Kind of Rested and Ready

So you all know I didn’t do a perfect job of my blog vacation.

I did blog. Sometimes more than twice a day.

But I also got lots of sleep and exercise. I got my hair twisted up, so for the first time in months it looks “manageable.” That has to count for something. But I’m going to “try” to hold myself to blogging once or twice a day because I have some writing projects I need to finish. I recently met a literary agent and if I don’t fix something up to send to her my best friend Tiffany will never allow me to live it down.

My attempts to get a literary agent back in California were abysmal. Mostly because everyone was trying to get a literary agent back in California. Being a relative unknown did not help. So it’s not everyday that I sit next to one at a Democratic fund raiser. Now I have to put my manuscript where my mouth is. Part of me is still afraid that I’m too … um … unconventional to get a deal. I’ve been told that I’d probably have a better shot if I wrote about black women who make bad love choices but then get their “Tyler Perry” happy ending after all. But I don’t write those kind of books. So we’ll see how this goes.

I might have one “Hey, homegirl, let’s go pray on it” manuscript lying around. Of course it’s more of a “Hey, homegirl I’m going to purposefully destroy yours and other people’s lives and relationships for sport because it fulfills my ego and my sick notion that marriage is a sexist prison that destroys women and all men are without redemption or morals, and then, for the hell of it, here’s a bunch of miscegenation fear-mongering, psycho-sexual drama in the background.”

People would buy that book, right? Especially if I put a trifling black woman in a skin tight red dress on the cover an entitle it, “Ghetto Hymns of An Inner City Jezebel.” That’s not what the book is about, but that would trick a few people into reading it.

20 thoughts on “Kind of Rested and Ready

  1. Loraine Hansberry? Interesting.So do you write fiction only? Who is your target demographic?

  2. andrea: I write both fiction and non-fiction, but my heart has always been with my fiction, hence why it’s so hard to get an agent. Everyone writes fiction, it’s really competitive. I’m not sure who my target demo would be. I’m kind of all over the place. Probably the same people who read this blog. Nerds? People who like Tarantino, Spike Lee and Marty Scorcese films? People who like Lewis Carroll and Alice Walker? Is that a demo?I think if I had to pick a genre for my writing it would be “pulp fiction for people who like big words.” Most of my stories tend to deal with some mix of obsession, sexuality, violence, morbid humor, racial/gender politics, various perversions and internal bipolarities.I also write romantic comedies (go figure) but they still don’t fit “girl, let’s go pray for a man” genre because I find writing “please, Lord, send me a man” boring. Even those tend to come out with the same themes as the dramas.So, I guess the answer is, I don’t know. But I know that if I could get an agent to believe in me my stuff could sell. As a hardcore low and high brow pop culture consumer I have a good feel for what people like in escapist, adult themed popular fiction.

  3. Are you trying to follow the formula? As much as you are not the atypical “I wanna be a writer because I need to be heard”, you are however very upfront about the reality of the formula. What do you want to see of your human narrative? Do you simply want to be validated for your natural genius or do you have a PROOF? What I am asking, what is the end-game?You are not like most people who blog. And I am guessing you are in your twenties…funny…peculiar…daunting…you know a lot…a whole lot more than your peers…hell, my peers who are thirtys-something hitting their 40’s soon.Also you don’t fit the fortified formula of Obama which for so long never produced a substantial product of my Generation, X. I have met many who have gone the law school route to tell me they wanted to be the next Thurgood but only really wanted to be the next Vernon Jordan. Now, Obama has given them some hope to triangulate their law degrees as formulaic leaders when what they only offer is the same self-promoted value sentiments that they are the models we should praise and follow to be redeemed. That does not seem to be you. You seem a whole lot less Lorraine and a lot more Zora.How unorthodox and unconventional do you…or are you willing to go? Meaning: tell me what wild attempt you would take a leap of faith on trying to accomplish in using your natural genius.And…are we nerds here? I guess, we are marginalized nerds. I should have added that adjective, BLACK in there too. But with you being mixed as well, you are clearly not saying that you represent your darker side more.Please elaborate.Oh…how old are most of your FANS here? Would you call us fans? How do you see us? And what do we have to offer you?Also, are we aiding you at all? Are we making any inroads? any cultural relevance?

