The founder of a nonprofit group for African American writers interviews diverse authors about their journeys to publication.
Slaughter (Clear Skinned, 2002) founded the United Black Writers Association after realizing that she “didn’t see many people of color presenting at writer’s conferences.” In this inspiring book—the organization’s first publication—she sits down with a half-dozen authors in a range of genres to talk about their backgrounds, processes, paths to getting published, and suggestions for novices. The core message: “just write!” Each interview is presented in a Q-and-A format, with Slaughter quizzing participants about the writing life. One woman wrote a picture book inspired by stories her father told her. Another turned to producing fiction after a layoff, and a third explains that his books were born from his experiences as a minister. Every author has a different history, but the overarching theme is the same—that some tales need to be told and that with persistence and concentration, writers can see their words come to life on the page. This urge to share stories is particularly acute for black authors, who are wrestling with a long legacy of being silenced. “This work has to be done. Our history is in the social landscape. We have to write about it,” says Angela Puryear-McDuffie, who collected tales from people in her Washington, D.C., neighborhood in order to craft a narrative history of the community. Several writers are self-published while others opted for a more traditional route. But all have sage counsel for beginners about the importance of discipline and the value of a good editor. They also share tips on marketing a work and balancing writing with a 9-to-5 career. While those seeking nuts-and-bolts advice might not find what they’re looking for here, Slaughter provides a beneficial service by showing how authors turned their ideas into books. Though focused specifically on African American writers, any reader dreaming about becoming an author will find support here.
Everyone has a story and anyone can become an author according to this encouraging and worthy book.