Interview With Markette Sheppard, Author of “What is Light?”!

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Emmy award-winning television journalist and entrepreneur Markette Sheppard was inspired to write her first book, What is Light? after becoming a stay-at-home mother for a year to her then newborn son. The book, in which Sheppard describes as a “love letter” to children, soared to number one on Amazon‘s Children’s Sense & Sensation list. Parents of all backgrounds have expressed appreciation for Sheppard’s children’s book. “I think people are fatigued by seeing one type of version of African American people, and so this is something new, something different, and it’s something you can feel good about,” she told So Booking Cool. “No one’s going to feel bad by the end of this book– whatever part they play in the story that is our human family’s history.”

What is Light? is the board book debut from Denene Millner Books (Agate Publishing) and is illustrated by award-winner, Cathy Ann Johnson. Sheppard has nothing but positive things to say about her first publishing experience. Like many debut authors, the former Essence magazine writer researched what entailed writing a book and getting it published. While she didn’t have the connections, she believed in her work. Today she remains in awe over the fact that something she wrote in her notebook is now available to the world. “I’m just so proud that my words are in print. I feel like there’s a lasting legacy in this book that hopefully people will keep and share with their family members for many, many generations to come, like Goodnight Moon.”

WHAT IS LIGHT COVER

Listen to the full interview to learn more about Sheppard, her advice for children’s book authors, including the advice she received from a New York Times bestselling author, her childhood exposure to reading, her next book, and more! For more information, visit Sheppard’s official website.

Review: Renaissance Man: The Lin Manuel Miranda Story, An Unauthorized Biography By Marc Shapiro

marc shapiroRENAISSANCE MAN: THE LIN MANUEL STORY, AN UNAUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY, Marc Shapiro. Riverdale Avenue Books, $18.01 (200p) ISBN-13: 978-1626014480
Publication date: May 10, 2018

From the New York Times bestselling author and veteran entertainment journalist, Marc Shapiro, comes his newest biography of a high-profile talent: the self-made Lin Manuel Miranda’s story. Unlike some unauthorized biographies, Renaissance Man is anything but salacious and scandalous. Shapiro doesn’t go for the cheap. He has instead chosen to tell the compelling journey of the Hamilton frontman that will leave readers feeling inspired and motivated. Ever the page-turner and crisply written, this book is just as pleasurable for the celebrity memoir and/or “tea” enthusiast as it is for the go-getter crowd. When absorbing Miranda’s story, the takeaway extends beyond the fact that Miranda was a man who went after his dreams steadfast. The real message here is the level of discipline one should probably have for pursuing and maintaining a passion.

Prior to the groundbreaking success of Hamilton, there was Miranda’s first major theater production, In the Heights, which dealt with cultural themes significant and personal to Miranda, who was bred in a predominately Latino community in Inwood, New York City. Shapiro highlights the tireless work ethic Miranda dedicated to his play as a college student, as well as his determination—there is a moment when Miranda meets with a potential investor who wanted Miranda to trade the loss of a scholarship storyline for one about drugs and/or a teen pregnancy. In short, the investor opted for a stereotypical scenario and showed he didn’t get the heart of the project. Miranda stuck to his guns, and the play eventually soared past his college campus and onto Broadway. Each new opportunity that arose to elevate his work, whether it be in the form of a national tour or any new stage in general, raised the stakes for Miranda; he did not allow the praise to make him comfortable or complacent.

Miranda was introduced to Alexander Hamilton in school for an assignment. And while he possessed a keen interest in literature early on (he’d read to the other kids in daycare, kind of like a teacher, in which he would eventually become) as well as in musicals and hip hop, the Puerto Rican visionary never imagined he would one day create a play in the late president’s honor.

Call it fate, nevertheless, Miranda worked hard for his success. He had talent, recognized his talents, and made the choice to hone them (even if there were on-and-off-again periods and other obstacles he had to overcome). He didn’t ask for handouts and didn’t need to. Shapiro shows how Miranda got to the point where his work spoke and continues to speak for itself.

Rating: Excellent

Rating Scale

Cool: Decent

So Cool: Good

Booking Cool: Excellent

So Booking Cool: Masterpiece

Interview With Curtis Bunn, Essence’s Bestselling Author and Founder of the National Book Club Conference!