  4. andrea: Wow. Those are some interesting questions.I’ll try to answer them all.1) I don’t know if I’m trying to follow a formula. I am really random. I wrote my first “book” when I was 13. It’s unreadable, but it says a lot about who I was at the time. I was a kid who wanted to write like an adult, but I didn’t have any “adult” experience, so everything was based on my fantasies of what adults were like. Later I would be inspired by two books, Trey Ellis’ “Platitudes” and “Negrophobia” by Darius James. They were so different from anything I’d ever read, mostly because I, like a lot of young suburban black kids, didn’t put much stock into my own background because it wasn’t “authentically black.” Which is really a fancy away of saying, it wasn’t the stereotype. It wasn’t the sort of blackness seen in our popular culture.If you’ve ever read either of those books they are revolutionary in the fact that they challenge your idea of what constitutes “blackness.”Then in college I started reading a lot of books written by the “new journalism” writers, literary journalists and was again amazed by all the rule breaking and vividness. Then I fell in love with the writers of the Harlem Renaissance. I didn’t like most modern black authors, but I couldn’t get enough of anyone black who wrote a book between the time of the Emancipation and the 1950s. So my style and what I like to write about is heavily influenced by old white druggie journalists, dead Harlem Renaissance writers and two black bougie upstarts who weren’t embraced widely as writers because they didn’t fit the stereotype.2) As per my works of fiction, I think I want people to be both entertained as well as a little uncomfortable. I like to think my work has the potential to be challenging. Some could just read it and take it for what it is, but if you wanted to read behind some of the motifs and characters there could be room for debate, understanding, provocation, annoyance, etc. 3) I try to write what I want to read. Once Ellis and James petered out, I had a hard time finding black fiction that did something other than bastardize Toni Morrison novels or clone Terry McMillan. And I could find entertaining fiction by white authors, but they often don’t touch on race at all or when they do, it’s a Mickey Mouse job like “Memoirs of A Geisha.”I felt a lot of optimism though when Zadie Smith’s “White Teeth” came out because I really felt people were opening up to her because she was a good writer, not because she was able to regurgitate familiar themes of black urban mythology and racial voyeurism.It made me think maybe people would just like to read my work for what it was rather than have to suffer a cacophony chorus of blacks and whites deriding my lack of “authentic” black suffering.4) There’s some ego involved. I won’t deny that. You have to have some ego going on to think people would want to pay for your wet dreams.5) My end game is probably super cheesy. I want to be an artist. I want to live in a rehabed three-story townhouse in St. Louis’ Central West End or University City. I want to teach writing workshops and have a column at a newspaper and be on C-SPAN’s “Book Notes.” I want to be interesting enough to be a little famous among other writers, but not so famous that it becomes a burdensome liability. I want to see some of my books turned into films, but I don’t want to make the films myself. I just want some input from time-to-time. Mostly I just want to be able to make a living. If I could do that, that would be awesome. 6) I am 30. I’ll be 31 this year.7) I was always inspired by people like Thurgood Marshall, but I never thought I’d be them because they come from a singular time, filling a need that was tantamount and involved a level of self-sacrifice that did not always match the success rate.Without the external pressure of impending racial doom, the modus operandi of most people born after the movement is money. We’re capitalists. Hence why hip hop went from party music/urban art form to black death peddling luxury brand pimping.Most people who talk about being “down with the struggle” are just T-shirt wearers. I wish people would just admit their level of activism begins and ends at the ballot box. If they vote at all. I think I want to show that there are more narratives out of black creative thought than gang bangin’, poverty, Churchy-McChurchin’ and bottomless consumerism. That black people are capable of complex thought. I mean, we had that in the 1920s in Harlem? Where did it all go? My two favorite novels are “Invisible Man” and “Autobiography of An Ex-Coloured Man.” I don’t even think you could get those published now. Nothing in those books are simple. You can’t just take the complexities of race in these books and marry it off to the man of its dreams, give it a Prada purse, do a dance-a-long with Madea while Kirk Franklin leads the choir in “Stomp.”I don’t want to be a prude and tell black people what to watch and read, because believe me, the audience has spoken and it wants to see more black men in dresses, but I think books are different. I think if I follow my gut (and get a good publishing house behind me), I’ll have a diverse audience.8) I don’t consider my writing to be similar to Loraine’s. I used that picture of her because I really like the picture and I admire what she was able to do in such brief time with her dying so young.9) Man! All my biggest leaps are the science fiction. There just aren’t many black Sci-Fi writers and I love sci-fi. So to be respected as a Sci-Fi writer, that would be get over both a racial and a gender hurdle.Outside of sci-fi, the story that I described in the post above, the one with all the self-loathing, is a real story. It deals with our culture’s obsession with consumerism, how the history of feminism has been rewritten by popular culture, how many people don’t want to deal with adulthood and live in a perpetual adolescent which leads all the heavy lifting on the shoulders of others.Probably the most uncomfortable part of the story (and the one that will probably be the most misunderstood) is the relationship between the female lead and her boss. The female character is a young black woman who due to her own twisted personal beliefs enjoys destroying other people’s marriages as a sort of sport. She breaks up the marriage of her older, white male boss and rather than being mad at her, they become partners and they “respect” each other to the extent that they believe only they know the truths about the world and what really lies behind the hearts of men and women. Both characters say and do what some people think but don’t say out loud regarding the psycho-sexual drama that still plays out with interracial relationships, the tensions between black men and black women, the tensions between black people and white people in the workplace, the obsession with consumerism and how the sexual revolution never quite made it to MLK Blvd.I don’t know how anyone would take the thing as I finished a long time ago, almost six years ago, and it needs a rewrite badly. It was the first thing I wrote after my horrendous starter marriage ended. Hence the angst of the main destructive character. With intending it to, it sort of turned into something that was one part revenge fantasy and one part personal drama.So basically, with this I think I’d be risking people taking it in nightmarishly wrong ways. And I think both black men and women could argue that it was sexist and I don’t think neither would like my take on the uncomfortable history of why it’s more common to see a black man with a white woman than the other way around.But I also think I could trick someone into publishing it because they’d just think it was a really raunchy Terry McMillan clone.10) I’m fine with being called a nerd. I was labeled a nerd in elementary school. I was one o
    f those black kids famously picked on for being smart.11) I don’t know how old everyone on here is. I think I have both really young readers, like in their early 20s and people up in their 50s. It’s pretty random. And “fan” always sounds weird to me. I prefer “readers.”12) I sort of see people who come to my blog as a test audience. Sort of like how I used my friends for years. I toss out ideas and styles and this is an excellent way to find out what works and what doesn’t. I get instant feedback. I can easily correct and adapt. So I hope this is mutual. I hope the readers are getting something interesting to read and I hope I’m learning from your feedback.And I hope all that will lead to making me a better writer who will eventually get a better paying gig and a larger audience.So I think you guys are being super helpful. I’ve gone through a very rough six years. Like, nightmarishly bad. So I’d withdrawn from my writing for over two years. The blog was my way of getting back up on the horse and proving I could stay on. So everyone has helped in getting me back to 100 percent. I’m not fully there yet but this is the most progress I’ve made in two years since the “unpleasantness” happened.

