My word for 2019

My word of the year dawned on me when I finally noticed the connection with a series of events  that happened to 4 Black females who are in the public eye and had a stellar 2018. They all had something in common. To those who read my posts, you won’t be surprised by the first two: Michelle Obama and Meghan Markle. It’s the other two that are somewhat surprising: Tayari Jones and Kennedy Holmes.

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Me with Tayari in my classroom.

New York Times Bestseller and Spelman Alumna Tayari Jones visited my 20th century Black women writers class. More than anything she said, what left the biggest impact on me was how she carried herself. She believed in herself. She wasn’t apologizing about who she was, hiding who she was or what she had done. It was of no consequence to her if you were a fan or not. She had done her part to make her offering to the world and that was enough for her.

 

I noticed all of this, but it didn’t make an impact on me until I saw Kennedy Holmes in her final performance on the television show “The Voice.” I’m not a regular viewer of the show but I had known about her. She covered the Demi Lovato song “What’s Wrong with Being Confident?” And wow what a gutsy performance. Everything I noticed about Michelle Obama, Meghan Markle and Tayari Jones was present in the person of this 14 year old wonder.

 

The victory, for her, was being in the finals. It didn’t matter what the results were. She had put her best out there and that was the victory. She believed.

 

In much of 2018 and before, I lived in fear.  I was sporadic in my writing. I had loved ones who were ill. People who were supposed to love me spoke cruel words to me and I felt pained from what were intentional slights. I noticed silences on social media about my work and that also hurt. My father moved out of my childhood home, a place that had been my refuge for more than 3 decades.  For so much of the year, I felt beaten down. Then, one day, after I fought through the haze of anger that I felt at Holmes’s loss, I finally understood what these amazing people had taught me.

 

  • Believe in yourself.
  • Stop apologizing or hiding who you are. (Ya’ll know this one is hard for me)
  • It doesn’t matter if people are fans or not.
  • Make your best offering to the world and that is enough.
That’s the victory.

I felt a weight lift from me. Putting so much energy into CARING  was what kept me beaten down.  No longer.  I’m free.

 

Now, in 2019, I’m ready to affirm this new understanding in a word: confident. I appreciate your indulgence in my long post, but with this new knowledge and my new word, I am ready and excited and confident about what is to come.

Happy New Year!

Christmas Blog hop–Triple Ginger Cream Cookies–a historical cookie that’s not just for men

Thank you to Heather McCallum for organizing this wonderful blog hop! Here’s the link to go back if you need it! https://www.facebook.com/events/727125820995433/

This cookie is my favorite cookie of all time. I cannot turn down anything that involves the combination of ginger and buttercream. When I was growing up, these were considered Christmas cookies in my house. They could be made at any time of year, but for some reason, my mother made them just at Christmas. They are easy and if you have loved ones who live far away and love them, they are easily shipped–as the ad attests. I have made some changes from this old-fashioned Betty Crocker recipe put out during the war effort of World War II.  You can bake the cookies as is in the recipe (with a whole egg of course–they were rationing back then)  and add the following:

GingerCreamsBettyCrocker

To the finished cookie batter (before you chill it for an hour) you can add a 1/4 cup of minced crystallized ginger and a 1/4 cup of ginger paste. You can find ginger paste in the produce section. Some go for shredding ginger root. You can do that as well, but I haven’t tried it.

Frosting for the cookies should NOT be thin or optional!  You could buy a canned vanilla or lemon frosting, if you wish but I frost them with a simple buttercream frosting:

2 cups confectioner’s sugar, 1/4 cup butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 tablespoon milk.

Once you’ve frosted the cookies, you can sprinkle red and green Christmas jimmies on them. That’s what my mother did for a cookie swap once. I’m not sure that I’ve forgiven her for letting those cookies go out of the door. 🙂

Here’s the list of links for the Christmas Cookie Blog Hop! It’s on to Julie Johnstone from here! Good luck!

