For #BlackHistoryMonth, we highlight the work of African-American screenplay author -- Shonda Rhimes

For Black History month, we wanted to shine our light on the tremendous work done by African-American and black women fiction authors.

Today we shift gears a bit to highlight the woman who has brought African-American men and women into our homes once a week, screenplay author, show creator, and producer --Shonda Rhimes (Wikipedia, Amazon). 

ShondaRhimes

There has been so much written about Ms. Rhimes that we thought we might focus on her beginnings -- how did she get started? What helped her in those early days?

The youngest of six children, Ms. Rhimes knew that she was a storyteller from an early age. Ms. Rhimes received her BA from Dartmouth college in English and Film Studies (1991). While at Dartmouth, she directed and performing in student productions for the Black Underground Theater Association. She also wrote fiction.

After Dartmouth, she moved to San Francisco with an older sibling. She worked in advertising for the global advertising company, McCann Erickson.

She left McCann Erickson to study screenwriting at the University of Southern California where she earned the Gary Rosenberg Writing Fellowship. She also worked as an intern for Debra Martin Chase. She received her Master of Fine Arts from the USC School of Cinematic Arts 

While at USC, Rhimes was hired as an intern by Debra Martin Chase while Ms. Chase ran Denzel Washington's production company, Mundy Lane Entertainment. Ms. Rhimes credits her success to these early experiences with African-American professionals, but clearly, Ms. Rhimes was focused on gaining the experience she needed to be successful.

After graduation, Ms. Rhimes worked a variety of jobs to make ends meet. Her first post-graduate school break was working as a research director on the documentary, Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream (1995). The film won a Peabody Award that same year. She wrote, directed, and produced a short film, Blossoms and Veils, starring Jada Pinkett-Smith (1998).

Ms. Rhimes sold her first screenplay, Human Seeking Same, about an older black woman looking for love in the personals to New Line Cinema. (The film has yet to be made.)

From there, Ms. Rhimes wrote the teleplay for HBO's award winning Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999). The success of this project elevated Rhimes's status in the business. This experience led to her writing the screenplay for Crossroads staring Britney Spears (2001). The film generated $60 million worldwide.

Ms. Rhimes wrote the screenplay for The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004), the sequel to , The Princess Diaries (2001). for Walt Disney Corporation which was at time run by Debra Martin Chase.

During this time, Ms. Rhimes wrote her first TV pilot, about young female war correspondents, but the ABC turned it down. 

In 2005, Gray's Anatomy debuted at a typically low interest time in the middle of a season -- usually a recipe for disaster for a new show. Gray's Anatomy was such a success that ABC moved the series to a better time slot (Thursdays) and made it the anchor of their Thursday evening programming. Gray's Anatomy is in its 15th season and continues to be ABC's highest-rated drama.

Ms. Rhimes continues to produce and create award winning, popular television drama through her production company, Shondaland. She will soon be creating content for Netflix.

Ms. Rhimes talks about her work and life in the following Ted Talk. 

 

 


For #BlackHistoryMonth, we highlight the work of American novelist -- Alyssa Cole

For Black History month, we wanted to shine our light on the tremendous work done by African-American and black women fiction authors.

Today, we take a look at American columnist and novelist  --Alyssa Cole (Amazon). 

Alyssacole

We first learned about Alyssa Cole when Beverly Jenkins (she's coming this week!) suggested her work. Ms. Cole specializes in romance fiction in multiple genres including historical, contemporary, and science-fiction. A prolific author, she is currently writing and supporting three series -- Off the Grid, Loyal League, and Reluctant Royals -- as well as five stand-alone novels. 

Her award winning Loyal League series is a fun, interesting romance while shining a light on the true history of former slaves and free-black people who gave up their freedom to return to slavery and act as a spy for the Union Army. Each book has received numerous awards. The first book in the series, An Extraordinary Union (2017) , was an Entertainment Weekly top 10 romance book of the year (2017), a Bookpage top pick (2017), a Kirkus Best Books of 2017, a a Vulture top 10 Romance books of 2017, a Publishers Weekly best books of 2017, and a Booklist top 10 Romance fiction (2017). The second book in the series, Hope Divided , a Library Journal Editors’ pick, Buzzfeed’s "The Ultimate Buzzfeed Books Gift Guide," and Bookish "Autumn's 2017 most swoon-worthy Romance books" list. And the third book in the series, An Unconditional Union, was the American Library Association's RUSA Best Romance for 2018, and also the RT Book Reviews Reviewer's Choice Award Book of the Year.

Off the Grid is a series about a post-apocalyptic world. The Reluctant Royals is a retelling of the princess story where the princesses are powerful, smart women with real life issues. As she describes here:

"I’m a feminist (intersectional or GTFO). I obviously believe that women and girls should be encouraged to go into STEM and explore every option available to them. I worked as a science editor myself, and my heroine in A Princess in Theory, Naledi Smith, is an epidemiologist who finds out that the spam mail she’s been receiving about being betrothed to an African prince wasn’t a scam. One aspect of the book is the hero, Prince Thabiso, struggling with the weight of his role as a leader of his people, and Ledi figuring out if this is something she wants in her life." (Bustle, April 2018)

Ms Cole also contributed to publications including Bustle, Shondaland, The Toast, Vulture, RT Book Reviews, and Heroes and Heartbreakers

What book would we recommend? We're suckers for a well told historically accurate fiction. We encourage you to start with Ms. Cole's Loyal League.

Extraordinaryunion


For #BlackHistoryMonth, we highlight the work of American novelist -- Britni Danielle

For Black History month, we wanted to shine our light on the tremendous work done by African-American and black women fiction authors.

Today, we take a look at American columnist and novelist  --Britni Danielle (Amazon). 

BritniDanielle

Ms. Danielle shares her sharp, interesting takes on celebrity, race, and culture for Essence, takepart, Ebony, and clutch. Her project, Brown Boy Genius, focuses in the way in which  race and culture affect family life and the raising of black and brown young men. She is a frequent guest of news shows on issues of race, culture, and celebrity as they relate to the day to day living of life in our culture.

Ms. Danielle has a BA in English/Creative Writing from the University of Southern California in 2002. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from CUNY in 2005. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

Ms. Danielle is a passionate advocate for writers. She created a practical, hands on project called "The Write Pitch" where she teaches people how to get paid writing gigs in six weeks. She has also spoken about writing at the Watermark Conference, the largest women’s conference in California, Blogalicious, Blogging While Brown and Social Media Week, Johannesburg.

You can get a sense of her ability to communicate clearly about issues of race as it intersects in personal lives of people in this culture.

Ms. Danielle brings all of her wisdom and clarity to her bestselling romance fiction.  

Her series Bad Dates and other disasters are short, immensely relatable fiction. Her three part Total Distraction series follow the life of Tish Jacob as she navigates her modern life. Turn It Loose and Two Steps Back follow Jaylah Baldwin through life and love .

There's no question that we can expect more great things from Ms. Danielle.

Looking to start reading Ms. Danielle? We encourage you to click through some of the links and read her articles and columns. You will enjoy any of her romance fiction. They are all registered on KindleUnlimited. We encourage you to check out:

Turnitloose     TotalDistraction

 

 


For #BlackHistoryMonth, we highlight the work of American novelist -- Bernice McFadden

For Black History month, we wanted to shine our light on the tremendous work done by African-American and black women fiction authors.

Today, we take a look at American novelist  --Bernice McFadden (Wikipedia, Amazon)

BerniceMcFadden

Ms. McFadden is the author of nine critically acclaimed novels. Ms. McFadden grew up in Brooklyn, New York. She attended high school at St. Cyril Academy, an all-girls boarding school in Danville, Pennsylvania. She started college a few times, but had to drop out due to financial concerns including the birth of her daughter.

Like a lot of people in her generation (Gen X), Ms. McFadden worked at companies that closed, laid off people, or closed due to corporate raiding. After going through this a few times, she turned her attention to her craft of writing. She enrolled in Fordham University to focus on writing. She received an MFA from The Writer's Foundry at St. Joseph's College in Brooklyn, NY in 2016.