  5. I’m watching Masterpiece Theatre. Yeah, I’m a Public Television addict. So…I will respond later tonight or at my desk in the morning.I have a lot to say…Let me say this about something profound and startling. You really remind me Zora Neale Hurston. “As if” I knew her, I am crowning you her clone. But you are very intune with things I see Black Boomers too timid to address.That comment about the “masses speaking” is empirical data of where we are anthropologically. We have a very unheathly idea as a group of the roles Black Males can play in our lives. I cringe thinking of the Black Male in a Dress and hearing you diagnose it, you sound like the reasoning Dave Chappelle lamented about in Hollywood’s fascination of emasculating the Black Male by reindentifying him as a silly she-male.Girl…Do you know what you diagnosed? I guess I understood Dave Chappelle’s sensibilities but I didn’t feel it as much until you wrote it. You have a way with words in articulating an idea more effective for multi-dimensional comprehension.

  6. I absolutely love this photo of Hansberry and I wish you the best with finding a literary agent toot sweet. Of course there’s a difference between genres but if your blog is any indication of your writing ability, I don’t doubt you would do well with the novel form. And since you’ve promised not to EricJeromeDickeyOmarTyreeZaneMaryMonroeMaryMorrisonHoodLit me to death, I’m excited to see the fruits of your labor!!

