Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Writing Residencies

Learned about this from Tayari Jones site.

The Gibraltar Point International Artist Residency Program. Picture it: a month in Toronto, with accommodations, studio space and meals, at no cost, where you can work on your project.

If you want to stay state side, and go West Coast, try the VONA Voices Summer Writing Workshops. This program, at University of San Francisco, is aimed at cultivating the artistic voices of people of color. I did this a few summers ago and LOVED it.

There's also Squaw Valley Community of Writers in the summer, near Lake Tahoe. I've heard great things from Ibarionex and Reyna.

OK. Kinda early to be thinking about summer residencies. But I know a lot of folks set their resolutions to write about this time... and committing to apply for a residency is one step to making that resolution a reality.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Making of Dr. Truelove

Haven't picked this one up yet, but the cover just drew me in.

The Making of Dr. Truelove, written by Derrick Barnes.

It's a young adult novel, featuring a black male high school student as the main protagonist and voice, who's a jazz and math expert by day, and a wannabe ladies' man by... whenever he can try and be one.

I've been into YA fiction lately-- Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon, Haters by Alisa Valdes, Gentle's Holler by Kerry Madden. And I've been hearing that it's THE hot market in fiction, especially YA fiction of color. But, of course, the hot markets shouldn't sway your writing. Write what you write best.

And the rest will follow.


(Photo by Ibarionex Perello)
One of the major feedback items my editor and agent give me when we're in the revising process is for me to give more backstory.

That is... show some of the past of particular character's actions that have made him/her react in the way they are today. Or expand and flesh out a character so that the current scene you're writing has some context. It can be done with a memory of a past conversation, showing a past event and how the event establishes a pattern of behavior, or taking time to show how a current event or setting came to be. In a way, it's almost like daytime drama, when the writers use flashbacks to show how or why characters are the way they are.

Backstory is important and an area I admit I struggle with in my writing. Growing up in a tv/MTV/microwave age, I tend to want things to happen quick. I want to get straight to the action. Readers, on the other hand, want to take time to understand the story and characters they're investing time to read.

Authors, too, have a backstory. Yesterday, I mentioned that Bebe Moore Campbell was one of the writers from the early 1990s class of black authors, who inspired me and made me believe I could one day write and have a novel published. And I thought it would be fitting to share a little of my backstory with you...

"I’ve always wanted to write novels. But I never felt like I had any role models to look toward who’d say, "Yes. You. Frederick Smith. Black kid. Detroit. You can write and publish a novel.

Yes, there were the proverbial and heavy role models such as Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Richard Wright, and James Baldwin, all of whom were part of my high school English class repertoire. And as well liked, revered, and respected as these legends were for their writing style and subject matter, I always longed for something a little more accessible. Something that spoke to the experiences I saw among my peers and neighbors. Middle class. Post civil rights era. Smart. Not in trouble. With a little more access and privilege than the generation before us. The kind of black and brown folks the media didn’t/don’t often highlight on the six o’clock news..."

For the rest of my backstory, visit M.J. Rose's Backstory site, where you can read the backstories of many authors.

It's nice to see what, who, and how some of your favorite authors were inspired to enter the literary world.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bebe Moore Campbell.

Just read that bestselling author Bebe Moore Campbell has died. (NY Times article).

She wrote many novels that I've enjoyed, such as Brothers and Sisters, 72-Hour Hold, Your Blues Ain't Like Mine, and others.

I got to meet Bebe Moore Campbell once, very briefly, during the West Hollywood Book Fair in Fall 2005. Very classy, intelligent, a great speaker, and someone I looked up to as a writer.

She's in that class of black writers from the early-to-mid 1990s, such as Terry McMillan, E. Lynn Harris, Eric Jerome Dickey, Connie Briscoe, who inspired and made me believe pursuing a literary career was possible.

Definitely made an impact.


OK. So we're having this problematic dialogue, it seems, around the country... about the use of the N-Word.

Problematic to me, because to me, no one should be using the N-Word period. White. Black. Latino. Asian. Kids with street cred. High-powered business people. Geeks. The elderly. Friends. Haters. The young. Enemies. Barbershop buddies. Whatever.

If people knew and really valued their history... it wouldn't even be a dialogue. Or a so-called "re-claiming" of the word. For what?

Anyways, been thinking about the whole resurgence of the dialogue since the Michael Richards N-Word outburst last week in L.A.

