Monday, January 30, 2006

What I Fall For...

Creative types. Intellectual types. The been-in-trouble types... especially those I want to come to the rescue for.

This was part of a conversation I had this weekend with a couple of creative types.

Something about living and doing your passion, showing some (book)smarts, and being a little rough around the edges -- however that's defined -- and I'm hooked.

Kinda came about because of a few events I attended or participated in this weekend.

Met some actors, writers, and filmmakers... people living and doing their passion. And though I did NOT meet Jake Gyllenhaal this weekend, I was thoroughly impressed with his smarts on Oprah last week... he seems totally socially conscious to me (especially his thoughts on how women are objectified in film). And as for trouble and rough around the edges... I'll plead the fifth on this right now.

But back to the creative type conversation... we couldn't quite figure out our similarities in the things that make us vulnerable to another person. And something about that creative drive and energy and process is a magnet.

Not in a groupie kinda way. But obviously in a way that makes certain actors fall for their co-stars, or writers fall for each other, or whatever the profession. I guess when you're doing what you love, and you see others doing what they love, something happens...

Don't know why I'm sharing. But I'm sure some of you know exactly what I'm talking about, because maybe you fall for the same things too.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Year of the Dog

The good thing about this time of year is if you haven't gotten around to starting all the new goals of the year you wanted, you get a second chance.

Lunar New Year begins on the first new moon of the new year, which begins January 29. Lunar New Year is a celebration of change, rings in all the good, closes out all the bad. Often, we hear Chinese New Year, which is partly accurate. Many Asian countries, including Korea and Vietnam, celebrate the Lunar New Year, not just China. This is the Year of the Dog.

Besides red envelopes, gold coins, dragon dances, firecrackers, and red clothing (all representing luck and prosperity), I love reading about the various characteristics of the animals represented by the Lunar New Year calendar. These are part of a small handout my office puts together (original source unknown) about Lunar New Year.

Dog (1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018)
Noble and true, the Dog will fight to mend all that is unjust. A loyal and faithful friend, they will make any sacrifice for the sake of another. A hard worker, they will never abandon their post. A genuine listener and confidant, the Dog is the keeper of all secrets.

Rooster (1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017)
Self-reliant and independent, the Rooster is not one to seek counsel. They are confident and aggressive and are most at home in a crowd. A perfectionist, they leave no detail undocumented. Roosters will never abandon their dreams.

Monkey (1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016)
Clever and quick-witted, the Monkey is successful in every endeavor. Inquisitive by nature, they are constantly seeking new opportunities and adventure. Their intellect and versatility allow them to adapt to any situation. Many are entertained by the monkey's good humor and mischievous spirit.

Ram (1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015)
Gentle and docile, the Ram is sincere and kind-hearted. A pacifist, they are never one to question authority. Fueled by compassion, they admire all of nature's beauty. Rams strive to create a secure and tranquil environment.

Horse (1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014)
A free spirit, Horse people cherish their independence. Always on the move, it is hard to slow them down. Given the power of persuasion, they can obtain whatever they desire. Horses need constant stimulation to appease their wild soul.

Snake (1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013)
A natural philosopher, the Snake is blessed with a profound wisdom. Always on a mission, they are dedicated to their chosen quest. Seductive and mysterious, many are blinded by their hypnotic charm. Snakes have an unforgettable elegance and style.

Dragon (1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012)
Never cautious, the Dragon is not afraid when faced with a challenge. They will defend and protect any cause close to their heart. Confident and strong, they enter all battles unassisted. Dragons are known for their powerful and majestic spirit.

Rabbit (1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011)
Wise and insightful, Rabbit people possess a deep understanding of others. Not one to take risks, they are cautious when making decisions. A protector of diplomacy, they seek compromise to all conflicts. Their creativity and style keep them surrounded by beauty.

Tiger (1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010)
Brave and courageous, the Tiger is ready for any challenge. Nothing can tame their adventurous and rebellious spirit. A supreme optimist, they pursue their goals with fierce intensity. Tigers are admired for their vibrant and playful personality.

