The Colour of Sunset

That’s a ridiculous thing to say, of course, as sunset doesn’t have a single colour. But I was wearing a small bit of the colour of sunset, my favourite time of day, to enliven an already bright moment. The moment in question was a photo op (shaking on it) with Carol Mitchell, founder and publisher with eastern Caribbean registered independent press, Caribbean Reads.

photo 1 They’ll be publishing my next book, Musical Youth, the manuscript that placed second for the inaugural Burt Award earlier this year. I’m looking forward to this moment, not just because of what it could mean for me and my book but, if it does well, potentially other eastern Caribbean writers, who could benefit from one more doorway to publishing even closer to home. On a personal level, I’m excited to see these characters ushered into the world; I really did enjoy writing them.

I’m enjoying a few other things about this image…like the whole wall of Antiguan and Barbudan books behind us. We’ve come a long way, baby, and kudos to the Best of Books where we took this image for creating a shelf specific to books by Antiguan and Barbudan writers (it’s a way of celebrating among ourselves the local literary arts while marking us, for visitors, as a cultural keepsake …though as I’m writing this, I’m hoping we’re also shelved according to gender). The Antiguan and Barbudan literary canon continues to grow. Look good, you can see my own Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad! and The Boy from Willow Bend right there on the top shelf, and we didn’t even plan it like that.

You know what I’m digging though, those earrings, because they remind me of both the generousity and creativity of my people. When I was set to head off to the Aye Write! Festival in Glasgow earlier this year, I made what I imagined was a throw away comment on my facebook page about wanting some Antiguan earrings to wear to the event. Right away, Akua Ma’at (Aisha) contacted me and offered to make me a pair of earrings. She went on to make me two pairs and when I lost one half of a pair offered to make me a new set. All the while refusing to take any money for any of this. Wha cyan go so? People they’ll disappoint you, but they’ll also surprise you, in pleasant ways; and the happy memory of that bit of creativity and generousity is the story behind those earrings made with the madras that forms part of our national dress.

Maybe this post should be re-titled, every picture tells a story.

New Video! For Women, in Tribute to Nina Simone

I love it when Antigua-name in (good) t’ings, and this For Women Collective is a good thing. Check them out (NEW VIDEO ALERT)

For Women 2 For Women 1For Women 2bYou know, when I wrote Sexy Sadie, I had no specific plan for her. Then I saw this call for submissions on one of the book blogs I follow. I submitted her because she was the only story I had at the time that remotely fit the idea of a woman boldly claiming…it felt right and I was thrilled that she was selected (and well placed in the Sweet Thing section of the book, structured to capture the natures of the Four Women in Nina’s classic song).

Nina Simone is one of my favourite artistes and her Four Women, one of my maybe top 5 from her discography (I know, I’m hardly unique there). But it felt all kinds of special to have Sexy Sadie of Antigua selected for inclusion in a collection honouring this formidable woman and artiste. I hope she would approve but then she’d probably give me a look for desiring anyone’s approval, even hers. Because if we know anything about Nina when it comes to her art, it’s that she was, as we say in Antigua, doncareahdam. Which is not to say that she didn’t care (she cared about a lot) but that she had something to say, she had her own distinct way of saying and being, and you were just going to have to deal with her on her terms. Or at least, so she seems to me when I listen to her music or youtube her performances.

 She was baaaaad.

 

I have had an open invitation to perform at the many collective appearances; we’re all kept in the loop.For Women 3 But it hasn’t happened yet.

I seem drawn to these arts movements driven by women – can’t help thinking back to my involvement in the Women of Antigua productions: VMon2012And can’t help feeling buzzed after watching this video…happy to see Antigua’s name in the mix For Women 5 For Women 6and considering the possibility of participating in (or at least attending) future performances, one in particularFor Women 4… there must be a travel grant or fellowship (preferably both) out there for an Antiguan and Barbudan writer looking to connect with the Collective. Right?

The Waiting Game or The Scraps of Things

Musical Youth, the manuscript of mine that placed second for the Burt Award in 2014 and is soon to be published, was fresh in my mind, recently, as I dug through my e-folder filled with scraps of things – unfinished things, ideas for things. If nothing fresher is present-please, I sometimes go, during my writing time, to this folder and rip and stitch these unfinished things. On this occasion, I opened a doc entitled The Guitar Lessons. Here’s part of the synopsis:

“… a girl who … didn’t believe in herself… guitar lessons … delighting only in the time it allowed her to spend at the home of her mother’s mother … who frightened her as a child but now intrigues her teenage self searching for self. But when the school talent show to send a selectee to national competition comes up she nurtures a secret dream of entering…but lacks the confidence…”

That’s not the plot of Musical Youth, those aren’t the characters, but in the notes and scribbling in the five pages of the unfinished Guitar Lessons, I was discovering, with a kind of wonder, connections to, in fact, what might well have been, the seeds of Musical Youth.

