Friday, October 26, 2007

Audio Book Part II

In the recording booth at Brilliance Audio--Donna's getting her vocal cords warmed up and ready to read!

OK---it is silly! But we're trying to get the hang of the uploading video thing so bear with us. Next week we'll try to have some video from our Turning Pages, Dynamic Duos Halloween event in Oakland, CA this weekend!

posted by DeBerry and Grant at 10:37 AM 0 comments

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Our Brilliance Week in Michigan!

Over the last 26 or so years of friendship, we have spent more hours together than we could possibly count, or remember for that matter. We have spent it in cars, trains, airplanes, offices of varying sizes, hotel rooms (four star and frightful), apartments, houses, a cruise ship—you name it. But two weeks ago, we shared our closest quarters to date. A sound booth that was approximately 6’x6’—and what a great time we had!!

We were in lovely (and we really mean lovely—it would be the picture in the dictionary next to the definition of “small American town”) Grand Haven, Michigan—home to Brilliance Audio to record our new book, Gotta Keep on Tryin’. We’ve wanted to do this for years and it finally happened! Whenever we are asked if our books are on audio (it used to be cassette, now it’s mostly CD, MP3, and download) and we say yes, the next question is always “are you guys reading it?” And we could always feel disappointment when we had to answer “no.” Not that people haven’t enjoyed the actors who have given voice to our characters in their audio versions, it just seemed (based on our very own “market research”—talking to y’all) that our readers wanted to hear our words—in our voices. So come January that’s what you’ll have!

Brilliance, the largest independent publisher of audio books on the planet has recorded both Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made and Far From the Tree. They were each read by the wonderful Fran Washington, an actor. Most audio books are done by pros—there are even voice over actors who specialize in this field—veritable one person productions with casts of characters at the ready, and primed to bring the author’s words to life—in a timely and efficient way. Sometimes authors who are famous get to record their own books, but it is definitely not the norm, so we are glad our agent convinced our friends at Brilliance to give us a chance. Thank you VS!

In the weeks leading up to the recording session, we had many conversations and emails with our audio editor and our director, about how two of us would actually get the job done. It didn’t seem like a challenge to us—we’ve always done joint readings of our books, treating the story much like a play. So once we’d agreed on the division of characters and narration, we each went through two highlighters (Virginia’s shocking pink, Donna’s bright aquamarine blue) marking our scripts before our Grand Haven Adventure. Donna even did some tune-up voice work with singer, voice-over artist (and friend), Lainie Cook, to learn some technique, and get her pipes in shape. (We’re going to try and post a video of Donna warming up—we’ll see if that works!)

We weren’t exactly nervous on the first day (flying in to Muskegon on a prop plane did sort of make us antsy)—but we will admit to being slightly apprehensive about doing something we’d never done—not that that’s ever stopped us before! Turns out we needn’t have fretted at all. We were whisked from our hotel by our editor, Liz Pearsons and delivered to Brilliance HQ, where we were greeted with a welcome sign (see picture) and met Our Two Lauras. Laura Grafton a/k/a Laura I, our director and Laura Stahl a/k/a Laura II, our engineer, quickly put us at ease—or as much at ease as you can be while being shown to a tiny, dark soundproof room that will be your home for eight hours a day—claustrophobics and those afraid of foam covered walls, beware. Our very first padded cell—probably not our last!

At any rate, we had a ball. We have so much fun together and are so used to timing our conversations, readings, lectures that we are able to anticipate when the other will pause, breathe or swallow. So having it all marked out ahead of time made it so much easier—not that it was easy. Reading aloud, even words you yourself have lovingly crafted and woven into a story, seven hours a day is WORK! Sometimes we definitely got tongue tied and were grateful for take two, but it’s hard to think of anything more satisfying. We brought Pat, Gayle, Marcus, Ramsey and all the rest of the Tryin’ crew to life on the page in 1997. Now we have had the opportunity, not only to bring them back to the page in Gotta Keep on Tryin’, we were actually able to vivify them—give them breath, anger, anxiety, sadness and laughter.

We finished a day early!! Got “good jobs” all around. Now the post-production wizards are at work, adding music, sound effects and finishing touches. In the weeks to come we will have a sneak-preview to post!

All you audiobook-philes, please be on the lookout for Gotta Keep On Tryin’ on your preferred audio medium in January!! (It’s available for pre-order now on and B&

Below are photos from our week in Michigan.

Our Welcome Sign!

Virgina happy and ready to read...

Donna making additional notes on the script...

The vew from our hotel room...we told you it was lovely!

The temperature in the booth was kept low for the sake of the audio equipment so Virginia had to bundle up...

Our little home away from home for a whole week!!!

Our Two Lauras hard at work making sure we sound good! Thank you!!!!!

