Thursday, November 5, 2009

Speak, So You Can Speak Again

I have a review of the book Speak, So You Can Speak Again: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston by Lucy Anne Hurston (Doubleday 2004) up on the truly wonderful blog COLOR ONLINE. Take a peek and while you are over there, tour the rest of the blog to see all the wonderful work this organization is doing to encourage girls and young women to read. They focus on women writers of color for adults YA and children. They love to talk books, culture and literacy, so I encourage all of you to stop by.
Read the full text to the article mention in the review What White Publishers Won't Print by Zora Neale Hurston on Bernice L. McFadden's blog NAKI.
Also read Tayari Jones take on Zora Neale Hurston's article.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Classic Black Speculative Fiction

W.E.B DuBois was an amazingly versatile writer and scholar. He wrote a speculative fiction short story called The Comet in 1920. It is included in the anthology Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora by Sheree R. Thomas. The Comet is also available as a stand-alone e-book.

The premise of the story is that in a vaguely futuristic yet oddly contemporary world, a passing comet casts a shadow of death over Manhattan. Only two survive: a black man whose world has been one of poverty and hard work, and a white woman who knows only leisure and privilege. If humanity is to have a future, the two must build a new world from the wreckage of the old.

DuBois spent his final years in Ghana where he is still deeply revered. A small museum houses his extensive library, a bronze bust of him, academic regalia from Harvard and, finally, his outdoor tomb. During my visit to the W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Centre for Pan-African Culture , the guide took out a first edition copy of The Souls of Black Folks , one of DuBois's personal copies, and allowed me to touch it. I was honored and thrilled.

If you have a chance give The Comet a read, and leave a comment about what you think.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Now that I've signed my publishing contract people ask, "So, what's your novel about?" Because this book has been more in my head than out in the world, I usually end up hemming and hawing like I don't know or can't remember what I have been working on for a good chunk of my life . Truth is, it's hard to summarize any novel in a few words. However, one of the skills writers who want to be authors have to learn is how to pitch their novel succinctly to agents, publishers, booksellers and, of course, readers.

The one sentence pitch for my novel Act of Grace sums up the essence of the novel and offers a taste of the conflict. It's the no frills explanation I give when I'm asked about my work. This is usually all people want to hear. It's enough to make them go, " OH, that's interesting." :

When Grace Johnson a bright, perceptive African American high school senior, saves the life of a Klansman named Jonathan Gilmore, everyone in her hometown of Vigilant Michigan wants to know why.

The longer pitch is below. This is from the heart of the query letter I sent to agents :

When Grace Johnson a bright, perceptive African American high school senior, saves the life of a Klansman named Jonathan Gilmore, everyone in her hometown of Vigilant Michigan wants to know why. Few people, black or white, understand her act of sacrifice especially since rumor holds that years ago a member of the Gilmore family murdered several African-Americans including Grace’s father. Grace wants to remain silent on the matter; however, she discovers the decision to speak is not hers to make. Ancestral guides emerge in visions and insist she bear witness to her town’s violent racial history so that all involved might transcend it.

With hindsight made telescopic by suffering and the wisdom found in African myths, Grace recounts a story of eye-for-an-eye vengeance that has blinded entire generations in her hometown. Haunted by anger and trauma she wonders if she can do as the spirits have asked and lead Mr. Gilmore, the town of Vigilant and her own soul on a journey toward reconciliation and redemption.

Writing about Grace, has been a powerful journey into the meaning of forgiveness and redemption. True to her name, my character has tested all of my assumptions about race and community. She has also reshaped many of my attitudes about the nature of good, evil, love and hate. I love Grace for all the hard and wild places in my soul she has forced me to explore. I hope with all my heart that readers will come to love and appreciate her as well.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mission Accomplished

When I finished my first novel, I promised Grace, my heroine, that I would find her a good home. I've kept my promise. My dream of publishing has come true, but it didn’t happen the way I always imagined it would.

