Being an African-American Writer

Being African-American (as if you didn’t know), you might be a little surprised I haven’t written a post in relation to Black History Month. It’s not that I didn’t want to; I really couldn’t come up with a topic to write about. Until now…

I recently started reading a book I bought years ago. An anthology of stories written by Black authors. There are two volumes, but they span nearly 100 years worth of literature. It covers a spectrum of time periods and themes. Besides Hughes and Angelou, there are a lot of authors in this book I’ve never heard of. I’m kind of ashamed. I guess there’s this perception that I should be looking up to these authors rather than someone like Stephen King. But how can I be inspired by a writer I’ve never heard of before?

The truth is I can’t. It’s not because I don’t care; it’s just that what I write is a lot different from what they wrote. And most of their stories had some sort of message, whereas mine do not. But I don’t see anything wrong with it. I just write differently than them.

I will say the one thing I’ve noticed as I peruse libraries and bookstores is that there aren’t a lot of African-American writers published. There are few stores and libraries with a section devoted to African-American literature. I think it’s kind of sad. I would read more current African-American authors if I knew about them. I know they’re out there. Writers of science fiction, horror, contemporary, historical fiction, poetry. Writers whose stories reflect the African-American culture and struggles that African-Americans face today as they did in the days of slavery. 

I hope to one day be published. I strive to receive the recognition that Angelou or Toni Morrison have, but it may not happen. No big deal. I want to show this generation and future generations to know the possibility of success in the creative fields. 

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Weekend Coffee Share: The Sickly Round Robin

Good afternoon,

I would shake your hand, but I rather not risk it. We all have been feeling a little under the weather. But feel free to some orange juice and water. There’s a couple of bottles of Gatorade, too. So have at it and keep your distance. 

As you can tell, I’m not in a coffee mood. But, if we were having coffee, I’d talk about the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having. Makes me think there’s something to this whole climate change thing. Not that I like to be cold, but this is just wrong in so many ways. And it’s because of this freaky weather that allergies have been flaring up. Thus leading to the sickness. 

The sickly thing actually started last week. I took my son to the doctor’s office because he wasn’t eating much. And if you’ve been around us long enough, you know my boy will eat just about anything. So I took him in. It turned out he had strep throat. We got antibiotics, but getting him to take them was like pulling teeth. (Typical for any child.) Then, earlier this week, my wife and daughter were feeling under the weather after leaving the gym. (By the way, you should not go bragging that even though you’re sick, you worked out.) So I took them in the next day. The doctor concluded they had flu-like symptoms, but no flu. He prescribed antibiotics to be on the safe side. I went to the doctor later in the afternoon to be on the safe side. I was fine, outside of some coughing. It wasn’t like last year when I was diagnosed with pneumonia and had to stay in bed for three days.

So it seemed like things were getting better, but my son was coughing pretty bad; some cases it sounded like he was gagging or about to throw up. I also noticed some goo around his eye. I took him in this morning. The strep was gone, but he contracted pink eye. I picked up his medicines today, including a different antibiotic for the coughing. My poor family.

With all the sickness going around, I’m surprised I haven’t contracted anything. But I’m not taking chances. Neither should you.

Wash your hands before you leave and take care of yourself. Until next time…

Would You Rather? Writer’s Edition

Hello there.

So I was reading through my WordPress feed when I came across an interesting post. A blogging game from Rachel, a fellow blogger, called “Would You Rather?”.  Basically, she created a series of questions and answered them. No one was tagged, but she encouraged bloggers to play and that bloggers would link back to her. I read the Reader’s Edition, which contained a link to the Writer’s Edition. (The Writers’ Edition she posted last month.)  If you want to participate, here’s the post.

So, here goes.

Would you rather go on a writing retreat in the middle of nowhere with no wi-fi or be in your own home being interrupted every so often by friends and family?

Tough question right out the gate. I say go on a writing retreat. As much as I enjoy the company of friends and family, it’s hard to make the time for writing. Recently, I made a trip to North Georgia where Internet connectivity was extremely limited and the GPS was not a lot of help. But along the way, we spotted some pretty fancy houses that would make for good places to house a weekend writing excursion.

Would you rather publish one best selling novel and never write again or multiple novels that don’t sell well or have average sales?

I’m going to the latter on this one. No doubt writing a novel is hard work and I want to have a best seller. But the thought of not writing another book is preposterous. So I may not have that best seller. So it may not reach a national audience. But I think I’d have more joy with people close to me read my book. Besides, there are so many ideas, I can’t imagine not being able to write them. 

