Thursday, December 26, 2013


I believe I was a sophomore in college when almost twenty-five years ago at my school's Café 9 Asian Night food event, I received this message in a fortune cookie: "He who has a thing to sell, and goes and whispers in a well, is not as apt to get the dollar, as he who climbs a tree and hollers." I had long lost that itty bitty strip of paper but never forgot that fortune.

I heard another piece of advice several years ago and found it to be SO true. A Best Selling Author is not necessarily a "best writing author." If we want to sell our books, we should study aspects of sales, marketing, publicity, and promotion or have someone in our camp who does. I personally know writers who could write circles around me AND half the "Best Sellers" list. But not every self published author has a staff. Sales and marketing gives authors an audience; honing craft gives style, versatility, and longevity. We need to cover the spectrum.
I was a Business major in college but studied the craft of writing independently at the public library, and then later, workshops; and then fellowships and major writing/arts grants; and networks AND business networks. I extended myself by lending a helping hand through volunteerism. I recently won an award for fiction and was also named NYCHA/NAACP New York City literacy ambassador. But for many years, I was a hermit who stayed at home, wrote in secret, and only shared my gift with those close to me.
My best friend Karen had to speak some sense into me. She said, "It's not who you know, it's who knows you. You could know everybody, but if folks don't know who you are, what you do and how well you do it, they won't care or give you the time of day."
By the time, I was able to receive and absorb this advice, talent-wise I was overripe fruit. I had been studying the craft for years and years and years, so doors just seemed to magically open. But for many, many years, I was that quiet, inquisitive girl in all the workshops, at all the readings and book fairs, walking with the journal and pencil in my hand jotting details, and with that Titanium flashdrive around my neck, because the makings of an entire publishing company was on it.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Growing up, I was a ghetto genius. IQ 7 points above genius level, and for the most part, almost all of my friends were ghetto geniuses...of the hip hop generation...aspiring to be something/someone HUGE at some point in time.

As a writer I am a chameleon who disappears into the voices of my savvy, sassy, intellectuals from the projects and beyond (young and old), who are striving despite their love challenges and/or repressed circumstances.

For me, voice is everything, and that's why my brothas sound like REAL brothas; my baby mama sounds like a baby mama; her gold digging sister holds no punches, and readers can get a real sense of their mother's frustration.

As the writer, I don't reach into SUR-REALITY. I concentrate on the REAL and paint my characters as honestly as I possibly can, hoping that my readers can close their eyes and SEE and SMELL these people. And then I weave my people into world that is unfamiliar and filled with diversity (spiritual, economic, cultural) that they may not necessarily trust...showing WHO these characters transform into, and WHY and HOW.

Oh yeah, and I also sneak in lyrics from my favorite songs from the 80's & 90's. (This blog entry was inspired by a question from author Treasure Blue, posed to writers in a Facebook group.)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


This writing prompt came courtesy of Kay K. Burks on the Facebook Page "Stuff for Writers."
Writing prompt: A man takes lunch to his wife's office, where he's told that she hasn't worked there in weeks....
Here is my interpretation of the prompt:     

     Theo exited the elevator and recalled how Traci gulped her coffee that morning, emptying her mug in almost a single swallow. He had turned but for a moment to grab the coffee pot to offer a refill. In that span of seconds, she had grabbed her unusually large purse and fled. On the island's granite top, there beside the emptied mug, her triple thermal insulated lunch pouch remained. Walking through Traci's office, her coworkers' strange glances now made him feel uncomfortable, like a spectacle of sorts. Next, whispers. Immediately, his gut alerted him. It was for reasons other than the ridiculousness of such a big burly man, carrying a loud, florescent pink pouch. Every person here in the 12,000 square ft. expanse of Traci's office knew something he didn't.

After some gracious encouragement from author, Kiely Denny, I have decided to continue:

     Traci's office was located at the far end, adjacent to the COO's. The walk today, somehow seemed longer than usual, as staff members each did a double take as he passed, a domino effect rippling its way through the suite. Theo stop in his tracks and looked at the receptionist who was seated at the desk nearest him. When she quickly looked away, he said a silent prayer, took a deep breath and continued. 
     There were no misguidings. He knew his wife, the beautifully odd, carefree spirit that she was, was no object of perfection. But she was the angel in his life, that made him want to love again. Whenever she entered a room, she filled it with an infectious joy. That was her gift. She taught him how to smile, even when there was not reason to. And for that reason, he was able to sift through his pain, let his guard down, and trust enough to try, to want, and hope for happiness, regardless of how elusive it may have been so many times before. The what-ifs were no longer important; it was the mere moments that mattered most. The right nows, whenever the two of them were together. Her history wasn't ignored or even forgotten, but in the whole scheme of things, it was the least of his worries. Because he loved her "anyway," he married her "anyway." Their nuptials, met with the resistance of many and the chiding of the matriarch of the family, "A fool's lesson arrives in CPT time."