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 9:49 AM 0 comments

Thursday, October 18, 2007


When we’re writing, the idea that an actual book will come out seems like some kind of crazy dream. Even when we type, “The End,” and collapse in a heap, it only seems marginally real. Yes, then you get cover art and a publication date and your heart starts to flutter. And now we’ve got our first book tour dates! That means the count down has officially started and Gotta Keep on Tryin’ is preparing to launch.

We’re excited to be starting on the West Coast. We haven’t visited our readers in California in several books, so we have catching up to do. And we’ve never been to South Carolina, so Columbia, here we come!

We know it’s early—January is still a few months away. But here are our tour dates so far.

The info is sketchy, with some times and locations to come, but this is a start. Book clubs, we’d love to see you. By all means let us know you’re coming—because we’ll have presents for you! We are really excited for you to catch up with Pat, Gayle and Marcus, and we’ve got plenty of other news to share too. We want to make this a cross country happening!

Tour Dates and Signings:
Wednesday, January 23rd; 6:30 PM
Marcus Books (3900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland, CA 94609)

Thursday, January 24th; 12:30 PM
Alexander Book Company (50 2nd Street, San Francisco, CA 94105)

Thursday, January 24th; 6:00 PM
Underground Books (2814 35th Street, Sacramento, CA 95817)

Friday, January 25th; 7:00 PM
Eso Won Books (4331 Degnan Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90008)

Saturday, January 26th; 2:00 PM
Borders Books & Music (3700 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA 90503)

Saturday, January 26th; 6:00 PM
Shore Books (4817 East 2nd Street, Long Beach, CA 90803)

Sunday, January 27th; 11:00 AM
Tabahani Book Circle (Location TK)
*Author Brunch

Monday, January 28th; Time TK
Booking Matters Book Club (Location TK)
*Sign & Dine

Monday, January 28th; 1:00 PM
WaldenBooks (One CNN Center, Atlanta, GA 30303)

Tuesday, January 29th; 6:30 PM
Medu Books (2841 Greenbriar Parkway SW, Atlanta, GA 30331)

Wednesday, January 30th; 4:00 PM
Literary Sweets (3800B North Main Street, Columbia, SC 29203)

Thursday, January 31st; 6:30 PM
Karibu Books (3500 East West Hwy, Hyattsville, MD 20782)

Friday, February 1st; 12:00 PM
B. Dalton (Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington D.C. 20002)

Friday, February 1st; 7:00 PM
Greater Mt. Nebo AME Church Bookstore (1001 Old Mitchellville Road, Bowie, MD 20716)

Saturday, February 2nd; 12:00 PM
Border Express (Gallery at Market East, Philadelphia, PA 19107)

Saturday, February 2nd; 3:00 PM
Bear Library (Governors Square Shopping Center, 101 Governors Place, Bear, DE 19701)

Thursday, February 7th; 6:30 PM
Hue Man Bookstore (2319 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY 10017)

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 10:18 AM 1 comments

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Terry, and Rev. Al, Nooses, and Bunny and Shirley

There is so much stuff going on, so much that we want to say our 4 cents worth about, that it regularly leaves our heads spinning. But we are seriously in writing mode (our December deadline approaches), and our time is limited. So here’s a little stream of consciousness.

--Have you read Terry McMillan’s email regarding the publication of her ex’s “novel” in particular and the state of published black books in general? If not, you can get to the email and Terry’s exchange with Troy at through Black Voices--Click here: TERRY MCMILLAN TAKES A STAND - Black Voices Blogs ( What we can add—now more than ever, publishing is a Biz-ne$$. Whatever makes the most money is what you will see more of on the shelves, and that goes for every genre. So if there are authors you love, support them, or you won’t see them any more. Despite three successful and well received novels, it was tougher than you might imagine for us to find a publisher for Gotta Keep on Tryin’. We know lots of authors who find themselves in the same position. If you don’t see them on the shelves, they may not have decided they don’t want to write any more—they have solid skills, loyal readers, but they can no longer find a publishing home. That realization is part of what prompted Tina McElroy Ansa to found DownSouth Press. Please don’t take your favorite authors for granted (or your favorite book stores—Black Images in Dallas is gone and Eso Won in Los Angeles is in trouble) or they will be gone too.

--Rev. Al Sharpton is calling for a possible boycott of the Knicks if Isaiah Washington does not apologize for remarks he made about who it’s OK to call a bitch Click here: BOO BIRD REV. AL
( We commented on that (September 20, 2007—Who You Callin’ B* * * H ), but it’s going to take other men, calling each other to task for their lack of respect, to change our culture of casual disrespect. And we’re glad that Rev. Al’s not giving Isaiah a pass—Sharpton is calling for accountability just as he did with Imus because WE KNOW that lack of respect isn’t necessarily about color.

