Chat With The Author: Inspiring Readers Inspires Her to Write More

Meet Chandra Sparks Splond, a multi-published author, editor, speaker, blogger, wife and mom, advocate of reading and champion of writers. Today she shares what fuels her love of words and her passion for helping others find joy between the pages (or on reading devices and audio) as well.

In what genre do you write?  First, thank you so much for having me, Stacy. I mainly write for the young adult genre, but I have also published a few books for the middle grade and new adult markets.

What is the title of your most recent book?  My most recent release is a Christmas hfh-splondshort story called Home for the Holidays. It’s about a 15-year-old girl named London Bridges who is dealing with her parents’ divorce over the Christmas school break. She’s bummed because her mother has nixed her plans to visit her father where he now lives in Atlanta. When she finds out her brother, Landon, is going to the mall, she begs to go along—partly from boredom and partly because she has a secret crush on his best friend with whom he’s going. The day ends up unfolding in ways she can never imagine.

What is your primary goal as an author? As a writer, more than anything I want readers to be inspired by my words—whether it’s through my books, my speeches or my blog. I’m also on a mission to get people excited about reading. When I do events around the country, one constant refrain I hear is that reading is boring. I believe people who feel this way just haven’t encountered the right book. I’ve had lots of readers tell me they didn’t like reading until they read one of my books because it reflected their reality. I write the stories I didn’t see when I was growing up, about kids like me and my friends and their issues. This seems to resonate with readers.

What has been the most surprising feedback you’ve received from readers about your current book or another recent title? I think the most surprising feedback is how much a story has impacted readers. As a writer, I often wonder if my words are making a difference, so it always surprises and humbles me when someone gives me validation that they are.

What has been the most surprising aspect of your author journey? The most surprising aspect for me is the way my author journey unfolded. I’ve known that I’ve wanted to write books since I was 14 years old. It wasn’t until after I had my daughter in 2004 that I actually sat down to write a book, though. As a parent, it occurred to me one day that I couldn’t encourage my daughter to pursue her dreams if I had never pursued mine, so I challenged myself to write a book before my daughter turned a year old. I finished my first manuscript a month after her first birthday. Once I did that, I challenged myself to land a book deal before she turned two. I received the offer for my book Spin It Like That two months after her second birthday. What’s interesting is I had actually been hired to ghostwrite Spin It Like That. About halfway through writing the book, the celebrity I had been hired to write it for decided she didn’t want to do a young adult novel. My editor came to me and said, “I think we should just let you publish the book.” It was nothing but God. I was writing a book in the genre I’d always wanted to write in, and instead of waiting the normal year or so for my book to hit the shelves, it came out about six months after I received my official offer. God is just awesome like that.

How do you continue growing as a writer? I believe great writers are readers, so I read a lot—mainly via audiobooks these days. Most of the time my reading is for fun, but often it’s for professional and personal development, too. I also do a few webinars or workshops whenever I see something that interests me.

Who are two or three writers you admire or consider mentors? I consider Jacquelin Thomas, Vanessa Davis Griggs and Kimberla Lawson Roby to be mentors—and my friends. Not only are they great storytellers, but they are also Godly women. I’m blessed to have great relationships with all of them.

What else are you passionate about, i.e. if you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing? I’m blessed that my other passion is also my profession. I’ve been an editor for 25 years. I’ve worked in various aspects of publishing, including serving as a copy editor for Good Housekeeping magazine. I was also the consulting editor at Kensington Publishing for BET Books/Arabesque, the African-American romance line. I was the editor for amazing authors like Brenda Jackson, Donna Hill, Leslie Esdaile and Rochelle Alers. I signed quite a few popular romance authors like Angie Daniels, Melanie Schuster and Celeste Norfleet to their first major book deals. I also do freelance editing, and several of my clients, including the late E. Lynn Harris, have made the USA Today, Essence and New York Times bestsellers lists.

What do you like to do for fun? For fun, I love to eat, hang out with my family, craft and plan parties.

_Chandra Sparks Splond headshotChandra Sparks Splond is an editor, speaker and award-winning author and blogger. She is the owner of West End Publishing, LLC., and was the consulting editor for Arabesque romance at Kensington Publishing. She has also edited for Random House, Moody Publishers, Kimani Press, and Hyperion, as well as several New York Times, USA Today and Essence bestselling authors. She was a copy editor for Good Housekeeping, Newsday and The Morning Call, and has written for Black and Married with Kids, Brides Noir, Weddingpages, and Romantic Times.  Visit her at www.chandrasparkssplond.com or on: Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/bookofsplond; Twitter: https://twitter.com/cssplond and Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chandrasparkssplond/.

