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November is National Novel Writing Month

 

The month of November is all about authors and books. So kick off November 1st, by celebrating your favorite authors or books. Here are 5 things you can do to show your favorite writer some love.

  1.  You can purchase some books by your favorite author to support them
  2.  Write them a fan letter and tell them what you enjoy about their writing or book
  3.  Introduce someone to your favorite author or book by gifting them a book
  4.  Give a shout out on social media to talk about your favorite book or author all month by using the following hashtags  #Myfavoritebookis(put in the books name) or #Myfavoriteauthoris(insert author name)
  5.  Write a memorable passage/ or quote from your favorite book and post it on social media with the author's name and  book title

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Gloria Naylor Our Neighborhood Watch

        

 

Go On Girl! Book Club remembers Gloria Naylor

When Go On Girl! Book Club had its first Author Awards event in 1992 the winning author was Gloria Naylor for her novel Bailey's CafÈ. Naylor spent much of her literary career writing stories about our neighborhoods and the colorful characters that inhabit them. It is always so sad when one of our literary voices makes their transition. We are grateful for the books they leave behind that keep them and their stories alive in our hearts and minds. They always live on in the words, stories and books they wrote.

In 1998 I had the opportunity to interview Gloria Naylor for our book The Go On Girl Book Club Guide for Reading Groups about her book The Men of Brewster Place below is the interview from the book.

Home base: Brooklyn, New York

Literary Heroes: "I don't have any heroes. There are people I enjoy reading, and they're mostly a lot of women writers. In school, I studied Black women writers, and I think discovering them helped inspire me to write -- people like Zora Neale Hurston and Nikki Giovanni."

Claim to Fame: National Book Award for first novel and the Guggenheim Fellowship for Humanities, American Book Awards and the 1992 Author of the Year Award from Go On Girl! Book Club

In Her Own Words

Q: You are perceived as our neighborhood watch. What is so appealing to you about writing about neighborhoods?

A: It allows me to address a whole profile of different characters, and it doesn't limit what I can do with it as a writer.

Q: Your books tend to take on many social issues. Do you feel as an African-American writer that you have a responsibility to address the issues that are important to us?

A: Not as a writer I don't. As a private citizen, yes, it's important to be part of the community. When I'm working on my fiction, I'm trying to tell the best story I know how.

Q: So many female writers are criticized for their portrayals of male characters in their books. What was your experience with The Women of Brewster Place?

A: I never apologized for the stand I took for Black women. Never. I tell my audiences, I am telling your mothe's story. Now what could be wrong with that? I don't think that Black women have been hard on Black men. And no one ever asks about the invisibility of Black women in the work of Black men. But we're not there. To tell the truth, I did not care about the criticism. It really was just a small number of people asking, "Where are the men in this book?" And I said, "They were not meant to be in this book, it's not their book, read the title page and you'll see." I feel very strongly that artists should be able to write whatever they want to write, there's a lot of self-censorship in our community, which I think is really a shame -- people feeling that they have to write role models, as opposed to just writing good characters.

Q: Why did you find it necessary to revisit Brewster Place, this time from a male perspective?

A: I just wanted to look at the other side of the coin from the women and give those men, who really didn't speak in the first story, a chance to tell their own story. I didn't have an epiphany. My father passed away and then there was the Million Man March. Those things slowly added up to my writing about the men. What crossed my mind was the stories I would tell now; my heroes, if you will, would be all different types of Black men, speaking to make a microcosm of the Black man in America. I decided to use the same strategy that I used in The Women of Brewster Place and for almost the same reason ñ to show multiplicity.

Q: So your father was an influence in writing The Men of Brewster Place?

A: In some ways, he was married to my mother for forty-some years. And he worked damn hard all of his life. And he stayed in the marriage probably when he might have been happier somewhere else, but the fact is that they're from that generation that believed in family first. So he was just a solid kind of person.

Q: Why did you bring Ben back to tell the story?

A: Because he was the observer to all the events that went on in The Women of Brewster Place. He was always perched on top of the garbage can, so he would be the ideal observer again to tell about the men.

Q: Eugene's character was the father of the child who dies in The Women of Brewster Place. Why did you decide to make Eugene gay in this book?

