So happy to be included in this list!
It’s no stranger to anyone who knows me that I an enamored of the written word. I am an avid reader and stan the entire fuck out for my favorite authors. In my travels through the interwebz though, I’ve come across a few writers that are not published, but give me everything that I need through their writing. I be over here yelling out “YYYYYAAAAASSSSS” and nodding at the keyboard when they post.
For me? That’s the mark of a great writer. They write things that make you FEEL. Things that reach down into your body, snake around your heart and clutch it like a tightly closed fist. They make you laugh. They make you cry. They make you say “HELLO” in that way that signifies agreement. They make you want to give up writing, yet inspire you to keep on keeping on because one day maybe your writing can make someone else feel the way theirs does for you. (run onnnnnn, sentence. run like forrest!)
As someone who would like to be a writer, I know that encouragement is one thing that fuels writers to keep going. So I wanted to post this little shoutout to let them know that their work is *Monica voice* EVERYTHING TO MEEEEHHHHEEEEE. Below are their names (or noms de plume), blog URL, twitter, reasons I think they rock & some of my favorite posts. I limited myself to only three posts per person, but I could have easily picked WAY more than that. Without further ado, here’s my list of 10 Writing Ass Writers I Adore.
Twitter name: @St_Syn
Blog URL: http://excitingredbonelightning.com/
Why her writing rocks: I always say that Syn is one of my favorite people that I don’t know. Why? It’s simple, she’s intelligent, thoughtful, sincere and honest. I’ve been following her blogfor a while now and I’m always enriched by what she writes. I like the way she offers her point of view as well as takes the thoughts of others into consideration. She is not afraid to play devil’s advocate nor does she pander to reach an audience. Syn is Syn no matter what & I dig that. And one of these days when I make it to Atalanterrrrr, I’m buying her a drink just because. HAHA!
Favorite Posts: Syn makes this hard for me because she doesn’t always title her damn posts!! LOL But anyway… when the youth revolt, untitled one (re: rearing kids), untitled two (re: the american dream)
Twitter name: @skinnyblackgirl
Blog URL: http://theskinnyblackgirl.com/
Why her writing rocks: I started following Robyn on Twitter fairly recently. I’d seen her @name skitter across my TL every now and again and figured I needed to finally gon’ head & follow. Shortly thereafter, she posted a blog that had me going through her archives and reading all of her stuff. And I’m still going through them archives and gleefully clapping when she posts new things. Whether it’s chronicling her journey as a writer or just talmbout life in general, Robyn’s writing is fresh and inviting.
Twitter name: @GoldingGirl617
Blog URL: http://goldinggirl.com/sg/
Why her writing rocks: Aliya King posted a link to Shenequa’s blog and I instantly liked it. I really like Shenequa as a person, at least the person I’ve seen through her writing. She is honest, with bits of vulnerability peeking through. She is sincere. She is earnest. She is determined to make it and be the best at what she does. She’s willing to do the work, waiting patiently for her chance to shine & I dig that.
Twitter name: @_sugahoney
Why her writing rocks: Nakia’s writing has heart and soul written all over it. She writes what she knows and loves, which (in my opinion) is what a few more people in this world need to do. She reminds me of my girlfriends when she tells stories about being The Date Master or a Single Black Woman With Zero Options. She has a lasting relationship with God and is grounded in her spirituality. She has an honest zeal for the craft of writing and it shows in her work.
Twitter name: @slb79
Blog URL: http://stacialbrown.com/
Why her writing rocks: I have no idea how I found Stacia, but I thank God that I did. She is just…listen, I can’t even. Her life is steeped in poetry. Her words carefully crafted in ways that make you just…feel. I’m nobody’s mama, but her posts in relation to parenting have me over here completely enthralled. The language is so lush. The words carefully selected to convey emotion, evoke feelings and draw the reader into her world. I am a Stacia stan & will be buying whatever book she eventually has for sale because her writing is all of it and then some.
Twitter name: @DoctaSlick
Blog URL: http://www.doctaslick.blogspot.com/
Why her writing rocks: So earlier this summer I went to go see a play that was in town because Phylicia Rashad was the director. It was well written and beautifully acted. One of the characters that really entertained me was played by this lady here. Somehow I found her on “the Twittas” which lead to the blog and it was o-v-a-h, ovah, okay? She is hilarious, thoughtful, slick tongued, and intelligent. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t check out her blog, tbh.
