Phenomenal Woman

Award winning poet, activist, and author, Maya Angelou has passed away at the age of 86. She was someone I’d always wanted to meet. What a great loss to the literary community, the Black community, to women, to all communities because her work touched so many people. She will be greatly missed. I can’t even begin to write about her accomplishments, so I’ll post what the New York Associated Press had to say about this iconic woman.

From the AP:
NEW YORK (AP) — Maya Angelou, a modern Renaissance woman who survived the harshest of childhoods to become a force on stage, screen, the printed page and the inaugural dais, has died. She was 86.

Her death was confirmed in a statement issued by Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she had served as a professor of American Studies since 1982.

Tall and regal, with a deep, majestic voice, Angelou defied all probability and category, becoming one of the first black women to enjoy mainstream success as an author and thriving in virtually every artistic medium. The young single mother who performed at strip clubs to earn a living later wrote and recited the most popular presidential inaugural poem in history. The childhood victim of rape wrote a million-selling memoir, befriended Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and performed on stages around the world.

An actress, singer and dancer in the 1950s and 1960s, she broke through as an author in 1970 with “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which became standard (and occasionally censored) reading, and was the first of a multipart autobiography that continued through the decades. In 1993, she was a sensation reading her cautiously hopeful “On the Pulse of the Morning” at former President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. Her confident performance openly delighted Clinton and made the poem a best-seller, if not a critical favorite. For former President George W. Bush, she read another poem, “Amazing Peace,” at the 2005 Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the White House.

She remained close enough to the Clintons that in 2008 she supported Hillary Rodham Clinton’s candidacy over the ultimately successful run of the country’s first black president, Barack Obama. But a few days before Obama’s inauguration, she was clearly overjoyed. She told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette she would be watching it on television “somewhere between crying and praying and being grateful and laughing when I see faces I know.”

She was a mentor to Oprah Winfrey, whom she befriended when Winfrey was still a local television reporter, and often appeared on her friend’s talk show program. She mastered several languages and published not just poetry, but advice books, cookbooks and children’s stories. She wrote music, plays and screenplays, received an Emmy nomination for her acting in “Roots,” and never lost her passion for dance, the art she considered closest to poetry.

“The line of the dancer: If you watch (Mikhail) Baryshnikov and you see that line, that’s what the poet tries for. The poet tries for the line, the balance,” she told The Associated Press in 2008, shortly before her birthday.

Her very name as an adult was a reinvention. Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis and raised in Stamps, Ark., and San Francisco, moving back and forth between her parents and her grandmother. She was smart and fresh to the point of danger, packed off by her family to California after sassing a white store clerk in Arkansas. Other times, she didn’t speak at all: At age 7, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend and didn’t speak for years. She learned by reading, and listening.

“I loved the poetry that was sung in the black church: ‘Go down Moses, way down in Egypt’s land,'” she told the AP. “It just seemed to me the most wonderful way of talking. And ‘Deep River.’ Ooh! Even now it can catch me. And then I started reading, really reading, at about 7 1/2, because a woman in my town took me to the library, a black school library. … And I read every book, even if I didn’t understand it.”

At age 9, she was writing poetry. By 17, she was a single mother. In her early 20s, she danced at a strip joint, ran a brothel, was married (to Enistasious Tosh Angelos, her first of three husbands) and then divorced. By her mid-20s, she was performing at the Purple Onion in San Francisco, where she shared billing with another future star, Phyllis Diller. She spent a few days with Billie Holiday, who was kind enough to sing a lullaby to Angelou’s son Guy, surly enough to heckle her off the stage and astute enough to tell her: “You’re going to be famous. But it won’t be for singing.”

After renaming herself Maya Angelou for the stage (“Maya” was a childhood nickname), she toured in “Porgy and Bess” and Jean Genet’s “The Blacks” and danced with Alvin Ailey. She worked as a coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Council, and lived for years in Egypt and Ghana, where she met Malcolm X and remained close to him until his assassination, in 1965. Three years later, she was helping King organize the Poor People’s March in Memphis, Tenn., where the civil rights leader was slain on Angelou’s 40th birthday.

