Loving Lauren

I’ve been living in NY for about two years. Sometimes I think I should take myself back to Georgia where I belong. On other days, I think– oh yeah! THIS is what I came here for. This weekend was such a weekend. I spend quality time with my two favorite poet-boys, Rigoberto Gonzalez and Tyehimba Jess. Those of you in the know will point out that I spent plenty of time with them when we were all working together in Illinois. But NYC has sprinkled pixie-dust on both of them, so it’s all different now.
I also got to spend some time with Lauren Cerand, my publicist and friend. Over lunch at Inoteca (another reason to live in NY!) she told me about her new projects. As always, hers are projects with conscience.

  • The New You Project. This is a crazy innovative campaign to publicize a novel, that came out (gasp) a year ago. The novel is called YOU or The Invention of Memory and she has two hundred copies to give away. What I love love about the project is that Lauren is challenging the golden rule of publishing– a book is only publicizable when it is new. Here’s a little quote from her blog post on how she came to take on this project:

    Basically, his latest novel, and in his (and others’) opinion, his best, came out last January and got one review before the fledgling indie publisher went under. Was there anything that could be done? I started to write my usual reply: no. I mean, anyone knows you have ten days after the publication date to get at least some initial traction, and you need to get at least a three month lead on planning for that. And then I thought, when did I get so boring?

  • And if that isn’t enough, she’s working with “What is Green Architecture?” which will feature Diébédo Francis Kéré on designing prizewinning green buildings in his native Burkina Faso. Exactly. Later for “starchitects” who build high rise hotels. This guy is building green schools his village in Africa. The event is tomorrow at 6:30 at Columbia. I have to work, but You can be there.
  • And even more Lauren-related amazingness. Upstairs at The Square is hosting Nikki Giovanni in conversation with Emmanuel Jal. This is on Thursday. Again I have to work, but I a bringing my students. We need more poetry and memoir in our diets.
  • Lauren is the best publicist that is also a friend and kind of a therapist. On a bad boyfriend: Dump him. That sort of guy will eat your career. You’ll come home and find out that he just ate your laptop. On outrageous shoes: You don’t have to cram your foot into that boot. People love you anyway.
  • Posted in The Writing Life | Comments Off

    Beautiful News All Around

     


    Special Issue of PMS

    Originally uploaded by kleopatrjones

    You may remember that last year this time, I announced the publication of a special issue of PMS magazine, edited by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers. Well there must have been some magic dust in the binding. So many good things have happened to the women published in that issue.

    The latest is that my story, “Some Thing Blue,” published in PMS #8, has been selected to appear in the next issue of New Stories From the South: The Year’s Best. I am so excited because NSFTS is my favorite of the yearlies, but also because I love getting my southern credentials renewed. (Just for kicks, you can hear me read the story here!)

    Other PMS Contributor Fabulousness includes:

  • Edwidge Danticat’s “Uncle Moise” (from PMS #8) has been chosen for Best Creative Nonfiction of 2009.
  • Khadijah Queen was featured in the article “12 Debut Poets” in Poets and Writers.
  • Allison Joseph’s chapbook, VOICE: POEMS, coming out from Mayapple Press today.
  • Raina León’s first book of poetry, CANTICLE OF IDOLS was just published.
  • Latasha Diggs won an award in poetry from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.
  • Patricia Smith’s latest book of poetry, BLOOD DAZZLER was nominated for the National Book Award.
  • Elizabeth Alexander was named inaugural poet.
  • Natasha Trethewey was named the 2008 Georgia Woman of the Year.
  • Remica L. Bingham’s poem, “Marchers Headed For Washington, Baltimore 1963” was published in a special collector’s issue of Essence.
  • Heidi Durrow won the 2008 Bellwether Prize for FictionYou really have to read this special issue. Order your copy before they are all gone!
  • Posted in The Writing Life | 5 Comments

    Mid-Day Links

  • Rabbit at Rest. RIP Mr. Updike. I feel weird about how weird I feel at the news.
  • The story of how Obama’s first book got published. Check out his fabulous agent, my beloved JANE DYSTEL.
  • Bread Loaf is on iTunes.
  • Lizzie Skurnick ponders a new genre: dirty-white-boy books.
  • Fred Smith helps new writers avoid crooks pretending to be agents.
  • Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez gives me a very kind review.
  • Free Stuff: Writeblack has a copy of One Big Happy Family to give away. She also has a hillarious review of the same.
  • I know I am late on this. Forgive me. But here is a quick Elizabeth Alexander wrap up. The poem! Colbert! The book!
  • Eduardo is at VCCA. Looks nice.
  • The Black Caucus of the ALA has announced it’s winners. Go Carleen, go!
  • Girls Write Now raises $27,000!!
  • Okay, so I’m jealous.
  • Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

