Thursday, February 22, 2007


I bet you'll never guess what I've been reading. Rather than finish any of the titles (well, I did finish Atwood's Moral Disorder) I mentioned in a previous post, I went and added something new to the "Mix." Drum roll please . . . (brrrrr . . . . bomp) . . . Anita Diamant's The Last Days of Dogtown. Hey, I have my reasons. Even though it's not a title I would have ordinarily sought out on my own, I'm actually enjoying it.

Now, take a guess at what has been spinning around on repeat in my cd player (told ya, I'm old school, no mp3 player or ipod for me). You'll never guess, so, let me just tell ya---Steely Dan, The Definitive Collection. What?! I love Steely Dan. How ya gonna hate soft rock classics like, "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" "FM" "Do It Again" "Hey Nineteen" "Peg" "Babylon Sisters" and "Reelin In The Years"?

Strangely enough, even the hubby is with me on this one. We were on our way to dinner when I ripped the newly ordered Steely Dan from it's packaging and shoved it into the car's cd player. Before the music could kick in the hubby was shoutings, "Hey, put it on Deacon Blues! I wanna hear some Deacon Blues!" Of course, I'd been only too happy to oblige (smile).

So, what's that all about? Well, in part, those songs bring back memories. No, not of Memphis, the place I call home. I'm talking memories of some of the other places I've lived like Mountain Home, Idaho and Grand Forks, North Dakota. Keep in mind, I grew up a military brat who got bounced betweeen Memphis and some fairly isolated Air Force bases. Yes, for the first 17 years of my life, I lived something akin to a schizophrenic existence.

But to be fair, I think even if I had spent all of my life in the Bluff City, I still would have danced to the beat of a different drummer. My tastes in literature and music and most other things, are typically all over the place. And if the crowd is saying the "in" color is "orange" you can bet I'm gonna show up in "red" or "green." Hey, I'm not trying to be contrary, "different" is just what I do.

What about you? Is there something you enjoy or do that sets you apart from most of your friends and/or loved ones . . . something that would cause many of them to say, "Huh?" and look at you right funny if they knew? If so, go ahead and 'fess up. I mean, assuming that it's legal and won't it won't get you fired and/or excommunicated.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


When it comes to adult fiction, I have a hard time narrowing my list of favorite authors to just one. But if asked to name MY FAVORITE CHILDREN'S AUTHOR, without hesitation, I can say, there is only one, ALICE FAYE DUNCAN.

It seems like I've been knowing Alice Faye forever. Our paths first crossed in Memphis, back in the early 90's. Not only were we both members of a writing workshop, led by another Memphis born scribe, Arthur Flowers, we also worked for the same employer, the Memphis/Shelby County Library.

I count myself as one of the proud eyewitnesses of Alice's skillful leap from the ranks of the unpublished to the published. If I'm not mistaken, she was the first of our (now, long defunct) writing group to accomplish the feat in the form of a hardcover title.

In the years since, Alice has published a total of five children's books and earned a number of honors and accolades in the process. Through it all, she has somehow managed to remain both gracious and humble, and as one of the Bluff City's literary shining stars, has largely used her time in the spotlight to illuminate the lives of common, "everyday" folk.

For me, the titles of her books alone--Willie Jerome, Miss Viola and Uncle Ed Lee (my personal favorite) and Honey, Baby, Sugar Child, to name a few--reflect a soulful and loving embrace of all that is uniquely Southern and Black. Whether the topic be civil rights, jazz, love and friendship, parenthood and/or faith Alice Faye has a special knack for "giving us (common folks) back to ourselves" is what I like to say. The poetic language of her work renders it an experience that, by right, ought be shared and read aloud.