19999Curtis Bunn founded the National Book Club Conference (NBCC) so readers could have the opportunity to interact with their favorite authors and/or writers. The idea was conceived after he attended country-wide book club meetings for his debut novel, Baggage Check, which became the first Essence magazine bestseller by a black author, with a black editor and agent, a black cover designer, a black distributor, and a black publisher. The NBCC’s 16th annual Literary Bliss weekend, which celebrates African American literature, will begin August 3rd in Atlanta at the InterContinental hotel.

Alice Walker (The Color Purple, among many), Terry McMillan (Waiting to Exhale, among many), Jenifer Lewis (blackish star and author of her memoir, Mother of Black Hollywood), Tayari Jones (An American Marriage, the Oprah’s book club pick), Bryan Stevenson (Just Mercy), and Carl Weber (The Man in 3B) are among the 30 authors of this year’s lineup. While Bunn is glad to have the support of renowned attendees, he is especially excited about the new talent.

“I need the majors, and I love having them because they’re amazing. We need them to attract the readers, but when they come, I always challenge the readers to stretch themselves. Go see someone you’ve never heard of. And almost in every case they’ve done that, they say they’re glad they went there…for me, that’s the mission of the conference, to expose readers to authors they may not have otherwise known about or read.”

Press play to hear how Bunn started the NBCC, his approach to his craft, including how the setting/location in a story is a “character” itself, the developing film adaptations of two of his nine novels, The Old Man in the Club and The Truth is in The Wine, the up-and-coming authors to be featured at Literary Bliss this weekend that he’s excited about, and more! For more information visit Bunn’s official website as well as the official NBCC website.

Interview With D.B. Moffatt, Author of “The Misbirth”!

David Moffatt Headshot (1)For D.B. Moffatt, the author of The Misbirth, the heart of his novel is to transform a negative experience into a positive. “In the case of fate, you’re dealt with a situation that is bad. You can go one of two ways. The first way, in which I ultimately chose, was rationalizing to myself ‘okay, bad circumstance, however, ain’t my fault, but I have to deal with it anyway.’ And I rather deal with a circumstance that ain’t my fault, than deal with a bad circumstance that I created.”

The Misbirth Cover

The Misbirth, based in the 50’s is a fast-paced, hard-hitting story about sixteen-year-old Logan Spence, who is the product of a tumultuous relationship and controversial pairing that dangerously impacts his life. Moffatt’s has plans for his book, published by BeachHouse Books, to become a screenplay. The former freelance film editor says the movie or television adaptation of his book would unknown actors, who would ideally become breakout stars.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about the former real estate agent, the execution of The Misbirth, plotters and pantsers, fast-paced fiction, his advice for authors who are going through a hard time, and more! For more information, stay tuned for the relaunch of his official website.

Interview With Megan Devine, Author of “It’s OK That You’re Not OK”!

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How does one successfully write a book that deals with grief? For psychotherapist and author Megan Devine, the answer is understanding the distinction between early grief and later grief. “There are a lot of great grief books out there that talk about rebuilding your life; that’s a fantastic conversation to have, but not three weeks after your person died…know to which part of life you are speaking, if you are speaking grief,” she told So Booking Cool.

Devine’s critically-acclaimed book It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand, published by Sounds True, specifically focuses on early grief, which can mean the first days, weeks, months, and/or years. As a psychotherapist for nearly 20 years, Devine has worked with everyone from those battling substance addiction to those dealing with abuse, trauma, and grief. But nothing could prepare the seasoned professional for her own personal tragedy: the death of her significant other in 2009.

She founded Refuge in Grief to create a support system for people who are hurting. It is also a platform that teaches grief literacy, like how to best help those who are grieving. The company includes Devine’s longtime course, Writing Your Grief, which boasts thousands of attendees. The program also includes a movement called the Tribe Love Letter campaign, in which people purchase a copy of It’s That You’re Not Ok and slip a small love note inside before leaving the book in a place for anyone to take.

“Refuge in Grief is nothing short of a revolution, and I won’t stop until people really feel supported in their hardest moments,” said Devine.

