Damn, by Pierre Bennu

Why am I so in love with this video? An entire love relationship that lasts the length of subway ride.

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Eduardo, The History Maker, Links




Eduardo Corral

Originally uploaded by kleopatrjones
  • Eduardo Corral wins the Yale Younger! The first Latino in the prize’s 106 histoy. (An African American won it, too, back before I was born.)
  • Bestselling author Jacqueline Mitchard talks about starting over at age 56.
  • Can book critis and authors be friends?
  • Are male readers interested in what women have to say?
  • What it’s like to be a corpse on Law & Order. (chung-chung)
  • Do you have a habit of repeating yourself in your writing? This website can help.
  • How long do you read before you give up on a book?
  • Yelling to The Sky is a new movie starring Zoe Kravitz and Gabourey Sidibe. (Poor Gabby, is she going to play a scary black chick for the rest of her life?)
  • And soeaking of black actors in movies.. there were hardly any in 2010.
  • Lendle lets you share Kindle books.
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    The Girl With The Silver Sparrow Tattoo




    Sparrow Tattoo

    Originally uploaded by Bob 111

    and other madness

    I get a lot of email, tweets, etc. from young writers, many of them African American, who want to know how to get published. A few weeks ago, a really interesting young woman told me that she has been advised to self-publish her novel in order to get a following and only then would she be able to find an agent. I asked her if the person who had given her that advice had even seen her work. She said he hadn’t, but that because she was a black writer and wasn’t writing “street lit”, self publishing was the only way to see her work in print. (I called her right away and told her that she had just as much right to traditional publishing as anyone else. If I could do it, she could do it.)

    Then, today, a twitter pal, sent me a link to her own blog. Here is a paragraph, to give you the feel for the piece:

    Last month, while attending the Writer’s Digest Writer’s Conference, I spoke to a fellow black writer about the novel she planned to pitch. She flat out said, “ It’s a hood novel”. I wanted to say “I’ve never seen that section in Borders” but I thought against it. Turns out, she openly admitted that she’s tried to pitch other novels before, but most agents wanted an author with previous experience. So in order to gain that experience, she decided to write a hood tale, create some buzz, build a following, and then publish a book she’s actually passionate about. It occurred to me that I was talking to a genius.

    Both these young writers’ stories have been bothering me.

    Simply put, it seems to me that only black writers are put in these situations and given such extreme advice. I talk to a lot of young writers, and the black ones are told to self-publish. As for the “hood novel” issue. I don’t even know where to start.

    Here are some quick bullet points:

  • How exactly would building a reputation in one type of writing open the door for you to then suddenly publish something else? Are there meaningful precedents that give you the idea that this is an effective strategy?
  • Ask yourself why you write. Is it because you have something in particular you have to say or just because you want to be published?
  • Do you really think there is an audience for books written by people who don’t care about what they write? Even using the term “hood novel” suggests a lack of respect for the readers or the literature itself. Readers can tell and they will not respond well. I happen to know one of the authors of one of the books pictured in the graphic and I can tell you that she cares deeply about her characters and the world she writes about. Readers give her the love right back.
  • Did someone tell you this was supposed to be easy? My first novel was rejected by 22 publishers. And my forthcoming title was also rejected all over town. It’s like that. I didn’t decide to write The Girl With The Silver Sparrow Tattoo because I heard that was hot. (And if you are going to try to write for cash, think big. Why compromise yourself for chump change?)

    Okay. I am getting off my soapbox now. I think I need a new category on my blog… “tough love.”

    Keep writing, people. Write to your passion. Write what needs to be written. Write what you think needs to be read. All this cynical stuff.. well, to quote a character from my novel, The Untelling– That is NOT what Dr. King died for.

  • Posted in Writing | 10 Comments

    A Fiction Lesson in Poetry Drama


    I saw some tweet-tweet here and tweet-tweet there about someone having stolen the cardboard cutout of Langston Hughes from the hugely popular DC poetry venue, Busboys and Poets. I can’t say that I gave it a whole lot of thought, but I did wonder who had stolen it and why.
    Well, the culprit has come to light. It’s THOMAS SAYERS ELLIS. I was totally shocked and then I wasn’t. And that reminded me of the best advice I have ever heard for fiction writers.
    The ending to a story should be surprising, but at the same time inevitable.
    If you know TSE, you know he’s a hardcore DC man and only someone from DC would be sufficiently invested. And you know he’s a but, well, demonstrative when there is something he believes in. And you know he was in DC at the time of the heist. (We all were in DC, actually.) And when you really think about it, it sounds like something he would do. (The point of the theft was to protest the compensation that Busboys offers it’s poets.)And, of course, the issue of the gentrification of U Street gives the story the gravitas it needs to sort of hold it down.
    I am not blogging this to say who’s wrong and who’s right. I just don’t know enough. But the way the story unfolded was, well, art.
    So there you go, fiction writers. Take notes.
    Details here.

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    So, You’ve Been Workshopped, Now What?

    10-10-10 If you are a member of a writing group, you have to figure out how to sit quietly while a bunch of people say exactly what they think about your work. It’s hard to be there and take notes with a non-confrontational facial expression while people say, “I wanted to see the mother more!” or “I just didn’t buy the boyfriend.” Instead of saying, “That’s because he’s not for sale,” you have to say something like “Thank you, everyone, for your critique. It was very helpful.” And, it turns out, that was the easy part. Now you have ten copies of your story, marked up with ten people’s opinions. What to do now?
    Ten helpful hints over at SheWrites!

    Posted in Surviving The Draft | Comments Off

    AWP 11, So How Was It?




