Below you will find the all the postings from the old blog. I decided to move to blogspot because it allows for more organization and it's easier for folks to comment. These entries cover about two years worth of blogging about the book tour and the process of putting a book together.
Growing Up Girl Three Times - March 12, 2008
We are at SOLD OUT status on Growing Up Girl. I shipped off the last three books, a week ago, to Porter Square Books in Boston. In a couple of days I will go through the manuscript and tighten up some of the things that weren't caught in the last printing. This will be the THIRD run of the book. Mindblowing. Never thought this far ahead for this book, for GirlChild Press. Don't panic. A new shipment will be here in about two weeks. Keep telling folks about this amazing anthology, and her kid sister Just Like A Girl: A Manifesta! email@example.com
Searching for Perfection - March 11, 2008
Right up to the point that we were filling out the instruction card for the printer I was looking for mistakes in the manuscript. Never mind that we've been picking this thing apart for more than four months. It has been through a proofreader, several random reads, 2 two week rest periods (where no one looked at the manuscript so we could have fresher eyes when we picked it back up) and a critique by another publisher. If I had OCD, it would be in full tilt. I am far from a perfectionist in my personal life, but I want this anthology to be a project that my contributors can be proud to be included in. These are some of the best emerging and seasoned writers in the country and I want Just Like A Girl to be a suitable showcase for their work. As we wait for the bluelines I want to be okay with all the hard work that went into the book and know that no one is perfect. Still feeling exhausted by the process so that is hard to swallow right now.
Book Production Fatigue - March 8, 2008
With the anthology within 48 hours of being sent off to the printer, I find myself feeling like a marathon runner who is on their 22nd mile and can't image lifting their foot one more step. It seems ridiculous to stop now but God knows the temptation is there. Just Like A Girl: A Manifesta! has been in production for just short of a year. Because this is basically a one-woman show, I've handled almost every aspect of getting the book to the this point. From the selection of the pieces that will appear in the book to the color of the jacket, I've had to care about it all. Not whining, but pointing out that when you take on a project like this, you really have to be ready for the long haul. You can't take your eye off the goal line if you expect to finish and be happy with the final product (considering all the work that was put into the project). This weekend is devoted to installing the notes given by the proofreader and double-checking the ENTIRE manuscript against the original set of submissions (to make sure nothing was lost during the multiple translations and corrections). A sista is tired!
GirlChild Press is on Facebook.com - March 4, 2008
Check us out and add us as a friend!
Shaking off the Sting - February 20, 2008
I spent most of the day trying to act normal and convincing my family and friends that I was not going to throw myself off the nearest and tallest fire hydrant - because of what we are calling "the Disney decision." They seem more broke up about the rejection than I am. At one point I had to play the game of "it's all relative" with my sister. By the time I got to "It's not like my foot fell off" she was safely off the ledge and laughing. It does make me feel good that so many people think so highly of my talents. And just so I didn't think they were saying such supportive things because they love me, the universe made sure I received an individual artist grant acceptance letter from the Prince George's Arts Council. Money always makes me feel better! And my talented editor friend Matt finished up the last of the edits on my short film (my directorial debut) in time for me to get it off to a couple film festivals. And CosmoGirl magazine requested a review copy of Just Like A Girl from just seeing the cover (you can see it at http://www.myspace.com/girlchildpressSo all is well and BIGGER opportunities keep coming my way!
The News I Didn't Want to Hear!- February 19, 2008
I've been obsessing since the writers' strike ended, but it turns out Disney was not in my future this year. At least not as a fellow. I got the call tonight that I wasn't selected for one of the four slots. I felt like throwing up, but I have to move on to the next project (or current looming project). I was really looking forward to doing 2008 in LA, but it looks like I will have to get there another way. Thanks to all the folks who sent me their positive energy. It was not wasted. I'm sure the universe is conspiring as we speak (type) to get me to the left coast.
Cash Rules Everything Around Me - February 13, 2008
There will be some serious money changing hands in the next few weeks. As I near the finish line on the production of Just Like A Girl the reality of paying for the project is speeding towards me. The financial realities are doubled in this case because I am entering into another printing of Growing Up Girl. I have 12 copies of the book. Period. Bookstore, college, and website orders continue to come in and that doesn't allow for the book to go on back order (or out of print). I also have to prepare for a new wave of orders for Growing Up Girl when I release Just Like A Girl. Not a bad problem to have, but you have to account for these additional expenses from the onset. When you self-publish it can be a crap shoot (mostly if don't do your homework). You could end up with 3,000 copies of your masterpiece in the basement for five years or you could find yourself running to the printer on multiple occassions with checkbook in hand. Again, not a bad problem to have.
On the Road Again! - February 11, 2008
Just received a formal request to be a KEYNOTE SPEAKER at the Young Women in Young Adult novels Symposium, sponsored by PEN New Mexico in collaboration with the O'Keeffe Arts and Leadership Program for Girls. The request was generated because one of the organizers came across a copy of Growing Up Girl. WOW! That book will live forever. This totally makes up for the fact that my back went out!!
The Writer's Strike - February 10, 2008
The WGA has decided to vote on whether they should end their three month strike. They had a membership meeting last night to discuss the tenative agreement between them and the stingy studios. They could be back at work as soon as Wednesday. I hope they get all that they want. And for my part, the end of the strike means that Disney annouces their 2008 Screenwriting Fellows. Everyone send me positive energy. I can barely contain myself!
Upgrading My Publishing Game - February 9, 2008
With this project I have really committed myself to doing it bigger and better. I have learned so many lessons with the first book that I want to put to good use. In the production phase of Growing Up Girl I pretty much worked in a bubble. Except for my graphic designer, no one saw the manuscript. I'm sure it was part fear, that someone would say that I was crazy to think "these" stories were worth printing, that I kept it all to myself. Well this time, a dash of ego and confidence informs my decision to ask wellknown women writers (and one of my favorite male poets) for blurbs for the back of the book. I figure having some "names" on the cover would attract more people to the project. Some of the writers I know personally, while others, I am simply a fan of their work (and did the six degrees of separation thing to get to them) Now if you are sitting there saying, "Michelle, I don't know anybody and why would they say yes to a random editor/writer?" It's not as hard as you think, if you keep in the mind that the worse thing that can happen is that they say no. You wont die and you can always contact other "favorite" writers. Besides, they get the opportunity to say that they were a part of the rise of the amazingly talented Michelle Sewell (back, ego!). Seriously, this is PR for them too. Their name is on a book that is out in the market place. Folks who pick up Just Like A Girl might go look for their work as well as (more fans, more money). For your part, after contacting them and promising that you don't need them to read the entire manuscript (send them 10 to 15 really good pages), you need to create a product that they would feel good about having their name attached to. Let them know that you have done your homework as it relates to the marketing of the book and that you have professionals working to make it a quality product. Also give them enough lead time. Don't write Alice Walker for a blurb that you will need in a week. Folks are busy and you don't want to put up barriers that makes it easy for them to say no. And finally, send them a copy of the book. Let them see the final product. This will seal a relationship with your "favorite" author because they see that you have follow through and their time wasn't wasted. It is all about taking the leap and letting the universe provide the net (and the famous authors).
Graphic Designers and Printers - February 1, 2008
When assembling the team that will be working on your book project make sure you have a true sense that they know what they are doing. Look at their portfolio, get some recommendations, interview them. I know a lot of how to self-publishing books might offer the suggestion of hiring a student or up and coming graphic designer as a way to reduce cost but I don't know if I totally agree with that. Everyone aspires to become good at something but when you are working on an expensive or time sensitive project (or both) you need to connect with artist and technicians that already know exactly what they are doing and wont be learning on you project and dime. At some point there is going to be a hiccup during the project and you want to feel confident that the folks working on the project recognize the hiccup and know what to do about. Example:We are entering the last stage of completing the Just Like A Girl cover. We have settled on this rich purple with a dash of orange. Throughout the process Ken has had some concern about the range of purple that I might experience when I send the cover off to the printer for proofing. I see a purple cover when she prints out a sample for me, why wouldn't I get a purple cover when I send it off to the printer? Ken goes into this explanation about differences in printer settings, color chips, and color fairies (maybe it wasn't fairies). I glaze over. Still not understanding why this would be so hard (or a big deal) I went home and printed out a sample of the cover on my printer. I ended up with lilac. Got it!Ken calls the printer. They worked together on my last project and as we all know - did a fabulous job. Phil (the printer) says we have two options. Send him the hardcopy of the cover and he will attempt to match it. Basically find the purple that is showing up on Ken's system with a purple on his system. The second option involves more money! I would have to pay for a "5th color" to experience an exact match. This is good to know. Do the homework upfront so that you get what you want at the end of your project. Have artisans on board that know their craft and can potentially save you money and time in the long run.
Technical Difficulties and Other Stuff - January 23, 2008
I was supposed to have the contributor bios posted up under the "contributing authors" section weeks ago. Clearly some mischievous computer fairy is plotting against me. Every time I post the bios the cells get all stretch out and the page looks a wreck. I have even tried typing each bio in by hand (which is dedication on my part because there are 100 of them) but that doesn't seem to be the solution either. I've finally caved in and called in the website genius of Delrica Andrews (also a contributor in the current anthology) to fix this mess. Unfortunately, she has been struggling with some sort of coody since early December. I hope to have this resolved in the next week so I can cross this off my list of things to do. Met with my graphic designer for two hours today. She is closing in on the final version of the cover. We've decided to throw in a dash of orange to keep things saucy. You have to see it. By Monday I will have all my "famous people" blurbs for the back of the book and that will wrap things up as it relates to the cover. I really never thought I could have a twenty minute conversation on the virtues of san serif verses serif. Let's not even get started on the sexy, sturdiness of Helvetica (there is an entire documentary on it)!I still have not written my acknowledgment page. How hard can it be to say thank you to folks? Maybe it's the fear of backlash. The last anthology had a few folks in uproar because they felt they were slighted - as it related to my public declaration of thanks. I wonder if I can get away with a "THANKS" in the middle of an otherwise blank page? The rest of the week will be spent editing the manuscript. Contributors- if you are reading this - get ready for a boatload of emails.
The Devil is in the Details - January 19, 2008
I'm back from LA (the Disney interview went GREAT!) and back to the anthology. I've been feeling a little sluggish around the production because of competing interests. Now I am staring at a blank screen where I must create an acknowledgment for the book, provide notes for the foreword being written by Sonya Renee Taylor, and finalize the edits on the manuscript. I am not as focused as I would like. But I need to get on the grind because my graphic designer is expecting the corrected manuscript by February 1.
How Does That Keep Happening? - January 18, 2008
Somehow it's been another 365 days since the last time I celebrated my birth. How come as you get older the days seem to whip by? But count me grateful to be among the living and doing what I love!Happy Birthday to ME!!
