2016 National Black Writers Conference

Update: March 25, 2016
The Conference’s Complete and final Schedule of Events is Now Available.

Greetings Colleagues,

national-black-writers-conference-2016We are excited about the upcoming 13th National Black Writers Conference. Thank you for your support of the National Black Writers Conference and the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College. You have witnessed the growth of the National Black Writers Conference and the Center for Black Literature over the years, and we truly appreciate your support as you are aware they both add value to Medgar Evers College, the Brooklyn community, and the general public. Both the Center for Black Literature and the National Black Writers Conference are known nationally and internationally.

Our 13th National Black Writers Conference will be held at Medgar Evers College, from Thursday, March 31 to Sunday, April 3, 2016. Poet laureate Rita Dove is the Honorary Chair for the Conference and we are also honoring Edwidge Danticat, Charles Johnson, Michael Eric Dyson, and Woodie King Jr. I hope that you will attend some of the programs and that you will be able to attend our opening and Awards Program.

Please see the attached press release, as I hope you will be able to offer some coverage of the conference, as well.

You are important to ensuring that the public knows about the value and importance of our work. There are other organizations that focus on promoting African American studies, but we are the only Center for Black Literature in the country still focused on doing this work. We value your support in helping us to realize our mission.

Sincerely,
Clarence V. Reynolds, Director
Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY
718-804-8881


Highlights from the National Black Writers Conference Include:

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Publishing Workshop: Editing, Marketing, Book Production, and More
Join book industry leaders; Earl Cox, President of Earl Cox & Associates; bestselling author and editor, Carol Taylor; and AALBC.com’s Founder, Troy Johnson, in a workshop on the publishing process.  This workshop will introduce participants to the book publishing process by detailing the path that a book should take from writer’s mind to reader’s hands. (Sunday, April 3, 2016, 12:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.)


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Youth Literacy Program
Award winning children’s book authors, Jerry Craft, Cheryl and Wade Hudson, Denise Patrick and Calvin Ramsey, will meet grade school students and talk about their work. (Thursday, March 31, 2016, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.)


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Provocateurs: The Symbiotic Relationship Between Photographers & Writers Photography
This group show features the work of, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Rachel Eliza Griffiths and Marcia E. Wilson. The purpose of the exhibit “Provocateurs” is to present the linkage writers of African descent and their photographer counterparts share in rendering the Black experience and historical narratives.  The opening reception will be held Monday, March 28, 2016 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.


To learn about other major events, coming up this year, visit our events page.

“Who Will Write a Story for the Children of Eric Garner?”

AALBC Guest Post by Zetta Elliott

“Who will write a story for the children of Eric Garner?”


This question came to mind last February when I was invited to prepare a ten-minute talk for the PBS program Blackademics TV. Today, as I rage over the non-indictment of yet another murderous white police officer, I might ask, “Who will write a story for the sister of Tamir Rice?”

The Blackademics series, which aired in Austin, TX this past November, asks African American scholars to present their research in a way that’s meaningful and accessible to the general public. I’d seen the power of various TED talks and at the urging of a friend, submitted a proposal that would allow me to share my research on racial disparities in US children’s literature. I’ve written countless essays on the subject, but hoped a televised talk might circulate in a way that would prompt a national conversation.

Source: First Book Infographic Tina Kugler

Source: First Book Infographic Tina Kugler

When our kids are being shot dead in the street, it can be hard to think of children’s literature as a priority. So many other issues need the attention of our community: police brutality, the school-to-prison pipeline, gun violence, child poverty. But in my Blackademics talk I argue that the consequences of “symbolic annihilation” can be just as dire. What happens to children who never see themselves reflected in the pages of a book—or only see themselves represented as “happy slaves?” Statistics compiled annually by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) show that very few books published in the US serve as “mirrors” for children of color despite the fact that they now represent the majority of school-age children (Tina Kugler’s illustration makes this abundantly clear). In 2014 the number of books about African Americans spiked, but most of those books were not written by Black authors (this trend continued in 2015). According to a Publishers Weekly survey only 1% of publishing professionals self-identify as African American, so these numbers are hardly surprising.