Holiday Cookie Exchange Hop Links

Lara Archer http://laraarcher.com
Katharine Ashe https://katharineashe.com/extras/cookies-fit-for-a-prince/
Lori Ann Bailey http://loriannbailey.com/christmas-eve-cookies/
Tammy L. Bailey https://www.tammylbailey.com/
Katherine Bone https://m.facebook.com/AuthorKatherineBone/
Liana De la Rosa https://www.facebook.com/LianainBloom/
Elizabeth Essex https://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.essex.37/
Tina Gabrielle https://www.facebook.com/TinaGabrielle
Virginia Heath https://www.facebook.com/virginiaheathauthor/
Piper Huguley http://piperhuguley.com
Julie Johnstone https://www.facebook.com/authorjuliejohnstone/
Kris Kennedy https://www.kriskennedy.net/Blogsm
Elizabeth Keysian https://elizabethkeysian.com/
Tara Kingston https://www.facebook.com/TaraKingstonAuthor/
Eliza Knight https://eknightauthor.com/2018/12/cookie-exchange-hop/
Elizabeth Langston http://www.elizabethlangston.net/holiday-hop/
Jeannie Lin http://www.jeannielin.com/blog/
Diana Lloyd www.diana-lloyd.com
Nicole Locke https://www.facebook.com/NicoleLockeAuthor
Alanna Lucas https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAlannaLucas/
Deb Marlowe http://www.debmarlowe.com/historical-holiday-cookie-hop.html
Madeline Martin http://www.madelinemartin.com/blog/
Heather McCollum https://www.heathermccollum.com/kitchen/
Maddison Michaels https://www.facebook.com/MaddisonMichaelsAuthor/
April Moran https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAprilMoran
Kate Parker https://www.facebook.com/Author.Kate.Parker/      
Emma Prince https://www.EmmaPrinceBooks.com
Vanessa Riley http://vanessariley.com/blog/2018/12/04/3-ingredient-peanut-butter-cookies/
Ava Stone http://www.avastoneauthor.com/ava-s-scandalous-oatmeal-cookies
Jennifer Trethewey https://www.facebook.com/jennifertretheweyromance/
Victoria Vane www.victoriavane.com/blog
Harmony Williams www.harmonywilliams.com/xmas-hop

What is “The Washerwomen’s War”?

atlanta-s-washerwomen-strike_medium-1Atlanta, GA –  Summer 1881

When Mamie Harper arrives to substitute teach for the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary school, she witnesses terrible injustices with some of the older students who are washerwomen. Mamie’s upbringing as the daughter of the most famous Black suffragette in America means that she cannot be silent. She takes it upon herself to help the washerwomen find their voice and protest their mistreatment.

Reverend Gabriel Harmon is the summer pastor at one of the most influential Baptist churches in Atlanta. He’s shocked to see that the young woman who rejected his suit the year before is a new teacher in Atlanta. Determined to change her mind, he gets swept up in the washerwomen’s protests for better pay. When these two collide over these explosive events during a hot Atlanta summer, only one side will be able to win the battle. As they clash, they learn that there is another war, the war of the heart, that’s worth winning as well.

 

The year 1881 was a hallmark year in Atlanta history. Yet, the two real-life events that impacted Black women are rarely discussed in history classes. So, I wrote “The Washerwomen’s War” to figure out if these two events, the founding of Spelman College and the Black Washerwomen’s Strike, had anything to do with each other. I believed that they did. I decided to tell the story of the intersection of these two events from the point of view of an illustrious outsider, Mary Frances “Mamie” Harper, who was the real-life daughter of the famous Black Suffragette and poet, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.  Mamie is a young woman who is coming to figure out who she is in the world a part from her famous mother. When she re encounters a man she had the potential to fall in love with, but rejected him based on his profession, love is bound to happen.

“The Washerwomen’s War” will be out next week.  In the meantime, here’s a brief excerpt and an article where you can find out more about the strike. As usual, there will be more resources (and updates) at the end of the story when it is published in Daughters of A Nation

Milford, Georgia—June 1881

The one thing I swore I would never become is a minister’s wife. That’s not me.  Those women are saints. And sinners. There are some, like Mama Manda, who are nice, kind and gracious. The epitome of womanhood. Others are mean, like snake’s venom, ready to spit it out on some poor woman in the name of the Lord.

So when I wanted to kiss a man, I made sure that he was not a minister. Why start something that you can’t finish? No purpose in it, as far as I could tell. That meant that during my time at Milford College, it was only the males who were studying to become teachers who had a chance with me. Not the preacher ones. That made the choices less difficult.

There weren’t that many, mind you. Just some. Enough so that a young woman like myself could get a notion of what I wanted for my husband. And now I know.

To receive an e-mail when Daughters of A Nation releases follow this link:

http://www.subscribepage.com/DaughtersofaNation

To learn more about the strike:

http://www.aflcio.org/About/Our-History/Key-Events-in-Labor-History/Atlanta-s-Washerwomen-Strike

Time away

GH consolation prizeI’ve just returned from Alabama where I attended my first Reader’s Luncheon as an Attending Author. Even though, I was not fully prepared for the extent of the swag (all I had was a $50.00 gift card to offer.  I felt such a kinship with the Little Drummer Boy) it was a wonderful time.  Many of the readers I spoke with spoke about how meaningful it was to have an afternoon to themselves away from their every day lives.  A number of them spoke of children or an aging parent to care for.

I have been thinking about the need for self-care in the first blog post of the month.  So this time, in June, I’m thinking  how important it is to schedule time away from the cares of life.  Believe me, scheduling that time is something that I still am working on.   I’m not really sure how I should answer. What do I do to “get away” from the pressures of my life? While I think about it, feel free to let me know what how  you “get away” in the comments.