After long years of dues paid to learn my craft I queried and finally got an agent– I was hopeful, she was hopeful. She did her best to sell the book; however, it seemed that many traditional publishers and editors believed with all their hearts and bottom lines that African Americans only wanted to read urban literature or romance novels. They were also convinced that white people didn’t want to read anything by African Americans.

My novel fell into the genre of speculative fiction. It came complete with intelligent black folks, living intelligent lives. No magical negros or vapid black sidekicks. My agent got back letter after letter saying, “We like this novel but we don’t believe these charaters......( insert stereotypes here.)

“I’ll keep trying.” My agent said. However, I could tell she was discouraged.

I was suppose to wait on my agent to do the magic that agents do, but as the rejections piled up I knew I was probably going to have to pave the way to publishing success my own self. One November morning last year, my agent sent me another flurry of rejection emails and I got angry. I typed into Goggle: African American Literary Publishers and up popped the name Plenary Publishing.

I took a look at the website and it appeared the people behind Plenary were serious. Sometimes you have to take a leap off the cliff into the unknown and trust that God and the ancestors will throw you some wings on the way down. I followed their detailed submissions directions, pressed the send button and waited and waited and waited some more. I waited so long I almost forgot that I had submitted to them. Great blessing sometime come to those who wait. On May 13, the day after my birthday, I received a request for the full manuscript of my novel Act of Grace. I only had to wait a little while longer after that.

I am pleased to announce that my novel, my baby made of words, love and imagination, will be published by Plenary Publishing in February of 2011. I will be writing more about my upcoming publishing journey later as I get use to the idea that my best dream has come true and Grace now has a wonderful home.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


The Speculative Literature Foundation was launched in January 2004 to promote literary quality in speculative fiction. Every year they offer a grant for older writers . Every year I put off entering. Well, this year I got my behind in gear and entered a selection from my novel Act of Grace and guess what I won!!!

They said of my work

"We enjoyed your writing sample very much, especially the compelling opening that pulls the reader into the story, the tight, sharp, beautiful prose, and Grace's folksy-but-modern-Southern-down-home narrative voice that's both straightforward and intimate. "

Information about me and my entry should be up on the SLF website so take a look, and all you writers who are over fifty please take the time to enter next year.

Monday, May 18, 2009

An Old Song For A New Revolution


We shall not, we shall not be moved

We shall not, we shall not be moved

Black and white together,

We shall not be moved

LiveJournaler neo_prodigy has created a campaign and Live Journal community for visibility of speculative fiction fans, artist and writer of color inspired by the infamous and still on going RaceFail 09 .

He asked that on Monday May 18, 2009, anyone who identifies as a POC/non-white post the beautiful Banner above along with, their speculative short stories, artwork, poetry or simply write a post on their blogs as an act of protest to show we will not be silent or invisible.

The day of protest is entitled Fen Of Color United or more aptly, FOC_U.
White allies are encouraged to also show solidarity for this event by posting the banner above and expressing the need for diversity and speaking out against the bigotry in the genre, through posts and/or their creative work as well.

Full post:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hitting My Stride

For some reason this birthday has been really hard to deal with. Instead of being grateful to God that I have lived 50 something years, I’ve been counting all my regrets and chastising myself for still being alone. I was wallowing in pity until I came upon a blog post by author, and hoodoo man extraordinaire, Dr. Arthur Flowers. This is what he wrote in praise of older women:

As I grow in age, I value women over 40 most of all. Here are just a few reasons why:

A woman over 40 will never wake you in the middle of the night and ask, 'What are you thinking?' She doesn't care what you think. If a woman over 40 doesn't want to watch the game, she doesn't sit around whining about it. She does something she wants to do, and it's usually more interesting. Women over 40 are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant.! Of course, if you deserve it, they won't hesitate to shoot you if they think they can get away with it. Older women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it's like to be unappreciated. Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to a woman over 40. Once you get past a wrinkle or two, a woman over 40 is far sexier than her younger counterpart. Older women are forthright and honest. They'll tell you right off if you are a jerk if you are acting like one. You don't ever have to wonder where you stand with her. Yes, we! praise women over 40 for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it's not reciprocal . For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed, hot woman over 40, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 22-year old waitress. Ladies, I apologize.