--What is up with the return of the noose? There have been more incidents in the last several years than we care to remember—particularly in the work place, but most recently there is the Jena 6, a noose left in the locker of a Hempstead, NY police officer and now the noose left on the doorknob of a Columbia University professor. Is it that people are so far removed from the painful reality of lynchings that they don’t realize what a horrifying and oppressive symbol this is? Is it a cowardly way to invoke the power to put someone “in their place” that the perpetrator doesn’t feel he or she has without resorting to the power of the hangin’ rope? Is this a specifically racial response, or a response to people feeling squeezed and powerless in their own lives? Whatever it is, the only way to respond is to say loudly and in no uncertain terms, THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. Protests in Jena, LA and at Columbia Teacher’s College make that clear, and we add our voices to that.

--And on the light side—Clearly, we are very aware of the power of friendship, we have completely enjoyed ours for 26 years or so, although it feels like forever—and we mean that in a good way. Well, now it seems that female elephants have best friends too. While watching CBS Sunday Morning (Click here: An Elephant's Tale In Tennessee, Bill Geist Visits An Elephant Sanctuary Where Pachyderms Go To Retire - CBS News - ) we became acquainted with pachyderm pals Shirley and Bunny, Winkie and Sissy, and Tarra and Dulary, elephants who now reside at the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN, and it just made us smile (We’re particularly enamored of Bunny and Shirley.) Even elephants are smart enough to know ya gotta have a friend!

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 11:37 AM 0 comments

Friday, October 05, 2007


We’re at Brilliance Audio in Grand Haven, MI, recording the audiobook of Gotta Keep on Tryin’. And we gotta say, rarely have we worked soooo hard (in a 6’x6’ soundproof booth) and had soooo much fun. This was our first shot at giving voice to our characters and their story and the word from our director and engineer, Laura 1 and Laura 2, is two thumbs up! We’ll give you more details (and pics) on a blog to come.

And on a writing note, high on the top five list of questions we are asked is, “How do you write a children’s book and get it published?” We never have a good answer for that one—the children’s book publishing world is soooo different from what we know about adult fiction. But we do have a friend, award winning author and illustrator (of such kid classics as Clean Your Room, Harvey Moon, Ananse and the Lizard: A West African Tale, and Angel Baby) Pat Cummings, who can tell you a thing or two on that score. Visit her website, to see more examples of her titles and her beautiful illustrations. Yes, it says under construction, but you can get to bio, books and the all important FAQs (and we love the carousel!).

And for those of you seriously motivated aspiring children’s book authors living in the NYC area, you have an opportunity for some up close and personal instruction and advice from Pat. She is again doing her “Children’s Book Boot Camp (don’t worry—there are no push-ups, but we hear there are often cookies involved). The three part workshops are divided into sessions for writers and illustrators. Application deadlines are approaching (October 12 for writers. October 19 for illustrators), so if it’s something you’ve said you always wanted to do, check out the flyer, bring your imagination and get busy.

Here's the basic info:
I teach a children's book class at Parsons and, after helping a bunch of
my students to get published, (one last year left with 5 contracts from
two houses...but he's admittedly a shocking exception) I've condensed the
class into 3 workshops that span 5 or 6 Saturdays.

Group A: writers with a picture book manuscript ready, or almost ready, to
Group B: illustrators with a dummy or project ready or nearly ready to

There's an application that I'll send out if contacted at:

Group A meets Oct. 27th, Nov. 10th and Dec. 1st.

group B meets Nov. 3rd, Nov. 17th and Dec. 8th.

In between meetings, everyone's supposed to polish their work and do what
needs to be done to present it. At the last workshop, there'll be an
editor or art director from a major house to review the work. The last
boot camp featured folks from Hyperion and Simon & Schuster.

The idea is to get the work of talented people in front of publishers who
can actually sign them up.
Not everyone who submits necessarily gets accepted. I don't want to waste
anyone's time or money. Over the years, I've had a growing number of
publishers who have signed up my students so I keep up with those folks
who are open to new talent.

Only people who I think can be matched to the publishers I know will be
accepted. The fee is $450. There will be a maximum of 10 participants
and the last workshop will feature a guest publisher who will review their

Deadlines Are: Group A: Applications by 0ct. 12th/Notification by Oct. 18th/Fee due by Oct. 23rd

Group B: Applications by 0ct. 19th/Notification by Oct. 25th/Fee due by
Oct. 30th

Writers submit up to 100 words from their manuscript.
Illustrators submit 2 images representative of their style and a
manuscript if they have one.

The location is @ 29th St. & 5th Ave in Manhattan. The address and guest
publisher's name will accompany the acceptance note. (Henry Holt's publisher and Dial/Penguin's Art Director have signed on so it'll probably be them.

Anyone interested should email me with any questions at

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 10:02 AM 0 comments
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