Getting (and keeping) Those Ducks in a Row - January 13, 2008
I think I've said on more than one occasion that part of running a press and being an writer/filmmaker is having some level of organization. You need to know your deadlines, where your paperwork is, when your appointments are, and where your archived information in stored. I know a lot of artist friends who see this as unnecessary or annoying or both. We are artist after all so why do we have to get all caught up in that? But if you are trying to make a living off your art - then you must take care of your business.Over the last couple of years I've discovered that not being organized robs me of time to create and brings on unnecessary anxiety. Get some file folders or large envelopes; and get to filing your paperwork, receipts, tax information, various draft of whatever you are working on. It doesn't have to be elaborate or complicated. In my small home office I lean towards colored files, one accordion folder and stacks (I am not afraid to use floor space). The files take care of the book orders (red) , marketing and bookstore information (blue) , and information on the production on the newest anthology (green). The accordion folder is filled to the brim with receipts and supporting documentation of expenses as it relates to the operation of the press. The rest are stacks. I have a stack for the JLAG manuscript. I have a stack of submissions that need to shredded (my kingdom for an intern). Another stack for screenplays that I use as reference and learning tools. And one huge stack of paper that I recycle when I am printing out scripts, emails, or random info off line. That's it. This works for my personality and work space. I've trained myself to put things where they belong and not to hold on to random crap that I am never going to use or be able to keep track of. Like every writer I collect little pieces of paper (receipts, paper napkins, parking tickets) that has some sort of genius idea on it. Once a week I collect all these tidbits and transcribe them into a file on my hard drive (the brain dump folder) and then throw them away. For me it's all about avoiding clutter and confusion.Find a system that works for you!
The Train has Left the Station! - January 10, 2008
That's a big ol' unnecessary euphemism to say the production of Just Like A Girl: A Manifesta! is in full swing. I met with my lovely graphic designer last night and things are looking fabulous. I know I have bragged on Kendra before but if you don't believe me go take a look at all the wonderful work she is capable of http://www.cieloproductions.com/. When I first came out the gate with Growing Up Girl, I used the analogy of giving birth as it related to producing the book. Well here I am knocked up with my second baby! And like all mothers who worry if they can love the second as much as the first - it seems I have nothing to worry about. I can't wait to show her off with her yummy lavender cover and beautiful cover girl. When I started this project I did wonder if I could top myself with this latest creation. When Growing Up Girl was released the reception it received felt like lightening in a bottle. How could this little book, coming from this tiny press, make such an impact? But it really took on a life of its own and kept rolling along. In fact I just got an order from Keene State University for another batch of books - for their spring semester. This is the third time the school will be using the books for their counseling classes! But reading over the manuscript and talking through all the artistic elements with Kendra, I can honestly say that I think both books are an equal match and Just Like A Girl will be loved and praised for all the ways it is unique and revolutionary. Because I feel more confident with this book, I am taking more liberties and risk. You know how with the first baby it's all organic this, and non-everything that? Then the second kid comes along and suddenly regular ol' diapers and apple juice will do (swear this is my last baby analogy!). Well with this anthology I am really thinking about marketing in ways I couldn't really grasp with the first book. With the help of my contributors and mentors I am reaching out to periodicals, journals, magazines, and newspapers to review the book well before it comes out. I didn't know anything about "lead time" with the first book so I had to work really hard to get the book reviewed AFTER it was available for purchase. I am also preparing the book to do the college circuit now. Because the book comes out in the summer, if I don't work on booking readings and discussions now, I will have to wait for the spring semester to get on folks' calendars. Experience really is a wonderful teacher! All that to say, I have a wonderful team assembled to bring this book to the finish line. And with a little bit of pushing (okay, swear last time!) she should arrive safe and sound by spring.
Happy New Year! - January 2, 2007
Like everyone else I am compiling my new year's resolutions. I love the new year. It's like this fresh, blank piece of paper. All clean and ready for your bright ideas, dreams, and plans. Since 2002 I have typed out ten things that I plan on achieving in the new year. I paste the list up so I can see it and keep a copy in my journal (I journal every day) so I can focus my intentional energy on it. I have never achieved more than three items on any of the list. This year I am rethinking how I will formulate my list. What I have notice from my previous lists is that I tend to focus on a couple things and put all my energy there - essentially ignoring the other items - which results in me only achieving the three items, year after year. Since I clearly have a pattern of focusing on a couple goals, my 2008 list is going to reflect that habit. I am going to identify two particular goals, that are the most important to me at this stage in my life, and break them down into several steps. I am shocked I haven't thought of this before now. When I used to work as a clinician in an Outpatient Mental Health Clinic it was all about goals broken down into small parts so that our clients could better manage the task. So I am going to put my $50,000 masters to work in my writer's life. I'll let you know how it all works out.
Writing Tip - December 26, 2007
During the course of a month I get a lot of request for writing tips. Well here is an unsolicited one. Balance.As a writer who can get really consumed with projects and all the thoughts bouncing around my head - I am not always aware, that in pursuit of my goals, I am losing my balance. Not my physical balance (although a tired Michelle has been know to trip over her feet from working too hard) but checking in and connecting with all the other things in my life that is really important (and ultimately feeds my art).I spent 16 hours with my family on Christmas Day. I know you think I should need hospitalization at this point - but actually my family is pretty cool. A family made up of predominately women (I wonder if that has anything to do with my choice in writing projects?:) who are extremely strong and resilient. In those 16 hours, I was reminded how much I love these people. My sisters (Debyann and Amanda) are these beautiful, loving women. They have always been my biggest fans. Never for a minute doubting that their big sister could do whatever she put her mind to. It is always comforting to know they are cheering me on. We loss our sister Pebbles (Lisa) 8 years ago and I think that has made us closer and more aware of how important we are to each other. We say I love you after every phone conversation - now. My mother has morphed into this woman that I am really discovering. Now she is a very different mother than I grew up with. She is softer, funnier, more willing to listen. I'm sure my sisters already knew this, but because I was the first to leave home (and never return) they got to see our mother "become." The way we all become, but that we never think our parents become because - they are parents after all. I always thought people were corny who said, "my mother is my hero." But I think my mother has always been mine even when I wouldn't acknowledge it. She raised four girls by herself, sent them to college, fought breast cancer, and managed to stay sane when life was throwing her a whole bunch of curve balls. I wouldn't trade her for another version:)My cousin Lisa and uncle was also along for the long family bonding experience. I definitely don't see them enough. My cousin (one of 8) is brutally honest, and funny as hell. What I discovered is that she is also smart. Really smart and insightful. Check out her blog when you get a chance http://www.ilpsmusings.blogspot.com/Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without kids. I have two nieces and one nephew. They are cute (check out the cover of Growing Up Girl for the oldest one) and loud, and needy, and moody, and cuddly, and great kids. I'm the aunty that never buys them toys for their birthday or Christmas. They always get some sort of book. I love books so I want them to love books. Plain and simple. I'm sure in their little huddles (like the ones me and my sisters and cousins were constantly in when we were relegated to the "kids' room" during family gathers) they are calling me a boring aunty. But when they get a 1600 on their SAT they'll thank me!After all that - I feel rejuvenated. I feel loved. I feel like I can write the next great American novel (or in my case - screenplay). I feel balanced!I guess with the possibility of living in LA for the next year, becoming a clearier reality, I am also feeling nostalgic. Like I told my cousin Lisa, "it is easy to take for granted that you will always experience what you've always experienced." Don't get caught in that trap. Maintain the balance.
Merry Christmas - December 25, 2007
Wishing you and yours all the best!
Squeeeeeeeaal!! Part II - December 21, 2007
I guess all that prayin' and chantin' and postive energy thinkin' is working - 'cause I got the word from Disney that I will be in LA on January 15th and 16th for a face to face interview with the Disney screening committee! They've even thrown a cocktail party in the mix for good measure. When I got the call I was driving and was a nano second from wrapping myself around a tree. I hope to be a little more cool and collected when I meet up with the committee next month. Can't have them saying, "she is really a good writer, but kind of a spazz. Pass."Okay back to sorting and editing. I got an anthology to look after:)
Squeeeeeeeaal!! - December 18, 2007
I've said it more than once here - I find it ironic that I am sending out acceptance and rejection letters when I am also an active writer who must endure my own share of rejection. For those who don't know, over the last four years I have been focusing a lot more on my screenwriting life, so I'm constantly sending out scripts for fellowships, labs and agents. To say I get my fair share of "you are a good writer but..." would be an understatement! I've come to understand it's part of the process (not that the rejection doesn't sting). But in the last 48 hours, I've endured some weird "door closing, window opening" action that I find really fascinating. Up until Sunday night I was in the running for a spot at the 2008 Sundance Screenwriter's Lab. I don't know how many scripts they received this year but somehow I made my way onto the finalist list. I really wanted this opportunity. It is an extremely prestigious lab to get into and more than a few filmmakers have made careers as a result of their involvement in the lab. I was saying all my positive affirmations, focusing all my energy on a positive outcome, and eating all my broccoli (okay, sometimes). But in the end I was not chosen. I was really bummed! I have been really working hard on my craft this year and received some positive feedback (2007 Outfest Fellow) that I had what it takes to be a professional screenwriter. I find myself wanting to make the transition to L.A. but fearful that I will be just another unemployed writer taking up space in Hollywood. But then I get an email from Antionette (Director of the Disney Writer's Program) letting me know I needed to call one of her collegues about my submission to the program. When I first saw the email (subject: Writing Fellowship) I swear I thought it was from Sundance saying, "Our bad. We sent out the wrong letter." Which is totally possible because I did that to two of the contributors for Just Like A Girl:) My friends don't believe me when I say that I almost totally forgot about the Disney Writers' Program. Not that they are not a prestigious program (you would give up your left arm and detox from Starbucks to get in) but they get so many submissions it seems like lottery odds. Completely elusive.Well guess who might have a winning ticket?!! It seems that little ol' me was granted a phone interview with some of the deciding folks of the program. They were very cool and I was very much a goober (but an articulate and intelligent goober) during our conversation. They have basically narrowed down the field of submissions and looking to make final decisions next month. Yes, again, I am a finalist but since I never thought I had a snowball's chance in hell on even showing up on their radar - this is all a very pleasant surprise. So I need you to pray, chant, burn sage, meditate, send positive energy, cut the head off a chicken (PETA folks, I am simply being extra in that last statement, no worries.) to make sure I get into the program. What do I win if I get in, you ask? A year in L.A. , as a paid writer (full benefits), with all the mentoring and networking a girl could stand. You can see why I'm salivating!
Full Steam Ahead! - December 17, 2007
It's official - we have an anthology! Well at least the manuscript for the anthology. I have locked in the last permissions agreement, which means I have locked in all my contributors for the book. I am really excited!I enjoy the entire process of putting a book together. From the call for submissions to the choice of fonts - it's all exciting stuff. But I really enjoy connecting with the authors during the projects. Their suggestions are priceless and their energy and cooperation is so necessary when you are knee-deep in edits, revisions, and corrections. There are a total of 100 girls/women in this anthology; 7 more than Growing Up Girl. Like the previous anthology these writers are eclectic and hella talented. I will post their bios (under the contributing authors link) in a couple days so you can see what all the fuss is about.The anthology is already surrounded by positive energy as it has been picked up for a review by the American Book Review Journal! I learned a lot from my maiden voyage into publishing - and the thing above all is get those reviews in. No magazine, newspaper, journal is interested in reviewing your book if the book is already on the market. So I can honestly say that Just Like A Girl will benefit from all the lessons I learned from her older sister (much like parents and their first born) and get into the hands of a wider and more diverse audience!mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Six degrees of GirlChild Press - November 23, 2007
So I make the journey to my mom's house for some good eating and to catch up with cousins I haven't seen in at least six months. While digging into a steamy bowl of curry goat my cousin Lisa says "sorry about your computer crashing." After I tell her how I almost had a heart attack when the screen went blank, I asked how did she know the computer crashed? My mother talks about me a lot, to anyone who will listen, but crashed computers don't seem like something on her menu of things to chat the family members up about.Turns out my cousin is a teacher at Ft. Mead High School and it seems that Growing Up Girl and GirlChild Press is quite popular among the poet set there. She has a copy of the book in her classroom and reports it gets a lot of attention and shout outs. Now I know why I received such a large pool of submissions from that high school. When you get over 500 submissions its not unusual to get writers that share the same affiliations, but when I received my tenth submission from the high school (almost all seniors) I knew we were dealing with more than coincidence. In the end, I think three of the contributors made it into the anthology. Mystery solved.
