Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Technology Rocks, Sucks, Rocks!

Your grandma probably has/had one of these contraptions to the left. Your mom, too.

A phone book. Filled with years worth of family, friend, and neighborhood contacts and birthdays. Lots of inserts. Grandma handwriting. Crinkled, creased, browned pages. Always at the bottom of the purse or bag, with a ballpoint pen ready to add a contact.

A few weeks ago, a student and I had a good laugh when one of the "students over 50" pulled one out to write down someone's phone number she'd just met. We thought it was funny because we hadn't seen an address book in years. I mean, I haven't memorize a number, let alone written one down, in at least ten years.

Now. The laugh is on me.

I lost my cell phone. Some time between Sunday and Monday. Didn't realize it at first, until I wondered to myself, "How come no one's calling me?" Then I noticed, I couldn't find my phone. Not at home. Not at the office. Not in my car. Or anywhere in between.

So did the customary cancel service, order replacement phone, email close friends and family the setback and gave my Treo number. Luckily, most of my contacts from the other phone are retrievable and/or saved on some grand database. I didn't ask. I was just grateful.

But technology. It rocks. It sucks. It rocks. It's been cool, though, living a "quiet" existence, so to speak, without calling and/or texting folks so much. (You never realize how much you text until you stop for a day or two.)

The point. Maybe the real back up is not relying on a phone company to give you your address book. It's about putting it on paper.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Weekends Go Too Fast, Huh?

Seems that as soon as you walk out the door Friday, it's almost time to walk back in on Monday. This weekend was no different for me.

But I am so grateful and appreciative of having weekends off. Job(s) that I like. Life. In fact, we should have a rampage of appreciation and gratitude today... like for the morning glory flowers on the left. They're beautiful.

Had lots of ambitious plans for work, well book work, I wanted to get done. Wanted to get a few pages written. Wanted to finish some questions the publicist at Kensington had for me. Wanted to read through a few pages of the final galley of Right Side/Wrong Bed -- it was messengered to me Friday; have to proof it and get it back in on Aug. 8. Wanted to do a few social things with friends.

I managed the social things. Went to a fun dinner party and movie night at a friend's house in Studio City. Saw Perfume. Good film. Twisted, at times. But good. Managed to read a few pages of the Right Side/Wrong Bed galley.

This morning, I feel tired. TIRED. Don't ask why. Sunday was relatively calm, after church, brunch, gym, etc...

But I'm teaching a class this morning (one of my summer projects, Mon and Wed mornings) and I think I'm doing to do what most teachers do when they don't feel like talking for an hour.

We show a film. And get some of our own work done while it's screening. :-)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Two Gotta Check Outs in L.A.

Met this very cool artist, Toni Scott, this past weekend at a gallery showing. Her piece that was on display was a 300 year plus photo essay of her family's roots, from the days of pre-U.S. formation to today. Very nice piece. My words can't describe.

Then, my friend Torrance and business partner, are debuting their new television show RX at the Independent Television Festival in L.A. this weekend.

Always interesting people or something to do in L.A.

The Ways of White Folks. Langston Hughes.

So I had to read this book, The Ways of White Folks, by Langston Hughes, while in college in my Black Literature class. Very good short stories about black folks' interactions with white folks.

Opened up my eyes... seeing that I grew up sheltered/protected in an all black community in Detroit, where most of our interactions with white folks came at the hands of stories told by teachers, parents, grandparents and other elders, and neighbors. Or, when we crossed 8 Mile to go to one of the area malls, or to an academic competition with a suburban school. We always felt "less than" though I knew we weren't in the scheme of humanity.

But I found myself sitting in that Black Lit. class of majority white students, hearing class discussion, and feeling really REALLY mad... and also affirmed that some of the stories I heard from elders I could see playing out in the ways some of my white classmates attempted to dismiss the work as non-academic, or black students' observations as being stuck in the 60s and 70s. Interesting.

The other day, I participated in a diversity workshop with my students. It was fun to participate, rather than having to facilitate, for a change.

But I was totally struck with one observation by a black Latina who moved to California from Central America, who said she has NEVER faced discrimination, racism, sexism, or any other form of oppression.


Yes, she said NEVER.

Many of the students, most of whom were born in the mid-to-late 80s, had similar observations but were informed about many social issues "out there," even though most are people of color, women, and working class to low income.