Would you rather be a best seller with your real name and have people stopping you everywhere you go or a pen name where no one knows who you are?

I heard an interview with Nora Roberts, a romance novelist, on NPR on how she used a pen name to publish thrillers. It makes sense using a pen name, especially if you don’t want to be tied to one specific genre. But people have a way of figuring out who you really are, so I don’t see the point in a pen name. But that’s me.

Would you rather teach English/Creative Writing classes in high school or college?

I say high school. Quick story. Before I took up writing as a degree, I wanted to be a teacher. I thought elementary school, at first. Then I took Creative Writing classes and thought I could teach high school students the same thing. Also, one of the things I regret is not nurturing the writing bug when I was younger. I think Creative Writing in high school gives students an opportunity to express themselves in a constructive way. 

Would you rather only be able to write during the NaNoWriMo months (April, July, November) or only write five days per month?

Tough one. Writing five days per month suits me better because I don’t do well with writing every day. Add to the pressure of meeting a word count goal and I would shut down. Either situation presents opportunity to brainstorm and outline. But having the choice of which days to write suits me better. 

So that’s it for the Writer’s Edition. Next week, I’ll play the Reader’s Edition. And if you want to play, please do. And don’t forget to link back to me. I want to read your answers.

Until next time…

Weekend Coffee Share: I Need a Sounding Board

Good morning. 

I meant for you to come yesterday, but there was a lot going on. But I’m glad you’re here. And to be frank, I need your ears on this one.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you about my latest short story. Yes, my Valentine story was put on hold for another story, which is the issue. It’s not the story, per se. It’s the reasoning behind it. I wrote it to please someone. The person gave me a setting, a barber shop, and I went for it. I wrote it to show that I could. I’m currently writing the second draft for someone else to cast it out. 

This is a recurring issue. Letting someone else tell me what I can and can’t write. Kind of like the “write what you know” syndrome. I don’t think this person understands that I want to write something other than General Fiction. But therein lies another problem. Because that quote is so ingrained in me, I’m paralyzed to try something else. I worry that because I haven’t read in genres outside my realm, I don’t know the rules. I fear I’ve lost my imagination. I feel trying a new genre will not go over very well with the people who know me. 

I shared this dilemma with one of my Facebook writing groups. Two things resonated with me from the responses. One, I struggle with confidence. I don’t have confidence in myself, so I let others choose what I should write. It kind of makes sense. Lately, I’ve created Twitter polls on what I should write and how certain things should play out. Instead of listening to the story, I listen to outside forces. That can only lead to dissatisfaction. 

Second, in order to overcome the lack of confidence, I need to write the story the way I want. This sounds easier said than done to me. I have an issue of making things more complicated than it has to be. But they’re right. If it’s in my heart and soul to write that fantasy story or science-fiction story, then I need to jump in. Take that leap of faith. It’s the only way I’m going to grow as a writer.

Thank you for listening and being patient with me. I know it’s a lot to take in. I hope the weekend has gone well for you all.

Weekend Coffee Share: Rest Time

Good morning,

I’m afraid I don’t have much to talk about today. You might have noticed that the house feels a little more spacious. That’s because we’ve been purging the past few days. We’ve been clearing out the clutter, getting more organized. I have to say I feel a little calmer after the purge. At least, I can sit at my table without having to move stuff around.

So, if we were having coffee, I’d tell you about finally pulling the trigger on joining LA Fitness. The representatives were kind enough to give us guest passes until we were ready. We’ve been taking advantage of it, going whenever possible, which was just about every day. So last night, after work, we signed up and became full-fledged members. Now, the question becomes finding days to work out. With the schedules I have and one car between four people, it’s hard. So the next thing to get is a calendar so we can plan out the days for us to go to the gym.

This week has been somewhat stressful. There was the stress of coordinating doctor’s visits with both of my jobs. And then there was the stress of keeping up with this writing club I’m in on Facebook. I vented some of my frustrations this week, from not being able to write what I want to getting burnt out on writing just to meet word count goals. I wasn’t someone who really cared about meeting word counts. Since joining this club, that has changed. I know it’s not about meeting the goals every day; it’s about developing the habit of writing every day. But there are days when it’s hard to sit down and write something.

A lot of people suggested taking a day off writing once in a while. It’s one thing to take a day off writing, and another thing when you’re too occupied to sit down and write. The latter is usually the case with me these days. But there have been days where I stepped away from writing. But there were times were days became weeks and weeks became months. I definitely don’t want it to get to where I don’t write for an extended period of time.

