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My friend, Jaci, called me on the phone about a month ago. “I’m in love,” she sighed. I said, “Really?” and she said, “Yes, with my novel.” I was thrilled for her. I knew she had a wonderful story idea cooking for some time, but hadn’t quite made the connection. “Great,” I said. “What happened? How’d you get back in the groove?” She started explaining and I asked her to write it up so that she could share her story with our blog community. It’s a message I think we can all benefit from.
But before you read her story, let me share some of her credentials. Jacqueline Jones Lamon is the author of Gravity USA, a collection of poetry that won the the 2005 recipient of the Quercus Review Poetry Series Annual Book Award. She has also written a novel, In The Arms of One Who Loves Me, published by Random House. She currently teaches in the MFA program at Adelphi University.
Her post is here.
The blog is fixed! If you are still having issues, empty your cache. (If you are on AOL, go to “Clear My Footprints.”) Phil, my webmaster, the genius, has got us up and running again!
I have been getting some emails saying that folks cannot view this blog. If you can read this, please let me know in comments. I need to know if you use Mac or PC, and what browser (explorer, safari, firefox, etc.) If you know someone who says they can’t see it, tell that person to scroll halfway down the page and that’s where the entry is. I’ve alerted my webmaster to the problem.
(I almost said, “let me know if you can’t see it.” It’s early. I am going to go get my coffee.)
On Saturday night, I gave my big reading at AWP and I am happy to report that it went very well. The reading was held in the Grand Ballroom at the Hilton downtown– the very site of my junior prom. I had to work hard not to take it as a dark omen.
There was a really robust crowd and my mama surprised me by attending. Members of our blog community were there too, but some were too shy to say hello. (You know you who are. Don’t do that. Come say hi, always.)
The introduction was given by Jen from Poets and Writers Magazine. Before the reading, at dinner, I asked her what she was going to say. Introductions can be so weird; I like the get a sense of what’s coming down the pike. She said: “Your website bio, plus salt and pepper.” With that kind of wit, I knew it was going to be okay.
You know me, I was all dressed up. The higlight was in the shoe-realm– brown croco-embossed boots with a clear lucite wedge heel. (Cyrus Cassells, such a joker, quipped: “What happened to the goldfish?” ) I rose from my seat and headed for the stage. My concentration was on staying upright in my shoes, keeping good posture like my mama taught me–afterall she was right in the audience, second row.) I soon became aware of noise. Lots of noise. Clapping, hoots, and maybe even a whistle. At the mike, I spoke from my heart: “Y’all crack me up.”
I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, right downtown, just off Peachtree Street. You can’t get more Atlanta than that.
As you can imagine, the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King is everywhere in my home town. After all, he grew up there. He’s buried there.
There’s another city in this country that cannot forget Dr. King: Memphis. Although we claim him as a native son of Atlanta, Memphis is where he died on April 4, 1968.
I had never thought much about the burden of Memphis until I was on my first book tour in 2002. I was headquartered in the legendary Peabody Hotel for an entire week. The Peabody is known for its lavish appointments and the ducks that swim in its opulent fountain. My ten days in the Peabody were uncomfortable. For one thing I was homesick and longed for the stripped-down accommodations of my little apartment and also, I was the only black person in the hotel that wasn’t working there. I felt under intense scrutiny each day– I imagine I was something of a oddity to the white people staying there the black people were counting on me to represent.
I was raised in a “movement” household, so you know I wouldn’t have been in the Peabody with my nose in the air, treating the black employees like servants. Instead, I called everyone “ma’am” and “sir” and tried to need as little help as possible. I eventually got to know everyone on staff and soon people wanted to know where I was from. When I said, “Atlanta,” everyone wanted to talk about Dr. King.
Last year, I announced the happy news that I would soon be joining the MFA faculty at Rutgers-Newark University. I am thrilled to announce that we are accepting applications for the 2007-08 academic year in fiction, poetry and non fiction. Please visit our website for application guidelines.
Our program has a motto: Real lives, Real stories. I think that tells you just about everything you need to know about our mission. I know that there are many of you who have been toying with the idea of going to school to study creative writing. It’s a new year and it might be the right time for you to make the commitment.
Below is a letter of invitation from program director, Jayne Anne Phillips:
The plan was that I would stay home. I turned down fine invitations. Instead, I cleaned the whole house, top to bottom– I want an orderly year in 2007. I imagined myself sitting in my home office, dutifully pecking away at my new novel as the new year struck.
This is not what happened.
Around 5 pm, I started feeling, well.. TRAPPED by my singular devotion to writing. It was NEW YEAR’S EVE for goodness sake. I called my favorite restaurant, The Peacock Cafe, and discovered that they had a fabulous NYE prix fix. Not only that: Kremena, the most terrific Bulgarian bartender was on duty. (A restaurant is only as good as its bartender. I know “Top Chef” fans would disagree, but it’s true!) I stripped off the foot-pajamas, slipped into something a little more festive, and headed to the restuarant.
I’m back home now, full of good food and my favorite champagne. I’m still hoping to be writing when the new year comes rolling in. But this is a more fitting way to start 2007. Still writing, but also living life!
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! Let’s make 2007 the best one yet.