Monday, October 31, 2005
So excited to see the World Premiere of the new Lee Ann Womack video, Twenty Years and Two Husbands Ago, on CMT the other night.
It's from her CD, There's More Where That Came From, that I raved about when it came out back in March. It's one of the best country CDs released this year, and with all the traditional country music themes of infidelity, broken hearts, drinking and dialing, searching for happiness, and looking back at life and husbands, along with a traditional country sound, I'm sure it'll be a strong contender for a Grammy.
I know some of you who read my stuff may be a little leery about the country stuff. It's just not our normal music genre, you say.
But trust... if you've come home a little tipsy and called an ex (I May Hate Myself in the Morning, But I'm Gonna Love You Tonight), been tempted to step out on your partner (There's More Where That Came From), been broken up with unexpectedly (The Last Time), been haunted by the ex's memory (One's A Couple), or wondered about the status of your life and partners and choices (Twenty Years and Two Husbands Ago), you'll love this.
I pulled out some old journals, like from freshman and sophomore year of college. Geez, I made some innocent and dumb choices. And the crushes... well, I could put Liz Taylor or Erica Kane in some serious last-name competition if you spelled out all the names of my exes (and wannabe exes, lol). But that was many years and...
I've heard of quick-draw-McGraws... but this is something I think would be a great challenge for those of you wanting to write a novel, but not quite feeling like you have the time or discipline to really get started and do it. It's a challenge, and definitely not the norm in novel writing.
Each November, there is a contest called National Novel Writing Month, where you are challenged to write a 50,000 word novel draft in thirty days. Thousands of aspiring authors enter and many finish the contest. The contest is more with yourself. Can you finish a goal you set out to meet? Kinda like a marathon, which in the beginning seems daunting and impossible, but with consistent training everyday, you meet the goal. It's not how fast you finish, but that you finish.
Interested? Take a look at the site. I've never done it. But a few of the drafts people have started in the month-long challenge turned out, with revisions and workshopping, to be manuscripts that have been picked up by publishers. Details on the site.
On your mark. Set. Get started... November 1.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
One shared something really cool in terms of discovering your writing voice, especially if you're writing in first person in your fiction: take a look at your e-mails.
No, not the business and work-related e-mails, though that might help with technical/protocol type narratives in fiction. But this author suggested looking at the personal/confessional e-mails you write to your friends. Especially the e-mails that re-cap your weekend, a date, or some gossip or news you're sharing.
Look at the words. The pacing. The detail you share or leave out. And look at how comfortable and easy the writing seems to be. And think about how easy it is to write these type of e-mails to your friends. This... is the level of comfort, this author suggested, a writer should be with their character's voice in fiction. But, essentially, the voice you use in personal/confessional e-mails is your voice.
I thought it was an interesting and kinda cool. I'll be pulling up some recently sent personal/confessional e-mails to see how close my e-mail voice matches my fiction writing voice.
Or... at the very least, the author suggested, if you don't keep a journal you can print out some of your personal/confessional e-mails and stick them in a notebook. And you've got a journal without even thinking about it.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
I know a bunch of black speakers, performers, artists, musicians, etc... who can't get work until February, when they're inundated with work. So a bit of advice to powers-that-be: you don't just have to hire black speakers for February, which has traditionally served as Black History Month in the U.S.
Same goes for women speakers, performers, artists in March. Gay and lesbian speakers in June... or October. Chicana/o Latina/o speakers in September/October. Asian Pacific speakers in May. You get the picture.
You can actually hire them for work throughout the entire year. Yeah, really!
I know many folks at the Cross Cultural and Multicultural Centers at California universities and colleges (CaCCCHE) have taken a pretty modernist approach to programs and events: do away with the traditional months, and include the stories, histories, and performances of people throughout the year in events. That way, people don't just see various groups as set-asides, and part of the everyday fabric of life.
I know people flinch: What? No Black History Month? No Latino Heritage Month? No Women's History Month? Asian Pacific Heritage Month?
I mean, yeah, I guess if all you're offering about folks is a 28-day drop in the bucket, and go back to the status quo after that, the idea of no heritage/history months is kinda revolting. Or if all a campus has to look forward to is one month, and then back to nothing... then... well. Nice getting paid for one month of intense work. And this is not ammunition for folks who don't want to recognize any historically marginalized groups to say... see, we don't need these months. We do. But we also need to realize that a month... just ain't gonna fly anymore.
People and their histories are real and exist beyond just the months we set aside. So why not go for a totally inclusive curriculum or event calendar that recognizes that people exist all the time... not just February, March, April, June. But it's a real effort to think outside the 30-day box that we're conditioned to think in.
And the artist/speaker types I know would definitely appreciate the work outside of their designated months... Just food for thought.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Last night, I had my final scheduled book event for Down For Whatever. It was at the University Bookstore at Cal State L.A. Sponsored by the Cross Cultural Center. In a way it was kind of a homecoming.
It was at Cal State L.A. that I had did my very first public reading... about five years ago. During a very bad poetry phase. When I thought poetry needed to rhyme to be good. Ewwwwww..... Thank God that poetry phase is long time gone.
Anyway, great event and nice way to end the DFW road experience, going on since late April. (Except for one more event in Minneapolis in the middle of January 2006... what were my people thinking?!?!) Nice crowd of 50+, good food, great questions (I'm a sucker for things/people that make me think!), and the bookstore sold a lot of books. And saw some old friends who I hope to make new friends again. Hmmm...
Now... book two is in the pipeline. Waiting for word from the folks in charge. Book three (more like book 3.7) is forming into something I can work with. I start and stop things all the time.
My sister the Detroit super diva housing developer, my mom the caterer/event planner, and my dad the retiree who loves his garden and house projects, are my biggest supporters, fans, and loud/proud readers. They're good people. I know they can't wait for the holidays when they can see me, love me, FEED me.
