Happy Birthday, Gwendolyn Brooks #Author #Poet


Gwendolyn Brooks


Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks (June 7, 1917 – December 3, 2000) was an American poet, author, and teacher. Her work often dealt with the personal celebrations and struggles of ordinary people in her community. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry on May 1, 1950, for Annie Allen making her the first African-American to receive the Pulitzer.

Throughout her prolific writing career, Brooks received many more honors. She was appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968, a position held until her death, and what is now the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress for the 1985–86 term. In 1976, she became the first African-American woman inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

 

From Wikipedia

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Happy Birthday, Honoré de Balzac!

de Balzac

 

Honoré de Balzac (born Honoré Balzac, 20 May 1799 – 18 August 1850) was a French author/novelist and playwright. The novel sequence La Comédie Humaine, which presents a panorama of post-Napoleonic French life, is generally viewed as his magnum opus.

Owing to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature. He is renowned for his multi-faceted characters; even his lesser characters are complex, morally ambiguous and fully human. Inanimate objects are imbued with character as well; the city of Paris, a backdrop for much of his writing, takes on many human qualities. His writing influenced many famous writers, including the novelists Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Gustave Flaubert, Jack Kerouac, and Henry James.

 

 

From Google/Wikipedia

Happy Birthday, Lorraine Hansberry!


 

Lorraine Hansberry

Image from Pinterest


Lorraine Hansberry was born at Provident Hospital on the South Side of Chicago on May 19, 1930. She was the youngest of Nannie Perry Hansberry and Carl Augustus Hansberry’s four children. Her father founded Lake Street Bank, one of the first banks for blacks in Chicago, and ran a successful real estate business. Her uncle was William Leo Hansberry, a scholar of African studies at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Many prominent African-American social and political leaders visited the Hansberry household during Lorraine’s childhood including sociology professor W.E.B. DuBois, poet Langston Hughes, actor and political activist Paul Robeson, musician Duke Ellington and Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens.

Lorraine Hansberry photoDespite their middle-class status, the Hansberrys were subject to segregation. When she was 8 years old, Hansberry’s family deliberately attempted to move into a restricted neighborhood. Restrictive covenants, in which white property owners agreed not to sell to blacks, created a ghetto known as the “Black Belt” on Chicago’s South Side. Carl Hansberry, with the help of Harry H. Pace, president of the Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company and several white realtors, secretly bought property at 413 E. 60th Street and 6140 S. Rhodes Avenue. The Hansberrys moved into the house on Rhodes Avenue in May 1937. The family was threatened by a white mob, which threw a brick through a window, narrowly missing Lorraine. The Supreme Court of Illinois upheld the legality of the restrictive covenant and forced the family to leave the house. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision on a legal technicality. The result was the opening of 30 blocks of South Side Chicago to African Americans. Although the case did not argue that racially restrict covenants were unlawful, it marked the beginning of their end.

Hansberry Decision

Image from Chicago Public Library

Lorraine graduated from Englewood High School in Chicago, where she first became interested in theater. She enrolled in the University of Wisconsin but left before completing her degree. After studying painting in Chicago and Mexico, Hansberry moved to New York in 1950 to begin her career as a writer. She wrote for Paul Robeson’s Freedom, a progressive publication, which put her in contact with other literary and political mentors such as W.E.B. DuBois and Freedom editor Louis Burnham. During a protest against racial discrimination at New York University, she met Robert Nemiroff, a Jewish writer who shared her political views. They married on June 20, 1953, at the Hansberrys’ home in Chicago.

In 1956, her husband and Burt D’Lugoff wrote the hit song, “Cindy, Oh Cindy.” Its profits allowed Hansberry to quit working and devote herself to writing. She then began a play she called The Crystal Stair, from Langston Hughes’ poem “Mother to Son.” She later retitled it A Raisin in the Sun from Hughes’ poem, “Harlem: A Dream Deferred.”

A Raisin in the Sun playbillIn A Raisin in the Sun, the first play written by an African-American to be produced on Broadway, she drew upon the lives of the working-class black people who rented from her father and who went to school with her on Chicago’s South Side. She also used members of her family as inspiration for her characters. Hansberry noted similarities between Nannie Hansberry and Mama Younger and between Carl Hansberry and Big Walter. Walter Lee, Jr. and Ruth are composites of Hansberry’s brothers, their wives, and her sister, Mamie. In an interview, Hansberry laughingly said, “Beneatha is me, eight years ago.”

Her second play, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, about a Jewish intellectual, ran on Broadway for 101 performances. It received mixed reviews. Her friends rallied to keep the play running. It closed on January 12, 1965, the day Hansberry died of cancer at age 35.

Although Hansberry and Nemiroff divorced before her death, he remained dedicated to her work. As literary executor, he edited and published her three unfinished plays: Les Blancs, The Drinking Gourd and What Use Are Flowers? He also collected Hansberry’s unpublished writings, speeches, and journal entries and presented them in the autobiographical montage To Be Young, Gifted and Black. The title is taken from a speech given by Hansberry in May 1964 to winners of a United Negro Fund writing competition: “…though it be thrilling and marvelous thing to be merely young and gifted in such times, it is doubly so, doubly dynamic, to be young, gifted and black!

Young, Gifted, and Black

From Chicago Public Library

 

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Happy Birthday, L. Frank Baum! #WizardOfOz

Lyman Frank Baum

Lyman Frank Baum (May 15, 1856 – May 6, 1919), better known by his pen name L. Frank Baum, was an American author chiefly known for his children’s books, particularly The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He wrote thirteen novel sequels, nine other fantasy novels, and a host of other works (55 novels in total, plus four “lost works”, 83 short stories, over 200 poems, an unknown number of scripts, and many miscellaneous writings), and made numerous attempts to bring his works to the stage and screen. His works anticipated such century-later commonplaces as television, augmented reality, laptop computers (The Master Key), wireless telephones (Tik-Tok of Oz), women in high risk, action-heavy occupations (Mary Louise in the Country), and the ubiquity of advertising on clothing (Aunt Jane’s Nieces at Work).

 

 

 

Image by George Steckel – Los Angeles Times photographic archive, UCLA Library, Public Domain
Info compiled from Wikipedia and Google.

Updates – “Best Interest, Book 2”, “For Worse”, “Free”


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Free, A Novella

Begun last spring, this was ONLY supposed to be a three-part short story. Of course, that seems like a lifetime ago as I stare at chapter TEN!

Feedback has been very generous. I’ve received requests to publish it and/or extend it into a longer story.

While I considered publishing Free, I said ‘no’ to extending it into a longer read. I’m a character-driven writer and do not possess the super powers needed to script the usual suspects into the required scenarios.

Of course, that was before Lenore Porter and her cast of characters got wind of possibly getting their own book – and they haven’t shut up since. To avoid a free-for-all with Free, yes…there will be a full-length novel.

I will tie up the posted installments in 1-3 more posts, but not everything posted here will make it into the book. I’m in negotiations with Lenore. She’s tough. We’ll see.


For Worse

The first re-write of my 2016  NaNoWriMo project is complete. Quinn Landon and I are not getting along. In an effort to allow Quinn to tell her story in her words, she’s gone from a fierce, no-nonsense, taking-my-life-back woman to a whiny, needy, typical romance novel heroine.

That is not going to work for me.

I’m going to give her a little time – not much though. She’s holding up progress. But, enough to reform and redeem herself. It would be a real shame if a lesser character stepped up to tell Quinn’s story…because Quinn met her end in a tragic library accident. Books are heavy.

Stay tuned.


As a member of the Writing Cooperative, I’m taking part in the 52-Week Writing Challenge. Character profiles and plot developments are my focus for a YEAR.  Fifty-two times. What was I thinking?

