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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.
Last week, I called myself being helpful by posting the recipe for Red Velvet Cake. Ladylee, then had the nerve to suggest that I was half-stepping because I failed to include pictures. Always one to lead by example, she took me by the hand and showed me her gumbo post.
Okay. I can take a hint. I made a Red Velvet Cake for Christmas and here are the pics I took along the way. And, as a bonus, I was able to watch a friend make Paella! (Warning, there aren’t too many pictures as I was getting on his nerves and he threw me out of the kitchen.)
More and more authors are leaving big publishing houses, and the big advances that come along with it. Why? To go to smaller houses where they will get more attention. There is an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal about this trend.
I am intrigued by this idea. My first two novels were published by Warner Books, a very large NY publishing house. Warner has lots of money at its disposal, but it also has a LOT of books coming out in any given month. Publicity efforts are cranked up for the first few weeks after publication and after that, the author is pretty much on her own.
David Morell, a best selling author who left a big house (and a six-figure advance) for Vanguard, a must smaller (and poorer) establishment.
“Traditional publishing functions as an assembly line,” says Mr. Morrell. “Often by the time a book is published the project has gone through various departments and the memory of why certain decisions were made weren’t passed along, so nobody can understand what’s going on.” By contrast, Mr. Morrell says he is involved in every step of the marketing at Vanguard, which plans on publishing only one or two books a month for the near future.
Vanguard says it is responding to the rapid-fire changes that have given the once-sleepy publishing world a distinctly casino-like atmosphere. Increasingly these days books have only a week or two to establish themselves as big hits; otherwise they’re quickly washed to the back of the store.
I think this is a really exciting development in publishing. I just have one little question: What happens to those of us who really need the money and can’t really afford to skip the advance?
via ed, and here’s maud’s take
It’s the end of the semester here at George Washington. The pic below is of my students at the farewell pizza party last week. (Here’s the rest of the album) I’ve decided to let them type on the blog as they hand in their final portfolios. Think of it as a virtual guest book.
Justin: I flipped off my couch and broke my arm. I go into surgery tomorrow. But I turned in my final. Have a great holiday everyone.
Courtney: Unfortunately, I’m not in this picture!! I am so glad this semester is over! In two days I’ll be a college graduate!!!! Is it as scary out there in the real world as it seems? Thanks for the great semester Professor Jones! Happy Holidays!
In about an hour, I am going to be on WPFW, Pacifica Radio in DC. (89.3 FM) Josephine Reed, the host of “On The Margin” has asked me about books that I recommend this season. They don’t have to be holiday books, but more like books you’d recommend to folks as they make their holiday gift lists. I have ideas, but what are yours? Comment quick: I go on at 10:10!
Applications are now open for the spring writing workshop. (The fall session was such a sucess!)
If you’re in the DC area, I urge you to apply. The official announcement is below: