Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Age of Love? How About How Low Can We Go?

Age of Love? Are you kidding?

The Bachelor isn’t bad enough? Now we have two groups of women, divided by age, competing for one man?! And people are watching this on television? What the hell is wrong with us?

Enough questions. Clearly we don’t get it, but let’s start with what we do understand—if the current “please choose me” offerings on our tubes (or flat screens) are any indication, the Women’s Movement didn’t do much to change things—especially our perceptions of ourselves.

Sadly, it’s almost understandable on the part of the twenty somethings—please all you twenty somethings out there—don’t take offense, but we all do stuff when we’re younger that make us cringe with the proverbial “what was I thinking?!” horror when we look back with 20 or 30 or 40 more years of perspective. (Rumor has it that more than 40 years of perspective on the dumb stuff we did brings wry amusement and sanguine self forgiveness.) But in many ways that’s what being young is for—making mistakes you have the time, energy, strength and stamina to recover from. Most of us survive the arrogance of youth. We may have a few scars, but the wounds heal. So with that we are grudgingly forced to give the young’uns a pass. You’re excused.

BUT that means we really have to hold the forty something’s lovely pedicured feet to the fire because you are supposed to know better. Yet, you have elected to objectify yourself, to voluntarily line up for display on the shelf, to engage in embarrassing and humiliating rivalry with other women, as you wait to be picked by HIM. You who are validating the gender specific, cultural epidemic of “Am I pretty enough? Tall enough? Petite enough? Funny enough? Smart enough? Skinny enough? Dumb enough?” And you who are resurrecting girls’, past and present, worst party and high school dance nightmares --- in front of millions of people no less.

We know the knucklehead producers (who imported this show from Australia) are men—that’s a given, but it wouldn’t be on the air without the cooperation of women.

So when we complain about perpetuation of unequal pay for equal work, the tyranny of the glass ceiling, the unfairness of the mommy track, the power of “mean girls” cliques in schools, the stunning lack of self esteem in our girls and young women, the continuing problem of teen pregnancy, the plague of absent fathers, rise of domestic abuse—REMEMBER it’s not just the participants on these shows that are at fault, we all contribute to the climate in which these issues thrive every time we watch.
posted by DeBerry and Grant at 11:01 AM 2 comments links to this post

Monday, June 25, 2007

The FIRST review for Gotta Keep on Tryin'!

OK. We can't help it--we just can't! It's early--six months early to be exact, but this weekend we received an email with the VERY FIRST reader review of our new book, Gotta Keep on Tryin' from a reader who managed to get an Advance Reading Copy.

Writing a sequel to Tryin' to Sleep in the Bed You Made was a huge challenge for us. We were going back to a story and characters readers felt very personally about--and believe us, over the years, y'all have let us know how personal! (Thank you.) So during the past year, our trepidation has been great. Worry. Worry. Worry. We tried to do our best AND yes, our editor and our agent told us they loved the book, AND we've heard good things from family and friends but when this arrived from ---OUT THERE--where the readers are, we breathed a little easier--only a little because there are lots more of you.

So we asked and were granted permission to share Angela's review.

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Gotta Keep on Tryin’ was worth the ten-year wait!

I began reading this sequel to Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You’ve Made with much anticipation, for even though I was not one of the fans who clamored for a continuation of the Pat-Marcus-Gayle story, I did wonder what became of the three lifelong friends. I remember sitting up all night some years ago, reading Tryin' to Sleep…, even though I had to be at work by 7AM.

I was so caught up in this tale of friendship that my box of tissue was right next to my pillow—smile. I also remember writing you a letter expressing my appreciation for the satisfying all-night read. Since then, I have become quite a fan of your work, attending the first Tom Joyner/Sybil Wilkes Book Club gathering with you all at Showcase Eatery in Atlanta, later conducting a recorded interview with you at the Omni Hotel for Imani’s then monthly radio spot B(u)y the Book with Hal Lamar on WAOK in Atlanta, and often being present at most of your Atlanta signings.


I couldn’t attend BEA this year; however, at my request, a good friend and co-owner of Special Occasions in Winston-Salem, NC mailed me her reader’s proof of Gotta Keep on Tryin’ which I will send back to her today. Again, I began reading your book and ended up completing it early this morning with a box of tissue next to me in the bed; again, I find myself sitting here writing you (this time at the computer—smile) to express to you, Donna and Virginia, that I have thoroughly enjoyed the read! You maintained the integrity of the original novel and of your three main characters. I found myself talking to them, warning them, chastising them and cheering them on! That means that I applaud the way you put pen to paper to create realistic tales. Thank you for not compromising your gift. Imani Literary Group has already chosen to reread and discuss Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You’ve Made at our December meeting as our flashback novel in anticipation that Gotta Keep Tryin’ will be out in time for your book tour stop in Atlanta so that we may either meet with you both and discuss it or host one of your signings here.

