her son lived in a converted barn behind a pond and he’d tell me stories, offer me food, tell me he was eating octopus. I’d run back by the pond imagining he was a real adventurer (because every adventurer must have octopus in jars to snack on). That time in the early 1970s in San Jose, California sparked something in me that never went away.

Actually deciding on becoming a writer was a slow process, something that haunted me on and off for many years. It flared up during episodes in my life where I took on writing jobs: creative writer for the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas, scene blogger, managing editor/journalist for an ABC News affiliate. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I dedicated my entire being to writing fiction, essays and poetry. I’d just been sidetracked up until then.

NAMOU: Why do you write?

BELARDES: I really don’t think there’s anything I’m skilled at other than writing. I fail at everything else.

NAMOU: What have you written and what are you working on at the minute?

BELARDES: Novels, an essay collection, a book of oddities, books of poetry, a memoir, cheesy animated shows, news articles, and a small mountain of short stories and graphic narratives. Some of all that is published, including some short stories in journals. “St. Augustine the Starfighter” is in Carve Magazine. “Gaspar” is in Pithead Chapel. “A Different Kind of Boiling Point” is in the Acentos Review.

At the minute I’m revising a literary fantasy novel. Last week I finished ghostwriting a novel for an African client. I take on ghostwriting to pay the bills. My personal efforts are mostly with the literary fantasy, though I am slowly developing a Middle Grade novel, which is being overseen by a literary agent. It’s all very weird, because the life of a writer is frustrating, exhilarating, annoying, depressing, challenging and fun!

NAMOU:  What are your ambitions for your writing career?

BELARDES: For now it’s a simple vision of finishing the literary fantasy and finding a literary agent who cares about it seeing the light of day as much as I do, and writing more publishable short stories.

NAMOU: Do you write full-time or part-time?

BELARDES: Full-time.

NAMOU: Where do the your ideas come from?

BELARDES: An idea can come from anywhere, a friend’s story told over the phone, a news article, an experience, brainstorming interests, a political reaction, a social reaction. As a dual ethnic I try to find connections to both my Latin X side and my white side. Some stories blend the two. Some are one or the other. It also really depends on what I’m intending to write at the moment.

Even ghostwriting may include a pre-formed outline, or one I completely make up to expand from. Those ideas come from discussions with a client, from pure creativity, research, and from my experience of understanding story and character. Maybe we can think of the realm of ideas as cloud banks whispering around us. They can take any shape. A writer must find a way into them.

NAMOU: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

BELARDES: I’ve become more socially aware. Reinventing myself along those lines has been important. Caring about the plight of farm workers, or immigration reform, or socially and culturally oppressed areas like that of Bakersfield, California, where I spent much of my life. It helps me to understand that good writing doesn’t just involve language, or charged language, but what Ezra Pound once wrote as “language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.”

Anything else, when it comes to my own work, is a waste of time. I have to consistently create a body of work that reflects this socially aware version of myself. For instance, in the short stories I mentioned, “St. Augustine the Starfighter” tackles child cruelty, and how we can grow out of the cruelty we inflict on the world as children. “Gaspar” is about living within an oppressive system and taking on those same characteristics (and needing a way out). “A Different Kind of Boiling Point” is about a retired farm labor leader. She realizes her own imperfections and failures are part of a path of penance and revolution. If we don’t find this aboutness in our stories, then why write them?

NAMOU: What is the hardest thing about writing?

BELARDES: Accepting more defeats than victories. There is an article I read recently that every writer should aim for a hundred rejections a year. That’s really not bad advice!

NAMOU: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

BELARDES: Aspiring writers really need to figure out what I meant by “language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.” Once they do, they will be on to something in their own lives, and in their own words. Oh, and take walks. Lots of walks. And connect to powerful writers. Be inspired by them. Say hello to them once in a while.

To learn more about Nicholas Belardes’ work, visit his website: onhttp://www.nicholasbelardes.com/

Advertisements

ISIS Cannot Destroy our Stories

The Feminine Art

Chaldeans are an ancient people who trace their roots to Prophet Abraham as he was from Ur, land of the Chaldees. These are my ancestors and, for thousands of years, they have contributed a great deal to the birth of civilization. They were builders then and they are still builders today, despite the hundreds of years of oppression and violence they keep enduring.

After the Islamic State attacked the Christian villages of Iraq, the birthplace of my parents and grandparents, Christian Iraqis in the United States were outraged.  They helplessly watched family, friends and relatives being forced out of their homes in the most inhumane way possible. Chaldeans, Assyrians, Yazidis and other minorities were kidnapped for ransom, or killed, and others were threatened to convert or die. Women and girls were captured, like slaves, and those who survived had nothing to their name but their identification cards. They left their homes and all their belongings and became refugees.

The leaders in our community immediately reached out to political figures in Washington to help the minorities during this dire situation. As ISIS destroyed historical sites and artifacts, artists took up their brush and rebuilt these monuments on canvas, more determined than ever to bring their history back to life. Myself, I picked up the pen and I wrote and wrote and wrote.

Aside from wanting to give our community a voice, I wanted to preserve our stories. I’ve always wanted to do that, but more today than ever. We have magnificent stories that are unheard and these stories are not necessarily about war, religion, or politics. They are about love, culture, courage, and triumph.

This weekend, my three novels are for the promotional price of $0.99 (eBook), so that they reach more readers, so that more people have the opportunity to learn about an ancient people that are not victims over their lives, but victors!

My Amazon page to order these books:  http://www.amazon.com/Weam-Namou/e/B001K8X9HM

The Feminine Art

http://www.amazon.com/Feminine-Art-Weam-Namou-ebook/dp/B00WJG0Y5E/ref=sr_1_3_twi_kin_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1457097727&sr=8-3&keywords=Weam+Namou

The Mismatched Braid

http://www.amazon.com/The-Mismatched-Braid-Weam-Namou-ebook/dp/B00W60X5FY/ref=pd_sim_sbs_351_2?ie=UTF8&dpID=51AaSLS5gxL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR103%2C160_&refRID=0VJ4A6KNM0G7E9N0SPX3

The Flavor of Cultures

http://www.amazon.com/Flavor-Cultures-Weam-Namou-ebook/dp/B00UPFOHEK/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1457097840&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Flavor+of+Cultures

 

 

 

27 Years Ago

Babba

Twenty seven years ago today my father passed away. He was a very pleasant man, full of life and laughter. I didn’t get to know him too well, as I was a young teenager when he died (I knew he loved “Sandford and Son” and “The Jeffersons” and will never forget the way in which he laughed wholeheartedly as he watched each episode). He’d spent the majority of his days in Iraq working hard to support his eleven children. Then we immigrated to the United States, where he fell ill shortly afterwards as our family experienced a big struggle.

But I do know this – I got my love for books from his side. I remember him often walking around with an Arabic/English dictionary in his hand. He was a translator for the train station in Iraq. I also got my passion for education and my independence from him and his sisters, one of whom left the village of Telkaif to go study at the University of Baghdad. This was in the 1950s! Another aunt, who was a single mother because her husband went missing in some war, studied to be a nurse and became the midwife of Fallujah.

Well, I did not get to spend enough time with my father on this earth. But I am often visited by his energy, which especially during adversaries gives me strength to push ahead.