Ox (1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009)
The keeper of tradition, the Ox maintains a classic and sophisticated style. Iron-willed, they remain true to their beliefs. A strong leader, their hard work and dedication is an inspiration to all. Ox people never stray from their chosen path.

Rat (1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1973, 1984, 1996, 2008)
Full of charm, the Rat is the object of admiration. A true sentimantalist, family and friends remain close to their heart. Their intellect and foresight bring success with money and work. Rats are constant seekers of new ventures and travel.

Boar (1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007)
Pure of heart, Boar people are generous and kind. Full of inner strength and courage, they can take on any task. A friend who listens, the Boar is sincere and trustworthy. They are driven by their passion and pleasure for life.

Enjoy Lunar New Year celebrations, which start Sunday, January 29.... though many restaurants and households will be crowded with huge New Years dinners and celebrations on Saturday evening.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Octavia Butler

I haven't read (m)any science fiction type books, but I hear L.A. born author Octavia Butler's books are a treat that I should not miss. Any of you read her?

I was talking with a writer friend of mine last night, who said that I would especially like her work since she explores issues like racism, classism, sexism... and the social hierarchies humans have created... but that she explores them in "other worlds" she has created.

If you've read any of her novels -- among them Kindred, Parable of the Sower, Fledgling -- or heard her speak, tell me/us about her and what you think about the work of Octavia Butler. My friend says Kindred is a must-read... and I think I have it at home.

Octavia Butler website.
L.A. Times feature on Octavia Butler.
Octavia Butler NPR interview.
L.A. Times review of Butler's Fledgling.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Book Insider

So... it looks like Oprah has changed her mind about James Frey and the Million Little Pieces.

This isn't the first time a guy... has brought issues to the Oprah Book Club. Remember the Jonathan Franzen and The Corrections drama five years ago? What's the solution? What's the correlation between James and Jonathan? Hmmm... what would Big Mama say about who's causing drama?

Covenant, the follow up to Rashid Darden's debut novel, Lazarus, will be out soon. Orders will be taken starting February 1. Visit Rashid's site for details. I loved Lazarus, and I'm sure Covenant will deliver and will be worth the purchase.

Derrick L. Briggs is taking his book club on a national tour. I hope does for L.A., Atlanta, Chicago, etc... what he's done for the guys in NYC... Love the theme of the book club: Books Are Sexy!

OK. So have you ever wondered how publishing companies actually get bookstores to take their books?

The preview catalogs.

In these, you can see what coming up in the next season, how the company plans to market and promote the book/author, and the key selling points of said book and author.

I'm sharing a couple with you here. There's nothing secret about them... all publicly on the internet... but unless you're really interested, you probably won't look for them. (They're PDF files, so they may open up slowly)

Little, Brown & Company spring 2006
Kensington winter/spring 2006

Take it easy...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Link Up Wednesday

Just a few sites I want to share with you... and some upcoming books that look interesting for Summer 2006.

Dayne Avery, author of I Wrote This Song, is making his mark with his book published last year... and now his own blog. Check him out. He's a cool dude. Met him last summer during In The Life Atlanta.

Is there an author you'd like to nominate for a Best New Author recognition? Check out the CushCity site. It's kind of like the People's Choice awards, where readers can nominate their favorites... rather than just the industry insiders. Cool site to buy some books, too.

Looking for publishing and writing opportunities? I found this fun and new blog, Publishing Pimp, that might have what you're looking for.

Also wanna introduce you to another new blog favorite, Brown Braided Woman. She's a good friend of mine from SoCali. Whenever she finishes her novel... I know it will be something special that you all will love.

New band to watch out for? Check out Duke. They're fixtures on the NYC club scene.

Oh... let's see. Got a couple of friends from my writers groups who'll have books out later this year. You'll wanna check out these books later this year-- like June and July.

Across A Hundred Mountains by Reyna Grande. Grande takes readers inside the people of Mexico who are left behind in the phenomenon of migration to the U.S. Reyna did the PEN Emerging Voices fellowship...