Chugging Along - November 20, 2007
With the majority of the contributors' agreements in hand (except for some weird batch that seemed to have gotten caught up in the US mail vortex - and they are just getting their agreements) I am starting the process of laying out the manuscript. I promised my graphic designer that I would be super organized this time. When you are doing anything for the first time you are bound to forget things or simply not know they need to exist. So I have made a trusty list of the components of the anthology and the process. Quite lengthy, but manageable. The easiest elements to complete over the long holiday break is the copyright page and the bio page (which also needs to be loaded on the website). I might feel ambitious and start writing the intro to the book. But I might be too stuffed to think:)
Mission Accomplished! - November 13, 2007
The last stack of permissions agreements went into the mail this morning. Spent the entire weekend cranking those puppies out. Now I just have to wait for all of them to come back, signed. What I've learned from my last outing with an anthology - all the writers you select might not select you. Writers (especially seasoned ones) do a lot of simultaneous submissions. So while you are in love with their short story about the first time they ever climbed a tree, so is another publisher in Texas, and it's all about who gets back to the writer first. With that in mind, I have to be flexible about the layout of the manuscript. I favor "clustering" - putting together a group of pieces that have a general theme in common but could also stand on its own if the reader doesn't flip to the very next piece and recognize how they are connected. I generally don't cluster the first ten piece in the anthology. These pieces serve as a sampling of what the entire book has to offer (sort of one of each flavor). Right now I am trying to decide on the most appropriate piece to open the anthology. What speaks to the theme of the book in a global manner. Tall order, but it can be done. I'm giving myself a week break - time enough to hear back from the majority of contributors - then I begin laying out the manuscript. It will be interesting to see how it reshapes itself based on the responses from the contributors.
All Systems Go!! - November 8, 2007
After a near fatal heart attack - when my computer crashed in mid key stroke - the computer gods have smiled down on me. The computer nerds extraordinaire were able to retrieve my hard drive and we are back in business! Most of the contributor notifications made it into the mail last night with about 20 left on my desk. Those should be out the door by Friday evening. By the end of the month I will start laying out the manuscript in preparation to send it over the graphic designer - who is already working on the book cover. I am feeling a little behind schedule because of the computer setback but I should be caught up by Thanksgiving (crossing fingers). Thanks for your patience during this unexpected glitch.
Send in the Clowns - October 5, 2007
Having completed another night of readings I am really getting more and more excited about this project. I can't wait to see it in print. There is whole lot of powerful truth-telling going on. What I wish I had more of is - funny. Where are my satirist, humorist, comedians, and smart asses? It doesn't have to be Kathy Griffin or Sarah Silverman. Some nice "sneak attack" laughs would be great. I read a piece last night about a blended family and the family dog - quite a giggle was had at the end. So, funny writers, dig into your bag of laughs and send me what you got:)
Themes, Themes, and More Themes - October 4, 2007
Was it John Coltrane who said, "there are really only seven notes in Jazz - it's up to the musician to make the best of them"Since I am not a Jazz-head don’t quote me on that:)
But I do wonder how many “notes” there are in writing? What are we to “make the best of?” I spent a good chunk of my evening last night going through the stacks of submissions, that have taken over my office. After six hours, I haven't been able to isolate those seven notes, but I do know that we have some tremendous writers out there, doing some of their best work. What are we writing about:Love! We are in love. We are looking for love. We are loving love. * I found myself struggling to consider the theme of romantic love for this anthology. I didn't want any sappy love poems, or if I don't get him I-would- surely-die stories. But I need not worry. Love has been handled in all the complex ways that it arrives in our lives. Hurray! for Love!Mothers! Our own mothers. Us as mothers. Grandmothers as mothers. Mothers as heroes. Mothers as imperfect creatures. * By far the largest collection of stories/poems submitted revolves around this maternal theme.Super Hereos! Super Hereos in tights. In stilettos. In disguise. In the third bathroom stall changing her tampon (yeah, that one caught me off-guard too:) * I might just have to break out the Honey Combs cereal and do some Saturday morning cartoon watching this weekend. Declarative statements! Oh, no, you didn't. Never again. Watch your step, bud. A lot of our younger writers are laying out the ground rules -early. They know exactly what they are not going to put up with. That’s right, girl, no need to struggle to 30 before you understand your worth. Sex! Hot Sex. Boring Sex. Sex by yourself. Sex with the next door neighbor. Do I really need to comment here – you horny toads. Fathers who wished you were a boy. Who wished you threw a better slider. Who wished he was a better father. Do you think that once we get here fathers are really that distraught that we are girls? That would suck. Just wondering out loud. Barbie. Barbie. Barbie. Barbie. Barbie. Barbie. Never having owned a Barbie when I was a kid, I am completely fascinated by the amount of attention this 18 inch creature gets. I’m sure someone could create an anthology centered solely on Barbie and fill up every square inch of the book. I’m sure it’s already been done. All this and I'm not even half way through.
The Process - Part II - October 1, 2007
Now that the poetry deadline has come and gone (you still have until October 15th if you are submitting a short story or essay) there are tons of questions of "when will I know?" As someone who has submitted to my fair share of fellowships, call for submissions, etc. - I know the agony of the wait! So let me lay out the process for you so you can go on with the rest of your life:)First, I have over 300 submissions to wade through -so this is going to take some TIME! Right now, I am mostly printing out the submissions (some light reading if something catches my eye). I will probably start doing some serious reading closer to the end of the week. Once the reading process begins I separate the submissions into specific categories. My first priority is the younger contributors. Everyone 18 and under gets first crack at being in the anthology. Because the press is fully committed to providing publishing opportunities to these new writers, I make a concerted effort to give those with significant potential an opportunity to edit (and edit) and resubmit (and resubmit) their work as the process goes on. Then I move on to the older emerging writers. These authors tend to have limited publishing credits (if any) and are really excited about getting feedback on their work. This is the category that my editing hat gets the most wear and tear. The writers are old enough to present complex ideas, but they may need some guidance around ordering their work and clarifying those ideas. I try to give feedback if time permits, but with so many submissions that is not always possible. My primary suggestion to those just starting out - take a writing class. It will allow for exposure to the fundamentals and tons of positive feedback. As with everything - building writer muscles takes time and practice.Then last but never least are my seasoned/professional writers. I really look to these writers to be the frame work/backbone of the anthology. The competition is stiffer in this category because I am looking for the best of the best. The selected writers give the book its professionalism and provides a model for the emerging writers to look to. This is pretty much the recipe I used when putting Growing Up Girl together and I think it was pretty successful. So don't fix what is not broken:)I try to keep the selection process pretty simple. I have a "yes" pile, "no" pile and a "maybe" pile. You end up in the "maybe" pile if I think there is potential in the piece and you and I can agree on how it will be edited. The maybe pile also represents some great quality pieces that are not quite on topic and I want to see if I will have enough room to include it after all the other pieces are accounted for. Then it's on to the notices: You will receive a letter in the mail if your work will be included in the anthology. I will need you to sign the permissions agreement that is included and send it back to me. If I was not able to include your work, I will send you a really nice email - promise:) The email notices tend to go out first and earlier in the month. Please don't be discouraged if you are not selected. I am not making a statement about your skills, but more about where your work fits into this particular project. Last time more than a few significantly published authors didn't make it into the anthology. It's all subjective and my selections are based largely on the specific tone that I am trying to create within the book. If it makes you feel better - Toni Morrison received TONS of rejection notices before she hit one out of the park. And we know how wonderfully talented she is. So just keep plugging away and KEEP WRITING!Alright, back to the printing!
The Wonderful Sonya Renee Taylor! - September 29, 2007
The amazingly talented, funny, smart, sassy, and sexy (she paid me a dollar to add that last one) Sonya Renee has signed on to write the foreword to Just Like a Girl! If for some reason you have been hanging out under a rock and never heard of Sonya Renee check her out www.myspace.com/sonyareneeisreal Sonya Renee is the 2004 National Poetry Slam Champion and a HBO Def Poet. Her work speaks to the folks who find themselves in the margins, and demands that those in power do what is right. Her talents has taken her around the world. I am very excited to have her voice lay the groundwork for the amazing work that will be housed in the newest anthology!
Tick Tick Tick - September 28, 2007
We are coming to the finish line on the submission process. Work is coming in at a rapid pace (both email and snail mail). I kinda feel like Santa Clause:) Remember September 30th is the last day I will take poetry submissions. I will continue to take essays and short stories until October 15th. This morning I received a couple great satire pieces. If you have any satire laying around - send it my way. And to answer the "process" question I received this week: I will start reading the submissions on October 1st. I've read a sampling of the works over the last couple months (mostly poetry) and because I've done this before I have figured out how to be more efficient (skills acquired at the school of hard knocks). As a result, in about 30 days, I am pretty confident that I will have a sense of what the Just Like a Girl manuscript will look like. All that to say - keep an eye out for a decision by late October.
Still a Bestseller! - September 27, 2007
Received an email from the the folks over at Busboys and Poets (the Teaching for Change bookstore) to let me know that Growing Up Girl is #14 on their top 25 list. What is really cool about this is that the book is over 18 months old (100 years in book life) and they stock it in the poetry section (which according to Don - the store manager- is a hard to sell genre). Thanks to all who continue to support the book and tell other folks about this wonderful anthology!mailto:email@example.com
My Queendom for Some Prose! - September 15, 2007
I am up to my knickers in poetry! Please send me some essays and short stories. I love poetry but I need to balance out the upcoming anthology with other forms of writing. And as much as I don't want to say it - some of the poetry is not that great. I know its all subjective but after reading the last 20 poetry submissions I would be hard pressed to pick 5 pieces to include in the anthology. I encourage all my emerging writers to take some time, sit down, and really write something from your heart. I know poetry seems really easy to write, but it's not. Challenge yourself and write an essay. Identify a topic you are really passionate about and let the pen fly! At this point, I am going to extend the submission deadline to October 15, 2007 for those folks submitting essays and short stories. The September 30th deadline still stands for those submitting poetry. And thanks everyone who has sent me some really great sci-fi stories. I have really enjoyed the complex worlds and situations you have created.
Keeping My Fingers Crossed - September 1, 2007
My Columbia Road script has made it to the short list for the Sundance Screenwriter's Lab! I just left the post office where I shipped off a copy of the script to the folks in LA who will be making the final determination on what writers will spend a week in Utah at the Sundance Resort. I am not ashamed to say I really want this opportunity. Since I attended the OUTFest Lab in June I have really been giving more attention to my screenwriting life and I would love to see some significant movement in it. I want 2008 to be the year that I make my living as a full time writer. Send me positive energy on this newest adventure.
Growing Up Girl Goes Back to School - August 16, 2007
Again, Growing Up Girl has been picked up as a textbook on the college level. The book will be utilized at Keene State College in the Psychology of Women classes.
Poetry Book of the Year! - June 3, 2007
Growing Up Girl was named Poetry Book of the Year at the 3rd Annual National Underground Spoken Word and Poetry Awards (NUSPA)!!! We also picked up an award for Outstanding Cover Design. Very Cool!!