If we were having coffee, I’d show a book I started reading. I bought it years ago at a local bookstore, but never read it through. It’s a collection of short stories written by African-American authors. It’s two volumes worth of stories. It touches on a lot of different subjects. Most of them relatable and could transcend into what African-Americans face today. I am going to try to read one story a day, which I’ll probably do right before bed.

Well, that’s all. Take care.

“I Pledge Alligence…”

It’s been over 24 hours since the Atlanta Falcons gave the Super Bowl away to the New England Patriots. I’m still trying to work through the heartbreak, so I thought writing about it would be of some help. But I’m actually not going to talk about how they had the game and how they let it slip away. This post is about something a little more pressing.

When the Falcons won the NFC Championship and the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, the city of Atlanta came together and rallied behind this team in a way I haven’t seen since the ’95 Braves World Championship team. I listened to sports talk radio throughout the weeks, broadcasting from different venues hosting pep rallies and send offs. It was surreal. It made you proud to be a Falcons fan. But like anything else, there are the deterrents, the critics, the naysayers. It wasn’t so much about the team as it was about the Georgia sports fan. 

I’ve lived in Georgia for over twenty years. I’ve seen some good teams, I’ve seen bad ones. Regardless, the criticism is the same when it comes to their fans; there aren’t enough die-hard fans. Quite the opposite. They’re fair-weather fans who settle for futility; they have a “there’s always next year” mentality. They’re quick to blame a player, coach, or person in charge for the decline of a franchise. And ultimately, they will disassociate themselves from whichever team they rooted for and side with another. 

The reason being is that Georgia teams have struggled to reach the pinnacle of excellence on a consistent basis.  The last Georgia sports team to bring a world championship to the state was the ’95 Atlanta Braves. They failed to repeat since losing to the Yankees in the ’96 World Series. And this has been the case with all the professional Georgia teams. Now there have been flashes of hope and promises of improvement, but they’re fleeting at best. And the fans are sick of it. So much so that it’s gotten to the point of they’re cynical of any glimpses of success; they have the “waiting for the other shoe to drop” mentality. It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now there are fans who will look at their teams and be honest with others and say that their teams are not performing as expected. But they will also be the ones who will defend their teams to the end, never wavering in their loyalty. That, according to many sports journalists, is what’s lacking in Georgia. And I imagine it’s not just Georgia that suffers from this lack of support. And I imagine it’s one or more franchises in a given city that gets this criticism. I only highlight Georgia because I live in Georgia and that’s what I’ve heard, especially the week before the Super Bowl. 

While hearing this news is disheartening, I have to admit that some of the points are valid. And I’m one of a lot of fans who adopted the “wait until next year” mentality. I have faith that whatever Georgia team I root for will do better. But I’m not one that is quick to see anyone leave without first examining their body of work. That is what I believe a true fan should be. That is what I strive to be. 

Weekend Coffee Share: Delayed While Preparing

Good afternoon,

If we were having coffee, be prepared for company. I’m having a pre-Super Bowl party since I have to work that day. There’s chili, chicken, and root beer. We have family and friends over, and they will be happy to meet you.

So while they’re occupied, let me share about my week. If we were having coffee, I’d share about how this week has been a week of delays. I attribute it to working such weird schedules. Monday was my anniversary. I’ve been married twelve years to a wonderful woman. Unfortunately, the date had to be delayed because I worked both of my jobs. The good thing is that we have an understanding. We schedule a day that I’m not working both jobs for a date. As far as gifts go, we usually pick one gift and that covers all the big moments.

 

While I wasn’t able to take my wife out to dinner, I got Friday off so I could take my daughter out for Daddy-Daughter Date Night at Chick-Fil-A. I did this last year and had a great time. This year was just as fun. They decorated a section of the food court like a fancy restaurant. We ate Chick-Fil-A, of course. And they gave us sheets of questions to ask and a sheet where we created our own story. We enjoyed it very much. 

If we were having coffee, I’d share about my writing. I wrote a draft of a Valentine-themed story. I pulled Characters from a previous story and brought them here. I finished the draft Monday. I started typing it out yesterday. There is another story I started, but I’m putting it on hold until I figure some things out. And besides, once I’m done with my Valentine story, there are a couple of new stories I’m anxious to start writing. I’m excited because they’re going to be outside my genre, which is a goal of mine for this year. I already have casts and beginnings of outlines. Still working on the plot line for one of them.

Well, that is all for this week. Feel free to partake in the food. There’s plenty for everyone. Fair warning: the chili is a little spicy. 

Until next time…