HOW TO: Critiquing Other Writers

We all have our own sense of style and personal taste. Some of us dress in flavors, while others, neutrals. It is the same with writers, our individuality is what makes our craftwork unique. So sometimes, when I offer feedback to writers, I am a little reluctant to give the Full-Monte. I am careful because I know how sensitive we writers are.

With writers, constructive criticism can feel like...well,
a personal attack. I am open to listen to each and every suggestion whether I accept it or not, because I realize someone has to care enough to offer their honest opinion. But I realize that not every writer is in this place of acceptance, so I ALWAYS make sure the feedback I offer is from the heart, before I add my really chic scarf to someone else's ensemble....After all, it is still THEIR vision.

Tread carefully. Offer suggestions that are sandwiched between what you observe to be the strengths of the work...because the worst feedback is non at all.

And to quote one of my favorite authors, Mr.
Chris Abani. Every writer needs to two friends. 1. Who absolutely adores everything they put on the page. 2. And another who won't hesitate to tell them the work could stand improvement and WILL pinpoint those areas.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Writing felt like a chore to me when my butt was in the chair for VERY long spans of  time and I could not drum up anything at all to put on the page (because I was trying to write like Toni Morrison, finish in 3 months, get on the New York Times Best Sellers List, and earn millions and millions of dollars).

Once I let go of all unreasonable expectations and just wrote (what I like) because I love to write and it didn't matter if I ever got paid for it or not (because I would actually do it for free), then my writing transitioned (switched) to a passion and exploded brilliantly onto the page.


Originally Chocolate Love started off as some corny, clichéd, redundant, extension of its precursor. But then, one day I saw a post for a 100-word writing competition. I did not win the competition but that entry sparked a new and improved beginning for the sequel from Romell's  perspective instead of Mia's.

Here is the EXACTLY-100-Word-Entry that spark the new Chocolate Love:

My name is Romell Ulysses Goodwin. Now, where do I begin? The odor was like Listerine. When I wasn’t holding my breath, I was using it to warm my hands. Whoever controlled the thermostat was hell bent on making this experience as unpleasant as possible. Hospitals, I associate them with death and disease. Why not see a doctor in private practice? My mom didn’t have that option. Thank her HMO. I kept my complaints to myself, but my alternative was to torture myself with worst-case scenarios.  Mom sat quietly on the examination table, her hospital gown “opened to the front.”

This new beginning presented fresh angle and a stronger voice, also presented a challenge for me to prove that I am a “real writer” by stepping into the skin of a character that is nothing like me.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"When is the next one coming out?"

     One of the best and most intimidating things a debut author can hear is, "When is the next one coming out?"
     This is especially nerve wracking for me, because Love Changes took so long for me to write and publish. I began writing this version of Love Changes in August of 2001. I now realize that in writing Love Changes, the words began to flow once I stopped being so uptight and just relaxed and enjoyed the process. Once I allowed myself to just have fun with it, writing was playtime and not a chore.
     Chocolate Love, is the sequel to Love Changes told from Romell’s perspective. He is a layered character, suave and vain yet insecure, flirtatious but insincere, passionate but self-centered, both materialistic and generous, compassionate yet consuming, brilliant, driven. On top of all that, he’s a big ol’ baby, but it is joy to write him and watch him grow. I had been intimidated by the process because I have never been a black man in my life. So I had been questioning whether or not I could capture the male psyche effectively and with empathy. Can I pull this off?
     For now, I am just going to have fun with it. I am not going to worry about how good it is or how good it is not. For now, I just give myself full permission to write a bad draft. No second guessing. It’s CRUNCH-TIME. No judgments. For now.

INTRO TO CHOCOLATE LOVE: MY NAME IS ROMELL ULYSSES GOODWIN. NOW, WHERE do I begin? For starters, what went on at my mom’s first doctor visit, I really can’t say. I was there, but I only remember everything up to a certain point. There was a reason for that. Hospitals, I associate them with death and disease. Whenever I think of clinics: malpractice. That clinic was in a hospital. Why not see a doctor in private practice? Why have a procedure done in a clinic instead of the ideal: a nice, cozy, office suite with some magazines in the corner? My mom didn’t have that option. Thank her HMO.
     The odor was like Listerine, antiseptic and over-whelming. When I wasn’t holding my breath, I was using it to warm my hands. I’ve heard the excuses as to why they keep it so cold, but spare me. If low temperatures keep germs down, why have I always caught my colds in winter? Whoever controlled the thermostat in this place was obviously hell-bent on making this experience as un-pleasant as possible. Even assuming the unlikely, that cold could somehow, in fact, kill germs, why would it still be necessary to “sanitize” with industrial cleaning agents powerful enough to singe nose hair? And another thing, nurses now wear scrubs. Those look like pajamas. Whose idea was that? If I ever see a petition to reinstate the short white dresses from back in the day, I’ll be John Hancock. All this was going through my mind, but I kept my litany of complaints to myself. However, they were necessary when my alternative was to torture myself with worst-case scenarios. My mom sat quietly on the examination table, her hospital gown “opened to the front.”

