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.

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. 😘

 

Writing from and for the Journey

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

I haven’t turned on my creative fiction juices in a while, because although I absolutely love manufacturing interesting characters and breathing life into them, I also have a deep love for nonfiction writing. Over the past year or so, I’ve focused my attention there.

I recently entered my 10th year of penning a parenting column for a daily newspaper in Richmond, Virginia; I launched this inspirational blog a few moths ago, and I occasionally write commentary for the Huffington Post.

Beyond those outlets, my “day job” of serving as Director of Communications for a private school in my community affords me an opportunity to do all kinds of writing – from marketing and advertising copy to social media posts to letters and other messaging that share the “how” and “why” of this school and its mission to produce service-minded leaders who make a difference locally and around the globe. All of this excites me.

And yet….the ideas for a new novel still rise to the surface every now and then, teasing me to consider what my 11th book could and should be. I’m not sure yet when that one will be birthed, but I already have a list of character names, a few potential plot ideas and even a tentative title.

I’m not ready to start writing the first draft because the ideas are still “baking.” I’ll know when the plot is just firm enough to put pen to paper, and then move those handwritten notes to my computer.

In the meantime, I’m doing my writer’s “homework”: Leaning into the gifts and opportunities that come with daily life, enjoying special moments with family and friends, overhearing compelling conversations or intriguing names that might make their way into my story, and taking in the scenery, sights and sounds around me, so that when I need these things most, they are a finger tap away in the notes section of my iPhone, or stored in my mental image bank.

I recently had the pleasure of joining an award-winning children’s author for dinner, and during our conversation, Newberry Medal winner Rita Williams-Garcia announced that she no longer writes under deadline. When the manuscript is ready – however long that may take – she intuitively knows, and she only writes The End at that point.

While many of us scribes may not have that luxury – or be disciplined enough to know the difference between being stuck and accepting that the project is substantive enough to move forward – learning about her method left me thinking that more of us should find the courage (or be extended opportunities) to give our words, ideas and stories the space to grow and mushroom into something fantastically wonderful.

If and when you can, I encourage my fellow writers to let your story marinate; let the words come on their own; let the characters show you who they are in their own time.

Because I’m not on deadline or under contract with a publisher at the moment, this is exactly what I’m doing. I’m also reading some great fiction, and books about the art of writing, along the way.

It’s an unsettling experience in some ways – especially when my readers say they’re ready for another book-  and I hate to keep readers waiting. Yet, in another way, it’s freeing, because I’m allowing the writer journey to unfold before me.

I’m confident that when my new characters are ready to meet the world, they’ll let me know. When they start nudging, I won’t be able to get them out of my head unless I tell their stories! Lol

Until then, I hope you’ll continue reading my current novels, the few fictional short stories I’ll be penning soon, and also my body of nonfiction writing. The mission of all of my work is to enlighten, uplift and inspire. I hope my fictional characters and my intriguing true-to-life subjects do just that for you.

Note: This essay was originally published on the Black Christian Reads blog, in July 2017.