And there's some interesting online dialogue taking place at Keith Boykin's site on the incident and the use of the N-Word in the modern-day context. Jasmyne Cannick has a good column on the subject today.

This morning, read on Tayari Jones's site about the new article in latest Esquire Magazine, comparing "good" black people and "bad" black people... and the article actually uses the full N-Word in the headline. No astericks, abbreviations, nothing. You just have to read Tayari's site for more info.

Last year, Clay Cane's site did a great post on the use of the N-Word in today's context called, Embodying White Supremacy in Our Own Communities. Check out his analysis.

Earlier this year, we held a classroom discussion on the N-Word, and screened the recently-produced documentary, The N Word: Divided We Stand, as a catalyst for classroom discussion. The film carefully balances the dialogue and gives historical and modern context around the word's use. For many of my students, born in the mid-to-late 1980s, and with NO fleeting memories or understanding of life before civil rights legislation, that historical context was enough to make them question their use and acceptance of the word.
That's a start. Your thoughts?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Simplify Your Holidays

Mood Tune: Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt (YouTube)

There's a book I keep on my shelf that I always pull out to look at as we head into December: Simplify Your Christmas by Elaine St. James.

Lots of interesting ideas, including ways to cut back or substitute meaningful traditions for store-bought ones. The one suggestion I like is looking at our personal motives -- Why do we shop, instead of make? Do we give out of obligation or to hold on to someone? Do we do the trip back home just because we're supposed to, and not not because we want to? Do we let guilt drive our holidays?

It can be a fun and stressful time of year. My personal stressor -- dealing with the numerous holiday party invitations. I like being invited. I hate feeling like I have to choose... or having more than one party to attend in a night or weekend. My buddy Eric B. and I were talking about how already every weekend until New Year's is scheduled. Kinda crazy.

What are your holiday stressors? Or ways you've simplified?

And of course, this is taking the MAJOR assumption (that we tend to do in the U.S.) that everyone does celebrate something during the month of December.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Give and Gift Again

Some things are good the second time around... A movie, so that you can catch and recite your favorite lines. A former lover (if you're single), for old times sake... and just because. A second piece of chocolate... because it tastes good.

And at this time of year, a more serious topic of second time around.

To gift or re-gift?

I admit. I don't re-gift. However, I do supplement original gift packages with books I've read and received. And I always attach a note with the book, saying that I read it and thought the receiver would enjoy it. My library is huge and I want to spread the literary joy I've gotten. But I always give original gifts... or nothing at all until I have time to get an original gift.

But apparently, re-gifting is getting major press and buzz this year more than ever. Bad economy? Environmentalists and recyclers at work? Just plain frugality?

Check out these posts on re-gifting:, The Frugal Duchess, Dumb Little Man, and if you need some sound advice on keeping your finances in order, read the work of economist and scholar, Dr. Julianne Malveaux.

And for fun gift wrap and other things, check out Anne Taintor website. Carry on.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Dozen Roses

Mood Tune: A Dozen Roses by Monica (YouTube)

I'm really digging the new song by Monica, from her new CD The Makings of Me.

I swear I've repeated it like 872 times this weekend in my car and on my iTunes... in between hearing it on KJLH here in L.A.
Can't buy all of you roses, but can send you a dozen in cyber-world for all your support and for buying books.

Is it possible to overdose on a song like A Dozen Roses? Nah, I don't think so. But back to writing :-)

What It Feels Like For A Girl

Mood Tune: What It Feels Like For A Girl by Madonna (YouTube)

Still reading Haters by Alisa Valdes Rodriguez, and hope to be finished by the end of the weekend. Loving the novel... a fictional tale of super rich kids, set in a super diverse area of SoCali, and with all the super meanness that goes on between the haves and have-nots, the regular kids and the popular ones (in this book, the haters).

Had a good conversation with one of my former students who is now a high school teacher for L.A. Unified. She was telling me about all the hating that goes on toward young women who stand up for themselves and don't take stereotypical gender play in school.

She showed me a flier for a kid's birthday party that she confiscated. No rules for the boys to attend. But for the girls... no skirts below the knee, no "granny panties" (I've learned so that when popping to reggaeton and hip hop, the thongs are visible), and no "haters" (but misspelled with 2 T's, which means, young women who won't talk back or stand up for themselves when boys feel them up or objectify them.) They basically want video vixens in the flesh in their classrooms and at the high school birthday party. She planned to talk with the parents about the invitation.