Tomorrow They Will Kiss by Eduardo Santiago. Santiago takes us on a fun-filled ride of three Cuban women in 1960s New Jersey (and the title comes from the anticipation soap opera and novela watchers feel when waiting for the main couple to finally kiss). Eduardo also did PEN EV.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Front Page with Dominique DiPrima

As I frequently mention here, I love the KJLH Front Page show.

It's L.A. based, though you can listen on the internet. It's hosted by Dominique DiPrima, a long-time community activist, radio personality, and change agent.

It comes on at 4:30 am L.A. time, which I know is kinda early for a lot of folks... but I'm a morning person and I can be very productive while listening to the show until 6 am.

I love the direction Dominique DiPrima has taken the show since she became primary and lead host of the show late 2005.

While I've always liked the show because there's not a lot of black talk radio in Los Angeles, I am relieved that we don't have to listen to all the conspiracy theorists who usually had nothing to back their arguments up, or the "doctors" who prescribed all sorts of questionable practices for health issues. Some of those pre-Dominique guests and topics sometimes turned me off to the show.

And I love the fact that Dominique challenges the long-standing homophobic comments that past guests and callers made freely. Prior to Dominique, guests like our friend and ally Jasmyne Cannick, a frequent gurest on the show, would have to engage in verbal warfare just to get a point across about black gay and lesbian issues.

And Dominique also helps the primarily black and brown audience understand that coalition building, understanding our similarities AND differences, and being concise with our comments is important when trying to make a point. I love how she keeps callers on task and topic and time.

Just wanted to share someone who is doing great things to inform black and brown L.A., and who also makes sure we get progressive news and critical thinking in the morning. I love learning, and the Front Page radio show indeed serves as the radio university of black and brown Los Angeles.

If In L.A., Sunday, January 29, 2006... Space At Fountain's End

Space At Fountain's End (formerly Michael Kearns' Workspace)
Rejoicing in Black History Month
Sunday, January 29, 2006 at 4 pm
3929 Fountain Ave.
L.A. (SilverLake)

Conversation with Lennie Bluett
Frederick Smith Reads
Calvin Levels Presents James Baldwin (pictured on the left)

Frederick Smith reads from Down For Whatever, his first novel about contemporary black and Latino gay characters in L.A.

Internationally acclaimed jazz musician-performer, 87-year old Lennie Bluett was responsible for getting Clark Gable to integrate the set of Gone With The Wind.

Calvin Levels as James Baldwin "has a hypnotic power that creates a revival fervor," according the Los Angeles Times. Levels will perform from his highly acclaimed solo show, James Baldwin: Down From the Mountaintop.

3929 Fountain Ave
323 856 6168
Free Donations Accepted

Monday, January 23, 2006

Blog Time Goes By

Not like it's a big deal, but I missed my 1-year anniversary of doing the Simply Fred Smith blog. It was last week sometime. I was reminded, because I got a friendly invoice and bill from my friends who designed my book website, and then I thought... wow, has it really been a year since all this started? (The blog is free, the website costs some dinero to maintain, and Ted and Monica are indeed my friends).

Anyway, the first entry is one of my favorites: Insider's Guide for Writers of Color. This was an interview and story I did based on my meeting Marcela Landres, a NYC-based publishing and book professional. The information is still relevant today.

Another early entry: Upstate. This was another interview I did with then-emerging author, Kalisha Buckhanon, on her novel Upstate. The novel is great and follows two teen lovers, one in the system (thus, Upstate) and the other on the outside trying to make a life for herself.

I started blogging because I wanted to share a little of myself (the L.A. guy behind the book, so to speak) and also because I wanted to share a bit of my writing and publishing experience so that others could maybe see their goals as attainable, as I mentioned in this piece on M.J. Rose's Backstory site. I am just a Midwest-born boy who relocated to the West Coast after grad school, and never really imagined myself writing a novel or having it published on my first time out the gate. All this while working a cool day job in my grad school field, having a life, friends, and all the busy-ness that comes with life in the 2000s.