Note well, I hadn’t even remembered The Guitar Lessons existed when I wrote Musical Youth, or since, hadn’t been thinking of it at all, and there’s enough that’s different that I know it’s not the same story. Still, maybe that’s why I was able to write Musical Youth as quickly as I did…maybe the seed of the story had long been there, forgotten scribbles, just waiting to be told.

It’s a good argument for hoarding those bits and pieces of things that impress upon us somehow but don’t quite go anywhere, not right away.

It’s fascinating to me as I try still to figure out how all this works, this thing grounded by craft and experience, buoyed by memory and imagination; and a certain unfathomable magic. It fascinated me no world to flip through those long forgotten scribblings in the Lessons doc and realize that some version of the characters that danced their way into Musical Youth, some version of the scenarios and themes that shaped it had been there somewhere in my subconscious, waiting.

Makes me wonder what else is lying dormant, waiting.

Sometimes Laughter is Not Enough

We are not okay. Not all the time. And sometimes we are made to feel (or certainly we’ve been conditioned to feel) like that’s not okay. But life is rough. It just is. And sometimes we can’t cope. And sometimes we can’t speak this truth through the shame or silence.

So whenever someone slips off the ledge, while acknowledging there is a difference between being depressed and battling Depression, if we’re keeping it real, we know that there “but for the grace of God” go any of us. Through our art, our relationships, laughter, sometimes medication, prescribed or otherwise, we cope. But some nights, even that is not enough.

RIP, Robin Williams; thanks for the whirlwind.


And, if only…

Elizabeth Nunez discusses Oh Gad! on NPR

“It’s a very contemporary novel, and it deals with a very contemporary issue in the Caribbean, which is that the economy is based on tourism. To what extent do you compromise your country to let tourism flourish? And so what’s at the heart of this novel is the tension between the land developers, the ones who want to put up the big hotels, the big condos for the tourists and basically saying to the people, ‘If we do this, you will get money,’ and to those who have farmed the land for a long time. There’s a sacredness of the land.” – Elizabeth Nunez on NPR, listen and read the entire discussion

AALA – Books in the Running

cover

Nina Foxx’s anthology A Letter for My Mother is nominated for an African American Literary Award for short stories/anthologies. I’m not only reading this book at the moment (and yes it’s a good read), I’m also a part of it as one of several writers writing about our mothers (or in my case, my tanty). Congrats to Nina for this and her several nominations in the awards. Strebor, publisher of my book Oh Gad! also has several horses in several races including N’Tyse (remember her? We did this author exchange a few months back), congrats to them all.  Congrats as well to folks like Eric Jerome Dickey, Terry McMillan, Iyanla Vanzant, Donna Hill…and all the nominees. Here’s the full list.

