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I’m here at Vermont Studio Center. I’ve just arrived in my cozy little apartment, but I feel snug as a bug in a rug. (When I was a kid, that was my favorite expression.) The photo on the left is just a quickie that I snapped with my phone from the window. It is too cold and wet to go out.
I am getting myself ready to go to the Vermont Studio Center, where I will be a Visiting Writing. I’ll give a reading, give manuscript consultations, and deliver a craft talk. I know it seems like a lot of work, but in return I get a little extra Christmas cash, and I will be able to enjoy VSC and spend some quality time working on my own manuscript. I am looking forward to the trip, but Man-Oh-Man is it going to be cold up there!
I’ll have wi-fi in my apartment, so I’ll post photos and a report about how the place is set up, food, etc. It seems like a nice idea– as a resident writer, you would get your own quiet workspace, but also have access to the visiting writer who would look at your manuscript. Also, it seems that the resident writers are there for about a month, but visiting writers are rotated every week and the roster of visitors looks pretty swanky. So, more details to come.
Writers, here is a most unique opportunity. The WWE is hiring a creative writer. Here are the deets.
Creative Writer, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. Join the most electrifying company in the entertainment industry today! World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. develops & produces the last of the great variety shows on television, combining all the elements of entertainment: sitcom, talk show, soap opera, action-adventure, & drama. With 52 weeks of original programming, without an off-season or re-runs, it is quite a creative challenge to keep characters & story lines interesting & compelling. That’s where you come in! More info, including how to apply is available online.
This was brought to my attention by David Dickerson, who spent a good decade of his life writing cards for Hallmark, which was kind of like writing for the WWE. He’s got a book about it and a collection of zany videos in which he makes custom cards for weird occaisions.
Today is World Aids Day. Last year I wrote about my experience getting tested– which I now do annually as part of my physical. Knowing your HIV status is part of taking care of yourself.
This year, I want to turn the clock back fifteen years. I was about twenty-four years old and I picked up Essence Magazine. Back in those days, Essence was serious. It wasn’t all how-to-get-a-man or celebrities-in-love. Back then, Essence was where you went if you were a black woman who was trying to make sense of the world. There on the cover was Rae Lewis Thornton.
She was gorgeous, in that way all sisters are on the cover of Essence. She looked the way I wanted to look. Underneath a photo of her wearing a tight black dress looking at the camera, was the caption, FACING AIDS. As Crystal Wilkinson said on twitter this morning, Rae turned AIDS from “their” story to our story.
In the article, she talked about being a professional woman who only dated professional black men– the Morehouse man type, and I mean that in the historical way. At a blood drive at her very good job, she found out her status and had no idea from whom she contracted the disease. Keep in mind that this is when Aids was understood to be a death sentence.
Nowdays, there are many Aids activists and people living publicly with Aids isn’t such a shocker, but Rae Lewis Thornton came out when no one was talking to black women– or women period– about Aids. She is a hero.
Today she is on twitter talking about the realities of living with Aids. (For example, her co-pay is $2400 a month for her healthcare!.) Read her feed to see what she has to say, but also go get tested. You need to know.
As I was leaving the National Book Awards, I spied a small stack of Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon’s poetry collection, Open Interval. I grabbed a couple and I want to give one way to one of you! Leave a comment and I will choose a winner at random on Tuesday morning.
Lyrae is a gorgeous is poet and Open Interval is a beautiful book. I know it is an honor just to be nominated or the National Book Award, but I was really hoping that she would take it home.
By now I am sure that you have all heard the news about the National Book Awards. To put it succinctly, white men swept the evening– all categories, including the honorary awards. It was a tense night– after Publishers Weekly excluded women from it’s 2009 “best of” list and the “5 under 35″ were all white, it was hard not to feel a trend.
Of course, the world is complicated. There was quite a bit of diversity in both the judging panels and the finalists. All categories included women and writers of color.
I will admit that I don’t know what to make of it. I know how it felt to be a woman writer of color that evening. I had a number of weirdly marginalizing personal encounters that evening. I arrived in high spirits and left feeling a bit deflated.
I want to say something profound here, or help make sense of things, but I am still feeling a little shell shocked, and unsure what it really means. I don’t usually like posting when I don’t really have anything to say, but I also like to keep my readers informed. So here it is, information.
On a happier note, I did get some cute photos while everyone was still in a good mood.
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.
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.
I am thrilled to tell you that today Michelle Obama presented Girls Write Now with the “Coming Up Taller” Award in recognition of all tremendous success that GWN has had with our amazing girls. (Details here.)
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.
The National Book Award finalists have been announced and I am thrilled that my boss, Jayne Anne Phillips, has been nominated for her excellent novel, Lark and Termite. I was a huge fan of Jayne Anne’s work before way she became my boss. I recently found an old journal with my life of writerly fantasies. One was “Meet Jayne Anne Phillips”, after which I wrote “possible? maybe.”
As founding director of the MFA at Rutgers-Newark, Jayne Anne has created a program that has real diversity and real rigor. I don’t know how she has done it, but in just two years she has figured how to recruit amazing students. (They are winning major prizes and publishing left and right.) She has also managed to get major writers to hop on the PATH train to participate in our reading series. (Komunyakaa, Doctorow, Diaz, to name just a few. If you live in Newark, you should drop by. The readers and fabulous and the events are free.)
How can she do all that and still write the kind of novels that get two love-letter reviews in the New York Times? Because she’s Jayne Anne and she’s amazing. We are so proud of her!
Hey everybody, I’m back. I’ve got over 500 emails to answer, one really junky apartment to clean, and grant application to write, and about five pounds to lose because I ate everything I saw in Brazil. Meanwhile, here’s some good reading for you while I get my act back together.