author – activist – faculty – mom
Last night, I had an amazing experience. As a debut novelist, I got a chance to move beyond the crazy promotional work of publicizing UPTOWN THIEF and to remember why I’m a writer.
MK Chavez—a brilliant Bay Area poet, curator, and activist—invited me to feature at a weekly reading at Nomadic Press in Oakland. First of all, in a move of genius curation, I was paired with journalist, activist, and Afro-Futurist Kwan Booth. He read some amazing work in progress: urban zombie apocalypse, dystopic emo African American armed robbery.
And it was a writers’ reading. Unlike most of my recent reading opportunities, I had two 12-minute sets. So I did something I haven’t done in a while, I read new work, straight off the computer. I read from the book I just turned in to my editor, THE BOSS, and I read from the 3rd book in the series that I’m still outlining.
Of course I read the heavy action opening chase scene of UPTOWN THIEF and a flashback of the protagonist Marisol Rivera as a kid. Of course I’ve gotta promote the book I’m currently selling. But I also read a fight scene between Tyesha and her love interest in THE BOSS that triggers a flashback to her teen years. Finally, I read the heavy action opening chase scene to the third book. (In this series, I always open with chase scenes).
I had forgotten what it’s like to read something that’s not finished, a piece that is still alive and dynamic, something that can still be changed. The connection with an audience helps me know and understand my work more clearly. Also, as I struggle with the novelist’s sophomore slump, it makes a huge difference to be able to feel my audience waiting to for the next book. So huge thanks to MK Chavez, Nomadic Press, Kwan Booth, all the great folks who came (especially Maisha Z. Johnson who’s extra enthused about feminist heist!)
But this is what small presses do. Create community. Give writers a chance to explore and expand. I was also fortunate enough to have Laurel Books–an East Bay indy gem of a store–selling copies of UPTOWN THIEF. In this nurturing context where commerce took a backseat to the art, I—the writer—got to stop being a PR machine and share my work: those raw words that had been seen by only one or two eyes, the heart of these two new books, reminding me why it is that I love to write.