Torn between Two Llovers - May 12, 2007
No, it's not some sorted lovers' drama. But lately, I find myself trying to juggle the priorities of the anthology with my desire to do more of my personal writing. I recently secured my first paid screenwriting gig (thanks Paul Grant!) so most of my time has been focused on that. As a result, the hustle on the anthology has slowed down. I just realized I only have one reading booked for May, so far, and that is a far departure from the pace the book has been on over the last year. I wonder if you can be faithful to two distinct callings such as this? With the book - it's about the marketing. With my writing - it's about sitting and thinking and creating. Both these things require very different sides of my brain. Can they co-exist? If I let the anthology coast on the momentum I have built up for it at this point will that free me up to spend the summer attending to my various fellowships and writing projects? I guess the test will be over the next three weeks. The script gig has a deadline of June 12th (the same day I fly out to LA for my fellowship) and I will be out of pocket for another week after that. I'll let you know how the experiment goes. Wish me well and keep passing the word on the anthology. Word of mouth has definitely been the driving force behind the success of this book.
Passion Project? - May 3, 2007
One of the questions I have mulling over during my 8 hour drive back home is "how did this become your passion project?"That was the question one of the grad students asked during my last reading. Passion Project - I guess that is a good name for what this year has been all about. I hope everyone finds something to throw themselves into that they don't consider the cost (financial or otherwise) and just know in their heart of hearts that it has to be done. I know for a fact this project has changed my life forever.
Live Free or Die - May 2, 2007
Every time I travel I hope to find out something about the place I'm heading to that I didn't know before. Who knew that NH is a go-hard state. According to my host, Professor Morris, NH is one of those places that is all about maintaining the individual freedom - to the point of crucial. There is no seat belt law in NH! What! Not that I buckle up every single time, but I can't imagine anywhere that lets you drive around without your seat belt - New Hampshire! You also don't have to wear a helmet on a bike and some more free will craziness. But I guess a place where the state motto is Live Free of Die - has a lot to live up to. My second day in NH was equally productive. I did two talks today. The students again were engaged and insightful. There is a different interaction you have when your audience has read the book before hand. The discussion was rich and fruitful. I can't wait until my next classroom appearance.
WOW! - May 1, 2007
My first academic presentation of Growing Up Girl went off without a hitch. Yes, I did get to NH at 1:30 this morning and I am working on like five hours of sleep, but it was all worth it. Professor Dottie Morris invited me and set up this reading for her classes that used the anthology as their textbook. Actually, I ended up speaking to an entire department of classes (she invited other professors and their classes) and with 60 people in attendance it make for a rich experience.Initially, I was nervous about being rusty. Since I got the flu I've been off the road for about three weeks. This was my first reading since Oregon. Well, I had nothing to worry about. Partly because I'm a ham and partly because the students were totally into the reading and very interactive. They asked some really great questions and it was interesting to frame and talk about the book as a tool to help professionals connect with their clients. When I lay the book out and look at all the issues that it addresses, a professional clinician really could get an insight into the lives of their clients by reading the anthology. There are issues of domestic violence, abortion, cutting, eating disorders, the effects of poverty, coming out, racism, sexism, sexual harassment. The list really could go on. And the best part - I sold all the books I took with me. I wasn't expecting this to be like a bookstore reading, but the students who did not have the anthology as a text book ran over to their school bookstore after the reading and picked up multiple copies. Very cool and I didn't have to lug any books back.
I'm Not Ready!! - April 30, 2007
I'm supposed to be heading to Keene, New Hampshire today, but I am so not ready it's not even funny! I have barely packed and I have tons of things to do before I can get on the road. I am driving (which I really like doing) but I don't want to be sitting in rush hour traffic to get there. I'm trying to leave here at 2:00pm but that is starting to seem like wishful thinking. It is very possible I wont get to NH until after midnight! Yuck!!
One Year Anniversary - April 28, 2007
I had planned a larger celebration but I guess I'll have to settle for this blog entry. Growing Up Girl: An Anthology of Voices from Marginalized Spaces marks its one year anniversary today. The book has been in print one year and continues to do amazing things. There is no sign of it slowing down. Thank you all for the support of this project. Keep passing the word!
My Identity as a writer? - April 27, 2007
I received an email a couple weeks ago from Jennifer King at the George Washington University Library. She wanted to meet with me about including my work (manuscripts, letters, papers, poems) in their Washingtonian writers repository! What! Isn't that something famous people with tons of publishing credits do? Since when do I have "papers?" All that to say I agreed to meet with her today and talk about the process. Its pretty easy. I make copies of my "writer" stuff and turn it over to them. It's cataloged and when someone does a search on Washington writers or specifically on me - my "stuff" will come up. Weird. They've also cataloged a copy of the anthology in their main library. My life continues to be full of surprises!
My First Academic Talk - April 21, 2007
I received a confirmation call this afternoon from Antioch University and Keene State about my talk that is suppose to happen on May 1st and 2nd. This is my first time being invited to a university (they used the anthology as a class room text this semester) and all my expenses covered. For the most part, the sale of the books are what cover my travel and housing when I go on the road. For the most part, I have only had to go into my personal funds a few time. But during this reading they are covering my hotel, food, and transportation. I am feeling like a literary rock star:)
On a Personal Note - April 18, 2007
So, after being on the road for a good portion of 2006 with Growing Up Girl, and getting a lot of positive feedback on the book, I decided that 2007 was going to be dedicated primarily to my own writing. It is odd to spend so much time with a book and actually never get any writing done:)
So to that end I spent most of the winter working on some manuscripts and hammering out a couple stories for a screenplay that I had in mind.
In February, I decided to submit a recently developed screenplay for a Screenwriter's Lab (there is a longer version to that story but I will spare you). The program brings you out to LA and pairs you up with a professional screenwriter mentor and introduces you to indie directors and producers in hopes of developing your feature script further.
I just received the call from LA that I am one of the five 2007 Fellows for the lab this year!
I am beyond thrilled. I applied for the fellowship last year and didn't even get past the initial read phase. I have really been looking for a sign that screenwriting was for me and I finally got that affirmation this afternoon. This particular lab gets a lot of applications and they had to narrow down the field considerably to identify the five fellows.
I'm feeling quite talented in this very moment:)
Secrets - April 17, 2007
I had my monthly meeting with the women at House of Ruth tonight. They weren't in the mood to write but they did want to talk about secrets. A number of the women in the group are in recovery and they talk about having to make amends and coming clean with people (unless doing so would cause you harm) and releasing secrets. It's interesting how secrets weigh you down and how they are so easy to keep.
Bold and Talented Girls! - April 11, 2007
Tonight was the showcase at mothertongue for the girls who attended the Poetry and Girlhood workshops in March.WOW!!I don't think I was that confident and bold when I was 14. These girls took the mic like pros. Hands on hips. Chins high. Voices booming. It was perfect!It was so great to see their families and friends in the audience cheering them on. There were pictures being taken and flowers being given and tons of cheering. I am so glad we had this venue to provide the opportunity for the girls to do their thing!! It has always been mothertongue's mission to provide a safe place for girls and women to express themselves. We've been pretty good at connecting with the 18 and up crowd, but tonight we really saw our mission play itself out fully. I was truly inspired.
What the day's catch brings - April 8, 2007
So after a week of the call for submissions being out in the world - the submissions are pouring in. I've had some really good pieces that I know off the bat that I will accept. I also got my youngest submission to date - she's an eleven year old from Southern California who has more publishing credits than a lot of my adult aspiring writer friends. I also have a set of twins submitting and a mother/daughter team. I think this book is going to have some really interesting pairings. I am getting an equal balance of poetry and short stories. For the last anthology I was overwhelmed with the number of poetry entries that came through my inbox. There are a lot of great writers out there. Keep the submissions coming.
Just Like a Girl: A Manifesta! - Call for Submissions - April 1, 2007
Okay, I have finally drafted the official call. I look forward to hearing from all of you. See below.
Just Like a Girl: A Manifesta!
The latest offering from GirlChild Press is intended to be a rough and tumble, sassy, wickedly clever kick-ass anthology.
Where Growing Up Girl: An Anthology of Voices from Marginalized Spaces was a meditation on the state of girlhood; Just Like a Girl is meant to highlight the clever girls, the funny girls, the girls who don’t ask for permission and take up as much room as they damn well like. She is the girl who knows there is no sin in being born one; and that in spite of all evidence and current belief systems girl/woman does not equal weak.
Said girl doesn’t have to be a super hero, but she has hit a few balls out of the park, cursed out a couple trash talking construction workers, and took a few racist, homophobic, misogynistic folks to task. Ultimately, she knows how to pick herself up and brush herself off.
She’s a feminist. 2nd Wave. 3rd Wave. No Wave.
She’s high maintenance.
She has read the Patriot Act. She understands it.
She recognizes that people’s lives fall apart, but with time and some Elmer’s glue it all works itself out.
She’s an urban girl. A country girl.
She lives in a square state. A blue state. A red state.
She seriously ponders what are the SAT scores of those girls grinding in the music videos. She is the girl in the music video.
She has the perfect plan on how to break up with a boyfriend and how not to lose her cool when her 38 triple D bra snaps in the middle of a cocktail party.
She’s a 25th century girl.
She knows the words to Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly.
She is a cashier at WALMART.
She’s the second chair flute in her 8th grade band.
She marches on Washington
She makes fun of vegans
She has 6,000 friends on myspace.com
She still hides the tattoo that she got at senior beach week from her mother – she’s 42.
She writes for herself. She writes for her sister. She writes for the girls still not born.
Think of Just Like a Girl as a travelogue for the bumpy, powerful, action packed world of girlhood.
Tell a secret.
Reveal a lie
Go tell it on the mountain.
You get the point.
So cast a net and see what the day’s catch brings
Deadline: September 30, 2007
The anthology is open to any subject matter.
Work is especially welcomed from new and emerging writers.
Contributors may submit up to three pieces.
Essays and short stories should be no longer than 3,000 words.
Poems should have the contributor’s name on each page
Sci-fi is encouraged!
Send your work to firstname.lastname@example.org
Attachments should be titled with your name and the email subject should be Just Like a Girl.
PO Box 93
Hyattsville, MD 20781
Please include a brief bio and a mailing address.
Contributors will receive a copy of the anthology and the opportunity to read at the official Spring 2008 booksigning.
For more information on Michelle Sewell and the press check out
Feminist Press - March 26, 2007
Thanks to all who sent the get well soon messages:) I am back from the land of the germy and snotty:) I am almost 100%. I felt good enough to attend a networking event sponsored by Kim Roberts of Beltway Poetry Quarterly.
She came up with greet idea of getting together all (some) of the small presses in the area at her lovely home. We had the opportunity to hob nob and exchange ideas and talk about upcoming projects. Thank you, Kim.
One little nugget I walked away with (besides a possible opportunity to work on a rape survivors manuscript) was the idea that GirlChild Press is considered a feminist press. Kim drafted a contact sheet for everyone who attended the networking event and did a brief description of what kind of press each person represent. Right there in black and white - next to GirlChild Press - was "feminist press."
Why didn't it occur to me that is what the press is? Or is it? Yes, I focus primarily on the subject of girls and women (female and male writers are encouraged to submit manuscripts that deal with the stated subject) but for some reason it never occurred to me to declare the press as a feminist entity. Hmm. Something to contemplate.
