I'm staying in DC to help care for an ailing father, and my mother in law who's up here from Florida for spinal surgery. But you didn't think I'd hold back on the commentary, did you, fanboys? My dad and mother in law spend their downtime reading this blog, among other things, so I'll keep it upbeat!
Here's something to note as you read the links: The subtle contrast between Martha Southgate's observation and that of poet/performer (and I guess, my fellow Yardie on my dad's side) Stacyann Chin. Yes, Center for Black Literature Director Brenda Greene's National Black Writer's Conference will bring together almost 2000 people--many of them nascent authors and artists, or established ones looking for a new groove. "Royalty" (blog-provocateur-speak) like Toni Morrison, Darker Mask (buy it for Kindle, folks!) contributors Walter Mosely and Victor Lavalle, Miracle at St Anna author James McBride, Berniece McFadden, Amiri Baraka et al will descend on Medgar Evers College in the resurgent , robust (and gentrified--and there's some interesting counterpoint for yo' ass) borough of Brooklyn to lead panels and colloquy with, hopefully, the few black representatives of a reeling publishing industry. Read about it here in the New York Times (and check Martha's comment).
Very good piece; wonderful description of the essence of this annual conference. Okay, here's Stacyann's comment, from the New York Post: “Often book festivals and conferences tend to be an inside crowd, but here you can get real people and not just fellow writers that tend to be a little more cynical and sometimes jealous,” said Brooklyn-based poet and novelist Staceyann Chin. “This conference gets real people from the neighborhood.”
As I said, subtle contrasts. As for the cynicism, I think Stacyann's a little pie in the sky. I'm sure it will be there. Street lit and general Tyler Perry-ism enriched a few folk, gave opportunities to many to call themselves published writers. But now, like subprime mortgages and derivatives, the inflated gravy train has derailed (my colleagues would jack me up for ham-fisted joint simile-metaphor but hey...). The Medgar Evers even has always pulled writers in a more literary rather than pop orbit, but they...we?...are feeling the pinch...amputation?...as well. Recycling into script writing or graphic novels is not the answer for many, and I wonder, like Martha, what will be the take-away besides bitching about the same ole same ole, clawing for relevance. Before, this year, it was about relevance in the face of black chick lit, ghettofiction and the Real Housewives of Atlanta. Now, we're competing with "2012"-like cracking and shifting of culture, politics and commerce generally.
Yet it seems the undercurrent, T-minus-48 hours to go, is, well, hopeful. I salute fellow authors, be they coddled or ignored, even as the loam and clay crumbles from under our cultural heritage, and our future. Maybe we're the answer to keeping things together. That's what my proud dad, and my beaming mother in law say, at least...