If you’re like me, you have had enough of the constant chatter about the new movie “Precious.” The question is whether or not it’s illunimating or exploitative. I have seen the term “depravity porn” tossed around. On twitter, @jelani9 said, “I was going to go see the movie “Precious” but decided to just pick some cotton instead..” Other people said it was the best movie they had ever seen. The internet discussions, phone discussions, and in-person-over-coffee discussions have got my nerves all rattled.
So, to calm myself down, I baked myself a 7-Up Pound Cake, a southern specialty. I know it has nothing to do with writing, but things have been way too intense around here. So, here’s the recipe. I promise this cake will come out beautiful and will cheer you up.
Classic 7 UP Pound Cake
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
5 eggs, at room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup 7 UP
1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
For the Glaze:
1/4 cup 7 UP
1/2 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 300°F. Grease and flour a bundt pan.
Combine butter, shortening, sugar, vanilla and almond extract. Beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt, and add to butter/sugar mixture alternately with 1 cup 7 UP, beating well after each addition.
Spoon batter into prepared pan, and bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a for 10 minutes, then invert on serving plate and remove pan.
While cake is cooling, make the glaze by stirring together the 1/4 cup 7 UP and 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and boil 1 to 2 minutes or until sugar is completely dissolved. Punch holes in top of warm cake with a toothpick. Spoon glaze over cake, and cool completely before serving.
I actually have a lot of links to share, but I noticed a cluster on a particular theme. Many writers, mostly women, are speaking out against the ways that systems of power and opression are affecting artists and their art. These trends are very disturbing, but I am not sure what can be done about it…
Victoria Chang points out what everybody noticed, but no one wanted to say: Black women and Asian-Americans hardly EVER get the Whiting Award. (Leave her a comment on her site for being so brave to speak the truth.)
Women writers are up in arms about the all-male best of 2009 list released by Publisher’s Weekly. (But everyone should be alarmed, not just us!)
Bernice MacFadden posts a little known essay by Zora Neale Hurston.”The fact that there is no demand for incisive and full-dress stories around Negroes above the servant class is indicative of something of vast importance to this nation.” Did ZNH get hold of a time machine and bring back a copy of The Help?
Sorry for posting such an intense set of links. I try to keep this blog very upbeat as my goal is to provide everyone with info, but to also motivate everyone to write. (You’ll notice I haven’t been linking to a million Publishing Is Over articles. I just don’t see how it is helpful.) But the issues I am posting about today are important and something that we all need to think about.
Some of you probably know that I am on the Board of Directors of Girls Write Now,a fabulous non-profit that pairs teenage girls with writing mentors. I got involved last year even though I was so busy that I didn’t even have time to make my bed in the morning. I juggled my schedule to give time to GWN because I could only imagine what my teenaged life would have been like if I had been fortunate enough to have a mentor.
Our mentees are mostly public school students. 90% are of color and 40% are recent immigrants. We pair our girls with mentors who help them with writing, but also the mentors are role models and friends.
If you ever get a chance to attend one of our events where our mentors and mentees read together. You will feel the love in a tangible way.
In many ways, we are the Little Non Profit that could– not unlike the Obama campaign, we’re really grassroots and have made it work from donations from regular people. Regular people like YOU.
Here’s the pitch: We are starting our holiday appeal. The economy is not great, I know. But we need money to keep helping our girls. I am posting a video below so you can see a little bit of what we do. Watch it, then click here and give what you can.
Girls Write Now mentee, Amalie, reads her poem, My Name Is Not My Sky, at the GWN tenth anniversary event. Although Amalie’s mentor is not pictured in this video, this poem was composed with guidance from a GWN volunteer. Our amazing amazing girls and their mentors work together one-on-one for an entire year. In this video you will see a young woman who has found her voice and she has found a community.
Every girl needs a mentor. Help us make that hapen.
Hear Ye, Hear Ye! It has just been announced that this year’s reading selection for the city of Newark is THE COLOR PURPLE by Alice Walker! I will be leading the discussion.
I’m still working the kinks out of the format, but it’s going to kick off with a dramatic reading from the text by Broadway actor, Rosalyn Coleman Wiliams. (She is five kinds of fabulous and is generously donating her time.)
But, if you are in the Newark area, bust out with your old copy and get to reading or buy a new one. The event is Wednesday, December 2, 6-8pm at the Newark Public Library.
Tomorrow starts NaNoWriMo– National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to write a novel in thirty days. I have never been tempted to join in. One reason is that my birthday is in November and the last thing I want to do on my birthday is to slam for an arbitrary deadline. The second reason is more artistic. I cannot imagine that a novel written in thirty days would be any good to read, nor would it be any fun to write. I know someone will comment with some notable masterpiece written in three weeks. (Just as I am writing this, I think I remember someone saying that Their Eyes Were Watching God, was written in twenty-one days or something.)
I understand that imposition of a deadline as a way to motivate folks to actually sit down and write, but I don’t think that art really works that way. The idea of writing a novel in a month seems to be more motivated by the desire to want to have written a novel, than the urge to really explore an idea and to develop meaningful characters and plots. It seems more like an impulse to become an “Author” than to really be a writer.
I like the idea of the month of November being devoted to novel writing. I love thinking of thousands of people sitting at their computers and notebooks thinking hard. What I don’t like is the idea that a novel should be finished at the end of that month. Let us devote November to novel writing, but let us focus more on trying to structure the month in such a way to be nurturing to our artist-selves. Maybe you will spend the month just daydreaming. Or someone else will get a babysitter on afternoon a week to get some quiet time. Someone else will spend the month reading novels in translation. Yet another person may volunteer her month to reading friends’ drafts. You get the idea. Spend November being a more dedicated writer, whatever that looks like.
NaNoWriMo is almost like going on a crash diet to fit into a special dress. You spend two days eating nothing but cabbage soup and feel proud of yourself for dropping ten pounds in ten days or whatever. But have you been properly nourished? Have you learned any new sustainable habits? Nope.
I could also make the analogy about romance. I won’t go into the details- I think by now you get the idea. Instead, I’ll just quote the SOS Band. “Take your time, do it right.”
Here are some quick links as we glide into the weekend. Sorry the list is so short, but my dance card is pretty full for the next few days and I am devoting an unreasonable amount of time and energy into fixing my hair. I’ll be my regular down-to-earth self by Monday, I promise!
Last night, I went to the Whiting Awards ceremony. The Whiting has always been a little weird for me. As I understand it, the lucky winners get a magic phone call way back in September and they have to keep it under wraps until the ceremony. The winners are usually folks with one book, sometimes two. At the ceremony the ten writers were described as being at the “start” of their careers. This year, I figured I have sort of aged out of the running, so I could attend the ceremony without feeling like a kid who wasn’t picked for the kickball team.
So, with a light heart, I went to the ceremony. On the train ride over, Rigoberto and I were speculating about who the winners would be. I said JERICHO BROWN. Afterall, his debut poetry collection, Please, has won the American Book Award. He’s in Cambridge, as a Bunting Fellow. And, simply put, he’s brilliant, gorgeous, and everyone loves him. When I walked into the auditorium, there he was and I could not have been more pleased for him.
Another winner was Nami Mun. I was also tickled to death to see her wearing the signature white rose that says “I just won $50,000. I met her a couple of years ago at MacDowell when she was still trying to score an agent. Now look at her.
The charming keynote was given my Margaret Atwood. For the life of me, I can’t remember what she said. I thinkshe said something like this work won’t make you rich, unless it doees. But if you do it right it will repair your soul. (Or maybe that’s my fantasy.) Maybe said said that writing doen right will repair the world. Yeah, I think the latter. She kept glancing behind her at the winners with such affecton that made it feel like we writers are one big happy family and everything is going to work out in the end.
Other winners here. And a few random snapshots here.
Things got off to a rocky start. I took the wrong train, so I had to walk about ten blocks to get to the Diane von Furstenberg Studio. (Thank goodness for Aerosoles!) Once I arrived, I had to give the name of my “plus one.” I have been friends with Tyehimba Jess for a million years, but I couldn’t spell his name for the guest list. I just blanked. This did not bode well for the bee.
In addition to the spelling bee, there was a silent auction of some really nice items. Fancy designer clothes, purses, and jewelery were available for bid. I also saw a spa weekend. I had my eye on an adorable handbag, but the bidding quickly got a little too rich for my blood. To take the edge off there were fruity drinks and fru-fru snacks.
But on to the bee.
All I really was hoping for was not to wipe out in the first round. My first word was “whirlybird”, which I spelled right. I almost blew it, thinking it was a trick question. Other first round survivors included the ultra-charming Victor LaValle and Francine Prose. First round losers included James Frey– I have to say that I developed some affection for him when I laughed so hard on stage that I spit out my drink. He didn’t mock me.
The winner was Ben Greenman, who sat beside me. He even helped cover for me when I was called out for having my blackberry on stage!
The word that send me home: HAWTHORN. I put an “e” on the end.