On this day in 1891, the amazingly talented writer (and fellow Afro-Viking) Nella Larsen was born. Thinking of her today and giving thanks for her work and her life. It changed my life that I was able to honor her by installing a headstone on her grave in 2006. I hope one day I'll have the honor of seeing her novelPassing on the big screen (I co-wrote an adaptation). But I am so glad her memory lives on.
I started this blog seven years ago as a struggling novelist seeking community. And to a certain degree I came to blogging as a woman who was learning how to trust her own voice.
Today, I am a published novelist--my book was met with great critical and commercial acclaim. I was dubbed a Power 100 Leader by Ebony Magazine. I've met so many wonderful readers traveling the country almost non-stop for three years; I've had wonderful opportunities like walking the red carpet for the Image Awards and hanging out with Vanessa Williams at the after-party, appearing on CNN and NPR and the NBC Nightly News, speaking at the Schnitz to an audience of 2500 people who had all read my book. The dream I had so many years ago came true! I got my big break -- now what?
I re-read this quote by James Baldwin and thought: he really gets what it means to be an artist--not just a success story. Words to live by. Thank you once again, Mr. James Baldwin!
“Then you make—oh, fifteen years later, several thousand drinks later, two or three divorces, God knows how many broken friendships and an exile of one kind or another—some kind of breakthrough, which is your first articulation of who you are: that is to say, your first articulation of who you suspect we all are . . . [Y]ou make your first breakthrough [as an artist], people have heard your name—and here comes the world again. The world you first encountered when you were fifteen. The world which has starved you, despised you. Here it comes again. This time it is bearing gifts. The phone didn’t ring before—if you had a phone. Now it never stops ringing. Instead of people saying, ‘What do you do?’ they say,’Won’t you do this?’ And you become, or you could become a Very Important Person. And then—and this is a confession—you find yourself in the position of a woman I don’t know who sings a certain song in a certain choir and the song begins: ‘I said I wasn’t gonna tell nobody but I couldn’t keep it to myself.’ You’ve come full circle. Here you are again, with it all to do all over again, and you must decide all over again whether you want to be famous or whether you want to write. And the two things, in spite of all the evidence, have nothing whatever in common.”
--James Baldwin, "The Artist’s Struggle for Integrity"
I've always wanted to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) held each November, but I've never been able to keep up with the word count or put in the necessary hours writing. November is particularly difficult because of the holidays and holiday get-togethers and travel. So I was excited to learn that the good folks at NaNoWriMo put together a chance to do the novel writing marathon in April. So here I am a week and a half into the work--not too far behind on the word count. There's some good stuff in the pages I have and then a lot of bleh and some terrible stuff too. If nothing else, I am purging the bad novel to be able to make room for the good in later drafts. The best bit of advice that's keeping me going is from one of my favorite poets, William Stafford. He once said: “There is no such thing as writer's block for writers whose standards are low enough.” I'm aiming really low, and I'm enjoying the work!