30 November 2011

New Listen: The Roots, 'undun' - a life on the streets

This album .... beyond words ... it will move you in every way. Period.

Featured on NPR:http://www.npr.org/2011/11/28/142873013/first-listen-the-roots-undun

The Roots
Album drops December 6, 2011. It is a must-have to any library collection (I know it's ranked explicit - still order it, I say), and to everyone's personal music collection.

(I actually used to do this as a kid growing up in the ghetto. - Vanessa Irvin Morris)


Reviews for 'undun':

Billboard: "The Roots Go Concept On New Album 'undun'" by Keith Murphy at:
http://www.billboard.com/column/the-juice/the-roots-go-concept-on-new-album-undun-1005571552.story#/column/the-juice/the-roots-go-concept-on-new-album-undun-1005571552.story

HipHopDX: "The Roots Release Full Album Stream of 'undun'" by Steven J. Horowitz at:
http://www.hiphopdx.com/index/news/id.17262/title.the-roots-release-full-album-stream-of-undun

Glide Magazine: "The Roots - undun" by Nick Gunther at:
http://www.glidemagazine.com/articles/57886/the-roots.html#com

For more on The Roots:

Website: http://theroots.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheRoots

MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/theroots

Twitter: @questlove | @theroots | #undun

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Roots

27 November 2011

Video: Behind Those Books (Trailer)





OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS FROM URBAN BOOKSOURCE YOUTUBE CHANNEL:

From: urbanbooksource  | Jan 24, 2011
The first and only comprehensive documentation, on film, of the urban literature genre, giving viewers a raw and uncut look inside the emerging industry. Behind the Books chronicles the evolution of Street Fiction through interviews with pioneer authors, industry insiders, fans, activists, Hip-Hop artists, book clubs, editors, literary agents, vendors and the like.

Featuring: Terry McMillan, Zane, Nikki Turner, K'wan, Omar Tyree, Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, Nick Chiles, Kevin Powell, Teri Woods, Vickie Stringer, Anthony Whyte, Treasure E. Blue, J.M. Benjamin, Randy "Ski" Thompson, Azarel, KaShamba Williams, Queen Pen, Brandon McCalla, Brandi Bowles, Momowilly and many more.

Written & Produced by: Kaven Brown
Associate Producer: Franchesca Ho Sang
Edited & Directed by: Mills Miller

http://www.behindthosebooksmovie.com

25 November 2011

"Street Fiction & Inner-City Literacy" | November 30, 2011

Greetings!

You are cordially invited to attend and participate in a book discussion forum entitled, "Reading and the Hood: Street Fiction and Inner City Literacy," where we will be discussing my newly released book, The Readers Advisory Guide to Street LiteratureAll the details are below. If you are local to Philadelphia, would love to see you there!
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Vivant Art Collection | 60 N. 2nd Street - Gallery Row | Phila, PA

PROGRAM: "Reading and the Hood: Street Fiction and Inner City Literacy"

DATE/TIME: Wednesday, November 30, 2011,  5:30pm - 9:00pm

LOCATION: Vivant Art Collection, 60 North 2nd Street, Gallery Row in Olde City (down the street from The Painted Bride)

REFRESHMENTS: Wine and hors d'oeuvres reception 5:30pm - 6:30pm 

SPEAKERS: CHRISTINA ROSE DUBB of The Philly Spells Writing Lab, CHAD DION LASSITER of Black Men at UPenn, TERI WOODS, NYT Bestselling author and author of foreword to The Readers Advisory Guide to Street Literature, and VANESSA IRVIN MORRIS, author, The Readers Advisory Guide to Street Literature

BOOKS: There will be a few copies of The Readers Advisory Guide to Street Literature for sale and signing; if you have your book, bring it and get it signed!

FREE: This is a free event. On-street parking is free in Olde & Center City on Wednesday nights.