Twitter name: @Ladidahdi
Blog URL: http://www.liquorloansandlove.com
Why her writing rocks: I think I found her through a retweet from Syn, actually. I don’t quite remember the post or if there was actually a post, but I do remember hitting the follow button immediately thereafter. La’s writing is honest, pure and simply inviting. She has no qualms about writing about real life experiences and what she has learned from them. She’s fearless in her writing and I love that.
Twitter name: @thepbg
Blog URL: www.dirtyprettythangs.com
Why her writing rocks: Many on the interwebz refer to CaShawn as Auntie Peebz and I absolutely agree with this name bestowed upon her. She reminds me of that auntie who is there for you to help you through your times of need and get you together when you’re stepping out of line. Through her writing you see a woman who is self-assured and wants to help others get to that point in their lives as well. She shares stories that are genuine and funny, offers advice deeply rooted in common sense and is truly the Natural Hair Whisperer.
Favorite Posts: Hey, You Asked: A Divine Responsibility, Breathing Easier: An Epiphany Within a Deliberate Choice, I think it is VERY tacky to call someone else “Ugly” (this one’s actually from her tumblr)
Name: Tia & Toya
Twitter name: @BGLUBlog
Why their writing rocks: “Black Girls Like Us” is probably one of the first blogs I read with consistency. I’ve been reading this blog for oooh, prolly close to ten years now. I found them when I was a member of the JJB [if you don’t know what this is, I ain’t telling you LOL]. Immediately I connected with their writing because it comes from a place of honesty. These girls unabashedly love boy bands, alternative music and other things that we as Black people stereotypically aren’t supposed to like. The gals at BGLU provide their perspective on everything from pop culture to music to relationships to spirituality.
Twitter name: @sweat_btwn
Blog URL: http://kimajones.com/
Why her writing rocks: Kima’s writing is…intense. Yes, that is the perfect way to describe her writing. She’s fearless and releases an unrelenting attack on the written word, carefully selecting each word in order to get her message across. She’s imaginative and determined and vivid. Kima lives loudly and invites you to do the same.
1. Read diversely.
3. See items 1 and 2.
4. Accept that there is no one way to make it as a writer and that the definition of making it is fluid and tiered.
5. Accept that sometimes literary success is political and/or about who you know and that’s not likely to change. Yes, celebrities are going to keep publishing terrible books. Yes, Lisa Rinna’s Starlit is an actual thing. I read the book and… I’m scarred. But. You’re not getting better as a writer, worrying about the system.
5a. If you’re a woman, writer of color or queer writer, there are probably more barriers. Know that. Be relentless anyway. Strive for excellence. Learn how to kick the shit out of those barriers. Don’t assume every failure is about your identity because such is not the case.
6. Accept that sometimes cream actually does rise to the top and hard, consistent work will eventually get noticed, maybe not in the way you envisioned, but some way, some how.
7. Understand the actual odds and learn to love the slush pile. The slush pile is not your enemy. It’s actually one of your best friends.The truth is that a significant percentage of the slush pile, which I prefer to call the submission queue, is absolutely terrible because people are lazy and will submit any old thing. If you can write a good sentence you are already heads and shoulders above most of what is found in submission queues. You’re not competing against 10,000 submissions a year a magazine receives. You’re competing against more like 200. Those are still intimidating odds but they’re also far more reasonable.
8. Be nice. The community is small and everyone talks. Being nice does not mean eating shit. Being nice does not mean kissing ass. Being nice just means treating others the way you would prefer to be treated. If you’re comfortable being treated like an asshole, then by all means.
9. Know that more often than not, editors have your best interests at heart. Stand up for your writing but be open to editorial suggestions. A good editor is giving you feedback in service of your writing.
10. Ignore most of the atrocious writing advice that proliferates at such an alarming rate.
11. Stop listening to conspiracy theories about publishing.
12. Stop listening to doomsday predictions about publishing.
13. Don’t talk yourself out of the game by listening to conspiracy theories, doomsday predictions, and bad advice.
14. Make note of the distinction between writing and publishing. They are two very different things.
15. Know that you can get an agent through the mystically fearsome slushpile. It may be hard. It may take more time than you want but it can and does happen. I found my first agent through the slush pile. She’s great. My second agent found me because of essays I wrote. Sometimes people find agents at conferences, or through friends of a friend, or other such connections but you absolutely can go the old fashioned route.