Radical Women Poets of Color - March 24, 2007
So today was the last installment of the GirlChild Press/mothertongue sponsored Exploration of Poetry and Girlhood. It was my turn at bat and all though I wasn't feeling 100% (still battling the flu) I think the workshop went really well. This morning we explored some of the really powerful women poets of color that have contributed their work to the world of literature. I specifically chose poets who wrote in behalf of other people and championed other people's causes. I think when we start out as writers our view is very myopic and if we don't expand our work remains that way. So this morning the challenge was for the girls to write from someone else's perspective. The girls did a great job. They wrote of the kid who gets bullied in school. The girls who are invisible to everyone else but them. The mother who was left to raise a child and blamed for the father not stepping up to the plate. It was really eye opening. I think we don't always fully understand what our kids are seeing. What information they are taking in without being specifically told. These girls are definitely paying attention. It was a powerful end to a powerful series. Next stop - a open mic showcase at mothertongue. We are giving the girls the opportunity to present their work on a live mic and connect with some of the older poets who attend the show. I am sure it is going to be great!
Day Three - I think??? - March 22, 2007
I am sick! I am sick as a dog! Okay, not as sick as I was on the first few days, but sick nonetheless. But I'm also bored so here I am whining on the blog.
Actually, something very cool happened this week and I am testing out the theory of "six degrees of separation" - the thought that we are all separated by six people. Well I am trying to get the anthology viewed by someone of import and it turns out that I am separated from my goal by exactly five people. I'll let you know how it goes. Okay, back to bed:(
Good News/Bad News - March 20, 2007
Good NewsI have been contacted to do some in class presentations at two New Hampshire Universities in the next couple weeks. These are the classes that are currently using the anthology as part of their curriculum. I am definitely interested in doing more presentations in academic settings and depending less on bookstore readings. Not that I haven't enjoyed the tour, but the classroom allows for a more expansive exploration of the book.
Bad NewsI have the flu and I threw my back out.
Over and out:(
Back in DC - March 18, 2007
Is it possible that I am coming down with something? Flew out of Portland at 7:30AM and landed at Dulles at 6:00PM. Those doing the math - remember I had to go through three time zones.
I'm not sure if its because I have been in the air all day or all this traveling is finally getting to me, but I think a hot shower and a soft bed would be an appropriate remedy.
I love Portland!March 17, 2007
I could totally move here! The whole place is like this meditative commune. Everyone is so chill! There must be vallium in the water.
The reading was a smashing success - although only Annie could make it. Roma had a family emergency that kept her away. Roma, I hope to meet you soon.
We had a nice crowd. I am always surprise when I find out my contributors have such large and credit card holding fan clubs:)
The reading was very interactive and it was a treat to see some former mothertongue organizers in the audience. Hey Nicole and Joy!
On the Road Again - Portland - March 16, 2007
It is 4:30AM and I am preparing for my trip to Portland, Oregon. I am flying out of Dulles which is why I needed to be up at the butt crack of dawn. I got this super cheap ticket from Priceline but they get to determine when and where you fly out of. The things I do to save a couple bucks.
I plan on sleeping for the majority of the flight. I am working on 7 hours of sleep over the last two days. I was working on this important script project over the last week and it had to be in the mail yesterday. I barely made it at the expense of sleep.
The reading will be held at In Other Words Women's Bookstore. I will meet my contributors Annie Dawid and Roma Raye for the first time. I'm hoping we have a big crowd.
Women and Writing - March 10, 2007
My mothertongue sisters and I just finished the second installment of the Poetry and Girlhood series. Working on this project has really enlightened me and broadened my knowledge base. As with anything - in doing you learn more. Of course I know that women (in different parts of history and the world) have been denied the access to learning and creating. As a result women's writings are constantly fighting to be seen as legitimate or noteworthy. Knowing this hasn't stopped me from being stunned when I have learned the ways women have "stolen" knowledge and learned through back doors.
I feel recommitted to keeping the issue of "girlhood" in the forefront of my work - regardless of its form (writing, filmmaking, activism). Preparing for this series has very much been a crucible moment. Reminding me that I am cut out for this kind of work. That I should use my talents to help solidify all aspects of girlhood/womanhood in history. I know that sounds grand, but it has always been about one person doing something. Anything. It has made a difference.
Working so specifically with women literature has also re-energized me into thinking about the next anthology. I have been waffling back and forth on whether to move on with the project. In the last few days I have been crafting the call for submissions in my head and even come up with the subtitle for the book. Just Like a Girl: A Manifesta! This anthology's purpose it to make it clear that there is no sin in being born a girl. That in spite of all evidence and current belief systems girl/woman does not equal weak.
What does "stop being a girl or you cry like a girl" mean? To be compared to a girl - is that the greatest insult? I'm sure we are all aware of how women are portrayed throughout time, but I'm not sure if we understand how deeply rooted the disrespect and refusal to see women equally really goes. How our assigned roles (women and men) prevent us from fully seeing women as whole and viable.
Random Good News - March 6, 2007
So I got this random email from the New York Public Library. I've never been to the New York Public Library and I sure don't know anyone at the New York Public Library. But that doesn't seem to matter. Growing Up Girl: An Anthology of Voices from Marginalized Spaces has been included in the 2007 Books for the Teen Age guide. This catalogue is a collection of new titles and long-standing favorites with the teen reader in mind. This will be the 78th edition - so its clear that the New York Public Library is serious about informing its teen readers about all the books out there that might speak to them. I have no idea how the anthology was even available for consideration. As far as I know - no one from their office requested a copy. Their website says that a team of young adult librarians and experts on teen literature get together and make the decision. I guess good news just travels on its own. Although, the anthology is not exclusively for teens I can see how it would fit nicely in their catalogue!!There is a reception on March 24, 2007 to honor the folks included in the catalog and anyone who is interested in meeting the authors, editors, and publishers can come on out. Unfortunately, I wont be able to attend (have to teach a workshop) but maybe I can get one of the contributors to go in my place and report back:)It has been a good year for this book!
The Tax Man Cometh Part II - March 5, 2007
It's midnight and I am just polishing off my dinner (some yummy curry chicken made by my honey!). The late dinner is on account of a 3 hour tax workshop for artist, writers, filmmaker, ect - that I attended out in Virginia.
For a mere ten bucks, I got more info than I could possibly consume in one sitting. Women in Film and Video sponsored the workshop and it was much needed. I started doing my taxes last week and lord knows I'm frickin' clueless. Lisa Moore over at Redbone Press tried to school me on depreciation, stock, and loss, but she might as well have been speaking pig latin in german! God Bless her:)
But the workshop helped to shed a little more light on the subject and it helps that I'm using Turbo Tax. It really helps with the forms and math.
It has been really enlightening to see how much money I've spent on the operation of GirlChild Press. Between postage, shipping envelopes, printing, websites, graphic designers, and a bunch of random and miscellaneous stuff - a pretty penny (and a bunch of nickels, dimes, and quarters) have been spent.
Taxes are the work of the devil - just in case anyone cares what I think!!
It Just Occurred to Me - March 3, 2007
It's not that I didn't know this, but sometimes I forget the way this anthology can bloom into so many other things. A few months ago I decide to write a grant to the DC Humanities Council to see if they would fund a literary series - Exploration of Poetry and Girlhood - based on Growing Up Girl for girls between the ages of 13-17. I of course decided to collaborate with my favorite organization -mothertongue- and the grant was accepted. We received a nice piece of change to pull off a four part literary series that explores how girl/women poets have written about the phenomena of "girlhood" over the ages and how that impacts us now.
Today was the first session and it was great. We had some really talented girls attend the talk and they really were extraordinary. Dr. Bonnie Morris (our humanities scholar) was in charge of this first session and she did a beautiful job. She exposed the girls to writers from the 6th Century B.C to the early 20th century. The girls were engaged and really into how they are connected to writers like Gwendolyn Brooks, Sappho, and Hannah Senesch. It was not lost on them that these women were writing about the same concerns (in some cases thousands of years ago) that 21st century girls fret about now. The session also gave them the opportunity to write about their experiences and some juicy nuggets were mined during our two hours together.
Next week Natalie Illum takes the girls through the careers of some contemporary writers (Ruth Stone, Audre Lorde, Joy Harjo, Lucille Clifton, and Adrienne Rich) and how they were influenced by the more classical women poets.
If you have a budding young woman poet in your life bring her out for the next installment.
Saturday, March 10, 2007 Busboys and Poets 2120 14th Street, NW Washington, DC9:00am -11:00am FREE FREE FREE FREE
Bingo! - February 26, 2007
It's official! I am heading off to California. Heritage Books has invited us to read on April 28, 2007 at 3:00pm. If you are in the area come on out and meet some of the contributors to the anthology.
Snowy Sunday Report - February, 25, 2007
Did I miss the memo? When did they predict this random snow storm? My honey and I decided to do breakfast at Silver Diner and by the time we came out there was three inches of snow on the ground. We spent two hours hunting for salt melt and picking up a couple munchies - just in case this turns into a snow-in.
So the Book Expo was a learning experience. I've never done one before. As promised there was a huge selection of authors to choose from. I think I prefer the one-on-one that a bookstore signing or roundtable discussion allows. But there were tons of networking opportunities that you don't necessarily get when doing an in-store.
Wayne (Port of Harlem Magazine) thanks for giving me the opportunity to hang out at your table and hold down the fort! Folks really love your magazine!
2007 Afro Book Expo - February 24, 2007
It's going to be a perfect day to the get the family out to the 2nd Annual Afro Book Expo at the Mall at Prince George's. They are promising a varied roster of authors and vendors. I'll spend the next 8 hours holding down a table for Port of Harlem Magazine and selling copies of the book. Come on by table 14 and say hi - and of course pick up a copy of Growing Up Girl if you don't have one.
The Tax Man Cometh - February 23, 2007
I'm pulling out a years worth of receipts to begin the process of filing my taxes for GirlChild Production (parent company of GirlChild Press). In case you didn't think self-publishing a book isn't a financial investment - I spent $1,293.00 in postage!!! Nuff said.
Making Our Way to Cali! - February, 22, 2007
I got a tip from one of my writer's listserv that a bookstore in Upland, California (an hour outside of LA) was booking authors for readings. I've been hustling to get some west coast signings going, but nothing seem to be coming through. The drought is over. Just got an email from Heritage Bookstore and they are interest in booking the anthology! We are looking at April 28th (the anniversary of the launch of the book). I'll let folks know the final word and time.
National Women's Studies Association Conference - February 21, 2007
I got behind in my email and somehow I missed the news that contributor Jillian Hernandez's panel submission Ego Trippin: Addressing Self Esteem and Providing Tools for Resistance for Girls of Color was accepted to the 2007 National Women's Studies Conference. I'm especially happy for her because she asked me a couple of months ago to be one of her panel members. I will join Jillian along with Ruth Nicole Brown, Fallon Wilson, Dr. Dana Van Tilborg, and Dana Edell to discuss the particular tools for understanding and addressing the needs of girls of color - through art and literature. The conference will be held in St. Charles, Illinois June 2 - July 1, 2007. My summer is starting to fill up:)
Writers Blooming - February 20, 2007
Another night with the women of House of Ruth. Our monthly meetings are always so enlightening. Tonight's discussion revolved around role models and how to parent girl children. Thembi and I are hoping that by the end of our six month sessions more than a few of the women will submit their amazing stories to the next anthology Just Like a Girl. I would be really honored to have them included. A couple of the women are anxious about the fact that they are not fluent in their writing skills, but Thembi and I are prepared to take their stories orally and then transcribe. I don't think anything should block them from sharing their stories with the world.
Chicago - A Smashing Success! - February 17, 2007
The reading at Women and Children First was a great success. Thanks to all who helped put the word out. I was really concerned that we would have low audience turn out, but between the zillion listserves and writer's groups that I belong to everything turned out perfectly - and we sold a good number books!! A special thank you to contributor Jennifer Karmin for taking the PR bull by the horns and really getting the word out. I really appreciate it.
