Thursday, July 31, 2008

On the Road Again

We are off to Atlanta for the 2008 National Book Club Conference. We expect to have a ball—as we have in the past and it will be our first opportunity to read from our new book, What Doesn’t Kill You—which will be released in January. We’ll let you know how HOTlanta went when we get back—we’re not exactly sure of our return date. It’s one of the luxuries of a road trip (yep—we’re hitting the highway again—the tunes are packed, we’re warming up to sing)—you can change your departure day or time just because you want to, without a penalty. Being in the car also gives us lots of time to think and talk about the book we’re working on for 2010. AND this time we remembered the tape recorder!

In the meantime, we’re re-posting another of Sherri James’s blogs. Unless you’ve never read our blog before, you know that two of our books are being made into films—Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made and Far From the Tree. We’ve been talking/writing about this for the past two years and one of the things we keep getting asked is “where’s the movie?” like we just take the idea, add water and voila! it’s on the screen at your local multi-plex. NOT! Even in Hollywood, with major studio involvement, it can take years and years to get a movie to the screen. So part of what we are doing by writing about what’s going on—is to keep you informed, let you know how things are progressing (or regressing—hopefully not) as we continue on this journey with our friends and partners on these two productions because as we said from the beginning—these are YOUR movies and we intend to keep you in the loop. Besides—your encouragement keeps us all on task! So help us help them.

While we’re gone read, drop Sherri & Jessica a note and we’ll see ya when we get back!


So Much Fun, It Feels Like Play
By Sherri James email:

Nothing gets under my skin more than producer credits being handed out to writers, directors, actors, talent managers and the like without any or only some of the real work of a producer being done. True producing demands a charismatic leader who can find the money, attach the talent, shepherd the script writing process until the lump of coal becomes a diamond, work with the Director to make what she sees in her head real, manage the technicians that then execute that vision, collaborate with the Director and Editor to turn the resulting footage into a movie worth watching, negotiate with the distributor so that the film is properly positioned in the marketplace, and join forces with the marketers to help the film find its audience. Few "producers" actually handle ALL the responsibilities that come with the title. Most tackle one or two areas – i.e. attaching talent, securing financing, etc. – and think their job is done. And, while those two pieces are very, very important, they only represent a portion of the work required from a true producer.

The role of a true producer begins with the germ of an idea – i.e. a book, a newspaper article, a short story, a funny one-liner – and it doesn't end until there are bodies in seats at local theaters, enjoying the picture she helped bring forward. Her effectiveness lies in her ability to successfully manage all the moving parts required to make a movie – writers, actors, electricians, production designers, sound designers, composers, stuntmen, marketing execs, distributors, exhibitors, lawyers and more – for the sole purpose of enabling the Director to accomplish her creative vision.

It isn't easy but when it's done right, good producing looks effortless. Perhaps that's why many people want to call themselves producer. It's sexy to be the leader. Unlike sculpting or painting or even writing, producing requires a veritable army of artisans to deliver a finished product. And, who doesn't want to be the general at the head of this corps, marshaling this team of technicians that will produce a product that can possibly take in millions upon millions of dollars at the box office.

Putting all these pieces together well enough to be profitable is truly an art form – an unusual one but an art form nonetheless. I cannot imagine a more fulfilling discipline than producing. The process is very labor intensive but when it's successful, it creates a personal high that nothing else can match. For me, it's so much fun, it feels like play.

As a producer, I get to engage with artists in a very real way and, at the same time, I get to talk shop with businessmen about the profit potential of my projects. For someone whose instincts are both artistic and business-oriented, producing is very satisfying work. Whereas the pure artist feels boxed in by the need for her art to be profitable and the pure businesswoman feels weighed down by the need to consider the creative demands of a project, I get turned on by the challenge of balancing art and commerce.

Becoming a true producer requires one to become a student of both the worlds of filmmaking and finance. Learning to produce well takes time. It's not a gig that you master with one, two or even three projects. With every movie you uncover more and better ways to deliver a film. You learn what works in the marketplace and what doesn't; you develop an instinct about what makes a good movie and what's merely a cute idea. When it's all said and done, the mark of a true producer can be found in how much she has stretched as both an artist AND a businesswoman with each new movie she brings to the marketplace. email:

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 12:32 PM 0 comments

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

We've Been Nominated!!!