Chat with the Author: How Social Issues Fuel This Writer’s Creativity

I haven’t featured author friends in this space for a while, and I’m delighted to resume this practice for fall with one of my favorites – both for her provocative storytelling and for her work ethic as a multi-published, award-winning author.

Pamela Samuels Young and I have not had the pleasure of meeting in person (yet), and I’ll miss her next week when she visits the city where I’m based (Richmond, Virginia) to attend the James River Writers Conference.

However, she has always been supportive of my work as a writing coach, and we’ve danced in similar author circles for years. I salute her for holding down a full-time career in law while writing her books.

Today, just in time for book lovers to consider what new to read for the weekend, Pamela shares some thoughts about her writing process, her life as an author and one of her latest novels.

How many books have you written? 11 novels and one nonfiction book on natural hair.

What themes do you write about in your novels?  Most of my books – which are legal thrillers – deal with social issues. For example, I’ve written about child sex trafficking (Anybody’s Daughter), gender discrimination (Attorney-Client Privilege) and sexual harassment (In Firm Pursuit). I didn’t start my writing career intending to take on social issues. It just turned out that the issues that interested me were great backdrops for legal thrillers.

What is the tile of your most recent book?  The title of my most recent book is Abuse of Discretion.Abuse of Discretion

I learned about teen sexting during a telephone conversation with a law school classmate who is a criminal defense attorney. He was complaining about having yet another teenage client charged with possession and distribution of child pornography as a result of sexting. He explained that teens all across the country were facing pornography charges after taking naked selfies and sharing them with a boyfriend, girlfriend or classmate. I was floored when he told me that these children—some as young as 13 or 14—were not only being prosecuted, but would have to register as sex offenders if convicted. As soon as we hung up, I Googled “teen sexting” and was stunned at the massive number of prosecutions all over the country. Many news articles called teen sexting an epidemic. I immediately knew this was a topic I wanted to explore in a legal thriller and Abuse of Discretion was the result.

 

Can you tell us more about the plot? In Abuse of Discretion, Graylin Alexander is a model 14-year-old. But when his principal gets a report that he has a naked picture of a classmate on his cell phone, he soon finds himself embroiled in the criminal justice system.

What do you want readers to know by the time they reach “The End”? My main goal in writing Abuse of Discretion was to educate parents and grandparents about the teen sexting epidemic and the very serious consequences for our children—who don’t even know they’re doing something that’s against the law. After the book was released, many readers expressed shock that kids were being prosecuted for sexting.I soon realized that I also needed to educate teens. #AOD-YACoverFor that reason, I created a young adult adaptation of the book, entitled #Abuse of Discretion. Open and honest discussion with our kids and grandkids about teen sexting is the key to saving them from the devastating legal consequences of an adolescent act that they don’t even know is a crime.When a reader—be it a teen or an adult—gets to the end of  Abuse of Discretion, it’s my hope that they’ve enjoyed the mystery, but also that they’ve been educated about this epidemic.

What is your favorite writing space/location? Panera Bread

Outside of writing what do you do for fun? Work out at Orange Theory Fitness and hang out with my incredibly supportive girlfriends.

Author Pamela Samuels Young
Author Pamela Samuels Young

More about Pamela Samuels Young: Attorney  Pamela Samuels Young is the NAACP Image Award-winning author of Anybody’s Daughter. Her latest legal thrillers are Abuse of Discretion and #Abuse of Discretion(the young adult edition). She resides in her native California. Visit her at her website, PamelaSamuelsYoung.com or on Facebook.

Write Your Way Whole….These Scribes Are

I spent Saturday morning at one of my favorite places in Richmond – Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden – leading a talented group of writers through the process of refining their novel, memoir, blog and short story ideas, with the goal of helping them captivate readers.

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Stacy Hawkins Adams and her Writing @ The Garden workshop participants.

As soon as the workshop ended, I headed to the Meadowdale Library to attend the book launch celebration for my writing mentee DaNika Neblett Robinson, Ed.D., who I’ve watched blossom into authorhood over the past three years while simultaneously completing a doctoral program in leadership at VCU. (Can you say “wow” with me??)  IMG_2221Her novella is a fictional story about three pregnant teens seeking hope amid their difficult choices, and it’s a path that DaNika knows well, having herself journeyed from teen mom to Ph.D standing. You’ll find her book – A Metamorphic Journey – on Amazon.

