Where These Conversations Are

“Fiction by Black Writers: Who Are the Readers?” was held on February 21st by the Brooklyn Historical Society. Eventbrite publicizes the event as–

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Zadie Smith, Colson Whitehead, Yaa Gyasi…some of today’s biggest names in fiction are black writers, and yet a predominantly white publishing industry maintains the assumption that black literature lacks marketability. Join writer and distinguished academic Dr. Elizabeth Nunez for a panel discussion challenging this assumption, with Essence Magazine book editor Patrik Henry Bass, Vice President, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of Random House’s One World Chris Jackson, President of the Authors’ Guild Roxana Robinson, and editorial director at Akashic Books Ibrahim Ahmad.

My friend sent me the Eventbrite link to check out some of the authors whose names got dropped in this description. After about a ten-year drought because I was sick to death of white-dominated narratives and formulaic genre crap getting shoved under my nose, I am ready to indulge my love of reading again and pick a new book and a new author to devote some of my time to. Preferably, a Black author who writes Black main characters that I haven’t yet discovered.

But when I clicked on the link in my friend’s e-mail and read the description, I was more interested in attending the even itself to hear to from the speakers. Black FICTION writers? BLACK? People actually talking about the predominantly white publishing industry (read: admitting that the publishing industry is predominantly white)? And likely talking about its assumption that Black fiction writers do not exist or “lack marketability”?

Awww shoot! DANG, I gotta hear this, is what I thought. Tell me the state of the things! For my own validation/affirmation as a Black writer if nothing else. More times than not, this truth about publishing and television is an unspoken truth. It just goes without saying to those People of Color who see it for what it is.

I really, really wanted to hear what other people have to say about this topic. But I’m not just broke, man. No matter how badly I wanted to fly across the country and attend this event, I couldn’t go on February 21st and I still can’t go even if they held the event in New York again.

My head isn’t filled with academic articles from credible sources and published intellectuals on what other people have to say about the topic of Black writers and their marketability (or lack thereof) to white publishers. Nor is my knowledge condensed into a perfectly pitch-able nonfiction volume you can pick up at the bookstore or sample from in your undergrad and masters courses. But I know what I observe when I watch television. What I see when I go into a store and look at their paperbacks. What I’ve read since I first discovered of my love of words and books. I know what I experienced as a little Black girl who grew up on welfare in the U.S. The situation surrounding the marketability and visibility of Black authors deeper than just the publishing industry. The problem is rooted in the core of what readers are exposed to, beginning arguably even as early as the womb. The problem lies in what readers choose to believe and the writers, histories, and narratives they choose to exclude from their bookshelves and consciousness.

As tired as I am of “politics” and navigating a STILL white-dominated media, I feel like conversations like “Fiction by Black Authors” put on by organizations like BSU and the Brooklyn Historical regarding Black and of Color authors specifically aren’t happening as often as they should. Maybe its because I now live in a near-dead, somewhat backwards city. Can’t really say for sure.

Writer’s Voice, Reader’s Mind

Every time I re-read a book, I see something I didn’t see before. My journey as  reader and writer is to see the soul of an author’s work.

Sometimes readers will make comments about my work that make me think, You didn’t actually read what I wrote, did you. I’d be the last person to turn down constructive criticism. But if I sense that they’re offering “advice” or “criticism” but didn’t take the time to read the words and understand them to formulate a useful opinion, I get irritated and jazzy in the mouth, just downright sassy towards them.

When I read, I don’t go in saying, “Let me see how well this author writes like my favorite author!”. (Also because I don’t have a favorite author.) And I don’t write stories for people who skim and speed read or want something fun, quick, and trashy to read at the airport. No, as a reader, I try to see how that writer is delivering information, details, so that my imagination paints on the canvas of my mind and shows me the story.

New Year’s

I’ve spent Christmas and my last week of the year crafting and writing (a craft itself) since my family isn’t particularly close. I finished National Novel Writing Month with over 63, 970 words. I finished the first draft of Dionna’s Wish, a romantic fantasy novel currently at 72, 312 words. I am currently finishing Exactly As You Like It, another fantasy romance. I’ve also finished several short stories such as Love Little and Void Masters. None of which I’ve talked about yet.

I’d say I’ve had a pretty fruitful year and I hope to publish something soon on Jukepop Serials or Smashwords. Or somewhere.

It’s about two hours and thirty minutes to midnight here. Whoever is reading…Happy New Year’s and whatnot.

Current Word Count: 52,338, as of yesterday

I haven’t done my hair or practically anything else for the past twenty-three days. I did however write over 50,000 words in short stories and novels, over 8,000 words in notes, emails, and journaling, and more for National Novel Writing Month 2015. If anybody calls my writing a hobby again, I can’t even say what….

Officially, I “finished” early (by meeting the 50k word goal) yesterday. I would’ve finished the day before and came up short by 194 words due to falling asleep and a series of distractions.

I have participated in NaNoWriMo every year since 2009 (minus 2010). This year was much easier for me though I only count words that go towards the story/novel, not notes or journaling.

I organized and wrote everything between Scrivener and Evernote on my laptop and tablet. But because my book is not finished, I still have a few days left, and there’s so much more to write, I will be writing on until midnight on November 30th. I will validate my word count then.

And then, because I still won’t be done with all my works in progress, I’m fine write some more.

I was going to write a NaNoWriMo ’15 post earlier this month but I never finished it. This is what’s in my notes, I had two sentences slated:

I love writing and writing is what I’m going to do every day this month. So far I’ve finished drafts for two short stories.

Really, that’s all. And I never finished that draft.

I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. Now I have to go finish my 1667 word goal minimum for today. So relieved I updated my blog now! ^__^

Leave Paid Reviewers Alone

Myesha D. Jenkins requires a $10 “donation” for her book reviews. Though I thought it was kind of backhanded and shady, I really tried to view her fee in a positive light and was desperate to have someone outside my “network” read my work. Who does anything for free except me, right. Ten dollars isn’t really that big a deal, right.

My friend, “Shay”, seemed very disappointed in me for paying her and thought I was rushing too much into trying to expose my work. I wish I’d talked to her before I did it so she could talk me out of it. To top it off, my friend, “C”, just told me that Jenkins rated me two stars on Goodreads. Of course, I didn’t know this until a few minutes ago because I wasn’t going to read the Jenkins review until I finished the second book. This has been a really bad day.

That week a lot of people hoodwinked me because I know how hard it is for Black women writers to get recognized, or read at all, and I was convinced the only way for me to get exposure was to push for it through any means possible, even using my birthday money to pay for this review. I probably lost like $50, including this.

If that’s really all she thought of the book, I accept that. But I feel a lot of regret and shame for paying her to read it. Its something I won’t be doing again, not with her or anyone else. I feel so stupid and embarrassed because that particular review (the only so far) wouldn’t be there if I hadn’t sought this lady out and paid her.  It probably won’t be the last bad review and if people really think my work merits two stars or less they should be honest about it like her, but I shouldn’t be walking into two-star reviews, especially paying for them with money I don’t really have to spare.

Its better to let people come to your book of their own accord. Don’t pay them. Don’t coerce them. Don’t try finesse them into it. I knew that and still I let fear and misguided ambition lead me to do something like this.

Its done now. Lesson reinforced.