“Every year, on that day, Coretta and I would send each other flowers,” Angelou said of King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, who died in 2006.

Angelou was little known outside the theatrical community until “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which might not have happened if James Baldwin hadn’t persuaded Angelou, still grieving over King’s death, to attend a party at Jules Feiffer’s house. Feiffer was so taken by Angelou that he mentioned her to Random House editor Bob Loomis, who persuaded her to write a book.

Angelou’s musical style was clear in a passage about boxing great Joe Louis’s defeat against German fighter Max Schmeling:

“My race groaned. It was our people falling. It was another lynching, yet another Black man hanging on a tree. One more woman ambushed and raped. A Black boy whipped and maimed. It was hounds on the trail of a man running through slimy swamps. … If Joe lost we were back in slavery and beyond help.”
Angelou’s memoir was occasionally attacked, for seemingly opposite reasons. In a 1999 essay in Harper’s, author Francine Prose criticized “Caged Bird” as “manipulative” melodrama. Meanwhile, Angelou’s passages about her rape and teen pregnancy have made it a perennial on the American Library Association’s list of works that draw complaints from parents and educators.

“‘I thought that it was a mild book. There’s no profanity,” Angelou told the AP. “It speaks about surviving, and it really doesn’t make ogres of many people. I was shocked to find there were people who really wanted it banned, and I still believe people who are against the book have never read the book.”

Angelou appeared on several TV programs, notably the groundbreaking 1977 miniseries “Roots.” She was nominated for a Tony Award in 1973 for her appearance in the play “Look Away.” She directed the film “Down in the Delta,” about a drug-wrecked woman who returns to the home of her ancestors in the Mississippi Delta. She won three Grammys for her spoken-word albums and in 2013 received an honorary National Book Award for her contributions to the literary community.

Back in the 1960s, Malcolm X had written to Angelou and praised her for her ability to communicate so directly, with her “feet firmly rooted on the ground. In 2002, Angelou used this gift in an unexpected way when she launched a line of greeting cards with industry giant Hallmark. Angelou admitted she was cool to the idea at first. Then she went to Loomis, her editor at Random House.

“I said, ‘I’m thinking about doing something with Hallmark,'” she recalled. “And he said, ‘You’re the people’s poet. You don’t want to trivialize yourself.’ So I said ‘OK’ and I hung up. And then I thought about it. And I thought, if I’m the people’s poet, then I ought to be in the people’s hands — and I hope in their hearts. So I thought, ‘Hmm, I’ll do it.'”

In North Carolina, she lived in an 18-room house and taught American Studies at Wake Forest University. She was also a member of the Board of Trustees for Bennett College, a private school for black women in Greensboro, N.C. Angelou hosted a weekly satellite radio show for XM’s “Oprah & Friends” channel. She also owned and renovated a townhouse in Harlem, the inside decorated in spectacular primary colors.

Active on the lecture circuit, she gave commencement speeches and addressed academic and corporate events across the country. Angelou received dozens of honorary degrees, and several elementary schools were named for her. As she approached her 80th birthday, she decided to study at the Missouri-based Unity Church, which advocates healing through prayer.

“I was in Miami and my son (Guy Johnson, her only child) was having his 10th operation on his spine. I felt really done in by the work I was doing, people who had expected things of me,” said Angelou, who then recalled a Unity church service she attended in Miami.

“The preacher came out — a young black man, mostly a white church — and he came out and said, ‘I have only one question to ask, and that is, “Why have you decided to limit God?'” And I thought, ‘That’s exactly what I’ve been doing.’ So then he asked me to speak, and I got up and said, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.’ And I said it about 50 times, until the audience began saying it with me, ‘Thank you, THANK YOU!'”

Ms. Angelou was one of my favorite poets. And I was first introduced to her work in high school. The first piece I was read by her was PHENOMENAL WOMAN. You can read it below:

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
The palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

—Maya Angelou
Goodnight, Ms. Angelou. We’ll miss you!


