Friday, March 30, 2007


A WRITING WORKSHOP: My agent passed along this link to the Hurston/Wright Writers' Workshop. (Thanks J.) I, personally, know 4 people who have attended the week-long workshop and they all rave about the experience. The deadline is April 20, 2007. Only serious writers need apply. A few scholarships are available.

POETRY: Did you know April was "National Poetry Month?" The folks at Knopf do. In honor of the occasion, they will send you a free poem (and other extras, like audio clips and info about your favorite Knopf poets) every day through the month of April if you visit their site and register.

CLASSICAL MUSIC: My friend MR sent me a link to a site that showcases and explores African American heritage via the world of classical music. The site-- contains audio links and other informative tidbits.

A NEW PUBLISHER: Have you heard? Tina McElroy (author of The Hand I Fan With, Ugly Ways, & You Know Better ) has launched a new publishing company. DownSouth Press won't start accepting submissions until July 1, 2007. Check the site for details.

A NEW LITERARY FORUM: Mat Johnson (author of The Great Negro Plot, Hunting in Harlem and Drop) has launched a new literary discussion board. Niggerati Manor Forum is the name of the spot.

ARETHA FRANKLIN: Currently, I'm working on a novel that incorporates the title of one of my favorite Aretha Franklin song's "A Natural Woman." In the course of my research about the Queen of Soul, I stumbled across this brilliant piece by "the literary thug" that delves into Aretha, her music and her demons. "The Portrait of An Artist As A Young Woman" is essential reading for any serious R & B and/or Aretha fan.

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO, "Hmm . . .": I wish I could remember where I saw this comment about the whole Michael Richards and the "N" word incident, so I could provide the link. But essentially, someone pointed out that we, as African Americans, appear more upset with Richard's repeated use of the word nigger than we are by the fact that he also openly suggested his African American hecklers be sodomized with a fork and lynched. And all I can add to that is, "Hmmm . . . "

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


October Road is an ABC television series about a writer who, after a 10 yr absence, returns home and finds employment at a local college. I've watched the show a couple of times--if only because it follows Grey's Anatomy on Thursday night. I told the hubby, were I 10-15 years younger, I'd probably really enjoy the show . . . But anyway, the last time I watched I can distinctly remember wondering where the series might have been filmed.

Well, turns out it's filmed on the college campus where my good friend YN teaches. When I spoke to her this past weekend, she said, "Hey, have you ever watched that show, 'October Road?' Guess where it's filmed?" She also told me Tyler Perry had been on campus filming a movie, not more than a couple of weeks ago.

After a bit of online research, I discovered that some of the other movies filmed at Agnes Scott College include: A Man Called Peter; Scream 2 and the higly acclaimed tv series, I'l Fly Away.

Even though I'm not much of a celebrity buff, a visit to a scenic college campus can't help but appeal to my inner nerd. And as far as the hubby is concerned, believe me, he's no better. All I have to do is whisper, "gothic architecture" and ole boy's eyes light up and he starts reminiscing about the days (and no doubt, some of the nights) he spent on the University of Notre Dame's campus.

So, looks like, we'll be adding a tour of my home girl's campus to the list of things we plan to do when we roll into the ATL this summer. Between that and the list of things, Professor BlackWoman (see the comments section of the March 19th "Road Trip" post) was kind enough to share, I'm sure we'll have a great ole time. If anyone else would like to volunteer additonal suggestions, (for places to visit and things to do in Atlanta, Jackson, Miss or New Orleans) I'm still taking them. Drop me a line in this post's section for comments or email me at .

If you're interested in learning more about Agnes Scott College and its involvement in the movie biz, this article is a good place to start.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

UNFINISHED BUSINESS . . . Books You Want To Read (Or You've Tried To Read) But Can't Seem To Finish . . .

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has a large pile, bookshelf full or hidden stash of unread books. The majority of those books are probably titles you fully intend to read, but just haven't found time for yet. You probably also have quite a few that are just for "show" or reference, if you will--books you look at or flip through, every now and again, but don't feel the need to read from cover to cover. And then there are always those books that you honestly don't know how in the heck found their way into your possession and that you wouldn't read unless your life depended on it.