And while I'm far from a Toni Morrison in terms of literary technique (though I aspire and work to get better) and far from an E. Lynn Harris in terms of sales (though I aspire and work on my long-term author and writing career goals), I hope I've helped out in some small way those who write and dream (and no, I'm not playing the Catholic boy martyr role, lol).

Anyway, keep writing. Keep reading. And keep supporting all the columnists, writers, and bloggers who support the causes and issues we care about.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Lit List

My reading list is always long, and the pile of books by my bed is always growing. But a few good ones right now on the list are:

Counting Raindrops Through A Stained Glass Window by Cherlyn Michaels

The gist: Imagine you've got a good man wanting to commit to you in every way, but your fears of the marriage label and fears that relationships eventually go sour make you a little shy about making a commitment.

Counting Raindrops came out last fall and has been getting some good press lately. Most recently it got a mention and a good review in the February 2006 issue of Essence Magazine.

The Good Wife Strikes Back by Elizabeth Buchan

The gist: Imagine you've put your life on hold to be the good wife of a politician. You smile. You support. You mother. You run the ship behind the scenes. But twenty years into the marriage, you start to wonder what you've put on hold.

I read Buchan's Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman over holidays, which I enjoyed a lot.

Baby Brother's Blues by Pearl Cleage

It's coming in March, and so I haven't actually read it yet... though Tayari Jones has and gives a great review about it. It's a continuation of Some Things I Never Thought I'd Do, a novel I read over holiday as well. Hard to say what all it's about, but the neighborhood is like the main character... and Blue Hamilton and Regina Burns are united by their desire to make/keep the neighborhood a flourishing, cultural, family place. Ooooh, it's sooooo good. So glad we get to see Blue and Regina again. What I like about Pearl Cleage's work is that it centers on regular, everyday black people you'd find in your neighborhood -- they work, they marry, they take care of their families and neighbors, they care about social issues like racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism... and the stories usually take place in Atlanta. And the writing is just everything and at a level I aspire to reach... Okay, enough gushing about Pearl Cleage books.

Finally, Randy Boyd sent me a copy of his newest, Walt Loves The Bearcat, which looks like a good read. It's HUGE, as I humorously commented to him. Like, over 700 pages huge. But if you're into sports, and sometimes have fantasies of meeting and dating your favorite athletes (u-hem, cough cough), this might be a novel for you.

That's all for now. Yeah, it's a lot of reading. Still writing. But also looking forward to Miss America pageant on Saturday (I'm a pageant lover, I admit!!!) in it's Las Vegas debut and CMT debut.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

NO! The Rape Documentary by Aishah Shahidah Simmons

I want to thank Kenyon Farrow for alerting me to this film, No! The Rape Documentary, produced by Aishah Shahidah Simmons.

NO! specifically focuses on the issue of rape and sexual assault within the African American community.

This is yet another topic that seems to receive the silent treatment with the community, so I'm glad a filmmaker has decided to tackle and bring voice to the topic for the community.

It'll be screened during the upcoming Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, which runs February 9 - 20, 2006. NO! specifically will show on February 14 at 1 pm and February 16 at 7:30 pm. It has had several screenings while "in progress" prior to the upcoming PAFF screening.

Even if you're not in L.A. for the film festival, you can still bring this film to your organization or school. Check out the NO! website and contact the filmmaker.

And like I mentioned way back in the day (Color By Numbers), please don't just wait for Black History Month to plan or attend "black" events... and don't just wait for Sexual Assault Awareness Week to plan or attend events raising awareness of sexual assault. These issues are important ALL year long, the artists and writers and speakers need work ALL year long... and to only support them during the set-aside months/weeks doesn't do any justice to anybody.

NO! has received endorsements from Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, Spelman College President emerita, and Kevin Powell of the 1st MTV Real World. Hopefully these endorsements will help this film's momentum.

Dolly Parton. Morocco. Summer Writing Workshops.

Dolly Parton is 60 today! Wowsa. Time flies. But she's done a lot with her years... and that's a good thing. The other day on Country Music Channel, she called it "Sexty" not "60."

