The BackList

This is a retired blog. For the new and improved BackList blog, please visit!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Coretta Scott King

Just when I talked about losing too many cultural figures, Coretta Scott King has passed at age 78. I admire her so much for her strength, wisdom, and service.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Nellie McKay

I was saddened to hear about the passing of Nellie McKay, best known for co-editing the Norton Anthology of African American literature with Henry Louis Gates. That book has been an incredible resource for me.

Is it me, or have we seen the passing of too many cultural figures lately?

Vibe and Haki Madhubuti

So after reading YellowBlack, Haki Madhubuti's memoir, I couldn't believe how what he went through and how he turned to the arts as a saving grace, resonated with so many of young folks today, many of whom turn to hip-hop.

So I wrote a review of the book for Vibe's website, in attempt to show the similarities between Haki Madhubuti and hip-hop.

If you haven't read it, you're missing out.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

winfrey vs. frey/talese/randomhouse

Well I haven't chimed in on the Frey fiasco because, um well I didn't really feel the need. But then I thought, how can I say I have a blog about publishing and not address this?

At work today, a few of us tuned in to Oprah and watched the showdown. It was good tv that's for sure. Oprah was hot!

Here's what I took from it. Frey really isn't the sharpest tool in the shed. Facing Oprah and her "queendom" he looked defeated, confused, still in denial and quite frankly, like he wanted a drink. Talk about pressure.

Nan Talese, you know I felt a little sympathy for her, but then you hear things like they were trying to decide initially whether to publish as fiction or memoir and I am like, are you kidding?

My first stance was publishers shouldn't have to fact check memoirs. It is just too much. But in thinking about this more, I guess someone has to be held accountable and perhaps it is publishers. Then of course there is the understanding that memoirs employ fiction techniques, and memory can be cloudy, etc. you get it.

i haven't read the book, so i can't comment on plausibility. But i think that Frey has raised an issue that publishers should probably think about more--especially when trying to cater to a society that thrives on sensationalism. But for right now, sales of A Million Little Pieces keep rolling in. Do we really value truth? Maybe a good story is all we need.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Free Digital issues of Mosaic Magazine

You can download free back issues of Mosaic Literary Magazine!!! Despite the appeal of free, Mosaic is a thought-provoking journal with some really cutting-edge content. Yall know I’m downloading all of them.

While you are there, purchase a subscription!

Monday, January 23, 2006

publishers blogging

so i may be late with this, but it seems more and more publishers are beginning to setup blogs. But these blogs are blatant book advertisements, they have some personality and offer some human interaction, giving you a face behind the people that produce some of your favorite books.

Check out news blog.

I know there are others, holla.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Magazines ain't no better

The New York Observer published an article about the lack of diversity (mainly black folks) in magazine publishing. Sad, sad.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Cool partnership

Great news: One of my favorite websites (and one of the first places I was ever published) for cutting-edge writing pairs with a funky, Brooklyn-based indie publisher. This is very cool.

From PW:In a partnership between a highly-trafficked pop culture Web site and an indie publisher, PopMatters has signed with Soft Skull Press to create PopMatters Books. The new imprint will bring the site's essays, reviews and other ruminations on pop culture into traditional print form. It will launch in this spring, although no decision has been reached on how many PopMatters titles Soft Skull will publish and on what kind of schedule.
PopMatters, which boasts over ten million page views per month, features the work of academics, journalists and book authors and is known for its arts journalism. Hoping to "broaden [the site's] readership and extend its brand" with the imprint, PopMatters founder and publisher Sarah Zupko said the deal marks both a "natural" and "exciting" progression for the site.

Black Issues Book Review

The Jan/Feb. issue of Black Issues Book Review has a wonderful roundup of blacks working publishing. And while it is great to see such a feature, you realize how few of us are in the industry. It shows that we still have alot of work to do in helping to diversify this VITAL cultural business.

The editors did a good job of including as many people as possible. There were some people that I didn't even know about. Here are some, many in the trenches that I saw missing (just putting first names to respect folks privacy):

Christine, Winfrida, Michelle, Chrisynthia, Crystal, Krishan, Lori, Adaobi, Althea, Ayesha, D. Kamili, Jill & Jocelyn, Patrick, Zanaib, Zenya.