I’m so proud of all of them and grateful to share my expertise and passion for storytelling in this way. When their works shine, my heart smiles.

Writing Their Way to Joy

May These Authors Making Moves Offer Inspiration for the Purpose You Want to Pursue

One of the participants in the writing workshop I hosted at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden yesterday shared a profound revelation that she received after attending my inaugural Writing @ The Garden seminar at Lewis Ginter two weeks ago.

While her comment gave me chills, I won’t share it verbatim, because I’m expecting it to show up in the book she’s writing. In essence, however, she challenged herself after that workshop to get off the sidelines of life and claim all the good she possibly can.

I celebrate her courage and the courage of all of you who are loosing the shackles of “Why me?” and celebrating where your “Why not me?” attitude is taking you – in particular my literary friends who are touching the lives of others with their words and deeds as they live their dreams: authorwritingcco

Congrats to Kwame Alexander for opening a library in Ghana in his mother’s honor.

Congrats to Robin Farmer for securing an important platform at the 2019 Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference.

Congrats to Sadeqa Johnson for being named National Book Club Conference Author of the Year.

Congrats to Bonnie Newman Davis for launching and leading a successful media camp for RIchmond-area teens – filling them with wisdom and ideas that will help shape their future.

Congrats to A’Lelia Bundles for landing a Netflix series for the story of her great-great grandmother Madame C.J. Walker, America’s first African American female millionaire, in the early 20th century.

And this is just in the past week and just in my writer community!

I celebrate their wins and cheer you on, too. Look around you and dance with those in your circle who deserve it. As you applaud their steps forward you’re also moving in the right direction. 😘

 

How Hip Hop Serves as a NYT Bestselling Author’s Muse

Angie Thomas’ love of Hip Hop fueled her passion for storytelling, and just like the rappers she admires have sought to perfect their art form, she has sought – and succeeded – at doing the same.

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Bestselling author Angie Thomas

Her debut novel is her evidence, and when the movie version of the book hits the big screen in October 2018, her desire to give voice and humanity to a sector of Americans who often feel they have neither is expected to reach fever pitch.

Thomas is the bestselling author of the award-winning New York Times bestselling young adult novel The Hate U Give.  In addition to reaching the No. 1 spot on the New York Times list, the book is being sold in more than 40 nations, and Thomas has traveled the globe to expound upon its themes, including the narrative that Black Lives Matter and that every child deserves to be heard and valued.

In late July 2018, several hundred residents of metro Richmond, Virginia – including teens, librarians, book club members, readers and writers of all backgrounds and ages, and me – converged onIMG_0713 the Chesterfield County Public Library‘s North Courthouse Branch to see Thomas and hear wit, wisdom and words of encouragement pour from her lips.

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Angie Thomas spoke at the Chesterfield County Public Library North Courthouse Branch

Time seemed to stand still during her 90-minute talk as she mesmerized the audience with the story – her story – of being a 6-year-old girl reading Jet magazine (which she called that era’s “Facebook for black people”) in her home and stumbling upon the picture of Emmett Till in his casket – an image her mother took time to explain in depth, leaving Thomas with the message to “know your worth, but know that not everyone values you the way I do, simply because of the color of your skin.”

She also shared her memory of being an 8-year-old enjoying the swing set in her not-so-safe neighborhood park when she heard Hip Hop lyrics for the first time, in the verses of  Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s The Message, which described the very reality of her hard-knock life. Then, there was her pivotal memory of seeing the late Tupac Shakur for the first time, in news coverage that cast him as a rebellious yet intelligent rapper. Soon after, she heard his music and his commentary, including the explanation for his THUG LIFE tattoo: The Hate U Give Little Infants F—s Everybody.  “Meaning (that) what society gives us as youth, bites (society) when we wild out,” Thomas explained during her talk.

While acknowledging the downsides of Hip Hop – its often controversial and profanity-laden lyrics and many verses that disparage females – Thomas still gave a nod to the musical genre for waking up generations of people who often feel invisible, forgotten and frustrated, and helping them (including her) find their voice.

Throughout her childhood in Jackson, Mississippi, she heard stories of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who was assassinated in his own front yard, not far from where she lived; and in 2015, as the reality of Florida teen Trayvon Martin‘s killer being acquitted of murder stunned her spirit, so did her desire to become a social justice warrior.

Rather than pick up the weapons she so despised for their role in harming people of color, she decided to model the rappers she had long revered and use her words as her sword. The Hate U Give was born as a short story for a college senior project, then grew into the novel we know today.