I saw an interview she did once, where she said she'd never complain about working too much or about being famous because it was her childhood and life-long dream... what's to complain about? Very good philosophy... especially for those celebs or public figures who really don't care for fans or who go to the hospital for exhaustion. Exhaustion?

A buddy of mine went to Morocco over the holidays. Looks kinda cool, colorful, and that hillside pic looks very similar to the hills of San Francisco. Time to start thinking about summer plans, huh? Or even spring break holiday ideas...

Speaking of San Francisco (pictured above from USF campus)... and summer plans. There's lots of summer writing workshops and retreats being offered. I already shared about VONA (the writers of color workshop at University of San Francisco in late June/early July). The Hurston/Wright Foundation summer workshop for writers of African descent. There's Squaw Valley in Northern California. Tin House in Oregon (with one of my favorites, Lorrie Moore). The Kenyon Review. Bread Loaf in the Northeast. Northwestern University.

There are some costs involved, however, just like college... the money is there via scholarships and fellowships. And with many wanting to diversify their summer attendance, there may be added incentives. But... summer writing workshops are a great way to begin developing a community of writers for yourself, making connections, and having that uninterrupted quiet time for putting your words on paper. I went to VONA in 2004, so I can personally vouch for the quality of that program and the great relationships I developed. And I have friends who have attended Hurston/Wright and Squaw Valley... so I can vouch indirectly for those. Anyways...

Happy Thursday. Wow, it's Thursday already?!?!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Globes. Time. Tuesday.

So I think it's kinda cool that LGBT-focused art dominated the Golden Globe Awards this year. Brokeback Mountain. Transamerica. Capote. Now... the picture will be complete when art about LGBT folks of color gets critical raves, recognition, and awards in both mainstream and targeted organizations. That will be awesome.

Now, I actually didn't watch the awards last night. But it's on TIVO, and I'll get to the show... well, to watching the Red Carpet arrivals and who's wearing what... later today.

I was out watching the new Queen Latifah and LL Cool J film,
Last Holiday. It's cute. Like it's not bad. It's not going to be the headliner at next year's Golden Globes. But it's a nice film. For family. For a date. For a date with family. Whatever. :-)

Speaking of dates... was listening to
KJLH Cliff and The Hometeam this morning... and today's topic was dating and doing time...

Picture it... you meet the man of your (Saturday night) dreams, you exchange numbers and MySpace pages, you arrange for a date, and in the course of normal, getting-to-know-you conversation on Sunday, he tells you he's done time (behind bars)... and, oh, could you pass the hot sauce. Would that influence your decision to date him or not? So I'm asking you the same thing...

Well, back to the grind. It's so hard getting into a Tuesday schedule after a long weekend. But that means the weekend is coming that much sooner!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Weekend Browsing

Rainy Saturday in L.A., and I'm spending the day in one of the chain bookstores... getting a bunch of magazines because I'm gonna lounge around the rest of the day.

But the latest Black Issues Book Review is great for those interested in the business state of black books, and also for those aspiring authors looking to see the black/African American "who's who" of the publishing industry... the folks behind the scenes.

Before magazine browsing, I checked out D-Place site... I love the site, and the latest entry is about some black films from the past that might be worth checking out again... especially on wintery afternoons like this.

Of course, Hoodworld and Most Proper are fun browsing... might get you in the mood for a fun Saturday night flirt session.

Rod and Keith and Rashid will give you some good conversation topics for that Saturday night flirt session.

Oh, uh... back to literary world and writing... Buzz, Balls, Hype and this entry on writers and their internet addictions will give you some good reading.

Happy browsing... Oh wow, the sun is shining now.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Sunshine, Happiness, and Sleeping With The Enemy

Yeah, so I'm the first to admit that I sometimes get carried away with my love of pop culture... Project Runway, NBA and Detroit Pistons, books, and boys, blah blah blah.

But I'm also socially conscious to a certain extent, and this whole Judge Alito and Supreme Court thing is kinda scary. I mean, they train and prep these folks to look "moderate" and middle of the road, but the fact that this one person could sway the court to the far, extreme, God Squad right is something we should all be concerned with. But then the cynical side of me says... there's nothing that can be done anyway, but talk about it and be concerned.

