My (Most Recent) Testimony

I have found great peace within my decision to step out on faith...

                So I’ve been sitting here all day today throwing myself into this writing thing (I’m working on my first novel) and as I’m finishing up the last few paragraphs of chapter 3 it’s hitting me.

Wow, I’m really writing a book.

                This is something that I’ve always toyed around with in the back of my head but nothing I’ve ever taken too seriously.  I know I have a knack for dramatic storytelling and for manipulating my audience (lol it’s the Yancey way) but writing a book has always seemed to be a tremendous undertaking that I’m not disciplined enough, or creative enough, to strike out and successfully attempt on my own.

                I now look back on the old Ashley Yancey and am embarrassed that she thought so little of her passion that she refused to pursue it.  She instead stuck it into a smelly bag and crammed it into the back of her junky, disorganized closet better known as the deepest, darkest place she could find in her mind. 

            I am now so thankful that God has chosen now to reveal to myself that I can do this, that I am able to do this and that I need to do this.  He’s been speaking to me for quite some time regarding this journey that I am currently embarking on and how thankful I am that I trusted the Holy Spirit and stepped out on faith regarding a task (book writing) that I know so little about….let me explain.

My testimony.

            Last fall God told me that I needed to start preparing myself to spend a significant amount of time in NYC.  I shared this with one of my best friends, Ash A., and she helped me draft a plan of enrolling into some publishing courses for the following summer.  I had no idea what else I would be doing in Summer 2011, only that God had spoken to me and I knew I needed to be there.  As a result, while I didn’t shy from mentioning my plan on heading to NYC, I definitely told no one about the publishing courses.

             Next up, God told me that I needed to hone in on my writing skill in preparation for what was to come.  From there I began my blog in November 2010 and as a result of a personal goal to myself, began to start submitting my work to larger publications.  Soon after, God told me that while my blog was okay, I needed to go even bigger-He said I needed to write a book. 

            I immediately felt incredibly overwhelmed.  A book!?  At times, I can barely get a simple 500-word article typed out for my blog because of lack of inspiration and now I’m supposed to write a 200+ page novel?!  It all seemed so impossible to me, yet I didn’t say no (how do you say no to God?).  I have an AMAZING, inspirational network that I am surrounded by and knew that I already had the support-I just needed to get out of my own self’s way in order to make these things happen for myself.

            So while I felt deep down in my spirit that I needed to write a book, I had zero inspiration for it.  Zero.  I had tons of ideas for short stories, but no one idea was strong enough to support an entire book.  After struggling with this for about a month or so, my idea for the book struck.  In January I became aware and knowledgeable of a few things in my personal life that I had never encountered before.  The entire experience was so unsettling, so nerve-wracking and so life-changing that I had an epiphany of sorts.  I was struggling on finding a way to cope when God told me that I was to write about it. 

            Wow!  Writing about it would be perfect.  Writing has ALWAYS been the avenue I’ve turned too when nothing else seems to work.  Some people decide to go workout, others eat, some listen to music and I, write.  So here I am, two months later, with 3 chapters down, and 9 more to go.  As for this summer, God has already mentally prepared me for NYC, and I now know and understand that it is His will for me to go there to find a publisher.

I am a writer.

I have faith.

God revealed it to me.

This is my testimony!

P.S. There are other amazing things that are a part of this testimony…such as how I recently met a NYT bestselling author and she gave me publishing tips…or how I bumped into an Essence magazine model and through he and I getting acquainted I discovered he knows publishers in NYC, etc.  I may chose to share some of those details with you all at a later time.

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Shhh…I’m writing :)

I'm creating a story 🙂

I’ve been working on a really big project these last few weeks and today it has occupied most of my creative energy.  As a result my blog has suffered.  Aww poo 😦

One thing that I would like to share however is blog that I discovered today.  http://www.kisforkinky.com.  It actually reminds me a bit of Moptop Maven’s blog but since she’s gotten sick, her blog has been the least of her worries 😦  As a result I’ve been anxiously searching for a natural-hair inspired blog that also covers fashion and other current trends.  While I haven’t spent a whole lot of time on K Is For Kinky I do like what I’ve seen so far.  I definitely encourage you all to go check it out! 

Also, is today’s weather not INCREDIBLE!?  Enjoy it because later this week temperatures will be dropping back to the 40s.

Interview With NYT Bestselling Author, Dolen Perkins-Valdez!

