Voice & Vision
I finally admitted I wanted to be a writer when I was about seventeen. Since my father was achievement-oriented, when he asked what I wanted to do with my life I decided to tell him what I wanted was to be a "journalist". He literally grimaced at that news, giving me all the information I needed about what his reaction would be if I were completely honest about my creative aspirations.
So, we compromised. I became a lawyer instead.
I'm only sort of kidding. In going to law school, I decided to satisfy my secondary passion for social justice. But that writing thing, man. It's a bug that once you get it, it never leaves you alone. After I became a lawyer, and checked that box, I resumed the writing that had pretty much halted for the three years it took for me to get my JD. And it was a hard, hard road. I'd spent a lot of years honing my legal writing skill, and that's a whole different animal. Legal writing is an actual thing; a wholly unique thing that requires a skill-set that almost suffocates the creative mind. Or, it almost did mine. There is formulaic, almost code language that you use which isn't only supposed to be persuasive, but should also evoke subliminal references to legal dogma. Was that a little opaque? Yeah? Well that's what legal writing is like.
So, I finish law school have a decent job and am living la vida loca as someone who is young, Black and semi-accomplished, but my creative voice inside is just screaming, man. It wanted an outlet but didn't yet know what or who it is. Probably because I didn't yet completely know what or who I was. Black. Woman. Lawyer. Wannabe writer. That was all I knew. I set out to write my experiences, but first turning to re-reading the standard-bearers of Black literature -- Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Dorothy West. 'Cause that's what Black creatives look and sound like, right? But lemme tell you, there's nothing like a Toni Morrison novel when you're a young insecure wannabe writer to make you think you're "doing it wrong".
I could have given up at that point, but I didn't. Instead, I broadened my reading list, adding authors like Donna Tartt, Jonathan Franzen, Elinor Lipman, Joyce Carole Oates, Margaret Atwood, Diane Johnson. And of course there were my old friends, Stephen King, Peter Straub, and even a little Danielle Steele. Some of these writers and the lessons I learned about craft as a reader remain with me today, even though I have long stopped reading some of them. They stay with me because they helped me figure out my own voice and vision, and abandon the idea that to earn the title of young, gifted and Black, and to be a creative whose tools are words, I had to write like Toni Morrison, or Alice Walker, or bell hooks.
Over the past decade and a half, I've been honing my voice and vision. Trying devices on, keeping some things, discarding others. And I've been doing that as a reader, too. Sampling and finding a diversity of voices and visions about what it means to be a writer, and be Black, to hold both identities at once, and let the Blackness manifest in the work. For me at least, that part is key. I don't want to be a race-neutral writer. I want the Blackness to show, and as Toni Morrison said (can't quit her, even if I can't be her): I write for Black people.
Wine with Writers is in many ways a candyland of opportunity for me, my writer-friends Lily Java and Jacinta Howard, and we hope for readers as well. As we grow and develop this thing, we want to expose folks to the different voices, different visions of Black writers.
This year, our featured authors write historical, Christian historical, and urban fiction. And Lily, Jacinta and I of course write romance, contemporary romance and contemporary women's fiction. Authors who will participate in the Authors' Salon range from those who write romance, to inspirational to kink. All important voices, all different visions. C'mon join us for Wine with Writers 2019. We're building.
Writer and womanist, living in pursuit of the unique, the beautiful and the ridiculous.