It was wonderful to meet Jennifer and all the other Chicago contributors. It is always a pleasure to hear the voice attached to the piece in the book. So many of them said they were nervous getting up in front of the crowd, but they did an awesome job and the audience really loved them. Wendy thanks for sending me a picture of the reading. As soon as I figure out how to post it up - I'll put it on the website. The in-class visit at University of Illinois at Chicago also went really well. Thanks Professor Dalay for having me. The class was engaging and crazy smart. There are some big brains thinking about the issues of gender at UIC!
My next trip is Portland, Oregon. I will be reading with Annie Dawid and Roma Ray at In Other Words Women's Books. This particular reading also requires a lot of PR elbow grease -so if you know anyone in Portland tell'em we're coming!
On the Road Again - February 16, 2007
It's 5:30 and I am up at the frickin' crack-o-dawn to catch a 8:30 plane. As soon as I land in Chicago I am off to the University of Illinois at Chicago to talk about the anthology. Then I have a three hour break then its off to the bookstore. I've built a little bit of fun into the trip so I'll have some time on Saturday to bum around and check out some of the city. I'll let y'all now how the signing goes:)
Boots. Check! Long johns. Check! - February 14, 2007
I have just gotten my third email of the day informing me that Chicago is a cold and snowy place right now. I am starting to worry that I am not ready for the windy city. I have to go get a pair of snow boots. I have cute fashion boots, but I don't think that's going to do the trick! It's only 10 degrees there right now and the weather man says it feels like below four degrees. Suddenly my trip to Wisconsin is feeling like the Bahamas.
It's All Business - February 13, 2007
Since we are getting all this winter activity (icy rain) and I am stuck in the house, I figured I would wade through all the invoices and consignment stuff stacked on my desk. The book business is just that - business! And when you are a one woman show - you really have to keep track of your business.
This the least sexy part of the process. When you sell your books to bookstores 99% of the time they request that you invoice them. That means your money can sit out in the invoice universe up to 90 days. For the most part you get your money in about 45 days, but sometimes it requires you follow up. That is what I find myself doing tonight. I have about a dozen invoices outstanding aka I ain't got my money!Usually a gentle email with invoice attached does the trick, but occasionally you get someone who is trying to pull a Jedi mind trick and you have to produce hard evidence. I keep EVERYTHING! I never ship out books without adding an delivery confirmation tracker and I keep a list of all outstanding invoices and emails concerning orders close at hand.
If you are not an organized person (or willing to learn the skill) this will be your undoing. Create a filing system (both on your computer and actual files) and keep your book business separate from all your other paperwork. I am especially mindful regarding receipts. I have a big pink envelope, that sits by my desk, that is currently bulging with a year's worth of receipts. Everything from plane tickets, food, printers, web design, phone bills, ect. is in that envelope. So when I get ready to do my taxes (some time next month) everything about GirlChild Press is right there. No hunting around or digging receipts out of random places. Trust me it's worth it!
Preparing for the Windy City - February 12, 2007
Preparing for my trip to Oprah's home turf. She still ain't called! In a few days I will freezing my butt off in Chicago, Illinois. I still have tons to do, but I am really excited about this reading. It took a lot of work to get it and it seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. I have about ten contributors scheduled to read (three contributors from DC are coming along!) and I (along with contributor Jennifer Karmin) have been burning the midnight oil in hopes of getting tons of publicity for this reading. Next to my Wisconsin reading, I think this is going to be a huge success. I'll let you know how it goes:) And yes, I know I still owe you part two of the self-publishing 101 entry. A girl has been crazy busy.
The City of Brotherly Love - February 11, 2007
Our encore visit to Philly was an undisputed success! Contributor Rasheedah Phillips did an awesome job of promoting the event. We had a full house and 90% of the people were there to see Ms. Rasheedah (but was gracious enough to listen to the rest of us). They also did us the "favor" of buying every copy of the anthology (sans two) and asking some really great questions. I got the chance to meet quite a few aspiring writers and self-publishers. If I can do it - you can do it!
This was our first reading of the new year and we worried that we might be rusty. But our fears were immediately lifted. The crowd for engaging and interested and the folks at Big Blue Marble Books made us feel right at home. I was surprised to find out that the bookstore has only been around one year. They have a great inventory of books and they are located in the funkiest little part of Mt. Airy. If you are every in their neck of the woods check them out and stop by Chef Ken's Soul Food Restaurant on Germantown Road. YUMMY!
My first book panel - January 27, 2007
I've never been on a book panel before. Karibu Book has a monthly indie publisher book panel. I was originally a bitter bitch because they had refused to carry the anthology because I had not yet secured an "approved" distributor. Basically, I felt like this was a random bone to appease me. But like with everything attached to this book the panel was a great surprise! I was on the panel with four driven and talented women publishers/authors. The youngest author was a 16 year old who had self-published a poetry book (with the help of her mother). Diamond had great energy and tons of confidence. Every teenage girl should be blessed with a serious sense of who she is. The panel covered everything from tips for those considering self-publishing to tons of resource sharing. The audience and our moderator Ryan Green did a great job of asking good questions and getting the most information out of us. It was nice to be surrounded by other women who had taken the bull by the horn and published their own work. I say it all the time: If you believe in your work and think it deserves to be out in the universe - then send it out there!
Get Thy Self to the Gym!! - January 21, 2007
I need to get my butt (big one at that) to the gym. I got a chance to see the tape from yesterday's television interview! All I have to say is - 60 minutes on the treadmill every day until summer!! Besides that - the interview went really well!
I'm Ready for my Close -up! - January 20, 2007
So one of my 2007 goals is to get some television appearances to promote the book. Well 20 days into the new year and I can check that off my list. I have been invited to do an appearance at DC cable for a show that Konyka Dunson is promoting. She wants me to come on and talk about how to leap out on faith and make your dreams happen. I don't know if I'm an expert on that, but I do feel like I have some insights to share. Maybe how to avoid the pitfalls. But I'm excited about the opportunity. Its all about capitalizing on the opportunities.
Making the best of my trip to Chicago - January 19, 2007
Anytime I travel I try and do as many readings or book related activities as possible. Chicago will be no exception. I've been trying to break into the Women's Studies departments with the anthology and I might have my first opportunity at the University of Illinois (at Chicago). I am in contact with a WS professor and she is reviewing the book to see if she can tie it into her Sexuality, Gender, and Literature class. The plan is for me to do an in class discussion the morning before the book signing. That would be very cool!
It's All About ME! - January 18, 2007
I think my friends would say that I think everyday is about me, but today really is all about me. IT'S MY BIRTHDAY! Some time back my mother thought it would be a great idea to give the world the present of me! Aren't y'all happy? There better be some heading nodding happening out there. Nothing special planned. I am giving myself the gift of a day off and some uninterrupted writing time.
The Art of Memoir Writing - January 15, 2007
Just received an invite to teach another round of memoir writing to the women at House of Ruth. Seems Thembi and I received rave reviews and they would love to have us back . I am really excited to do this. I think here is where I'll get my first set of submissions for the next anthology Just Like A Girl. There are some really talented women in this group.
The Word Keeps Spreading - January 9, 2007
Interstages Youth Development Program just received a Washington, DC Humanities Council Grant. What does that have to do with GirlChild Press? They have hired contributor Patricia Corbett to teach Growing Up Girl workshops! The workshops will focus on building self-esteem and goal setting for middle school girls. Each girl will receive a copy of the anthology. WOW!!!
Encore! Encore! - January 8, 2007
We are heading back to Philly. Just booked a reading (via a connect from Judith Witherow) at Big Blue Marble Books. Add Saturday, February 10, 2007 3:00pm to your calendar and keep checking out the tour schedule for additional dates.
Self-Publishing 101 (part one) - January 6, 2007
I get at least five emails a day from folks interested in publishing their own book and want to know how the anthology came to be. Almost every interview I do for the book the number one question is about being a self-publisher. So, I figured I would post up a general answer. For a more in-depth read check out The Well-Fed Self -Publisher by Peter Bowerman. I hope its helpful.
I think the number one thing that folks need to know is that taking on a project like self-publishing can be a full time endeavor (unless you are okay with cases of books just languishing in your basement). Your book will not sell or get exposure unless you are hustling for the book.
Publishing is a business. No matter how spectacular you think your project is - all bookstores (and anyone else who stocks your book) want to know is it going to sell. There is not enough shelf space to go around and they don't want to be stuck with piles of books that no one is buying. The best way to make a good first impression is to create a quality product.
Invest in a talented graphic designer to create your cover. My graphic designer Kendra Kuliga was GREAT! Check out her website http://www.cieloproductions.com/ to see her portofilio. A good number of book buyers and distributors will make a decision about your book solely on the cover. My goal when putting together the anthology was that in a side by side comparison (with a major publisher) folks would be hard pressed to say my book was self-published. Take the time to go to a couple bookstores and see what other publishers are putting out. Check out the covers and the interior layout. Note which books are eye-catching and why. While you are there also check out the competition. Who else has published a book on your intended topic? If there are more than one or two - is your book unique enough to warrant it being published. Start considering who would be interested in your book. Do you have a niche market?
Once you go through the rigorous process of producing a quality book (great cover, solid layout, spent the money for a proof reader, purchased your ISBN and barcode, and identified a reliable printer - I used Signature Books) you are ready to start really working.
Once the book is released 99% of your time will be spent on marketing and promoting your book. Marketing is one of those things that happens at the same time you are producing the book, but activities really gear up once the book is in hand. Remember when you visited the bookstore to check out covers and your competition? You were figuring out who wants your book, is there a market. Your job for the life of the book is to let them know that your little jewel is available and they should come with money in hand and get it.
Let me back up for a second. About four or five months before your book will be released you will want to identify publications that might review your book - First-Line Reviewers. Most will not review the book once it is actually printed (I learned this the hard way). You will need to send them a manuscript or galley. They need three to four months lead time to assign the book to a reviewer and schedule the issue date. Now keep in mind just because you send it doesn't mean they will review it. 150,000 books are produced every year - its a crowded field. Here are some first-line reviewers
ForeWord Magazine - http://www.forewordmagazine.com/Kirkus Reviews - http://www.kirkusreviews.com/Publishers Weekly - http://www.publishersweekly.com/Library Journal - http://www.libraryjournal.com/Booklist - www.ala.org/booklist/
Once you send off those galleys you still have work to do. Who needs to know your book is coming? What is your niche? Growing Up Girl is marketed primarily to girls and women organizations (and thank God there are thousands of them). With my book I literally have endless possibilities - given that women are 51% of the population - on the planet! That being said Growing Up Girl has a long shelf life. But enough about me. Get out paper and pen or computer and start drafting a marketing plan. Consider your audience. Don't discount any particular organization because you think you know their politics. When I got a huge order from Girl Scouts of America I actually called to check in if they had actually read the anthology. The anthology has some really difficult subjects and I had it in my mind that the Girl Scouts were all about cookies and couldn't relate. The staff member let me know that this wasn't my grandmother's girl scouts (are there girl scouts in Jamaica?) and they were realistic about about how they needed to connect to the 21st century girl. Cha-ching! 90 books sold! So now I keep a totally open mind about who needs to get their hands on this book. So, go ahead and make that list as long as you dare.
For my part, I'm going to stop here and go walk the dog. Next time I will focus on the internet, bookstores, booksignings, and distributors.
Another University Class - January 2, 2007
Starting 2007 with a bang. I just got an email from Keene State College that Growing Up Girl has been adopted as a textbook for a graduate level class. 15 students in Inclusive School Counseling will be using the stories in the anthology as a guide. Interesting stuff.
