Letter To A Young Writer

I rec’d this query via email.

Hi Ms. Jones,
I’m wondering what advice you would offer to a young African-American writer of literary fiction, particularly one without prior publications, MFA credentials, or industry connections. I have a completed novel manuscript and have begun to send queries to agents, but I know how uncertain that process is for someone in my position. So I am eager for any suggestions that might help my process.
Thank you very much for you time and consideration. I hope you are well.

Continue reading

Posted in Writing | 3 Comments

do you outline?

I don’t. I’d rather stick needles in my eyes. Really. For me, I write the story to figure out what’s going to happen, to get to know my characters. My good friend and mentor, Pearl Cleage, uses a character chart to get acquainted with the people in her books. She gave me copy about fifteen years ago and I tried really hard to use it.

Continue reading

Posted in Writing | 5 Comments


Class meets, Tuesdays, 6:30-8:30
September 12-Decemeber 5

As I mentioned a few months back, I have the honor of being the Jenny McKean Moore Writer in Residence at George Washington University. To apply, you need not have academic qualifications. Writers who are at the beginning or intermediate level will benefit most from this weekly workshop. The class will focus on reading short fiction by established writers as well as roundtable critique of work submitted by class memebers. There are no fees to attend the class, but you will be respinsible for making enough copies of your story for all ten participants. (Students at GW and consortium schools are not eligible to apply.)
To apply, please sent a letter of interest (by US mail), outlining your experience with creative writing and your motivations for taking the course. make sure you include you name, address, home and work telephone numbers. Enclose a 10-15 page sample of your work. If you wish to have your sample returned, please include a SASE. Applicants will be notified of acceptance by September 1.
Applications must be postmarked by August 25th, but the earlier you send, the better.
Fiction Workshop
Department of English
The George Washington University
801 22nd Street (Suite 760)
Washington, DC 20052

Posted in Writing | 1 Comment

Q&A With Shalema K. McGee

Fresh out of college, Shalema K. McGhee moved to New York to try to make a career in trade book publishing. If you read Black Issues Book Review, you’ve read plenty of articles about the young black stars of publishing. But I thought we would spend a little time with Shalema and hear from someone still in the trenches, someone who is still trying to make her way.

Continue reading

Posted in Guest Bloggers, Writing | 3 Comments

Ladies, Submissions Are Needed

Calling all women writers who have works that specifically illuminate an aspect of Black men and their bodies. KADUMA is a coffee table photographic art book, shot by Tony Smith,
of Black men artfully painted and adorned by Joseph Hampton. KADUMA wants poetry, essays, and flash fiction to be included however, the writing in it will come from women.
The submissions will be juried by Toni Asante Lightfoot and Arthur Ade Amaker.

Continue reading

Posted in Writing | Comments Off on Ladies, Submissions Are Needed


What’s your position about likeable charaters? I’ve been told that they key to a successful novel is that you have to have a main character that readers will “fall in love with.” I am not sure where I am on this issue. I can see how reading about a character you “love” can draw a reader into a novel. I am thinking about the strong emotional reaction a lot of folks have to Celie, Shug, and Sophia from The Color Purple. But what about the characters in Sula? I didn’t particularly like any of them as people, but I do love that novel.

Continue reading

Posted in Writing | 10 Comments

P.O.P: Pt. 2

Well, it seems like angry women are on a roll. Yesterday, we got to hear about Kate Braverman’s smack-down of her publishing house, and now Annie Proiux let’s everyone know how pissed she is about the fact the Brokeback Mountain didn’t get best picture. I tell you, it is all very inspiring. I’ve got axes to grind, myself. Maybe I’ll discover my inner angry-exhibitionist??
(via Maud)

Posted in Writing | Comments Off on P.O.P: Pt. 2

175 Words of My New Book

Okay, folks. I am working on a new novel. I am working HARD on it. I think I had forgotten just how difficult it is to get a project going. In this, novel writing is the opposite of romance. With love, the fun part is when you first meet, when you are just buzzing around, high on the whole potential of it all. And when it ends, it’s because you have run the damn thing into the ground.
Writing a novel another matter all together. The rush comes at the end, when the project is almost over, when you can’t wait to finish it although you know how much you’ll miss it when it’s gone. It’s a strange thrilling masochism– running at full tilt toward what you know will break your heart, but you’re just dying to get there. The ugly part, all the heavy-lifting, is in the beginning, when you are unsure if you are going in the right direction, unsure if it will “stick.” And this is where I am now. So, with no further ado, dear Readers, I am going to let you read the first 175 words.
To quote Eddie Murphy in Boomerang (yes, I am just THAT black): Be gentle.

Continue reading

Posted in Writing | 4 Comments

I’ve Been Tagged

Nichelle Tramble has “tagged” me! This means that I am to write fifteen interesting facts about my writing/reading life. It’s going to be hard since I am so confessional here on my blog. What is there that you don’t already know about me? The assignment is fifteen things, but I am going to just do the best I can. Okay, here I go. And these are in no particular order. Ahem.

Continue reading

Posted in Writing | 2 Comments

Tayari’s Favorite Things

Monday, Oprah announced her “favorite things” for the holidays. You can go to her web site to check it out. You can even click for a printable shopping list. I hope you have several thousand dollars to blow, because Miz O is drawn to high-ticket items. ($150 corduroys anyone? $10,000 watch?)
Anyway, I was thinking of a gift guide for the writer in your life, even if that writer is yourself. So here are some tangible things that have enriched my writing life:

Continue reading

Posted in Writing | 4 Comments