Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Our Survivor Connection

You look at a show like Survivor and you think, "Who are these people, and how to they step out of their lives for 2 months, to do what? Eat vermin, and live in the jungle? And that's the easy part? Who would do that? Well, it turns out we actually know someone who is doing it--our friend, Taj Johnson-George (a/k/a Taj of SWV, a/k/a Mrs. Eddie George, a/k/a "I Married a Baller a/k/a co-author, with Katrina Chambers, of PLAYERhateHER ) is currently a contestant on Survivor Toucatins.

Taj takes on the Tocantins Welcome to S2Smagazine.com
So we're both amazed-- Donna at least goes camping, but she does believe in amenities like a tent, an air mattress and a cooler full of goodies to cook over the fire--loves that smokey flavor. Virginia, on the other hand, is horrified at the idea of a hotel without 24/7 room service, so we won't even talk about feeling your way in the dark to find a nice leafy spot for that 3 A.M. bathroom run and believes the smokey flavor from the grill on the patio is just fine thank you. Taj has been saying she did the whole livin' on grass and bugs in 110 degrees thing to get rid of the baby weight. Guess Weight Watchers didn't cut it. So, we're rooting for her. And we know she can't give us any inside scoop while the competition is going on. But once it's over, boy have we got lots of questions.

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 1:59 PM 0 comments

Monday, February 23, 2009

Opening the Book-Repost from the Denver Post Commentary from our Friend Carleen Brice

Opening the book
When will black fiction finally find the crossover audience it deserves?
By Carleen Brice Special to The Denver Post

Quick, name 10 black authors. If you got stuck after Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Walter Mosley and Terry McMillan, you're not alone, especially if you are not black.

One reason for this is that publishers tend to market books written by black authors solely to black readers. The conventional wisdom in the industry is that if books first become popular with a black audience then they will cross over. A writer friend of mine was told this with her first book. Ten books later, she has yet to cross over, despite respectable sales and favorable reviews. Without that crossover success, she's having a hard time finding a publisher for her latest novel.

While a handful of writers like the ones mentioned above have successfully crossed over, still far too many good writers go unknown.

It's not that black readers aren't buying books. In fact, according to the research firm Target Market News, which tracks African-American consumer spending, black readers spend $326 million annually on books.
But as the situations of my writer friend and many others illustrate, it's extremely hard to have a viable career in publishing without support from a wider (meaning not only black) audience.

It's difficult for black authors, especially of literary fiction, to develop the buzz that sells books. White readers don't hear about our books discussed generally, and without media exposure and water-cooler talk they don't know which of our books they may like.

To help change that, during Black History Month I'm calling on all readers to go to your favorite bookstore or library and try a book by one African-American writer.

My hope is to raise awareness about the many talented writers many Americans have never heard of. I want to hear more book- club members, bloggers and reviewers discussing writers such as Tayari Jones, Mat Johnson, Martha Southgate, Steven Barnes, Kim McLarin, Michael Thomas, ZZ Packer and Bettye Griffin.

In November, I started a blog to help black authors reach a broader readership. While the URL is welcomewhitefolks.blogspot.com, the blog targets all readers. And people seem hungry for it. It has received thousands of hits, and people are e-mailing me and leaving me comments about how they're hearing about good books they otherwise would never hear about.

Perhaps more important, it's giving people an opportunity to realize that just because a book is written by a black person or features black characters, it doesn't mean it's only for black readers.

Recently, Donna Grant and Virginia DeBerry, authors of "What Doesn't Kill You," wrote on their blog about how white people sometimes question if it's OK to read their novels. "Not so long ago, a white reader (one of many who identify themselves that way) e-mailed to say how much she enjoyed one of our books but wondered if she was welcome to read our work since she wasn't black.

"We were stunned by the question, but it spoke to the segregated reading habits that are more the norm than we would like to admit on the subject."
This kind of segregation is especially maddening because it doesn't work both ways. Black people read books by whites, Latinos and Asians all the time. And nobody thinks anything about it.

But as Grant and DeBerry note, "When an African-American writer or entertainer achieves success with a wider (read: white) audience, a la Will Smith or Terry McMillan, they are said to have crossover appeal. Why isn't the reverse true? When blacks watch 'CSI,' 'Spider-Man 3' or pick up the latest John Grisham, no one attributes that to crossover."

Of course, one of the best-selling black authors right now happens to be our president. Black writers are hopeful that Barack Obama's election will help publishers "get a clue about our stories," as Lori Tharps, author of the memoir "Kinky Gazpacho," put it recently in an article on theroot.com. "Obama has proved, after all, that readers of all races and backgrounds can take to non-mainstream literary portraits of the American experience," she said.

I'm hoping that in the age of Obama, we'll be able to agree that there's not white fiction and black fiction; there's just fiction.

Carleen Brice is author of the novels "Orange Mint and Honey" and, coming in July, "Children of the Waters."

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 9:47 AM 0 comments

Monday, February 16, 2009

Book Tour Tales

Book tour is always a whirlwind--like a traveling family reunion—fun, but challenging. First there's all the anticipation, the prep. Like what are we going to pack? Ten days, temperatures from 18 degrees to 60 degrees, that takes planning—never would have guessed 18 degrees would be in Birmingham, Alabama and the 60 in Chicago. Then we had to find the right excerpt from What Doesn’t Kill You to share. It has to pique your curiosity, not give away any secrets and still leave you wanting more. Going on tour also means for a few days we get to leave the computer behind--OK as many of you know because of Twitter, Facebook & MySpace updates, we actually do travel with a laptop and Blackberrys.

The getting from place to place part has definitely gotten more adventurous starting with the free with every ticket strip show in the airport. This little performance is much more complicated in January, thanks to coats, boots and scarves than it is in say August when you’re wearing a sleeveless dress and flip-flops! And then there’s the take-off lottery. We have absolutely no control over whether the plane leaves on time. Will we make our next connection? Because everything is a connection now and it seems to get to and from anywhere in the south you have to change planes in Atlanta. Hartsfield was starting to feel strangely homelike--scary! In ten days we had one non-stop flight--mercifully it was the last one because by the end we were soup. And Virginia was still feeling the after affects of food poisoning (at least this time she didn't faint, like the last time she had food poisoning while we were traveling).

Then there's handling the day to day--Trying to zip the suitcase closed because the same clothes are in there, but after a few days they mysteriously SWELL. And from one hotel to the next--trying to remember the room number-304? 403? 2010? 1012? Is the bathroom left or right for those middle of the night trips? What car we're in-- the green Mazda, the silver Mercury, the black Nissan SUV—so many rentals, so little time. Hard to find it in the lot if you don't know what you're looking for. And interpreting the GPS becomes an art, because what does, "slight right onto a local road," actually mean? You make your move, wait to hear the dreaded, "recalculating route," which means we’ve screwed up again, but with Virginia navigating and Donna driving (we're on the same sides as we are when we write and we figured out the formula works “vehicularly” too) we rarely get lost.

Late planes, quirky GPS and food poisoning aside, we had an amazing trip. And we got to meet new readers and see those who have, through the years, become friends. We keep in touch with most of them online, but sometimes we need to reach out and hug. Thanks for coming out to see us!!

We had so many wonderful moments that it’s hard to pick some to share. We enjoyed participating in the Pyramid Books New Year, New You Book Festival where we met author, and E. Lynn Harris protégé, Celia Anderson. We look forward to reading her debut young adult novel, Love, Ocean (Click here: Celia Anderson, Author of Love, Ocean http://celiaanderson.com). In Atlanta we met old friends like Angela Reid and Imani Literary Group—Angela was among the earliest people who reached out to us after Tryin’ was published. We made new friends in EastPoint, GA where we were hosted by the AKA’s and their Club Lit Reading Circle. We also had a great conversation, videoed for later online enjoyment, with Michelle Gipson publisher/founder of Written Magazine , the bi-monthly newspaper insert celebrating the word and the reader (Click here: Written Magazine http://writtenmag.com).

In Charleston we didn’t get to the waterfront (sounds like we need another trip), but we did squeeze in some barbecue and she-crab soup. We also thank Z93 Jamz DJs Deja Dee and Big Show for not only talking up our appearance on the radio, but also coming out and showing live, in person support!

And all along the way, we had readers sharing their Best Broke Stories. While we were in Georgia we even met online winner Carolyn who told us about how she used her ingenuity to start Karolyn’s Kloset (her story is on our blog). However the stimulus package works, lots of us are rethinking our finances and having to make choices we never dreamed we’d be faced with. Hearing each other’s stories lets us know we’re not alone. Check here soon for more Best Broke Stories to come and for pictures from our travels.

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 3:46 PM 0 comments

Friday, February 13, 2009

Live Every Moment

When we got to the airport in Indianapolis, the check-in rep told us he was putting us on an earlier flight--flights were running late all day because of high winds, so the flight that was supposed to leave at 4:30 would be leaving at 6:45. Our original flight was supposed to leave at 7:30 and would be delayed until 9:30. WhooHoo--we were thrilled with our new “standby” boarding passes! At that point we’d been gone 10 days and just wanted to get home fast--to Newark Airport.

It's probably the same decision that some people made yesterday at Newark Airport, on their way to Buffalo. Little choices we make, sometimes about something simple, can change everything. Frequently, it's not a question of right or wrong, it's just a choice. But we have to keep making them, and we can't worry about the consequences or "If only" ourselves if something bad happens.

Flying is a necessity of modern life, but neither of us love it. We say a little prayer at both ends and buckle up. For business, we fly out of Newark 9 1/2 times out of 10. And Buffalo is Virginia's hometown. We have done book signings in Clarence, where last night's awful crash occurred, as well as in the surrounding towns, where many people were heading last night.

Our hearts go out to the family and friends of those who perished in the crash .As Virginia’s brother said this morning, “Buffalo is a small town at heart, and everyone here will be affected by this tragedy one way or another.” We add our prayers to the chorus of those being offered because sometimes that is the most powerful thing we can do.

We got this email a few days ago from friend and it seems like the perfect way to end this:

It’s the Little Things

As you might know, the head of a company survived
Because his son started kindergarten that morning.

Another fellow was alive because it was
His turn to bring donuts.

One woman was late because her
Alarm clock didn't go off in time.

One was late because of being stuck on the NJ Turnpike
Because of an auto accident.

One of them
Missed his bus.

One spilled food on her clothes and had to take
Time to change.

One'sCar wouldn't start.

One went back to
Answer the telephone.

One had a child that dawdled
And didn't get ready as soon as he should have.

One couldn't
Get a taxi.

The one that struck me was the man who put on a new pair of shoes that morning, took the various means to get to work but before he got there, he developed a blister on his foot.
He stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid.
That is why he is alive today.

Now when I am ---
Stuck in traffic, Miss an elevator, Turn back to answer a ringing telephone... All the little things that annoy me. I think to myself, This is exactly where I am supposed to be at this very moment... Next time your morning seems to be Going wrong, The children are slow getting dressed, You can't seem to find the car keys, You hit every traffic light, Don't get mad or frustrated; God is at work watching over you. May God continue to bless you With all those annoying little things And may you remember their possible purpose.

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 1:25 PM 1 comments

Thursday, February 12, 2009


We know it's time for a "real" blog, but we're still in the recovery phase from book tour, so---- in the meantime we thought we'd share this:

The website, sheknows.com is giving away FREE COPIES of What Doesn't Kill You, every day until 2/23! AND you an enter to win once every hour.

Online giveaway-details click here http://www.sheknows.com/articles/contests-and-freebies/807492.htm

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 11:55 AM 4 comments

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