Oh, I'm still here. Blogging. And looking forward to previewing and sharing book #2 really soon with you...
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Catch this one before... well. It's in a Friday night time slot. On ABC.
Hot Properties is one of those shows I found by mistake, one Friday evening waiting for a friend to pick me up. It's cute. And kinda funny.
Typical formula: four friends.
Typical setting: NYC
Typical career backdrop: Real estate
Typical dilemas of four friends living in NYC and selling real estate:
Friend #1 is 40-something, married to 25-year-old, and he doesn't know her real age which her friends have to remind her of;
Friend #2 is perpetually single, and her dates never remember her or her name the morning after;
Friend #3 has dated and been married to more gay guys than... hmmm... and she can't get her "gay-dar" working or stop her attraction to gay men;
Friend #4 married who she thought was an innocent virgin, but turns out is a major un-virgin.
No messages. No lectures. No social commentary or anything groundbreaking. But... it's a fun show, funny writing, and a good way to pass thirty minutes before heading out on a Friday night.
When I was in high school, we had so many college nights and college recruiters we couldn't decide how many nights a week to give up to go back to school and hear from the places we wanted to go.
The military, or simply getting a job, wasn't an option. Not even a thought. I hear things have changed. Especially in L.A., where military recruiters sometimes get more respect than college recruiters in the schools, according to my friends in university recruitment and admissions. I don't know what things are like in your city.
I know there's tons of legislation now that give military recruiters access to high school student records in order to ease the road to recruitment. Many parents and students don't know they can opt out and not get on military lists.
So... if you have a nephew, niece, little brother or sister, or cousin... especially high school seniors... sit down with them in these next few weeks. Ask them about their goals and aspirations. Ask them what schools they want to attend after high school. Encourage them to apply. Tell them not to worry about the money. It will come. Even for the application fees if the family doesn't have money for them.
Most applications will be due by early January 2006 for admission in Fall 2006. Financial aid forms are due in early 2006, and the sooner they're turned in the better.
The important thing is to stay in school, finish, and build the future and life they want to live. And if that encouragement doesn't come from a teacher or parents, you can be the one to provide that encouragement and kick in the pants.
Monday, October 24, 2005
Rosa Parks died. Turn on CNN, she says.
It's true. Why do we never believe when we first hear?
Start to wonder all the what ifs. What if Rosa Parks hadn't stayed seated?
Rosa Parks came to my kindergarten class, eons ago. Spoke to us four-and-five-year olders. We didn't know the significance as kids. But still... now I know.
The legends and leaders are leaving us. Those who blazed trails. Opened doors. Did the big and small acts to make a difference.
There are some fall-centric things to do in L.A. believe it or not. And Sunday... Felt real L.A. (Oh, read this article on doing L.A. in 2-days... in case you're visiting or relocating!) and felt real fall.
After my morning run and oatmeal, and getting my housemate and sister off to Palm Springs for a spa day, I packed up the laptop, a couple books, a Lena Horne/Nina Simone/Phyllis Hyman mix, and sat my butt at one of my favorite coffehouses for writers (and other folks, but a lot of writer types).
The Coffee Table. It's in Silverlake, which is part of L.A., but one of those artsy incorporated enclaves (like Los Feliz) where your table neighbor can be an aspiring novelist, an up-and-coming singer and the real (non industry) friends, or a writer for episodic television.
Real productive day. In between writing (I've got an idea that's beginning to take wings and go...) I read this hilarious short story by Lorrie Moore ("How To Be An Other Woman") in her short story collection called Self Help. Actually, read it a long time ago but felt the need and urge to read it again. Another story of note in this collection is "How To Become A Writer." Just so dang funny! :-)
Then back to writing again. Then started reading another novel, Babylon Sisters, by Pearl Cleage. It's SOOOOOOOO good. So you gotta go out and get it. Especially if you're into good writing, with good black characters, and a fulfilling story.
And yeah. I started out my Monday morning with Good Day L.A. It's my favorite morning news and infotainment show. Especially Jillian Barberie's dancing in her weather reports and Style File.
Have a good day... in L.A. or wherever you are!
Saturday, October 22, 2005
So a few weeks ago I wrote about the National Novel Writing Month challenge. It begins on November 1. Challenge is to get aspiring novelists to devote a month to completing a 50,000 word first draft of a novel. Not an easy thing, but definitely a kick-in-the-butt challenge for those who say they want to write, but haven't quite found their groove yet.
One of my favorite literary blogs is Paperback Writer. A couple days ago PB Writer wrote an entry called Construction, which was aimed at helping those the challenge begin creating their characters. Lots of good references and exercises there.
Something cool to look at for all you writer types out there who might be a little "stuck" today.
So Dolly Parton has released yet another CD (I am a big fan, don't ask!)... an album of covers, songs from the 60s and 70s. Those Were The Days.
People often say music isn't the same anymore. Might be true. Things do change.
Here's what the Billboard Charts say we were listening to in 1990, this week in October:
1. I Don't Have The Heart, James Ingram
2. Black Cat, Janet Jackson
3. Praying for Time, George Michael
4. Ice Ice Baby, Vanilla Ice
5. Close to You, Maxi Priest
And 1985, this week in October:
1. Take on Me by a-ha
2. Saving All My Love for You, Whitney Houston
3. Part-Time Lover, Stevie Wonder
4. Oh Sheila, Ready for the World
5. Miami Vice Theme, Jan Hammer
Dang. Time flies!
Friday, October 21, 2005
Okay... so everyone's raving about author Percival Everett this week. First, Tayari, who is guest blogging at The Old Hag this week. Then Rod yesterday. And now me... and I'm not just jumping on the bandwagon. Percival Everett is one of my favorite authors... so much so that one of the characters in my book searches for Everett's books at Esowon Books in L.A.
