Posted in writing

Black History Month 2021: Honoring Black Writers-Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler

In a genre known for being traditionally white and male, Octavia Butler broke new ground in science fiction as an African American woman. Born in California in 1947, Butler was an avid reader despite having dyslexia, was a storyteller by 4, and began writing at the age of 10. Drawn to science fiction because of its boundless possibilities for imagination, she was quickly frustrated by the lack of people she could identify with so she decided to create her own.  

Butler took the science fiction world by storm. Her evocative novels featuring race, sex, power and humanity were highly praised and attracted audience beyond their genre. They would eventually be translated into multiple languages and sell more than a million copies. One of her best-known novels Kindred, published in 1979, tells the story of a Black woman who must travel back in time in order to save her own life by saving a white, slaveholding ancestor. Over her career, she won two Hugo Awards, two Nebula Awards and in 1995 she became the first science fiction writer to win the MacArthur fellowship. The self-described “outsider’s” legacy inspired future generations of women including Valjeanne Jeffers, Nnedi Okorafor and even singer/songwriter Janelle Monáe.

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Posted in writing

Black History Month: Honoring Black Writers: Amiri Baraka

Amiri Baraka

Born in 1934, poet, writer and political activist Amiri Baraka used his writing as a weapon against racism and became one of the most widely published African American writers. Known for his social criticism and incendiary style, Baraka explored the anger of Black Americans and advocated scientific socialism.  Often confrontational and designed to awaken audiences to the political needs of Black Americans, Baraka was a prominent voice in American literature.

Inciting controversy throughout his career, he was accused of fostering hate while at the same time being lauded for speaking out against oppression. Often focusing on Black Liberation and White Racism, he spent most of his life fighting for the rights of African Americans. With a writing career that spanned nearly fifty years, Baraka is respected as one of the leading revolutionary cultural and political leaders, especially in his hometown of Newark, NJ. His representations of race and wisdom have made him an influential part of the Black Arts Movement along with Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez and Maya Angelou. Together they have gone on to inspire younger generations like Terrence Hayes. 

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Posted in writing

Black History Month: Honoring Black Writers–James Baldwin

James Baldwin

Though he spent most of his life living abroad to escape the racial prejudice in the United States, James Baldwin is the quintessential American writer. Best known for his reflections on his experience as an openly gay Black man in white America, his novels, essays and poetry make him a social critic who shared the pain and struggle of Black Americans.

Born in Harlem in 1924, Baldwin caught the attention of fellow writer Richard Wright who helped him secure a grant in order to support himself as a writer. He left to live in Paris at age 24 and went on to write Go Tell it on the Mountain which was published in 1953, a novel unlike anything written to date. Speaking with passion and depth about the Black struggle in America, it has become an American classic. Baldwin would continue to write novels, poetry and essays with a refreshingly unique perspective for the rest of his life. In 1956, Giovanni’s Room raised the issues of race and homosexuality at a time when it was taboo. And during the Civil Rights Movement, he published three of his most important  collections of essays, “Notes of a Native Son” (1955), “Nobody Knows My Name” (1961) and “The Fire Next Time” (1963)

James Baldwin provided inspiration for later generations of artists to speak out about the gay experience in Black America like Staceyann Chin and Nick Burd.

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Posted in writing

Black History Month 2021: Honoring Black Writers-Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Acclaimed American poet, author and activist Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1928. Often referred to as a spokesman for African Americans and women through her many works, her gift of words connected all people who were “committed to raising the moral standards of living in the United States.” [1]

“I want to write so that the reader … can say, ‘You know, that’s the truth. I wasn’t there, and I wasn’t a six-foot black girl, but that’s the truth.’ ” [2]

Influenced by Black authors like Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois and Paul Lawrence Dunbar, her love of language developed at a young age. Her most famous work I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published in 1969 and became the first in seven autobiographies of Angelou’s life.