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But what effect do they have on our kids? Think of the doll test developed by psychologists Mamie and Kenneth Clark in the 1940s. Eventually used in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, the Drs. Clark intended the experiment to prove “the influence of race and color and status on the self-esteem of children.” In 2005, teen filmmaker Kiri Davis recreated the doll test in her short film A Girl Like Me. It’s heartbreaking to watch Black children reaching without hesitation for the white doll when asked, “Which is the nice doll?” and then faltering when asked to point out the doll that looks like them (“the bad doll”). What would happen if we conducted a similar test with books instead of dolls—would the results be the same?

African American children receive countless messages even in infancy that contribute to feelings of inferiority and/or invisibility. For example, when you never see yourself depicted as the hero, you learn that heroic qualities belong only to others. After Earth was a flawed film and didn’t enjoy commercial success, but to me it’s invaluable for its representation of a Black boy drawing upon the wisdom of his father to survive in a hostile environment and ultimately to vanquish the alien.

We now have John Boyega as Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but most kids in the US can probably count on one hand the number of action films they’ve seen that feature an African American youth as the hero (as opposed to a secondary character who exists only to sacrifice herself for the white hero—think Rue in The Hunger Games). The number of sci-fi or fantasy films that show Black girls in the lead role are even harder to find, though the books do exist (see my list). This matters because, as I argue in my Blackademics talk, speculative fiction can teach our youth to use magic and/or technology to design an alternate universe—a realm where they are heroic, empowered, and able to demand the justice that remains so elusive in this world.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to meet Angela Davis. Her lifelong activism is inspiring but I was most struck by her description of her childhood, and the ways her parents consciously tried to counter the limitations imposed upon Black children in Jim Crow Alabama. Davis traveled extensively and learned foreign languages because, she explained, her parents were trying to prepare her for a world that didn’t yet exist. Black parents in the US do all they can to prepare their children to survive the many perils that await them. But if we want our youth to thrive, we must feed their imagination with books and other fantastic narratives so that they are able to dream of—and build—the kind world they deserve to call home.


zetta-elliott-smallBorn in Canada, Zetta Elliott moved to the US in 1994. Her poetry has been published in several anthologies, and her plays have been staged in New York, Chicago, and Cleveland. Her essays have appeared in The Huffington Post, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. She is the author of twenty books for young readers, including the award-winning picture book Bird. Elliott is an advocate for greater diversity and equity in publishing. She currently lives in Brooklyn.  Visit her website at: www.zettaelliott.com.

 


Related Links Provided by AALBC.com

30+ Must Read Books – Something for Everyone

Our January 2016 eNewsletter was sponsored by author Russell A. Mabane.  Learn how you may sponsor an AALBC.com eNewsletter.

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Bestselling Books for November/December 2015

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Our bestsellers list has been published continuously since 1998. For several years we have published this list every two months, but the new website design allows us to publish our bestsellers list on a monthly basis—with greater ease. We are happy to have recently introduced a bestsellers list for children’s books, which was something our readers frequently requested. We are also in the process of creating, for the first time, our all-time bestselling books list. We still have more than 10 years of sales data to add, but you can monitor the progress of AALBC.com’s all-time bestselling books list.


Authors You Should Know

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Jason Reynolds

Jason knows there are a lot—A LOT—of people, young, old, and in-between, who hate reading. He knows that many o f these book haters are boys. He also knows that many of these book-hating boys, don’t actually hate books, they hate boredom. If you are reading this, and you happen to be one of these boys, first of all, you’re reading this Jason’s master plan is already working (muahahahahahaha) and second of all, know that Jason totally feels you. He REALLY does. Because even though he’s a writer, he hates reading boring books too.

So here’s what he plans to do: NOT WRITE BORING BOOKS.