As we roll into week eight of the challenge, you can find my weekly submissions also posted right here on my author page. Look in the pages.


In the Best Interest of the Child, Book 2 – Family Matters

I’m looking forward to getting book 2 out because the second half of Olivia Chandler’s story is one wild ride! Look for the cover reveal in early March!

In book 1, Olivia faced down her emotional demons, kept a family together, and opened her heart.

Now Olivia’s heart…and soul will be challenged…to repair her own family.

Of course, anything that includes Bruce Bellamy doesn’t travel a perfect path. Here is a small teaser to show…some things never change!

Excerpt from In the Best Interest of the Child, Book 2 – Family Matters

Unedited and subject to change.

She’d lost her mind.

That was the only answer. Why else would she allow Bruce Bellamy to choose their Halloween costumes? She should have gone with her ‘usual’ – Raggedy Anne or a nun.

Giving the white blond wig one last twist, Olivia ran her brush through the ends, then stood back for a good look at herself in the full-length mirror.

The black leather hugged her generous breasts and ample hips. Olivia’s matching spiked-heel boots were surprisingly comfortable and looked great on her legs.

The costume fit perfectly.

How did Bruce know her size? He’d never asked her – he just knew. Olivia smiled at her reflection. What was she going to do with that man?

Her makeup was flawless, considering the extra hour Olivia had taken to create the perfect smoky eye effect.

But the wig…

For a brief second, Olivia considered removing the wig, and just wearing her hair down. The idea vanished as quickly as it formed. She didn’t want to disappoint Bellamy.

He’d been so excited and pleased when she invited him to attend Marty’s Halloween party with her. Even though his cousins, Courtney and Marissa were having a family party the same evening, Bruce had quickly accepted. He talked Olivia into attending both parties and spending a couple of hours at each. A quick glance at the clock showed Bruce should be arriving any minute.

Taking in the wig one last time, Olivia smirked, grabbed her phone and keys, and headed for the living room.

Stopping at the hall closet to retrieve her coat, Olivia heard the chimes of her doorbell and smiled. She could set her watch by Bruce Bellamy. Heels clicking against the marble-tile floors, Olivia schooled her features before opening the front door.

Her inspection began at his feet, observing all the details of his costume. Heavy black leather boots under black leather pants. Black t-shirt stretched across his broad chest, under a waist-cut, black leather jacket.

Returning to his eyes, Olivia saw that Bruce had given her the once-over too. She smirked.

“Wolverine.”

Bruce clenched his hands into tight fists and flexible, aluminum claws sprang from the backside of his fingerless gloves. He nodded as his smirk matched Olivia’s.

“Storm.”

Logo

Quotable! – Malcolm X


Malcolm X

Malcolm X, (1925-1965) born Malcolm Little and later also known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, was an African-American Muslim minister and human rights activist. Image from The Source


“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.”

 

“You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.”

 

“If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.”

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Quotable! – Langston Hughes 1902-1967


Langston Hughes

James Mercer Langston Hughes – an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry. Image from NYDailynews.


“I swear to the Lord I still can’t see why Democracy means Everybody but me.”

 “An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose.”

 “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”

 “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?… Or does it explode?”

 “I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”

Quotable! – W.E.B. Du Bois


WEB Du Bois

William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) Du Bois  (1868-1963) sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, editor, and author. Image from AAIHS.


“A little less complaint and whining, and a little more dogged work and manly striving, would do us more credit than a thousand civil rights bills.”

 

“The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.”

 

“To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.”

Quotable – Ernest J. Gaines


Ernest Gaines

Ernest Gaines, author of A Lesson Before Dying, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, and A Gathering of Old Men. Image from Google


“I want you to show them the difference between what they think you are and what you can be.”

 

“Nietzsche said without music, life would be a mistake. To me, without books, life would be a mistake.”

 

“I believe that the writer should tell a story. I believe in plot. I believe in creating characters and suspense.”