This weekend the National Book Festival is being held in Washington DC on the National Mall. If you haven’t gone before, it is AMAZINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!! It is everything a book lover’s dreams are made of. There will be book signings and readings from your favorite authors, forums, and other cool stuff to do. DopeReads will be in the building so you can follow Instagram & Twitter (@dopereads) for live updates and pictures! Here is the full list of authors and the schedule (R.L. Stine gonna be there y’all, Goosebumps what what!). I’ll be checking out the Junot Diaz and Tayari Jones readings for sure.
So let me tell you about what happened last year when I went to the NBF. It was my first time and I was AMPED because Terry McMillan was speaking. "Waiting to Exhale" and "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" really showed how powerful the market could be for fiction that chronicled the lives of everyday black women. She would be reading from a piece she was working on, and would be signing her latest book "Getting to Happy", the follow up to Waiting to Exhale.
Before the reading I made sure to write down my questions because I get nervous speaking in front of people and forget things. As a young black woman writer, I was really interested in learning what sacrifices she made to write and how she was able to get her name out there. You know, young mogul sh*t.
So I have my questions, I have my copy of her latest book, I do my background research (which is a Google search, but still). I get to the Festival early enough to have a seat close to the mic. I AM PREPARED.
The tent is full of women, a majority of them black. Terry McMillian approaches the podium,and begins her talk. Her hair is clipped short and even though she smiles there is a fire in her eyes and in her tone that indicate that she can "go in and let have", as Funky Dineva would say.
The floor opens for questions and I am the second person to pop up. The first person finishes her question, and my heart is pounding. Here I am, I think. About to ask Terry McMillan a question! I’m a black woman, she’s a black woman! I’m a writer, she’s a writer! Her name is Terry, mine is Terryn! This is going to be great!
So I ask my question, which is something along the lines of, "how did self-publishing your first book aid you in building your platform as a writer?"
Honey, Auntie Terry read me like a book.
I had gotten my facts wrong. Her first book was not self-published, and according to her that falsehood was persistently brought up and she didn’t really like it. She lamented how antsy young writers are to get ‘on’. She said some more stuff, but I was just trying to smile and nod and be respectful after getting blasted out in front of 200+ people. I sat there for about a minute while she served me. I ate it though, and afterwards people came up to me to console me and to let me know they would be looking for my writing soon. I thought to myself, if I can survive getting fussed out by Terry McMillan, I can definitely be a writer. And I vowed that when I get on, I’m never going to dig into a newbie like I was dug into.
Moral of the story: Triple check your research, and don’t piss off Terry McMillan :)
Ok, have a good weekend!!!