On the Road Again - December 31, 2006
My 2007 is filling up at a steady pace. Seems like I am heading to the Pacific Northwest in March. I have added In Other Words, Women's Books and Resources to my itinerary. I technically don't have any contributors in Portland, Oregon but a couple are traveling to the area for a conference so why not kill two birds with one stone. Since I'm already going to be on the west coast I'm going to see about setting up readings in California, Washington State, and Arizona. It would be nice to spend the better part of the winter in warmer places.
Looking Forward - December 30, 2006
With only a few days left of my mini vacation my mind can't help but to drift towards what possibilities are on the horizon for the anthology. I have been reading a book, The Well-Fed Self-Publisher, that has been really giving me some great ideas on where to go next with the anthology. A little bit of worked snuck in today (which is almost unavoidable) when I shipped off an order of books and tried to work on dates for two possible booksignings.
2007 is all about stretching and rethinking the marketing of book. Okay, back to my vacation.
Always on the Grind - December 24, 2006
When you self-publish a book you are always on the grind. Even when you are supposed to wrapping Christmas presents your book is never far from your mind (oh, that rhymed!) I just got confirmation on the first book signing for 2007. Growing Up Girl is going to Chicago! Women and Children First Books has agreed to host a reading in early February. Off to another very cold state, but getting the word out on this important book is worth wearing layers:)
All this and great coffee too! - December 23, 2006
In the heart of Baltimore City is this radically minded little bookstore that has great energy and yummy coffee. Red Emma's Bookstore was the site of our very last book signing event for 2006. It was a rainy, yucky night and most people were thinking about the last fifty yard dash to Christmas. But a group of book-heads braved the weather and the seriously jammed up traffic to come hear all about Growing Up Girl. We had college professors and serious readers of "serious literature" in the house; as well as folks looking for a book that spoke about their experience in an organic way. People had expectations in this group.
Because it was our last reading, contributors Lisa Joyner, JScales, and I were a little looser than we normally are. Maybe this is what allowed the reading to be this informal chat with those in attendance and exchange of literary factoids. It felt good to be in the company of such smart and engaging folks. It felt like being a member of a really exciting book group.
A Growing Up Girl reading would not be complete without "the testimony". It's a component of the reading that I have gotten use to over the last 8 month and that pretty much shows up at every event no matter where I am. Someone is always compelled to tell their story and comments on how perfectly the book mirrors their experience. Rachel was the one doing the testifying last night and she let us know the anthology definitely "got it right." I'm not a person who is good at public disclosure so this element always feels kinda surreal. I always walk away thinking "she is braver than I could ever be." But I'm glad it keeps showing up. I am happy the book has people talking and wanting to be heard.
Robert, one of the evening's most well read book-heads, gave the anthology an enthusiastic stamp of approval and pointed out how some of the selections very much reminded him of the writing style of some of his favorite renaissance writers. When he came up to get his books signed he said, "Thank you for putting your heart and soul into this project. It is very apparent."
Thanks, Robert. The journey of Growing Up Girl has been a wild and woolly one. I'm definitely the better for being on this fascinating ride. I have learned so much about myself. But I have also learned how you never know how what will touch a person and what they having been waiting for their entire life to hear.
I wish everyone a wonderful and holiday and an adventurous New Year!
The 2007 Growing Up Girl book tour is coming to a town near you:)
Unexpected Outcomes - December 22, 2006
Believe it or not there are times when I don't want to leave my house; and definitely times when I don't want to leave my house to talk about the anthology. Last Sunday was one of those days. I was just back from Philly the night before and I really wanted to wash my hair, sit on my couch, and veg out on a movie. But I had promised my friend Faye Williams (Sisterspace and Books) that I would do a last minute signing at her church bazaar. Nothing against church people (not the same as people who go to church), but for some reason I don't factor them into the demographics of this book.
Before I launch into my reason- a disclaimer: I grew up in the church. From the time I was 7 to 23 - I went to morning service, evening service, retreats, bible study, pastor's birthday prayer breakfast, church rededication, and the young people's Sunday. I know church:)
For the most part, I see the role of the church, which is critical in so many people's lives and communities, as a place you go to get counseling and direction with WHATEVER is going on in your life. Unfortunately, the church (and its people) doesn't always come through. It seems they want you to come a certain way and lay your burdens down a certain way. They are not willing to see and address some of the pain and ongoing suffering that is happening right in their own congregation. Often the place sounds like a soap opera rather than a house of worship. There are enough folks who can tell stories about who is doing who, who is hiding what, and who needs to be judged.
As an adult, I have come to reconcile most my expectations of this place that I spent so many years of my life in. BUT I still hold on to the belief that a good number of church people would rather walk around with blinders on than really tackle the serious issues that their youngest parishioners face on a daily basis.
Fast forward to the basement of the church bazaar and me with a case of books. I have low expectations and I'm working on an empty stomach. Contributor Patricia Corbett is along for the ride and to keep me company. The morning service hasn't let out so its just a few of us preparing our wares. Faye is rushing around making last minute adjustments, but stops abruptly and comes over to me. She says, "If you would just listen to me you would be surprised how many of your books you could sell here." Then she goes back to what she was doing, not giving me a chance to respond. Faye has this uncanny ability to say something to counter whatever negative thoughts are floating around in my noggin - without me even saying them.
On cue the service lets out and folks start spilling into the bazaar. I'm people watching and not really watching the book table - a few feet away. Pat nudges me and motions towards the group of people hovering over our book. I know they are impressed with the cover (no, I'm not being immodest - it is a pretty cover), but I figure once they flip through the anthology that’s where the admiration will end.
WRONG! They start buying the books in twos and threes and fours. They ask me to sign the copies to their daughters, and nieces, and granddaughters, and family friends. They want to tell us stories about the things these girls have been struggling with over the year and they don’t know what to quite do, but maybe the book will help. I’m humbled. I sign. I listen. I remind myself to remember that I don’t know everything and people (even church people) do evolve.
In little less than 12 hours I will be at Red Emma's Bookstore in Baltimore and I can't wait to see what the Universe has in store for me:)
Booksignings and Jerk Chicken - December 17, 2006
Yesterday was the second to last booksigning for the anthology, for 2006. It has been a robust and fun tour and yesterday was no different. Oddly enough, there were a lot of DC people in the audience (including a NYC contributor - Keturah Kendrick). But since Philly is less than three hours from here I guess it wasn't that hard for them to make the trip. There was a lot of laughter and for some reason it felt really low-key. Usually, I have to take on the "editor" persona for the book, but at this reading I was really just hanging out with friends and fellow artist. Shout out to Cassendre Xavier for coming out and supporting the cause. She is an awesome singer/songwriter - check her out ASAP!
After the reading we headed over to the Jamaican Jerk Hut for some grub. I had received several emails from Philly folks to give me the FYI on this little restaurant . Apparently it was a must-visit during my brief stay in the City of Brotherly Love. Cassendre served as our tour guide and it was absolutely worth the walk (in my inappropriate fashion boots) to taste what they had to offer. I also learned that the restaurant was also featured in the Cameron Diaz movie In Her Shoes. Fascinating Fact!
We have one more event scheduled for Baltimore. Hope to you see you then and keep your eyes open for the 2007 tour schedule for Growing Up Girl.
Momentum -December 14, 2006
Its not quite 8:00am and I've already signed on with a public library wholesaler (BWI) for the anthology. Stella, the purchasing coordinator, tells me that BWI represents over twenty-five hundred libraries across the country. Didn't know that libraries had their own wholesalers. I'm learning something new every day! BWI emailed me to let me know that they had receive some orders for the book but didn't have me down as a vendor. In less than ten minutes, over the phone with Stella, I had set up a relationship with them and my first set of orders should arrive in moments.
Its a headtrip to know that this anthology, that started as this tiny little seed, has sprouted into such a strong and viable product - that seems to keep moving. Beyond my expectations.
Overnight Success?December 12, 2006
In my hot (not so) little hands is an acceptance letter from the small press department of Barnes and Noble Booksellers. I submitted a copy of the anthology a while ago for consideration and basically forgot about it (sort of). Well, they have decided that our little book is worthy of shelf space.
In the process I have learned that Barnes and Noble only gets their book orders from distributors. So, interestingly enough this acceptance letter also provides proof to a distributor that the book is worthy of their precious warehouse space.
Overnight, Growing Up Girl gets into a major bookstore and a distributor. Weird!Now if Oprah would just call:)
Growing Up Girl Goes to College - December 11, 2006
Just got an email from the Antioch University New England Bookstore that 15 copies of the anthology has been requested by a faculty member. It seems that in spring 2007 the book will be the primary text for a class entitled Multicultural Counseling. Growing Up Girl is going EVERYWHERE!
Crying and Rental Cars - December 10, 2006
I'm back from Wisconsin and promptly took a power nap. Book tours sound sexy except when you have to handle every detail (book air travel, rent cars, reserve hotel rooms, navigate through a foreign city, and get to the reading on time). I suspect fatigue is what caused my minor crying jag in my Hertz rental car this morning. I was all proud of myself because I was on time (which rarely happens) and only moments from Dane County Airport and dropping off the rental car. DC here I come! I turned on the radio and randomly picked a station. WORT 89.9 was doing a feature on a book editor who had done a reading at A Room of One's Own on Friday night. Hey, that was me! One of their producers had come to the bookstore and recorded the reading. She said she couldn't promise it would make air, but she'd see what she could do. In all the hustle and bustle of the weekend I forgot about the taping and the call letters of the station. So I was totally surprised when the random station I picked had just cued up the reading. It was a good feature - although I sounded a little tired. Then they got to the section of the reading when I read "GirlChild." It's a poem I wrote about four years ago while on vacation in Palm Springs. I usually read the piece when people ask what was my inspiration for the anthology. As I listened to myself I started to recite along with the piece - then I busted out crying. I am not a crier so this spontaneous show of emotion totally surprised me. Maybe it was the line "I fantasize about creating a practical guide. Tucked away for emergencies, that can only be deciphered by girlchild eyes." Or maybe it's because I had just seen an interview that morning with Eve Ensler talking about being a "vagina warrior" and how you have to do the work without ego or expectations. Or maybe I was just tired and missing home.
Kim Cosier is a ROCK STAR! - December 9, 2006
The reading at Broad Vocabulary Books was a HUGE SUCCESS! I didn't know when I booked the reading or accepted Kim Cosier's submission that she is something of a rock star in Milwaukee. I actually have two contributors in that city, but the second person couldn't make it. 99% of the people in the audience (and a pretty big one for a very cold Saturday night in Milwaukee) was there to hear Kim read her piece "Undoing the Dress." Get your mind out of the gutter! Its a funny and very accurate piece of what it means to be different and desperate in the 7th grade. Kim had us laughing and wincing. The audience was interactive and loaded! They bought every copy of anthology in the store. Good thing I had lugged a bunch of books on the plane with me. It made me happy to hear they were sending off the multiple purchased copies to nieces, sisters, friends, and students. And I was definitely happy that I didn't have to take all those books back on the plane with me!
Damn I'm cold!! - December 8, 2006
Did no one get the memo that I'm from Jamaica!!Thank God Pat put a hat and pair of gloves in my luggage! I would be a suffering sista. I landed in Madison, WI to find out it was 18 degrees with serious winds. How do people live here!But the good news is that within 15 minutes of being in Madison I sold a copy of the anthology. I was sitting the airport waiting for my rental car and I saw a familiar face from DC. She was in town visiting her parents and wanted to know what brought me to Wisconsin. Of course, I whipped out the book and she bought a copy on the spot. Proof you can sell a good book anywhere. The reading at A Room of One's Own went pretty well considering I don't have any contributors in Madison. About ten people showed up and the reading was recorded by a local radio station (although I don't remember the call numbers). I felt a little scattered and tired, but managed to convince folks to buy copies of the book. Tomorrow I am off to Milwaukee (about 90 minutes away) where I get to meet two of my contributors. I'm looking forward to that. Okay, off to bed! Wisconsin is one hour behind DC so I am beyond tired.