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Thanks Angela, you've made us two happy writers.
At the end of the week, we plan to post a teaser--a synopsis of Gotta.
posted by DeBerry and Grant at 1:53 PM 4 comments links to this post

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

". . . and the award for best music video from a novel goes to. . ."

What’s a writer to do? We know WRITE is the obvious answer. But now if you’re looking for gangbuster success, it seems ACTING (kind of) may also be a requirement. (Manny and the Socialites: Let’s Roll-New York Times June 17, 2007) How about a book music video which brings scenes from the book together with a pulsing soundtrack?

We have said before and will probably have occasion to say it again and again--- “it’s hard out here for a writer.” Our field is more crowded and competitive than ever, and sadly often incompetently derivative, but if it sells—so what? So now we have the author of The Manny, (which not so co-incidentally debuts today) yet another tome offering a sneaky peek at the taut, tummy-tucked underbelly of wealthy, privileged Manhattanites, promoting her book music video style, all of it covered in a New York Times Style section article no less. The story of the video, which was shot with an entire music video crew, in the opulent apartment of the author’s father on the upper east side of New York will air on (Sorry no link, but you can find it if you really want to see it.) You Tube —the greatest and worst addition to our twenty first century cybersphere. The book video also stars the authors socialite friends—including a tangential Kennedy connection.

The biggest question is who’s paying for this? The publisher? And will this be a new trend? Or is this only the province of a motivated author with really deep pockets? These days, it’s harder and harder for a writer without a “platform” (read connections) to be published. The publisher wants you to write, have a built in audience, a winning promotable personality—which should be enough. Now are we gonna have to produce and star in videos too?
posted by DeBerry and Grant at 5:29 PM 1 comments links to this post

Monday, June 18, 2007

To Blog or Not to Blog?

OK. We’re working on our sixth novel, so we seem to have the writing thing down---at least for now. But the whole blogging culture has us more than a little puzzled (and we’re trying to learn MySpace at the same time.) With a book, we make up characters, a story and go from there. It’s our job to take you on a ride and to make it as enjoyable as possible. We get it—we use our imaginations. We know how it works. We know why you read. BUT blogging seems to have the potential to be endlessly uninteresting. Of course there will be subjects we think are absolutely worthy of note—and of blog. There are occasional moments of whimsy, glamour and excitement in our little world, but as a general rule, life can be routine, mundane---like Donna moving furniture to get ready for the painter and Virginia nearly setting her place on fire because she didn’t look to see if the sandwich was wrapped in foil before she turned on the microwave—but do you wanna know this?

And while we most definitely have opinions and observations about zillions of things—What did the end of The Sopranos really mean? Is the new diet drug Alli worth having to wear Depends? How lazy has TV become when they’re now televising Bingo? Since when is stupid cute? Is concentrated laundry detergent a ripoff---i.e. the same formula we could have been using less of all along? But the question is does anybody want to read what we think about this stuff? And more importantly do we really want to write about it? So the question stands—to blog or not to blog? Or maybe it’s really what to blog.
posted by DeBerry and Grant at 10:24 PM 3 comments links to this post

Friday, June 15, 2007

OUR BEA

Had a great time at this year’s BEA (Book Expo America) which was held at the Javits Center in New York a couple of weeks ago. The event is a four day, all-books-all-the-time confab. Most of the publishing world gathers in the US once a year to tout their new titles—the convention seems to bounce mainly from NY to Chicago to LA and back again although in 2006 it was at the new convention center in Washington, DC. (We were absent from last year’s doings.)

You know the kind of intimate gathering that would fit very nicely say on the deck of an air craft carrier. The days are long and the book-crammed aisles are longer. Virginia ended the weekend with blisters on both baby toes because wherever we needed to be at any given time, turned out to be miles from wherever we were. And best of all---the air conditioning system at the Javits was on “lame” —everyone was sweating buckets and actually grateful for the flyers that were thrust at us as we perused the mammoth site because they made excellent personal cooling devices. Oh well.

