Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My review of Bitch is the New Black

I'm old, is the first thought I have reading Bitch is the New Black, the memoir by Helena Andrews. Like the spinster English teacher auntie that I almost am, I want Andrews to lighten up on the cussing and use of the word dude. And I cuss and say dude! Just...not so damn much. I feel like I did a few years ago when I turned down a job because I would have been in a department of young women who said Awesome! a thousand times a day. It would've taken about an awesome! minute before I hit one of them upside her awesome! head with my awesome! shoe.

But I kept reading and very soon I remembered what I was like in my late twenties: just as mixed up about life and love as Andrews, but not nearly as quippy or fabulous.

It's no wonder Shonda Rhimes, she of the "Seriously? Seriously." conversations on Grey's Anatomy became enamored with this book and decided to adapt it for film. Not only is the dialogue right up her alley, but the essays (and really this is a collection of creative essays rather than the long narrative one expects with the term memoir) are insightful and funny.

I laughed out loud at the part in which Andrews talks about admiring Lisa Nowak, the "crazy astronaut lady" who put on adult diapers to go have it out with the other woman:

"Anyone who'll drive countless hours with a carload of latex gloves, black wig, trench coat, drilling hammer, rubber tubing, and about $600 to 'talk' to the bitch who stole her man is a goddess among lesser women...

...sweet heavenly Jesus if we didn't know what it was like to be in the more than/less than emotional equation--who doesn't know what that's like? Stuck in that in-between place where nobody's happy, nobody's leaving, and everyone thinks you're settling. But as black women, we felt an even bigger gravitational pull toward the jerks who were at once unworthy and seemingly worthwhile (and I speak for all black women because I can). How many times had we convinced ourselves of someone else's potential while ignoring our own, giving each other great advice that we never follow (girl, he just might not be right for you)?

Crazy astronaut ladies and fabulous twenty-something black chicks are in the same spaceship: they're aliens among men blasting off to who knows where."

Andrews is black and black is in the title of the book, but at the risk of being stupidly obvious, I have to point out that 20-something and 30-something women, no matter what your race, will likely relate to her stories about finding her way in the world. (Very happy to see the book being included with reviews of funny books by white chicks! Go St. Petersburg Times!) And if you had a less-than-traditional upbringing (Andrews' mother is lesbian and likes to move a lot), like I did, you will relate even more.

But young women let me put in terms you might better understand: Dude, read this book. It's awesome! Seriously.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Help Wanted

After our chat on SheWrites.com today about women writers of color, I thought that maybe like in Lori Tharps' soon-to-be-released book, I should hire a "substitute me." But instead of "being me" in my home, she could be my public face in the biz. Here's my job ad.

Wanted: a white woman to pretend to be me in public

Want to travel to some of America’s greatest book stores? Don’t mind sitting at tables listening to strangers tell you the stories of their lives, all of which they just KNOW would make a great book? Always wondered what it would be like to be author of a novel? Have I got a job for you!

Pretend to be me in public. That’s right: I’ll do the work. You take the credit. No boring hours sitting in front of a blank computer screen! Just show up for the "fun" parts like media interviews and book signings.


Must be a college-educated, well-spoken, moderately attractive white woman between the ages of 35 and 50. Comfortable in front of audiences. Able to discuss issues like forgiveness, redemption, love, rage, hope and despair.

Available for in-person appearances at book stores and book festivals. In addition, I will need a high-res and low-res head shot to post on my your website and give to media.

Answers to FAQs and scripts describing the book and my writing process will be provided, but must be able to lie improvise on the spot. Also must be willing to occasionally answer rude questions and listen to rude critiques of your my work.

(Don't worry about the double-consciousness. You get used to it eventually.)


I'm a college-educated, well-spoken, moderately attractive black woman in her forties. I write novels that would be categorized as women’s fiction if I and my characters had slightly less melanin. Since I am unwilling to bleach my skin, I need you to represent me to publishers, booksellers and readers.

And because the world will think I’m you, I can write about an even wider variety of subjects. Though let’s be real: if I really want to hear cha-ching most of my new characters better be white. So I can sleep at night though, I’ll figure out some ways to add in the occasional person of color on the margins. A sassy best friend coming right up!


This is where things might get tricky. I don’t make very much money and even with your help chances are that I won’t ever be able to pay you what you could make at…say Starbucks. However, the more books you sell the higher the advances I get and the more I can pay you. Also, I am amenable to “sharing” you with other writers, depending on how good you are at disguising yourself. Expenses for wigs, prosthetics (no wide noses please!), colored contacts, and make-up will be shared by the writers, but you are responsible for clothing. Just make sure we look good!

No phone calls please.

Just joking people! Mostly. 

A must read take on a similar topic.

And on a very much more serious note, join The Bottom of Heaven as they host a round table in celebration of The Bluest Eye.

Talking women writers of color

Today! At 1 pm Eastern join Kamy Wycoff, founder of SheWrites.com and me as we discuss women writers of color. I'll tell the truth about some of the extra hurdles we face, but I also want to focus on some of the books by women writers of color that I love. Call in at 347-884-9779 and tell us about some writers we need to be reading. Click here to listen.