Thought a lot about it. The facilitator helped them to see that indeed they had experienced some forms of discrimination, whether directly or indirectly, and that if one sees oneself as part of a greater diaspora, then indeed when one faces oppression, all face oppression.

But to many, discrimination (and other isms) comes in the form of cross burnings, car draggings, and fighting words. They have yet to learn the subtle ways folks use to keep people in their place.

Makes me wonder if our elders still share their stories that made us think and wonder and prepare ourselves, or if like some of us, will go into the world/workplace naive until that one person they thought was an ally, who they lunch with, joke with, spend out-of-work time with, turns out to be far from an ally?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Talking To The Moon. Noel Alumit.

Re-running a column from earlier this year. I got this book a few months ago, and it is amazing!

Sometimes true-life events can trigger your creative bug and lead to your next writing project.

Noel Alumit has just released his newest novel, Talking To The Moon. Exploring race, religion, and sexuality, the novel tells the tale of a racially-motivated shooting that triggers the memories, hopes and dreams of a Filipino American family in Los Angeles.

You might recall in 1999, the news story of the shootings at a Los Angeles area Jewish Community Center and the related shooting death of a postman, Joseph Ileto. I'm sure Noel will talk about how that event shaped his creative process for Talking To The Moon.

His previous novel is Letters to Montgomery Clift, a must-read novel focusing on the Filipino American gay community.

And if you're in the L.A. area, you should consider supporting one of Noel's upcoming events.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Event Links: Books, Marketplace, Nancy

In case you're heading to Los Angeles in August: The Los Angeles Black Book Expo and The African Marketplace are two major events you might want to hit up.

We're also looking forward to Miss Nancy Wilson at the Hollywood Bowl at the end of August, in celebration of her 70th birthday. Love me some Nancy Wilson... mostly because of my mom and dad loving her.

Back to a little bit of the grind of writing and working.

Monday, July 23, 2007


I'm sure we've all had a "Tyrell" in our lives, so it's nice to see a fiction book about a character named Tyrell.

If you, or a young person in your life, is looking for a good read, pick up Tyrell by Coe Booth. I've had it since April, but finally started reading it this weekend... in between weekend events.

It won the L.A. Times Book Prize this year for best young adult fiction. But as important, it's Coe's first novel, and she's gotten much critical acclaim for this novel which follows a 15-year-old black teenager in the Bronx. It chronicles Tyrell's struggle to stay clean and on the up-and-up, in the midst of many situations that could take him down another road.

Got to see the author speak on young adult fiction this spring, which is an area I would like to tackle at least once in my writing career.

Hope your week is off to a good start!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Blueprint. The Film.

So we all know about the real Keith and Nathan in NYC.

But now, there is a fictional Keith and Nathan couple being explored in the film, Blueprint, directed by Kirk Shannon-Butts.

It's an independent film making the rounds through many LGBT and Black film festivals this summer. It's playing in L.A. this summer at the Outfest Film Festival.

Blueprint follows two attractive young African American college students, Keith and Nathan, who are drawn to one another despite contrary personalities. It's very today, very real, very exciting, as the two young men from different worlds (Harlem and Los Angeles) realize they might want to build one together.

Definitely worth a look. And definitely glad to see the representation of black LGBT stories continues to grow.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

American Blackout.

Um, don't you sometimes feel like singing Nina Simone's Mississippi Goddam in the middle of a frustrating meeting or something?!?!?! :-)


I hadn't heard of this documentary until my friend Qevin alerted me to it last fall. Thanks Qev!

American Blackout, is a documentary exploring the systemic and not-so-subtle ways people of color are being challenged at the ballot box as they attempt to vote.

The film looks at the 2000 election process in Florida, as well as the 2004 processes in Ohio.

But it's not just Florida and Ohio giving voters of color problems. And apparently, American Blackout gives us the information we need to make sure we're on the voter rolls and are not given the run-around at the ballot box.

Might be a good idea to check your voter registration status in your hometown... before any more federal judges who want to protect voters' rights get kicked off the bench by the folks in D.C.

Another one you might want to check out, similar subject... Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election. I saw this, and ultimately screened it on my campus. Just doing my part to arm the seekers of truth and knowledge and ideas.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Anita. Sade. Some Music Never Fades.

Just road-tripped back to L.A. from S.D., and decided to pop a couple "old school" tunes into the player.