Back in High School - December 6, 2006
I was invited to do a talk at Quince Orchard High School for their GSA (Gay/Straight Alliance) and a creative writing class. The reading was a little different in that I wasn't convincing anyone that reading or writing was a positive thing. Some times I do readings at schools and the kids just look at me blankly like, "don't I already do enough writing in school?" But this audience had tons of questions and seemed really interested in the writing process, how the book came to be and how they could also become published authors. I handed out my email addy to a couple kids and they have already contacted me about resources and more questions. I can't remember if I was that smart and eager when I was in high school. Cool experience.
2nd Young Women's Summit/Final House of Ruth Writing Workshop - November 21, 2006
One of the rare times I wont be attending two of the Growing Up Girl Roundtables. Believe it or not sometimes I have to actually work so I can pay the bills. But Patricia Corbett and Thembi Duncan (two contributors) have come on board to pinch hit. Patricia will be holding down the show at the 2nd Young Women's Summit. The summit is being organized by a local DC high school. It is a day devoted to female empowerment and dialogue. I hear Kellie Williams (of Family Matters fame) will also be in attendance. She has created a foundation that promotes learning through the arts. Kellie is a native of DC. I learn something new every day. Thembi will be facilitating the last memoir writing workshop at the House of Ruth. Thembi and I have had a great time working with these passionate and smart women. Our goal is for them to produce a first draft of a memoir piece. The stories have been raw and heartbreaking, but I totally appreciate them putting themselves out there. And I appreciate Pat and Thembi for taking the lead on what is becoming a very busy day. Can't wait to hear how it all went.
Random Reading - November 13, 2006
Got an ASAP email from Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa (a contributor) last Thursday who needed me to ship a box of books to College of Mount St. Vincent by today! $34.00 and a little bit of hair pulling the books made it just in time. Dahlma is scheduled to do a reading at the college and they wanted copies of the book on hand. I love my contributors! They are always talking up our little anthology. Good luck Dahlma.
Audience of One - November 8, 2006
As a performer my mantra is "one or one thousand - your performance is the same." I've had to hold on this mantra every time I schedule a reading of the anthology. Sometimes its standing room only. Other times I can hear the crickets. Today was a cricket kind of day. This was my last book related event until after Thanksgiving and I can honestly say I was not in the mood. It was raining cats and dogs and I had been running non-stop for three weeks. But I was actually shocked to arrive at Loyola College and find an audience of one. The women's center had invited me and I was sure I would have a nice crowd of eager feminist (or some variation on the the theme) waiting to chat me up. It was not to be. Margaret Meadows, Center Director was the only one on hand. She apologized repeatedly, but honestly this book has long made me humble. I try not to set expectations around these readings and when I have a small audience I suck it up and repeat my mantra. Margaret and I had a fine discussion about the book, being a black independent publisher, and traveling to Africa. Margaret, thanks for having me and adding the anthology to the center's library!
I am Delirious! - November 5, 2006
Are we done yet? Just finished a reading at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD. This after driving 12 hours from Georgia the day before. I really have to get better at scheduling these readings. On paper it seems doable, but my body is ready to revolt. But I was happy to be at the center. It was the first place that I took a screenwriting class and never imagined that I would be a featured writer on their events calendar one day. You never know what the Universe has in store for you.
We Up in ColdLanta? - November 2, 2006
What happened to the hotness of Atlanta?! I am freezing and I have layers on. Good thing I remembered to throw a jacket in the back of the car. My road dog alias Lisa and I set out for Atlanta at 3:30 this morning. We got here in about 11 hours, just in time to sit in traffic due to a major accident that shut down the main highway. There was a helicopter on the scene so you know it was bad. By the time we got to where we were staying we had to turn right back around to make it to Charis Books for our 7:00 reading. I have three contributors in Atlanta (alexis pauline gumbs, Lilli Lewis, and Aysha Marie Davis). Three DC contributors (Natalie Illum, Lisa Joyner, and JScales) also came down for the reading. My contributors are so great. They are these amazing cheerleaders that are really at the center of the success of the anthology. The reading was well attended and there was a good blend of pieces read. I was happy to see so many family members come out and support their daughters, nieces, and grand daughters. The highlight of the night (at least for me) was the reading of one of our youngest contributors, Aysha. She shared her piece Somebody's Baby. When asked why she submitted this pieces she simply said "I wanted other girls to know it can happen to them too." Nuff said and well worth the drive!
A Circle of Women - October 28, 2006
Got back from NYC just in time to pull up into the 4H Centers parking lot (Chevy Chase, MD). Patricia Corbett and I were invited by SMYAL to do a writing workshop and facilitate a discussion on coming out to parents. NOTE TO SELF: Stop booking these events so close together!! Every time I feel like I can't do one more talk or workshop I get such a wonderful surprise. This was a retreat event for the young women who attend a support group at SMYAL. They were talkative, passionate, and smart. They really had some great insights about being a gay/bisexual teenager and what tools they need to get through the world. It sucked to hear about all the violence and bullying that was present in their lives because they are trying to be who they believe they are. The talking and writing went well into the night and the result was pure gold. Suzanne, thank you for inviting us and for the very cool Ladies Lounge t-shirts. Keep up the amazing work. The girls really need you.
East Side!! - October 27, 2006
Today we found ourselves on the Lower East Side of Manhattan for a reading at Bluestockings Books. Its a radical and funky little bookstore - that I hear was recently remodeled and expanded. I can't imagine it was any smaller than its current version. If you ever find yourself there check out the bathroom. They have a artsy tin bucket as their sink. Clever, considering the bathroom is the size of a broom closet. The staff was way cool and it was the perfect place to have a reading. Next to DC, NYC has the largest number of contributors in the anthology. I was anticipating about 13 readers for tonight (as many as four contributors from DC) but ended up with ten. It turns out our reading was a hot ticket for the night. The room was packed and folks came with questions and commentary. Towards the end of the evening we got into a real deep discussion about who exactly is marginalized and who does it serve to keep them that way. I love smart audiences. Although it was a rainy and yucky night, after the reading we made our way to this great Peruvian Restaurant that is all the rage. I love coming to the Big Apple (do they still call it that?) and living it up:)
Lights Out! - October 19, 2006
I drive 8 hours to Brattleboro, VT only to find the place in the dark. Well not the entire city - just the grid for the venue I am suppose to be reading at in 30 minutes. Its weird - the folks across the street and down the street have electricity but not the Twilight Tea Lounge where the reading is happening. When I get inside Phayvah (my host for the night) is busy lighting tea candles (poetically appropriate, I guess). She and the owner of the store assure me that a reading is going to happen and not to worry. While I watched them create light I couldn't help but wonder what the Universe was telling me here. I had been journaling for weeks about the process of taking the book on the road and how I was having these moments of "artist crisis". Was I doing the right thing? Was I wasting my time and money? Who told me I could publish a book and expect it to receive any type of attention and success? So when I arrived at the dark venue I couldn't help but think I'd received my answer. I need to pack up my toys and head back to the world of 9 to 5 and stay there. At exactly 7:00pm, the lights just came back on. No rhyme or reason. The reading started as scheduled. I don't have any contributors in Vermont so I was the main attraction. I talked about the book and the process of getting it published and a little bit about my artist crisis. It was a good reading. But the lesson I learned that night happened after the reading. In the small audience was a college professor. She had heard about the book and wanted to come and meet me in person. She was putting together her curriculum for her spring 2007 and wanted Growing Up Girl to be the primary text. WOW! The Universe had been looking out for me all the time. It just had to get me to Vermont so I could hear the good news in person:)
House of Ruth Part II - October 17, 2006
The last time we met Thembi and I read some pieces from the anthology and talked with the women in the group. Tonight we put pen to paper and started writing. We were teaching how to write a memoir. Each woman was asked to write about a part of their life that they wanted people to know about. Oh my God, the flood gates just opened up! Their work was outstanding. They wrote and talked the entire hour. They swapped stories and read for each other. One woman who said a total of five words during our first group cried and shared her story verbally (she is learning to read). The women were so supportive and loving to each other. And the mindblower of the evening? During the last group one woman asked how much the anthology was (I was giving the group members a 50% discount) because she was interested in getting a copy for her daughter. As we ended this session each woman produced ten dollars and purchased a copy of the book. They each stated that they had been touched by the pieces that we read at the previous group and they wanted their daughters to know that they didn't need to go down the same path that their mothers had. I think Thembi and I were almost moved to tears. God, I am so grateful that I have been allowed to bring this book into the world.
Capital Book Fest - October 7, 2006
It was not exactly what I thought it was going to be. I had met one of the co-organizers at a NAACP function and he asked me if I was interested in hosting the adult poetry mic on the day of the fest. Sounded like a great opportunity to network and I was finally going to get the anthology in Borders (supposedly one of the book sponsors Karibu or Borders was to carry the participating authors books). But it was not to be. The buyer from Borders never returned any of my calls and I ended up selling the books out of my trunk (as usual). But I did get to hear some good poetry.
Women's Words - September 29, 2006
This is the highlight of my poet year. A night where a roster of all women poets are in the spotlight and the winner is rewarded with a big juicy cash prize. I have been organizing the Women's Words Slam for the last four years. This labor of love started at Sisterspace and Books and has become a hot ticket of sorts. When the bookstore closed I found myself struggling to keep the slam going. With all the condos going up, finding an accessible and convenient space in DC was becoming a huge challenge. Last year I had the event at Cafe Mawanaj, but a fire took them out as an option for this year's slam. Because I couldn't find an affordable space in time the slam had to be moved from its usual third Friday in May, to the last Friday in September. Somehow I lucked up on a great spot at Provisions Library just across from the Dupont Circle Metro. Usually they are booked months in advance, but this random Friday for some reason was open. I snatched it up! The night featured 14 women poets with various skill level. Some were most definitely performance poets while others had been given bus money, by the staff at the local women's shelter, to come to the slam. Every year folks offer suggestions on how to improve the mic or how to screen the poets beforehand, but in reality I like the random and spontaneous nature of the mic. I want anyone with something to say to feel like that mic is for them. This rich blend of rock stars and crumpled poems pulled out of back pockets is exactly what I envision. When the poetic dust settled- this year's winner was no stranger to Women's Words. She actually won the very first slam held back in 2001. Back then we could only come up with $100. But this year, The Whisper (all the way from Philly -again) walked away with $400.00. Congrats and we look forward to seeing everyone next year.
On the Radio in NYC - September 25, 2006
My favorite thing next to ginger ale and pecan pie is sitting on my comfy bed giving an on-air interview. I don't need to shower or comb my hair - just sound witty or smart (or both). This morning I spoke with Deepa Fernandes of Wake Up Call on WBAI Pacifica Radio (NYC). It was glorious. 15 minutes of me talking about my new favorite topic - Growing Up Girl. Deepa was a great interviewer and it was clear that she had actually read the book. I love it when interviewers can ask me questions beyond the first four pieces of the anthology. I was equally geeked when she compared the Growing Up Girl to This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. WOW! What a huge compliment. I feel like I have arrived. Check out the archived interview and let me know if you could tell I hadn't combed my hair.