Pretty interesting stuff these days in high school. Makes me glad I'm not a parent at this time, though I "surrogate" many at the university, and I have young girl cousins. Makes you really wonder about the state of how boys and girls in high school...


Friday, November 17, 2006

Money. Finances. Future.

Mood Tune: Paid in Full by Eric B and Rakim (YouTube)

I got inspired to write about this because of Den's blog entry, Financially Fit, and Dumb Little Man's blog entry on 15 Debt Secrets. And in a minute, I'm going to share how I lost $25,000+ recently.

So one thing I've been trying to be better at is the whole managing money thing. It wasn't exactly dinner table conversation when I was growing up, other than "go to school, get a degree, get a good job... with benefits."

I've managed to always have good jobs (with benefits) and have never been unemployed. Lately, I added novel writing to my jobs. I've always had a check coming in. However, I never really got schooled on a lot of money issues that go beyond getting the paycheck, such as: saving for an unemployment crisis, saving for retirement, managing credit, saving for a house, and the ever-popular handling credit cards.

I'm not a financial planner. But most work places have a financial planner assigned to the organization, who you can usually meet with for free. I did, a few years back, and got put on a plan that I hated at first... but now I'm happy I did.

Well, I'm not good at the unemployment crisis saving since I'm gambling I'll never be unemployed... or without a book contract. I do save for book-publicity expenses. I'm very good at the retirement saving, since I'm gambling that I won't have kids to take care of me. I've learned how to manage credit and cards, and learned how to delay gratification, and my credit score has risen dramatically from then to now. And this year, mostly due to something my father left me, I was able to acquire a couple rental properties in the midwest.

Now, I wish I'd learned and acted on these areas in my early or mid 20s. And so for all you blogger brothas and sistas out there who are in your early 20s, it might be a good idea to start setting some financial goals for yourself.

Actually, the wake up call for me was this: I loved, Loved, LOVED clubbing and going out in my 20s. I still do, but I look for freebies and guest lists and all-inclusive parties and open bars when possible, lol. But back to the 20s. I did a rough estimate that from age 21 to 26, I might have spent $100 at minimum (sometimes more) a weekend on clubbing (not including pre-dinners, movies, or going-out clothes), at roughly 50 weeks per year... That's $5,000 a year on nightlife (entries, valet, drinks) alone. Now multiply that by 5 years... I gave club owners at minimum $25,000 during those years in my early 20s. And when you factor in paying for other people, or holiday nights that cost more, or bartender tips. We're talking minimally, $25,000. That was my early 20s. Now I'm in my early 30s.

I always joke about that time, $25,000 and no husband to show for it. Not that going out is all about meeting Mr. Right, but if that search for Mr. Right is keeping you in debt and away from owning property or having a decent retirement -- because let's face it, if you're LGBT more than likely you'll be taking care of yourself in your 60s and 70s-- is the fun worth the financial sacrifice?

Anyway, I'm no expert. Far from it. I still worry about coming up short each month like everyone else. And I'm not against clubs or going out either. We need our social outlets and a lot of our black-owned and black-run clubs are dependent on our patronage. It's about perspective. I know a lot of my brothas and sistas struggle with money, finances, fun, and the future. And I hope that we all start to take it a little bit more seriously... for our community's future and sake. Maybe 2007 will be the year.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My Husband's Girlfriend.

Mood Tune: Blow The Whistle by Too Short (YouTube).

Hmmmmm. Uh, I've met couples who have temporary and permanent "arrangements." Whole 'nother story and blog, huh?

My Husband's Girlfriend is the latest novel by Cydney Rax, former Detroiter (like me) and now Houstonian, who runs a very successful site on the latest and greatest books. Book Remarks.

It just released in November 2006, and is getting mentioned in the December 2006 Essence Magazine, so I imagine a lot of us will be reading this over the holidays.

The gist of My Husband's Girlfriend: a temporarily sexually mismatched couple -- he needs it, she's not feeling it at the moment. They make an arrangement. He can get it twice a month, blow the whistle style only, but he can't get emotionally attached or fall in like/love. From the book title, you can imagine he does.

I did read Cydney's first novel, My Daughter's Boyfriend, which came out a couple years back. Muy hot. Sometimes you can't help who you fall for... or can you?

Let the drama begin...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Call Me Mister. Scholarship Program.

Do you know any black males who are high school seniors who want to, or are willing to, go to college in South Carolina... for free?

There is a consortium of black colleges and non-black colleges in South Carolina looking for black male students aspiring to be teachers, and will send them to universities/college for 4 years.