In February 1999, after nearly 10 years, four drafts and 73 rejection letters, her debut novel, Sugar, was finally acquired by Dutton Publishers. She wrote a number of books with Dutton Publishers. 

Starting in 2005, Ms. McFadden wrote five African-American romance books for Random House under the name Geneva Holiday.

Ms. McFadden fearlessly takes on important, often overlooked topics of treatment of African-Americans through history. She has won Zora Neale Hurston Society Award for Creative Contribution to Literature (2002) and the Award for Excellence in Literature, Art Sanctuary, The Celebration of Black Arts Legacy Awards (2016).

In the Gathering of Water, Ms. McFadden takes a true and yet somehow loving look at Emmett Till and his murder in Money, Mississippi. The novel is described by Pulitzer Price winner, Lee Martin: "This moving and magical novel, which traces the generations leading up to and away from that horrible night in 1955, drew me in immediately and swept me along through its richly imagined world." The Gathering of Water was a Finalist, Hurston Wright Legacy Award in Fiction (2013), one of  New York Times 100 Notable Books (2012), one of Washington Post 50 Best Books (2012), and a New York Times "Editor’s Choice" (February 17, 2012).

In the Book of Harlan, Ms. McFadden explores the mostly not talked about fate of Africans and African Americans at the hands of the Nazis by covering the experience of a young African-American in a Nazi concentration camp. The Book of Harlan won the 2017 American Book Award, 2017 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, Washington Post Notable Books of 2016, and the Historical Novel Society "November Editor’s Choice" (2016). 

You can see Ms. McFadden was the topic of a Lifetime 20th Anniversary Commercial in 2004.

 

Looking for a book to read? We recommend the Book of Harlan:

Bookofharlan

Too heavy? You might want to try one of Ms. McFadden's fun romances. We recommend Groove.

Groove

 


For #BlackHistoryMonth, we highlight the work of African-American novelist -- Dolores Phillips

For Black History month, we wanted to shine our light on the tremendous work done by African-American and black women fiction authors.

Today, we take a look at American novelist  -- Dolores Phillips (Wikipedia, Amazon)

Delores-PhillipsUnfortunately, there is very little known about Ms. Phillips. She was born in Georgia. She graduated from Cleveland State University with a bachelor of arts in English. Like so many of women fiction authors, she spent her life working as a nurse in a the state psychiatric hospital in Cleveland rather than writing. Her work was published in  Jeans Journal, Black Times, and the Crisis.

And yet, debut her novel, The Darkest Skin, was published in 2005 to great critical and fan acclaim. Unfortunately, Ms. Phillips passed away before she could write and release any other work. She was 64.

The book was popular at the time and remains one of the most influential books written by an African-American woman. 

"The Darkest Child is an exceptional debut from a most talented writer. Epic in scope, intimate in tone, it is sure to find a special place in the deepest crevices of your heart."
—Edwidge Danticat

"A well-written story that underscores the power of education, The Darkest Child paints a stark picture about life and opportunity for a young black girl in 1950s Jim Crow Georgia. This book brings up timely conversations—the characters haunted me long after I finished reading.”
—Octavia Spencer, Academy Award–winning actress from The Help and Hidden Figures

“A grim tale, set in the dying days of segregation, about one young woman’s struggle to escape her past, her mother, and her duties . . . Phillips writes vividly.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Filled with grand plot events and clearly identifiable villains and victims . . . lush with detail and captivating with its story of racial tension and family violence.”
—The Washington Post Book World

Ms. Phillips talent is overwhelming and apparent. Sadly, our society doesn't have a way of financially supporting even the most talented people. Millions of breathtaking, amazing, bestselling books are never written in the grind of daily work life. 

There is no question that this is an extraordinary woman who worked hard at a difficult and important job. We can't help but grieve for the novels and stories that were lost inside this brilliant author.

Her life is a cautionary tale for all writers. Life is short. Don't wait. Write and write and write and write. Get your work out into the world.