**This program is sponsored by the following organizations: Philadelphia Renaissance Project, Philly Spells Writing Lab, Black Men at UPenn and Vivant Art Collection. For further information, contact, CARL DASH of the Philadelphia Renaissance Project at: carl_dash@yahoo.com or "Carl Dash" on Facebook.


Thank you for your support and see you there!

22 November 2011

The Streets as The Stage for Revolution

I watched and read the news this morning and thought about how powerful the streets are in inscribing society's shifts and movements in history - every street, every where... These are the stories that become archived as newspaper stories, chapters in history texts, subjects of memoirs, and plots for novels.

These stories then inform the world; as in this newsclip (below) that talks about how Egyptian men are taking lead from the historic U.S. Million Man March of 1995, to stage their own Million Man March for revolution in their country, today.  The bottom video shows American young adults standing for justice at University of California - Davis (UC-Davis), even while tolerating civil rights abuses by those in power, just 3 days ago. We are living in powerful times, where the streets are screamin' - there is so much going on - everywhere. It's as if the entire world is standing up at the same time. 

The streets are always talkin', inscribin', and signifyin' our human experience, because we, the people, are the headliners upon the stage of the streets. We write our stories as we live them.


Tahrir, Egypt: A call for "Million Man March"
November 22, 2011

Davis, CA, USA: Students being pepper-sprayed
at college campus protest
November 18, 2011

Mark Naison, Ph.D. said it best: "There is a definite connection between street literature and the movements curently taking place all over the world led by young people. Street literature was the improbable expression of people the society had locked away and locked out, in prisons and ghettoes, which forced its way into a world of book publishing that had written off the audience street lit was reaching. The Occupy movements were equally unexpected and equally impertinent. Both were movements of party crashers!" - Facebook, 07:01 a.m. EDT, 11/22/11.

14 November 2011

Street Lit and Sci Fi: Fantastic Voyages in the Hood

Hi everybody!

Well, at long last, I have finally gotten around to posting this topic - a topic I promised a few months ago.

Believe it or not, there are quite a few wonderful novels that feature science fiction elements, that are set in the hood...or, vice-versa, science fiction stories that feature street lit elements, as in - the stories are location-specific, set in the hood. I wrote not too long ago (forget where though) that just like in every other community in the world, everything happens in the hood, including science fiction-y type things, fantasy, horror, mystery, all genres. We can find stories within all literary genres that are set in the hood. 

For this post, I'd like to feature a few of my favorite titles from the science fiction and speculative fiction genres that have settings in the hood. There's also a couple of contemporary novels penned by up-and-coming authors that are decidedly street lit AND decidedly science fiction. Keep reading ...!
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A few years ago, I remembered that one of my favorites novels ever, Mind of My Mind ([1977] 1994) penned by my favorite author, Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006, may she rest in peace), had a primary setting in the hood. Mind of My Mind is book #2 of Butler's esteemed Patternist series.


In Mind of My Mind, the protagonist, Mary, is an extremely powerful telepath who lives in a seedy ghetto in California. Her mother is a failed-mutant experiment, who falls to drugs and prostitution as a means of coping with supernatural gifts that are too much for her to manage. Mary is a stronger entity, and is able to galvanize the best-of-the-best young telepaths from all over the world to her, for the purpose of defeating their mutual father and enemy, the elusive, all-powerful immortal, Doro. This novel, is really the sequel to Butler's awesome tale, Wild Seed (1980) where we are introduced to Doro and Anyanwu, his immortal counterpart. Both Doro and Anyanwu reappear in Mind of My Mind: Doro is Mary's father, Anyanwu is Mary's grandmother.

To my knowledge this is the only novel where inner-city living is a backdrop for an Octavia Butler story, although some of her stories are city-based dystopias, and in that vein, if you think about it, the fictionalized inner-city setting can also be regarded as a kind of dystopia.
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The next novel I'd like to share is Nalo Hopkinson's debut wonder, Brown Girl in the Ring (1998).


Seattle-based writer and literary critic, L. Timmel Duchamp, provides a wonderful description of this speculative fiction novel:
Nalo Hopkinson's Brown Girl in the Ring envisions a twenty-first century Toronto that has suffered political and economic crises of such proportions that it has been barricaded off and abandoned by its moneyed, predominantly White suburbs. Cut off from modern material resources and left helpless to defend itself against the domination and depredations of a ruthless drug lord, the city has become a post-apocalyptic urban landscape reminiscent, at times, of Samuel R. Delany's Dahlgren. (Duchamp, 1999).
Set in a demoralized inner-city setting, Hopkinson adds Caribbean magical elements and insights into the spiritual practice of Voodoun as a method of empowerment and survival in the story. This novel has won numerous literary awards, as has its author, for her subsequent publications. Lastly, speaking of Delany's Dahlgren (1975), there are street elements in that classic text also (see Wikipedia article, "Dhalgren").

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Young adult author, Zetta Elliott, published a wonderful speculative fiction novel for teen readers, A Wish After Midnight (2010). In this story, 15 year-old protagonist, Genna, lives in the projects of Brooklyn, with a single mom who is having a hard time making ends meet and keeping control of her family, particularly her wayward teen son who is leaning towards gang life. Genna, in a quest to decompress from a stressful homelife, visits the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens regularly. Ultimately, Genna finds herself time travelling through a portal after making a wish at a fountain in the Gardens.


When Genna and her friend, Judah, time travel, they wind up in Brooklyn, during the 1860's, in the middle of the U.S. Civil War. This is where the magic lives in Elliott's tale - this is not a hood story - it is historical fiction with a fantasy twist that teaches readers valuable insights about race relations during 1860s Brooklyn juxtaposed with race issues in modern-day Brooklyn. One could consider: what are the progressions for race relations for citizens living in the inner-city of modern day Brooklyn?
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Lastly, I'd like to introduce you to author Trevis Moore. His novel, Hood Titans (2011), is published by independent publishing house, Bravin Books, owned and operated by CEOs, K.L. and Tiffany Belvin.


Here is an adapted synopsis of the story, from Bravin Books:

Every Hood needs heroes. Someone to protect the people from the forces who profit from crime, poverty and degradation in Urban neighborhoods. Find out what happens when a black geneticist decides enough is enough. Having fought his way up and out of the hood, he returns as a doctor, ready to positively change the neighborhood. In his efforts to give back, he launches his ultimate plan of protection for the brothers and sisters in the city. The Black Brotherhood Brigade is born. But how do you create these protectors? What happens if the secret gets out? What if you've been created to think the hard life you're living is all there is? What happens when the genes you're carrying are truly special and designed for a greater purpose? All these questions and more will be answer in Trevis's new book "Hood Titans." See what happens when Urban Fiction has a child with Science Fiction: they gives birth to a new genre which will captivate all who reads.
Sounds exciting, right? Currently available for pre-order on the Bravin website, I am looking forward to learning how readers respond to this story! I believe more stories that interweave science fiction, fantasy, and magical elements into the tales will be a welcome evolution to the street lit genre. After all, magic and fantasy are alive and well in the 'hood. Think about all it takes to survive daily in low-income city settings that can oftentimes be precarious moment-to-moment. Survival of such intense living takes guts, resilience, and yes, being able to regard situations fantastically at times, and to believe and/or trust in a little magical luck. Oops, that's actually called: human living. La la la....

Last but not least, don't forget that another sub-genre of urban literature is the exciting realm of "urban fantasy". Also, consider the settings and themes of contemporary comic/graphic novel stories such as The Hood Volume 1: Blood From Stones (2003), The Hood (New Avengers) (2007), and Fluorescent Black (2010), where really magical and fantastical things happen to all kinds of people in the hood.
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Note: If you know of street lit novels that are science fiction/fantasy/speculative fiction oriented, kindly let me know and I will add the titles to this post!
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Disclaimer: The traditional science fiction/speculative fiction titles discussed in this article are not street lit novels. They are highlighted because the stories contain street lit elements, particularly  settings in inner-city neighborhoods. Please do not go out in the world telling people that Vanessa Irvin Morris thinks that Octavia Butler, Samuel Delany, Nalo Hopkinson and Zetta Elliott are street lit authors, because you would be sharing a huge untruth.

Thanks; over and out (for now)!

09 November 2011

Behind the Scenes of Street Lit Success: Dawn Hardy, Publicist

The success of Street Lit authorship has a lot to do with the hustle of marketing and publicity. The publicity aspect is a vital component of the entrepreneurial bent that allows Street Lit its high literary exposure.

Dawn Michelle Hardy is a literary publicist that will not be denied. Starting out working with pioneering author, Teri Woods, Hardy continues to evolve her brand within the publishing industry by working with independent authors within the urban literature genre and beyond.

Check out the article below, from XI Magazine, to learn more about the importance of literary agents in this social media age where branding is paramount for literary success. Authors under Hardy's wings know it well, which is why they work with her: she is a literary agent with years of experience and success in connecting authors with their readers.


Dawn Michelle can be contacted via her website at: dreamrelations.com.

04 November 2011

The Guardian (UK) Posts Article on Street Lit

Greetings! When you get a chance, this article is worth the read, and the comments section is building with some interesting op/eds. I want to thank my colleaguefriend, Kristina Graaff, for the headsup on this piece.

Click Image to Access Article

02 November 2011

Meeting Eyone Williams: Author of Lorton Legends

Eyone Williams is a talented author whose titles Fast Lane (2007), Hell Razor Honeys I (2008), Hell Razor Honeys II (2010), The Cross (2011)and Lorton Legends (2011), have gained him a considerable following of readers within the Street Literature genre. Williams is a Washington, D.C. native with street cred that he uses to tell authentic, engrossing stories in his novels. StreetLiterature.com had the honor and opportunity to talk with Mr. Williams about his writings and his life story. His interview is below; enjoy!


Eyone Williams (center). Used with permission.
StreetLiterature.com: What inspired you to write in this genre?  Personal observations and experience?
The first thing that inspired me to write street fiction was the fact that I enjoyed reading it myself.  Donald Goines is my favorite author and I read his work when I was young.  After reading his books about street life in the 70s I was inspired to write about street life in my day and time.  I began writing street fiction in the 90s; I made up my mind to write about things that I went through growing up in DC.  

The crack era hit DC hard, as well other cities, and it left a long lasting impression on the community.  I found myself caught up in that era.  I began writing, using real life situations, and my first novel, Fast Lane (now available on Amazon Kindle) was born.  All my homies loved the book, but I wasn’t sure if readers outside of where I’m from would like the book.  Nevertheless, I did what I had to do to get the book out and people loved it.  Also, I love street fiction, I loved it from day one and wanted to be a part of the movement; I wanted to put my own touch on the game.  That was my driving force.

StreetLiterature.com: How long have you been writing street literature?  What is your writing process like?  How long does it take you to write a novel—on average?
I started writing back in 98, I didn’t know where I was going with my first novel at that time.  However, I had been through a lot and I wanted to use all that I had been through to help me write the book.  I got caught up in the street life at a young age and went to prison, charged as an adult at 16.  My brother was murdered a year later.  My mother had died of a drug overdose when I was 6.  My father went to prison when I was 4.  Leaving out all that’s in between, I took my background and used it to write my first novel, Fast Lane.  So over all, I started writing 13 years ago.

As far as my writing process, I step off from whatever’s going on around me and get into a zone.  When I first started I used to do some reading of my favorite authors to get motivated.  Then I would just block out everything and write.  Now days, I just get right to it.  I have an idea on my mind and I put it all down on paper.  I can see it all in my mind.  I go until I can’t go no more.

It takes me about two months to write a book, first draft.  After that, I do re-writes.  That can take about the same amount of time.

StreetLiterature.com: What kind of street lit do you focus on and why?
I focus on hard-core street lit - things that happen in the streets for real.  I try to mix that with things that make the book good.  I add twists and turns to the plot so that it makes my readers keep reading.  I write street fiction because I write it best, and because I grew a love for reading by reading street fiction.

Street:Literature.com: Who would you say are your primary readers?  What kind of feedback do you receive from them that you take into consideration for writing your stories?
My primary readers are African-American females.  Males buy my books as well, but more women come through to get my books, as far as I know.  I keep that in mind when I’m putting my stories together.  I write hard-core street fiction, but I make sure I put something in there for the ladies.  They show me so much support that I gotta show them love.  When I first started writing I used to go hard for what guys like to read but the ladies stepped to me about that as I grew as a writer so I began to expand my plots to make them include all things that make good books hot books.


Eyone Williams with readers. Used with permission.
StreetLiterature.com: What/Who are you reading nowadays?  
Nowadays I read business books, writing books, and urban fiction books.  The authors I read include Guy Johnson, Treasure Blue, Dutch, Nathan Welch, Wahida Clark, T. Styles, Jason Poole, Deja King, Anthony Fields, to name a few.  The authors that hold my attention are the ones that pull me into their story off the top.  That’s what I enjoy about reading my favorite authors’ books.

StreetLiterature.com: Which mode of publication is most popular with your readers—paperbacks or ebooks?  Why do you think that is?
My friends, readers, and supporters all love paperbacks.  Even the ones that have e-readers still come and holla at me for signed copies of my books and other books I sell.  They show a lot of love.  I believe they love paperbacks the most because that’s where their first love of reading came from.

StreetLiterature.com: Has social media helped with marketing and promotion of your books?  If so, how?
Social media has helped me out in a huge way.  It has allowed me to reach out and get to know my readers.  Without a doubt social media helps book sales.  It also gives me, as an author, a way to spread my thoughts on my books with my readers.  I talk back and forth online with my readers.  We talk about why one character or another did this or that.  I make it all fun and interesting to read Eyone Williams books.  I do contests, discussions, and all of that.  Social media is a great thing.

StreetLiterature.com: What is your latest title?  What is it about and how does it uniquely contribute to the genre of Street Lit?

click image to order
My latest book is Lorton Legends, it’s published by DC BOOKDIVA PUBLICATIONS. Lorton Legends is a story of struggle, growth, and accomplishment.  A group of four young men get sent to prison in their teenage years.  Everything that they become in life is what they are shaped into while in prison.  They go through a number of different struggles dealing with their freedom, their family, their personal issues as men and much more.  The main character struggles throughout the whole book to become a better man, a father, and to overcome the life of the streets.  The book is full of history and life lessons that are dropped on the reader through the eyes of the characters.

Lorton Legends adds a new flare to street lit by showing that there are many different ways to tell a street story.  It also shows that you can tell a street story and still allow readers to walk away feeling as though they have learned something.

                      Here is the book trailer for Lorton Legends:


StreetLiterature.com: What is your ultimate goal for your work with Street Lit? (e.g. networking with more authors, appealing to a wider audience of readers, etc.)
Ultimately, my goal is to create a better life for myself and all those around me.  I want to represent as best as I can for Street Lit and help it grow and live on forever, in whatever way.  I strive to make the work coming out of my camp to be the best ever.  With every book I write, I strive to give it my all.  When it’s all said and done, I want to be remembered as an author that was different from the norm, I want to be remembered as one who gave it my all and wrote stories that reflect what’s real in the street lit genre.  Forever!

StreetLiterature.com: If someone asked you, "How do you define Street Lit?", what would be your definition?
Street Lit is writing that paints a picture of street life in many ways, from all kinds of angles.  It’s about what goes on in the hood.  It’s why the things in the hood happen.  It takes you into the lives of people that really live and thrive in the hood.  That is street fiction, from my point of view.  However, it is much more to it and the views of other street lit writers completes the overall view.

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You can connect with Eyone Williams via the following social media outlets:
Facebook: Eyone Williams
Twitter: @eyonethewriter