Soon, the year 2018 will roll on in. Looking back to all that I’ve accomplished, in spite of the struggle and medical hardships (yup, maybe I’ll share that someday), I can finally admit that I’m amazed and proud of myself.
Before I sat down to type this post, I had to think back on every single thing I did in order to own this feeling and not dismiss it. My mother and father raised me to always strive to be better. So, I blame them. Thank you, Mommy and Daddy. Thank you ever so much. Lol.
For most of you that know me on a more personal level, you know it’s hard for me to express such affirmations and truly, TRULY own them.
So, without further adieu, here are 10 Accomplishments in 2017 I’m MOST PROUD OF:
1. Attended various local author events at bookstores, libraries, and conventions.
2. Republished Forbidden as an e-book (now if only I can finish it up as a paperback)!
3. Independently published my first middle grade book (Waking Dream Series). Due to the fact that I struggle with marketing books like other Indie authors, I’ve decided that WHEN (not if) I become traditionally published, I’ll still put 100% into social media and marketing, but I hope that I’ll have more time to dedicate to writing. Being an Indie author is HARD! And yes, the stigma of independently publishing books is slowly disappearing it isn’t completely extinct!
4. Celebrated my sons’ birthdays (17, 5, and 2).
5. Wedding Anniversary – 🙂
6. Submitted several manuscripts to agents and publishers! Sure, I received rejections! But if you don’t try, you won’t succeed!
7. Applied for artists grants.
8. Sold my FIRST PAID short story, “Bondye Bon” to FIYAH Literary Magazine. Learn more so you can purchase your copy in January here!
9. Created YouTube Channel that’s in need of some serious, serious attention! 😉
10. Connected with more bloggers, readers, writers, and friends all over the world!
With you and your stimulating social interactions, I’ve become a better writer!
In an earlier post of the “Quotes to Write By” series I cited Mervin Block’s quote “nouns are the bones that give a sentence body. But verbs are the muscles that make it go.”
Well, let’s have a little discussion about adjectives and adverbs.
Believe it or not, these descriptive parts of speech can do a lot of damage to a decent sentence, paragraph, or scene. Mark Twain advises “if you catch an adjective, kill it.” And Stephen King admonishes that adverbs are not a writer’s friend.
Here are some examples from King:
“Adverbs … are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They’re the ones that usually end in -ly. Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind. … With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.
“Consider the sentence He closed the door firmly. It’s by no means a terrible sentence (at least it’s got an active verb going for it), but ask yourself if firmly really has to be there. You can argue that it expresses a degree of difference between He closed the door and He slammed the door, and you’ll get no argument from me … but what about context? What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came beforeHe closed the door firmly? Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door? And if the foregoing prose does tell us, isn’t firmly an extra word? Isn’t it redundant?”
King also addresses how adverbs can (taboo -ly words) weaken — not strengthen dialogue:
‘Put it down!’ she shouted.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said.
In these sentences, shouted, pleaded, and said are verbs of dialogue attribution. Now look at these dubious revisions:
‘Put it down! she shouted menacingly.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded abjectly, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said contemptuously.
The three latter sentences are all weaker than the three former ones, and most readers will see why immediately.
What’s a writer to do?
Use strong verbs instead.
Describe your character’s facial expressions, actions.
Utilize literary devises such as metaphor and similes, which I call formidable beasts.
Get inside the minds of your characters with Deep POV.
At last, the quote for today:
“Adjectives, like adverbs are lazy words, slowpokes, tranquilizers. Watch out for them.”
Jack M. Bickham
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I just learned about this event today and wish I could have attended.
The above quote by Walter Dean Myers, a children’s book author and best known for young adult literature reveals a lot about the way I started to feel when I realized that a lot of the books I read didn’t reflect me in a society that claimed to be diverse and tolerant. Myers died on July 1, 2014. And his books are still relevant to the lives of African-Americans. In fact, his YA book, “Monster” is being made into a movie.
