instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads

BLOG

CIRCULAR NARRATIVE

I love circles, especially in writing, where the author cycles back at the end of an essay or book to a reference from the opening. Joseph Campell’s book The Hero With a Thousand Faces defined this pattern in drama, myth, and religious ritual: a protagonist, forced from home, leaves the ordinary world to  Read More 

Be the first to comment

Pruning Your Prose

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  Read More 

Be the first to comment

The First Sentence

“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.
 Read More 
Post a comment

The Joy of Writing

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.  Read More 
Be the first to comment

Chairs

(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.  Read More 
Be the first to comment

The Great March for Jobs and Freedom, 1963

(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  Read More 
6 Comments
Post a comment

On Writing and Not Writing

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  Read More 
2 Comments
Post a comment

Shelf Awareness Book Brahmin Interview, May 24, 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?  Read More 
2 Comments
Post a comment

Creating Fictional Characters

Creating fictional characters is one of the most mysterious aspects of the enigmatic activity we call creative writing. Here I sit, the author of a novel, imagining beings who have never really lived. Often they are composites of many people I’ve known, fused with bits of my own experience or personality; but ultimately they become their own people, whose voices I hear.  Read More 
Be the first to comment

Why I Write

Writing, for me, is pure: totally involving, pleasurable, existing only for itself, not the end product. In the same way I cherish hiking a trail in the woods early morning, eager to see cottontail rabbits leaping into the brush, or the joy I get pulling weeds in my flower garden--where the aromas of leaves  Read More 
Be the first to comment