            Many of the new books I decide to read come as recommendations from Shelby (who gets hers from the featured sections of Barnes&Noble lol).  Her and I have a similar love and passion for reading so when she referred Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez to me last fall I was confident I’d love the book.

          This past January I finally finished reading Wench.  It is now a New York Times bestseller!  The story is so captivating, raw and intense that I was unable to put it down.  Before I knew it, I’d raced through the 300+ pages in less than a week!  The storyline delved into the lives of four enslaved women and their romantic, and sometimes brutal, relationships with their masters at a summer retreat (it later became Wilberforce University) in Wilberforce, Ohio:

Situated in the free state of Ohio, Tawawa House offers respite from the summer heat. A beautiful, inviting house surrounded by a dozen private cottages, the resort is favored by wealthy Southern white men who vacation there, accompanied by their enslaved mistresses.

Regular visitors Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet have forged an enduring friendship. They look forward to their annual reunion and the opportunity it affords them to talk over the changes in their lives and their respective plantations. The subject of freedom is never spoken aloud until the red-maned, spirited Mawu arrives and voices her determination to escape. To run is to leave behind the friends and families trapped at home. For some, it also means tearing the strong emotional and psychological ties that bind them to their masters.

When a fire on the resort sets off a string of tragedies, Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet soon learn tragic lessons,that triumph and dehumanization are inseparable and that love exists even in the cruelest circumstances as they bear witness to the end of an era.” – http://www.dolenperkinsvaldez.com

            After reading the incredible story, I took to Twitter to proclaim my fascination and admiration of the story!  It was there that I caught the attention of Perkins-Valdez who invited me to attend the Cincinnati leg of her national booktour that HarperCollins was endorsing to promote her novel.  On January 27, 2011 I met Mrs. Perkins-Valdez at Downtown Cincinnati’s Mercantile Library and gained new insight into the novel.  Below is my interview.  Enjoy 🙂

How does it feel to have your first published novel prominently displayed in bookstore giants such as Borders and Barnes & Noble? 

It is an amazing feeling.  I’m grateful if I see the book displayed prominently in ANY bookstore, including independently-owned stores and airport stores. It is a longtime dream of mine.
 
How long was the writing process for Wench?  Including research? 

 It took four years to write the book. I sold it to my publisher in January 2008. Then I waited another two years before it appeared in print.

 
The publishing industry can be such a scary, intimidating arena for inexperienced writers trying to land their first book deal.  How were you able to navigate your way to getting Wench published? Is it as complicated as it would seem? 

It is not that complicated although every stage of the process is very difficult. I managed to attract the interest of an agent. That literary agent then sold my book to HarperCollins. The process is a simple one, but the chances of success are so slim that there is a great deal of luck involved. It helps to have a solid manuscript.
 
Any tips that you can give young, Black writers who are looking to become published? 

I would just say to write the very best book you can. Read read read. What you read is reflected in your writing.
 
Growing up, what was your relationship with books?  Did you see yourself becoming a writer one day? 

I was a reader from a very early age. I thought I would become a lawyer.
  
Are you working on anything currently?  Any details you can spare? 

I’m keeping quiet about the second book. I’ll just say that it is not a sequel to WENCH, but it is a historical.
 
Do you prefer writing novels or short stories?  Why? 

I prefer novels. Short stories are very difficult because they have to be so perfect.  The short narrative arc of a short story requires a great deal of precision.
 
What are you reading right now?  Favorite literary genre? 

I’ve got an advance copy of Tayari Jones’ SILVER SPARROW in my bag. It’s next on my list! It comes out in May.  I really love literary fiction.

Musically, listening to right now?

Musically, I prefer jazz, particularly the vocalists. I just saw Dianne Reeves in concert.
 
Besides Wench, what other books come highly recommended by you? 

BIG MACHINE by Victor LaValle, anything by TAYARI JONES, THE SEAMSTRESS by Frances de Pointes Peebles, A MERCY by Toni Morrison
 
What do you think of the new surge of bloggers?  Will you be joining the movement and becoming one yourself? 

I used to have a blog. Now I prefer to Tweet (@Dolen) or Facebook.
 
Any blogs you frequent?

I just like to browse.
 
I noticed your hair texture…are you natural? 

I wear my hair both straightened and curly. So I’m hesitant to commit in this question to one or the other. I believe in convenience!