As you may already know, I’m a xenophile. I absolutely love learning about different cultures, languages, and people! So, it’s no mystery that I grew up loving to read. Reading was (and still is) my gateway to other worlds and food for my ravenously curious mind. One series in particular that I enjoyed reading during my preteen years was “Sweet Valley High”, which focused on two blonde hair and blue-eyed twins named Jessica and Elizabeth. I don’t recall encountering any girls or boys of color within those pages. Besides, the main focal point was on those two twins who were as different as night and day. I loved the often good plotlines. Looking back, some were silly and over-the-top dramatic!
But, come on. It was high school, right?
Yeah, I really did love reading. And when my mother noticed that there weren’t a lot of books that featured characters that looked like we did (dark brown skin) or even came from cultures like ours – (Caribbean/West Indies) she got worried. My mom’s a wise lady. She started giving me books by Mildred D. Taylor. When I got older, she moved onto introducing books with more complex issues. I cried while reading both Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” and “The Bluest Eye”. In my high school’s Honors Reading classes, we were assigned to read “Beloved” and to analyze the characters’ motivations. I had no problem realizing that Sethe couldn’t simply be written off as a villainous character. I was hooked! I continued reading the remainder of Mildred D. Taylor’s series about the Logan family’s struggles and accomplishments.
Now, back to Myers’ quote. My mother saw a voracious need in me that I couldn’t see. She saw that I needed characters to relate to. Characters that I COULD relate to. Sure, following the antics between twin sisters is entertaining, but the world of Jessica and Elizabeth from Sweet Valley High was as real to me as Barbie in her Malibu home.
A lot of my students, Latinos and African-Americans are turned off to reading at a young age, and who can blame them? When you analyze the fact and consider that there aren’t many books that reflect their people in a realistic and beautiful way the reasons aren’t so hidden or hard to understand. And let’s not forget authentic as one of the necessary characteristics for diverse books.
The publishing industry knows that people want more diverse books. The rise in Indie authors who circumnavigated the gatekeepers is testimony to that. However, these gatekeepers choose to give us these “gifts” in a manner that cheats us of good, authentic tales. For example, most diverse books that I’ve encountered and enjoyed reading are written by non-POC people (“Full Cicada Moon” and “Seraphina’s Promise”). Regarding “Seraphina’s Promise”, I wondered how different the story would have unfolded if it had come from a Haitian person’s point of view?
Also, both of these books are written in prose. I love poetry. I truly do. But why do these authors have to resort to writing such deliciously complex stories in prose? Did the editors or publishers think that boxing the story within the often pedantic poetic style would somehow give the illusion that the stories were more . . . dare I use the word — authentic? Soulful? Real? Organic? That prose would magically inject these stories with a je ne sais quoi that often only people who have experienced can personally write. Think of “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker. I find it hard to believe that a non-Black person could write that book with the same results.
Now, don’t get it twisted (as my students sometimes say). As a Black woman who has written about a 19th century, peach-skinned (well, when he’s been fed the right amount of blood) British vampire and aristocrat I’m not going to be a hypocrite and say that white women or men can’t write from the POV’s of nonwhite characters.
However, if the publishing industry thinks that this practice of exclusively having white people tell the stories of nonwhite characters is okay or is an answer to the desire for diverse books, then that’s ridiculous and needs to change.
It’s almost as if the publishing industry (which is a part of the “media“) want to keep the White Savior myth alive. For example, in the movie Hidden Figures, which tells the true story of three brilliant Black women who were the brains behind one of the greatest NASA operations in history, the director Theodore Melfi fabricated a scene for emotional effect that perpetuates the white savior myth perfectly. You can read more about it here.
Readdressing Myers’ thought-provoking question: What is the message when some children are not represented in those books?
The message isn’t a good one and any answers I have will most likely become another blog post. I live in a country that seems to embrace the message of diversity and inclusion when it suits itself. I’m glad that there has been a rise in diverse books. I’m glad that untold stories and histories of all peoples are being shared. Now I have a question: