Sunday, April 29, 2007

From The Atlanta Writers Club: Two Ways to Protest the Ruination of the AJC Book Review Section


Dear Atlanta Writers Club members, guests, past speakers, future speakers,
and community supporters,

As many of you know, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is eliminating the
book editor job held by Teresa Weaver and might dissolve the whole book
review section of the paper. We pride ourselves on our thriving literary
community, so what message is the AJC delivering about us when it begins to
dismantle a prime outlet for news and reviews about books?

Below are just two of the ways you can lodge your protest:

If you feel that this myopic act devalues the readers and writers of our
region, please click on the link below for the petition launched by the
National Book Critics Circle, and add your signature and comments alongside
those by Clyde Edgerton, Darnell Arnoult, Joshilyn Jackson, Karin Slaughter,
and many, many others (my entry is #202, right below Michael Connelly's):

There's another, even more powerful way you can make an impression on the
AJC--and help bring media exposure to this situation: participate in the
ATLANTA “Save the Book Review” READ-IN! Bring a book and wear your Atlanta
Writers Club T-shirt to a demonstration outside the front doors of the AJC.

The following is an invitation to the READ-IN from Shannon Byrne, Publicity
Manager of Little, Brown and Company:

Hundreds of readers will converge upon the Atlanta Journal-Constitution next
Thursday, May 3, for a READ-IN to protest the AJC’s business practices
regarding books coverage. Come to the READ-IN and see for yourself! If you
have to work, please still tell everyone you know to come out to show their

WHAT: ATLANTA “Save the Book Review” READ-IN! Bring a book (or many books!)
you love, and let’s create a critical mass of readers to put the pressure on
the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to reverse its terrible decision to
“reorganize” its book review out of existence! They got rid of the book
review editor, and without an official champion for books within the paper,
the quality of books coverage is endangered! It will become disorganized and
sporadic, if not simply perfunctory, until, worse, it’s no longer there.

TIME: 10:00 AM until…you decide!

*rain or shine

LOCATION: Converge in front of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Hold open
your book and read aloud or to yourself. Trust me, you won’t be the only
one. Picture hundreds of people doing the same thing!
[*directions below]

WHO: Open to any and all writers, readers, and lovers of books and
Come one, come all Atlantans (or ATLiens), Georgians, and even
you hardcore out-of-staters.

WHY: Because the city of Atlanta wants a robust, reader-friendly,
intelligent book review, not just a section run on auto-pilot from above.
Teresa Weaver has created and run exactly this kind of section for almost
ten years now and we want the AJC to reward her expertise, not eliminate her

Again, if you haven’t signed the "Protect Atlanta's Book Review" petition
yet, here’s the link to it:

This week, the National Book Critics Circle launched a big campaign to help
save book review sections in newspapers nationwide, and the momentum will
continue next week. Read what authors, critics, and many other voices in the
world of books and publishing have been saying about the issue:

Thank so much for your support of the Atlanta literary community, and PLEASE


The MARTA stop is Five Points.
Exit onto Marietta St.; the AJC building is less than two blocks west


Take I-85 or I-75 south.

Continue on I-75/I-85 south.

Take EXIT 249C toward WILLIAMS ST./World Congress Ctr./GA Dome/Aquarium.

Stay straight to go onto WILLIAMS ST. NW.




The AJC is at 72 Marietta St.

See Parking Instructions below.


Take I-75/I-85 North.

Take EXIT 246 FULTON ST./CENTRAL AVE. to Downtown.

Ramp forks. Keep left to take CENTRAL AVE. to Downtown/GA Dome.

Turn LEFT on DECATUR ST. Continue.

Road becomes MARIETTA ST. NW.

The AJC is at 72 Marietta St.

See Parking Instructions below.


Drive south down PEACHTREE ST.



The AJC is at 72 Marietta St.

See Parking Instructions below.


from the AJC; $4 self-pay, all-day. The perfect location & the perfect

From MARIETTA ST. as you drive southeast and see the AJC building on the
right-hand side:

IMMEDIATELY turn RIGHT on FAIRLIE ST. (the sign will read Fairlie St. NW50;
this is the street that borders the south side of the AJC; the AJC is
bordered on the other side by the State Bar of Georgia ).
Drive one block to the bottom of the hill.

