Lots Going On

This rest of this week is going to be crazy intense for me, but there is a lot of really cool stuff going on, so let me post a quick bulletin before I run to work (where I will be treated to back-to-back meetings. Ugh. I thought I was suppossed to be an artist or something.)
THURSDAY-SUNDAY: National Black Writers Conference. Super-sexy line-up including **swoon** Toni Morrison, but also Dolen Perkins Valdez, Bernice MacFadden, Victor LaValle, Colson Whitehead, and me! The NYT did a really cool profile of the conference. Please check it out and leave a comment. The comments that are posted are pretty, well, disturbing.
FRIDAY: Girls Write Now Chapters Reading Series, featuring Nami Mun. I am crazy about Nami. Miles from Nowhere is a heck of a debut. And all of your know how I feel about our amazing teen writers. The event is free. The event is cool. So come on out. 6pm, The Center For Fiction, 17 East 47nd Street. NYC
SATURDAY: Girls Write Now Day at Eileen Fisher. Gussy up for the cause! 20% of all purchases in NYC will go to GWN!

Posted in The Writing Life | 3 Comments

Onward, indeed!

About three years ago, Aletha Spann, an ambitious young filmmaker Leaving Atlantaoptioned the movie rights to my first novel, Leaving Atlanta. This was pretty exciting but I understood (and still understand) that an option is but one small baby step to actually have a movie on the screen. But still, it’s a pretty thrilling to think about.
Still, it’s a thrillling thing to think about that I hadn’t thought about in quite some time. So just imagine my shock yesterday morning when I got a message from twitter that @LeavingATLmovie was following my feed. And when I clicked, this is what I saw:

@LeavingATLmovie: we’re auditioning Los Angeles African-American boys and girls ages 9-13…see our posting at LA Casting

This, of course, led to me checking out the website for the movie, which is pretty fabulous. It’s still early in the game. She can’t film the trailer til she gets the actors in place, but I am very very pleased with what I have seen so far.
This morning, I woke up and checked the twitter feed again.

@LeavingATLmovie: Today’s been crazy. With the announcement of castings we, have been going through a deluge of submissions. Onward!

Onward, indeed!

Posted in Leaving Atlanta Film | 3 Comments

Thanking Ai

This weekend,the poet Ai passed away. She is remembered here by another poet whose life she changed forever.
Thanking Ai
A Remembrance by Rigoberto González
I have a votive candle next to my bed. The only time I take a match to the wick is when I feel a particularly devastating poet loss. Just a few weeks ago, it held a flame in honor of Lucille Clifton. Just a few days ago, a flame for Ai.
It feels selfish to claim the poet Ai, but I have much to be grateful for: she was the one who selected my first book for the National Poetry Series back in 1998. This prize is a luck of the draw. A poet sends his manuscript to the contest hoping that it lands on the desk of the one of four judges who might be more sympathetic to his work. I was fortunate that Ai, who was also one of my inspirations, was drawn to the pages of a manuscript that opens with a piece titled “The Slaughterhouse.”
Not long after I was informed that I had won, I moved to NYC. And shortly after, I met a woman who worked at Norton, who gave me a picture of Ai sitting on a suitcase, a Native American blanket behind her. She’s embracing a pair of cow-skinned boots and holding up a pair of slippers with her other hand. As the Norton gal handed me the photo, she said, “Here’s your champion.”

Continue reading

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Woman To Man

by Ai

Woman to Man
Lightning hits the roof,
shoves the knife, darkness,
deep in the walls.
They bleed light all over us
and your face, the fan, folds up,
so I won’t see how afraid
to be with me you are.
We don’t mix, even in bed,
where we keep ending up.
There’s no need to hide it:
you’re snow, I’m coal,
I’ve got the scars to prove it.
But open your mouth,
I’ll give you a taste of black
you won’t forget.
For a while, I’ll let it make you strong,
make your heart lion,
then I’ll take it back.

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Workcrastination, Again.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my arch enemy WORKCRASTINATION. (This is when you avoid your writing by doing other work. You don’t feel guilty like you do when you waste your weekend watching Law & Order, but you still haven’t written your book.) Well, I am revisiting the subject.
Networking and other marketing concerns are particularly slick forms of workcrastination. It’s very easy to trick yourself into thinking that you are making progress on your book because you are going to this and that conference where you got to meet a certain famous author (OMG she gave me her card!!), etc. You tell yourself that publishing is all about who you know, so this is all very positive. It’s taking your career into your own hands. And, since you don’t have access to an Old Boys Club, you have to hustle harder. And maybe you should order up a new set of cards now that you think about it. And what about your website, your blog?
You get the idea.
Cut it out. It’s workcrastination. Working for the book is not the same as working on the book.
Working on marketing and networking is easier than finishing your book– especially once you have reached that 100 page mark and you feel like you are trying to bathe an octopus. Endlessly researching agents and scouring Publisher’s Marketplace is a lot easier than figuring out what’s hanging you up emotionally and keeping you from being able to develop your characters. And who wouldn’t rather drink a Bellini at an awards ceremony than read your entire manuscript aloud to check for pacing problems? And anything you do in a party dress is more exciting than sitting at your kitchen table in your robe, struggling to get your heart on the page.
You know what you need to do. Just do it. Sit down, get quiet. Write your book. No one can do it but you. No one you meet at a cocktail party can write your book for you. Even if you were to save Oprah from a burning building, in all her billionaire gratitude, she couldn’t help you write your book. It’s all up to you. Don’t let yourself down.