I mean we're talking privacy, women's right to choose their OWN health options, and issues related to people of color. What's big to me, but is getting blown off, is this whole Concerned Alumni of Princeton thing, where this group of so-called concerned alumns joined together to fight the university's admission of women and people of color. It's surprising that people think that someone's views on institutional diversity say nothing about how they'll make decisions. Everything we think and don't say affect the decisions we make.

I've known folks like this. Went to undergrad with a bunch of them in Missouri, while I was busy trying to be "the safe/nice black guy" on campus, who said they believed in equality and "diversity" just as long as those equal and diverse voices agreed with everything they said and believed. (On another note, I don't know if any of you played "the safe/nice black guy" or "the safe/nice anybody" in undergrad, but thank God I've grown and learned... what's your experience???)

Anyway, I went to this great discussion last night by artists and writers (Jervey Tervalon, Erin Aubry Kaplan, Mark Broyard) whose roots are in the New Orleans diaspora. And while they have mixed feelings about the future of their city, they also believe the tide is turning... and that we will see "nice" government come back, that the so-called "American Dream" is just a fantasy ready to evaporate, and that we'll see people get their heads out of the American Idol/Dance With Stars/Brangelina sand once they realize all the "not nice" things they've missed while in the sunshine and happiness, infotainment fog these past few years.

So not saying that everyone has to be concerned about every single social issue, but concern about some would be nice. I mean, they're ready to turn New Orleans back into party town again (i.e. the President's statements on the visit this week that it's just like the N.O. he used to know and like)... and we just can't forget what the party line is trying to make us forget.

Back to books and boys and pop culture on another day :-)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Start Big Things With Your Writing Career: VONA Summer Workshops

So a lot of folks talk to me about their writing and publishing aspirations... and I do whatever I can to help them find the resources they need to work on their dreams.

This opportunity -- the VONA (Voices of Our Nation) summer writing workshops -- could be a great one to look into.

It takes place last week of June and/or first week of July (so you can plan your San Francisco Pride visit around it), and I found it to be one of the most supportive workshops for valuing the voices of people of color, women, and the LGBT community. I participated in summer 2004 under the guidance of Gail Tsukiyama. I stayed for a week, but could have opted for two.

I know a lot of people want to do big things in 2006... and participating in VONA summer writing workshops could be the beginning of something big if your aspirations lean toward writing and publishing. And the best part... is getting stunning views like this to look at every day from the University of San Francisco campus!

Goodbye Minneapolis: You're Gonna Make It After All

So I was told no visit to Minneapolis would be complete without seeing this... the Mary Tyler Moore statue.

So, just hours before hitting the airport I went in search of, and found, Miss Mary in front of Marshall Fields department store in downtown Minneapolis. Uh, and I don't do a good Mary, so you won't see that shot. However, you can sing along to the theme song: You're Gonna Make It After All.

But anyway, Minneapolis is a nice place. Low crime, low temps, low cost of real estate... in the up-and-coming trendy, open-minded neighborhood, you can find a nice 3 or 4 bedroom, with huge front and backyard, for under $200,000. Something that is next to impossible to find in L.A. You won't even find a one-room shack in a toxic dump site for under $500K in L.A... for real, for real.

Now, granted you'll have to make some adjustments... snow and ice... I wasn't prepared and had to borrow some gloves and scarves. And, if you like your brown and black people in large numbers... well, it's something to think about if moving to the Twin Cities, 'cause on the surface there don't seem to be a lot.

However, I did find some pockets. There's a cool spot in the black neighborhood in St. Paul, called Golden Thyme Coffee Cafe (921 Selby) where I met some cool people. Really cool and cute people. My friends own the new LGBT-friendly coffeehouse, Isabel's, at 42nd and Cedar in Minneapolis. Ate some authentic Mexican food at Pepitos. At City Hall, I saw where all the black and brown folks work. And... hmmm, nah... forget it. Oh, and I met Mrs. Marge Pederson, and she wants you all to stop by and say hello sometime.