I did notice that there weren't any marketing folks! Hmm then again, besides myself, I only know of two other Blacks working in a marketing capacity in trade publishing. Geez.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Riding Dirty on 1-95

That's the title of Nikki Turner's new book. I read a galley and I enjoyed it (yes even after Nick Chiles scathing indictment.) I hadn't read any of her stuff because, well quite frankly the othter street lit books that I did read/tried to read were too much/not enough for me. Have we had this conversaation before?

Not this one. It's being published by One World and Melody Guy may have put her magical editing touch on it. Turner is telling a great story here--that isn't thrown together sloppily. It's about a young girl that gets caught up in the streets (I sound like my mother), although that may be over done (think Winter Santiago), it is done well here. Mercy, the main character is pretty three-dimensional and you become invested in her and her pressured environment, but she rises...Of course there are some mentalities in the book that make you cringe --like the goldigging best friend, the murderous boyfriend, etc but Turner reminds us that it's real in the field.

It's like a Ghostface Killah (one of my favorites) track, grimey but smart. What a combination! Just because it's street don't mean it has to be sloppy (you can add that to my street lit rant a few days ago.)

My profile of Carl Weber

If you're quick, you can read my profile of Carl Weber in Publisher's Weekly. Not sure how long the link will work. I think it came out pretty great thanks to the wonderful editors the magazine has!
People shouldn't underestimate him, he is doing some big things.


Well AOL BlackVoices has announced that they have relaunched their book section. It is located under the Entertainment section (which is where it should be). Right now for features they have Star Jones and Michael Eric Dyson (they are just relaunching so let’s give them some time). They have an interview with Paul Beatty about his new anthology on black comedy, so that’s pretty cool.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed…

Thursday, January 05, 2006

DTC (direct-to-consumer)

I love to see these types of initiatives in publishing. There needs to be more direct connections with and readers, publishing has TOO many middleman.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from this USA Today Article:

“The call-ins also extend the author's reach. Most book tours only hit major metropolitan areas, but the fan base goes far beyond those boundaries.”
"This is a perfect way to connect with more readers," Searles says. "Gone are the days when a publisher could take out an ad, count on a few reviews and have an author do a couple of signings. Nowadays, readers want to feel a connection with an author."

How does he do it?

People have various opinions on Michael Eric Dyson. I've only read one of his books, aptly titled, Why I love Black Women. But geez he knows how to throw himself into a debate, usually by releasing a book at the right time. His new one book is called Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster is one sale 1/20/06. You can read the description here, but here's a snippet:

"He explores the legacy of black suffering in America since slavery and ties its psychic scars to today’s crisis. And, finally, his critique of the way black people are framed in the national consciousness will shock and surprise even the most politically savvy reader. With this clarion call Dyson warns us that we can only find redemption as a society if we acknowledge that Katrina was more than an engineering or emergency response failure. From the TV newsroom to the Capitol Building to the backyard, we must change the way we relate to the black and the poor among us. What’s at stake is no less than the future of democracy."


Has anyone read UPSTATE by Kalisha Buckhanon? Wow. It was incredibly. It’s extremely difficult to pull off the epistolatory format without it beginning to feel tedious and she does an amazing job with it. She seemed to make every word count and evoke such emotion and desperation and intensity. All the way around, the book was done very, very well.

She was mentored by Sapphire and I definitely thought about PUSH when reading it. Both books tell these heart-wrenching but real stories through a unique, creative ingenuity.

Don't you just love a good book?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Their Eyes Were Reading Smut

Nick Chiles has written a scathing indictment (okay a little sensational on my part) on Street Lit in the NYT. Boy is he angry.

I don’t have the energy to launch into my own rant about how I feel about street lit, personally I’m a little tired of talking about it. Street lit ain’t my thing.

But perhaps I can muster a little energy....I wish people would pay more attention to craft. As someone who doesn’t consider herself a full-blown writer but trying to write a book, you got to respect the fact that writing is an art form not to be taking lightly, remember the days when you didn’t dare step to the mic if you rhyming skills weren’t up to par? I wish that street lit was an intro, not a stopping point, into the myriad of literature available. I wish there wasn’t so much division. I wish they would stop calling it hip hop literature. I wish the media wasn’t giving so much attention to the same old stories (yes we know who Vicki Stringer is, and I personally respect her hustle, but her books just ain’t my thing), if I read another piece about the “Phenomenon sweeping the Black community”, AGHHHH.

I’m done for now. More later. Maybe.

Check out Danyel Smith's rant on the same subject.