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Monday, November 21, 2011

8 Million Stories (Don't Worry, We're Just Telling Three)

I just got home from a friend's reading at Bar 82 where, apparently, every two weeks writers from all over the city read their work in the back room. I love that there are a million discoveries like this all over New York.

I tend to focus on the Ghana part of my story as a writer, but I was born in Plattsburgh, NY and have lived in Brooklyn, then Queens, then Brooklyn, then Queens again since I was two years old. When I wasn't in New York City (the three years I spent in High School in Ghana), I was in New York State (in college). So, needless to say, New York has had a huge influence on me as a person and a writer.

That said, every year around this time I'm usually plotting my escape from the island. I relish my annual holiday pilgrimage to Accra because it means time with my family, and a breather from the subway rat-sightings, cat calls, rush hour mob scene, and overpriced everything. (Of course, I spend much of that time lamenting all the things I miss about New York when I get there -- 24 hour access to reliable public transportation, any and every kind of food I want delivered, a plethora of museums, bums that hold the door for you at the ATM...)

But this December, I'm staying in New York and doing something I've been wanting to do since Powder Necklace first came out -- a reading and discussion at Hue-Man Bookstore with the poet Ben Hinson, and my sister scribe Ayesha Harruna Attah. We're all New Yorkers (for now anyway) by way of Nigeria and Ghana, respectively, with unexpected stories to tell. Come check us out, and let's trade "only in New York" stories together. City and State, Bridge and Tunnel, Ellis Island and Off the Boat New Yorkers welcome. Tourists too.

December 13, 2011
Hue-Man Bookstore
2319 Frederick Douglass Boulevard
between 124th & 125th Streets

Friday, November 11, 2011

Word. Up.

It has been a whirlwind few months! I've been writing Book #2, helping plan the annual Star 100 New York Fundraiser, working hard at where we just launched a new blog Fly & Mighty, and promoting Powder Necklace.

Back in September, the United Sisters Book Club welcomed me into their home. I had met the Book Club Secretary at "The Business of Books" event I did at the Akwaaba Mansion in March and she suggested it for her book club. (Thank you, Janice Stacy!) The evening was amazing. Not only did most of the women travel from far out Brooklyn to far out Queens to attend the event in one member's home, but they fed me too! (A huge thank you to Sandy Bright for opening her home to me!) They treated me to their special brew of Iced Tea, and a buffet of homemade food. We had a spirited discussion about the themes explored in Powder Necklace -- and how I could have made the book better! I so appreciated their candor and support. As a first time novelist, my goal is to improve sharply with each successive project. I hope you'll see that improvement with my second book!

The Iced Tea!

In October, I joined the "Beautiful Bibliophiles" of the Theta Chapter Book Club for an early dinner at a Brooklyn Applebee's. (Do not sleep on Applebee's spicy fettucini!) I had met one of the members at a Queens Book Fair in April and she suggested Powder Necklace to her group. (Akpe na, Ms. Cathleen Snyder!) We had a ball chatting about culture shock, the immigrant experience, and other topics that inspired the book. When dinner was done, we had a mini photoshoot on the Applebee's plaza as a gracious pedestrian we snagged on his way to/from work, patiently snapped us multiple times, with multiple cameras, iPhones, and Blackberrys. (Thanks, bruh--appreciate it!)

Later in the month, had another shoot in my home with the brilliant photographer Layla Amatullah Barrayn. Laylah is The Business. Period. She came to my home in Queens to photograph me for her exhibition on women writers and we had a mini fashion geek fest as she let me play dress up in the vintage green-lens goggles and a velvet square brim tie hat I found at a vintage store in Martha's Vineyard! It was so much fun!

I can't wait to see which image she ultimately chose for the upcoming exhibition "Her Word as Witness." The portraits she took feature black women writers of all disciplines and stages in their careers, with a focus on capturing us how we wanted to represent ourselves. When she initially gave me the challenge to decide how I wanted to represent myself, I had my characteristic over-think. I wanted my Ghanaian-ness, love for quirky fashion, and commitment to words to show through. I did a few costume changes and tried to look serious behind my goggles (I admit that I "smized".) Again, I got put on to this opportunity via a friend's recommendation. (Thank you so much, Ngozi!)

Please come out to Brooklyn on December 1st for the exhibit's opening reception and check it out!

Skylight Gallery
3rd fl
1368 Fulton Street
Brooklyn, NY 11216

Perhaps we can go to Applebee's after.

November is off to a great start. Last week, I had the opportunity to make a presentation about writing in front of another beautiful group of bibliophiles. The Fulbright Association's Greater New York Chapter had a reception and reading event at Sarah Lawrence College as part of their Youth Mentoring Initiative for International Understanding. It was an incredibly inspiring -- and tearjerking -- night. Teachers, Principals, parents, mentors, the Superintendent of Yonkers High Schools, other leaders of Yonkers Public Schools, and Sarah Lawrence Faculty organized the program for the student members, a bright group of talented teen writers that have only up to go from here. The opportunity came through a writer friend originally scheduled to do the event, who had an unexpected calendar conflict. (It was an honor to be your understudy, Kim! Thanks for thinking of me.)