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Q & A WITH URBAN FICTION BOOK CLUB & HICKSON: CEO OF GHETTOHEAT

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Q & A WITH URBAN FICTION BOOK CLUB, & HICKSON: CEO OF GHETTOHEAT! 5.29.09

 

After our reading of CONVICT’S CANDY, A GHETTOHEAT® PRODUCTION by JASON POOLE and DAMON “AMIN” MEADOWS, we were lucky enough to start a correspondence with HICKSON, the CEO of GHETTOHEAT®.

 

 

KRISTINA D.: Some in the African American community support and encourage street lit while others disapprove of it. Why do you think some people are critical of street lit? Do you think their fears are founded in truth in any way? What would you say to make them understand your goals with THE GHETTOHEAT® MOVEMENT?

 

HICKSON: There’s been a lot of controversy swarming around urban lit/street lit for various reasons, and for some time now. Within the industry you have some contemporary writers who frown upon urban lit/street lit, discrediting it, some even blatantly saying it isn’t real literature, due to the nature of the stories, in addition to putting some writers of urban lit/street lit down because most of the writers are self-taught and didn’t go to college for four years to study journalism, or even take creative writing classes. Some contemporary writers don’t feel that a person writing about their own experiences within the inner streets warrants them as a professional writer, which I totally disagree with. If you’re capable of crafting great works without having journalism as a level of concentration in college, does that mean you’re not able to create magnificent works? I think not.

 

In my opinion, I think the negative lashing against urban street writers is due to the success of urban lit/street lit, its growth, the huge book sales behind it, as well as the attention many writers have gotten from this genre, some contemporary writers sharing less of the spotlight and profits than urban/street writers. Also, there’s a lot of truth within urban lit/street lit—truth that’s brutally honest at times, and unfortunately, the truth hurts.

 

Yet, I personally don’t agree with all of urban lit/street lit, some of it is poorly written at times, have weak storylines as well as the writings can be extremely reckless at times. Yet, on a positive note, this genre is also getting many who weren’t normally reading books, interested. At GHETTOHEAT®, I make sure that all works produced serve a purpose, gives messages for the readers to draw upon, and produce great quality material that doesn’t glamorize street life. Even with it being urban lit/street lit, it deals with the real issues at hand. For instance, in HARDER, it deals with a young girl’s involvement within inner-city street trappings, yet it’s a cautionary tale, one that deters many from taking the wrong path. THE GHETTOHEAT® MOVEMENT is all about promoting literacy worldwide, getting many to read more. From a business and personal standpoint, my mission is to have a great writing team to execute many types of works from different genres that have jewels for many to take, ones that will help readers with their own personal journey in life.

 

KRISTINA D.: What books influenced you in your personal life and as an author?

 

HICKSON: My all-time favorite writer is Langston Hughes. Anything he produced I make sure to read. I love how he made something so complex appear to be so simple, which is very hard to do—a skill in itself. I love how he dealt with social commentary, bringing forth real issues of the people in poetry, as well as in his “Simple” scenarios. I’ve been compared to Langston Hughes as a writer, which I don’t feel worthy of because he was an absolute genius, yet in my poetry book, GHETTOHEAT®, I also deal with issues of race, violence, love, teen pregnancy, economic factors within the urban community, sexuality, HIV/AIDS awareness, etc, so I can understand the comparison, as well as we’re both Harlemites.  

 

Yet I’m highly motivated by Gordon Parks, he being the true Renaissance man, having many talents. I have different gifts and talents, some which are reflected in my productions at GHETTOHEAT®. I wear many hats here, doing everything from A to Z. I’m fully hands on with all executions at my company. But, it wasn’t until the success of Teri Woods’ “True To The Game” and Sister Souljah’s “The Coldest Winter Ever” that raised my eyebrow, which encouraged me to not only write GHETTOHEAT® after quitting the fashion industry, but to also start my own business and create, market, sell and distribute my own works, later signing other writers. To date I have fifteen authors signed to the company, many with multiple book deals here. I’m also an independent publisher with no intentions of partnering up with a major publishing house, yet producing on the same level as one.

 

KRISTINA D.: What is your perception of the way homosexuality functions in the genre of urban fiction?  Do you feel LGBT characters achieve visibility in many urban fiction books, or are they most often depicted as characters that are deeply flawed and tragic?

 

HICKSON: Like television and film, homosexuality isn’t portrayed in a positive light in urban fiction, also. There are rarely any masculine, affluent, progressive, leading gay characters in urban fiction, most being overly flamboyant, reflected as a buffoon, or extremely promiscuous, many lacking stability. Which isn’t the real case. Yet, I fully understand why this has happened/happening. Hip-Hop and urban lit/street lit are synonymous, and being gay in Hip-Hop is taboo within the inner city and Hip-Hop community. It’s troublesome for many to view a strong, masculine gay man the same way as a heterosexual man. Yet, there’s no real difference, other than the sexual preference.

 

In CONVICT’S CANDY, one of the characters “allegedly” is one of the biggest stars in Hip-Hop, having liaisons with a beautiful transgender while in prison, before making it big within the music industry. A very masculine man nonetheless, a hard pill for many to swallow, those who have figured out the character’s identity. Yet, it’s not a tell-all book. It’s an expose’ on what really goes on behind the prison walls, enlightening many on the daily environment of the prisons, and HIV/AIDS awareness. Even if you had no intentions of learning about the different ways of getting the deadly disease, it’s told in such a salacious way that keeps the reader intrigued and engrossed. CONVICT’S CANDY is my bestseller to date, many sending letters and e-mails on how the book is saving lives. Yet, until Hollywood changes how gay characters are depicted within the media, and the urban community is less informed about gay culture, there will continue to be a vicious cycle of gay characters lacking strength and power within the media.

 

KRISTINA D.: Race is a touchy subject…when ‘suburban’ Caucasian people started listening to Hip-Hop and trying to buy Hip-Hop labels, many previously empowering rap lyrics turned violent. How do you feel about White people – many of whom have not experienced inner-city life – reading urban fiction?

 

HICKSON: I absolutely love the fact that Hip-Hop has become a universal language, enjoyed by many of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and ones from different economic classes and structures. In Japan alone, many don’t speak English, yet will chant rap lyrics of platinum rap artists. I find this fascinating. I have no problem with people learning about other cultures—I have a problem with others stealing from one’s culture then claiming it as their own, which has been going on for years. Going back to the 50s, there were many Black singers who were robbed of fame and fortune, due to the music industry not wanting to market and promote Black artists on their own records, instead, opting to credit Black artists works with White singers. Yet, I promote diversity at GHETTOHEAT®. I would love to come across a writer coming other from a Black and Hispanic background who wrote with the same level of passion, intensity and creativity. So personally, I don’t discriminate, I embrace. 

 

Hip-Hop is highly appreciated by Caucasians: the rapper Eminem alone has clearly proved this. Most rap concerts are thick with a White audience. I think it’s great that Caucasians are becoming more intrigued with urban lit/street lit, giving them better understanding of our experiences within the urban community, as well as Black/Latin culture in the process.

 

KRISTINA D.: What role should libraries/librarians play in empowering urban people? How is street lit related to this process? What could we be doing better?

 

HICKSON: By stocking ® continue its mission to promote literacy, not just within the urban streets, but worldwide; this simply is done by e-mailing me at HICKSON@GHETTOHEAT.COM. more Black literature on your shelves, including urban lit/street fiction, so readers can get more understanding, as well provide an outlet for those who already relate to urban lit/street fiction, as it’s a great need for it. You can have more Black and Latino writers come in and do readings, Q & A’s, and book signings, so a connection can be made between the writers and readers, other than the reader reading the books. Create book clubs, one that’s even multicultural, and get the readers involved in Black literature. Of course also by logging on to GHETTOHEAT.COM—see what’s going on in our world, and inquire about aiding in helping GHETTOHEAT continue its mission to promote literacy, not just within the urban streets, but worldwide; this simply is done by e-mailing me at HICKSON@GHETTOHEAT.COM.

 

KRISTINA D.: What do you want us to know about the GHETTOHEAT® MOVEMENT…is there anything that you think might surprise us?

 

HICKSON: THE GHETTOHEAT® MOVEMENT is a growing network of everyday people who have joined forces with GHETTOHEAT® worldwide in the fight of eliminating illiteracy. People who enjoy great books about urban life and street culture, relationships, sexuality, women’s issues, politics, science fiction, poetry, erotica, as well as contemporary urban classics, that as I said before, serve a purpose, have relevance, and will educate, empower and enliven, all through entertainment.

 

I’m very proud of this movement. Originally I started GHETTOHEAT® to become an entrepreneur and to make a living, after my decision of leaving the fashion industry. In the midst, I discovered that by starting the company, I was also giving opportunities to other writers who would not normally be signed at major publishing houses, due to discrimination. Yet in all of this, I also realized that I’ve given voices to the voiceless, a platform for many worldwide who need not only to be heard, recognized and respected, but also appreciated. That’s what’s happening at GHETTOHEAT®. I’ve created a creative outlet, a platform for many to delve into the experience, not just urban, but the entire GHETTOHEAT® experience, one that has become bigger than me, my original idea, as well as the company—THE GHETTOHEAT® MOVEMENT.

 

CONVICT'S CANDY

WRITTEN BY DAMON "AMIN" MEADOWS & JASON POOLE

CONVICT'S CANDY

EDITED BY HICKSON

CONVICT'S CANDY

A GHETTOHEAT® PRODUCTION

 

EBOOK & PAPERBACK: SOLD & DISTRIBUTED EXCLUSIVELY AT GHETTOHEAT®!

 

HICKSON: CEO of GHETTOHEAT® & GHETTOHEAT® TV!