Looking for a great book to read? We recommend the Darkest Child. You won't stop thinking about it.

DarkestChild

 


For #BlackHistoryMonth, we highlight the work of West African poet and American slave -- Phillis Wheatley

For Black History month, we wanted to shine our light on the tremendous work done by African-American women fiction authors.

Today our list turns to West African born, American slave and poet  -- Phillis Wheatley (Wikipedia, Amazon)

Phylliswheatley

Phillis Wheatley was taken from her family and sold into slavery when she was seven or eight years old. (Because there are a lot of Wheatley's in this biography, we will call her by her whole slave name.) She survived the journey to American and landed in Boston in July 1761. A physically small child, and possibly sick (she struggled with asthma), she was sold as property to Boston merchant and tailor John Wheatley. He is said to have purchased her as a house slave for his wife, Susannah. The Wheatleys named their slave "Phillis" and, as with most slaves, she was given their last name "Wheatley." Her birth name and place of birth are unknown.

As one might train a pet, Mary Wheatley, daughter of  John and Susannah, taught Phillis to read and write. Her brother, Nathaniel, is said to have participated in this training. Much to their surprise, Phillis Wheatley took to reading and writing. While still upholding her responsibilities as a house slave, Phillis Wheatley, was able to read in Greek, Latin, as well as difficult passages in the King James Bible by the times she was 12 years old. 

Phillis Wheatley wrote her first poem, "To the University of Cambridge, in New England," when she was 14 years old. Excited that their property had literary ability, the Wheatley family allowed Phillis Wheatley to continue her education by leaving the household labor to their other domestic slaves. In service of her owners, Phillis Wheatley turned her attention to writing poetry.

As you would a prized possession, the Wheatleys frequently showed off her writing capacity to their friends and family. Much of her poetry could be seen as a celebration of America. She corresponded with George Washington, with whom later met. Thomas Hutchinson, governor of Massachusetts; John Hancock; Andrew Oliver, lieutenant governor; James Bowdoin; and Reverend Mather Byles were some of the early colonial leaders who supported her work. Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, was also a supporter of her work.

In 1773, Phillis Wheatley accompanied Nathaniel Wheatley to London because her owners believed that Phillis Wheatley would have a better chance publishing her book of poems there. She had an audience significant members of British society including the Lord Mayor of London. Editorials in London chastised the Wheatleys for keeping Phillis Wheatley as their property. She was called back to America due to the illness of her master, Susanah Whealey. 

Phillis Wheatley's first volume of poems was published in the summer of 1773. The financial proceeds went to the Whealeys. Shortly after publication of the volume of poems, the Whealeys manumitted Phillis Wheatley. Susannah Wheatley died in 1774. Mary and John Wheatley died in 1778.

Phillis Wheatley married free-black entrepreneur and grocer John Peters in 1778. She attempted to get a second novel of poems published but was unable to. She and Mr. Peters struggled financially during the revolutionary war. He as sent to debters prison in 1784. Forced to pay off their debts and care for her sickly infant son, Phillis Wheatley returned to housework. She worked as a scullery made at a boarding house. She died December 5, 1782 at the age of 31. Her infant son did not survive her death and is said to have been buried with her.

Modern scholarship believes that Phillis Wheatley published 145 poems in her life. Of the numerous letters she wrote to national and international political and religious leaders, two dozen notes and letters have survived. Most of her work has been lost. 

While often chastised for seemingly not speaking out about slavery, one cannot overlook the fact that Phillis Wheatley was the property of the Wheatleys. Speaking against slavery would have been taken by the Wheatleys as insubordination. This may have led to her severe punishment or the punishment of those she cared about. 

After freed, she wrote a letter that was repeatedly published in Boston newspapers in 1774. In the letter, Phillis Wheatley equates "American slaveholding to that of pagan Egypt in ancient times: 'Otherwise, perhaps, the Israelites had been less solicitous for their Freedom from Egyptian Slavery: I don’t say they would have been contented without it, by no Means, for in every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance; and by the Leave of our modern Egyptians I will assert that the same Principle lives in us.'" (Excellent article about Phillis Wheatley in Poetry Foundation.)