  7. andrea: I kind of throw up in my mouth a little when I think of how black men are represented in the media by other black people. There was a time when folks would have been called out on their “coonery” but it’s all about the money now, so who cares, right?Like how my father and I were talking about the film “The Great White Hope” starring James Earl Jones and us both having the same reaction to it even though he saw it in the theater in the 70s and I saw it on TV when I was a kid. Jones plays his Jack Johnson clone like he’s playing “Othello.” It’s such a passionate performance that moves the material far beyond it was ever meant to go. Then you think of Denzel Washington in “Glory.” Or Morgan Freeman in “Shawshank Redemption,” so seeing black men in dresses, consistently, from vaudeville to “Geraldine” to “Wanda the Ugly Girl” to Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy’s multiple runs in drag it just seems like a epidemic. The only actor I give a pass to is Wesley in “Too Wong Foo” which was also embarrassing, but at least he was playing an actual drag queen who was “trying” to be attractive. He wasn’t Sapphire in a fat suit.I just. Don’t. Like seeing black men that way. Even if it’s supposed to be funny. But I can see how Denzel in ANY of his films and James Earl Jones in “Great White Hope” were that “scary” form of black masculinity. You know? The kind that has a job, fights a war, loves a woman, gets pissed off then does something about it.You know? That black man. Why would I EVER want to watch a couple hours of him? And about a movie — I would LOVE for that sucker to be on screen. The only thing I’m kind of bummed about is the actor that I wanted to play the boss became officially “too old” for the part about four years ago. It’s Jeff Goldblum. He basically played a version of the character already in “Deep Cover.”But I totally think it is a movie black people would go watch if it were available. I think black people want to watch interesting, varied drama. They watch interesting, varied drama with all white leads. Why would they not watch “Basic Instinct” if two of the leads were black?They watched “Trois” (and its shitty sequels) and that was a bad movie! Imagine if it had been good!

  8. To hell with “conventional.” Somebody has to smash the mold once and for all. Like myself, I’m sure other people of color are really tired of both stereotypical and conventional. I don’t know about other people, but I’ve never really identified with either stereotypical or conventional. Doing anti-either-of-these may not be what gets the deal, but I think that if you stay true to what you’re passionate about, it will pay off somehow, somewhere… Seems like it would be way more difficult to do something you weren’t passionate about.I think a lot of us are hungry for another Octavia Butler…way overdue.Go for it. Kick its ass! –May not be easy, as I’m sure you’re aware, but it can be done, and it’s way past time.

  9. I’m thinking of your blog as the sorority I wish Black Sororities could be in college. I am reading so many of the collaborative responses and I am just smiling, smiling, smiling. There is hope but it is not in the form of the marketed “Yes we can”. Here it is something more special. You have drawn women (and men) to talk to you. This is not really a blog but maybe…a call-in talk show.I was reading all the comments here and it seems that you have a magnet to draw the Blacks who blog who seem to be a bit quirkly themselves…slightly touched with heighten intelligence and brave sensitivity. People here are so open with their responses of their ideas and feelings unlike on other blogs whereas most people are venting or pontificating.Fantastically Misunderstood Me and Tamra sound like sorors too. Wouldn’t that be something? Do you remember the live action show called Isis? You remind me of Isis and we are your sisters.

  10. ps:i write sci fi, horror, erotica, gothis realism, philosophical and psychological realsim. But the book of plays i have at press now are all historical plays. maybe u will get some of my books one day and let me know what u think or email me and ill send a few short stories

  11. everybody: Thank you for all the encouragement. I really appreciate it. I really think the fact that I have people who want to read my writing to cheer me on and hold me accountable (to keep up the writing) will really help me in the long run.andrea: The open atmosphere at the blog is totally on purpose. I’m really open-minded and I like to encourage debate rather than stifle it. And I’m willing to entertain POVs different from mine.I’m actually a member of a sorority (Zeta Phi Beta) and I’ve been meaning to write a post about how disillusioned I was with black sorority and fraternity life, how it was nothing like what my mother experienced as a Zeta in the 1960s. It’s like we joined two different sororities.I would have preferred a diverse, engaging sorority experience from educated, talented women, not all this superficial drama obsessed with the intake process, stepping and partying. The older members who ran the state chapter called us newbies “gangs in blue and white.” They weren’t that far off the mark.But thanks for all the encouragement, Andrea. I really appreciate it.torrence: Sure. I’d love to read your stuff. I’ll shoot you an email sometime this week.