A: I didn't choose that. A lot of things you don't do consciously. But as I began to think about Eugene's story, it unfolded that he wanted to be gay. But I didn't start out saying, "Iím going to make Eugene gay or make Basil this or make Ben that." It's just that once you get into a work, different truths are revealed to you.

Q: All of the characters in your books are well developed. Is there one that's a favorite of yours and why?

A: No. That would be like choosing one child over the other. Each character has brought me something different.

Published Works: The Women of Brewster Place, 1983; Linden Hills, 1985; Mama Day, 1987; Baileys Cafe, 1992; Children of the Night: The Best Short Stories by Black Writers, 1967 to Present, 1997; The Men of Brewster Place, 1998, Gloria Naylor: Critical Perspectives Past and Present, 2000; Conversations with Gloria Naylor, 2004; 1996, 2005

Gloria Naylor (January 25, 1950-September 28, 2016)

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ERNEST J. GAINES: A Writing Life

ERNEST J. GAINES: A Writing Life, By Sharon Pendana

Ernest J. Gaines is a Literary National Treasure and this year in New Orleans for our 25th Anniversary Go On Girl! Book Club bestowed upon him our Literary Legend award to recognize and honor him for the body of work he has created. Freelance writer and author Sharon Pendana caught up with him via phone and spent time getting to know Mr. Gaines and learning about his writing life.

ErnieTeachingWorkshop2.jpgIn a bayou baritone, Dr. Ernest J. Gaines describes the accoutrements of his home office a stash of ballpoint pens and reams of yellow paper on which to write the first drafts of his literary treasures. He uses only “unlined, canary colored paypuh,”
says the esteemed author/educator via telephone, the warm timbre and languid cadence of his voice evoking the rural Louisiana of his boyhood that he so succinctly renders in his fiction. He's a stickler for his preferred paper. Unlined for the flexibility to write large or small, conducive to his mood. Writing longhand is key,
an entirely different creative process from the brain onto the page than is pecking away on a keyboard. Why the sunny hue? "Neuroses. We all have them," he shares with an easy laugh. "I must use the canary paypuh."

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Go On Girl! Salutes the Legacy of Zora Neale Hurston

zora.jpgZora Neale Hurston was born on January 7, 1871 in Notasulga, Alabama and departed this life on January 28, 1960 in Fort Pierce, Florida. Zora was a folklorist, anthropologist, novelist and short story writer. Hurston made the GOG reading list in 1993 with Dust Tracks on a Road, and in 2008 GOG read Mules and Men. We can all learn about Zora Neale Hurston’s life from the information on her official website.

“I have the nerve to walk my own way, however hard, in my search for reality, rather than climb upon the rattling wagon of wishful illusions.” – Letter from Zora Neale Hurston to Countee Cullen

Zora Neale Hurston knew how to make an entrance. On May 1, 1925, at a literary awards dinner sponsored by Opportunity magazine, the earthy Harlem newcomer turned heads and raised eyebrows as she claimed four awards: a second-place fiction prize for her short story “Spunk,” a second-place award in drama for her play Color Struck, and two honorable mentions.

The names of the writers who beat out Hurston for first place that night would soon be forgotten, but the name of the second-place winner buzzed on tongues all night, and for days and years to come. Lest anyone forget her, Hurston made a wholly memorable entrance at a party following the awards dinner. She strode into the room–jammed with writers and arts patrons, black and white–and flung a long, richly colored scarf around her neck with dramatic flourish as she bellowed a reminder of the title of her winning play, “Colooooooor Struuckkkk!” Her exultant entrance literally stopped the party for a moment, just as she had intended. In this way, Hurston made it known that a bright and powerful presence had arrived. By all accounts, Zora Neale Hurston could walk into a roomful of strangers and, a few minutes and a few stories later, leave them so completely charmed that they often found themselves offering to help her in any way they could.

Gamely accepting such offers–and employing her own talent and scrappiness–Hurston became the most successful and most significant black woman writer of the first half of the 20th century. Over a career that spanned more than 30 years, she published four novels, two books of folklore, an autobiography, numerous short stories, and several essays, articles and plays.

Born on Jan. 7, 1891, in Notasulga, Alabama, Hurston moved with her family to Eatonville, Florida, when she was still a toddler. Her writings reveal no recollection of her Alabama beginnings. For Hurston, Eatonville was always home.