Like to read something of Phillis Wheatley's? Project Gutenberg has a free copy of the eBook Poems on various subjects, religious and moral by Phillis Wheatley

Penguin Classics has collected Phillis Wheatley's poetry into a "complete works" volume

Completewritingphilliswheatley

 

 


For #BlackHistoryMonth, we highlight the work of African-American author -- Kaitylyn Greenidge

Since we are a little more than half-way through our list, it seemed like a good time to remind everyone why we're doing this. African-American and Black female authors get very little attention. For Black History month, we wanted to shine our light on the tremendous work done by African-American women fiction authors.

Today our list includes another new-to-novels American non-fiction author, short story author, and novelist  -- Kaitlyn Greenidge (Amazon)

 

KaitlynGreenidge

Ms. Greenidge's writing has appeared in the Vogue, Glamour, the Wall Street Journal, Elle.com, Buzzfeed, Transition Magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Believer, American Short Fiction and other places. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Whiting Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She is a contributing writer for the New York Times (her page) as well as a contributing author and editor for the Lenny Letter (her page).

She received an MFA from Hunter College and is currently on faculty at Bennington College. She was the recipient of the Bernard Cohen Short Story Prize. She was a Bread Loaf scholar, a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace artist-in-residence, and a Johnson State College visiting emerging writer.

Ms. Greenidge generously shares many of her multi-genre short-stories on the Internet. Here are a select few: "Planets" (FeministWire), "Axe Wound" (Guernica), "Emperor of the Universe" (Kweli Journal), and "Four Tales for Dry Land" (the Offering). 

Her debut novel, We love you, Charlie Freeman, (Amazon, Goodreads) was called "terrifically auspicious" by the New York TimesIt was New York Times Critics' Top 10 Books of 2016, 2016 Forward Indies Book of the Year, a finalist for the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the 2017 Young Lions Award, and a semi-finalist for the 2016 Brooklyn Public Library Brooklyn Eagles Literary Prize. It is currently in pre-production for a movie, expected to be out by 2020.

Ms. Greenidge's wide-range of interests combined with her talent will mean that we can expect more novels, more stories, and more non-fiction in the coming years.

What do we recommend you read?  We encourage to read We love you, Charlie Freeman (Amazon)

WeloveyouCharlieFreeman

 


For #BlackHistoryMonth, we highlight the work of British-American author -- Taiye Selasi

For Black History month, we'd like to share some of our favorite African-American and other influential black women fiction authors. 

Our list continues with American novelist  -- Taiye Selasi (Wikipedia, Amazon)

Taiyeselasi

Born in England, Ms. Selasi was raised in Brookline, Massachusetts. Ms. Selasi graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in American Studies from Yale, and earned her MPhil in International Relations from Nuffield College, Oxford.  

In her controversial 2005 essay "Bye-Bye Babar," Ms. Selasi introduces a new vision of African identity for the transnational generation she calls "Afropolitans" --  "We are Afropolitans: not citizens, but Africans of the world." Challenged by Ms. Toni Morrison, Ms. Selasi wrote the short story "The Sex Lives of African Girls" which was published in Granta magazine in 2011. The story was included in "Best stories of 2012."

Her essay, "I am not my hair" for Dove "Love your curls" campaign gives voice to complicated experiences black women have with their hair. This project became a free eBook, Love Your Curls: A poetic tribute to curly hair inspired by real women, which you can download here.

Ms. Selasi's debut novel, Ghana Must Go (Wikipedia), was published in 2013. The novel shares multiple points of view as a family must face confront issues that divided them to mourn the death of their patriarch. The novel was  selected as one of the 10 Best Books of 2013 by the Wall Street Journal and The Economist. It has been translated into many languages and sold in 22 countries. 

In Ms. Selasi's TedGlobal talk, she furthers explains her thinking about "multi-local" people. Her Ted talk has more than 2 million views. You can watch it here.