For all those men who say, 'Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?', here's an update for you. Nowadays 80% of women are against marriage . Why? Because women realize it's not worth buying an entire pig just to get a little sausage!

40? 50 is when they really hit their stride

I felt better after reading this. Thank you, Dr. Flowers, thank you. When I think about it I guess I really am just hitting my stride.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Colson Whitehead Coming to Ann Arbor

I was just musing the other day about all the authors I would love to meet in person. I guess the universe heard me, because the top one on my list is coming to my hometown, just in time for my birthday.

Colson Whitehead, best known as the author of the novels John Henry Days and The Intuitionist is coming to the Ann Arbor Book Festival( May 17-19). I love his work and I’m going to hear him speak at a breakfast function. I promise not to make a fool out of myself by acting like a clueless fan.

While here he will be teaching a workshop at the Festival's writers conference. Below is the name of the workshop and the description.

How to Write, Or A Few Things I Learned From Listening to the Donna Summer Version of 'MacArthur Park'

The writing process is challenging for any writer. This session will present keen insights into the process from one of our country's most celebrated young writers. Come meet him, hear his story, and find out what he means by this rather interesting title, suggested by him!

Colson Whitehead will also be talking about and signing his new novel Sag Harbor. I heard it's great and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Round One

Where I’ve Been

Sorry I've been away so long, but I had some fighting business to take care of . This last couple of months it been me and 75 pages of the second novel alone in quiet places. One of us was going to drop. One of us was going to get knocked out. The novel thought she was going to win, she thought she had the stamina to make me throw up my writing fingers and quit. But ha. ..ha... ha..I took her out. The novel now has a name(Canter) and she's wearing a exciting coherent plot plus a couple of nice new chapters.

I’m the winner at least until the next round.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Origins Of Black American Heroes

As I drop deeper into the world of my new, still untitled, novel, I realize certain themes echo through my work. At present what fascinates me are: Father/daughter relationships, dreams, myths, Africanisms in the United States, the nature of good, evil, love and forgiveness. This has led me to think about the books that inform my writing.

One of my favorite nonfiction books is the The Hero with An African Face by Dr. Clyde W. Ford. I have read my copy down to its gluey spine. Ford's work helped me frame my last novel, Act of Grace, so that my words got to the heart of what I was trying to express.

The Rites of Passage Organization said:

The Hero With An African Face identifies and explores the connection between humanity and divinity found throughout traditional mythologies of Africa. In the book, Ford takes readers on a journey into the mythologies of sub-Saharan Africa, presenting timeless insights into the human spirit that reveal the power and importance of ancient African myth. He places it among the great mythological traditions of ancient Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Native Americans. It is also the first book to show the similarity between African spiritual traditions and their counterparts in Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Native American spirituality, and other spiritual traditions worldwide.

Mythology was traditionally a means of healing self and society by helping people baring the circumstances of their lives into harmony with larger concerns. As Ford writes, "Myths bring us into accord with the eternal mysteries of being, help us manage the inevitable passages of our lives, and give us templates for our relationship with the societies in which we live." In the book, Ford explores how African myths convey the perennial wisdom of humanity: the creation of the world, the hero's journey, our relationship with nature, death, and resurrection. Ford shows how many myths reveal the intimacy of human and animal spirits, and explores the arhetypal forces of the orishas - the West African deities that were carried to the Americas in the African Diaspora. Ultimately, Ford points out that these myths enable us to see the history of African Americans in a new light - as a hero' journey, a courageous passage to a hard-won victory.

Interview with Dr. Ford done by Fearless Books.

Dr. Ford is also a wonderful novelist, dedicated to bringing back the nautical novel. Check out his new literary work on his web site.