‘Behind the Pen’ is back!

Behind the Pen 2018 FlyerI only started doing book signings and public appearances about three years ago. The first one I did was my own, ‘Wine with Writers’. After that, I tested the waters with a couple others, and once I realized that I would not spontaneously combust from all that … interaction, I was all in. To my neverending surprise, meeting people who read my books is not at all like most social interaction. Large groups of people can be draining for me. Meeting readers is by contrast, energizing, inspiring, and a great motivator. Not to mention talking to people who remember details about your characters and stories that you’ve long forgotten, and who took even the smallest bit of encouragement, or found empathy for different points of view just because of something you’ve written … there’s nothing like it. It makes me humble, and grateful that I write.

So, this year, I’m doing it again, at ‘Behind the Pen’ in New York, on Saturday, August 11. Organized by the Sistah Girls Book Club. Behind the Pen was created by Sistah Girls founder, Sharee Hereford, to celebrate black independent authors and the readers who love their work. What started out as a small digital conversation has turned into a growing community (over two thousand members now!) of authors and readers who enjoy literature.

Last year, my author besties Rae Lamar, Jacinta Howard, Lily Java, and Tia Kelly were there, which made it super-fun. After the event our little band of writer-friends had dinner afterwards, and dissected everything (as writers are prone to do) with a motley crew of moms and daughters, friends and one very special reader; and the main thing we talked about was how amazing it was that people even gave a crap about meeting us. Then we moved on to how incredibly well-organized ‘Behind the Pen’ was. For a maiden voyage, they thought of just about everything, and there were no glitches that I could see. Every writer was treated like a VIP, and every reader had the time and space to interact with us in a meaningful way. There was food, drinks, music, fun and a great view of Lower Manhattan. It fueled the work that I did for the rest of the year. I think, for sure, it made me write more … and better.

This year, I think you still might be able to make it. Tickets for Behind the Pen are still available here for a mere $25. But if you can’t make it, you can order signed copies of some of my favorite books, below.

I hope you see you at Behind the Pen, but even, if not …

Happy Reading!

~N~

Going Home Again

They say you can’t do it: go home again, I mean. It’s a saying I never quite understood. I think it means that memory is flawed and what we remember about safe and familiar places is never what was. And even if  what we remember is accurate, we can’t  re-create it. One of the most amazing films about memory and nostalgia and home that I’ve ever seen was Terrence Malick’s beautifully filmed and profound work ‘Tree of Life‘ starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain. It is non-linear and intentionally choppy, much like our actual memories are, and will evoke emotion even where comprehension eludes you. That movie, and my own recent trip home got me thinking lately about how we construct our lives based on what we think we once were; how the people we become are in large part based on our flawed recollections of what used to be.

As I write my characters, I find that it’s essential to know who they are, not just in the moment that I’m capturing in my novel but before that, so I spend countless hours thinking about what ‘home’ means to them.

Were they happy? Did they have a family that loved them? Was there a mother and father there? A mother and mother? Only a grandmother?

All of these questions, once answered, add a dimension to who they are in the time that I meet them. The answers to these questions inform how they will respond to other characters, to challenges, to happiness offered, and to the world around them. What I haven’t yet learned how to do consistently is to imply but not always explain all of these nuances to the reader. You know what I mean: those books that give you pages and pages of back-story that may or may not be interesting, but don’t necessarily move the plot along? Still, there are times when I think it’s important to  have characters “go home” either literally or metaphorically. In the novel I’m currently working on, one of the characters makes choices that make her somewhat unsympathetic to the reader and for that, I think it’s key to know what ‘home’ is for her. Only by seeing from whence she came – psychologically as well as literally – can the reader understand and perhaps begin to like her despite her faults.  The book, titled ‘Unsuitable Men’ will be out later this year and I’ll be working on meeting the challenge of having just the right balance of the character’s past and their present.

But for now, I’ve been given another challenge: my friend in the blogosphere Mistress M, whose amazing blog can be found here, has recommended me to participate in the  Tell Me About Yourself Award, where I must write seven things about myself that I haven’t revealed before, and nominate seven other bloggers for the same award. So I’d better hop to it . . .