Friday, December 17, 2010

Martha Southgate's advice for writers & recommendations for readers

Martha Southgate is the author of four novels, most recently Third Girl From the Left (one of my all-time favorites, a love letter to the movies, and these glowing reviews tell why). Her new novel will be published by Algonquin Books in 2011.

If you haven't read Third Girl From the Left I envy you because you are in for a treat! Leave Martha a comment below and maybe you'll win a signed copy. If you don't, run, don't walk, to your nearest book store or device and buy it. Actually, go get it now anyway. If you end up winning another copy, you can give away the one you bought. Martha is also one of the co-founders of ringShout, a place for black literature. Check out that blog and also her guest post below on writing and reading:





The past year, I’ve been working the first full-time day job that I’ve had in many years (I know, I know, I’ve been lucky that I haven’t had to do that sooner). The hours are not oppressive and there is no Blackberry involved but still, I’ve had trouble getting my new novel started. My wish for the new year for myself--and for any writers out there who are facing the same dilemma—is time, discipline and kindness to ourselves. Do what you can and do make a schedule for writing that you stick to as much as possible (I gotta get on that myself). But don’t hate yourself when you fall off course. Just get going again.

On a related note, I believe it’s as important to keep reading as it is to write. Whenever I meet a “writer” who says they don’t have time to read, frankly, I dismiss them out of hand. If you don’t read, you can’t write. Period. And for those of you who are readers alone: thank you. We couldn’t make it without you. So for all the readers and writers out there, here are three of my favorite books by black authors that were published this year:

God Says No by James Hannaham. This first novel is the story, both touching and hilarious, of Gary Gray, a staunch fundamentalist Christian with one big problem. He's gay. The story of how he fights it (unsuccessfully) is one of the most original of the year.

Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans This young writer has received plenty of attention for this first collection of stories--and she deserves it. These stories rock! Read 'em yourself and see.

[Carleen here: Ron Charles, the Washington Post books editor, reviews Evans' collection and has an interesting discussion (with himself) about who should review black authors.]



Substitute Me by Lori Tharps. Read this one with your book club and watch the sparks fly. This is pop fiction with some heavy themes about race, class, and what happens when rearing your own child becomes something you outsource.

Whatever holiday(s) you celebrate--celebrate them with a book! And, as Tiny Tim once said," God bless us, every one."

15 comments:

Carolyn Burns Bass said...

Thanks, Carleen and Martha. I just found two potential books for discussion in #litchat. THIRD GIRL FROM THE LEFT and GOD SAYS NO. Who says they're not publishing good books these days?

Gayle Gardner Lin said...

I often urge my friends on Facebook to read the books I recommend by the authors of color. I found Bernice McFadden and became enchanted and then moved on to several others. Now I'm glad to have found you and would love to win a copy of a new book.

Karen L. Simpson said...

Would love to win a copy but will be buying another. Loved the video

Amy said...

God Says No sounds like a book I'll definitely want to read. And so does THIRD GIRL FROM THE LEFT :)

Laura Baker said...

Thank you so much Carleen for a great laugh on the video review and love that you continue to promote great books by authors of color. I am always directing reader friends to your site. I have all of Martha's books and am looking forward to reading Third Girl over the holidays.

Ernessa from 32 Candles.com said...

THIRD GIRL FROM THE LEFT is on my list for next year, so please, please let me win. I'm also looking forward to reading the Danielle Evans book in 2011.

Re: the job. I wrote my first novel while working 60+ hour weeks while chained to a blackberry. And now I find that my even-harder SAHM job keeps me way more organized. I think the nice thing about having to do something other than write is that it balances your expectations. In many ways it might not be all that great for your writing to do nothing else but write. Having a job keeps you engaged with the world, forces you to constantly arrange and reevaluate your priorities. I find myself getting more done b/c I have a very limited amount of time to work with. Also, I'm much nicer to myself this way. If I'm able to write for a little while every weekday, then wow I'm getting a lot done. On the other hand, when I'm out on the road w/o the kid, then I'm constantly beating myself up if I don't write tons. My expectations get out of control.

But m/b I'm just making lemonade. :)

Either way, you're so right about reading. You've got to keep learning. Also, I think it's weird to be an author who doesn't read. I also get a bit frustrated with authors who don't read new books or books outside their genre. I judge them the same way I judge older musicians who say there's no good music these days. Are you serious? I mean, are you actively seeking out new music? Because you wouldn't say that if you were...

martha said...

Ernessa, I know where you're coming from. I wrote my novel "The Fall of Rome" when I was both working full time (at least for two of the 4 years it took to write it) and the mother of a two year old (He's 16 now--no Blackberries then). So hey, I've been there, done that. Not quite sure why I'm finding it so much harder to keep on it now. But perhaps the why doesn't matter--just gotta get back on that horse.

Carleen Brice said...

@Carolyn, Martha will be in touch!

@Galye, Yay you! That's great to hear.

@Karen, I didn't watch these videos for the longest time somehow not really believing they would be funny, but they are! Ron Charles is!

@Amy, Glad to hear you found some good ones today!

@Laura, Let me know what you think about Third Girl. I wouldn't say it if I didn't mean it: I loved it!

@Ernessa, I'm with you. I wrote Orange Mint and Honey while I had a full-time job and was editing an anthology. I got waaaay more done then than I do now! But I'm picking up my freelance work and another project in addition to my novel, so I'm expecting great productivity for 2011!

Pamala Knight said...

Thanks for the book recommendations and the encouragement to just keep writing. You're right--just gotta get the words down in the time that's available.

Also, I LOVED the video. Very funny.

Reads4Pleasure said...

I absolutely loved The Fall of Rome and I'm looking forward to reading Third Girl from the Left.

Substitute Me and Before Your Suffocate Your Own Fool Self were two of my favorite reads this year. I'll give God Says No a try based on your recommendation.

Lovelyn said...

Thanks for the great recommendations. I'm planning on reading The Fall of Rome soon. I'm definitely putting Third Girl From the Left on my list too.

Babydoll said...

Thank you Carleen for this wonderful post! I am now thrilled to read God Says No and Third Girl From the Left.

Eva said...

I read The Fall of Rome earlier this year and loved it, so I was excited to see this post! :) I'd love to be entered in the giveaway; Tharps' novel was already on my TBR list (I really enjoyed her memoir) as was Evans' collection, but I hadn't heard of the Hannaham!

evelyn.n.alfred said...

Oooh, I'd like to win Third Girl from the Left. Would it be considered Chick Lit?

Carleen Brice said...

@Evelyn, it's THIRD GIRL literary fiction. Very accessible and easy-to-read, but more substantial than chick lit.