Each semester the Potomac Review works with three (magnificent) student interns who do most of the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting. Without their plugging away at the computer, the PR would exist only as a dream or a handwritten note delivered by pigeons. We will be presenting a post from each of them as our way of thanking them and publicizing the work that they’ve done.
Our first post, by Mary Rose Winters, reflects on the visit by author Jennifer Clement this semester. By way of her bio, Mary Rose writes that she is “incredibly grateful for the opportunities I have had as an intern with the Potomac Review this semester. I will be graduating from MC in May and transferring to St. Mary’s in the fall where I plan to study psychology and neuroscience. I need creative writing and the people I have met through the literary world to keep me sane. God has big plans for everyone and I look forward to seeing what He does in her life next!”
Jennifer Clement looks like a writer. She appeared to the Montgomery College literary community on Tuesday, February 24th, elegantly adorned all in black with a long black scarf swept gracefully over her shoulders. Her glasses were robin’s egg blue, and she was surrounded by an abundance of sunshine colored hair. Eyes are naturally drawn to her face. There is no mistaking her for an ordinary person. Jennifer Clement is a writer.
Though she would not look out of place at a café in Paris, Clement was born and raised in Mexico City. She has spent years focusing on protecting the rights and lives of her fellow writers. From 2009-2012, she served as president of PEN Mexico, part of an international organization that exists as a safeguard for writers. Her most recent novel, Prayers for the Stolen, explores the lives of women and girls who are being stolen and trafficked by transnational drug cartel members. Clement spent 11 years researching and interviewing mothers and daughters about their experiences hiding to evade abduction by the cartel. The result is a poetically written protest novel. It was not Clement’s intention to write a protest novel, but her exposition of the harsh conditions under which so many women are forced to live, the fact that the government is aware of but does little or nothing about these circumstances and her revelations about the inside workings of sex trafficking within the cartel has moved her novel into that category. Prayers for the Stolen has been recognized with several awards including the New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice Book.
A number of Montgomery College students had the opportunity to sit in on a master class led by Jennifer Clement prior to her presentation and reading on the evening February 24th. She shared her insights about the writing process, gave novice writers encouragement and answered questions from students and professors. She spoke about writers’ rhythms, how each writer has to find the best time of day that they write and to write every day. For Clement, writing at dawn gives her the easiest access to her unconscious, it is closest to the dream state. While most amateur writers are prone to controlling their writing, experience has shown Clement that trusting the unconscious is a sign of a writer’s maturity.
In terms of inspiration, Jennifer Clement has a great respect for words and etymology. She explained how English has so many more times the number of words than most other languages, meaning there are numerous ways to say the same thing. The job of the writer is then to find the best compilation of specific words to create the right story. Clement herself is partial to finding the poetic experience; this is reflected in her writing. The story of the women and girls in Guerra, though based on hundreds of true stories, are given a voice with the use of a little artistic license to show the aftermath of being abducted. Prayers for the Stolen is a wonderful novel, but it is not for the faint of heart. It is not a book for those who are not willing to confront the rawness of how horribly people can treat each other. It is a not a book for those who do not wish to feel connected to the victims of human trafficking. It is a book written for people willing to be aware of the truth and if that is you, pick up a copy and become enlightened to other people of the world– they are speaking, but we choose whether or not we will listen.