Has anyone seen the new WGN show, SALEM? It comes on 10pm every Sunday. OMG, this show is so good. I thought I’d hate it but, oh my!
It centers around the 1692 witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts. The twist here is that innocent people are executed for being falsely accused of witchcraft, BUT there are real witches (dark practitioners) in the town that are using that to their advantage, sometimes even guaranteeing the death of innocents.

The make-up is awesome and the show doesn’t disappoint!

Watch the trailer below and let me know if you plan on checking it out!

Invisible Man Indeed

Ralph Waldo Ellison’s most famous novel, INVISIBLE MAN, was banned from school libraries in Randolph County, N.C. due to a parent’s misgivings. The local school board is required to vote on any parental complaints and the ban was approved in a vote of 5-2. Gary Mason, one of the board members, stated “I didn’t find any literary value.” No. Literary. Value. Found. Within. The. Novel. Invisible. Man?? I can’t explain my reaction to this over the Internet without help. So, to further emphasize my disbelief and horror, I leave you to Chris Griffin:

Mr. Ellison’s work speaks of his experiences and that of others. He was a very talented man. I could go on and on, but I won’t because you can read the novel for yourself and draw your own conclusions, which will reveal the injustice this novel received from that school district. He was brilliant, IMHO.

In 1953, Mr. Ellison won the National Book Award. He also won the Russwurm Award that same year. He was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969. He was honored with the National Medal of Arts in 1985. He won other awards as well, but the aforementioned were just a few of them.

Yes, I finally came back to my blog and I won’t take such a long hiatus again. 🙂

Happy Belated New Year!

It’s been a while, folks. I’ve noticed that lots of folks have been abandoning their blogs for other social networking sites. I plan to join a few later this year, but I need to focus on other things right now. I’m only on Blogger and Goodreads: Me!

Some of those other sites look like they really take large amounts of people’s time. They’re addictive at first, I guess.

What sites have you joined? Do you still blog? What’s your favorite networking site?


I have fallen asleep on the job.

Wow. I haven’t posted since September and I think I even lost a few followers. Lol. Sorry. Everything has been hectic, and time gets away from you. Geez. I will be back more often, even when I have nothing interesting to talk about. O.o

So, how was your Thanksgiving? Mine was awesome. The end of the year is just busy for everyone I think.

I’ll be back with a longer post soon! Should be next week. 😀

I Love Zombies!

I have loved zombies since I was in middle school! Teehee. Which was around the time I fell in love with horror in general.

There was something about being chased by these nasty, gory looking creatures who wanted to eat or otherwise kill you. And they always outnumbered the living. Scary indeed. Folks were put into survival mode and had to find weapons, and even fend off other survivors who wanted to exploit the situation. Crazy.

It seems like everyone is zombie crazy nowadays, which is funny to me because I have been since I was a kid. So myself and other zombie lovers are like, “A-ha, general public! Now you’ve figured out the awesomeness that is zombie!” Lol.

The Walking Dead is insanely popular right now. People I know who don’t normally like horror love this show!
Scores of zombie movies have been, are, and will be made. You can find them almost everywhere now. Zombies may be a fad for some right now, but they’ve always been beloved by me.
The better the make-up, the more fright and shrieks a zombie will cause. 🙂 Look at this zombie woman on the right. Uh, what happened to her mouth? Eww. Lol.
I didn’t list any zombie movies because I was saving that for zombie books! Well, and because of laziness. Lol.
Some of these books will eventually become movies as well. Most I have read, but maybe I’ll list a few I haven’t either, just because they’ve been recommended to me:
CELL by Stephen King
DEVIL’s WAKE by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due (husband and wife team)
WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks
ROT AND RUIN by Jonathan Maberry
THE RISING by Brian Keene
ASHES by Ilsa J. Bick
THE LIVING DEAD (compilation of short stories from some of horror’s best) Edited by John Joseph Adams
FEED by Mira Grant
MY LIFE AS A WHITE TRASH ZOMBIE by Diana Rowland (this has humor, so not typical zombie stuff)
That’s only a taste of zombie novels. There are websites that offer lists of them, but they are based on what reviewers deem as zombie-themed works, so they are not always accurate, so I won’t link any of them.
Even when zombies are forgotten for the next big thing, I’ll still be around admiring them and watching and reading their stories. 😉

Shows We Watch

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, Supernatural is my favorite show on television right now. It has faltered a little after Season 5 when the show’s creator, Eric Kripke, stepped down after the season ended. He had intended for it to end with season 5. Even still, Sam and Dean are excellent characters and I can’t get enough of them. If you haven’t seen it, you should. 😀 They are demon-hunting brothers who have been through it all. Season 8 premieres on October 3, 2012.