15a. Do your research. Know what agents are interested in. Spell their names correctly. Have a book you give a damn about and make sure it shows. Know how to talk about your book.
15b. If you want to see a sample query letter, just ask a writer who successfully signed with an agent through the slush pile. They will probably share.
15c. This is an interesting take on navigating the business of agents.
15d. But don’t be so discouraged!
16. You do not need to live in New York to be a writer, though New York is great (dirty bathrooms aside) and it might be better if you live elsewhere and visit New York for a few days at at time.
17. Perspective is everything. Someone getting a book deal is not taking yours away. Success is not as finite as it seems—it’s a matter of luck, timing, and hard work. (Or sometimes, yes, who you know).
17a. You are neither as great or terrible a writer as you assume.
18. Know that sometimes you simply need to work harder and sometimes you’ve done the best you can do and there’s no shame in either.
19. Participate in the literary community in the ways you are comfortable participating. What matters is that you contribute. That could be subscribing to a magazine, attending a reading, volunteering at a literary magazine, and so on. (See #8)
20. Have an online presence or don’t. It’s shocking how much time writers spend stressing over this that could be spent writing. Yes, an online presence helps but only if you actually use it with some regularity. Plenty of writers don’t have a significant online presence and manage to still be writers. If you feel like having an online presence (Twitter, Facebook, Blog, Tumblr, whatever), is a pain in the ass, it’s going to show and it’s not worth having.
21. If you’re going to have a website, don’t have an ugly website. There’s no excuse anymore. If you cannot afford a designer, no problem. Use a content management system like Wordpress or Tumblr and a nice template.
22. You will probably need a job unless you’re fine with financial stress. Yes you can have a job and be a writer. It happens all the time. I used to be fine with financial stress because I was young and my fantasies were exciting. I am not anymore because I am old and I love my apartment and health insurance and buying stupid shit. A job facilitates these things so keep it in mind. There are worse things than a job.
23. Learn to deal with rejection. You don’t have to like it. You can sulk and whine and cry. You can blog about it. Just know that publishing involves rejection far more than acceptance. It’s easier if you can process that early on.
23 a. Maybe don’t write editors who reject you to call them names. That doesn’t ever end well.
24. Have other hobbies. Don’t be one of those people who only writes and can only talk about writing. My hobbies are embarrassing but I do have them and am grateful to have them.
25. Ignore all of this as you see fit.
Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey
Introducing Detective Inspector Darko Dawson: dedicated family man, rebel in the office, ace in the field—and one of the most appealing sleuths to come along in years. When we first meet Dawson, he’s been ordered by his cantankerous boss to leave behind his loving wife and young son in Ghana’s capital city to lead a murder investigation: In a shady grove outside the small town of Ketanu, a young woman—a promising medical student—has been found dead under suspicious circumstances. Dawson is fluent in Ketanu’s indigenous language, so he’s the right man for the job, but the local police are less than thrilled with an outsider’s interference. For Dawson, this sleepy corner of Ghana is rife with emotional land mines: an estranged relationship with the family he left behind twenty-five years earlier and the painful memory of his own mother’s inexplicable disappearance. Armed with remarkable insight and a healthy dose of skepticism, Dawson soon finds his cosmopolitan sensibilities clashing with age-old customs, including a disturbing practice in which teenage girls are offered to fetish priests as trokosi, or Wives of the Gods. Delving deeper into the student’s haunting death, Dawson will uncover long-buried secrets that, to his surprise, hit much too close to home.
Darko has a temper. His mother disappeared when he was a child. His son has a hole in his heart. His mother-in-law is a pain in the ass, and his partner is a lazy, womanizer. To make matters worse, Darko is sent off to solve a crime in Ketanu, a community considered “bush” or antiquated, shuttled away from city life and his family until the job is done. Though the novel starts off painfully slow, once Darko is sent on his way to Ketanu and begins his investigation into a promising medical student’s murder, it was hard to put this book down.
The small town’s inexperienced police chief has his own motives and keeps getting in Darko’s way, and old timey traditions and superstition make it difficult to get much work done. Darko lashes out at anyone who pisses him off, causing him trouble with his boss and with the townspeople. At one point, I didnt think I would enjoy this story, but I was eventually so invested in the characters and their secrets and customs and affairs, I felt like I was reading a script for an original Lifetime movie. The suspects were plenty, the drama was high, and just when you think Darko has the culprit figured out…NOPE!! Darko must try again.
