Black Authors

Can you name one fantasy book written by a black author?

Don’t feel bad if the answer is no because I (a black aspiring fantasy author) can’t name a single one. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I can’t name a black author who has written something that was outside the realm of African American fiction or nonfiction. I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one who is like this, regardless of their race.

As an aspiring author and a black person, the question is always lurking in the back of my mind: Do I have to write about African American subjects to be a notable author?

Think about some of the great black writers. Maya Angelou wrote about black issues. Toni Morrison wrote about black issues. Ralph Ellison wrote about black issues. They wrote about other topics, but they are known for what they wrote about black culture.

I’m certainly not condemning them for writing what they did because the world needed to be exposed to the subjects they wrote about. However, I don’t just want to write about black culture! I have definitely written short stories about being black, and I do plan on getting them published some day. But my favorite genre to write about is the fantasy genre.

As crazy as it seems in the 21st century, if I or some other black author writes a great fantasy book that people love, we won’t be just another talented writer. We’ll be that black fantasy writer. We won’t be known for how good our book is as much as we’ll be known for how we broke racial barriers in fiction writing.

Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll ever be just an author. There will always be “black” attached to anything I write.

2015 Goals

Photo courtesy of: http://www.happynew-year.com/
Photo courtesy of: http://www.happynew-year.com/

Yes I’m doing the whole resolution thing. I don’t think it’s as cliche as everyone thinks. I know for a fact that I will not be able to complete all of my resolutions, but I think it’s nice to have something to strive for. Of course, I have more goals for the new year besides writing and reading, but I won’t bother listing them here. Here are five things I would like to accomplish this year:

  1. Submit my book to a literary agent. (Yes, I still haven’t done this yet.)
  2. Get a short story published in a literary magazine.
  3. Improve my freelancing career. (It’s looking promising already!)
  4. Read at least one book a month. (It doesn’t sound like a lot, but I have a pretty demanding schedule.)
  5. Gain new blog followers. (This will probably happen when I start blogging more regularly.)

There are probably other things I could put down, but those actually seem feasible. The first two will take the most work, but looking back on 2014, I know that a lot can happen in a year. Who knows? Maybe this time next year, this will be the blog of a published author! 🙂

Good luck on your goals for the next year! Don’t be afraid to dream big. As the great philosopher Drake would say, “YOLO.”

Blog Response: Novel Writing Ideas

This is a response to a post from Writing Forward. The title is How to Develop Your Best Novel Writing Ideas, and I thought it offered some really great advice.

I liked the section, “Get in Touch with Your Passions.” This was important to me because for the longest time, I tried to write a novel about “popular” topics. I wanted to write about dragons, but I was actually ashamed to be “too nerdy.” The post says, “All your past and present obsessions hold the clues to your future obsession with your own novel.” The moment I started writing about what I loved, the words seemed to flow out of me.

A lot of the post focused on flexibility, which I thought was really important. My initial idea for my novel was pretty different from what I actually ended up writing. I’m sure that if I get a literary agent, what I’ve written right now might have to change before it gets published. I need to be patient and flexible with my ideas for this novel, and I also need to be flexible about ideas for future novels.

I also liked that the post talked about generating tons of ideas. I think the saying, “There is no such thing as a bad idea,” is really useful when trying to come up with new ideas. Freewriting tons of ideas down has definitely help me come up with short story topics in the past. I liked the writer’s suggestion about keeping flashcards of ideas. I’m going to start doing that.

How do you generate writing ideas?

My First Book Festival

Don’t ask me why it took 23 years for me to attend a book festival. As an aspiring writer, it is a point of shame. 😦 But I have to say, the Baltimore Book Festival was a great introduction to the wonderful book-festival world!

First of all, the festival took place on the Inner Harbor for the first time. I don’t know if any of you have been to Baltimore, but the Inner Harbor is beautiful!

Gorgeous!
The beautiful Baltimore Inner Harbor!

Best harbor I’ve ever been to. Hands down. (I’ve only been to one harbor ever, but it’s still pretty nice, right?)

I didn’t stay very long because parking was super expensive, but it was so great to see the different types of books people were selling. It was amazing to meet actual published authors and get their opinions on starting my own writing career.

The best thing I got out of the experience was meeting the nonfiction editor for the Baltimore Review. We started talking about nonfiction pieces that I had written, and she encouraged me to submit them. She said she would look for my name in the submissions, which I thought was really nice. It’s always good to meet people who might one day publish your work. (Now I just need to figure out which piece to submit!)

The next best thing about the book festival was the discounted books! I got Windhaven by George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle because any book by George R.R. Martin has to be good. I also got How To Be Black by Baratunde R. Thurston. That one was an impulse buy. The title cracked me up, and I’m excited to read someone make fun of black stereotypes. I wrote a piece about it myself, so I’m interested in his take on the subject. (More about that later. I’m definitely writing a review about it.)

Overall, I call my first book festival a success! I’m excited to attend more. I think becoming a better writer means going where the other writers are. Maybe one day I’ll be invited to attend one and present my new book. Here’s hoping!

Why Grammar Matters

As an editor, I am an extreme grammar Nazi. I have to be to do a good job! My family and friends absolutely hate it when I start correcting their grammar whether in person or when they text me. Writers mainly get their work edited by someone else, but I think it helps to know grammar rules even if you aren’t a professional editor.

1. Your manuscripts look more polished.

-I’m not an agent, but it seems like every literary agent I’ve researched wants manuscripts to be error free. Your grammatically correct manuscript might impress an agent so much that he or she will want to publish your book!

2. Your sentences can be more versatile.

-When you know how dependent clauses, independent clauses, and punctuation work, your sentences can have more variety. You can construct beautifully complicated sentences that will definitely impress a reader.

3. Your work won’t take as long to edit.

-I’m a little biased about this part, but there is nothing worse than getting a manuscript from a writer and having to take a ridiculous amount of time to edit it. However, if you have a tight deadline to submit your work, making less grammar mistakes can help shorten the process of writing, editing, and submitting.

I would encourage everyone to brush up on grammar knowledge. My favorite resource is Purdue OWL because it’s easy to navigate, but sometimes when I’m writing I just rely on Google for any odd grammar questions.

Choosing to be TV Free!

I love TV! I feel like writers and avid book readers are always down on TV, but personally, I think TV is great! When I want to unwind after a long day at work, sometimes a good book requires too much thinking. I need something mindless and entertaining, and that isn’t an insult to television at all!

That being said, Netflix (the crack of the entertainment world) offers the option to binge watch hundreds of shows, and before I know it, I’ve spent several hours of my day staring at a TV screen. That’s fine on some days, but when it starts to interfere with reading and writing time, it’s a problem.

So I have instituted “TV-Free days.” Right now, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are the days where I am not allowed to watch any TV. It’s the thought behind the rule that counts more than the rule itself. I need to set aside time to read and write if I’m ever going to be a successful writer. I have stories to write, new books to read, chapters to revise, and posts to blog, and I simply won’t do any of that if I’m lying around watching TV all day.

I started this week, and I was so productive Monday! And frankly, I’ve missed spending hours reading and writing (Over the summer, I went a little Netflix crazy!). I’m hoping to eventually add Sunday, but I’ll have to see how this goes. You have to make time for the things you care about, and I care about reading and writing!