Listen to the full interview to lean more about Devine, her book and company, her experience with Sounds True, the misconceptions about grief, her thoughts on child grief and anxiety, the “grief diet,” and more! For more information, visit Megan’s website.

Interview With Michelle Staubach Grimes, Author of “Pidge Takes The Stage”!

Michelle Staubach Grimes - Head Shot

Literacy has always mattered to Michelle Staubach Grimes, the daughter of the legendary record-breaking, two-time Super Bowl champion, Roger Staubach. She saw firsthand the value of determination and hard work. Her commitment to literacy was fueled after she attended the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy a decade ago. “That’s when I learned about the literacy crisis and how many kids can’t read, how many adults can’t read…it really inspired me to go back to school and study creative writing at night,” the author and mother of three told So Booking Cool. It also inspired her commitment to help increase literacy rates by teaming up with organizations and programs, as well as launching her own movement, #PidgePromise (Laura Bush and Jimmy Kimmel are among the supporters.)

Pidge Takes the Stage - Book Cover (1)The campaign, which strives to promote reading and writing, is based on Grimes’ character, Pidge from Where is Pidge? and its new sequel, Pidge Takes The Stage, both of which are illustrated by the award-winning editorial cartoonist and art director, Bill DeOre.

The series highlights themes of family, friendship, work ethic, persistence, and discipline. “One of the big lessons in the book [Pidge Takes the Stage] is when Pidge’s teacher says to her ‘unspectacular preparation leads to spectacular results,’ and I took that quote from my dad, who was a football player, when I asked him to describe training camp to me.”

“I say to kids life is a grind, we have to work hard. You may not love school, but you have to work hard at it, not skip your practices, and not give up,” said Grimes.

Listen to the full interview for our discussion about being the middle child, parenting, the dynamics of creating a children’s books, what it was like working with her editor, why aspiring authors need to be astute about their competition, and more! For more information, visit http://www.whereispidge.com/

Review: The Art & Science of Respect: A Memoir by James Prince

JPRINCETHE ART & SCIENCE OF RESPECT: A MEMOIR BY JAMES PRINCE, James Prince. N-The-Water Publishing, $29.99 (296p) ISBN-13: 978-0999837009
Publication date: July 6, 2018

Memoirs can be vain, exhausting, narcissistic treatises that tell you next to nothing about the subject (person); however, that is not the case for the James Prince Memoir, The Art & Science of Respect. If you read between the lines, Prince probably gives up too much information—almost to the point of incriminating himself. Written in a conversational style, it’s as if you’re having a conversation with the former street hustler turned music mogul, boxing manager, and entrepreneur.

And he doesn’t hesitate to name drop. So, you’ll hear him provide intimate anecdotes involving Drake, Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Baby & Lil Wayne (Cash Money), The Geto Boys, Sir Mixalot, Suge Knight, Master P, Biggie, Mike Tyson, Roy Jones, Andre Ward, Don King, Lou DiBella, Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, Irv Gotti, et al.

Prince doesn’t make it a point to bash or embarrass, but he has had some “uncomfortable” moments with some of the aforementioned. Sometimes, the “disagreements” were handled amicably—and sometimes not.

Prince has more than his fair share of personal baggage as a child of Houston’s notorious Fifth Ward, and he dishes dirt on himself. By no means does he portray himself as some saint. Prince was in the streets, and he earned every bit of his reputation. His riches came with a price: death or the penitentiary. He knew it, and he got out of one game and into another. Prince used his street hustle smarts to make it big in the music industry, and then spun off into other industries.

Here is an example of his transition: “All of my life, I thought the only way to make money off grass was by selling weed—until I started selling hay.” The former illegal “grass” seller became a legal “grass seller”—and I don’t mean medical marijuana. He purchased several acres of land and made money selling hay. Exhibit A of his brilliance.

At the root of Prince’s success is—believe it or not—his spirituality. He has always incorporated it in his thinking, even during his “street” life days. Prince also has an insatiable appetite for success, a maniacal work ethic, and a keen ability to see people for who they truly are (a.k.a., a B.S. Detector). Arguably, his best attribute is his generosity, whether he is providing the “homies” with opportunities to make legal money, buying homes for family members and friends, or building a community center.