Thomas’ captive Chesterfield County library audience thanked her for her willingness to write a story that scared her; and one Caucasian middle school student asked for advice on how she could encourage her friends and classmates to read the book and try to understand kids who differ from them in some way.

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Angie Thomas during Q&A

Thomas told her to keep being herself – a brave “book recommender” – and serving as an ambassador for what it looks like to be accepting of others.

It’s a path that Thomas is determined to continue walking, with each new story she births and each new audience she introduces to her personal experience of being a little girl who had everything going against her until she heard herself reflected in lyrics (musical storytelling) that legitimatized her existence.

Because she believes “books can change the world,” Thomas intends to be that light for a whole new generation of young minds – whether they read her novels, watch her movie, hear her speak or encounter others who have been transformed by the messages in her words.

Her library talk was an invitation to everyone in the audience to individually and collectively become literary citizens who create meaningful paths to knowledge, understanding and connectedness.

Stacy Hawkins Adams

One Mother’s Journey: Pacing vs. Racing – Taking Time to be Kind to Yourself

By Guest Blogger C.A. Morgan

Fame isn’t my forte. But neither is obscurity.

What am I good at? Well…

As an artist, author, vocalist and Top Chef wannabe, I am quite the Renaissance woman, not to tweet my own tune. My friends will tell you: I do it all. (Thanks, friends!) But ask my family a few years back and they’d claim I was best at being Mean & Ornery & Hard to Get Along With. MOHGAW for short.

I can’t help it; it’s in my blood.

I never wanted to emulate my mother, though she is pretty sweet these days. As a stay-at-home mom of nine children who gave up her dream of becoming a nurse, Mom made MOHGAW her motto. I craved a family, but also to develop and share my own gifts with the world. Anything less seemed like a cop-out.

Once a bright-eyed collegiate turned ambitious young adult, I planned to become the next C.S. Lewis/Beatrix Potter combined. I moved east with great expectations and – blink! – somehow found myself married with four young children, struggling to not disappear under piles of dirty dishes and laundry.

While I love my kids, parenting well is demanding work. I began to understand – and resemble – my mom as I despaired ever achieving my career goals. Oh, the mom-guilt! Why couldn’t being the best possible homemaker satisfy my needs? Why must I want it all?

Still…I did, and it showed.

Deciding I could no longer wait for the perfect circumstances (there is no such thing), with our two oldest in school and portfolio, toddler and swaddled infant in hand, I met with a local author who generously agreed to mentor me. For the next several years, while trying to keep family my priority, I wrote and scrupulously edited the first book of my YA fantasy trilogy. To contribute financially, I went to work part-time teaching music at my children’s school. (How better to share that gift than by passing it on to the next generation?)

I created and donated art for charity, and kept up an illustrated parenting blog to encourage other moms while providing self-therapy. Life was fulfilling, exhausting…and totally unsustainable as we welcomed our bonus baby.

MOHGAW Momster reawakened.

Thankfully, and long before Oprah Winfrey put the sentiment into words, I had an epiphany: It really is possible to have it all, just not all at once. I was cheating everyone by trying. Pace myself and I might actually enjoy the life I already had, while creating the one I dreamed of.

Granting that permission to slow down was the kindest thing I’ve ever done – for myself and everyone around me. Skip ahead: Thirteen years since penning that first novel – the year after my firstborn graduated high school – it was published. Two more children left for college, and I gave birth to two more volumes. More are coming, all in good time.

And I’m not so MOHGAW anymore. Just ask my family.

Author C.A. Morgan

C.A. Morgan, author of Emrysia: The Three Sisters Trilogy (Emrysia Awakening, Lament & Endurance) is a lifelong learner and champion dream chaser who loves to encourage others to contribute what only they may to the world. From northern Michigan to remote mountainside in Vermont’s northeast kingdom, she is equally at home on stage or in her garden, and is currently sharing the gift of music in a hospice choir, and completing illustrations for her children’s book on the fears associated with diagnostic testing. She and husband, Roger, are enjoying a quieter house these days, raising their belated blessing with occasional unsolicited advice from her adult siblings. To learn more visit her online at: www.camorganwrites.com, facebook.com/reademrysia, and twitter@camorganwrites.

Video Viewpoint: How Storytelling Helps You Grow

Whether personally or professionally, may this brief video inspire you to write a vision, life strategy, book, blog post, journal entry or essay about your experiences and set a new resolve to thrive.