Why him? How to choose a writing partner.

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As a white middle-aged housewife, I can bore myself pretty silly. Yup, I’ve tangoed with Cuban mops,  rode Swifter picker uppers around the house and done battle with the vacuum bag. I tried to ride the iRobot and broke it. Too heavy I guess. (Me, not it.) I know my world and I know my challenges. I chose a co-writer as different from me as I could. I also know that to handle hot potato race topics, a needed that balancing voice that made the use of the word “nigger” acceptable.

I am a publisher who owns a publishing company. Who doesn’t, right? I also work in film (the slowest drip of a Chinese water torture in modern business) and philanthropies that strike my sense of equality. I help people write. They help me. We thrive.

And I do what I call BRIDGE WORK. Above is Jason Davis, my co-author in HAIR CLUB BURNING, a riot of a ride through racism, bad behavior, stereotypes of ALL kinds, systemic racial prejudice, interracial friendship and love. I believe the government wants to keep black and whites apart. Our future lies in our bonds and all lives matter. Everyone knows that but ISIS. I wanted to know Jay’s story, his heart, his experiences as a Blood in America and there was no better way to understand than through writing.

I published Jason’s poetry 10 years ago when he was on the run for attempted murder. He was under the radar, banging hard and making babies. The call arrived asking for poems and he said, “you’re kidding, right?” He did write them and they were great. You can read them in The War of the Bloods in My Veins by Daushaun Morris, another book I published.

Jason and started writing Hair Club Burning as a way to capture the hilarious reactions of people to the middle-aged white Texas housewife and the gang banger. That is the genesis of the book.

But really, I want you to know who Jason is and how far he has come. He is now a novelist, a book seller, a philanthropist and a teacher. He is raising his 4 kids as a single dad, working the graveyard shift to pay his family’s way. He got his group of Harlem Bloods to lay down their arms and become a group with a civil purpose, a purpose to keep other young people out of gangs. He recently received  an award from Harlem Hospital for his work in the community.

I want you to know Jay. He is the stuff of White nightmares….or is he?   Twenty years of Catholic school training could not keep him from banging on the streets. Banging on the streets led to grave physical and mental distress. Jay entered the care of Dr. David Grand, one of the world’s foremost PTSD researchers who works with populations in Syria, the Balkans, anywhere there is mass murder, war and natural disasters. These gang members where suffering so – threw their actions and the scenes they witnessed together – and  PTSD became the treatment that allowed them to overcome and proceed with their lives.

I am Jay’s bridge. I brought him into the world of writing and publishing and he will soon start his own imprint, OG BOOKS. I am so proud of him and cannot wait to read more black voices in publishing. We’ve heard plenty from the white ones.

Watch here for the continue story of an OG Blood becoming a man of letters. It a beautiful thing: GUNS FOR INK.

To purchase Jay’s book, HAIR CLUB BURNING, click here. IMG_0012-2

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WE CAN DO THIS.

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MARILYN MONROE READING

images-1                                      By Beth Wareham

(With thanks to feminist biographer Oline Ealon for the title.)

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I have a thing for Arthur Miller. Yup, “Attention must be paid!” Arthur Miller, Mr. Death of a Salesman himself. I can’t explain this crush; his glasses were too large. He was from Harlem, seemed like he knew gangsters, talked like a tough guy, WAS a tough guy and wrote great plays. His creative leap between Joe McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee and the Salem Witch trials in The Crucible was breathtaking. His appearance in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee more so.

His wife, Marilyn Monroe, was by his side as he testified. I never really did see what he saw in her. Not really. All pouty wet lips and whispers. Seemed to me that Arthur would like somebody who pushed back, somebody hyper-real.

Marilyn was all pink bubbles to me, impossible to visualize as the wife of a man like Miller, until, that is, I read about the 430 books catalogued in her library at her death. (Thanks, Booktryst.com)

Holy moly.

I’M IN LOVE WITH THE NERDY MARILYN MONROE.