Reynolds is on faculty at Lesley University, for the Writing For Young People MFA Program, and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.


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T. Geronimo Johnson

Born and raised in New Orleans, Johnson is the bestselling author of Welcome to Braggsville, (longlisted for a National Book Award) and Hold It ‘Til It Hurts, a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. He received his M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and his M.A. in language, literacy, and culture from UC Berkeley

Johnson’s Welcome to Braggsville (Penguin Books, Feb 17, 2015) is the winner of the 2015 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence.


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Fabienne Josaphat

Fabienne Josaphat received her M.F.A. in creative writing from Florida International University. Her short stories have appeared in various journals and magazines, including The Caribbean Writer and MiamiZine.

Here’s what Edwidge Danticat says about Josaphat debut novel, “Dancing in the Baron’s Shadow takes us to hell and back, inside one of the most brutal prisons run by one of the world’s most ruthless dictators. Fabienne Josaphat impressively brings to life a horrible period as well as the men and women who fought against it. Filled with life, suspense, and humor, this powerful first novel is an irresistible read about the nature of good and evil, terror and injustice, and ultimately triumph and love. ”


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Carole Boston Weatherford

The daughter of educators, award-winning poet Carole began writing in first grade. Today she is the author of numerous books, including the Carter G. Woodson award winning title, The Sound That Jazz Makes and most recently, Dear Mr. Rosenwald. Her writing covers such topics as jazz and photography, as well as the slavery, reconstruction and Jim Crow eras. When she’s not traveling or visiting museums, Carole is mining the past for family stories, fading traditions, and forgotten struggles. Coming from a family of educators, she has a passion for rescuing events and figures from obscurity by documenting American history.


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Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

Glaude is the William S. Tod Professor of Religion and African American Studies and the chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University. He is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including the 2002 Modern Language Association William Sanders Scarborough Prize for his book Exodus! Glaude is on the editorial board of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, African American National Biography, and Contemporary Pragmatism. Professor Glaude’s work also includes African American Religious Thought: An Anthology (2004) coedited with Cornel West.


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Marla Washington, PhD

Washington holds a doctorate degree in sociology. She is an expert on the subject matter of daddyless daughters. As a sociologist who grew up fatherless, she spent almost two decades charting her own dating experiences and collecting stories from other women. Dr. Washington realized they had the same common denominator, that is, they were all dating without any advice of a daddy or father figure.

In Dr. Washington’s book, Dating Without A Daddy: A Guide For Fatherless Women Looking For Love, she offers a unique perspective as to why some women find themselves in unhealthy romantic relationships.


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Shirley Perry-Church

Perry-Church is a devoted wife, proud parent, educator, author, and artist who dreamed about becoming a writer since she was a young girl. She is very excited to present to her parent and youth audience her first book, The Hunt for the Magic Pearl.

The goal of writing The Hunt for the Magic Pearl came as a result of teaching challenged 14 to 16 year old youths who were experiencing persistent difficulties in all levels of reading and writing. Perry-Church wanted to create fun, entertaining, and informative books that would spark imagination and creativity in youth who had often said to her, “Mrs. Church, I hate to read.”


Coretta Scott King Award Winning and Honored Books for 2016

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On January 11, 2016 the American Library Association (ALA) announced the top books, video, and audio books for children and young adults – including the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Newbery and Printz awards – at its Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Boston.

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. The award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.


Book Reviews

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For the Sake of Soul by Frederick K. Foote, Jr.

Sometimes short fiction can be a daunting task for the writer, especially when he decides to confront the challenges of plot, characterization, dialogue, and candor. Frederick K. Foote, a professor at California Community colleges and a traditional Black college in South Carolina, realizes this fact as he mines the details of his life for the printed page in his skillful short story collection, For The Sake Of Soul (Blue Nile Press, Oct 23, 2015). He knows his material well. He has lived it, so he understands if the reader can embrace his impressive imagination, then the tales of his ordinary men and women will grip his soul.