We are honored to have once again been nominated for an African American Literary Award Show award. We won two of these wonderful awards in 2004 for Better Than I Know Myself. Our category is "AUTHOR OF THE YEAR-FEMALE" for Gotta Keep on Tryin'. Please visit the site and vote for us!!! (keep scrolling down--we're there--REALLY we are!)

There are probably several of your favorite authors nominated in various categories so check out the site and vote for them too!

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 12:51 PM 0 comments

Thursday, July 24, 2008

If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words...

Then a video is worth about a billion words right? At least that’s our story and we’re sticking to it since we are being seriously lazy today and posting a video blog...

This is an interview we did with (African American Literature Book Club) in June while we were in LA at BEA (Book Expo America). Enough with the acronyms.

We’re talking about our new book, What Doesn’t Kill You, which will be out January 6.

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 9:48 AM 1 comments

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Too Old To Dream?

This is a post from Sherri James--the producer of Far From the Tree. Her take on following our dreams and passions--in spite of those who think they should have an expiration date is one we can all take to heart-and head!! Are we ever too old for hopes and dreams about the future? Isn't that what will keep us young??

Too Old To Dream
Sherri James

When I started this blog, I set the intention of bringing you with me through the process of getting a film produced. Ultimately, I want you to care about this movie the way that I do. And, I want that caring to add up to you being at the theater during the FIRST WEEKEND of the movie's release.

So, with that intention in mind, it's important that I be frank about the good, the bad and the downright ugg-a-lee. And, today......I encountered the ugg-a-lee. Over lunch, a well-meaning person told me I was "too old" to really have my dreams come true and that I should "get used to living the life of a struggling artist." And, this was a person that I was TREATING TO LUNCH because I wanted to get their advice on the film. The question I'd put to them was "how do I get past this point where I have great projects but I'm having difficulty getting them funded or paid attention to?

"Simple question. Right? Well, that opened a can of worms that ended with me feeling like "damn." Am I wrong to believe that Far From the Tree is a movie that Black women want to see? Am I crazy to push through all the naysayers to get the movie made? Am I a visionary or just delusional? Uggghhhhh!!!! Self doubt is motha!

As I sat through the lunch that I WAS PAYING FOR, I could feel my spirit getting smaller and smaller. I've already gotten a couple of no's about this project. But that's par for the course. Everything is not for everybody. Still, I persist because I believe that I'll find that investor who "gets it" and is willing to take that leap with Jessica and me to create a picture that affirms the beauty and complexity of Black women's lives. Again, I ask you, am I a visionary or just delusional? Uggghhhh...what I wouldn't give for a healthy dose of ego right now...

"Too Old" - Can you believe he said that to me? And, I should point out that this person is someone I've looked up to for a while and who's always been in my corner, encouraging me when I was ready to throw in the towel. And, now he tells me that I'm "too old" and I can't "start over." Did I mention I was PAYING FOR THIS LUNCH!!!!!
For complete article, please go to

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 2:23 PM 1 comments

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

You Never Know What a Day Will Bring

When surprised by the visit of a long lost friend, Lucille, one of our characters in Far From the Tree says, “You never know what a day will bring.” It’s one of the lines we quote often (it has been a blog title before and will likely be again), and it sure was true this weekend.

We drove to Cincinnati to sign books at the Author’s Pavilion at the NAACP National Convention—nine hours each way, and yes we sang in the car. Literally as we were walking out the door on Thursday, Virginia remembered that Madeline Moxley, a friend we met in 2000 and with whom we have been in contact through the years, but haven’t seen in quite a while, lives in Cincinnati, and she emailed Madeline to say we’d be in town and hoped we’d be able to grab some time together. We knew it was last minute, and who doesn’t have plans for 16 more things than any one person can do on the weekend, but we figured it would at least bring a catch up email.

Well, Madeline called on Friday during our drive —not only would she be able to see us, but she wanted to know if we’d be up for a brunch—she was organizing it with the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati, where she works. Who can make time for brunch on 24 hours notice? How about a room full of women, including the president and CEO Donna Jones Baker! We were stunned and honored and had a great conversation with all who attended. And the biggest surprise was two of the attendees—Gloria King Darby and Mrs. Forney, Regina King’s mother and grandmother. Talk about a small world—turns out Madeline and Gloria have been friends for years. We always credit family as a big reason why we are who we are in this world. We have met, or at least spoken to, most of the families of our producing partners and it feels good to know their support is with us as we go forward with our film ventures. So we thank Madeline for inviting them, and Regina, who is slated to play Gayle in Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made, for sharing her Mom and Grandma with us. Those hugs sure felt good.

