Saturday, January 25, 2014

Got Any Historical Fiction Recommendations?

I'm on the hunt for well-written historical fiction. If you have suggestions, please share them. A couple I've read that I really enjoyed and learned a great deal from are both written by the talented Jewel Parker Rhodes: I was captivated by Rhodes' deft writing style in "Douglass' Women" and how she was able to draw me into the complex relationship between Frederick Douglass, his wife, and his mistress by moving the story forward through each chapter being told from one of their viewpoints. Their disappointment in each other - and themselves - was palpable. I felt their pain. 

"Voodoo Dreams," Rhodes' imaginative version of the legendary voodoo queen Marie Laveau, transported me to 1800s New Orleans with incredibly rich descriptions. I'd like to work on setting such scenes where the reader feels they're living during the same time with the characters. Another author who I think sets great scenes - but with a very different style - is J. California Cooper. It amazes me how I get the perfect visual of the setting of her short stories through her sparse descriptions. I'm not sure how my scene setting style will develop.

Next up, I'll be reading Tananarive Due's "The Black Rose." Researched and outlined by Alex Haley, and spun into what reviewers call "accomplished" and "tremendous storytelling" "enlivened by rich characterizations," the novel is the sweeping fictionalized narrative of the life of Madam C.J. Walker. 

"Born to former slaves on a Louisiana plantation in 1867, Madam C.J. Walker rose from poverty and indignity to become one of America's first black female tycoons," according to Due's website. She was "the head of a hugely successful company, and a leading philanthropist in African American causes."

Obviously this will be an exciting and informative read for me, as I continue my journey into my historical fiction project. Speaking of Haley, I did read "Roots" back when I was in elementary school, maybe fifth grade or so (yes, I was ambitious). Needless to say, I'll be revisiting this American classic. 

So, if you have any recommendations for great historical fiction - particularly if they are about the Civil Rights Movement - I would appreciate you sharing them. I received some fantastic advice recently from a wise and accomplished author to not avoid reading examples that are as close as possible to what you'd like to write. I'm taking that advice because I truly believe that only I can write the story that's in me. So, please share! Thanks - and keep Enjoyceinglife!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Even a 3-Year-Old Can Learn the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

What a rewarding day! If you don't think your children - even the primary age ones - are listening, check out what my 3-year-old niece knew about Martin Luther King Jr. On the way to our MLK Jr. Day of Service activity, my 7-year-old daughter gave an impromptu Civil Rights Movement quiz to my niece. Both had me beaming with pride. 

Me: "So we're going to help clean up a community garden today to celebrate Dr. King's birthday. He helped people, so to celebrate his national holiday, we're going to help people.

3 YO: "If we're going to help people that means we're volunteers. I learned that on Sesame Street."

Hooray for smart children and for Sesame Street!!!!

7 YO: "I've got a pop quiz for you. What award did Martin Luther King win?"

3 YO: "The Nobel Peace Prize!"

Astonished, my daughter and I screamed as my niece explained that she learned about the Nobel Prize creating a collage in her preschool class. She even gave an accurate definition of the word collage when my daughter incorporated that question into her quiz.

7 YO: "Okay, okay, here's another Martin Luther King Pop Quiz. Did the man that shot Martin Luther King go to jail?"

Me: "Uh, lets not talk about that. Lets keep it positive. Do another question."

Self-check: Remember there is a big difference in maturity and knowledge between 7 and 3.

7 YO: "Okay. Here's another pop quiz: Did Rosa Parks go to jail for sitting in the front of the bus?"

3 YO: "Yes!"

My daughter goes on to explain in detail how Dr. King taught people - especially those who didn't look alike - to be kind and fair to each other. She even related examples from the Movement like blacks and whites not being able to use the same facilities to her multicultural collection of friends at her school today. I'm elated as we pull up to the Attwood Community Gardens and Urban Farm, where we spend the next 90 minutes raking and hauling leaves, cleaning up the grounds of this valuable neighborhood resource.

I hope you did something fantastic to celebrate Dr. King today even if it was just meditating on his message and legacy. We don't always make it out to an activity on the holiday, but today we did - and we were more blessed than those we helped.