If you haven't yet read Bernice McFadden's essay in Saturday's Washington Post, check it out. We'll be discussing it too.

If you're a woman writer, SheWrites is having meet-ups in 17 different cities tomorrow to celebrate it's one year anniversary. See if there's one near you.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Meet: Ernessa T. Carter, author of 32 CANDLES

32 Candles is one of my favorite recent reads. I loved it! And I've been so happy to get to know Ernessa's blog Fierce & Nerdy. Like the woman and the blog, the book is funny, charming and very warm.

It is my pleasure to introduce you all to someone I hope will become a very big name in readers' circles (and movie circles, the book's already been optioned) and I urge you to check out her book, which pubs TODAY!

Funnily enough, author Lori Tharps, won the Snubbr.com giveaway here and chose 32 Candles as the book she will receive. So congrats Ernessa on your pub day! And congrats Lori on winning the book! 

White Readers Meet Black Authors: Tell us about your new book.

Ernessa T. Carter:  It’s about Davie Jones, a girl growing up mute, poverty-stricken and unpopular in Mississippi. She sees the movie Sixteen Candles for the first time and decides that she wants her own “Molly Ringwald Ending.” Much drama ensues.

WRMBA: Describe your work for someone unfamiliar with it. What's your writing style like? What subjects/themes do you explore?

ETC: I set out to write what I would call a literary romance, and what others might call women’s fiction. The point was that I love romantic novels and I love literary novels, and I didn’t understand why they were so often mutually exclusive. I like to talk about love, dreams, sanity, and emotion in really different ways. Most of all, I like to write the books I want to read, but aren’t seeing on bookshelves. If I wasn’t a frustrated reader, I probably wouldn’t be a novelist. Also, I like original characters. If my main character reminds you of someone else’s main character, then I want to meet that novelist, because obviously she is a parallel universe me that has come here in some kind of multi-dimensional time machine, and I have a few questions for her.

WRMBA: What's your goal(s) as a writer? Do you set out to educate? entertain? illuminate?

ETC: I think a lot people do this. They say, I adore movies and I adore writing, so I should be a screenwriter. That’s what I said to myself when I went and got my MFA for Dramatic Writing. I didn’t take into account that I don’t particularly like writing with other people or being told what to do or leaving the house for work. When you take that into account, I’m probably best suited to be a novelist. I think it’s important for people to keep on reassessing their personalities and make changes accordingly. I don’t regret my tangled journey, though. I got my first FT writing job and met my husband because of my MFA, so I consider it money well-spent, an investment in my future that paid off in really strange ways.

ETC: That’s an interesting question. Most of the authors I like have tons of fans already. For example, I’ve recommended ORANGE MINT AND HONEY to quite a few people, but usually they’ve either heard of it, already read it, or were planning to read it before I came along. Still, It took me over a year to find the graphic novel, BAYOU by Jeremy Love (which The Bottom of Heaven blogged about here), so I’d like to spread the gospel about that terrific read. I also wish more people would read BLACK WATER RISING by Attica Locke (reviewed here in the L.A. Times) and I adore how Lisa Tucker writes. Her book premises are never the same, and man, is she suspenseful.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One link to rule them all

Y'all, I spent the weekend at a rugby tournament (yes rugby) and I am sunburned and bug-bitten. So I'm not blogging. But I did notice this interesting link to Preston Allen's site for his novel Jesus Boy thanks to Troy Johnson of AALBC.com (be sure to get their iPhone ap for reviews from their site & the New York Times). Allen discusses what it was like to be in O Magazine and what his books and the books of his publisher Akashic (which also published Glorious by Bernice McFadden, which also got a shout out in O Magazine) mean for readers. A little bit from him:

"When Akashic (my publisher) acquires a book, its primary mission is never to sell a million copies, but to give a platform to good books that are often overlooked by the bigger publishing houses. Akashic seeks in its catalogue excellence rather than mega-sales. Likewise, Akashic's writers seek to write the best books possible and therefore choose subject matter, content, and style that CONFIRM the integrity of the work of art rather than CONFORM to market tastes.

In other words, they are a lot like me. When I write, I never think about what you WANT to read; I think about what you NEED to read. I don't write for the pocketbook; I write for the soul."

Now, it's oatmeal bath time.

Oh, one more thing: if you're in L.A. this weekend, check out the Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival. Heidi Durrow, Tara Betts, Tai Babilonia, Marie Mockett, Celina Martinez, Neil Aitken and others (including me!) will be chatting about books and movies. The Mixed Chicks will be discussing it tomorrow on their popular web chat show.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


What do writers owe their readers? Do readers owe writers anything? I did a guest post on the topic of writer-reader loyalty on the site BooksAnd.net I hope you will check it out and let me know what you think.

The way I see it. We are mutually dependent on each other. Without readers, writers are out of business. Without writers, what will we read? So if you have any insights about how we can help each other out, do let me know.