A prolific poet, her words often depict Black beauty, the strength of women and the human spirit, and the demand for social justice. Her first collection of poems Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1972, the same year she became the first Black woman to have a screenplay produced. Writing for adults and children, Angelou was one of several African American women at the time who explored the Black female autobiographical tradition. Other female authors and contemporaries include Paule Marshall who published the novel Brown Girl, Brownstones and Illinois Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks, many of whose poems lyricize the urban poor.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Why I Write?

During the Christmas holiday season, I couldn’t browse my FB feed without seeing friends rave about the show, Bridgerton, which was streaming on Netflix. Most popular comments were regarding the beauty of seeing people of color in positions of power during this period in England and oh the costumes! I’d planned to watch it but I get in moods sometimes of being tired of streaming TV series! So time consuming. Give me a 2hr movie so I can just be done.

Anyway, one Sunday I gave in to the pressure. Over the two to three days it took me to finish up, I found myself only minimally excited about what I’d seen. Definitely not planning to put the series on repeat, not even for the handsome Duke of Hastings. I try to stay positive on social media so I was comfortable keeping my thoughts to myself.

But then I came across this article someone posted in a black writer’s FB group I’m in. Her words inspired and gave me the courage to express my true thoughts on my FB page:

“I love the fact that this writer put into words the thoughts that floated around my head while trying to support Shonda Rhimes, who I have since learned didn’t create the show but is one of its producers. But the truth is I’m sick and tired of having to seeing the black girl in the show get pregnant when she’s having sex just like her white counterparts (remember that scenario from the Netflix series All American) and seeing the glorification of a black man loving a white woman (so played out). I need more stories of healthy black love and black girl excellence.

This why I write! To change the narratives of stories told about black and brown people.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Posted in Uncategorized

New Year, New Book–Pre-Order Info Added

Happy New Year!

On the drive to work this morning, I heard a radio host jokingly say that is December 50, 2020. He declared are us stuck in 2020 until our current president is out of office.

Hmmm. NOT SO! The current man in the oval office is not stopping the flow of my life. We are, in fact, in a new years. 2021. And, I’m super excited about it! On December 31, 2020, I announced on Facebook the upcoming release on a second anthology project that I have co-authored.

“A Resilient Widow” is a collection of stories told by women who have suffered the loss of their spouse and how they have overcome this most difficult time in life, but have learned to living resiliently and with purpose. The goal of this book is provide encouragement and hope to widows just beginning or are struggling through their own widow journey.

Pre-order information will be available later this month. The book set for release in February 2021.

Update: Pre-Order Now

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

http://www.lajefferson.com

Posted in Grief, Life After, Lifestyle

My Gentle Giant, #myKevin

Posting in honor of my late husband’s birthday today. I wrote this over a year ago but didn’t publish it. Today seems like the perfect day.

I’ll never forget the day Kevin sat across from me at a table in our work cafeteria and revealed an unexpected side of his personality. You see, we met at work. He was a manager. Very professional, knowledgeable, and well-put together in his appearance. He smiled and spoke to mostly everyone he crossed paths with. But as we were growing closer he didn’t want me to have any misunderstanding about who he was.

“I ain’t always nice.” He said sharply. In fact I think his exact words were, “I ain’t always a nice motha fucka!”

He went on to explain that he was educated on the streets and in the classroom. He knew how to play the corporate game and make nice with people when he had to. In the workplace he would check people very professionally because he wasn’t losing his job for anyone. Outside the walls of the company, though, he would go the fuck off and cuss motha fuckas out! His words.

I was 33 and I had never had a man express such a thing. I was shocked, speechless but so intrigued.

In later years , during some of our most difficult times, I would remember this moment and think, “Girl, that was your chance to walk away.”

But I’m so glad I didn’t. And I don’t say that now because he’s gone. I say that because God used him to teach me about the complexities of man, the complexities of love, the complexities of life. And He used me to teach Kevin about unconditional love, forgiveness, and kindness.

My husband was hard as hell. He could have the worst attitude and hold grudges for waayyy too long. But he was also a man who loved God, loved musicals, loved to sing and rap (of course, with lots of profanity). Lol.

But he was also a man who would pull the car over to take a picture of a rainbow, and remark of its beauty.