Except they don't sound so old school. And they don't sound dated like a lot of music from the 80s and 90s.

The Best of Anita Baker.
The Best of Sade.

Songs sound just as good today as they did when first released years ago. And are still the ideal romance music for when a special someone stops by for an overnight visit.

When I was a pre-teen/teen, one of my neighbors mom drove a group of us to school. At some point, Anita Baker's Rapture tape got stuck in the tape player, and we heard Anita Baker's Rapture every day for like three years from middle school to the beginning of high school in the morning when she dropped up off and in the afternoon when she picked us up.

I knew that tape/CD front to back. I was Anita'd out. But that's a good thing, because I love the music now :-)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Gotta Check Out...

First, I'm a day late and dollar short on the photos of Shemar Moore circulating the net. (See here on Perez Hilton site). Yum.

Too bad I wasn't at Shemar's beach... but I had fun at the beach in Del Mar yesterday afternoon. Swear it was like Baywatch Jr. here in SD. So many tight bodies on regular, everyday people. Made me wanna do a thousand crunches, or just head to the local brewery for another kind of six pack :-)

OK. So having good time in San Diego. Couple new resources/sites I might be late on, but nonetheless think are pretty cool.

The Africa Channel is a new cable network looking to go national in the U.S. Ask your local cable provider to add it. The premise is that the continent of Africa is more than just Darfur, Sudan, conflicts, fighting, famine, and suffering... though those are important elements to know and understand. The Africa Channel seeks to show the daily lives of people on the continent of Africa -- going to work, the 20-something scene, the soap operas (apparently Nigerian soap operas give the novelas of our South American neighbors a run for the money), the music and hip hop scene.

Then heard about this film, Honor Thy Children, about parents who refused to accept the fact that two of their three sons were gay, that the third was bully, and how their parenting results in some pretty tragic experiences for their sons. Haven't seen the film. Just got a quick snippet/preview. Sounds interesting.

So some cool things to check out. Will be checking out of SD in the morning. Hope you're checking in to a fun weekend ahead!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Quickie San Diego Research Trip

Getting ready to hit the road south to Little L.A., or I mean San Diego. :-)

Have a conference/reatreat on cultural empowerment and identity, then doing a little research on SD neighborhoods for the writing project I'm working on.

SD friends... hit me up on gmail or text me. Will have a good amount of free time in afternoons and evenings til Friday or Saturday.

Are "Out of the Relationship" Relationships Inevitable?

Since the revelation last week about the L.A. mayor's relationship with a local tv reporter and pending divorce from his wife, several talk and morning radio shows in L.A. have been discussing issues of infidelity, cheating, and outside relationships.

And then add in the mix of L.A.s large communities of color, and the discussions have moved to the silent acceptance many wo/men endure while their partners "do what they do."

Over the weekend, I got into a few "heated" discussions with friends/acquaintences -- some tourists in for Black Pride, some locals and people I see regularly -- about men, relationships, and people going outside their relationships for physical or mental satisfaction.

Many of my friends share opinions and/or experiences I wasn't aware of. That cheating is inevitable. That it happens regularly. That it is naive to believe that a partner isn't doing it or won't do it or doesn't think of doing it. And that eventually all romantic relationships and partnerships end, so just jump on the bandwagon and have as much inner and outer relationship fun as possible while you're young and everything still works.

I Wanted To SCREAM!!!!! Aarrrrrgggggh!

Never realized how much of a Charlotte from Sex & The City I was, until I found myself vehemently defending the position that not all men cheat, and though people can have thoughts and feelings about other people, that it's a conscious choice to go outside the relationship. And it's a choice or temptation that can be communicated about. That even flirting with someone else could/should be communicated about... so that both parties can work through what's going on. I even found myself saying that I would not want to know if someone I was romantically involved with went outside the relationship.

I don't know if that's being naive. Being self-protective. Being optimistic about humanity. Or being confident that I can read and discern character of people I am intimate with.

Or what?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Half-Way Point

MMM, just finally getting back to normal after a weekend of various events. So nice to see so many folks in L.A. for Black Pride weekend. I just love the diversity of the black LGBT community. Indeed we are a creative, expressive, and varied community.

So of course, now... all the tourists have left, the events are less numerous, and we're all back to our "regular" lives in L.A.

