Friday, April 27, 2007

Top Down Kinda Day

It's beautiful today in Southern California. It should be 80, no clouds, and no smog or humidity. Yay!

It's the perfect top down kinda day. Whether it's this beautiful new VW product that I've got my eye on... the VW EOS. Or a beautiful top down kinda dude like on Hoodsworld blog :-)

Hope it's a good weekend for all of you.

And... should I get the EOS or what? I'm a VW kinda guy. Always have been...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hey, Could You Read This For Me?

In addition to being asked, "Is this (fiction) book about you?", another frequent question authors get is "Hey, could you read this for me?"

I totally understand. Those aspiring to be published want to learn, and get feedback, from those who have been published. Not that we're experts -- or I should speak for myself.

I remember back in the day, l-o-n-g before I was picked up by a publisher, I was a real Samantha Jones/Blanche Devereaux with wanting SOMEone, ANYone to read my work. It was like "Ring the dinner bell... spread the pages... come and get it." And I was surprised when people/writers I thought would salivate at reading my early work... didn't.

Now that I'm on the flip side of the game, I understand... to a degree. On the practical side, while I love mentoring and helping others with their aspirations, time doesn't always permit me to work on my writing and read/feedback others' work. On the "afraid of lawsuits" side, I don't want to get sued by anyone who might allege that I've copied any work they've let me read/feedback.

There are exceptions. And these tips might help those wanting others to read and feedback their work.

I do read and feedback the work of people who are in my writers groups -- whether they are paid or unpaid writers groups. I also share with the people in these groups. In these groups, trust is built. We understand that as writers, we're there to help each others' craft. We don't, for the most part, have aspirations to borrow from others' work. That's because our professional integrity and "saving face" are at stake.

So I'd advise trying to find a writers group, paid or unpaid, class or non-class setting, where peers can critique and read each other in a mutually supportive environment. Local independent bookstores are great places to find posting for such groups.

I also do read and feedback the work of personal writer friends or students with whom I've developed a trusting relationship. I also share with these people at times. Because I do believe in the mentoring aspect, helping out a peer writer, developing relationships.

It might be good to go to book fairs, reading/signing events at bookstores, or other related events to meet others who share the same interests in writing and being published.

I also read work referred to be by a personal friend or student.

A complete stranger... that's a weird situation. Have to put my "crazy-dar" on to see -- always have to keep the "crazy-dar" on. But published writers, for the most part, are generally advised by their publishers and agents not to read any work at all.

I have mixed feelings about aspiring writers posting their work at online sites, listserv groups, etc... I am on a few lists where people post their work for open feedback, and I cringe sometimes. Partially because the probability of the work being "borrowed" by others is high. Also, because you don't know people's motives in their critiques and feedback (is it to help you? or is it to tear you down so they feel good? are they bitter writers? do they even KNOW you and what you're trying to accomplish?).

I generally don't post any work online until it has been bought by the publisher, and generally that's an authorized excerpt -- the publisher has guidelines on how much can be posted online or excerpted by a magazine, reviewer, or my own website.

It's a tough dilemma. Writers, what are your thoughts?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

DL Comes Here!

Watch for The DL Chronicles coming to Here! television network the first week of May.

The show made its way through a number of film festivals and screenings the past couple years. Now, it will be a series on Here!

Check it out. Support. If your cable company doesn't get Here!, now is a good time to request it.

Congrats to Quincy and Deondray, the series creators.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Break In

My place got broken into last night.

Well, my garage, but still it's part of my place. Sometime between 8:30 and 10 pm. Weirdest feeling rolling up in your driveway and seeing the door wide open. Knowing someone has been in your place and stuff. Someone you don't know... or maybe.

I don't know or think anything valuable was stolen... I tended to use it more as storage for old videotape movies, books, hard copies of manuscripts, and albums/cassettes from the old days. Tons of albums strewn all over the floor.

The cops were nonchalant. Go figure. You'd think in a part of town where "nothing happens," that this type of incident would matter. Asked me, "what would you like to see done." I'm like, "Fingerprint. Take a report. Give me a copy. Anything besides shine your flashlight in the garage."

I parked on the street last night. Hardly got sleep. Thought I heard noises, footsteps on my walkway. Unnecessary paranoia. Needed a sleeping pill. Brought "valuables" with me to work. Just in case. Not that material goods are more valuable than life. Just important documents, papers, credit cards, keys.

Still... I see why grandparents and the elders always have that paranoia about their stuff... locking the house, double-checking windows, not wanting to be away too long from the house.

The ironic part.