I learned to appreciate such beauty, too, because of #myKevin.

Naturally Yours,

LA

Posted in Entertainment, Inspiration, writing

Why I Write: The Makings of a Story

Where do the ideas for your books? This is a common question asked of authors by readers and aspiring writers. The answers vary. For myself, the subjects that I’ve addressed in my novels have been retrieved for the pages of my life. The stories aren’t biographical by any means, but they’ve been sparked by things I experienced.

For example, Unfinished Business my first novel, is about a woman addicted to a past love for what she realizes are the wrong reasons. She learns the hard way that this man is no good for her while risking the possibility of a new and true love. My personal experience was I was madly in love with man from my past. I believed that we were soulmates, meant to be together. Even through other relationships (marriages, too), I thought we’d find our way back to each other and live happily ever after. Well, it hasn’t happened yet, and I’m accepting that he’s not the man God has for me. Nevertheless, the idea of being addicted to a man and the havoc that can wreak on a woman life is the story I created.

My second novel, Reconciliation to Hell, is about a married couple who are trying to rebuild their marriage after the husband had habitually cheated on the wife. She endured it because she valued the lifestyle he afforded her and didn’t want to give it up. But as soon as signs from his previous behaviors arise, she realize she doesn’t trust him and she’s done being made a fool of. For this novel, it was the title that was torn from the pages of my life. I’d divorced my first husband after 3 years of marriage, not because he’d done anything wrong, but because my heart was somewhere else (see Unfinished Business). He spent five years telling me he still loved me and that I was at fault for making our family a statistic of the black community–another fatherless home, single mom raising the children. So, after another failed relationship, I caved and reconciled with him. DISASTER! The man had clearly forgotten to tell all of his lady friends that we had remarried. They were calling and all times of the night and he was obviously still dealing with them, which led to our second and FINAL divorce. I shaped the story of Reconciliation to Hell around the married couple introduced in my first books.

I swear my life is so interesting that the ideas just keep coming. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop me from being open to a new idea, from an unexpected place and time. I was helping a new gentlemen friend clean out his aunt’s apartment who hasn’t lived in the apartment in nearly a year. The family is finally ending the lease and since he’s the only one laid off from work during CVOID–everyone is working from home–he’s stuck with the bulk of the work. Anyway, for the story…

We’re going through the stacks of paperwork and throughout them, there are these letters and cards from this man named Tod (not a typo, Todd spelled with one “d”). They were sent 2016-2018. Some were the holidays and others were just because. One letter included the verbiage, “This is for April”, perhaps rent money or a loan repayment. My guy friend and I laughed and kidded around every time we came across a correspondence from Tod.

“This better not be another letter from Tod,” he’d say. I probed for more of the story about his aunt and Tod. He was obviously someone special to her, and her to him. Dude, I’ll call him, tells me about his aunt having lived in New York for a time before the family moved to Detroit for factory jobs, though she’s a nurse. She met and had a relationship with Tod, during her early 20’s. When she moved to Detroit with her siblings, she and Tod maintained and on again, off again love affair that lasted throughout her adult life.

She and Tod are both in the 80’s now. And he just married sometime in 2018, the last year of any of his correspondence. Questions swirling around my head:

Was the only man who’d captured her heart in 60 years of her life?

Who did the man end up marrying?

Was their love out of convenience or love?

Is she didn’t become afflicted with Alheizmers, would she have responded to him and maybe they would have gotten married?

It’s so many ways this story can go for his aunt and Tod… Only time will tell.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Posted in writing

Author L.A. On Writing

The other day I was sitting at work , minding my own business when, out of nowhere, WHAM. Three writing ideas hit me all at once. As is my custom, I jotted the titles on the nearest sheet of paper—a sticky note pad conveniently kept next to my computer. After I wrote them down, I tore the paper off and secured it to my personal laptop, for safekeeping.