And then I started thinking, thanks to a weekly email newsletter I get from Cheryl Richardson's site. Geez, it's mid-July already. Of 2007. The year is like half-way over. We're beyond the half-way point. Time flies, whether you're having fun or not. So might as well have fun and go for it.

So. I know back in January, many of us made "resolutions" about what and/or how we wanted our lives to be. Could have been weight, wellness, writing, whatever.

How are you doing with those "resolutions" or lifestyle changes? Hope it's going well. It's not too late to start.

Speaking of half-way point, I'm well at the half-way point of a manuscript that's due in September to my publisher. Writing on deadline, whether it's corporate-imposed or self-imposed, can be motivating, can be stressful. But it's no joke.

It's not too late to start.

And for those of you who celebrate the various holidays at the end of the year (that some say require gifts), now might be a good time to start picking up some of those things. If you're like me, you might try to cram a day's worth of shopping into one-month's worth of paycheck, which can cause a year's worth of financial issues.

Start all that stuff now.

Friday, July 06, 2007

At The Beach (i.e. Black Pride) L.A. 2007

So hopefully you're in the know about the black gay pride events taking place in L.A. this weekend. If not, click here, the official At The Beach L.A. website.

The theme is "Black Out."

Lots of official and unofficial events happening over the weekend. The site lists most of them. Couple of good friends from East Coast and the dirty, dirty South here, lol. So they may pull me into a couple events, including the famous beach party on Saturday.

Looking forward to a "Hollywood" party on Sunday afternoon by a good friend and supporter. Now, gotta find some pink and white to wear. Hmmmm....

Did a coupla great writer panels this week to kick off the literary portions of ATBLA. Real fun talking and meeting new folks.

Hope all is good for you.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

It's The 4th. Go See Sicko.

Um. So I'm not doing any barbeques or fireworks today. Did enough talking and socializing last night that lasted through nine this morning. Long story. Won't bore you.

But I did do something somewhat patriotic today.

I just saw Sicko. The new Michael Moore film about the corporate health care system in the U.S. Very good and insightful into what you're getting, and not getting, and what you could get if you lived in Canada or France or the U.K. around health care.

OK. Back to your picnics, pools, and partying.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Leimert Park wrap up

So on Saturday I participated in the Leimert Park Book Fair. Fun, hot, and fabulous event. I was so happy that thousands turned out for the first of many events like this in the neighborhood.

I'm just always amazed at the number of aspiring authors and self-published authors out there hustling their goods. There were 100+ tables of people with books I'd never heard of, and probably wouldn't have if it weren't for an event like the Leimert Park Book Fair.

Makes me feel so lucky that my journey to publication by a major publisher was fast, easy, painless. Because there are folks writing and selling their works who are trying to make it to an agent's desk, let alone a publisher. That's why I always try to listen and help when I can. Because there's no harm in sharing information, tips, contacts, or advice. And I know I can be dropped like that too.

Anyway, most of the day went smoothly. But there are exceptions :-)

There was a little "controversy" so-to-speak, when I was on the radio (L.A. Speaks Out/Jacquie Stephens) and talked about how the issues of black gays and lesbians are often ignored and invisible when we talk about the struggles of the black community... and that black LGBT is just as important when talking about those community struggles. One man tried to rush the stage, in anger, when I mentioned black LGBT community.

Then, that afternoon, right before the panel I was on, another man asked the panel facilitator, Dr. Mel Donalson, if when talking about black masculinities in literature we were going to take the stand that "homosexuality" is okay in the black community. Mel, who is very secure in himself, said if that topic came up, that yes, the panelists were of the opinion that black LGBT issues are an important and valuable part of the dialogue. The man stormed out, said black LGBT folks are not part of HIS black community. So sad.

Anyway, great weekend. Met the fabulous Victoria Rowell (The Women Who Raised Me) and others.

No more major book events in L.A. until the West Hollywood Book Fair in September. I will be participating there too.

PEN Emerging Voices Fellowships 2007/08

Deadline: September 7, 2007

Six to ten fellowships of $1000 each are given annually to poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers from minority, immigrant, or underserved communities. Emerging Voices is an intensive eight-month program involving writers in the early stages of their literary careers. For more information, please visit the PEN Emerging Voices website.

If you're interested in applying, send me a note off line (fsmith827 at gmail dot com) and I can tell you more about my experience applying and interviewing for the program. Just put PEN in the subject line so I know what the email is regarding.

Great program. Good luck!