    AWP Logo

    Originally uploaded by kleopatrjones

    Well, it was okay.

    As you may now, I go to AWP and I usually have a grand time, meeting up with old friends and making new ones. The book fair is like a candy store. And there is nothing I love more than an exclusive reception.

    For some reason, I couldn’t quite get my AWP mojo on. I suppose it was inevitable. For years, I have heard writers complain that it’s like a vipers’ nest. Or that they get overwhelmed by all the people. I once remember being a young writer– this was right before Leaving Atlanta was released– and I was eagerly chattering on to an older more established writer that I admire. She looked at me and gave a weary semi-smile and said, “Give me your card. If I promise to buy your book, will you promise to stop telling me about it.” My little feelings were hurt and I was quite embarrassed, but… Ten years later, although I would never say something like that to anyone, I kind of understand. So, Grumpy Sarcastic Older Writer From Yesteryear, I apologize and I salute you.

    The social dynamic was also a little intense. I has some interactions with friends which caused me to lose some of the respect that I had for them when we were friends not in the context of Writerpalooza. But by the same token, there are friends that I emerged after the three days, closer than ever. So I think I came out ahead on that front.

    Oh, my book? Oh yeah, that. Well, I gave a reading that I wasn’t all that pleased with. Murphy’s Law was in full effect. I can be something of a perfectionist, so I was kicking myself… until a professional setback took over and there was no need for me to kick myself, since that setback was all upside my head. (Again, thank heavens for real friends.)

    But there were a couple of lovely moments. Even though my reading was off, the others on the Algonquin Panel were *magic*. (Caroline Leavitt.. wow.) Then, there was the panel to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Jenny McKean Moore Writer in Washington fellowship. it was absolutely inspiring to hear from people who actually knew the woman in whose name this award is endowed. Her children spoke, as did her old friends. I am honored to have been the 30th recipient. When some of my students from five years ago showed up, all grown up and doing well, I teared up like an old lady at a graduation.

    So that’s the round up. I didn’t even take any pictures. I didn’t even tweet.

    It was like that.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

    And The Winners Are…

    Three members of this blog community just won copies of SILVER SPARROW! Are you one of them?

    Posted in Book Tour | 4 Comments

    It’s Review Season

    This time tomorrow, I will have my first review for SILVER SPARROW. Although the novel won’t be released until May, these early reviews are published in the trades so that bookstore and libraries know what’s coming down the pike, so they can order (or not) in advance. The first one out of the gate is Kirkus.
    When Kirkus almost closed down last year, a lot of writers did the happy dance. It’s because Kirkus is notoriously brutal. The review I got for LEAVING ATLANTA made me cry. (My very first review ever, and it was heartbreaker.) The one for THE UNTELLING just made me mad.
    So, it’s that time again.
    I am hoping for good reviews– doesn’t everybody? But I can’t live and die by the critics. It’s not good to give your power to other people, particularly people you don’t even know. With the pre-pub reviews, you can’t ever consider the source, because the reviews are submitted anonymously.
    It’s not that reviews don’t matter. A “star” or just a positive notice can get the attention of booksellers and persuade them to give you a chance. And a negative review, in addition to being hurtful, can hurt your chances of being ordered for a library. (Not to mention it’s embarassing. Imagine your ex reading a slam of your latest work!)
    But the key is to not take it personally and to keep moving on, no matter what happens. And I say no matter what happens, because the review might be good. It might be a rave! But even so, that anonymous person cannot be in charge of what a writer thinks about her own book– for better or for worse.
    So, anyway, deep breath. Here goes nothin.

    Posted in The Writing Life | 1 Comment

    Snow Day Links




    Dolen Perkins Valdez

    Originally uploaded by kleopatrjones
  • Excellent WaPo profile of Dolen Perkins Valdez
  • In case you cared, the author of the anonymous novel “O” has been revelaed.

  • Is Publisher’s Weekly being fair to self-published authors?
  • Libraries of the rich and famous
  • What do we owe a dead writer?
  • Drama at Harpers
  • Love this: townspeople check out every single library book to keep the library from closing.
  • Bumped for Snooki?
  • Angela Henry’s new book, The Paris Secret, sounds like a perfect curl-up-on-a-snow-day read. Killer Chicks is hosting a giveaway!
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    Do You Want A Copy Of My New Novel?




    I hope you like it!

    Originally uploaded by kleopatrjones

    If you do, you’re in luck. My team at Algonquin has offered to give away three copies! To enter the contest, just leave me a comment. On Tuesday February 1, I will draw the names of the winners and post the video here.

    I was so glad when Algonquin agreed to this giveaway. The early copies are usually reserved for media people and bookstore owners, but I really wanted to share with the readers of my blog. I asked for one copy for the giveaway, but they gave me THREE. (I have the best publisher in the world. Really.)
    But enough of me getting all sentimental. Here’s a little cut and paste from the jacket copy–

    With the opening line of Silver Sparrow, “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist,” author Tayari Jones unveils a breathtaking story about a man’s deception, a family’s complicity, and two teenage girls caught in the middle.
    Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon’s two families—the public one and the secret one. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters. It is a relationship destined to explode when secrets are revealed and illusions shattered.
    As Jones explores the backstories of her rich yet flawed characters—the father, the two mothers, the grandmother, and the uncle—she also reveals the joy, as well as the destruction, they brought to one another’s lives.
    At the heart of it all are the two lives at stake, and like the best writers—think Toni Morrison with The Bluest Eye—Jones portrays the fragility of these young girls with raw authenticity as they seek love, demand attention, and try to imagine themselves as women, just not as their mothers.

    Wanna read it? Let me know.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 169 Comments