Cross the railroad tracks.

Turn right into the 3 Fairlie St. Central System Parking lot and keep

Drive under the viaduct (you’ll feel like you’re driving through a tunnel).

At least 200 empty spaces will be available at this little-known,
little-used lot (which is actually underneath the Spring St. bridge—and ONE
BLOCK from the AJC).

Self-pay; $4 for 12 hours. The machine takes dollar bills, coins or credit
cards. It will not issue any change for larger bills. Place the ticket stub
on your dashboard to avoid booting.


Drive south down PEACHTREE ST .




(Follow directions above.)

For an online Citysearch map:


I'll be there and I hope you will join me. Remember to wear your Atlanta
Writers Club T-shirt--we'll have some for sale there in case you need one.

George Weinstein
President of The Atlanta Writers Club

Saturday, April 28, 2007

New York Times Obituaries: The Last Fifteen Minutes of Fame

When someone inevitably ask, “So, what’cha gonna do with a degree in English, teach?” I always feel compelled to tell them that yes, teaching is actually my plan B. With an English degree I intend to become a working, well-compensated, literary author and eccentric, traveling the world for the best vegetarian cuisine, collecting rare books and personalities, participating in Voodoo rituals in Haiti, an occasional fish fry back home in St. Louis with my sisters lying about the good old days, and who will inevitably, upon my death, having done something so wildly fascinating that I land a spot in the New York Times obituaries. Unlike your average, everyday, run of the mill obituaries, the NYT obit is like a biography/tribute in a nutshell. And while not just anybody lands a coveted NYT obituary, according to the obituaries editor, Bill McDonald, they do sometimes approach people before they die, “directly but also delicately” to compose a future obituary. (Which is why I’m working on mine now.)

I like how the NYT eulogizes not people who are simply famous. Some of the entries are about people we might not recognize, but who might have done something truly fascinating. Like Kelsie B. Harder,

"whose ruminations about why his parents gave him what sounded like a girl’s name
provoked such enthrallment with proper nouns that he became a leading
onomastician — a student of names and their origins — died on April 12 at his
home in Potsdam, N.Y. He was 84.”
(Me, I can't even pronounce onomastician.) Then there is Harold Max Mayer who died on April 20th. The
“former chairman of Oscar Mayer and Company, he invented the popular Smokie
Link, a spicy hot dog, and took an active role in acquiring and managing the
Claussen Pickle Company and the Louis Rich Company.”
(Who knew?) And, even though I claim to be a little jazz savvy, I didn’t know about Andrew Hill, who worked with the likes of
“Dinah Washington, Johnny Hartman and Dakota Staton. He got a chance to play
with Charlie Parker at the Greystone Ballroom in Detroit in 1954. A job with
Roland Kirk brought him to New York in the early 1960s.”
NYT also pays tribute to the famous and infamous, sometimes adding an extra tidbit about them that we might not know. Like the burly, provincial politician, Boris Yeltsin, who became a Soviet-era reformer. In his autobiography, Yeltsin recalled that as a child, he and his family lived in a hut for 10 years,
“winter was worst of all,” he wrote. “There was nowhere to hide from the cold.
Since we had no warm clothes, we would huddle up to the nanny goat to keep warm.
We children survived on her milk.”

Well, I’m a city girl, so I don’t know anything about huddling up to a nanny goat, but maybe something in my life and work will garner a final nod from the NYT obituaries. “Hey Bill, I’m working on that biography now!”

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Imagine me: In the middle of my living room floor, surrounded by scraps of paper, colored markers, and glue sticks. Well, that’s exactly where I was yesterday, preparing for a poster presentation in my tutoring class. Had no idea what my focus was until the last minute, and had no idea how to put it together. Standing around in Staples, I begin picking up all the stuff I thought might work until I realized, this was costing me way more than I had intended. But, then I remembered that book, All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum and it hit me: I need some construction paper, a glue stick, some colored markers and some scissors. You know what? It worked just fine. I had the feeling of being in a grade school art class, and as vexed as I was, it was actually kind of fun. That nagging pain that I had going down my neck and shoulders begin to let go as I scrupulously focused on cutting perfectly around the edges of my 21st century stick man. The focus of my poster was how our backgrounds and ideologies can sometimes get in the way of a tutoring session. From making eye contact with a student, to conflicts about whose responsibility it is to direct the session, conflicting goals and how past learning experiences all influence how we tutor.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Southern Short Stories