Check out the information at Call Me Mister website. As I get more, I'll share with you.


Mood Tune: Supersonic by JJ Fad (YouTube)

Looking for something to nose around into? Well, if you're in L.A. the first weekend of December, you gotta check out the Fusion: LGBT People of Color Film Festival.

It'll feature some of the best and brightest shorts and feature films by and about people of color who happen to be part of the fam. Looking forward to quite a few of the films.

Anyways, off to a lovely day of meetings with committees and students and some phone calls to East Coast about book stuff.

But in my mind, I'll be dancing and humming along to Supersonic. I just hope them big everLASTING ears don't overhear me singing!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Anthropornography: The Sexual Politics of Meat

Mood Tune: Gitty Up by Salt-n-Pepa (YouTube)

How does a person become a piece of meat? Is meat consumption tied to physical and sexual violence in society?

Carol J. Adams answers these questions by finding hidden meanings in the culture around us. From advertisements to T-shirts, from billboards to menus, from matchbook covers to comics, images of women and animals are merged — with devastating consequences.

Thus, the term anthro-pornography, no dash.

Got an email about Carol J. Adams making an appearance in Los Angeles soon, discusssing her books, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory and The Pornography of Meat.

From what I see on her website... all the connections between meat consumption, feminist theory, pornography, and advertising make sense. Of course I have more investigating to do. And I also have to think more about how my meat-eating contributes to the conditions of the world.

But that's the cool thing about being at a college campus... you can investigate, satisfy curiosities, wonder about things no one else seems to care or think about... and you're a better person for just having your mind ponder the shades of gray.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Mood Tune: Pumps and a Bump by MC Hammer (YouTube). Don't ask.

Anyhoo, lazy loungy weekend after Friday's Brand New Heavies concert.
But today, after lunching in Pasadena, stopped by one of the chain bookstores to see what's new. As if I need another book to read. The to-read pile is dozens high already.

But good thing I browsed. Found a new one by a recent favorite.

A novel about a single mother in Arizona, who has a deadbeat ex-husband and a young daughter. Already read the first chapter, and in true Darnella Ford writing style, she keeps it heavy and humorous at the same time.

If you haven't heard of her, check out her website. And then also check out her previous books -- Rising and Crave. Crave, I read a couple years ago, and I loved it.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Brand New Heavies Do L.A.

Mood Tune: Never Stop by The Brand New Heavies (YouTube)

And I was there while The Brand New Heavies did their thing last night at The El Rey Theatre in the Wilshire District.

My new best friend Eric B., his significant friends I got to meet, and I did boys night out for the concert and it was a lot of fun.

Then at some point I glanced over like five people to my right, and was happily surprised to see my writer friend and inspiration, Tayari Jones, at the edge of the stage watching the show. We caught up, did some writer gossip, talked about our love of Brand New Heavies, and then took some photos. They're posted on her site and blog entry on BNH.

Great night... and a great way to end the week after my own personal busy-ness, and some highs, lows, and losses in the news.

I was able to dig out my Brand New Heavies CDs out storage. And now I'm channeling N'Dea... well not quite, but you get the picture. :-)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Mood Tune: The Boss by Diana Ross (YouTube)

While I'm on this hiatus between books -- it's done, just awaiting its turn to be published -- I've been keeping myself busy with a lot of fun projects.

I keep a day job where I get to shape young minds with my progressive agenda (muah hah hah, reds!), I facilitate fiction workshops or do talks or sit on panels when asked, and I judge pageants like I did a few weeks ago. And I write.

But nothing compares, or is as gratifying as the latest project that I've been working on.

I am a documentary producer.

Since this summer I've been researching a group of women -- black, Chicana, lesbian, academics -- who happen to be feminists, and who pushed for the founding of a Women's Resource Center in the East L.A./L.A. area in the early-to-mid 1970s. It's called "A Place of Our Own." It's 22 minutes long.

Tons of work... leafing through old OLD newspapers to find stories and sources, working on Google to see if they're still alive, interviewing people, editing, selecting music, financing, setting historical context, blah blah blah.

Anyway, I got to see a preview of the final cut yesterday and I was SO excited and kinda moved to tears... seeing a finished product come from something that was just an idea I had less than six months ago. It's slick, professional, and a moving and compelling story.

And while it may not make any film festivals or win any awards, I'm excited that the people in SoCali who get to see it when it debuts this week will see how they themselves can make their own history... or should I say HERstory.