But how many of you are willing to 'fess up to owning books that you want to read, that you've tried to read and that your know durn well you oughta read, but for whatever reason, you've failed everytime you've attempted to do so?

Well, what follows, I'm NOT proud to say, are the top 3 on my List of Unfinished Books.

1) Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)

As I mentioned over at the BookSeller Chic's blog, I've been trying to read this book since I was a kid. Seriously, the first attempt was like in the 9th or 10th grade. The second attempt was probably 3 0r 4 years later, when my brother was assigned the book in school. I've even tried watching the doggone movie . . . hmm, never made it through that either. As much as I truly do enjoy the way this book begins, I'm not sure why I can't seem to make it more than halfway through the story before I toss it aside. Must be some sort of weird, psychological block. Or could be, it's just too doggone long.

2) The Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison)

Yes, I know this is a truly shameful confession. What self-respecting, supposedly well-read, Black woman, writer-wanna-be, over the age of 35 hasn't read THE INVISIBLE MAN? Ahh . . . me. Yes, I do understand the beauty, the depth and the significance of the work. Believe me, I've tried to make myself finish it and will, no doubt, try again one day. But there's something about the story that just won't grab and hold my attention. I'm not sure, but ADD is a good possibility . . .

3) The Salt Eaters (Toni Cade Bambara)

Once again, y'all . . . I am so ashamed. As much as I adore GORILLA, MY LOVE, you'd think THE SALT EATERS would be an easy read for me to tackle. Not so. Every 7 years or so, I pick up this book and vow to read my way to the end, only to give up somewhere in the middle. I think the problem is, I just don't "get it." Okay, this last time ( 2 years ago or so) I came a little closer to understanding it than in previous years, but apparently not enough to wanna keep plowing through. Other than THE SALT EATERS, the only other book I've ever felt compelled to slam against a wall is Flannery O'Connor's WISE BLOOD. But even the latter I managed to finish and without wanting to choke somebody.

So, those are my 3. Anyone else feel like 'fessing up?

Monday, March 19, 2007


We'll be on the road this summer and headed due South, as might be expected (smile). Our first over-night stop will probably be Atlanta. I have a friend who teaches at a small liberal arts college in the area and I hope to spend at least a day, hanging out with her.

Perhaps those of your familiar with the ATL could give me a suggestion or two, as far as what "family-oriented" things we might want to see or do while we're there. Keep in mind, I'm only planning on spending ONE full day there. What bookstores might I want to visit? What restaurants might we want to try? Which civil right stops/landmarks are must-sees? I'm even open to considering those things you've heard from others. Even though my friend has been begging me to visit her for years, I've only stopped in the ATL once and that was for a brief over-night stay this past Christmas. I didn't really get to see or do anything, even though the hubby insisted we stay downtown, high atop The Peachtree, if only for the spectacular view. It was nice . . . except for the roach that greeted us upon entry into our room (LOL). In any case, since we now live so close to Atlanta, we do plan to vist more often.

After dropping the young'un off with relatives in Memphis, the hubby and I are heading for Jackson, Mississippi. Yeah, I know some of you are scratching your head and wondering: Why in the world would she wanna go there? But I bet those of you who know me well or else are familiar with Jackson, already know why. Eudora Welty, of course.

If you don't know who Eudora Welty is, well, you need to ask somebody. Better yet, Google her and then go ready her story, "Why I live at the P.O." A stranger who'd read some of my work once, told me my style kind of reminded her of Welty's. Of course, another acquaintance (an English professor) told me my style reminded her of Raymond Carver's. Yeah, go figure. Anyway, I'm going to Jackson in order to stop by Miss Welty's house and tour the gardens she tended and loved so well when she was alive. If possible, I also plan to tour the house. I'd love to see where she did her writing.

As many times as I've visited and driven through Mississippi, I've never stayed overnight. But this time, I just might. Anybody know what else there is to do in Jackson, Mississippi? Any tips on where a sister might grab a bite to eat?