Although I am an English major, for a degree in anything there are other basic course requirements which must be met, like Biology, Georgia History or Math, which for most English majors I know, is a nightmare. Literature classes, which are required for my major, keep the semester from feeling like a job. This semester I took a course in Southern Short Stories which really opened my eyes to the diversity of Southern writers. One of the books we used was the Signet Classic Book of Southern Short Stories, an excellent introduction to some of the best short story authors around. It includes Edgar Allan Poe and his mastery of the sympathetic unreliable narrator in The Tale of the Ragged Mountains, and Ellen Glasgow’s subtle use of gender role reversal to discredit two would be reliable narrators in Dare’s Gift. I also read Three Men and Bloodlines by Ernest Gaines whose intimate knowledge of the Louisiana social landscape is unmistakable and authentic, and the neo-slave narratives of Alice Walker, The Child Who Favored Daughter and Strong Horse Tea. And, too, Katherine Anne Porters’ last “Miranda” story, Old Mortality, with its dispersion of the mythology of Southern womanhood. I’ve learned that the range of the Southern literary canon expands far beyond the “plantation novel”, and the valorization of the antebellum society we are normally exposed to: from the fascinating and unflinching depiction of Flannery O’Connor’s Southern Grotesque, to the progressive interpretation of women and marriage in the stories of Ellen Glasgow and Susan Petigru King.

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Non-Traditional Stress

So, another semester is coming to a close. I’m getting that aching, tension signal in my back, up my neck, and in the center of my head indicating the approaching week of intellectual haze students trek through on automatic called, finals. For a non-traditional student, over 40, it is a lonely trek. All of the people I know who are my age are working overtime to make the payment on a timeshare in Florida. Or, they are peeking through the door of their children’s bedroom to make sure they are not hanging out in all the wrong chat rooms. Or, just relaxing from a long day of work in front of the TV, with a beer. There’s no one in my immediate circle who understands how, no matter how great my desire was to be back in school, it can be solitarily stressful. The demands to do well, to excel in a sea of kids who can text message ten people before you even dial one number gets annoying by this time. Or, the kid who says, “You actually read the book? I never read”, but they ace every exam; who are these people? Don’t think I’ll be making that deans list this time around, but anyway, it’s nearly over. For thirty days I can chill, before I rev back up for the summer.


Monday, April 16, 2007

That word, that word,
Like a Signifying Monkey we
Claimed that word for ourselves to prove
Your barefaced use of a sign which you created just for us
No longer had the power it once possessed.
But we were wrong.
The word, subtly evoking seeds of self loathing,
The word that defiled hip-hop,
Has gained the momentum of a backhand slap
Descending from, it seemed, the highest point in a
Civil rights kitchen, to the fleshy jawbone
Of the youthful mouth from which
It scarcely materialized.
We have given that word more power than before,
For now they blame us for that word,
And they use that word, expressing their own defilement,
To reclaim the power they once possessed
Over our souls.

That word, on the brink of their psyche, at the tip of their tongues,
Like a stallion at the gate, eyes bulging, teeth exposed,
Recalling for them their glorious, colonial dream,
Salvaging the politically repressed rage of tormented souls,
And wounded egos.
More powerful than we knew,
That word.


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Friday, April 13, 2007

Roscoe Lee Brown, 1925-2007


Calvin Lockhart, 1934-2007


Monday, April 09, 2007

Lift Up A Girl Like Kiri Davis


Well, Cosmo Girl has decided that "the online voting has been corrupted as a result of one or more instances of tampering with the voting process by users." So, as a result,
have thrown out the votes, and will be deciding the winner themselves....hmmm.
But, you can still view the video, and you should.

See the ten minute film, A Girl Like Me, by young film maker Kiri Davis, and vote for her in Cosmo Girl's film contest. The film is a poignant look at how young black girls and children are still informed by European standards of beauty. Davis is poised for a ten thousand dollar award when she wins, so please go and support her online at Cosmo Girl.