And at my event on Tuesday evening at the Minnesota AIDS Project, it was nice to see a wide diversity of people. Close to a hundred folks came out. And I got to hear a lot about how black and brown LGBT folks deal with "Minnesota Nice". The folks at Minnesota AIDS Project are so nice, so cool, so fun... they, along with my friends I knew there already are making me think about a move.

Or at least a visit during Pride Season this June, where at least I won't have to dress like this. :-)
(I'm standing on the banks of the Mississippi River in the pic... yeah, I didn't know it started all the way up in Minnesota either...)

Monday, January 09, 2006

Minnesota Nice

I'm loving Minneapolis. Snow, cold temps, ice and all, this L.A. boy is liking this place. Everyone is so nice... my friends say it's Minnesota nice... the proper thing to do.

Been hanging out with two friends. One from grad school, who has been trying to get me to move here for years. One from undergrad, who has been saying I'm "too delicate and L.A." to withstand life in the great north country.

Either way, since it's a hub for Northwest Airlines I may be back here for a few more visits (not expensive to fly here)... the undergrad friend is/was someone special to me WAY back in the day. There's a story... but that's what novels are for... story telling. It's just funny how some things don't seem to change with time... but this isn't the Ashley-Victor-Nikki, Young & Restless history hour. It's Simply Fred Smith :-)

Looking forward to more good times in Minneapolis these next few days.

Friday, January 06, 2006

You'll Never Find...

...Another singer as good as this one, Lou Rawls, who passed today (Friday).

I liked Lou Rawls' music, mainly because my mom and dad used to play his music when I was a kid... and because it's good music. Period.

About three years ago, I was with some friends at a casino in Laughlin, Nevada, and we saw Lou Rawls walking through the space, being friendly, talking to everyone... like he was just a regular everyday kinda guy. It was cool.

And it was cool that he led the United Negro College Fund telethon every year.

We lost another good one today.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Odds and Ends

Detroit's "hip-hop" mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick gets sworn in for a second term.

Many folks in Detroit area are renting out their homes for the upcoming Super Bowl in Detroit.

Detroit Pistons are rocking. Best record in the league as of today (25-4) and celebrating 100 consecutive sell-out games at home.

New Black Queer Studies anthology, edited by E. Patrick Johnson at Northwestern University. Sounds great.... go support. They're doing a symposium and book launch at Northwestern later in January. Check out the NU website for information.

Have you seen the film Transamerica yet? Looks good. I hear Felicity Huffman rocks as the lead character. Let us know what you think (without giving away major plot points).

Got a lot of e-mails suggesting I should visit the Mall of America and Lucia's for Sunday brunch while in Minneapolis this weekend.

Kori Chambers is a new news anchor in Detroit. We dig his anchoring.

Charles Pugh, another news anchor in Detroit (FOX 2 Detroit), is a childhood friend and immensely popular in Detroit. Glad I got to see him in anchor action while on holiday.

We also dig Andrew Humphrey, a popular weatherman in Detroit.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Have Our Books Become Like Our Music?

This book on the left is one of my favorites of all time.

Erasure, by Percival Everett, is a novel that chronicles a fiction writer, who happens to be black, and his struggle with the state of black books. If you're a writer, or an avid reader, I strongly recommend you read this novel. It is funny. It is sad. It says a lot about where and how readers and some say the industry views fiction by writers who happen to be black. I wrote a blog entry about Percival Everett back in October 2005.

With that in mind...

Over the holidays, I visited a number of bookstores to buy books, sign books, and see what's new on the shelves.

I noticed that every "Black" or "African American" fiction section (which is another commentary in itself -- black fiction section and everybody else's fiction section, i.e. general fiction) is quite colorful. Especially the covers that are facing outward. The sections are filled with salacious covers, scantily clad models, some guns, some shiny cars, street elements, etc... Much more colorful than the other parts of the bookstores I visited over holiday. Talked with a few bookstore employees on their thoughts, just to see what's selling and what's up, and the consensus is: The titles are selling... BIG TIME!

