Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Michelle Obama Story (A Biography in Poem)

Children's author, Alice Faye Duncan, visited the University of Memphis to speak about writing books for children. She gave each student a signed copy of her poem, America's First Lady. She hopes to sell this poetic manuscript and biography to a New York Publisher. I thought the poem worthy of appearing here on my blog. Enjoy!

America's First Lady
(by Alice Faye Duncan)

Born in Chicago
The Southside
Euclid Street
Michelle LaVaughn Robinson
Frasier and Marian’s daughter
Craig’s baby sister
Hand raised high in school
Speaking the Queen’s English
A+ on every paper
Sonatas on her piano
Sometimes a lowdown blues
Children teased Michelle
Called her ugly names
Said…Who does she think she is?
Talking all smart and stuff!
Said…Who does she think she is?
Straight A’s up and down her card!
Said…Who does she think she is?
Tall as a tree!
Words can cut like stone
Pride pushes back the tears
Courage makes shoulders square
Michelle defended herself
Said…I don’t think…I KNOW…I’m smart!
Then silence
No rebuttal
Case closed
No hard feelings
Success the best revenge!
Michelle Obama
Tower of light
America’s First Lady!

Copyright (c) 2009 Printed with Permission from Alice Faye Duncan

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Rejection Feels SO Good (Sometimes)

My blogspot has been neglected. Wanna know why? I've been writing picture book manuscripts and editing WALKING THE DOG, my chapter book for children. In the process something very exciting happened to me recently. This week I received two GOOD rejection letters. Did you think there could be such a thing? Good Rejection! Well, this week I experienced it for myself. Linda Pratt at the Sheldon Fogelman Literary Agency said that my chapter book has "so much of the right stuff." More than anything, it's funny. She commented that Fitzhugh's interaction with friends and neighbors is a hoot! Pratt also encouraged me to share more of my work with her. As for my picture book manuscripts I submitted one directly to an editor at Simon and Schuster. She wrote back this week to say that it is "great!." HOWEVER, the picture book market is rotten right now. Perhaps when the economy improves, Simon and Schuster will be able to purchase a picture book project that speaks about Jazz Music in the 1930's. This is what the editor wrote in her letter. How do you think these two notices made me feel? Even without a contract offer, I was walking on clouds because this week, an agent and an editor gave me hope. I was rejected but not irrevocabaly denied. And that's GOOD NEWS!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

...but I'M NOT BLACK!

As an aspiring writer I have been greatly taken up with rejection letters and new writing projects. So on Saturday I decided to step back from it all, look around and see what other writers in my city are doing. In celebration of Black History Month, I found one children's author reading her books at the Public Library. I expect to conduct author visits myself, so I went to see a real professional in action. It was great! Lots of children were there. They came in a variety of shades. Black, white and otherwise. The author opened up her reading with an interactive song. The children danced and sang. The joy of goofiness and delight was on each face. Then the author stated her purpose for visiting the library and sharing with the children. She explained that her presentation was in celebration of heritage and Black History Month. Instantly, a little boy about 4 years old raises his flailing hand. He wants very much to say something to the author. She asks him to speak and he matter-of-factly responds, "but I'm not black!" So the little boy was not black as the color of a piano key. But his racial identify by virture of his very present mama and daddy, was black. The little boy extended his two tanned arms. "I'm white! See!" All the grown folk and the children laughed. His parents laughed too. No doubt they would hold that family discussion during the drive home. The author giggled. She responded with an "OK!" And moved on to read her book. It was an awkward, innocent moment. As an aspiring literary figure, it is a moment that gave me clarity. I make a new declaration today. Whatever I write should be composed with purpose. Be it humorous or dramatic and wrenching, all of my words should ultimately...inspire appreciation, pride and love for self. From this very moment, I dedicate all my writing talents to a little boy named DJ. May you never be ashamed, NEVER!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Chink Eyes