Comparisons to his work will be made to such stellar authors as Ernest Gaines, William Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren, Erskine Caldwell, and Robert Stone because of Foote’s effective use of time and place. He drops his people into the locales of the American South, central California, Vietnam in one of the significant time periods of the 1960s and 1970s. His vision is deceptively simple and authentic, and the overall effect is powerful. More


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The Summer of my Fifteenth Year by Geri Spencer Hunter

There are so many gems to be discovered in independent publishing. Every now and then, you come across the book that makes your mind sit up and take notice. If a writer wants to put his or her focus on a loathsome cultural issue that society would love to be shoved under the run, the editors of the established publishing world usually step over it and look elsewhere. This book’s author, Geri Spencer Hunter, a retired Public Health nurse and a great-grandmother, has written a gem and it should have published by one of the big reputable houses.

Why is incest so despicable? Why is it about this abhorrent form of sex that makes people cringe? In Hunter’s second novel, The Summer Of My Fifteenth Year (Blue Nile Press, Jun 5, 2015), she concentrates on the Netters, a wealthy Black family in a small Iowa town during the 1930s, and the return of the favored son, Charleston Epstein Netter. At present, Etta, now eighty-six, is recounting that summer that changed her life and shattered the calm of her family with a scandal that would sink most households. She sits in her favorite chair on the porch where she was born, telling her story into a tape recorder. More


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Dear Mary, Dear Luther: A Courtship in Letters by Jill Marie Snyder

Dear Mary, Dear Luther: A Courtship in Letters (AuthorHouse, Mar 5, 2015) is an epistolary love story of a 1930s courtship between Mary Brooks and Luther Snyder, the author’s parents. Their letters, which span from 1937 to 1940 tell not only their love story but they are also an insightful look at American and African American history.

Mary and Luther met in 1935 at a wedding in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. “After that first meeting, my father would frequently visit his aunt for a few minutes, then wander over to my mother’s front porch to spend hours chatting with her and her sister Sara. At first, they weren’t sure which sister was the attraction, but over time it became clear it was Mary.” More


Great Books Coming Out Soon

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If you are looking for a preview of great reads coming soon, check out our list of soon to be released books. You find a curated list of books that will be published in the next few months. You will discover new books from established authors, as well as terrific reads from debut authors.

If you are looking for a new book that you can read today, you may use our list of books published in the last two months. As with our soon to be released list of books, this is a hand picked list of books across genres that have been recommended by industry professionals, book clubs, booksellers and avid readers.


A Great Deal to Promote Your Book

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The Large Book Cover Advertisement Includes a Free Author Profile!

1. Free Author Profile
2. Large Book Cover Ads (or customized advertising banner ads) run on virtually all our web pages
3. Large Book Covers are very prominent on the page
4. Up to 2 Large Book Cover Ads may rotate in one of three available positions
5. Campaigns may start on any date and end at midnight 32 full days later.

The large book cover ad will be a key advertising unit on AALBC.com going forward. These ads perform very well. Bang for buck, you are unlikely to find a better way to reach readers of Black literature. Read this article to learn more about the large book cover ad type, and advertising in general.


Related Articles & News

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Ten Steps to Promote Diversity in Children‘s Literature

In October The New York Times released their list of the “Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2015.” They failed to include a single Black illustrator.

Just this month, Scholastic Press, published, defended, then ultimately pulled, due to public outrage, the racially insensitive children’s book, A Birthday Cake for George Washington.