During the 8:30 to 10 pm time I was being burglared, I was talking/counseling a friend who is dating/messing around with someone who is "this close" to trouble and a criminal life... warrants, possessiveness/jealousy, regular drinking and driving. He thinks it's cute, that the man will change. But I know crazy/trouble/intensity, and that this flirtation with danger is a formula for disaster.

I just hope something breaks in and that he doesn't end up losing more than a few days he could be with someone else. I hope I don't have to deal with any other break ins of this sort too.

No one deserves to have their trust or space violated.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Don't Go There Zone. Or Is It?

So we ALL know the rule: you don't date friends exes; you don't date exes friends.

Pretty simple and straightforward. But... are there times when you can go there? Like, is there a statute of limitations? Or what if it's not a deliberate act of deception that leads to you going there?

Not that I'm thinking of breaking the rule. But there are times when...

Like when a friend has thought about breaking up with someone, and me being the relationship optimist countered every negative comment the friend made with a positive one about the partner. Left me thinking (and kinda concluding) that maybe I might be attracted to the partner. But... didn't go there.

Or like when starting out with someone you think has potential for you, but then figuring out he would be PERFECT with a friend of yours. I've found that I'm quite a good audition/casting director. Once got a little jealous that the new match worked better than we did. But that's a good thing they're happy.

Or, when a friend discards a GOOD man like one would a used tissue, for some very (what you deem) silly reasons. Leaves you thinking: how could you dump someone when so many of us can't find ONE good man... and you leave a trail of broken hearts? Is that a time when one can go there?

So, we all know the rule is there to help us maintain good friend and family relationships. And for general good karma too.

But have you or someone you know gone there? Are you in a current romantic relationship because you or he went there? Do you have a friend or family member who always goes there with your partners? Have you lost a friend or family member because you or they went there?

I know we're all looking for the right side of the right bed in a relationship, but sometimes the bad or the wrong are just a phone call, church seat, idle glance, or keystroke away...

Friday, April 20, 2007

I Had An Abortion. Documentary.

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision this week on a woman's right to choose...

A new film I acquired for instructional use at the campus... I Had An Abortion.

Underneath the din of politicians posturing about "life" and "choice," beyond activists yelling about murder and rights, these are the stories of women who have had abortions. The documentary features 11 women, ages 21 to 85, telling their abortion experience.

It's being distributed by the Women Make Movies film distributor, a great organization I get most of the films I use for my students. WMM specializes in films by and about women. Information at the Speak Out agency, too.

A few weeks ago I used another film for instructional use, The Last Abortion Clinic. Some states, such as Mississippi, have only ONE health care facility devoted to educating women on their choices. After watching the film, I was amazed at how the majority born in 1987 and 1988 audience (mostly women) didn't think anything was wrong with their right to choose on their personal health, bodies, and well-being being challenged... because, in their opinion, the procedure is wrong. Period.

Just plain black and white. No gray. No critical thinking about the overall historical or gender significance of having the right to choose, regardless of if they'd use the option or not. The 1987/1988 women didn't seem to have a problem that their right to choose has generally been handled and legislated by men. That puzzles me.

Men don't carry the babies, so men shouldn't decide. Period. And those who want to discourage women from exercising their minds and choice, don't provide any financial, psychological, or professional options for the women they discourage from exercising their minds and choice... for ALL 21 years they're responsible for the baby. It's like, have the baby; we won't help you take care of the baby.

Anyway, if you're in a position to screen films and get people thinking, you might consider picking up the titles for instructional use in your organization or classes.

As well, if you care about women's rights, this would be a very good time for you to investigage where your presidential candidates stand on a woman's right to choose.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I know our thoughts and prayers are with the community at Virginia Tech right now. One of the first victims, apparently, was an African American R.A. (Resident Assistant). So sad. So tragic.

Ironically, the other day while flying back from Salt Lake City, I was talking with two of the other people who did the event with me about the subject of campus safety. In addition to being novelists, the other people who traveled with me also keep day jobs at universities in L.A. area.

We exchanged our stories of disgruntled students and the issue of campus safety. One currently has a threat around a grade change he won't make -- and the case (both the threat and the grade change demand) is going up the chain of command at the university. I don't have any current disgruntled students, though I do have a restraining order that expires this fall against someone who was deemed to pose a threat against my staff, me, and space. That's a bridge that will be crossed again in fall when it expires.

Anyway, we all agreed we think about safety all the time. How open (and empty) parking lots can be for an incident to happen. How accessible our offices can be, because as part of our jobs, we need to be accessible during office hours. How we have to "read" the mental health of every person we interact with in private and public settings on campus. How we never know what meds or mental health interventions students are taking or not taking to get them to what one would deem functional and rational.

So strange the world we live in. So sad that what many see as a fortress and shield from the "real world" can mirror the incidents of the "real world."