Established in 1887, the rural community near Orlando was the nation’s first incorporated black township. It was, as Hurston described it, “a city of five lakes, three croquet courts, three hundred brown skins, three hundred good swimmers, plenty guavas, two schools, and no jailhouse.”

In Eatonville, Zora was never indoctrinated in inferiority, and she could see the evidence of black achievement all around her. She could look to town hall and see black men, including her father, John Hurston, formulating the laws that governed Eatonville. She could look to the Sunday Schools of the town’s two churches and see black women, including her mother, Lucy Potts Hurston, directing the Christian curricula. She could look to the porch of the village store and see black men and women passing worlds through their mouths in the form of colorful, engaging stories.

Growing up in this culturally affirming setting in an eight-room house on five acres of land, Zora had a relatively happy childhood, despite frequent clashes with her preacher-father who sometimes sought to “squinch” her rambunctious spirit, she recalled. Her mother, on the other hand, urged young Zora and her seven siblings to “jump at de sun.” Hurston explained, “We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.”

Hurston’s idyllic childhood came to an abrupt end, though, when her mother died in 1904. Zora was only 13 years old. “That hour began my wanderings,” she later wrote. “Not so much in geography, but in time. Then not so much in time as in spirit.”

After Lucy Hurston’s death, Zora’s father remarried quickly–to a young woman whom the hotheaded Zora almost killed in a fistfight–and seemed to have little time or money for his children. “Bare and bony of comfort and love,” Zora worked a series of menial jobs over the ensuing years, struggled to finish her schooling, and eventually joined a Gilbert & Sullivan traveling troupe as a maid to the lead singer. In 1917, she turned up in Baltimore; by then, she was 26 years old and still hadn’t finished high school. Needing to present herself as a teenager to qualify for free public schooling, she lopped 10 years off her life–giving her age as 16 and the year of her birth as 1901. Once gone, those years were never restored; from that moment forward, Hurston would always present herself as at least 10 years younger than she actually was. Apparently, she had the looks to pull it off. Photographs reveal that she was a handsome, big-boned woman with playful yet penetrating eyes, high cheekbones, and a full, graceful mouth that was never without expression.

Zora also had a fiery intellect, an infectious sense of humor, and “the gift,” as one friend put it, “of walking into hearts.” Zora used these talents–and dozens more–to elbow her way into the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, befriending such luminaries as poet Langston Hughes and popular singer/actress Ethel Waters. Though Hurston rarely drank, fellow writer Sterling Brown recalled, “When Zora was there, she was the party.” Another friend remembered Hurston’s apartment–furnished by donations she solicited from friends–as a spirited “open house” for artists. All this socializing didn’t keep Hurston from her work, though. She would sometimes write in her bedroom while the party went on in the living room.

By 1935, Hurston–who’d graduated from Barnard College in 1928–had published several short stories and articles, as well as a novel (Jonah’s Gourd Vine) and a well-received collection of black Southern folklore (Mules and Men). But the late 1930s and early ’40s marked the real zenith of her career. She published her masterwork, Their Eyes Were Watching God, in 1937; Tell My Horse, her study of Caribbean Voodoo practices, in 1938; and another masterful novel, Moses, Man of the Mountain, in 1939. When her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, was published in 1942, Hurston finally received the well-earned acclaim that had long eluded her. That year, she was profiled in Who’s Who in America, Current Biography and Twentieth Century Authors. She went on to publish another novel, Seraph on the Suwanee, in 1948.

Still, Hurston never received the financial rewards she deserved. (The largest royalty she ever earned from any of her books was $943.75.) So when she died on January 28, 1960–at age 69, after suffering a stroke–her neighbors in Fort Pierce, Florida, had to take up a collection for her February 7 funeral. The collection didn’t yield enough to pay for a headstone, however, so Hurston was buried in a grave that remained unmarked until 1973.

That summer, a young writer named Alice Walker traveled to Fort Pierce to place a marker on the grave of the author who had so inspired her own work. Walker found the Garden of Heavenly Rest, a segregated cemetery at the dead end of North 17th Street, abandoned and overgrown with yellow-flowered weeds.