There didn’t seem to be as many costumed wonders as in years past—we didn’t see any giant pink and yellow caterpillars, silver robots or flippered skin divers wandering around. And the booth enticements—paper rulers (for a math textbook) or micro-sized whisks (perfect for whipping up a few quail eggs) to promote a new cook book—seemed more meager too.

But we did spend “quality time” hanging out in our new publisher’s booth (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster). And we ran into lots of writer friends—Victoria Christopher Murray (The Ex-Files—coming in July, for anybody who’s had an ex), Karen Siplin, Marcus Mabry (check out Twice as Good his bio of Condolezza Rice), Bernice McFadden, Gwynne Forster, Shirley Hailstock and Francis Ray among them. We got to hug Clara Villarosa—our favorite jewel from the gorgeous Michael Cunningham (we know you know Crowns) and Connie Briscoe book Jewels—50 Phenomenal Black Women over 50. We also met new to the game author Victoria Rowell (Drucilla Winters from Y&R). She read from The Women who Raised Me, her memoir about childhood in foster care—terrific writing and quite moving. And we talked with book sellers and librarians from all over the country, as well as to the bone book lovers (many familiar faces) who come carrying suitcases to lug home all the books they gather (sorry we missed you Judi). We were only there two days, but they were jam packed with meetings, autograph sessions (we signed galleys of Gotta Keep on Tryin’—January ’08—our sequel to Tryin' to Sleep in the Bed You Made—wow, that means it’s real!), panels, lunches, dinners, cocktails, receptions and of course books and more books. It was all in a day’s work—two days actually. And although we may whine about the rigors of BEA, we’ll be excited to do it all over again next year. By then Virginia will have found more comfortable shoes—maybe.
posted by DeBerry and Grant at 9:34 AM 2 comments links to this post

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Two Firsts


Two firsts last night—the first time we read from Gotta Keep on Tryin’. And the first time we attempted to use the digital camera.
Reading was a success. We participated in the Genesis Festival, the last event of the year for Crossroads Theater in New Brunswick, N.J.. Crossroads, the Tony Award winning regional theater which is dedicated (primarily) to portraying the African American experience, has been like home for us since the beginning, so it was a great place for us to try our new book wings.
Writing is one thing, but the first time the words from a book slide across our tongues and out of our mouths—it’s scary and thrilling—like one of those roller coasters that makes you scream, but it feels good when you get off (DG gets this metaphor more than VDB. She hates roller coasters). It’s like saying the words aloud makes them even more real than seeing them typeset on a page for the first time (which is also really scary). It means the story is out of our heads and living a life of its own.
The digital camera thing needs some work. Yes, we’re behind the times. We’ve been meaning to switch to digital so we can share pictures easily—oh, since Far From The Tree, but we jumped in last night. Or more accurately, figured out the camera enough to hand it to someone else and ask them to take pictures for us. Well, we really got some pictures. Four of them—then it said our memory card was full. Three pics were too dark, but the good news is we got one, and we actually downloaded it and we’re sharing it with you. The camera is supposed to take video too. Guess we’ve got a ways to go on that, but we’re moving in the right direction.

Oh yeah--the reading went very well. The audience liked what they heard from the new book!
posted by DeBerry and Grant at 12:29 PM 2 comments links to this post

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Where have we been?


OK. So it’s officially been a year. Actually a couple of weeks shy of an anniversary, but who’s counting?
Where have we been? Why haven’t we been blogging? The answer is one in the same—We’ve been writing. We spent all of last summer and into the early fall, plotting Gotta Keep on Tryin’ the sequel to 1997’s Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made, which as we mentioned before, was a scary proposition. It was very difficult to gear both of ourselves up to put pen to paper—fingers to keyboard and rejoin the lives of Gayle, Pat and Marcus—which were clearly already in progress. So after we held our breath, jumped in and came up with a story outline—we had to write the book—which took the rest of the fall and winter. An example we’ve used often to illustrate how much we were “in the writing cave” is that Virginia only bought gas twice between Thanksgiving and St. Patrick’s Day. Our days and nights were long and in between we tried to eat and sleep—which didn’t leave much time for recreational writing—which blogging is in a way.
So-- nostra culpa. But now Gotta Keep on Tryin’ is finished and will be in the stores in January 2008 and we’re really going to try and do better, post a couple of times a week—even though we’ve already started the next novel. So watch out. You may get what you ask for.

posted by DeBerry and Grant at 12:24 PM 0 comments links to this post

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