Percival Everett is one of the best authors out there, and one of the most deserving of a break-through novel. He's got quite a following already in the literary circle, but commercially... most folks are just beginning to hear about him. And this is a guy who generally puts out a book a year, kinda like fellow L.A. author Eric Jerome Dickey, but without all the fanfare and bells and whistles from the industry.
He teaches at USC. His latest, Wounded, is getting reviewed everywhere and getting RAVE reviews. And it should be of interest (and on the shelves) of those interested in gay and lesbian issues, because one of the storylines revolves around the murder of a gay youth on the ranch of the main character in Wounded. Everett's characters "happen" to be whatever they are, but those characteristics don't weigh down the stories. And that's refreshing.
I first heard about Percival Everett about three years ago, when I chanced upon his novel Erasure. Erasure is one of my all-time favorite books. A novel within a novel, Erasure examines the idea of what drives "black" books and "black" book consumers and the publishing industry to determine what will appeal to "black" readers. That's my take. There's WAY more. Others have deeper takes. It's good. Trust!
Let's help put Wounded on a bestseller list this week!
You know how sometimes you sit and wonder where certain people are... people who were significant in your life at one time, or you hung out with but lost touch, or just moved away?
Well, I sat and wondered. Just wanna know where they are/what they're doing now.
From Detroit childhood through high school:
1. Terry, Crystal, and Dondi (A brother and sister trio who moved to Detroit from L.A. for like a year, and then back to L.A. Tons of fun, cried for weeks when they moved away! I think their mom was named Yvonne.)
2. Roberta Grant (a middle school tough girl with a heart of gold)
3. Gretchen O'Neal (a middle school friend who kept me rolling, along with Kim Hurtle and Lisa Storball)
4. Brian McCallum, Rodney Sizemore, Chantale Bothwell (folks from high school)
5. Laurie Flowers and Dana Flowers (from what I thought were the richest black family I'd ever known... and at my high school. Laurie drove me to our peer counseling job at Catholic Social Services in her then new white Civic hatchback and then to the AKA Teens/Alpha Academy meetings on weekends...)
6. Dr. Mary Wilkes (advisor to the Teen Profile show for aspiring broadcast majors)
From Missouri School of Journalism days:
1. Juston Jones (who I think became a newspaper editor in NYC? originally from Marshall, Mo?)
2. Patrice Kearsey (who I think became an engineer in Kansas City?)
3. Sean Spence (a fellow R.A. and rival in the dorms and student government, lol)
4. Sheila Robinson (from Kansas City or St. Louis, journalism grad student, and sat me down "intervention style" with Russ Lopez to deal with some issues)
5. Mark Sangerman (originally from Chicago suburbs, freshman year suite mate in Mark Twain Hall)
6. O'ouida Young or Ouida Young (her name is pronounced Oh-Weeda, can't remember exact spelling, and she bought me my first adult beverages when I was a freshman, introduced me to blues music while drinking, and St. Louis native)
7. Lynnette Tyndall (from St. Charles, outside St. Louis. Big time drama queen and big time fun. I REALLY want to find her!!!)
8. Kimo James (this Hawaiian guy I met one full-moon weekend at some Missouri lake resort. FUN weekend. Went to some boys school, an orphan, not sure if it's his full name)
9. Rodney Jackson (my upperclass mentor when I was a freshman, who got me involved with campus radio, and introduced me to Kevin Brock)
10. Dean Andersen (my hall director and boss when I was an R.A.)
OK. That's enough for now. Yeah, I could google all these folks. And maybe I will... just trying to get a head start. Will probably have more names on my list next week... :-)
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Last night's debut episode of Noah's Arc was so much fun. I liked it! Especially the Noah and Wade storyline. Dang, that was hot. And the couple that just moved in together was cool too.
It was great to see an all-black cast portraying black gay characters on a major television station.
It's all about the first representation, which will then lead to more opportunities for representation... but you gotta watch and write to LOGO that you like Noah's Arc... and that you want to see more. There can be more than one black gay comedy, drama, reality series on at the same time... so we gotta press for that. But we gotta make sure Noah's Arc is a success first! Congrats to everyone associated with the show. Their hard work (and they have been working VERY hard) is paying off!
If you missed it, you can catch it on LOGO every Wednesday.
Meaning... that we all have a right and responsibility to contribute to the fight for equality and justice... and that black gay and lesbian people need to be involved at all levels, especially those who had just graduated and earned their college degrees. But no matter what your degree of involvement, it's important to find your role.
Now, here's a great way to find your role... if you're so inclined. Support the Black Caucus of the National Stonewall Democrats. Whether it's with your dollars, your voice, your willingness to write letters or e-mails, this is a great way for those of you looking to make a difference in the fight for social justice for the black gay and lesbian community. And if you're wondering "Why this community?", just remember that you can't have rights and equality for some while not supporting rights and equality for all.
So I've discovered over the past few months that I love, love, LOVE doing readings, interviews, being in front of a crowd -- even though it makes me nervous as heck. If I'm prepared, or have a few talking points, I can do just fine. And people are always complimenting me on my "Midwestern" speaking voice, which I guess means middle America, or just speaking articulately. People say I sound smart, even when inside I don't know what the heck I'm gonna say next. But I'll take the compliments... Whatever that means...
But during the past week I've had the opportunity to be interviewed by Mary Montoro, of the Los Angeles Sentinel, L.A.'s black weekly newspaper, for a feature story, and by Grandison, a student who is working on a class project on me... a video news story for his broadcast news class. Grandison is something else.
The L.A. Sentinel story is running today/this week, though I haven't seen it yet (the website is under construction). I'm sure my copies are on the way. And Grandison's story is running on his campus news stations (lawwwwd, I hope the kids don't lose their lunch in the cafeteria!)
I realize something about my moods. When I'm in between gigs, I'm kinda feeling blah. When I'm not out and about at some event, or meeting readers, or leading a class or workshop, I feel a little lost. Not like "down to my last can of corn" lost, but just like... I am a people person. Even though I am shy. That's just me.