The list is long and strange and exciting. Zola, Proust and Moliere lived with Harold Robbins (The Carpetbaggers, one of my favorites.) The poetry section was huge, as were books of prayer and spirituality. Goodness Has Nothing to Do with It by Mae West sat by Minister of Death: The Adolf Eichmann Story by Quentin Reynolds. She read many plays as well as the ancients: Lucretius, Plato, Aristotle. I list below the books that Marilyn owned and read that I owned and read and loved. And if you don’t love her for her taste in literature, you’ll love her for another title in her library: Pet Turtles by Julien Bronson.

That Marilyn, she had it all.

(Click on title to buy book.)

1. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Lady Brett Ashley, love triangles, and the running of the bulls in between the great wars in Europe.

2. The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell
Four books, written between 1957 and 1960, exploring modern love in the ancient city of Alexandria, Egypt.

3. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
You know of this beautifully written book about the sad man with all the money: it’s America.

4. From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming
There was good reason James Bond went to film. You’ll find out why here.

5. The Fall by Albert Camus
Jean Paul Sartre’s great frenemy leaves us guessing with The Fall, his most challenging, mysterious work. Camus was in the Resistance against the Nazis, Sartre was not. Rancor ruled.

6. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
Here are the joys, secrets and strangeness of a small American town in the hands of a master.

7. The Little Engine That Could by Platt and Monk
Who couldn’t use a little “I think I can” everyday of their life. Her copy had a childlike MM scrawled on it and no doubt took the 36-year journey through life with her.

8. My Antonia by Willa Cather
Willa Cather’s cornflower blue eyes saw it all, including this story of one kind of love turning into another.

9. The Collected Short Stories of Dorothy Parker
From the woman who said, “what fresh hell is this?” Dorothy Parker’s sharp tongue and command of language never cease to amaze.

10. The New Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer*
A huge all-purpose cookbook, this is America at the supper table with Irma at the head, issuing orders in her no-nonsense voice. Marilyn used the 1952 edition, no doubt.

*This was long before I edited an edition of this book. Marilyn clipped recipes, wrote notes in the margins of cookbooks and cooked. I wish she’d marked her favorites.

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Lena Dunham versus Jane Austen in the “New Adult” Smackdown

Here goes the idiotic “publishing thing” again. A marketing demographic – in this case, young people from the ages of 18 – 22 – is being hijacked as a “genre” for fiction. They call it “new Adult.” If that doesn’t make you, presumably an adult, run and woof into a trash can, I don’t know what will.

Publisher’s Weekly even had a podcast, or something. Young editors, not conversant in how the internet works or in fact their own competition – crowed about this new genre that would step in where chick lit failed.

Here are the words I have for “new Adult” aficionados and the editors and writers who fall for this malarky. You have some shoes to fill:

1. Jane Austen
2. Mark Twain (remember Huck Finn? You read it? In school, maybe?)
3. F Scott Fitzgerald (lyrics by Jay-Z)
4. Charlotte Bronte
5. William Faulkner (Quentin wasn’t very old, kids)
6. Dostoyevsky (You best get off that toilet and write, Lena!)
7. Carson McCullers

“New adult” is a selling term that I should never have heard of. It’s a term that tells you what website to promote a book on.

Do NOT turn your talented authors into writers churning out text for a marketing term. You put them in a ghetto where those who define themselves as “adult” will never find them. For shame.

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4 Reasons Why “New Adult” Won’t Do: Ebooks

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The post above from Publisher’s Weekly gave me pause. Could you really parse writing into yet a smaller sub-category? Does something allude publishing that demographics are a part of understanding your market, but do not have to do with story? Only POV?

Were publishers using the great unwashed “self-published” authors – authors they sneered at so frequently — as their test market? Instead of the internet itself? I fear the answers to both questions.

There are 4 simple reasons “New Adult” won’t work:

1. This Side of Paradise
2. The Great Gatsby
3. Tender is the Night
4. The Beautiful and the Damned

He was laying those works down in his 20s. He was writing them in his head at Princeton. He was a NEW ADULT.

Baloney. “New Adult” is a demographic, not a genre. It is a limiting label that will only attract other humans of exactly the same moist confused age of “New Adulthood.” Who would want to go back to the moment where you have a diploma but don’t know how to pay a utility bill?

Don’t make little warm pools of writers so it is easier to market. Don’t label books unnecessarily. The internet is made up of all kinds of data that really does work to sell books. You put it in the secret places, not on the book jacket. It leads your audience to your book rather than keeping readers away.

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