We had a wonderful time with our sister author friends—Victoria Christopher Murray and Marissa Monteilh and talking to the folks who attended the NAACP Authors Pavilion. We also got the chance to spend a little on-air time with WDBZ-AM's Jeri Tolliver -- another avowed book lover. Books are such an important part of the African-American experience. Kudos to Mocha Ochoa and her great team for her second year of putting it all together. We’ll have a video to share soon. This was the 99th convention. The NAACP will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year in New York. We look forward to being there.

This Thursday we’re back in the car shuffling off to Buffalo to host the first annual Buffalo Book Awards at the Buffalo Book Fair. We gotta remember to change the tunes in the CD player, so we can keep singing.

Our WDBZ Interview with Jeri Tolliver

With sister author, Marissa Monteilh

Us with Regina King's mom Gloria King Darby and her grandmother, Mrs. Forney.

Our Sunday Brunchers at the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati. CEO Donna Jones Baker behind Virginia (in white) -our friend Madeline Moxley behind Donna (in white)

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 4:47 PM 0 comments

Thursday, July 10, 2008

NAACP Convention/Online Interview

We're getting ready to head to Cincinnati for the NAACP Convention--we'll be at the Author's Pavillion:

Saturday, July 12th: 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM..
Sunday, July 13th: 2:00 PM - 4:00

Unfortunately we'll miss Barack Obama's speech on Monday night because we'll be on our way back home but we'll let you know how Cinci goes next week!

And just in case you haven't read/heard enough about us, one of our supporters has posted a very in-depth (50 QUESTIONS!!) interview with us on her MySpace blog.
The questions run from professional to the personal- so check it out if you're interested. An excerpt from the interview is below.

V- I am not surprised. What Does Donna do to relax? Elaborate.An ideal day of heaven on earth for you is what?

D-- There's been so little time to relax in the last five years that it's almost hard to remember! Some time on a quiet beach, strolling, listening to the water lap against the shore. Or canoeing on a lake with beautiful scenery and wide open spaces. I live in NYC. I crave air and space and light and peace. I'd love a terrific meal, whether it's in a wonderful restaurant or by a campfire. And add some music, preferably live. Jazz is my favorite, but I'm flexible. I'd like to start right now!

V- LOL....Virginia, same question?

VdB-- By day, lounging in a chair by the sea with a frosty beverage and a great book, by night--having great conversation, a great meal and dancing under the stars. You can guess what comes after that part...

V- Yes I can imagine.(big smiles) You two are a mess. but they say work hard play hard! You ladies defintely work hard....

V-- Where do you see yourselves in the next 10 years professionally? Will you always write together?

VdB&D-- I think we're just trying to grow as we go...and don't really project where we'll be in the next 10 years. Hopefully still having people enjoy our stories both on the page and the screen.

D-- We each have stories we'd like to tell separately, and we plan to tackle that one day--we just don't know when.V- Well I am sure that they will be well received either way, when an author puts good work out here, that's all that matters to the readers. V-- What has been your favorite book out of all the ones you have penned thus far, and who is your favorite character and why? (for both ladies)

VdB&D--That's like asking a parent which child they like the best... each of them has their own particular place in our hearts and today the number one spot might belong to What Doesn't Kill You--the book that's coming out next year!

For more:

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 9:12 AM 0 comments

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Number One at the Box Office?

This blog is a repost from the producer of Far From the Tree—Yep it’s being made into a movie too!! Please take a read, visit their page at (if you’re on MySpace please “friend” them), and of course spread the word!!! Thanks—V&D

Imagine This: Far From the Tree Number 1 at the Box Office!

My name is Sherri James. And, I am the producer for Far From the Tree. If you'll allow me, I want to blog about what it takes to produce a thoughtful, entertaining feature film about Black women. I want to bring you along as I figure out how to make a great movie with Black women in the lead roles and not have the film end up going straight to DVD.

Has it been done before? Absolutely! My sister in spirit, Stephanie Allain, did it with Something New but Black women didn't show up for the film in big enough numbers and the movie quickly went away from the box office. And, she went on Oprah!

So, I guess the real question is why do I think my film is any different. Actually, I don't. Stephanie did a great job and so did all the Black women who worked on the film - Sanaa Lathan (actress), Sanaa Hamri (director), Kriss Turner (writer)...amazing women!