  12. Okay, there…there…that what you said was a lot.”1) I don’t know if I’m trying to follow a formula. I am really random. I wrote my first “book” when I was 13.”Now I do see you not following a formula out for the sake of being conventional, I see you admitting that their is a formula to follow to get recognized as a relevant figure. That formula in itself is not the way most want to go. Most just want to follow the safe formulaic design: write a book and then tell people you are an activist because you said you are. I find that the template and most people don’t know how to call people on that.Also after a person writes a book, it does position you to get a publicist and offers you some cred to pitch as a pundit.I see that you know all of this but what you have is something most people (nearly all) don’t have. You have “It Factor”. So with that…I think the formula was really made for people like you but so many copycat and wanna-bees take up space where truly naturally relevant people are supposed to be. It kind of sucks in how meritocracy got hi-jacked in this free market society we live in whereas in our sub-culture we don’t necessarily care about merit. We really like to be sold on things — freeing us up of the responsibility to monitor or legislate bars of extraordinary relevance. So…I do you are naturally meritocratically divine with a voice.But as far seeing you being what you call yourself, RANDOM — I have to say I think that is a temporary, physical characteristic of physical and social circumstances. I think if you were gifted “chance”, you would not be floating in spaces as random. I think the disparity of lack of access creates a flight or fight atmosphere for many marginalized comtemporaries like yourself. Remember Zora and Langston and their crew solicited benefactors?

  13. Okay…I just read your response and I have to say I am intrigued about you being a Zeta. I will hold back and wait for you to write about this. I can see how you could be. Some of your sorors supported me at a time but I still felt like they were “so close, yet so far”. You know what I mean?And please tell us what your mother got from the experience in contrast.

  14. snob,Good luck on getting your book deal. Your book sounds very interesting. It sounds like a book all types of black people would like or would be able to relate to on some level.On another note,I respect your opinion but I don’t see whats do wrong in having Tyler Perry and others dress up as women as long as its for comedy. I mean I kind of see what your saying but it can’t be any worse than the crap they show on BET. Now, maybe I don’t quite understand b/c I’ve only been in the world for 17yrs. So I still have a lot left to learn. Or maybe I’ll never understand because it’s just the generation I belong to and how we view the world and what we think is funny. I don’t see whats wrong with Martin Lawrence running around in a swimsuit if that’s how he wants to make his money. And Perry is a billionare off of dressing up like a black lady with a gun inside her purse and throwing grits at people. I can’t really blame him. Hell, I wish i would’ve thought of it first.As far as sci-fi goes, I love Octavia Butler. Last year I was at Left Bank Books randomly looking for a new book and I came across Kindred. I normally don’t like sci-fi but something told me to buy this book. So I did. And it changed me.

  15. 1990: That’s OK. Some people don’t see the big deal. Usually those who take issue with it are those who’ve seen and read a long, long, long tired history that goes back to vaudeville of men playing women in blackface, playing black women as grotesque harridans. The comic tradition has continued for well over 100 years now. So some are offended because they think it’s insulting to black women. Others are offended because they feel it contributes to the emasculation of black males in popular culture. It probably wouldn’t be as much of an issue if it weren’t for the fact that there aren’t a lot of varying views of blackness in popular culture.For example I can only think of a few white comics/actors who played women, but their female characters did not constitute the most popular part of their career. That would Dana Carvey as the “church lady” on Saturday Night Life, Robin Williams as “Mrs. Doubtfire” and Dustin Hoffman as “Tootsie.” Tom Hanks did drag for “Bosom Buddies” but most people barely remember that.But for Jamie Foxx, Flip Wilson, Martin Lawrence and Tyler Perry their female characters obscured the rest of their career. Foxx and Wilson, specifically, had to fight hard against playing their drag characters because soon that’s all their audience wanted to see. They weren’t interested in their regular routines, they wanted to see a highly stylized caricature of black women.Perry will have the same problem if he decides to do more and more films without Madea or drops her act altogether. There’s a reason why this sort of act sells so well and it is because it appeals to those who enjoy this particular “crazy mannish black woman” stereotype.So I didn’t know at 17 why my mother hated Lawrence’s SheNayNay and Foxx’s “Wanda the Ugly Girl” so much because I thought they were HILARIOUS, but when you keep seeing the same thing over and over you start to get what my mother was bitching about.

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