Back in 1945, Hurston had foreseen the possibility of dying without money–and she’d proposed a solution that would have benefited her and countless others. Writing to W.E.B. Du Bois, whom she called the “Dean of American Negro Artists,” Hurston suggested “a cemetery for the illustrious Negro dead” on 100 acres of land in Florida. Citing practical complications, Du Bois wrote a curt reply discounting Hurston’s persuasive argument. “Let no Negro celebrity, no matter what financial condition they might be in at death, lie in inconspicuous forgetfulness,” she’d urged. “We must assume the responsibility of their graves being known and honored.”

As if impelled by those words, Walker bravely entered the snake-infested cemetery where Hurston’s remains had been laid to rest. Wading through waist-high weeds, she soon stumbled upon a sunken rectangular patch of ground that she determined to be Hurston’s grave. Unable to afford the marker she wanted–a tall, majestic black stone called “Ebony Mist”–Walker chose a plain gray headstone instead. Borrowing from a Jean Toomer poem, she dressed the marker up with a fitting epitaph: “Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South.”

— By Valerie Boyd

Submitted by:

Martha Kimbrough, IN5

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Elizabeth Stephens, Author: On Living and Writing in Color

Elizabeth_Stephens_headshot.jpgI am a 24 year old, mixed black and white female author of color. My first novel, Population, is a post-apocalyptic science fiction saga heaped with tons of action, tons of romance, a moderate amount of horror and, of course, is topped off by a tough-as-nails multiracial protagonist. As my book hit the shelves in May 2015 and I began that dreaded stage of self promotion — book signings, launch parties, author events, social media and media outreach — I realized quickly that I didn’t quite know where my book and I fit in…

There aren’t many of us authors and characters of color. Sitting at conference after conference, I look up at the panelists and around at the other authors and writers crowded into the stiff backed seats to my either side. Women are ubiquitous — a good thing as it shows that the marketplace has opened up for women writers. But women can’t be the only symbol of diversity in literature and more specifically, in fiction. With so few characters of non-Caucasian races in mainstream fiction, I’m forced to question why? Why aren’t there more of us writers? Why aren’t there more characters of varying shades and sexual orientations and ethnicities? Why doesn’t the supply meet the demand? And for a short time, I allowed myself to truly believe that perhaps there wasn’t any. Perhaps readers of mainstream fiction didn’t want to see characters that look like me.

Population_book.jpgevalynelizabethwillette.jpgAnd then in my quest to connect to my readership, I stumbled upon a host of multicultural bloggers and scattered websites focused on diversity, online communities for us writers and readers to get involved and support one another, hashtags like #weneeddiversebooks and #diversityinfiction. I got lost in the rabbit hole, at the end of which, I found GoG.

I attended the Go on Girl! Annual Awards Luncheon in May, shortly after the release of my novel. I had never heard of Go on Girl before, and had honestly anticipated being one of few people of color in a sparsely filled room dedicated to…I don’t know…women’s empowerment or something. As a first time attendee I couldn’t have been more surprised, more elated, and more honored.

In one of Seattle’s beautiful downtown hotels — glittering green glass truly reflective of the Emerald City — the enormous ballroom was packed with not dozens but hundreds of black and African American women of varying ages, origins, cities and shades. Brilliant women — and men — impeccably dressed, beautiful in their strength and confidently defying every stereotype of black women that has ever been written.

I was late — predictably for anyone that knows me well — but a place for me had been saved. I was ushered to a table and sat amongst a group of women, several of whom already knew of my book and all of whom knew my name. I listened to Edward Kelsey Moore read his short story, Grandma and the Elusive Fifth Crucifix. I laughed so hard I cried. I heard video interviews from this past year’s winners phoning in from abroad.

At the end of the luncheon, they announced me, they gave me a table and I signed copies of my book for science fiction fans and interested attendees. I met the other authors and I felt for a moment, as if I were amongst old friends. This was the community I had been searching for. And not a small community is it. Go on Girl! Book Club has hundreds of members — including my own mother as of July — spread across dozens of states all interested in literature by and for and containing people of diverse backgrounds. This is a community interested in celebrating authors like me and characters that represent not just one experience, but many; characters that I hope will soon make an appearance beyond Go on Girl! and in mainstream fiction and across all reader groups.

Characters like you, like me, like us.

Submitted by: Elizabeth Stephens

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