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Month: August 2014

Where I am Now

For those of y’all following my novel(s) saga, I thought you might like an update. Also, I need your support—just getting it out here helps me feel I’m not all alone on this journey!

TRAIN TRIP: LUCINDA MAE’S QUEST FOR LOVE, HONOR AND THE CHICKENS, is being read and considered by four agents. Many queries are still outstanding, and I have about 25 more to submit.

MODEL FOR DECEPTION has been reviewed by my paid editor and, mercifully, she sent a mild revision list. She really liked the story, loved the character, and thought it had great “salability” as a women’s mystery. She now has my draft query letter, and I hope to receive her comments shortly. When I do, I’ll begin sending out that query as well.

I chose to revise IN THE NAME OF MISSISSIPPI next, and I’m now done with the final (God, that is such an iffy word) read. I will send this novel on to the editor as well. Who knows what she will think of it:

a young documentarian returns to the South to film a historic civil rights reparations lawsuit, but when the case begins to fall apart, the mixed-race young man must examine his own place in the world.

The manuscript up next will either be THE BONE TRENCH or JAZZY. THE BONE TRENCH should be a quick revision (famous last words) because I have revised it SO much already. On the other hand, I’m eager to get on to the Hurricane Katrina novel, JAZZY. While JAZZY is “finished,” that’s a mere technicality. I don’t even consider it a first draft—which smart authors say doesn’t exist until at least one outside reader has read it. Returning to the world of this young girl who lost her daddy and awaits the birth of a sibling as Hurricane Katrina approaches would be pure joy, a treat after the many months of revision.

In the meantime, the short story collection CAIN’T DO NOTHING WITH LOVE won an award in an independent publishers’ contest, the 2014 CIPA EVYY Awards in Audio Book! I’m so pleased for the success of this experiment I pretty much made up myself—Hey, why don’t I record a collection of stories, pair the stories with charities, and make the collection available almost exclusively for free online. The podiobooks.com listening site has had over 7000 (!) downloads with some wonderful comments. When you add listeners on YouTube, iTunes and the website, you get over 8000 downloads. I think that’s great for (1) short stories (2) that are literary and (3) very Southern. From this, I’ve learned (among many other things) what I want in a website; that many folks for whom English is not the first language can understand my Southern accent; people like my reading voice. It really has been an informative process.

About the website thing, I’m about to consolidate my web presence. Not to get too philosophical, but I feel the time has come to integrate the various bits of me that now exist on the web. From making crosses to this umbrella blog to the story collection site to my old ellen morris prewitt website—they need to be pieces of an integrated whole. My webmaster tells me I can transfer all of y’all to the new site, and no one will be lost. I certainly hope that’s true.

Thanks again for following my journey. I much appreciate it.

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

“We Want the Cycle to Stop”

Please listen to this interview and tell me what headline you’d write for it:

(The interview is at http://www.npr.org/2014/08/14/340422502/ferguson-pastor-this-is-not-a-race-issue-this-is-a-human-issue)

A friend posted the NPR interview with the Rev. Willis Johnson, triggered by a photo of him and an 18-year-old young man in the crowd assembled in Ferguson to speak against the shooting of Michael Brown. The interview is powerful. Twice the Reverend must stop to regain his composure. What causes him to weep is his, his father’s, and his son’s extraordinary vulnerability in America. The danger? Interaction with the police.

For me, if you listen to Rev. Johnson, the headline you write based on the most powerful testimony in this piece is the expression of the Reverend’s heart contained in his words: “We want the cycle to stop.” He is referring to the teaching passed from his father to him to his son on how to survive an encounter with the police.

Why, instead, would you chose a title that downplays, even denies, the racial nature of the problem?

I’ve been pondering this ever question since I listened to the piece. My “higher” response is that whoever listened to the interview before writing the headline was so touched, he or she experienced transcendence. The words that spoke most strongly to that listener were the Reverend’s appeal to all of humanity. The headline writer’s wish: do not let this fail to move you, whoever you are.

My more cynical self says, well, if you believe white folks won’t care about a “race issue” situation, you write the headline NPR did. Or maybe you’re stretching for the “bigger” reach, believing the insecurity of an entire segment of our society at the hands of those who are supposed to be offering protection isn’t “big” enough. Or maybe you’re really savvy and market research indeed shows whites won’t listen to a “race” issue, so you lure them in with the “human” headline, knowing that no one can listen to Rev. Johnson without having his or her heart turned. These thoughts are most cynical because each explanation assumes the headline was written for a white audience.

I don’t know what triggered the headline. What I do know is we each respond to the thing in a writing that speaks to us. For me, that which resonates is Rev. Johnson’s sorrow at his father’s need to instruct him, his need to instruct his son, and potentially his son’s need to teach his son on how not to get killed when stopped by the police. It is a continuing, generational fear for young Black men and even older Black men—the Reverend says his father must still fear for him. For me, that’s a race issue. At the same time, I hope you can’t listen to the interview without reacting to the intolerable situation as a loving, caring human being.

What touches you in the interview? Which of the Reverend’s words would you use as a headline? Thanks so much for letting me know.

Random Thoughts August 2014

Random Thoughts:

* When it comes to what we call domestic violence, we refuse to acknowledge society’s interest in not having someone beat someone else up—if she forgives him, well, we should too

* If your brand of religion doesn’t make you joyous to be alive, you might want to rethink that

* If anything really bad ever happened to me, I’d get so sick of people telling me to see the bright side—”the blessings”—I’d want to punch them

* Think before you name your child

* If your parents didn’t think before they named you, change your name

* If you do the job I really hate and I do the job you really hate, none of us will have to do the job we really hate

* When I finish swimming, I think, your hips are fine, and I hop on the train of hope, convinced if I swim every day, I won’t need surgery.

* If the dog wants to check out something on the sidewalk, she probably shouldn’t

* If you don’t write down random thoughts, you will forget them

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

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