Anyone interested in starting a collection of children's books, taking a trip down memory lane or just making a young child smile would be well advised to check out some, if not all, of Alice's titles. What follows is a list of her books and her well-deserved awards. If you're interested in learning more about Alice Faye Duncan or contacting her, visit her website at

BOOKS(Alice Faye Duncan)

1995 - The National Civil Rights Museum Celebrates Everyday People (BridgeWater Books) 1995 - Willie Jerome (Macmillan) 1999 - Miss Viola and Uncle Lee (Atheneum) 2005 - Honey Baby Sugar Child (Simon & Schuster) 2005 - Christmas Soup (with Phyllis Dooley) (Zonderkids)

HONORS (Alice Faye Duncan) 1995 - Reading Rainbow Award (Willie Jerome) 1996 - Best Book in Social Studies for Children (Everyday People) 1996 - Gold Medal in Nonfiction for Children, National Association of Parenting Publications 2006 - NAACP Image Award Nomination (Honey Baby Sugar Child)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


The following is a post I made, not too long ago, on a friend's blog (see Consider This in the OSM's sidebar under The Cleveland Crew) I believe I've been married long enough (coming up on 20 years now) to share this kind of advice. I've also had the benefit of being an eye-witness to several relatively happy and long-term marriages, including my parents, both sets of grandparents and the hubby's folks . . . "Let's Stay Together" (Al Green, 1972) wasn't just a song, it was once something folks actually thought worthy of their pursuit.

Now days, I guess folks are too busy trying to be pimps, gangstas, thugs, rappers, strippers, TV airheads, bimbos, video ho's, ballers, shotcallers, the next American Idol, the next hoochie in Flava Flav's harem . . . Okay, basically anything that will grant 'em quick money (ie. chump change) and 15 minutes of fame. With everybody out here scrambling to be noticed and get paid, who has time for the increasing foreign concept of "love" much less it's antiquated partner, marriage? Then again, maybe this is just what the media (publishing world included) would like us to believe in order to keep selling us all sorts of garbage (smile).

Am I preaching up in here today, or what?! Sorry, it's probably the sugar rush from all the Valentine's Day candy I've been eating. I'll stop (both eating & preaching) and just share some of my, admittedly, "Old School" thoughts about marriage.

An OSM short list of the components and/or features of "A Good Marriage" . . .

1) When the two of you share more "good" remember when tales than "bad" ones;

2) When you can look at him (or her) from across the room and he (or she) knows exactly what you're thinking and vice-versa;

3) When something bad happens, he's (or she's) the first somebody you want to tell and when something wonderful happens, he's (or she's) the first somebody you want to tell;

4) When upon review of your marriage vows (particularly, "the for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part" portion) you still consider them more of a privilege than a hardship;

5) When the sound of his (or her) snoring brings you more comfort than annoyance;

6) When you can both openly comment, praise, outright eyeball the physical attributes and/or attractiveness of another because you know neither of you is interested in venturing beyond a look and

7) When you're comfortable enough with one another to sit in a room for hours in relative silence and engaged in seperate tasks without thinking something is wrong.

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts on the subject. Care to share any of yours? I'd love to hear them even if they differ from mine. In any case, happy V-Day y'all! Don't forget to give a card, a kiss or a box of candy to somebody who needs it . . .

Saturday, February 10, 2007


A couple of weekends ago, the hubby passed me an article from his weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal (January 20-21, 2007). I don't know where I've been, but I didn't know the WSJ published a weekend edition. Anyway, the article was in the paper's music section (huh, the WSJ has a music section too?) and it dealt with Smokey Robinson's top five favorite albums of all time.

At the top of Smokey's list of albums was none other than one of my all time favorites, Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going On' (1971). I wasn't surprised by that pick. I'd dare say you'd be hard pressed to find any true-blue, socially conscious R & B fan who doesn't appreciate the raw, bitter soulfulness of Marvin's 'What's Going On'. Even as a teen, I seldom made it through the entire album with tearing up at some point.

Now, Smokey's next choice, Carole King's 'Tapestry' (1971) did come as a bit of a surprise. I can't say that I've ever really sampled any of Ms. King's work, but I trust Smokey's taste and if he says it's a winner, I'm willing to roll with him. Also, the fact that the album sold more than 10 million copies and won four Grammy awards, is an indication that a lot of other folks agree with him.