 

GHETTOHEAT® PRODUCTIONS:

 

GHETTOHEAT® 
CONVICT’S CANDY 
HARDER 
AND GOD CREATED WOMAN 
LONDON REIGN 
SONZ OF DARKNESS 
TANTRUM 
HICKSONBELIKE... 
LOVE DON’T LOVE NOBODY 
THICKNESS 
GHOST TOWN HUSTLERS 
BANJEE CUNT 
ULTRAFABNABULOUS 
BROTHERS BEHIND BARS 
SO SEXY 
TOUGH 
MR. GHETTOHEAT® 
SKATE ON! 
GHETTOHEAT® EATS 
TURF 
GHETTOHEAT® MAGAZINE!

 

GHETTOHEAT® | P.O. BOX 2746 | NEW YORK, NY 10027 

 

GHETTOHEAT®: THE HOTNESS IN THE STREETS!!!™

 

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#GHETTOHEATCOM

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I find that I am accustomed to reading a certain type of literature and even though I am not a fan of most fiction or romance, I tend to still buy it to support a writer. I put myself in their shoes. It is a work of their heart, their ingenius way of putting words on paper in their own way. I tend to write in "slang" initially when I'm trying to get my story down on paper but then when I go back and edit I will make what's typically known as "grammatically correct" edits. Instead of using "don't" I'll say do not. Instead of saying "can't" I'll say cannot. I recently purchased a book that I knew would not be my genre, but wanted to get an idea of another authors writing style and most of the writing was slang and street language which I am familiar with because I've lived that type of lifestyle in the past. I could barely finish reading the first page but I got through it. I'm still working on the book but it is very hard. I have been accustomed to reading instructional books and business books so this type of nonfiction drama is really painful for me. I know there is a story to read and it may take me long but the support of the author was my goal and not necessarily that I was interested in the contents.

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HELLO, CHRYSTALFLANDERS. THANKS FOR COMMENTING. IT'S EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO SUPPORT NEW AND SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS, AS WELL AS THOSE PUBLISHED AT INDEPENDENT COMPANIES. THEY'RE CONSIDERED THE UNDERDOGS TO THE WELL-KNOWN WRITERS WHO USUALLY GAIN MORE RECOGNITION THAN SAID MENTIONED. YET, I'M VERY AGGRESSIVE IN MY APPROACH TO ADVERTISING, MARKETING AND PROMOTION, SO I ALWAYS FIND A WAY TO GET NOTICED, TASTEFULLY: HENCE NO PUBLICIST SINCE I STEPPED ON THE SCENE IN 2003. WHEN I'M EDITING (I EDIT ALL TITLES I PUBLISH) OR CREATING URBAN AND/OR STREET-LIT WORKS (THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO), I MAKE SURE TO USE SLANG, AND EBONICS, AS YOU WANT THE CHARACTER'S VOICE AND PERSONA TO BE AUTHENTIC AND TRUE TO NATURE. THE NARRATION WILL BE IN PROPER ENGLISH, BUT IF THE CHARACTER IS HARDCORE, THEN IT SHOULD TRULY REFLECT. EDITING ACTUALLY EXHAUSTS ME, AS I NOT ONLY BECOME EVERY CHARACTER WITHIN THE STORYLINE, I EMERGE SO DEEPLY WITHIN IT THAT I BECOME EVERY ASPECT OF THE TALE, DOWN TO EVERY DETAIL AND DESCRIPTION. IT DRAINS ME, BUT I ALWAYS LOVE THE END RESULT. MOST THINK EDITING IS SOLELY ABOUT CORRECTING THE GRAMMAR, BUT IT'S BEYOND THAT: YOU HAVE TO BUILD THE STORY AND CHARACTERS, WAY BEFORE MAKING GRAMMATICAL CORRECTIONS. THIS IS THE PART I LOVE THE MOST, ENHANCING STORYLINES AND GIVING LIFE TO CHARACTERS, AND MAKING THE VISION OF THE AUTHOR'S WORK, BIGGER AND BETTER. IT'S A GUILTY PLEASURE OF MINE....

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@Hickson: 

 

Would you agree the 'Black Experience' is the crucial element that drives Black authors to write? That all writings of Black folk, by Black folk should be of literary/social value. Without it there's little to connect with. For the Black reader that is. And to establish a cross readership with non-Black audiences the work must be of literary/social value. I'm a bit staunch in this regard. While the main purpose of a writer is to earn money by selling her/his works to the public; the spirit, convictions, or motivation behind the work is what make it attractive to even the most skeptical reader.

 

Indeed, I too edit my own work with attention towards the structural/developmental shortcomings. Copy edits, though important, I find secondary to scene development. 'Character voice, third person omniscience' is very important to my needs, to capture that universal advantage. Isn't it (sort of) a copout when slang vs. ebonics is used to replace appropriate grammar. Unless you're a really talented writer such as James Baldwin or Richard Wright, who uses a combination of cross-cultural grammar and ebonics, it's best to always focus on content. Iceberg Slim, trick baby etc., pieces of the sixties and seventies were even written in ebonics that captured cross cultural audiences worldwide.

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