Anyway, hope it's a happy Thursday for you... and turn a little to the left so I can get the right shot. Muah!
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
The students and staff at UC Santa Barbara really made me feel welcome last night, as I discussed my novel and other subjects. Which other subjects came up in conversation?
Students had a lot to say about representations of black and brown people, especially black/brown gay people, in the media (most had not even heard of Noah's ARC which debuts tonight on LOGO, or a host of other black, gay novels I shared with them to support), the myths surrounding the down low (fortunately, many had read Keith Boykin's book, Beyond The Down Low, and were well-versed in challenging the hype of 2004), and challenges in building community between straight and gay black students (and a nice surprise... several had read Rashid Darden's book, Lazarus, or had it on their holiday wish lists).
It was a great night, and I'm always amazed at the intellect that young seekers of truth and knowledge possess.
Thanks again to the great staff at the UC Santa Barbara MultiCultural Center and the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity for hosting me.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
This is Santa Barbara. And the view you see -- of the ocean and coastline -- is what you see pretty much on the drive from L.A. up to Santa Barbara on the 101.
I'm on the road again. This time for a somewhat local trip. Santa Barbara is about 2 hours north and west of L.A. I'll be speaking at the UC Santa Barbara Multicultural Center about Down For Whatever this evening.
We planned this back in early summer... and of course we had no clue the first of the winter storms would be coming in at this time. It's been raining since Saturday. We panic in L.A. (and California in general) when it rains. Anyway...
When your book is published by a traditional, mainstream publisher, you get roughly three months (plus or minus some weeks) for your major publicity push. That's why you see authors generally doing a bunch of signings and events and media right around the book's release. You wanna create buzz, get good initial numbers, and build momentum to carry the book on to a long shelf life.
You all have seen my summer schedule. It was a lot of fun and a lot of work, much of which I planned and coordinated on my own. My fall schedule is light. Mainly because of my keeping a day job. Mainly because the three month cycle. Self-published authors, and those at smaller houses, get a little more leeway, mainly because they're selling on the streets, at festivals, basically hustling everywhere for sales and livelihood, etc... and don't have the same publishing industry process pressures that move you in and out in three months. Some say the three month cycle is now six months. That's a whole 'nother blog.
And now that my window is closing, I'm on to the next phase of literary life. Speaking at universities, student groups, and community organizations every now and then. But mainly waiting for my second novel, which is in the publishing pipeline now, to be released... so that the ride can begin again. Writing the third novel. Anything to keep myself occupied and moving forward. But I will always promote my baby, my first born novel. Always. Even beyond the three month cycle we're conditioned to think about.
Why three months, as some say? Carolyn See explains it well in Making a Literary Life. Books have seasons. There are your summer books, fall books, etc... Each season is three months. Bookstores have to make room for the new products coming out each season. If your book does reasonably well, you remain on shelves and in stock beyond your season. But, just like the music industry, it's always on to the next thing once your novel's time is up.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing my friends at the UC Santa Barbara Multicultural Center. Nice people. And I'm sure we'll have a nice discussion and talk.
Now... all I have to do is make it through the rain and mudslides to get there.
Monday, October 17, 2005
So... downtown L.A. doesn't have much of a residential life, but that's all soon to change.
Big development plans have been drawn, the investors lined up, and the tenants are starting to plop down their deposits for the soon-to-be opened lofts, condos, and apartments for purchase in the downtown L.A. corridor. In the next five-to-ten years, it is expected that downtown L.A. will be a cultural AND residential mecca, much like other major cities.
And the biggest selling point for most of these new units, according to the L.A. Times' Sunday California section: Rooftop pools.
Downtown L.A. runs north and south. It's bordered on the north by the 101 Freeway (the theatre and courthouse district), the south by the 10 Freeway (the Staples Center), and the 110 Freeway runs right through it.
It's probably the last semi-affordable place to purchase (of course, that depends on your perspective of what's affordable)... and the value on these units, most of which haven't been built, continue to rise. A friend of mine saw the value of a unit he wanted to make an offer on rise by $50,000 in a matter of minutes... while he was standing in the developer's office. This is for a soon-to-be refurbed toy factory. Crazy.
Who knew? All for a rooftop pool.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
And what? lol. If you don't know me by now, I can be serious and novelistic... and can be a pop culture teeny-bopper at the same time. Just human nature.
Some of you may know that I'm a big Daddy Yankee fan. Never met him. Never been to a concert. Never quite understand ALL the lyrics, though my Spanish is decently passable and conversational. Uh... and I never even got a return e-mail (sike!).
But DY is the man who, after being in music for a minute, got reggaeton music noticed and recognized in the mainstream in the past year. Y'all all know that song, "Gasolina" that everyone played last winter and early spring. That's DY.
And they play like a billion of his songs on Latino 96.3 here in L.A., which is all reggaeton and hip hop music all the time.
The station's music and DY kinda inspired the writing of my second novel, which is sitting on a desk in NYC just a-waiting for the green light and all. And a lot of the young men who use the space of my day job kinda look like him. Everyone's a frigging Daddy Yankee look-alike in L.A. So one of my main characters in Book #2 is a DY fan and wannabe. Anyway...
This morning before coming to the office, turned on one of the billion VH1 channels I get . A block of Daddy Yankee videos. Loving his little hop/skip dance in "Lo Que Paso, Paso." A nice way to start the morning. Morning aerobics con DY. Mmmmmm....
So they're not the kind of live theatre productions that win Tony Awards, but they rake in millions of dollars a year from folks wanting to see themselves "represented" on stage or wanting a family afternoon/evening out on the town.
You know them... the "why cain't I find a good man" plays, the "you betta find religion" plays, the "sassy, smart mouth Auntie with good advice" plays, the "let me out-do you in my musical solo" plays, or as I like to call them... the "Lawd, Mama Done Burnt The Chicken!" plays.