I resisted the urge to scribble down my the thoughts on the subject because I’m actively practicing sticking to my current writing project—my third novel. This is very difficult but it also gives me a surge of creative energy to move my manuscript forward. I’m working on the first draft of the novel, and for the first time, not trying to write it in the linear fashion I did with the first two. Instead, I’m allowing my mind to work freely, jumping from scene to scene, jotting down notes, adding descriptive points to characters, etc. This awesome writing software, Scrivener, is the conduit that allows this freedom with everything in one place. In fact, I’ll probably create projects, in Scrivener, for the ideas that I wrote down on the sticky note.

I used to worry about losing the excitement for new ideas if I didn’t immediately stop what I was working on and start writing on the new idea. Over the years, though, I realized that when ideas are close to my heart and meant to be written, they will be written. Case in point, the idea for my current novel came to me while I was finishing my second novel. Not only that, these new ideas are my personal stories that I long to share with the world. Although writing them requires the same in-depth process of creating characters, scenery, plot points that fiction require, it’s slightly different because I’ll be recalling memories from my past.

Similar to ones Yoga practice, every writers’ practice is unique to them. I would love to know how other writers handle the injection of new ideas when you’re in the middle of a project. Share your writing or creative process in the comments below.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Posted in People, Relationships, writing

Father’s Day Reflections

I began Father’s Day 2020 with a bike ride through my neighborhood on the bike I bought that I’d taken to the wheel repaired the day before. Considering my father introduced me to bike riding as a child, as well as all of my lifetime fitness endeavors, it seemed the ideal thing to on the annual day to celebrate dads.

Along the bike ride through cul-de-sac neighborhood, I listened to my favorite Pandora station, singing along to my favorite old school R&B jams. Again, I thought of my dad. I remember riding in the backseat of our red car. He always had, what sounded to me as an eight or nine year old girl, like old school music, and he usually sang along.

Wow! I’m so much like him, I thought.

I pushed my bike ride for thirty minutes when I was actually ready to head home after 11 minutes, according to the time on my watch. Since I’m no slacker, I kept riding until I reached a suitable time to be able to claim that I’d exercised. When I returned home, I went inside and then put my 2 dogs on their leashes. The weather was so pleasant that I decided to continue my workout in the backyard while the dogs were doing their thing.

I retrieved my hula hoop and 2 sets of hand weights and kept the music playing in my ears. I balanced the hula hoop around my waist while lifting 5lb dumbbells above my head, working my shoulders. Then I took the hula hoop and swung it from hand to hand, working the sides of my waistline. Exercising in the backyard made me think of my dad too. Remembering him jumping rope on the paved basketball quart in our backyard after he’d completed his jog around the neighborhood.

Wow! I’m so much like him, I thought again.

It was then that just a twinge of sadness. Because me and this man who is so much apart of who I am are not in the relationship that I wish we were. I don’t allow the sadness to linger because it is not mine to hold. I am not at fault for the lack of relationship with my dad. It was his decision to cut off communication with me. It was my decision to stop trying to make him change his mind.

Today, my dad and I have a distant relationship in which I don’t question his love for me and I try not to give too much thought to the “why” of our relationship. Instead, I love him from afar, sending him text messages on his birthday, Father’s Day, and Veteran’s Day. I chose those days because they don’t really require a reply, which he may not be inclined to do. But if he does respond with “thank you”, it’s all good. If he doesn’t, it’s still all good…for me, at least. I figure I can’t be wrong being on the giving end of love.

While this is not the daddy/daughter relationship that I envisioned with my dad at this point in my life, this is what it is. He raised me with the belief that family relationships were all the mattered, but in my adult life, his actions have displayed quite the opposite. Therefore, I’ve had to see him for the person he is today and deal with him accordingly.

I’ve had people question me about the efforts I have made with trying to maintain a relationship with my dad. Some think I do too much to even text him on the few occasions a year that I do. Some have said I could do more to improve our relationship.

If this topic of daddy/daughter relationships is of interest to you or someone you know, I invite you to join me and three other contributing authors to the book, in a virtual event on June 27, 2020, from 2-4 PM. We’ll be reading excerpts of our stories and having a conversion about this silent pandemic.

Hope to see you online.

Event link

Naturally Yours,

L.A.