By: Karolina Gajdeczka
Over the weekend, I attended the Writer’s Center’s “Tales from Africa” reading, featuring our very own editor-in-chief, Julie Wakeman-Linn, reading from her book, Chasing the Leopard Finding the Lion.
The reading featured two other writers as well—Susi Wyss and Glen Retief. This open reading took place in the Writer’s Center’s lovely Reading Room in the afternoon, a bright and spacious room, where refreshments were also served.
Each author wrote a book in a different genre about Africa: Glen Retief read from his memoir, The Jack Bank, about his experience growing up in South Africa during apartheid; Susi Wyss read from her collection of linked stories, The Civilized World, including excerpts of women differently experiencing their time in Africa; and at the end, Julie Wakeman-Linn read from her novel, Chasing the Leopard Finding the Lion, about two (male) friends in Zimbabwe during the 1990s.
Retief fascinated the audience with an excerpt from his memoir about waking up on a camping trip as a young boy to discover there were lions outside his tent. Wyss read excerpts from two stories, one of which involved a car coming upon a whole swarm of white butterflies that remind the narrator of snow.
Though it may have been nerve-wracking to follow these great writers and readers, Wakeman-Linn effortlessly captivated us with an excerpt from her novel during which the two friends, driving, come upon a large elephant, or “ellie,” in the road and the tense moments that follow. With ease, she read the quirky voices of these two men, like recounting a story of old friends.
During the Q&A session that followed the reading, each author spoke a little about empathy and their experience writing about “the other.” All shared similar opinions on writing as a means to discovering understanding, while at the same time exercising caution when writing such characters.
I had a chance to ask Julie Wakeman-Linn what it was like, as a woman, to write two male protagonists. She responded saying that her experience growing up with three brothers greatly influenced these characters and that it was a lot of fun writing characters so different from her. She did also note that revisions from editors she trusted greatly helped portray them accurately.
After hearing her read and speak about her process of writing, I even more so can’t wait to read my copy of Julie Wakeman-Linn’s book. If you’re interested, you can find a copy here. We hope you get a chance to see as many readings by your favorite authors as you can this summer. Happy reading!
Julie Wakeman-Linn’s stories have appeared in Grey Sparrow Review, Santa Clara Review, Danse Macabre, Enanced Gravity, Rosebud, A Prairie Journal, Devilfish Review, JMWW, ArLiJo, and several other publications. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first novel, Chasing the Leopard Finding the Lion was a finalist for Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize. She is editor of Their Voices, Their Stories; Fiction by Bethsaida Orphan Girls’ Secondary School. She is a professor of English at Montgomery College, and she is editor in chief of Potomac Review.