A creative mind is a terrible thing to waste. I refuse to let mine atrophy like a paralyzed muscle. So as I wait on a book deal for WALKING THE DOG, I am giving birth to new books. I thought of creating a super hero for middle schoolers. Then SOMETHING (old folks call it the Holy Ghost) led me to an idea for a Young Adult Novel. The working title is called, CHINK EYES. I would tell you the plot but it is yet whole. All the involved storylines are working themselves out in the recesses of my mind. I will however share the first several sentences....My name is Giselle Dawn Parker. I am my mother's namesake. I am my father's greatest regret. He does not love me. He did not love my mother. Rejected and denied for three years, she gave Bertram Lee her body under the cover of night. In motel rooms. In the back seat of his brand new red Trans AM. Nobody saw. But everybody knew. My mother, Giselle Dawn Parker was in love with Coach Lee. It all started when she was seventeen. A senior at Tech High. Mother was a local track star with Olympic promise. Bertram Lee was tweny-five. The son of Wong and Juanita Lee. Three generations removed from a Chinese Laundry in Cleveland Mississippi. Six generations removed from an unknown slave plantation. Bertram Lee. Sun-kissed. Curly black hair. Six feet tall. A power point guard. State basketball champion. But my father was not good enough to go pro. So he took advantage of college. Earned a degree in physical education and graduated from Tennessee State. As years go and I grow into my own me, I write my history down. No matter how much it hurts, I listen to Cousin Noble's slurred speech and the evidence found during his "detective work". I write down everything. I let George-Wallace and Anthoni Cleopatra tell me about life with my mother just like they remember it. Her story is my story and it's not all black and white or gray. My story is yellow, tan and brown. To keep from going crazy, I tell it to my friends. I talk it out. I can't let rejection kill me, like it did my mother. I have to release and let go of the pain. I have to express my truth. Sometimes I have to shout. I wish my father loved me! Brown skin, long legs, kinky hair, chink eyes and all. I wish my father loved me. Please share your thoughts. Where do you think this story is headed? I suspect it will be a tale of cowardice, courage and redemption.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

And the Winner is...

I've said it before and I will say it again. As an aspiring author it is important to learn how to wait. For six weeks I have been hunting and waiting on an agent's response. I am waiting on Penquin editor, Stacey Barney, to share her thoughts about WALKING THE DOG. Recently, I applied for a Tennessee Arts Commission Grant so I am also waiting to hear if the state will award me one of the $5000 prizes. They have ten to give away. Hey! Who couldn't use $5000 in this tight economy? In advance I am making plans as to how I will spend the money. Right off the bat I think I will contribute $500 to Caritas Village. They help the neighbors and children living in Memphis' Binghampton area. Onie Johns is the coordinator there. She has organized art, dance and wellness workshops for the community. Caritas also houses a cafe that serves gourmet sandwiches and homemade soups. Yum! If a hungry soul stumbles into the cafe without money they are allowed to eat. Many non-profit organizations use Caritas as a meeting place. The walls are covered with art by Frank D. Robinson, Jr. and Darlene Newman. There are an abundance of books in the cafe for your leisure reading. There are an assortment of board games too. Know what? In a season of peril and darkness, Caritas is a light. So as I move through this day I pray to win that art sweepstakes! Read more about Caritas Village at the link below.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Nobody Loves a Genius Child

I am in a quandary. I let a particular editor read my manuscript. From her professional vantage point she thought WALKING THE DOG was comical and completely relatable. However, she did not see it as a contender with books like JUNIE B. JONES and CLEMENTINE. Now, I love Junie B. and Clementine. They are a hoot! However, my book was not written to be a contender with these texts. WALKING THE DOG revolves around Fitzhugh Edmund "Big Main" Davis. He is a fat fourth grader full of tenacity and grit. He is smart but doesn't want to be perceived as anyone's "Big-Butt-Brainiac!" I wrote this book to inspire reading and academic excellence among inner-city youth who are often taunted because of their genius. The October 2008 issue of NEA TODAY reports that kids like Big Main don't raise their hands in class. They don't answer questions or they pretend to be dumb because peers often tease them and accuse them of "acting white." As a writer I decided to attack this illness with my creativity. It shouldn't hurt to be smart. Such a self-defeating psychology should not exist. How did it even get to be this way? It doesn't really matter now. I AM the antidote!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Art Work is a Steal (FOR NOW)

Darlene Newman is a young Memphis illustrator who has developed and refined her artistic style over the years. She gets better and better with time. And right now, her work remains affordable. But if you wait another year or so, your 9 to 5 won't allow you to purchase her larger pieces. As a children's author I am especially taken with her illustrations that make some comment about education. I have always believed that she would make a great illustrator for children's books. Her work is innocent and playful but also contemplative. You can view some of Darlene's work at She's never expressed an interest in illustrating book covers and books for children but I'm sure in time she will be discovered by some editor in the industry. What city do you live in and who are some of your favorite local artists? Here in Memphis I am a Darlene Newman fan. I own pieces by Frank D. Robinson, Morris Howard, Carl Moore and Wiley Henry. I am also a big George Hunt fan too. But I can hardly afford to look at his work. George Hunt is WAY out of my reach when it comes to affordability. But one day, my "change" is gonna come and I WILL buy me a George Hunt too!