Monday, April 16, 2007


OK. Good news first. Though it won't be out until November, Right Side of the Wrong Bed is now available for PRE-order on Amazon. Check it out.

Next best news. So I won't be moving to Salt Lake City any time soon (I will visit though), but I did enjoy myself this weekend at the event sponsored by the University of Utah Ethnic Studies Program. Great turnout. Great questions. Thanks to Wilfred Samuels, Daryl Dowdell and crew for a wonderful time!

I could definitely tell that the black folks there need and want regular forums to get their opinions out and voices heard, because what started as a discussion about hip hop, black men, masculinity, and literature went to a lot of different places and topics that were very interesting. Everyone seems so happy in Salt Lake City, even when they have differing opinions. If you're an artist/writer of color, definitely put Salt Lake City on your roster. Initially, you may not think it's a spot, but the people of color there LOVE having us visit their city and will definitely support. (Marz... sorry, no major travel diary here, lol.)

OK. So back to intense. INTENSE.

I've met a couple of folks recently, who I thought should be considered for a leading role in my romantic life. But whoa! Intense. Like persistent calls, emails, texts every hour on the hour it seems. Intense. Like, despite my assertions that my weekly schedule is packed and that time is a rare commodity, insisting on scheduling a date after I've worked a 15-hour day. Intense. Like, the whole low self-esteem thing, saying they can't believe I would talk to or approach them -- and now I can't believe I did too. Intense. Like, thinking I forgot a phone number or email and leaving it with every message. That ever happen to you? Where someone is so intense and insistent that it kinda scares you to back off? I wonder what makes someone think you're a romantic lead after one conversation? Scares me. Too intense. Not everyone I meet. Just some.

But I am having a great Monday anyway. And hope you are too!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Thank You. No Kidding!

Yeah, I do indeed keep a blog. But my day job has kept me busy as Ugly Betty this week... always good. But busy.

Anyway, been re-reading this book Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See. It's a book I read a few years back before I became a published author. It's filled with wonderful and honest, first-person thoughts and sage advice from Carolyn See on life as a writer and a dreamer. Wonderful book for anyone interested in literary careers.

But there's a section in the book on dealing with compliments and criticism, and I've found it to be very helpful with not only comments on my books, but general comments in general.

The author recommends a simple "Thank You" response when someone goes on and on about how great they think you are. Many times we want to deflect or deny positive remarks from people. A simple "thank you" is enough and keeps the conversation going.

When dealing with negative remarks, criticism, hateratioon, the author recommends a simple "No kidding!" response. At first, I was like -- no way. But having respoded "no kidding!" a few times to obvious or subtle criticism, I've noticed it acknowledges the person, but puts the ball back in the criticizer's court and it gives them nothing to respond to.

After all, it's soooo not The Secret to engage in conversation about someone else's negative comments and energy.

Anyway, just remember -- Thank You and No Kidding! Makes life -- literary or otherwise -- a little simpler.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Pride Season

Ooooo. Had so much fun this weekend that I can't remember. That's when you know you've had just a little (too much) fun.

So anyways, I do remember one topic of coversation from the weekend. Pride Season and your first pride. That is... LGBT Pride.

You could kinda say Pride started this weekend in Palm Springs, though technically Philly Pride at the end of April is the first official big-city pride event in the U.S.

One of my faves is At The Beach L.A. which takes place over 4th of July weekend. Lots of fun. Love In The Life Atlanta too. Ooh, and Brooklyn Pride in the City. Too many to love!

Black Pride Event Calendar.
LGBT Pride Calendar.

So have you mapped out your summer pride and travel plans? What was your first pride event? What is the funnest pride to you?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Off to Salt Lake City...

April 13 and 14, 2007 to be exact.

Thanks to the University of Utah's Ethnic Studies Program, I will be part of a panel called "Contemporary Creative Voices: Black Male Writers Discuss Masculinity and Hip Hop."

The panelists include Michael Datcher, Mel Donalson, Jervey Tervalon, and myself, Fred Smith. There will be food, drink, and a reception featuring Senegalese artist Djibril N'Doye and "I Am Because We Are" exhibit.

Event details: Friday, April 13 from 7 - 9 pm. Location: Distinctive African American Art & Premier Gallery, 357 South 200 East, Salt Lake City (north of the City Library and Trax Station). (801) 533-8373.

So... I need some of you with friends, colleagues, online friends, etc... in SLC area to get them to the University of Utah-sponsored event on Friday, April 13 evening and Saturday, April 14 morning for our talk and writing workshops. Contact U of U's Ethnic Studies Program at (801) 581-5206 for specific event information.