After Jackson, we're headed for New Orleans. I've been to New Orleans once, but it was years ago and work related. This time I want to really see/experience New Orleans . . . or at least what's left of it post Katrina. We'll probably stay 3-4 days in the Big Easy. I love checking out historically Black college campuses, so I am planning to visit Xavier University while I'm there. But else should I do? Where should I go? What should I see?

Yeah, I know, I've got to hit The French Quarter and the Garden District, but give me some specifics, if you will. Where do I go to hear some decent jazz? Where can I get a bowl of gumbo or sample some of those pralines and beignets I always hear folks raving over? What other sites would you suggest I try and/or see? Museums? Bookstores? Haunted Houses? Cemeteries? I'm not a big fan of swamps or plantations (sorry, but a sister ain't trying to have nightmares about Mammy, Da Master and Miss Prissy and 'Nem), but for this trip, I won't completely rule them out (smile).

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

PUT ON SOME MARVIN (for Zora Neale, bell and me) . . . by Lori D. Johnson . . .

"Come and get me," is what the note read. Before I could get the question out of my mouth, my son Terrance pulled his face out of his bowl of cereal and supplied me with a ready answer. "Aunt Gina. She called about an hour ago." He took the note from me and flipped it over. "This is her address on the back here."

While Terrance got up to replenish his bowl, I sat down at the kitchen table with a sigh and kicked off my shoes. The last time I had seen my sister had been nearly four years ago; she had been in a night-club performing a medley of Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan tunes, and I had been a member of her listening audience. She'd gotten a standing ovation that night. And even though I had stood and applauded with the rest, it had really hurt me to hear the slur in Gina's voice, to see the sleepy slant of her eyes, the lazy nod of her head, and realize that not only was the girl trying to sing like a jazz and blues diva of old, but she was trying to live like one too.

Yes, she was my sister, my baby sister, and I had always wanted the best in the world for her. But no, I didn't try to stop her, even when word got back to me that she was out on the corner selling dope and her ass to support her habit. I had always known better than to think that I could make Gina do anything. If jumping off on the deep end is what the girl had made up her mind to do, that's all there was to it, and there would be no stopping her. The only thing I could do was sit back and wait for the call. And that's exactly what I had been doing for the past four years.

Yes, I had been expecting a call, but not the one carrying the good news that my sister had finally come to her senses and was ready to straighten up and fly right; and not the one with Gina's happy-go-lucky voice on the other end telling me to put on some Marvin Gaye and a pot of coffee, because she was coming over; and most certainly not the one I actually got, demanding that I come and get her. No, the call I had been expecting was the one that nearly always comes in the early hours of the morning bearing the bad news that somone you love has died.

I looked over at Terrance and thought about scolding him for eating all that cereal before dinner, but instead I asked about the phone call. "She say anything else?"

He let out a loud belch and excused himself before attempting a response. "Who? Aunt Gina? Un-uh. All she said was 'tell Gail to come and get me.' Those were her exact words. Then she gave me the address and hung up."

* * *

I pushed open the door to Gina's apartment and was almost knocked down by what I knew to be the stench of dreams gone bad.

"Whoo-we!" Terrance said as he stepped around me and clamped a hand over his nose and mouth. "Excuse my French y'all, but it smells like shit, damn and hell in here."

My son Terrance, always the comedian. I cuffed him on the back of the head and silently blamed both his tact and tasteless sense of humor on being fifteen and his father's son.

I spotted Gina seated on the bare floor between a couple of battered suitcases, and beneath a cloud of cigarette smoke. Her eyes were closed, but she nodded a greeting at us and stretched her mouth into what I suppose was an attempt at a smile. For a moment all I could do was stand and stare. The girl looked bad. Her lips were cracked and peeling. Her hair was a tangled, matted mess. And the corners of her eyes were so thick with crust, I didn't think she'd be able to open them.

When was the last time your ass saw some water is what I was tempted to scream at her. But instead I voiced a simple and calm observation of the obvious: "You look terrible."

"Yeah," she said as she took a final puff of her cigarette before snubbing it out. "Well, you'll be happy to know, I feel even worse." With a groan and a vile-sounding cough, she rose to her feet and jerked open her eyes. The gaze she shot me was hot and hazy, but the words that subsequently slid off her tongue were cool and unwavering. "So, do me a favor and spare me the lecture this time around Gail. Just take me home. Okay?"

