ON WRITING, RACE, AND RANDOM REFLECTIONS
January 9, 2017
Every year we have the stunning Japanese maple in our back yard trimmed by a gifted gardener. Each time, I’m astonished to see the graceful structure of the tree’s inner limbs, their beauty revealed after excess branches have been cut away.
One of the great joys of writing, for me, lies in (more…)
December 22, 2016
I’ve been sitting at my computer wondering if it’s selfish to be staring at the screen, searching for the perfect word, when our democracy is under threat? What is my role in times like these; what can writers do?
Searching for writers’ impacts in previous eras I think first of the long, (more…)
June 23, 2016
Recently I was outraged after I finished the last pages of a novel I’d loved. “What?” I railed. “How could the author abandon one of the two main characters, let her disappear so completely I’ve no idea of her fate. Give me a hint. One sentence, please!” We do get a scene (more…)
May 25, 2016
“It is always a thrilling risk to say exactly what you mean, to express exactly what you see,” wrote the marvelous author Patricia Hampl. Each sentence we write boldly asserts, This is my viewpoint and I believe it worthy of utterance.
That takes courage, especially for women constantly defined as “other,” with its implication (more…)
May 18, 2016
“The opening sentence should be like an arrow shot from a bow: it will shoot through the entire text.” The late biographer Henry Mayer, a generous man, once gave me this advice. I’d approached him after a reading for his biography of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, and when I asked him a question he offered to meet me for coffee.
December 4, 2014
In honor of National Novel Writing Month, Webucator Bob Clary asked me for an online interview. As a committed novelist, I was happy to oblige.
Q: What were your goals when you started writing?
I wanted to contribute to a national conversation—especially about race and gender equity. As a white woman who’d been married to an African American man and as the mother of biracial children, I had a perspective I hoped might provide a bridge for white people.
And I loved the mere act of writing, playing with words, creating well-crafted sentences. During the busy years of child-raising, two jobs, and night school, I found little time for formal writing. But late at night I poured my desires and frustrations into a journal, which exercised the writing muscle. Sometimes I experimented with poetry, and always read voraciously. (more…)
November 21, 2013
(Blog first posted on Women Writers, Women Books site, and Homeslicemag.com)
Chairs I have sat in. They’re usually too big, those conference table chairs at editorial meetings I attend, or seats set in a row for panelists at author events, with a copy of our latest book propped on the long table in front of us.
It’s difficult to be one of the “important people” in the room–and there I perch, feeling like Lily Tomlin’s comic character Edith Ann: feet barely touching the floor, knees unable to bend properly around the too-extended front of the chair. (more…)
August 27, 2013
(Blog first posted on Women Writers, Women Books site)
I’d bought the car at a police auction for $25. You could do that then in New York City: ride the subway to some out-of-the-way lot full of junked cars, make a bid, and the next day, the car might (more…)
August 22, 2013
There actually is a difference. As an author and columnist who’s been steadily writing, nearly daily, for twenty years, in the last few months I’ve become “a writer who emails, and writes on the side,” as my colleague Meg Waite Clayton says. Promotion for Mama’s Child has spawned endless emails: details (more…)
June 17, 2013
On your nightstand now:
Arnold Rampersad's biography, The Life of Langston Hughes. Rampersad is nearly as lyrical as his subject's writing. Reading the biography right after Langston Hughes's own two volume memoir (The Big Sea and I Wonder as I Wander) is a joyful dip into the world of a man with the biggest heart imaginable, who revolutionized American poetry by writing in African American vernacular. Stanzas like "Good morning, Daddy!/Ain't you heard/The boogie-woogie rumble/Of a dream deferred" set critics rumbling about low-down trash-talk, and why would anybody want to read that? (more…)