Biography/Memoir
Misty Copeland – Life In Motion
Janet Mock – Redefining Realness
Robin Roberts – Everybody’s Got Something
Jesymn Ward – Men We Reaped
Christian
ReShonda Tate Billingsley & Victoria Christopher Murray – Fortune & Fame
E.N. Joy – More Than I Can Bear
Sharel E. Gordon – Change Me For My Season
K.T. Richey – Sunday Morning Blues
Fiction
Elissa Gabrielle – Eye Of The Beholder
Nina Foxx – Momma: Gone
William Frederick Cooper – Unbreakable
Danielle Santiago – The Conglomerate
Erotica
Elissa Gabrielle – Pillow Talk In The Heat Of The Night
Cairo – Slippery When Wet
Eden Davis – Dare to Be Wild
N’Tyse – Twisted Vows of Seduction
Mystery
Cole Riley – Little White Lies
Walter Mosley – Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore
Eric Jerome Dickey – A Wanted Woman
Pamela Samuels Young – s Daughter
Romance
Wendy Williams – Hold Me In Contempt
Derrick Jaxn –s Heart
Beverly Jenkins – Heart Of Gold
Donna Hill – Tender Loving Passion
Street Fiction
K’WAN – The Fix Wahida Clark – Blood, Sweat & Payback
Tasha Macklin – Baller Dreams
Ni’chelle Genovese – Baby Momma 3
Short Stories/Anthologies
Nina Foxx – A Letter For My Mother
Elissa Gabrielle, Lorraine Elzia, Ebonee Monique – Pillow Talk In The Heat Of The Night
Tenille Brown – Can’t Get Enough
Brian A. Smith , Pamela Samuels Young, Monique D. Mensah & Nakia R. Laushaul – The Funeral – an Anthology
Self Help
T.D. Jakes – Instinct
Iyanla Vanzant – Forgiveness
Russell Simmons – Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple
Abiola Abrams – The Sacred Bombshell Handbook of Self-Love: The 11 Secrets of Feminine Power
Children’s Author/Young Adult
Nina Foxx: Catfish
Elissa Gabrielle & Angelia Vernon Menchan – Glowing embers in a dying fire
Jerry craft, Jaylen Craft & Aren Craft – The Offenders: Saving the world, while serving detention!
Betty K. Bynum – I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl!
Non Fiction
Edward Lewis – The Man from Essence: Creating a Magazine for Black Women
Marion Barry & Omar Tyree – Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr.
James E. Clyburn – Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black
Pearl Cleage – Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons, & Love Affairs
Author Of the Year (Female)
Elissa Gabrielle – Eye Of The Beholder
Terry McMillian – Who Asked You?
Iyanla Vanzant – Forgiveness: 21 Days to Forgive Everyone for Everything
Nina Foxx – Mama Gone
Author Of The Year (Male)
K’WAN – Black Lotus
Curtis Bunn – Old Man In The Club
Walter Mosley – Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore
JaQuavis Coleman – The White House
Break Out Author Of The Year
Nikki Woods – Easier Said Than Done
Dr. Catrina Pullum – Breaking the Chains: From Hurting to Healing
Candy Jackson – Pink & Patent Leather
Khara Campbell – Not My Will
Self-Published Author Of The Year
Tamika Newhouse – The Words I Didn’t Say
Elissa Gabrielle – Eye Of The Beholder
Joyce A. Brown–What You Can Get Away With
Monica Michelle – Lucky No. 5
Independent Publisher of The Year
Delphine Publications
Peace In The Storm
Live the Dream Publishing
Black House Publishing
Publishing House Of The Year
Kensington
Kimani Press
Simon & Schuster
Grand Central Publishing
Literary Magazine
Mosaic
SORMAG (Shades of Romance)
Black Pearls
Written
Cookbook
Pat & Gina Neely – Back Home with the Neelys: Comfort Food from Our Southern Kitchen to Yours
Carla Hall – Carla’s Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes from Around the World
Bryant Terry – Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed
Chef Jerome Brown – Eat Like A Celebrity: Southern Cuisine with a Gourmet Twist
Magazine (Non-Literary)
Ebony
Uptown
Black Enterprise
Heart & Soul
Book Club of The Year
Go On Girl Book Club
Sistahfriend Book Club
Lovely Essence Book Club
Booktalk ladies Book Club

On the Hustle – the Mary Robinette Kowal project

“So, when I decided to set a book with a lot of action in Antigua, I knew that I wanted to represent the Antiguan Creole English. I also knew, from having watched people mangle the Southern American English, that understanding the nuances was going to be really, really important and really, really hard.” – American author Mary Robinette Kowal.

When I saw MRK’s social media posting seeking someone to assist with research for the Antiguan sections of her book, I reached out with suggestions, and also to let her know about the types of services I provide. Turns out she wanted not so much a researcher but an editorial consultant with an intimate understanding of Antiguan culture – someone who could review her book with an eye for language issues and cultural nuances, and, though this was not the primary role, provide edit notes as necessary. It was a departure from the straight-up editing I’m usually commissioned to do but part of what I like about freelancing is the variety of projects I get to work on and this was a pretty interesting one. We felt each other out – each wanting to be sure of the intent of the other and our compatibility; she read my novel Oh Gad! and my blog, so that when I reiterated that I was not a historian but a writer/editor, she felt even before I was certain (even before I did the initial paid consult on a sample she provided) that I was the right person for this particular job – she told me about her experience with a writer colleague and how his knowledge of not just the language but of things like dialogue and how it works proved invaluable to that project. We emailed and Skyped and clicked, and in the end she was a happy client who informed me: “Your notes are on point, incredibly helpful — beyond just the dialect stuff — and making this a better book. Many, many, many thanks.” Mary blogged why even as a writer of historical (romantic) fantasy these kinds of details were important to her and shared the experience of working together here.

Valour-and-Vanity-220x328p.s. Mary, I’m now hooked and look forward to reading more in the series.Oh Gad cover

p.p.s. I appreciate, Mary, in her blog posting sharing with her readers my writing and that of other Antiguan and Barbudan writers she came across during her research. If you’re reading this, just a reminder that the mass market edition of my own novel Oh Gad! is available as of July 2014.