# # #

What you just read ("Put On Some Marvin") is an excerpt from a story of mine that appeared in the Emrys Journal in the Spring of 1994. Yeah, so do I have a fascination with Marvin Gaye or what? (smile)

As always, when I review old material I see things that I would now do differently. Even so, this remains my favorite of all the stories I've written thus far. I think one of the reasons I like it so much is because I can see so much of myself in all of the characters.

I can remember reading this at the workshop I frequented in Memphis and receiving less than stellar reviews from my fellow scribblers and scribes, both the righteous and the wanna-be's. But something in my gut told me to leave the piece as it was and not tweak it too much. Sure enough, less than three weeks after I read the story, the folks from Emrys called and told me they wanted to publish it. Sometimes you've just got to step to the left of the nitpickers and the naysayers and go with what you know . . .

Sunday, March 11, 2007


The following is one of several versions of a quote by the poet, writer, and art critic Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918). Apollinaire is also widely credited with coming up with the term "surrealism."

He said, "Come to the Edge."

They said, "We can't We're afraid.

He said, "Come to the Edge."

They said, "We can't. We'll fall!

He said, "Come to the Edge.

And they came.

And He pushed them.

And they flew.

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


I'm not a fan of award shows. Nor am I much of a celebrity buff. So, sitting down in front of the tube for 2-3 hours and watching a bunch of over-paid entertainers preen, gush and compliment one another, just doesn't do a heck of a lot for me.

The main reason I watched this year's NAACP IMAGE AWARDS was for the slim possibility that my friend, DWIGHT FRYER might win in the DEBUT AUTHOR category. Of course, unless I looked away and missed it, the LITERARY AWARDS weren't even mentioned in the live telecast. Of course, an ALREADY ESTABLISHED entertainer, an ACTOR by the the name of HILL HARPER (CSI) ended up winning the LITERARY AWARD FOR DEBUT AUTHOR. Of course.

I'm not even gonna ask or attempt to explore why these two "authors" were in the same category. I will say that even my 10-year-old realizes that fiction and non-fiction are two totally different beasts and that in our star-blinded society, a vitrual unknown stands little chance against a celebrity. Though to be fair, I've heard nothing but positive things about Mr. Harper and his book.

But getting back to the show, as it drew to a close, CHRIS TUCKER took the podium and started talking about BONO'S humanitarian efforts in Africa. I know who BONO is, but I can't say I'm all that familiar with his music. I'd dare say, I couldn't name one song he's written, performed or won an award for, if my life depended on it. As admirable as I think BONO'S work in Africa is, I almost changed the channel during his segment. I'm glad I didn't.

BONO'S acceptance speech was the show's highlight and elevated my respect for him as a fellow human being and a humanitarian. He talked about how ideas, like Martin L. King's commitment to "non-violence" travel and how impressed he was as youth living in Ireland with the sacrifices made by the participants of the Civil Rights movement in the United States.

Like a good, humble award recipient, BONO thanked the NAACP and gave the organization its props for the work it did back in the day . . . and then he shucked the formalities and straight PREACHED. The following are some of the more thought-provoking lines from his speech:

"True religion will not let us fall asleep in the comfort of our freedom."

"Love thy neighbor is not a piece of advice, it's a command."

"Where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die."

"The poor are where God lives . . . God is with us if we are with them."

In keeping with the spirit of what BONO had to say, I think it might behoove the organizers of the NAACP IMAGE AWARDS to wake up and at some point revamp their show in order to include the outstanding deeds and accomplishments of some lesser known folks. I'm not saying, step away from the celebrity spotlight altogether, because certainly, folks like BONO, SOLEDAD O'BRIEN (CNN) and HILL HARPER deserve their due.

But can't some of that love be spread around and doled out to the little guy and gal every now and then? Or am I the only who who thinks the NAACP is in desperate need of an IMAGE MAKE-OVER? Of course, not that it really matters in the larger scheme of things.

The truth is, next year I probably won't even watch the IMAGE AWARDS. But what I do expect to do in the coming weeks is go out and add some BONO to my music collection.