George C. Wolfe, a brilliant playwright and director, calls them "The Last Mama On The Couch Plays" in his production The Colored Museum. (Colored Museum is an excellent script and social commentary in my opinion.)
They've been called many other names in our history, debated over billions of times in terms of representation of various communities... if you've seen the movie Bamboozled you'll know kinda what I'm talking about. Actually, some are entertaining, though I haven't been to one since like forever (I remember a HUGE, dramatic wedding scene with Teddy Pendergrass music playing in the background, hmmm), when that was all I really knew about theatre. All I remember is that audience participation, whether called for or not, is a major component.Shouts and hi-fives and hallelujahs welcome!
But, thanks to the magic of television and good friends, I'll be seeing one in about a week here in L.A. I'm going with an open mind and for an evening of entertainment. At least people are getting acting jobs, right? (Over-acting, some might comment...) Actually, the one I'm going to see is a stage production of a book by a popular author, one whose backlist of books and literary career is very successful. So, this might not be so bad.
Honestly, I'm not being judgmental at all. I know the same kinds of hierarchies exist in the world of fiction... hierarchies that separate the "literary" from the "commercial," and say that one kind of novel is better than others, or that one kind of writer is better than another. I think there's room for everyone and all kinds of pop culture. All a matter of taste, I guess.
What do you think? (Oh, and for the generation of readers whose parents didn't play Teddy Pendergrass music on the record player, like mine, um... he's kinda like a real singer who has an amazing voice, no samples or computer refining, and wrote/sang the original Leave-Me-'Lone-Bugaboo song, called "I Don't Love You Anymore! (It's Just That Simple..."
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
What if the South had won?
In C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (2004, 91 minutes), director, producer, and screenwriter Kevin Willmott explores what our world would be like if the South had won the Civil War. I'm attending a screening of this film tomorrow (Thursday) in L.A., and the filmmaker will be present to discuss the work.
This smart and satirical film presents a world where there is apartheid in Latin America, an American alliance with HItler, and slave shopping on network television, and will definitely make you think about racism in the U.S. today.
Kevin Willmott, director, producer, and screenwriter, is screening his film across the country at festivals and college campuses. It is financed and backed by Spike Lee.
It looks like a must-see, if you can get to a screening or get your hands on it. Do you ever wonder what the world would be like if the South had won? How different, if any, would things be? I'm looking forward to seeing this film.
Of course no place is perfect. It's difficult to buy a home in California because of soaring real estate costs. There is a huge gap between the rich and poor. And many people think Californians are too creative... and just way off the map.
Yesterday, I attended a program/speaker talking about Proposition 73 in California, on the special election called by our governator, which would require both parental consent and permission for young women (under 18) choosing to end a pregnancy.
I learned a lot. I learned about how once Roe v. Wade was upheld, that the shape of women's personal and professional advancement just took an upswing. More and more women entered professions, could take control of their lives, and could make the decisions that worked best for their mental and physical health. I learned how difficult it is becoming for women to seek out all choices, because from all levels -- from medical schools to hospitals to neighborhood clinics to peer-counseling services -- women's rights to make the choices they see best for themselves are under attack.
Anyway, the speaker really helped put us in the mindset of being a teenager again. And made us think a lot about what we did, could, and would NOT talk to our parents about... for a number of reasons -- embarassment, family dysfunction, uncommunicative family, etc...-- and I realized that these parental consent laws are trying to force communication, when in many cases, the communication was never there.
And then I realized that this proposition, which is sponsored by some California Catholic organization and Dominos Pizza, just doesn't fit with the progressive nature of California. I'll have to ask the priest of my parish his take on parental consent. He's generally progressive and very open-minded on politics and personal issues. But the red-state mentality is really trying to get a stronghold in the state. Interesting. I'll be voting NO on the proposition for a number of reasons. I believe women, and only women, can make the decisions they see fit for themselves physically and mentally.
But I'm wondering, dear readers, what your take is on parental consent laws, reproductive freedom, and the right to choose what's best for yourself physically or mentally?
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
So I'm doing a bit of e-mail last night and writing a bit on what I hope will gel into a new novel. And while I write, I keep music videos on or some local radio station for background noise.
Then Eric Benet's new video, I Wanna Be Loved, came on. I stopped and watched. Had heard the song before, liked it, but never knew it was him. Then I felt guilty for liking it. I mean, the Halle situation and all. Felt like my sister had been violated, though Halle's no relation to me. Felt guilty. It would be like staying friends with your ex brother-or-sister-in-law, ya know? Except, in this case, Eric's been through the storm and back... and just wants a career like anyone else.
Still, I like the song. Liked Eric from WAY back in the day when he and his sister had a singing group called simply, Benet.
But then I started thinking about friends who I know who do things that jeopardize their relationships, but the partner doesn't know about. But you're friends with the jeopardizer first, not the partner. And you remain friends, still knowing or suspecting things they do to jeopardize a romantic partnership. Is that cool? Hmmm... We give a lot of free passes to lots of people who have done things we may not do.
I haven't bought Eric Benet's new CD, Hurricane, but I've heard and read good reviews. Still...
Monday, October 10, 2005
So I've written several posts on the writing life, keeping a day job, dealing with bouts of writers block.
Just wanted to pass on another good entry at the Paperback Writer blog, about keeping track of the numbers. Not the numbers sold. But the number of pages produced, time management, and keeping it all in perspective.
Paperback Writer is one of my favorite sites to visit. One of several writer/publishing blogs on my daily cyber travels.
If you have time, go check out Paperback Writer's entry, Uno.
Interesting Sunday. Like that song, Sports, Sex & Food, by Tweet. Gotta hear it to understand... hmmm.
Funny what several Sunday morning/afternoon football games (not my idea), many rounds of Scrabble (mine), some brandy and coca cola (not mine), Madea movies (consensus), and fun weekend company can do to inspire you. Not just in writing, but in life... making you look at your life differently.