Alphas is about to begin it’s 2nd season at the end of this month. It’s about a group of people with enhanced abilities due to differences in their brain structure. A group of them got together with the help of a doctor who knows how to manage their abilities. It’s a pretty good show. I like it.

True Blood is a series based on the excellent Sookie Stackhouse southern vampire series by author Charlaine Harris. You should read the series and watch the show. The story centers around Sookie Stackhouse; a telepathic waitress who falls for a vampire named Bill Compton. It has mystery, complete supernatural elements, gore, and romance–of the adult variety. Check it out. Season 5 is currently on the air.

The Walking Dead became a phenomenon when it first aired on October 31, 2010. The show is based on the wildly popular comic book series by Robert Kirkman. The show follows a band of survivors in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. I love the show even though there are elements I don’t agree with.

Well, what are you guys watching on television? Tell me. Any suggestions? I’ve heard about Game of Thrones, but I don’t want to watch it until I’ve read the books. 😉

A Note On Editing…

Some writers edit their books too much, while others don’t edit enough; but most new writers seem to fall into the latter category for some reason. This post is not to bash new writers in any way because I was a new writer once and made many mistakes. This post is just to serve as a point of reference as to the necessity of editing.

I’ve talked to some aspiring novelists who wondered why no one wanted to buy the 1st draft of their original, brilliant opus–that hasn’t been edited. O_o When I wrote my first novel, I thought it was very good–but it wasn’t!

The truth is that it doesn’t matter if you’ve sold millions of books or none at all, we all should edit our work. Anyone can make mistakes. No 1st draft is infallible.

I’m sure you’ve heard it a thousand times, but after you’ve written your 1st draft, let it sit for a while. I prefer to allow mine to sit for about a month, but that varies amongst writers and everyone has their own suggestions on that. While it’s sitting you should work on something else.

Stephen King mentioned a funny anecdote in his writing/editing advice book, ON WRITING. If you’re a writer, you need to read it. The anecdote detailed how his professor proofread something for him and instead of writing about pheasant hunting, he had written peasant hunting. 🙂 It was funny, but no one wants to make mistakes in their writing.

I didn’t detail my editing process because I’m always changing it. When I sell a novel instead of short stories, then I’ll be more willing to share a stable process. 😉

So, if you ever think about not taking the time to edit, just think about what Blanche (Golden Girls) did when she decided to write her “brilliant” novel:

Enter Nowhere

I rarely post about movies I’ve seen, but I really liked a movie I rented. It’s called ENTER NOWHERE.

It’s suspenseful and you’ll have all types of theories of what is actually happening. I figured it out, but I still liked the film. I would describe it as THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT meets CUBE. Two other good rentals, by the way.

I won’t share too many details, but I’ve included the trailer below. It’s worth a rental, IMHO. Enjoy!

Reference Books

Last Monday, literary agent Jane Dystel, wrote a blog post about the fact that there would be no more physical copies of The Encyclopedia Britannica. I don’t like it one bit. 😦  I knew it would happen eventually. Doesn’t mean I have to like it though.

Even though the Internet offers a great deal of everything, I will always love a physical copy of a book–any book! I love to conduct research when I write a new story. There is always something new to learn. I love grabbing a book from a shelf–mine or the library’s– and devouring the information.

And what’s more, I like to know where the “accurate” information is coming from. I ordered a reference book online, and it’s author was not reliable, to say the least.

So, I’m left to wonder who will be the gatekeepers of accurate reference material via the Internet?

I will still seek physical copies of reference books, no matter where I have to find them; like this guy: