What types of subjects do you like to write about?
I like to write stories and books that make people think. I like to challenge expectations. My background is in business journalism which surprises most people who think I write about social issues. But economic issues are all around us if we take the time to look, there is always a money angle. I have spent my career doing stories that are unexpected—bringing the money angle to mainstream audiences or bringing mainstream issues to money folk. The key is breaking issues down to their essence and speaking a language that anyone can understand. That is how you inspire new thinking.
Can you speak at my conference, event, or school?
Sure. That is what I do: journalist, author, speaker. Please contact Tony Colao at Master Media Speakers Bureau at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800.453.2287 and he can work out the details.
What about my book club?
Skype!! It makes anything possible. Non-fiction books can be ripe for book club discussion. It is why in the paperback addition of Ghettonation I included a Readers Guide. Impolite Conversations is intended to, well, start conversation and I always envisioned book clubs having a blast delving into some of the issues it tries to tackle. If you would like me speak to your book club please send an email to email@example.com and put Book Club in the subject line to set up a a Skype visit. Please also include how many members the club has and the timeframe you hope to discuss the book.
There are hints of your life in all your books, especially Ghettonation and Impolite Conversations. Tell us more….
I am a New Yorker. I grew up in a tenement walk-up building in lower Manhattan before the area got gentrified and became the go-to night spot for hip young folks. My family all still lives in New York City. I met my co-author for Impolite Conversations, John L. Jackson Jr., when we were sophomores in high school at Brooklyn Tech. I was a big geek in high school so went to Yale for college with dreams of becoming a journalist and writing books. After college I went to grad school for journalism at Columbia University. I started my career working in newspapers before switching to magazine writing. I spent about a decade on staff at Fortune magazine before I left to freelance so I could write books fulltime. I now live in Brooklyn with my husband (who I met at college during freshman orientation) and our two young kids. And I am lucky to be able call myself a journalist and write books.
Has motherhood changed you as a writer?
Definitely. Being a mother makes me more aware of the consequences of events and issues because I’m constantly thinking of tomorrow’s world. I am always thinking as a parent even if I don’t mean to. I can’t help it—it is who I am now, just as much as I am a woman, Black, New Yorker. Motherhood has also made me bolder. You have so little time as a parent that you value time more and don’t waste it. Holding back is the biggest waste of time.
Where do you get the ideas for your books?
Often times when I’m writing one book my mind wonders to what will I be doing next. Impolite Conversations was my first book after having my kids. My thinking and lifestyle had totally changed since writing Ghettonation, which I wrote when I was pregnant with my first child or Black Power Inc. where I was still working at Fortune and so only could write my books on the weekends. My kids actually were the inspiration for Impolite Conversations. I felt listening to them in the back seat of the car their conversations were so unguarded and candid. Kids never try to be polite until we force them to, instead they say what is natural. I wanted to capture that spontaneity and apply it to grownup issues. I decided to try and tackle these issues through essays after I was on a panel discussing James Baldwin. To prepare instead of re-reading his fiction, which I was already familiar, I read some of his essays. Of course, he’s a master writer and thinker, but it got me thinking how essays used to be part of our discourse, that is how we hammered out ideas and inspired debate. Now we have Twitter. So we obviously still have a desire to talk it out, probably more than ever, but missing is the depth of our discussions.
I’m always mulling over a new book. Check back again when I’m ready to share and follow me on twitter for updates. In the meantime I am busy with Impolite Conversations the web-series. The first season is complete and we are eager to start a 2nd season, which will be more topical and more interview based. If you have ideas for guests or topics to discuss, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org subject line SERIES. I do have an idea about an Impolite Conversations parenting series or workshops that would discuss how to talk to kids about the news and sensitive issues. Thoughts? Let me know.