Even though Black women didn't vote with their dollars in favor of Something New, I'm hoping you'll make my movie an event film like Sex and the City! I'm bold enough to hope that you'll fall in love with the characters in Far From the Tree, see yourselves in the women we're portraying and return to the theaters again and again for your Far From the Tree fix! I'm betting that perhaps you didn't know enough about Something New to support the film. I'm betting that if I give you enough information about Far From the Tree, then you'll support us when the film hits the theaters on the first weekend.

Okay...I'm going to stand on my soapbox for a minute. Bear with me...

Stories about Black women are WORTH putting on the big screen. I believe you want to see more than just a story about a woman who cannot choose the right man. I believe the intricacies of our lives are actually INTERESTING and COMPELLING enough to carry a feature film. I'm betting that if you and I get to know one another through this process, I'll learn EXACTLY what you want to see in a film and you'll learn enough about what I'm doing as a filmmaker that you'll decide to support that effort by going to the box office on the FIRST WEEKEND.

Okay, I'm off the soapbox...for now...For past three months, Jessica and I have been working on the business plan for Far From the Tree. We are raising approximately $2.5million to shoot Far From the Tree. Both of us are excited about the prospect of creating a movie that fans of Virginia and Donna's book will be proud of. We're both fans of Virginia and Donna and look forward to turning this book into a visual masterpiece.

As the producer for the film, I am very concerned about making sure Far From the Tree doesn't get overlooked in the marketplace. Films like Far From the Tree are considered "softer" fare - read movies made for women - and they tend to get squeezed out of the marketplace by larger studio films - read movies made for boys, probably white boys, ages 15 - 35.

While Jessica has to answer the question of what to include in the movie so that you have a satisfying movie experience, the perennial question on my mind is WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO MAKE YOU COME OUT TO THE THEATER ON THE FIRST WEEKEND, see the movie and then tell your friends about it so that they come out on the second weekend.

I think about Tyler Perry and I love the success he's enjoying right now with his films and I'm hoping that we can do the same kind of business with this film. i know you don't know me. And I don't have a funny character like Madea to entice you. But I promise you, we're creating an incredible story that will entertain you, make you laugh, make you cry and MOST IMPORTANTLY, depict positive images of Black women that will make you feel good about yourselves.

I think about Lil Wayne and how he just sold 1 million albums in one week and I'm astonished. Someone - I don't remember whom - told me that he spent hours each day building an audience for his music through social networking sites like myspace and facebook. And, I think to myself, "could I do the same thing for Far From the Tree?" so that when the film hits the theaters, MY AUDIENCE SHOWS UP and makes the film a number one movie. Do you think that can happen for this wonderful book? Do you think we can do that for one another? I give you a movie that makes you feel good and you give me a number one box office hit. Hmmm...imagine that...

I'm willing to dream big! I'm willing to imagine Far From the Tree is No. 1 at the box office!

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 9:47 AM 1 comments

Friday, July 04, 2008


Monday Donna says, “I’ve had this tooth that’s been bothering me. Think I’ll call Beverly.” (Not just to share the news—Beverly is actually our friend and dentist, Dr. Murdock.) When Donna goes beyond thinking and the announcement and actually picks up the phone I have my first clue that this tooth must really be hurting—like jackhammer/blowtorch in your mouth hurting—because Donna has excellent, finely honed pain management skills. Skills I do not possess. Anyway. She calls, gets an appointment for Wednesday and spends the time in between dosing up on Aleve with the occasional vodka booster. See I told you it was really hurting.

Wednesday Donna leaves and heads to the dentist. (By the way, Donna who lives in Brooklyn spends so much time in NJ that she goes to the dentist (and dry cleaner, pharmacy, car repair) in my neck of the woods. I say “Sounds like a root canal to me.” I can discern this because I have had more personal experience with root canals than I wish to remember. She has had zip, zero, a novice.

Two hours later Donna returns and says: “Root canal.” But she is able to say this clearly and distinctly—not the garbled, thick tongued, twisted lip speak that usually follows time in the dental chair. She takes her antibiotic, some more Aleve and we return to work on the new (2010) book. Two hours later the dentist induced anesthetic has worn off, the pain meds aren’t working too well and Donna says to me: “She says I may need to see a root specialist.” I say, “And this slipped your mind until now?” Donna says, “It was all too much for one afternoon. But it still hurts kinda bad.” At which point I know that the pain she is enduring would drive most folks screaming into the street. Example: Donna once endured in-office surgery under the influence of Valium only—not even a bullet to bite on.

