a decade ago i was preparing to depart for louisiana. a decade later, i prepare to return to memphis.
“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.” ~James Baldwin
yes, papa baldwin.
My wonderful friend Chioma Okereke tagged me for “The Next Big Thing,” a blog tour of upcoming projects by writers.
• What is the working title of your next book?
• Where did the idea come from for the book?
I have been working on this book so long that it is difficult to say. I’m a bit obsessed by twins (my zodiac sign is Gemini), and at the center of the story is a pair of magical twins. I was staring at a painting (that I now own) by my friend frank d. robinson, jr. In the painting a mother is mourning the death of one of her twins. I wanted to explore what an absence like that would mean to the left behind sibling. What would it feel like to have a loss that no one believes that you should even register?
• What genre does your book fall under?
• What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I think I’ll leave the casting for the movie people.
• What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Who has to bear the weight of dreams realized and denied?
• Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I will seek agency representation shortly.
• How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
A year for the first draft. A decade of revision.
• What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I love novels that show a community or family over time and trauma.
• Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I am still obsessed by the shadow that the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. cast on the city of Memphis, TN. The twins of my novel are born as Dr. King is dying.
• What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
There is magic and mystery with a soul music backdrop.
Here are the other stops on the tour:
Chika Unigwe, author of On Black Sisters Street and 2012 winner of Nigeria’s biggest prize for literature, the NLNG Prize. http://www.chikaunigwe.com
Rosa Rankin-Gee, Paris Literary Prize 2011 Winner and author of The Last Kings of Sark, forthcoming by Virago. en-gb.facebook.com/rosarankingee
Bassey Ikpi, a featured cast member of the National Touring Company of the Tony Award winning Broadway show, Russell Simmon’s Def Poetry Jam, poet, writer and founder of the Siwe Project – a global non-profit dedicated to promoting mental health awareness throughout the global black community. http://www.basseyworld.live
i am revising. i am cooking. that is all.
the 32 days edition
i started my literary year off by committing to 32 consecutive days of writing. it was carleen brice that reminded me that this was my third year of this practice. this new ritual of mine was inspired by this article by ann patchett. today i am sitting down to the scary work of actually reading what i wrote at such a feverish pace (feverish for me, since my pace tends to be fairly glacial). so far, it isn’t so terrible that i can’t stand it. i used some tricks to keep me moving forward this time.
1. 90 minutes. i love macfreedom. i’ve taken to shutting off my internet in intervals of 90 minutes. i read somewhere once this is the magic number of minutes for creativity. works for me.
2. the word count. i am always amazed at the mercurial thing a long work of fiction can be. usually my muse cools at the mention of word counts, but something called out to me to use them. i’ve been kind of battered by working on something for such a long period of time, that i decided to surrender to the whims of my novel. to release my control and just follow. so *poof* word counts suddenly started to work for me. i picked 1,000 words per day as my target.
3. daily word document. i am notorious for hating fiction the first day that i write it. when i first started writing, i combated the impulse to destroy everything i wrote by writing longhand in composition books. it had to be a composition book and not a tablet that was meant for pages to tear out. the fact that the composition book was bound and thus more book-like prevented me from tearing the pages out. i wrote in pencil, and wouldn’t take the time to erase big blocks of text, so it was easier to just move forward. this year i used a daily words file. i typed my 1,000 words into this document. at the end of the day i would transfer those words into another master document. this kept me (mostly) from the temptation to look back at what i had written so far and provided a clean slate each day. also, i think the fact that it sounds slightly biblical to me (daily words, daily bread) made it almost like a prayer.
4. shutting up. i mentioned that i had invoked a vow of silence about my work. i made a deal with myself. i could talk about process. how many days, how many words, etc. but i would not say more than a sentence about the actual story. this was difficult, but necessary for me. i think that this is helping me stay in the dream of the world that i am creating. before i felt like i was talking all of the nectar out of everything. writing is a way of thinking for me and blathering on about what it all means was sucking all of the magic out of the process.
at the end of my 32 days i have 34,262 new words (106 pages). a pretty lovely way to kick off my literary year.