    Payback is Divine

    I am at a stage in my career as a writer that I sometimes am asked to nominate folks for awards, or reccommend contributors to journals. Usually, I pass these opportunities on to emerging writers. I am motivated by a desire to emulate the writing who helped me out when I was just a little pup. When I was in school at Spelman College, Dr. Cole explained to me that life was like a train ride. The scarifices of the older generation had paid my ticket and now it was my obligation to buy a ticket for someone else.
    This made sense to me when I was just a teenager and I vowed to do my part, pay it forward, if you will. But now, I am thinking that it’s time for me to think about paying it back.
    Many times the best teachers and mentors are not the most famous writers you will ever know. A teacher at a liberal arts college who teaches four classes a term can change a life of a student, but not have much time for her own work. Maybe your best mentor was a person who taught you everything you need to know about character development although her own writing has not received the attention it deserves.
    Paying it forward is all well and good, but I want everyone to think about paying it back. Think about the people that have been good to you and think what you can do to help them. If you run a reading series, extend an invitation. Editing a journal? Invite them to submit.
    I know it’s hard to think about your mentors as needing your help, but maybe they do.

    Posted in The Writing Life | 1 Comment

    Change, Come Quick!

    I orginally planned this entry to draw your attention to the magnificent poem, New Day, Kwame Dawes wrote in honor of the inaugration of Barack Obama. I still want to draw your attention to it– for it is brilliant, and I mean brilliant as in genius but also brilliant as in light-filled– and I still want to thank Mina J for sending me the link. I have loved, loved, loved all the love and beauty and celebration this week as we celebrate this historic milestone. (I was there in my evening gown popping a cork with the best of them.)
    But… and there is always a But… We are going to have to chill with some of the boogie-oogie-oogie and start thinking about the change we want in the world. Yesterday, I was in a store and an older black man said to me, “Obama has done his job just by getting elected. That’s all I need. To see him in the white house with his wife, and those pretty babies. That’s all I need.” All around him, people nodded in a agreement.
    Well, that’s not all I need and it’s not all America needs.
    I just read the most upsetting post on the blog of Alisa Valdes Rodriguez, the author of the “chica-lit” breakout book, best-selling The Dirty Girls Social Club. Alisa is very ill. She needs heart surgery that will cost about $200,000. And despite her success as an author, she is self-employed and without health insurance. She is considering moving to Cuba in order to get treatment.
    As writers, we all dream of losing the day job and doing our writing full time. But can we ever do it as long as health insurance remains tied to employment? Even if you cuold make enough from your writing to pay your bills, you probably wouldn’t make enough to take care of your health.
    46 million Americans are without health insurance. This must be our top priority when we think about Change. I am not sure what we can do as individuals, but I am looking into it. When I find something out, I will post here. Meanwhile, go over to Alisa’s blog and leave her some love in the comments.
    Get well, Alisa. You are in our thoughts and our prayers.

    Posted in Current Events | 1 Comment

    Summer Class in Cape Cod

     

    FAWC 

     

    The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts has published the schedule for this summer. I am offering my signature course: “Tales From The Kidscape“, which is all about writing young voices for the coming of age novel. The dates of the class are June 14-19.

     

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    How To Crash a Ball: A Primer

    Disclaimer: Tayari Jones is not suggesting that she has ever attended any event to which she has not purchased a ticket. She is a writer and this is merely a work of imagination.

    A lot of people were wheeling and dealing to get tickets to various inaugural balls. Well, as we start planning for inauguration 2013, I would like to present this handy five point guide for getting into events to which you have not been explicitly invited. In other words this is what you do when don’t exactly have your ticket situation sorted out.

  • Know Somebody. You’ll be way more successful in getting into a ball if you know someone on the inside who will be willing to vouch for you once you make it past the monitors.
  • Crashers Can’t Be Choosers. To successfully crash an inaugural ball, you need to laid back about which ball you go to. I’d say give yourself a list of three places you’d like to be and then head out. If you have your heart too set on one particular ball, you’ll be way too determined for the easy-going persona of the successful ball crasher.
  • Blend. Try and pick a gathering that you basically look like you belong to. I probably wouldn’t try and crash the “Tuxedos and Cowboy Boots” ball, because, well, I’m me. (I thought about crashing the google ball, but the invitations were barcoded. That technology intimidated me.) If you are ball crashing in an environment in which you are pretty comfortable, you can achieve the I’m-Supposed-To-Be-Here attitude which will discourage anyone from asking to see your ticket.
  • Gussy Up. If the monitor likes your dress, s/he is way less likely to hassle you.
  • Be Discreet. Please don’t crash a ball and tell everyone that you did it! There will be people in attendance who paid good money for those tickets and they do not want to see you gloating while scarfing down a plate of lamb chops.
  • Posted in D.C. Diaries | 2 Comments

    CBC BALL!




    CBC BALL!

    Originally uploaded by kleopatrjones

    Eventhough I had completely committed to going to bed earlier, my good friend, Sanderia Smith, convinced me to whip out my glad rags one more time and go to the Congressional Black Caucus Ball. I was wiped out from having gotten up at 5am to become of one two million frozen witnesses to history. But Sanderia is an old friend and I hadn’t seen her in a long time.

    The CBC ball was a pretty subdued affair. I don’t know if everyone was just sort of tired like I was, or if it was because folks were sort of bummed that O-Man didn’t put the CBC on his list of balls he planned to visit. The CBC had reserved a large and lovely space– the entire mezzanine of the Capitol Hilton, but half the tables were sadly empty at just 10pm.

    I think this is a sign of the economy. I was told that several organizations canceled their balls because people just weren’t buying tickets. When you think about it, balls are very expensive to attend. Let’s break it down. The obvious expense is the tickets which may be about $400, but there are so many other costs. Dress, shoes, hair, nails, taxi to get there… It can easily run you nearly $1000. As much as people love Obama– they were willing to freeze for him!– it’s just too expensive to fete and definitely to expensive to fete him at more than one ball.

    Never the less, I did my part to make it merry! Sanderia and I danced, talked to strangers, and ate fondue. We ran into Dr. Johnetta Cole (swoon!) and told her how much we admire her. When I saw a woman wearing the same dress as me, in the sprit of unity, I did not demand that she go home and change.

    See, it’s a new day.

    Posted in D.C. Diaries | 1 Comment

    44

    He'll Wake Up To A New World
    I won’t say that it was fun. I got up around 5:30 am, dressed in layers and braved the cold. All my friends managed to score VIP tickets to the inauguration, so I braved the mall solo– just one lone person among the millions. There were no signs and every cop sent me in a different direction. I know I walked three miles and in between I stood in lines that went nowhere. On the plus side, strangers were very kind, letting me join their groups and sharing hand-warmers and candy bars. One woman, seeing my numb-foot hobble, gave me a pair of nice wool socks. By 12:00, I had been out in the cold for five hours. Cell phones weren’t working and I was so cold and dejected that I was in tears– which promptly FROZE on my eyelashes.
    Then, just as Barak Obama was taking his oath, I looked over and saw this sweet little boy asleep on his father’s shoulders, completely content, confident and secure in the world.

    Posted in Current Events | 3 Comments

    Inaugural Ballers!




    Congratulations Natasha

    Originally uploaded by kleopatrjones

    Last night was the Dreams From My Father Inaugural Ball. Having never attended such an event, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The event started at eight and having heard so many warnings about traffic, we headed out at 7pm. By 7:30 we were dropped off in front of The Four Seasons, Georgetown. Some members of my party– whom I won’t name– were too cute to walk in so early, so we went to have a glass of wine and wait until the hour was sufficiently fabulous.

    By 8:30, the place was packed, reminding me of the first New Year’s Eve party I ever went to. People were all over the place in various stages of finery. (I must say, different folks interpret “black tie” differently. *cough* *cough*.)

    There was a live band in the main hall, playing go-go (this is still DC!) and also crowd pleasers like “Brick House” and “Before I Let Go.” While I was on the floor getting my dance on, I laughed at the the gentshuge ultra-dignified picture of Mr. President Elect displayed behind the stage. I wondered if he had any idea the level of kicking-it being done in his name. Then, the band broke out with “Solid! Solid and Barack!” And do I even have to say this? Electric Slide.

    This was a gathering of the segment of the black bourgeoisie that likes to kick it. I ran into a lot of girlfriends from Spelman College and the brothers from Morehouse were in splendid attendance, as well. Inter-generational love was in full effect as several parties made it a family affair.

    And, can I say that y’all out there in internet land are so funny? Yes, I did find some cute shoes. I was trying to go the practical route, but I just didn’t feel like ME in ballerina flats.

    So that was the first night. We are going to see what we can get into tonight and there is something else on tap for Tuesday. I can’t say what because our ticket-acquiring process is a little bit shady unorthodox.

    More later, photos now!

    Posted in Current Events | 2 Comments