Posted in Writing | 6 Comments

Let’s Hang Out Brooklyn

Brooklyn Public Library

Originally uploaded by wallyg

On Sunday, March 21, at 1:30 I will be giving a reading and chat at the Brooklyn Public Library– central location (Flatbush Avenue and Eastern Parkway). I hope that you can come out and say hello! I’ll read from my novels, and then take Q&A about whatever you want to Q&A about. The weather man is promising a pretty day, but right after the reading, you can head to the park. :)

(P.S. Click on the photo to see a lot of cool facts about the beautiful library building.)

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Spinning Around and Around Links


  • A lovely audio of Natasha reading in Key West. Toward the end of the recording she shares her intense new poems.

  • The Orange Prize long list is announced. Congrats to Laila Lalami!
  • Free audio books. (But let me warn you– you get what you pay for.)
  • Larry Flynt’s crazy book proposal.
  • Congratulations to the Lambda finalists.
  • Think you’re too artistic to have a day job? Well even Faulkner punched a clock.
  • Bernice MacFadden on telling our own stories.
  • Learn Italian, French or Spanish in ten weeks at Idlewild Books!
  • The making of a book cover.
  • How agents negotiate a contract.
  • Thank goodness Romeo couldn’t txt Juliette.
  • Quote of the day: ‘The cat sat on the mat is not a story. The cat sat on the other cat’s mat is a story.’ – John LeCarre
  • Mayumi hearts Tiphanie Yanique.
  • How did I miss this? Elizabeth Alexander’s gorgeous and weighty rembrance of Lucille Clifton.
  • Marie Mockett says to book reviewers, new writers need love too.
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    Get Gorgeous For Girls Write Now

    Do you love Eileen Fisher? I do. A lot. And on March 27 is Eileen Fisher Day for Girls Write Now. (Full disclosure: I am the enthusiastic Vice Chair of the Board of Directors.) New York Area stores will donate 10% to Girls Write Now when you buy Eileen Fisher on our special day. (And, by chance, you don’t wear EF, you can just donate to GWN directly, and help us shape the next generation of women writers.)
    Behold, my sweater-crush.

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    Read This!

    Y’all, this is a delicious book! If you like mystery/suspense/crimefiction, this is a novel for you. I am listening to Black Water Rising, by Attica Locke on audiobook and it is interrupting my sleep. Last night, I was lying in bed thinking, maybe I could get up and listen for one more hour. Granted, it is pretty risky, me endorsing a book a I haven’t even finished yet, but it’s so engaging, that for now, it is all I can think about. And I will confess, that the narrator of the audio book, Dion Graham, has a lovely voice. (And you know with that name- Dion – he is a true son of the south.) It feels like a southern gentleman is hiding in my iPod telling me a bedtime story. I should bake him a red velvet cake.
    (Voice off screen interrupts: Don’t nobody care about the silky-smooth chocolate-dipped narrator, Tayari. Can you at least tell us what the doggone book is about?)
    It’s set in Houston. (Did y’all know I used to live there?) It’s the story of Jay, a lawyer whose practice has devolved into ambulance chasing. He used to do loftier things, like represent people whose civil rights had been violated, but doing the right thing don’t pay the bills. Also, his wife is pregnant. Well, they sorta semi-witness a crime. The black union workers are going on strike– could shut the whole city down! Somebody is following him and he don’t know why. And what about the white lady that fished out the bayou, more dead than alive? And don’t forget Jay’s activist past, and the fact that when she was in college, the mayor was a radical.. shhh.. And her and Jay used have a little somethin going on!
    I can’t tell you any more, because this is as far as I have gotten. But oooh, it’s good! And go read this dynamite essay where the Attica Locke tells you where she got the idea for this novel.
    P.S. I get my audio books from audible.com. (I have a basic membership) But I believe this title is widely available at public libraries.

    Posted in Bookshelf | 2 Comments

    It’s Colony Season Again

    This summer, for the first time since 2002, I am not going to spend the summer at an artists colony. Why? Because I’m too tired. I know that sounds crazy, but that’s where I am. A couple days ago, someone asked me if I where I was going for spring vacation. I said, “I’m too exhausted to take a vacation!” I am looking forward to spending this summer vegging out in my apartment and going to outdoor concerts. I want to be a little bit free of my work and the deadlines I impose upon myself. I need a little me time that doesn’t involve a word count.
    (Even as I type this, I am laughing at myself because I am teaching in three summer programs– VONA, Provincetown, and Pima. But we workaholics have to taper off gradually.)
    Anyway, eventhough I am not going to summer at a colony, this is the time of year that bloggers start talking about retreats. So, here is a really good entry from Nova who has gathered quotes from various writers (including me)about thier experiences. And Christine has done a nice overview.
    Now, I am going to go back to my favorite leisure activity. Baking cakes while watching Law & Order.
    Later, Gators.

    Posted in The Writing Life | 1 Comment