Quartey also does good with mixing the modern Accra lifestyle with the slow bush ways of Ketanu, shining light on the modern amenities that many might be shocked are part of daily life in African countries, while also weaving in stories about the AIDs epidemic and the reverence of traditional healers and medicine.
I greatly enjoyed this story, especially the ending. Though it’s a different location, culture, and customs, it reminded me a lot of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency television series (not the books). I would love to see this novel hit the big screen.
I’d suggest this to mystery lovers, those who enjoy international settings, and/or are interested in Ghanaian fiction.
And on the Eighth Day She Rested by J.D. Mason
Ruth Johnson has finally left her abusive husband of fourteen years and jumped feet first into “What the hell do I do now?” oblivion. Then into her life come three unforgettable women who turn her world upside down. Feisty, outspoken Bernice, a.k.a. “Bernie,” has been there and done that when it comes to love and marriage. Her ex-husband is settled down with his much younger wife and her kids are grown, and Bernie is looking to enjoy her fellow man—in more ways than one—no strings attached…or so she thinks. Sweet Southern belle May has it all: a beautiful home, two wonderful children, and a fine husband who worships the ground she walks on, yet a shadow hangs over what should be her equally perfect life, threatening to shake up her happy home. The older, wiser Clara is their guiding force, and when disaster strikes, all three women rally around her, determined to see her through it. Life is just getting interesting, and if they hold on to each other, they just might make it.
I think Mason had good intentions with this story line. A woman is battered by her husband, finds the strength to finally leave, and in the process of building a new life, gains new friends who help her along the journey. I grew up reading many African American chick lit style books like this, and though I wouldn’t count them as the best of the best, it is usually quite entertaining reading of the “sister girl shenanigans” which occupy a special place in our culture, and in my heart.
But this book just wasnt that good. Not even good enough for me to finish.
The author seemed to dwell incessantly on the issue of Ruth and her violent and damaging relationship. There is only so much repeating of a scenario or particular feeling without any real progress that a reader can take, though. I felt like I was being hit over the head with the fact that Ruth was fat with low self esteem and fearful of her husband. It’s all good to know but…now what? And thats what I kept saying for well over 50 pages.
And then, to spend so much time on Ruth’s marriage situation (probably 1/3 of the book) and become invested, only to turn around and be hit with one short chapter to explain the lives of each of her friends didn’t flow too well for me.
It all boiled down to a boring book that couldn’t keep my attention. I tried,though. Lord knows I did. But I had to give up on this.
I wouldn’t recommend this one.
Glorious by Bernice McFadden
I’ve heard many great things about this book and the author, so of course when it finally popped up on my reading list, I couldn’t wait to crack it open. Glorious follows the life of Easter Bartlett, born in Mississippi in the early 1900s. Traumatized by the atrocities of racism and the effects it has on her family, she sets off for a better, easier life, stopping in various cities throughout the south and east coast, leaving behind a life of high drama and scandal. She becomes a lauded writer during the Harlem Renaissance, but betrayal eventually tears her world apart.
The book started off at a mesmerizing pace and had me captivated for the first few chapters, but I eventually began to feel like something was missing. Because I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book, I went to Goodreads.com to read the reviews to see if anyone else had a similar feeling, and stumbled upon two reviewers who hit the nail on the head:
"…most of the story felt like it was being told from a news reader. "Bermuda was hit with a hurricane. California experienced an earthquake.” While this style conveys news, it does nothing to capture the impact or feelings behind the news that would make a story interesting.”
This was my only complaint. The actual storyline was great, but I wanted so much more from it: I wanted to know how Easter changed, why she made her decisions, why she reacted the way that she did. I wanted an emotional connection to her, and less of a play by play of the events in her life. There was so much stuff that happened to her…so much, so it would have been great to have been allowed inside her head and heart and stay there for a little while.
I think the idea behind the book was fascinating, though. I love historical novels, especially those centered on Black life, dripping with historical anecdotes, and McFadden made sure she incorporated the signs of the times throughout every era of the novel. I also love the fact that she made the main character a writer during the Harlem Renaissance, one of my favorite times in history.
I’d recommend this to those who enjoy historical fiction, high drama, and quick reads.