Third on SR's list was 'Talking Book' (1972) by Stevie Wonder. Why I don't own his album or cd is a mystery to me. Actually, I'm pretty sure the fact that my folks never owned it, and therefore I couldn't steal . . . I mean borrow it from them is a big part of why I don't currently own a copy. I do intend to rectify that situation ASAP! And rest assured, I have heard and do love much of the music from that album, including "Superstitution" and "You Are The Sunshine of My Life."

Coming in at number four on SR's list was Natalie Cole's 'Unforgettable With Love' (1991). I can't say that I'm a big fan of Ms. Cole's voice. Some of her early work was all right, but she generally sounds like she's whining and singing through her nose to me. But if I were to buy any of her work, I'd probably choose 'Unforgettable' too.

Last on Smokey's list was an album, I'm ashamed to say, I didn't even know existed! Maxwell's Ascension (Never Wonder) 1996 was released shortly before his platinum-selling, full length 'Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite' (1996). I'm a HUGE Maxwell fan, so how this got past me is a mystery. 'Ascension' only contains six tracks and I've probably heard them, but I need to own that bad boy . . . Anyway, the fact that it made Smokey's top five, is interesting. As much as I truly love me some Maxwell, I can't say that I would put him in my top five . . . possibly my top ten, but not my top five of ALL-TIME.

What would I include on my top five list of albums? Good question. I know I once said if I were ever on a deserted island and could only listen to 3 albums, they would be the following by Marvin Gaye, 'What's Going On', (1971) 'Let's Get It On' (1973) and 'I Want You' (1976). But you know, after reviewing Smokey's list, I think I'd like to make a few tweaks to my own top 5.

Certainly, at the top of my list, just like Smokey's would be Marvin's 'What's Going On' (1971). According to Smokey, Marvin told him the album was written by God. I don't doubt it. Divine inspiration is all up in that bad boy.

Next would probably be something by Aretha . . . either 'I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You' (1967) (I'll be dog if my mama didn't play the heck out of this album when I was growing up) or else Sister Ree's gospel classic 'Amazing Grace'.

Of course, I'd have to have some jazz. My first choice would be 'Kind of Blue' (1959) by Miles Davis, which contains my all time favorite jazz tune 'Blue In Green.' Just recently I learned a couple of interesting facts about the album 'Kind of Blue': it was recorded in just 2 days and it's the best-selling jazz album of all time. As messed up as Miles was, his genius for music is undeniable.

My next jazz choice would be Kirk Whalum's 'Cache' (1993). For those of you who don't know, (you durn well oughta) brother Whalum is a tener saxophonist with Memphis roots. 'Cache' is one of those cds the hubby and I enjoy listening to when we take our road trips. My favorite cuts on the album are 'Fragile' (which was written by Sting) and 'Love is A Losing Game.'

The last selection on my list . . . and I know those of you who have been counting are saying, hey that's 6, but no, I'm counting my Aretha selection as 1 (smile) . . . the last selection is one a lot of folks, even those who think they know me, will find odd. 'Bang!Zoom' (1995) by Bobby McFerrin rounds out my top five. And before you go there, NO, this is none of that sickning, 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' crap.

The album/cd 'Bang!Zoom' is nothing like that. There's something pure and almost tribal about the way McFerrin uses his voice as an instrument on this album. It owns the distinction of being another one of those rare albums that the hubby and I are in mutual agreement about and listen to when we're on the road. When our son was a toddler and we were still cutting his hair and using our kitchen as a makeshift barbershop, we'd always start by popping 'Bang!Zoom' into the cd player. I think because it was soothing. My favorite song on the album has to be 'Freedom Is A Voice'.

The title alone says it all (smile), especially for those of us who have struggled to have our voices heard.

So, think about it for a moment. What are your top 5 favorite albums of all time? If you're open to sharing, tell us about your list in the OSM's comment section.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Dwight Fryer
Memphis, 2005
Lori's Pic Collection

The following is the second half of a two-part Q & A with Dwight Fryer, NAACP Image Award nominee and author of The Legend of Quito Road.