A Girl Like Me

"The issues my friends and I face inspired me to create this
documentary. Through my interviews, it became extremely apparent how European beauty standards still maintain a dominant role in our society. Society imposes
standards that affect us all no matter what your sex or race is. I hope the film
helps girls everywhere understand that you can’t allow other people to define
who you are. You have to define and celebrate yourself. You have to love the
skin you're in!"

– Kiri Davis

Saturday, April 07, 2007

More Profound Than the Average Movie

Since Ugly Betty and Grey’s Anatomy were a repeat of old shows this week, I watch a movie that I had been looking forward to seeing from the moment I saw the previews. It is a movie starring the comic actor from the TV show Saturday Night Live, Will Ferrell, as the main character, an actor whom I have never regarded as being very funny or interesting. But, it was the storyline that grabbed me right away. The movie, Stranger than Fiction, is a story about a very predictable, uninteresting, IRS agent, Harold Crick, obsessed with numbers, who hears a voice narrating his every move. After talking to a friend about it and seeking the help of a psychiatrist, he seems to begin to accept the fact that he hears this voice that knows even the amount of brush strokes he uses to brush his teeth; that is until the voice speaks about his little known, inevitable death. That’s when he employs the help of a literature professor, portrayed by Dustin Hoffman. And, by ruling out all other types of narratives, Hoffman tells Crick that his life is basically a Tragedy, and that there is only one way for the story to end; with his ultimate death. Not only that, after he finds out who the author is, (played by Emma Thompson), Crick learns that she is a writer who always writes tragedies, and the main character always dies. What makes this story even more interesting is that Crick meets the author, and the author comes literally face to face with her character. I’d say that this movie is a virtual writer’s fantasy.

Not everyone will find this movie as insightful as I did. I suppose that it is tailor-made for a nerdy, literature major like me. But, I think Stranger than Fiction has the simple, quirky charm of movies from the past like, Irma La Douce or Breakfast at Tiffany’s or even Twilight Zone episodes. Now being the chronic worrier that I am, this movie has some rather reflective questions one would have to ask themselves like, “If I knew I were going to die, how would I live my life differently?” “If I knew who held the pen, would I try and find them and convince them to change the ending?” “If I knew I couldn’t change the ending, would I still want to know what it was?” And, more importantly, “If I were an author who came face to face with a living, breathing representation of a character I made up off the top of my head, would I drink more, or would I stop drinking all together?” At least in response to the first question I would say that, I do know that I’m going to die, so everyday I try to get my life closer and closer to how I want it. So that maybe by the time the author decides to smack a “The End” on me, my life will be just as it should be when I die.


Tutoring Rant

I was recruited to enroll in a class called “Issues and Methods in Writing Consultancy”, and I decided to participate, mainly as an opportunity to hone my tutoring skills, earn a stipend and make an attractive grad school candidate. I was encouraged by my internship professor, and when they said, “It’ll help you improve your own writing,” my self-serving mechanism really kicked in. The whole idea grabbed me by my ego. Somehow I began doing well; I received an ‘A’ for midterm, but I’m not sure how. The assignments seem scattered, mostly our own personal thoughts of what we are learning so far. But, because this is my schools’ inaugural writing center, we’ve focused a lot on how to build this writing studio for students to come seeking guidance for their writing.

A writing center, mind you, is not a proofreading, “check-my-paper-for-errors-and-I’ll-be-back-to-pick-it-up-in-an-hour” kind of drop off place. It is a place where writers, campus wide, can get someone to sort of collaborate with them and help them organize their ideas, help them create a process for themselves; help them be more creative, no matter what kind of writer they are. But, after checking out a few writing centers at other schools, like Emory University, establishing a writing center takes more than an idealistic rhet and comp professor and a few green students hoping to comp an internship. And, with all the articles and essays that’s been thrown at me about the challenges of tutoring ESL students, and students-over- thirty, reluctant students, and students with papers about why men are simply better than women or why God don’t like gay people, we’ve not read one thing about how to open a writing center.

So, HELP! Help, I say! If anyone out there has any information, a book, an article about the challenges of establishing a writing center for a university, please, please hep’ a sistah out.