It’s necessary to find time for yourself–another crucial aspect of #selfcare.

 

The need for self-expression

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“This Little Light o Mine,” to me, is a spiritual song about the determination and value of self-expression.

The timing of my post on Mother’s Day coincides with my monthly post about self-care. I made this vow at the beginning of 2016 to dedicate one of my two blog posts per month and remind myself about how important self-care is.  Today, I don’t have any one example in mind. Instead, as I’m wrapping up work on The Songbird’s Stand, I’m reminded of how many women in our lives have been silenced by the pressures and expectations of their lives.

Some may be mothers, or some may be caregivers of others. Their voices may be silenced by these life pressures. Tillie Olsen, in the aptly named book of essays, Silences, estimates that the literary work of only 1 in 12 women has been published and put forward in the world. Granted, Silences was written some time ago, but I believe that this statistic is still accurate and probably is even higher for women of color.

So if you have a woman in your life, and she doesn’t have to necessarily be a mother, one way to gift her is to make sure that she has the time and space to help her find her way to self-expression—whatever it is. Everyone deserves the opportunity to be creative.  Women find themselves without this opportunity a lot of the time, and society as a whole, needs to hear more of these voices.

The need to find a voice is a theme of The Songbird’s Stand.  I’m working hard on bringing it to you soon.  Thank you for reading my blog and please, keep watching this space!

Why aren’t you watching Underground?

12924591_1292654777415820_7618641586492328670_nOk. I’ve been quiet about it long enough. Now, here comes the question. Why aren’t you watching Underground? My sincere apologies to those of you who do not get WGNA to watch it—June and the DVDs will be here soon.  However, for the rest of you, I hope that you use the comments to post your answer. Call it market research on my part as a historical fiction author who writes about African American characters. I’m also asking because I really want to know.

Underground is not a “slave movie”.  I’m a little weary of people saying that they are tired of seeing “slave movies”. I do not count Django because Tarantino made it (don’t get me started on him). Twelve years a Slave is relatively recent but that was released years ago now.  So unless you have the old Roots miniseries on a continuous loop (and I sympathize if you wish to forego watching the remake), I’m not sure what people mean when they say they are tired of watching “slave movies.” So if this is a standard response of yours, I would appreciate the time that you take to clarify. Thank you.

If these are other reasons people don’t watch a show that features the enslaved (since that is what we say now) population as full-fledged complex individuals with agency and who make choices, I need something more. I need specific reasons. I need evidence. This is a show we have needed for a long time and now it is here. It needs support. Now.  Not when it’s over and it’s on DVD or Netflix.  Now.  Even if the producers choose not to make a Season 2, then we to show support for stories that show the complexity of the horrific and impossible situation of enslavement.

Sometimes I wonder if watching what people endured during this horrible time makes some realize all that someone in their past endured.  Maybe that’s too much pressure, or too much to take in at once. Maybe you feel as if you aren’t doing your part in making your own history.  Maybe you realize that the horrors that they show are only a fraction of what really happened. Well, getting the ratings of this show to rise is a way to help with visibility. It is a way of showing the powers that be in television, movies and yes, in publishing (where I do have a stake) that we want to see more shows like this. We need to see more movies where the enslaved make choices for themselves and their families, like Ms. Ernestine. We need to read more books with wide distribution that show emerging, brave heroines like Rosalee. If you feel guilty for not living up to their bravery, fine. However, let’s not miss this moment in time where, by giving a show an hour a week, that portrayals like this can increase and not diminish.

So, I’m just going to say it.  The enslaved lived these lives of inhumane horror so that you can sit in your living room or bedroom each Wednesday at 10 p.m. and watch television. You can go get your bowl of popcorn or sit with your phone in your hand and live tweet to friends. You can post your outrage on Facebook. All in comfort. All because they took it all on. For you. For all of us.

So watch.

Toni Cade Bambara, celebrating her genius

April is always a very busy time at my college. It’s the time of year when the students begin to apply all they have learned during the previous months.  Founder’s Day for the college happens in April. But another annual event takes place every April and that is the conference20160331_073549_resized that celebrates Toni Cade Bambara.

I have seen how it is far too easy for the reading public to forget Black Women Writers. So, about 15  years ago, my college created this annual two-day conference surrounding the works and
legacy of Toni Cade Bambara who wrote amazing short stories, novels and essays. She was also a documentarian, an accomplishment I can only admire from afar.

So I take this post in April to celebrate this author originally born Miltona Mirkin Cade, who was also a professor at the same college where I teach. Her works are a rich writing legacy that we all should explore.  I celebrate her because she was taken from us much too soon at the young age of 56. If you want to know more about the writer that inspired and awed other Black writers like Toni Morrison, you should read any of her works and celebrate her singular point of view.