In today's New York Times, author Nick Chiles, shares an
opinion piece on the whole "Street Lit"/"Black Lit" dichotomy in fiction today. It's very interesting reading. Good for discussion. Found it while browsing during lunchtime.

Other writers have discussed the influences of hip-hop, or so-called street culture, on literature. Many do it silently, though, and among tightly-lipped circles where you know your trust/confidence/opinions won't be broken. It's a sensitive subject among writers.

On one hand, many say the fact that these books are extremely popular means a new segment of folks are reading... maybe folks who wouldn't normally pick up a book for fun.

On the other hand, many say these books aren't holding up the strong tradition of writing and literature that we come from. They say these books wouldn't fly during the Harlem Renaissance.

Either way, there are strong opinions. What do you think? Have our books become, like our parents and elders often say, like music... where it's not like they used to make? Or is just like any other area of consumer goods -- some good, some not-so-good, and you sort through what you like or don't like?


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

On The Road To Minneapolis

I'll be heading to Minneapolis this weekend.

I'll be speaking at the Minneapolis AIDS Project Allan Spear Forum on Tuesday, January 10, 2006 at 7 pm (a week from today), but will be heading in earlier to see two old friends -- one from undergrad and one from grad school.

Surprisingly, Minneapolis is one major city I've never visited. So... I need a bit of info on what to do, where to go, etc... I'm sure my friends will show me around, but I'd like to be armed with a bit of info myself.

At the Minneapolis AIDS Project I'll be talking a little about my novel, Down For Whatever, but also about some of the tangent topics that have come from the book: ethnicity and class issues within the LGBT community, health, labels, sex, and others. Should be a fun time.

So if you have friends in the Minneapolis area, please send them out next Tuesday. I've heard there's a few black LGBT book clubs there, some of whom have read DFW.

Or if you've been to the area, let me know some of the places you've visited while there.


Monday, January 02, 2006


Happy New Year!

I know it's not summer. It doesn't even feel like summer in L.A., which I know everyone thinks is hot and sunny all year long.

NOT. It's raining. Cloudy. Windy. Cold (if you call 55 cold). Now I know you all might say Californians complain about the littlest things... but our winter rainstorms are no joke.

And so that's what this image of Central Park that I took in summer 2005 is all about... no matter how bad or low things might seem (and this is just weather), the sun will shine again.

OK. So New Year's Day (Sunday) I lived the life of a hermit, though I had a nice invitation to a brunch. I made some black eye peas, greens, macaroni and cheese... and red kool aid. Started and finished reading this book, Shady, that came in the mail while I was gone.

Shady, by Blaine Teamer, is the funniest, laugh-out-loud book I have ever read. It's self-published, the author lives in L.A., and I hope more people will find this book. It's so freaking funny... a great way to start the new year... with laughs.

OK. Back to hermit life. I didn't travel with a laptop this time out, nor with a USB memory stick. It was a first, and it was weird. I had to remember all my favorite blogs by memory... didn't do any writing on computer. Did a lot by hand, one afternoon while waiting in a coffeehouse/bookstore in Birmingham, MI while my sister got her hair done. You can get a lot done waiting for someone to get their hair done.

It was a first... well, a first for a while... doing writing long hand. It feels different. Way different than writing on a computer. Like getting your hands in the dirt while gardening, rather than hiring someone to do your lawn. You really feel like you're doing something.

Anyway, I know a lot of you are into writing. Or made resolutions to do more writing. So I'll be first to link you up to some great advice from various sites I came across.

Tayari Jones on writing resolutions. Keith Boykin on writing and publishing. Paperback Writer on writing resolutions. I even offered some advice a few weeks ago... Writing Resolutions.

Oh... and something one of my students told me regarding his resolution and life drama... "It's not what happens to you. It's how you react that causes problems." The only drama I like is in books... but I thought I'd pass that kernel of wisdom along.

Next on the reading list: Some Things I Never Thought I'd Do by Pearl Cleage.

Happy New Year. Hope you're experiencing, or will experience, many firsts.

The sun will shine again!