Guess Who I Saw Today? Well, um, Last Night...

Mood Tune: Guess Who I Saw Today? by Nancy Wilson (YouTube)

I always liked that song by Nancy Wilson... it's a nice, classy, and clever way of letting him... or her... know that you know what they're doing behind your back.

But anyways, I skipped watching election coverage to go see author Clarence Nero (Three Sides to Every Story) speak at In the Meantime Mens Group in L.A.

Very good event and worthwhile. And so funny how I ended up there.

During the day, while browsing blogs in between meetings and events, I came across Clarence's name and book at least a half-dozen times. I was impressed with the list of literary endorsements he'd gotten for a debut novel, and I wondered how did he secure such a lineup. I figured I'd have to wait until next summer while doing my own book tour work to meet him and find out.

Well, Trent Jackson called me and asked if I was going to In The Meantime to see this new author. And then my new best friend Eric B. called me to ask the same thing. There was no question. I was going.

You can read all about the book on Clarence's website. It's getting good reviews and seems to be doing well in the market. And the sexy cover and urban marketing angle are enhanced by delving into issues of race, class, and gender. It's a keeper. I bought a copy. And I'll be reading it soon.

Anyway, I'm glad I missed election news (good news for the Dems... yay!) for a chance to see a fellow author and friends.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Yeah, we talk about bacon, boys, and books a lot on this blog.

But Tuesday, November 7, you have to go vote if you're eligible. Skip work, go in late, leave early, re-schedule your carpool, whatever.

Oh, and make sure you have your photo ID, comfortable shoes, and the voter guide sent to your house -- in case they try to pull a Florida or Ohio or Jim Crow on you.

A LOT is at stake, especially if we want to have an opportunity to challenge what's been happening the past six years.

And besides, Nancy Pelosi is from California, she's fierce, she's progressive, and it'll be great to create history by making her the first woman Speaker of the House.

OK. That's all. Back to whatever you were doing.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Seduced by Bacon

Mood Tune: Gimme by Jill Scott (YouTube)

Geez, if it were only that easy.

But seriously, it's Sunday morning. I'm ready for breakfast/brunch before doing my work. And getting me in the mood... for food, is this new book.
Seduced by Bacon: America's Favorite Indulgence.

I'm such a foodwhore, that on days when I say I'm doing only turkey sausage or turkey bacon, when I see/smell that hot sizzling pork bacon on someone else's plate, I give up the pretense of being a healthy eater... and find myself seduced by bacon.

When I was a kid, my dad used to wake/make us get up at 6:30 in the morning before school for a full breakfast that he made -- eggs, grits, orange juice... and bacon. The smell of frying bacon in the house always was an incentive for me to forego a few extra minutes of sleep.

Weird... how the smell of bacon brings back memories... of childhood, summer camp, that "morning after," or of there being nothing else in the house that's cheap or quick to make.

I guess we're all seduced by bacon at some point or another in our lives.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Betty Going Bold?

Mood TV: Golden Girls Rose Nyland tells "Great Herring War Story" and "Sonia Klinginghoffer Story" (YouTube)

Most of us loved her as the clueless Rose Nyland on Golden Girls.

Before that, some loved her as the devious Sue Ann Nivens on the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Now, some of my fellow soapwatchers are sharing that Betty White may be joining the cast of The Bold and The Beautiful as the mother of Stephanie Forrester, the Queen B of the show. And apparently, Betty White's character, will be even MORE of a Queen B than Stephanie. I love it... the war of the Queen B's.

Rumor or fact? I can't prove. But whether it's true or not, just the idea of Betty White joining one of my favorite daytime dramas is enough to make my Friday.


One of my favorite filmmakers is Spain's Pedro Almodovar, who is bringing another wonderful project to the big screen. It opens today.


Film synopsis: Three generations of women survive the east wind, fire, insanity, superstition and even death by means of goodness, lies and boundless vitality.

It stars Penelope Cruz, Lola Duenas, Carmen Maura, and Blanca Portillo. And there's already Academy Awards buzz about the film and performances.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ready. Set. Write.

It's that time of year again.

National Novel Writing Month, where those who dare try to finish writing a 50,000 word novel in a month... the month of November.

If you dare, that's about 6 pages a day of writing this month to reach the goal of NaNoWriMo.

To help, Dumb Little Man provides 50 Tools That Can Increase Your Writing Skills.

Good luck.