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Read-fast Writer

When I was writing my first draft of Love Changes. I fasted from reading, reading for pure entertainment that is. The only books I read were books on the craft of writing (the Bird by Bird, The First Five Pages, Write Away, On Writing, How to Write a Damn Good Novel, Stein on Writing by Solstein and countless others) and anything and everything for research.

Romell is an insanely driven stock analyst. Success at his level requires compulsive focus. I refused to fake that with just an Armani suit and a Rolex. I had to study: the market, investing, market terminology (like golden parachute), the black experience on Wall Street, as well as what the market was like when the story was set. In 1995, the market was at the verge of bursting wide open due to advances in technology and the flood of IPOs. I even set up mock portfolios and tracked what-if investments. I could make it rain in Spain if I actually did invest in those stock. All of that to delve into the psyche of a brilliant, overly obsessed, high achieving, finance mogul who just so happens to be black.

Everywhere I went, I carried at least one book with me. And thanks to my Nana, who told me, “In all that you’re reading, make sure you read your Bible,” I carried a pocket (New International) New Testament, too.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

How do you end a novel? Remember to stick the landing!

My least favorite aspect of writing a novel is crafting the ending. Writing an ending to a novel, one must tie up ALL loose ends, leave no plotline hanging and make it so gratifying that it is worth the many hours, days, weeks the reader will invest in your book. This is the moment we've all been waiting for.

I liken this part of the writing experience to that of being a gymnast. I can jump on the uneven bars, switch from rung to rung, launch myself high, and do a mid air, black-flipped-triple-decker-summersault with a twist, but if I do not stick the landing, I have robbed my reader.

My first draft of Love Changes made some very sweet sisters curse aloud. So, it was painfully necessary to go back to the drawing board. I re-did the ending and did everything in my power to put my foot it in. Those of you who read LOVE CHANGES, please let me know. In your opinion, did I stick the landing?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Performance Driven

Some people can sing...
I can sing but most wouldn't pay to hear me.
Some people can dance...
I can cut a rug but won't do much damage.
What I can write. Not only is that my talent, it is my duty. And when I write, I perform on paper.

#Earthatone #LoveChanges #EarthaWattsHicks

Literary devices in LOVE CHANGES.

When I was 9 years old, my favorite author was Edgar Allan Poe. My favorite pieces were The Telltale Heart, Lenore, and The Raven. I read everything I could get my hands on and often was told to "put that book away" and go outside and play. In high school, we studied F. Scott Fitzgerald, Salinger, and Franz Kafka and read plays like The Glass Menagerie and Waiting for Godot. All were filled with literary devices.
I long to see that in African American Lit. Maybe that's why I love Zora and will stick with Toni Morrison till the end despite repeatedly doubting my own intelligence. And when I am done, close that book and think to myself, "Okay! I'm finished! I'm smart now."

So, in writing Love Changes, I wanted to bring literary elements to the prose BECAUSE the book is urban, about characters from the projects and/or living in the ghetto.
So many of us from the inner city grow up telling ghetto jokes and singing ghetto songs, thinking that we do not know proper English when in all actuality we have an excellent grasp of the language; we simply command it differently, and if I may add, in a more unique way.
Rhythm is in our blood. Unbeknownst to us, we speak in meter naturally. We praise the poetic genius of the Kanye(s) and Jay Z(s) when honestly, can any of us really remember the first rhyme WE ever spoke? More than likely, it was "Mommmmy, I  want some cannnndy!" And later we find ourselves playin' the dozens conjuring up humor, satyr, similes, metaphors, and hyperboles without ever realizing the depth of our command for these devices, because we are getting C(s) and D(s) in English. 

"Miss Mary Matt, Matt, Matt...all dressed in black, black, black...with silver buttons, buttons, buttons, all down her back, back back."

So, while the rest of the world is busy studying to learn how to do what we do naturally, we get stuck, thinking were are not smart, because we don't know that what we've been doing has a name, and we don't know what these devises are called.

Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds that creates internal rhyme within phrases or sentences; one of the building blocks of verse.

Example #1: Who knew the truth?
Example #2: "And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes."

-          "Annabel Lee" by Edgar Allan Poe
Example #3: Because of a surge of adrenaline, this black woman forgot: she is not superhuman. So my adrenaline buzz wasn’t doing me a bit of good.
-          LOVE CHANGES by Eartha Watts-Hicks
Other literary devices include alliteration, consonance, onomatopoeia, allusion, imagery, foreshadowing, symbolism. For examples of these and other literary devices in African American literature, read any one of the titles by Toni Morrison, Zora Neil Hurston, Walter Mosley, Chris Abani, James Baldwin. For examples of these literary devices in urban fiction, read Love Changes by Eartha Watts-Hicks.