A moving soundtrack elevated our whole day: There was great programming on all of the airwaves from independent to mainstream. After hearing Dr. King's speeches, remembrances of Movement activists, and reflections of others, we were still singing Stevie Wonder's "Happy Birthday" anthem to Dr. King as we walked into the garden.

Even if you don't think your children are listening to you, keep teaching them through conversation and experiential learning. They are paying attention to those important lessons - and they're passing them on.

Keep on Enjoyceinglife. Sometimes it's quite amazing.



Wednesday, January 8, 2014

When Your Disadvantage is Your Advantage

So I'd been avoiding for at least a year, and was considering succumbing to checking it out when, recently, I ran across several news items about Internet trends that included the increase in long form journalism. And then someone whose opinion I greatly respect basically gave me the final push - on Facebook, of course. So last night, I listened to my first episode, an interview with Joe Sexton, senior editor at ProPublica and a former reporter and editor at the New York Times. I was riveted and immediately hooked.

I don't know if I'm on some kind of faddish tear or if Longform will become part of my regular life. I mean I've only listened to one of the hour-long podcast interviews with incredibly thoughtful and talented magazine writers about their process and experience. But I did peruse at least 30 descriptions of episodes, so I know the great storytelling and insight that awaits me if I decide to go down this rabbit hole.

Honestly I have the same feeling I do when I watch an episode of a promising TV series: If I was in a different place in my life, I'd make sure I was in the same place at the same time each week to catch it. Or I'd record it and make time to watch it. I've watched one episode each of Downton Abby, Homeland, Newsroom, Scandal and others just for this reason. I feel like I just can't get caught up because of other things I'm prioritizing in my life.

It's so late that I can't even access the words to describe how stimulated and satisfied I feel listening to - and considering how the lessons I'm hearing apply to my creative approach.

Now I'm listening to the Longform interview with author and New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell, and I feel like a disrespecting distracted spouse even writing this blog post while it's playing. The real reason for this post is because I wanted to figure out a way to capture the Longform episodes I really dig and those that can be extremely helpful. I considered posting them to Facebook, Twitter, my Tumblr account and even on Linked In. But I realized that the most enduring and personal social media space I'm most committed to maintaining is this blog.

I created Enjoyceinglife to assist, or even better, to challenge myself creatively. And I rarely use it for that purpose. But as Gladwell says, I'm reconsidering my disadvantage to be an advantage.

You know how it is in the beginning of the year. I'm going to do this. I'm going to do that. Well I am. And is part of my brave doing. For me.

Be good to yourselves folks. And keep Enjoyceinglife.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Zora & Ida: 2014 Inspiration

I was pleasantly surprised today to see Google honor the iconic writer Zora Neale Hurston with a Google "doodle" on what would have been her 123rd birthday. Inspirations to me since I was in high school, Hurston and Ida B. Wells-Barnett, another incredibly talented, journalistically-driven writer, have been on my mind lately as I encourage myself to pursue my own creative destiny. 

I'm always bursting with pride when I remember that Hurston was the co-founder of "The Hilltop," Howard University's award-winning student newspaper, where I cut my teeth as a budding young journalist. It's wild to think that I was writing and editing at such an important historical organ, which she created. That's some kind of responsibility. Even more, it is motivating to know that at one time, we were in the same place in our careers.

The other day a friend reminded me that nearly a decade ago we had quite an adventure traveling to the Zora Neale Hurston Festival in Eatonville, Fla. I got a chance to speak to legendary sculpture Elizabeth Catlett and I met the incredible artist Carrie Mae Weems. For the last 18 months, I've been editing articles about and video interviewing lecturers in Spelman College's Ida B. Wells Barnett Lecture Series. I've even blogged on Enjoyceinglife about the impact series lecturers like Melissa Harris Perry had on me.

I'll spend more time this year studying the journeys of Hurston and Wells-Barnett, who are like my historical mentors. I marvel at their research prowess, bravery, tenacity, and especially their commitment to life-changing work. Learn more about Hurston and Wells-Barnett. Happy 123rd Ms. Hurston! Your work is enduring.

Keep Enjoyceinglife in 2014. This is our year!

Share/Save This Post



Blog Widget by LinkWithin