Especially your Space. Your Space when you have pack-rattish propensities and try to fight it. That... I'll address at another place and time. (It's amazing how some people can live in a simple Space, while others want to hold on to every thing... I'm the latter!) But...
So happy for Clay in NYC and the opportunities presenting themselves to him. I always expected big things from him when we met this summer. I'm sure we'll be reading more of him, and not just on his blog.
So happy for Jarrell, who has been writing non-stop for the past weeks, since our workshop. His creativity has been tapped. Sam, too, who has been tapping away at the keyboard for the past weeks. And happy for others who have been putting their thoughts to page and sharing it with me.
Even when I'm in the midst of ideas not coming together, it's always inspiring to hear that others are having a burst of creativity and work. This weekend has been a good one. And I think I am ready to jump ahead with the next creative step.
Friday, October 07, 2005
Can't wait for the basketball season to begin. NBA.
Can't play worth a lick. Get that Detroit-born-and-raised stereotype out of your minds. I hit the books. But played soccer for a minute. Tried tennis for a minute, too. But basketball always got me. I just could never get it.
But I love to watch. Don't know all the rules. But I love going to games. Or just watching on TV. Or watching the Shirts vs Skins matches at the local park while I go running.
My faves: Sacramento Kings. Detroit Pistons. Yeah, I live in L.A.
Next week. The magic begins. Pictured top left and right is Mike Bibby, Sac Kings. Bottom left and right, 2004 World Champs, Detroit Pistons. Bottom center is Carlos Arroyo, Detroit Pistons.
In my Down For Whatever novel, I wrote about a fictional college baller whose about to go pro, Tyrell Kincaid. Something about the world of athletics really interests me.
One of my favorite TV comedies is Will and Grace. I always make time to watch it on Thursday nights... or it's usually one of the first I retrieve from DVR to watch.
This is the final year of the show. But it's not going out on a whimper, like many shows that manage an 8-year run (ala Jumping the Shark).
The writing seems so much stronger this year, than in the past couple of seasons. And I'm glad the focus is back on the four main characters, Will, Grace, Jack, and Karen (and of course, Rosario). No more of the endless cycle of guest stars every week. The four (well five) of them have a chemistry and comic timing that is great. And the subtle political snipes at the current regime are so perfect.
I bet the writers on the show have a wonderful time working together coming up with such fun scripts and stories.
So... who thinks a season 9 is warranted? Or a Karen Walker show?
Thursday, October 06, 2005
So I know many of you aspire to be published novelists or short story writers. And sometimes you think those of us who have been published are ALWAYS creatively stimulated, ALWAYS banging the keyboard, ALWAYS putting out material.
When I wrote Down For Whatever, I wrote for fun. And never had any idea if or when I'd ever get it published.
Once sold, and while waiting for Down For Whatever to be published, I wrote a second novel. It's in the publication pipeline now. My hope is/was for a Summer 2006 release date. It'll probably be more like Fall 2006/Winter 2007. But this novel, which my agent and those involved in helping me revise say is much stronger than Down For Whatever, just came to me and I wrote the first draft in record time. I know this happened for a number of reasons.
1- The vascillating schizophrenia between boredom/hyperactivity while waiting for your first book to come out.
2- The story and characters spoke to me (I know it sounds kinda crazy, but I don't need pills or a 51-50 or 72-Hour Hold) and each morning they guided my writing direction.
3- I didn't want the 2nd book blues.
Now, as I near the end of major publicity for Down For Whatever (but I still want y'all to buy and word of mouth it to your friends and loved ones), and I'm beginning work on my third novel, I have a confession.
I'm writing. But not writing. (For those of you who identify, check out the Not Writing site. It's funny/sarcastic and just what the doctor ordered!)
I've started a number of drafts. But nothing sticks. Nothing takes root. I know why. Once words like market, audience, publicity, expansion, units sold, units returned, demographics, literary, commercial, chick lit, boy lit, editorial teams, etc... become part of your writer vocabulary, they also invade your thoughts. Those thoughts affect your creativity. And those thoughts are causing me to not write. I'm not producing as I would like.
It's not writer's block. Because I can write anything, much like I'm writing this blog right now. I still get up at 5 am, and am even getting in front of the keyboard in the evenings. But nothing's taking root for me now. What I'm enjoying most right now is helping others find their creative muse. I have a few folks who I'm working with by providing creative writing exercises and feedback, and I'm loving what they're producing. In a way, it's stimulating my ideas. Now I just need results.
Nothing beats the first novel writing process, when it's just you, your creativity, and a sheer joy of writing. If you're writing your first piece, enjoy it for all it's worth. It's usually the most genuine and most fun of your writing career.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
OK. Been thinking too hard and too much today. Time for a little break. A little diversion.
A Young and the Restless diversion.
This is Bryton, the brilliant 19-year-old actor, who plays Devin Hamilton on Y&R, Neil and Drucilla's foster son. He's great on the show. And has a huge following.
Some of you may remember him from another hit show. Now, don't go feeling all old.
You last saw Bryton on Family Matters, as little Ritchie. Kinda have to click on the pic to see him sitting up front on the sofa.
Now, he's all grown up. Acting. Singing. Modeling. Everything.
Time flies. Sometimes that's a good thing!
So there's Someone in my circle who works hard, is very popular, and is very Christian. Dogmatically Christian. Or maybe I should put that Christian part in quotes.
I overheard a conversation this Someone had with another friend of mine, about why black students don't appear to get involved with progressive causes, movements, and our space in the same manner as students from other population groups. Someone's answer: Black students are Christians, and progressive movements and our space are too inclusive.
So I listen to Someone's reasoning. Reasoning should be put in quotes, too. Someone replies with some of the same tired arguments I've heard some Christians use to justify keeping some people in and others out: gay and lesbian issues shouldn't be included in equality and progressive movements, because being gay and lesbian is like smoking cigarettes (I swear, this is what Someone said) and that you can choose to stop it, just like cigarette smoking, AND that's the way black people who are Christians are going to see it -- either black or white, no gray, and no area for negotiation.
