For three days I woke up and worked on my conference paper—I’ve got nearly 8 pages but I’ve finally accepted the fact that I won’t be able to finish it before leaving on Wednesday. I’m depressing myself with this paper, which makes me wonder what impact it will have on my audience. Maybe getting away will help shift my perspective on publishing, which is admittedly bleak right now. I feel anxious about this trip, but am trying to take it moment by moment. I could just go and lie on the beach for seven days, but I’m mostly going to do research. I’m not sure what I’ll find, but I’m reading up on Nevis (Out of the Crowded Vagueness) and somehow learning the island’s history makes everything seem more weighty. I have my own expectations to live up to, my family obligations, and then there’s this growing pressure to vindicate those who passed without having a chance to tell their stories…enslaved Africans were bought and sold in Nevis since the 1600s—it was the Royal African Company’s “depot” for the region. Of course, I’m not from Nevis and that will limit my ability to speak for the dead. But I can do my part; I can encourage and assist others so that a new generation of writers can emerge. This is the final paragraph I tacked onto my grant proposal:
I named this project The Hummingbird’s Tongue because I feel I am uniquely positioned to write this book. Found only in the Americas, the hummingbird is tiny yet powerful, beautiful but elusive. Hummingbirds are determined migrants (able to cross the Gulf of Mexico without stopping), and they can survive in both hot and cold climates. Caribbean hummingbirds have beaks and forked tongues that have adapted over time to reach the nectar hidden deep within long-throated tropical blossoms. My grandmother probably never could have imagined that one day her namesake would return to Nevis equipped with the skills needed to probe the past, unearth her story, and redeem her reputation.
I hope I’m right about that! I hope I really do have the skills I need to write these books. It’s humbling…which is good, because that means I’ll have to ask for help instead of going it alone.
Will try to blog daily while I’m away, so stay tuned!