 

What would we recommend you read? We encourage you to watch Ms. Selasi's TedGlobal talk and read her essays (linked above) before diving into Ghana Must Go.

GhanaMustGo

 

 

 

 


For #BlackHistoryMonth, we highlight the work of Los Angeles native thriller and mystery author -- Rachel Howzell Hall

For Black History month, we'd like to share some of our favorite African-American and other influential black women fiction authors. 

Our list continues with American novelist  -- Rachel Howzell Hall (Amazon)

RachelHowzellHall
Ms. Howzell Hall writes critically acclaimed thrillers, mysteries, and crime fiction, as well as literary fiction.  Her Detective Elouise Norton mystery series has received the coveted Kirkus Review Star and Kirkus 'Books That Kept Us Up All Night.' Her books have been included in thee list of the Los Angeles Times’ top books to read in the summer. The New York Times described Detective Elousie Norton as a "formidable fighter and a person that everyone would want to have by their side."

Her debut novel, A Quiet Storm (2002), was reviewed by O Magazine and Publishers Weekly, with a starred review from Library Journal and also chosen as a “Rory’s Book Club” selection, the must-read book list for fictional television character Rory Gilmore of The Gilmore Girls.

In addition to writing this popular book series,  Ms. Howzell Hall has collaborated with James Patterson for writing the novel, The Family Lawyer (2017).

She's written four books in the Detective Elouise Nortan series as well as eight standalone books. Her latest contemporary thriller, They All Fall Down, is due out in April 2019.

Ms. Howzell Hall has been writing since she was a young child. She has a BA in English and American Literature from University of California at Santa Cruz. UC Santa Cruz. She helped to charter the Pi Upsilon Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Incorporated.

Rachel was also a featured writer on NPR Crime in the City. Currently, she serves on the Board of Directors for the Mystery Writers of America, and has participated as a mentor in the Association of Writers & Writing Programs’ Writer-to-Writer program.

Looking to read Ms. Howzell Hall? We recommend the starting her mystery series with Land of Shadows or  pre-order her upcoming contemporary thriller, They All Fall Down.

Land of Shadows by Rachel Howzell Hall    TheyAllFallDown

 

 


For #BlackHistoryMonth, we highlight the work of South African-American fiction author -- Zinzi Clemmons

For Black History month, we'd like to share some of our favorite African-American and other influential black women fiction authors.

Our list continues with American novelist  -- Zinzi Clemmons (Wikipedia, Amazon)

ZinziClemmons

Compared to many of our authors, Ms. Clemmons is at the beginning of her writing career. It's our opinion at Women and Fiction that writing is hard -- especially for female authors. We hope to celebrate accomplished authors as well as cheer for those who are at or near the beginning of their writing journey. 

Before we get into her biography, let's talk about Ms. Clemmons's accomplishments. While still a student at Columbia University's Graduate School, she co-founded the literary journal Apogee. She currently serves as Associate Editor at the five-time winner of the National Magazine Award finalist The Believer. She is a Contributing Editor to Literary Hub. She has been in residence at the MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and Dar al-Ma'mûn in Marrakech, Morocco.

Her debut novel, What We Lose (2017) was a finalist for the Carnegie Medal, the Aspen Words Literary Prize, California Book Award First Fiction, and the National Book Critics Circle Leonard Prize. The book was named a Best Book of the Year 2017 by VogueNPRElleEsquireBuzzfeedSan Francisco ChronicleCosmopolitanThe Huffington PostThe A.V. ClubThe RootHarper’s BazaarPaste, Bustle, Kirkus Reviews, Electric Literature, LitHub, New York Post, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Bust

Ms. Clemmons is a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree. 

The daughter of a South African mother and an American father, Ms. Clemmons grew up in Swathmore, Pennsylvania and spent the summers in South Africa. She studied critical theory at Brown University where she received her B.A. She worked with Paul Beatty while getting her M.F.A. in fiction from Columbia University. She currently teaches at Occidental College. 

It's clear that we can expect great things from Ms. Clemmons! 

Looking to read her debut novel, What We Lose? (Wikipedia, Amazon)

Whatwelose