Yeah. You see my eyes rolling, don't you? (This is why I get accused of being consescending, at times, of our less progressive neighbors, but I digress...)
My friend, who is highly educated, contributes time and money to progressive causes and political candidates, and is comfortable dealing with gray areas, discussed the ideas presented by Someone very calmly, but with key points to back up the points. Someone's only defense, or key points: My God is very clear about this, and that's the only evidence black people who are Christians need. Someone also went on to say that being in our space has taught Someone how to be tolerant (again, you see my quotes) of gay and lesbian people, but that Someone still doesn't have to accept them. In other words, Someone says friendships are possible with someone you stand in judgment of. Huh? Can I pull out the ignorant card now?
So. Where's the discourse? Where's the discussion? Especially if Someone, and people like Someone, put up the walls of discussion with what they perceive to be the end-of-discussion argument -- their religion. No ifs, ands, or buts.
So this got me thinking. How many of us have folks in our circles who love hanging, getting advice, using our creativity and ideas, but still stand in judgment of our lifestyles? Lifestyles, in quotes, again. I don't understand the logic or thinking patterns of people who believe equality is for some, but not for everyone. Who believe that, in the words of a family member, "I'm not homophobic just because I don't support gay marriage or think gay people should adopt or be teachers."
OK. Then what are you?
Now, I am a person who grew up going to Sunday school, and now I attend a very progressive Catholic Mass in L.A. My church does not justify judging or casting others out. We accept all. And love all. So I know the argument that all black people who are Christian feel a certain way. That kind of logic is crazy. That's like saying all people from a group are un-thinking, monolithic, robots who follow along with the program. I think we're all a little more advanced than that.
And that leads me to thinking about something else... the way some folks judge the way you choose to have, or not have, a spiritual or religious life. That one way of having a relationship with God (or the choice not to have a relationship) is better than another. The way people get schooled on the way, place, and manner in which to believe (or not to believe).
Can someone explain? Because I'm trying to understand the hypocrisy of supposed "loving thy neighbor," except in the cases of blah, blah, and blah. How is that logic justifiable? Or does logic get pushed out the door when you've proclaimed yourself judge, jury, and end-all-be-all?
Maybe the black students don't come into the space because they fear Someone will sit in judgment of them. Hmmm... Wouldn't that be the funny and ironic part?
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
So another classic television moment that some friends and I reminisced on this Sunday evening at The Abbey. Funny what a few mojitos and berry martinis can bring up in conversation. Books. Blogs. Celebrity sightings. Politics. Soap opera cliffhangers.
Picture it. Falcon Crest. 2nd season cliffhanger. They discover Lana Turner is Richard Channing's mother. Angela calls Lana the "B" word, a first for television. They discover who the murderer is/was of the season-long murder mystery. It's the innocent Julia. Pan out to the exterior of the Falcon Crest house. We hear four gunshots. Next scene, everyone's dressed in black, backs turned to the camera. We see casket lower into the ground. And we're left to wonder. Who's being laid to rest?
And then we skipped to the way Maggie died in a later season cliffhanger. The irony. An on again/off again romance that brought nothing but heartache and pain to Maggie. She finally accepts Richard's proposal and puts on the giant diamond ring she's admired in the jewelry box she carried with her everywhere. She's playing with their kids around the pool. Kids toys fall in the pool. Maggie swims down to get them. Braces her hand in the pool drain and the ring gets stuck. She can't get it unstuck. The scene ends with her struggling to get her hand out the drain. The relationship, which was dysfunctional and bad all along, eventually kills her. Another great cliffhanger. Sad, though.(And in our mojito-driven states, came to the conclusion: don't let a bad relationship kill you -- physically or mentally or spiritually!)
Falcon Crest gave us good stories and writing in the 80s and 90s. Even if it was a little dramatic, but never campy. OK, maybe the Appolonia year. Time for a reunion, CBS, while all or most of the stars are still with us.
I've been nominated to take on a new job.
As a pilot. I think I can do it. I mean, I've flown on lots of planes. I've even known my share of airline personnel over the years. And I'm a man of principle and values, and anyone who knows me knows that I am a fast learner and can pick up anything while on the job. And my values and principles don't change, based on a change in altitude or situation.
Anyone wanna ride on my plane?
Of course I'm being sarcastic, as we gear up for another round of silliness in D.C. with the latest addition to the cast of Friends, I mean the clique (s)elected to live in Washington, the lovely, talented, and mean elementary school teacher look-alike, Harriet Miers.
I get regular e-mails from a progressive political organization, MoveOn, and today the mail encouraged all of us to find out as much as we can about Ms. Miers. Here's a summary of her career, as MoveOn summarized it, courtesy of the Coalition for a Fair and Independent Judiciary, to help jump start your research:
1970—Graduated from Southern Methodist University Law School
1970-1972—Clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Joe Estes
1972-2001—Joined Texas law firm, Locke, Purnell
1985—Elected president of the Dallas Bar Association
1986-1989—Member of the State Bar board of directors
1989-1991—Elected and served one term on the Dallas City Council
1992—Elected president of the Texas State Bar
1993-1994—Worked as counsel for Bush's gubernatorial campaign
1995-2000—Appointed chairwoman of Texas Lottery Commission by Gov. George Bush
1996—Became president of Locke, Purnell, and the first woman to lead a major Texas law firm
1998—Presided over the merger of Locke, Purnell with another big Texas firm, Liddell, Sapp, Zivley, Hill & LaBoon, and became co-managing partner of the resulting megafirm, Locke Liddell & Sapp
2000—Represented Bush and Cheney in a lawsuit stemming from their dual residency in Texas while running in the Presidential primary
2001—Selected as staff secretary for President Bush
2003—Promoted to Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy
2004—Selected as White House Counsel
There are many important questions that need to be addressed, including:
What policies did she advocate for on the Dallas City Council?