Q: Before you were published, I understand that you attended a number of different writing conferences and workshops. Why? And could you name a few?
A: Actually, that's been one of the things I think that has been foundational to the level of success I've achieved, so far. I always sought out venues where I could learn about my writing craft . . . Where I could learn how to handle myself as a writer and what I should be doing every day . . ."
The first conference I attended was the Memphis Black Writers's Conference. I also went to the Oxford Conference For The Book. It's an hour drive from Memphis (Oxford, Mississippi) . . . and it's a very literary conference. From there I attended the Hurston/Wright Writers Week as well as the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, where I took a week long advanced writing class. By the time I went to those two, I had completed the book and rewritten it several times . . . I kept going to those type of conferences. Even after I received my book deal, I went to Napa Valley Writers' Conference in St. Helena, California.
Q: Tell me about your involvement with the Memphis Romance Writers of America.
A: When I started writing, I was looking for venues to learn how to write and I joined a romance writers' group here in Memphis, Tennessee called the River City Romance Writers. Once a month, I'd go out to Germantown Library (in the suburbs of Memphis) with 10 or 15 little ladies. We'd sit around and talk about writing and teach each other about craft. I learned so much from them. They were wonderful to me. They were writing romance and I was writing this decadent tale about a 13-year old boy . . . "
Q: Are there any books on the craft of writing that you've found particularly useful?
A: I found a great deal of help in a book called, Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon. I also truly enjoyed and grew greatly from a book called The First Five Words by Noah Lukeman. There was another book that was just written in beautiful language called Writing Down The Bones (Natalie Goldberg ) and it was just a wonderful expose about life as a writer and how it is important to take your craft seriously, but not too seriously to the point that you become so critical that you won't write.
On the business side of writing, two of the books that were most instrumental to me were The Idiots Guide To Getting Published. I used to fall asleep with it at night. I bet I read that book completely, probably, ten times. I also read Jeff Herman's book, How To Write A Winning Book Proposal. Both of those books helped me tremendously in learning how to approach a publishing professional and what to expect and what not to expect.
Q: Who are some of the writers you admire?
A: I really admire John Edgar Wideman . . . Reading some of his writings helped me love books even more. I also really admire two people I met at the Hurston/Wright Writers' Week, Dr. Jeffrey Allen, the novelist who wrote Rails Under My Back and Mat Johnson, who won the Hurston/Wright Literary Award for his novel, Hunting In Harlem.
My former next door neighbor was Rosalyn McMillan (author of The Flip Side Of Eternity and Knowing, among others) and she helped me a good bit over the years by giving me literary tips on how to structure my book and what to look out for in doing business with the publishing world. I admire Marita Golden (author of After and Don't Play In The Sun, among others) who started the Hurston/Wright Foundation . . . and is a great writer. I received a lot of encouragement from her at the Hurston/Wright Writers' Week of 2004.

Q: What's the best advice you received as a new writer and that you'd like to pass along? A: One thing I heard Michael Garret, a novelist who taught continuing ed writing classes at the University of Memphis say was, writer's write, whether you're published, whether you've ever sold anything, whether you have an agent or don't have an agent, writers write. If you are a writer, identify yourself as a writer and even if no one else believes in you, you are a writer.

Writers are most creative when they think of reasons not to write. So, you have to write regardless of what's going on in your life. When my child died, I wrote. When I was on chemo, I wrote. On days I was too blue to notice that the sun was shining outside, I wrote.

* * *

If you have any questions you'd like to ask Dwight Fryer, feel free to leave them in the OSM's comments section and (for a limited period of time) I'll pass them onto him. Also, if you're interested in learning more about the author and his work, visit his website HERE.

The theme for this year's NAACP Image Awards Show is "Youth Create Change." If you'd like to see if Dwight wins this year's award for Outstanding Literary Work From A Debut Author, the show will air live on Friday, March 2, 2007, 8:00-10:00 ET on the Fox network.