Later Wednesday evening, confident that the morrow will mark the end of the tooth issue, Donna goes home for the long holiday weekend. I go out. (I called it “plans.” Donna says it’s a “date”)

Thursday morning I wake up to this email:
So, the aleve was gone, by 8pm, which made my drive home really fun. The bad news--the tylenol w/codeine is no better. I took two when I got home. Another one 1 1/2 hours later. By about 12:15 the pain was manageable--not gone, but manageable. I'll call Beverly's office and see if she can prescribe something stronger, because although it's better than last night, it's still bad. I'm driving down after Mom's dr visit.

Thursday mid afternoon Donna and her Mom show up—they have been to Beverly AND the aforementioned “root guy.” Who has performed surgery. Donna looks like a chipmunk with her store of food for the winter (or a wad of chewing tobacco) tucked into her left cheek. She also has stronger drugs which she does not take because she’s still got to drive back to Brooklyn.

Late Thursday afternoon Donna’s Mom calls me to say they have arrived safely, Donna’s taken the Oxycodone and gone to bed.

I have PLANS.

I check my Blackberry a little after midnight and find this email:
So, I thought that since I'd graduated to oxycodone, that my pain troubles were over. Which worked for the first dose. The label said I could take it every 4-6 hours, as needed and being a good dooby, I was trying to make it to the long end of the spectrum. BIG MISTAKE. I got to 4 hours and 10 minutes, realized I was in deep doodoo and took a pill. That was at 9 o'clock. I am now trying to keep myself occupied until 1am so I can take the next one and not remove the left side of my face. I don't think I'm gonna make it. My left jaw and chin looks like it was transplanted from Clark Kent. The whole left side hurts--even my lips. Great way to start a holiday weekend.

I had been in the ladies room, feeling annoyed because I had something stuck between my teeth and no floss. I stopped feeling annoyed. I am contrite. I email back:

I'm so soooo sorry. You have to be on the early side of pain meds--no matter what it is. The dosing instructions are ALWAYS on the cautious side. Which doesn't work when in pain!!! Take before the 4hr mark.

Holiday? What holiday!?

I shall skip over the rest of my night and zip right to this morning when I awaken and find this email:

Been up since 4:30--definitely on the early side of the pain meds. I was contemplating whether I was going to have to call this man today, which I didn't want to have to do. But I figured out that sitting up works better than laying down. I still have Superman's jaw, but it's not throbbing. If it's not down I'm gonna have to call in tomorrow. My eyes were red-red this morning. They rarely are. So it's gonna be a chair day. I'm gonna try and get some more sleep. I'm pretty tired.

I write back:
are you icing the swelling? they always gave me ice packs at the dentist after surgery.
Have you found a comfy sitting up/resting chair?

Knowing full well that if she’s at the desk emailing me she is not comfy or resting.

Will keep you posted. I’m going to watch Jaws just to keep things in perspective.

Happy 4th!!!!

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 1:51 PM 1 comments

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Is Enough Enough?

So....we just read on our friend Eisa Ulen’s blog
that bestselling author Omar Tyree has just announced his “retirement” from street lit, stating that last July’s, The Last Street Novel, would be his final book in the genre (The current announcement comes prior to his September release, called Pecking Order). Tyree, the self-proclaimed offspring of Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim, and the “baby daddy” of the new “hood” lit movement, says enough is enough. He didn’t mean to start a trend that led to the avalanche of urban lit and erotica which has flattened much other work about African-American life in its path. Take a read and let us know what you think. Is enough, enough, too much, or too little too late? After all, as he says, publishing is a business. Are readers buying exactly what they want to read, or is a change gonna come?

For the record, I never called my work "street literature" and I never will. When I began to publish ground breaking contemporary novels with Flyy Girl in 1993, and Capital City in 1994, I called them "urban classics." They were "urban" because they dealt with people of color in the inner-city or "urban" population areas. They were "classics" because I considered myself one of the first to start the work of a new era. But now, after sixteen years and sixteen novels in the African-American adult urban fiction game, I feel like the man who created the monster Frankenstein. Things have gotten way out of hand. So it's now time to put up my pen and move on to something new, until the readership is ready to develop a liking for fresh material on other subjects. Read the complete story here:

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 1:02 PM 1 comments
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