Wade Hudson, president and CEO of Just Us Books, an independent publisher of children’s books has some solutions. Hudson has given us ten ways we can help increase the number of quality children’s books that celebrate diversity, and how we can support the diverse books already available, This is sage advice needed during a time when our culture is, at best, marginalized and, at worse, under assault. More


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Our Future is Cyberspace

“With the introduction of cyberspace, younger writers have the ability to reach audiences unheard of during the sixties when African American writers produced broadsides and saddle-stitched chapbooks. As access to cyberspace becomes less expensive, more voices will be heard and this period, the most prolific in the history of African American Literature, will rise to worldwide prominence, no longer having to obey the tastes of the outsiders in power or the dictates of the establishment-manufactured Talented Tenth.” —Ishmael Reed (Black Issues Book Review; November-December 1999)

After reading this again, over 16 years, later I couldn’t help but think that this vision has yet to be realized. I believe we have the potential—I’ve bet my future on it. However we have a long way to go, even to make up for the reversals over the last 10 years. I still miss Black Issues Book Review magazine.


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Why Black Owned Websites Fail

When the web first started Black-owned websites were very likely to link to other sites. We all recognized that by helping visitors discover other interesting websites, that added value to our own websites. In fact, before search, this was the primary way we discovered other Black websites. This is why I continue to link to other websites and may be the reason I’ve been able to keep this website viable for 18 years. Read the rest of the article to find out what changed?


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Please take a few seconds to subscribe to AALBC.com’s YouTube channel. This won’t cost you anything; I need to add an additional 220 subscribers to enable paid content on our YouTube channel. Thanks!


Book Clubs Lead The Way

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Literary Ladies Book Club (New Jersey)

Book clubs are a powerful force in the Black Book Ecosystem. With the loss of bookstores and media coverage, book clubs are increasingly a significant, if not the primary supporter, an author’s work.

AALBC.com will try to serve as a “book club of book clubs,” by providing a platfrom for clubs to, share information and ideas with other clubs, recruit members, leverage our collective buying power, and more.

Readers who are not members of a book club will benefit too. We can attend book club sponsored events like, The Literary Lounge, hosted by the Literary Ladies (pictured above). We can also benefit by reviewing the books clubs have selected for their reading lists (they don’t just read any ole book). In fact I discovered Mat Johnson’s latest novel on the Folktales’ Black Women’s Literary Society, from Austin, TX, reading list.


Events

By the time the February eNewsletter is published, I hope to have completed the upgrade of the Events section of our website. I will not only include major festival and fairs, but authors signings and more. If you are hosting an event, and want it included on AALBC.com, just visit our African American Literature Discussion Forum and post your event’s details there. I will add it to our events section.
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The National Writers Union’s Fifth Annual New York Conference – February 13, 2016 – New York, NY

I will be giving a presentation on publicizing your books.

The National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981) is the only labor union representing writers in every genre. With chapters across the nation, the NWU works to advance economic and working conditions of writers – lobbying for legislation, initiating lawsuits, educating writers on their rights, networking, organizing picket lines, publicizing viable alternatives to unfair practices by both the traditional and Internet publishers, and by mobilizing members to fight for their collective self‐interest.


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13th National Black Writers Conference Thursday, March 31 – Sunday, April 3, 2015 – Brooklyn, NY

Honorary Chair: Rita Dove, Former Poet Laureate of The U.S. 2016 Honorees: Edwidge Danticat, Woodie King Jr., Michael Eric Dyson & Charles Johnson

AALBC.com will host a seminar on book publishing, covering editorial, production, marketing, and more. Additional updates are coming soon.


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Dear Reader,

Happy New Year! AALBC.com’s website upgrade continues to progressing nicely—but it is killing me LOL!

I appreciate all of the feedback that you have provided. It will all contribute to making our website world class. Feel free to leave feedback in the comments section of any page or simply email me at troy@aalbc.com.

Please link to AALBC.com from your website and share any content you find valueable on social media platforms, via word of mouth, or in any fashion that makes sense to you.

Subscribe
Most importantly, please consider purchasing, or renewing, your paid subscription to this eNewsletter.  The ability of AALBC.com to thrive, or die, is literarlly up to you Troy. Your support is needed.

As always, thanks for reading!

Peace & Love,

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Troy Johnson,
Founder & Webmaster, AALBC.com

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