What was her record at the head of the scandal-ridden Texas Lottery Commission?
What cases did she take on while working as a corporate lawyer in private practice, and what positions did she fight for?
What has she written or said in and outside of her law practice about her views on constitutional issues like privacy, the "commerce clause" or equal protection
As White House councel Alberto Gonzales played a pivotal role in softening America's stance on torture. What positions has Harriet Miers advocated for in the same role?
Has she ever publicly distanced herself from George W. Bush?
It's important that we move quickly in answering these questions. The Bush spin machine has been prepared for this nomination for some time and is already cranking at full speed. The strategy is to move Miers through as an enigma. We need to make sure the facts about her views are known.
But mean elementary school look-alikes aside, I started thinking about people I have worked with over the years, who, through pure personality, going along to get along, similarities (like being part of the 'majority' if you know what I mean), befriending the leaders and spouse, and browning up their noses, have moved up and along the ladder of organizational success. Some of these folks have had different qualifications than what I would have imagined being needed for their positions -- skiing together on weekends, baking cookies every other week, hanging out in the leader's office, happy hour, etc...-- qualifications that go beyond education, skills, and experience.
Having been in the workplace and college, I know the adage of "it's not what you know, but who you know" is true and makes and breaks careers at times. And I know it's also not fair in an ideal world, where concern for equality and social justice guide decisions.
On a related topic, check out Prodigal Sun's entry on being pimped for workplace diversity. Great essay, and I realize that, at times throughout my various jobs and career choices, I've been the same situation. Check it out.
Have a nice day... at your day job, night job, or your home job! Or... get yourself nominated for a new job :-)
Monday, October 03, 2005
But Brent stayed part of the weekend with a guy named Joe, another fellow Detroiter, who, through the process of the "who do you know?", turns out was a middle school classmate of mine, and who hung out with several friends I had at his high school, Cass Tech. Cass was/is the rival "smart kid" school to my high school, Renaissance.
Anyway, through the process of talking, I found out there are several Detroiters we knew and went to school with who have moved out to L.A. And they're doing BIG THINGS! One is working for the TV show, Lost. One designed costumes for the film, Mr. & Mrs. Smith. One is a big-time publicist for television. Joe himself is a filmmaker, director, and writer. Who knew all this talent came out of Detroit? I'm happy for all of them. It's motivating.
But it got me thinking about my life and how I finally feel like I'm going somewhere, like I'm finally getting my feet wet in what I want to do. I still have a long journey ahead and not all my goals have been made. But I'm on my way. I've been thinking a lot about various friends and the path they are on.
And I wonder... what makes it so that some people's lives have easy paths, while others have more jagged paths? How is it that the road turns out differently than the idealistic one we mapped out in high school?
What makes it happen for some, as they planned? While others, later in life, finally make it happen?
I love books. And I love book fairs/festivals. And this weekend, I had the best time at the West Hollywood Book Fair. Started my morning off participating on a panel with Adreana Robbins, Seth Greenland, and Frances Norris called In The Beginning: On Writing The First Novel.
I think between the four of us, we served up enough advice and information for all the aspiring novelists in the audience. It's weird being on the other side of the panel. A year ago, I was sitting in the audience... dreaming of publication!.
Anyway, it was a lot of fun... and the best part is that we all were equally entertaining and no one was a panel monopolizer. (Because I'm sure you all have been to panels where the most boring person on the panel goes on and on and on and on... and on, and then you realize you're asleep or waking up or doodling or texting someone) Well, Adreana, Seth, Frances and I were a great team. No snooze factor there!
Let's see. I saw a lot of writers and friends: Bebe Moore Campbell (wonderful speaker and exudes so much class... love her!), Denise Hamilton (great L.A. mystery writer), Kerry Madden (my mentor), Gary Phillips (an L.A. legend), Michael Datcher and Jenoyne Adams (the husband and wife literary team conquering the world), Lisa Teasley (fun and insightful writer and speaker), Leslie Schwartz (who pushed for me to get into the PEN Emerging Voices program), Ben Patrick Johnson (you've heard his voice in tons of commercials), and others.
They saved the best for last. The most fun panel I watched was the Chewing on Chick Lit panel, featuring Liza Palmer, Mary Castillo, Jennifer Coburn, and Tamara Gregory. No snooze factor here either. But of course, when you write books that are popular and entertain, that's to be expected. What I liked most about the panel was they were wholeheartedly confident in writing about and for women, and felt no need to apologize to the "literary critics" who say that entertaining people in books is bad. Such a great group!
One of the panelists, and I can't remember which one, said what's the point of writing beautiful prose, with all the literary elements, big words, themes, blah blah blah... if your reader falls asleep or puts the book down at page nine... forever! Never to be picked up again. That the job of the writer is to make sure the reader makes it to the end of the book.
I think there is room for all types of books and literature, and that all types can be successful in their own way, but I also think that in a world where there's so much doom and gloom, a nice entertaining book can make your day and help you escape for a few hours. And obviously readers agree, since chick lit is one of the fastest growing genres of books out there.
Some books you might want to check out, that I think I'll like since hearing the authors talk about them: 72 Hour Hold by Bebe Moore Campbell and Passport Diaries by Tamara Gregory and Blue Plate Special by Frances Norris. Bebe Moore Campbell's novel centers on mental illness and families, something I didn't think I'd necessarily be interested in, but after hearing her speak on her panel I was sold on the book. And Tamara Gregory's book is a nice new addition to the chick lit genre, with a bold black heroine who travels around the world and keeps a travel diary of her experiences. Something new and unique. And I've already read one of her books, but I want to check out the entire collection by Paula Woods, who writes mysteries set in L.A., and the heroine is a black, female cop named Charlotte Justice. Inner City Blues was awesome!
Anyway, great day. Wished you were there!