The Art & Science of Respect is a quick read that is touching, educational, and inspirational.

Rating: Booking Cool

Rating Scale

Cool: Decent

So Cool: Good

Booking Cool: Excellent

So Booking Cool: Masterpiece

Interview With Yahdon Israel, Writer and Creator of Literaryswag!

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Photo by John Midgley

An important goal for Yahdon Israel, the creator of the Literaryswag and Lit Platform movement and book club, is to bring more fans to the art, not more artists. Many writers and other industry-related professionals attend book events, whereas at a Beyoncé concert, most of the attendees are not singers but fans, he noted. “If the only reason you enjoy something is just because you’re doing it, then you’re really limiting your capacity for it to affect other people,” the writing instructor explained to So Booking Cool.

“Most people are never gonna be a writer, and they don’t have to be. The [Literaryswag] book club shows you don’t have to be a writer, have an MFA, nor study literature to have something valuable to say about a book. You just have to be someone with a perspective and that’s more than enough.”

Israel, who is based in New York, started writing seriously, as he puts it, when he was nineteen-years-old. Now at 28, the writing instructor said one of the most important aspects of his classes (in addition to learning from his students) is for his students to be able to put into words what they understand of themselves. He will begin his new nearly sold out (only one seat currently remains) creative nonfiction workshop July 9 at Park Slope. Later this month, the Awards VP of the National Book Critics Circle, will host his next book club meet on Wednesday, July 25 at 7pm at the Brooklyn Circus. The event is open to all.

Listen to the full interview to learn how culture and hip hop frame Literaryswag, why he thinks writers and authors should be more visible, his thoughts on black consumerism when it comes to book buying, how he hopes to build his movement to immerse the current and future generations into the appeal of books, the book release he is highly anticipating, and more! For more information on Israel, visit his official website. 

Interview With Pratima Rao Gluckman, Author of “Nevertheless, She Persisted”!

Pratima-11-full-sizePratima Rao Gluckman knew as a child that she wanted to become an engineer and leader after taking her first programming class and routinely organizing her neighborhood’s cricket games. She didn’t, however, know she would want to write a book. But it was the topic that made her passionate. Gluckman wrote and published Nevertheless, She Persisted: True Stories of Women Leaders in Tech  because she noticed that at women conferences, the audiences were eager to know the journeys of female executives, etc., in technology. She interviewed over twenty women who are directors, senior directors, vice presidents, senior vice presidents, and CEO’s.

While Gluckman’s book is meant to empower women, she assured So Booking Cool that it is not about alienating the men. “It’s not to tell the men ‘it’s our turn.’ It’s not to tell the men ‘we’re taking over the world’ and they need to move to the side.  I am saying innovation is good for businesses; and there are studies that show when you have equality of men and women at the top, companies are 21% more successful. What’s good is to have diversity, and we need to have diversity at the top.”

Listen to full interview to learn more about the other brilliant women profiled in Nevertheless, She Persisted, the publishing process of Gluckman’s book, including some of the challenges she faced, how she planned her book launch, whether she will self-publish or traditionally publish her next book, what she thinks can be done to make more girls interested in engineering, and more! For more information, visit her official website.

Interview With Allen Maldonado and Kellon Akeem About Their New Film “A Father’s Love”!

 

So Booking Cool recently had the pleasure of discussing storytelling in the form of film with Allen Maldonado and Kellon Akeem who premiered their new movie, A Father’s Love, at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF). The short film, which centers on a teenage couple dealing with intense circumstances, was met with positive reception at the 22nd annual event. “What we want people to take away, without giving the movie away, is that there are all types of fathers out there and all types of situations that go on in people’s homes that you just may never know about….we want to make people aware of everybody’s surroundings,” Akeem said.

A FATHER'S LOVEA Father’s Love is the debut from Mansa Productions, a new film company launched in January by Akeem and actor Jessie T. Usher. The business partners worked with seasoned talent, such as RonReaco Lee and Tichina Arnold, which helped ease the process of producing their first movie.

When chatting with Akeem and Maldonado, it is clear both are excited for what the future holds and are passionate about their craft. In fact, Maldonado, a serial entrepreneur, founded the app, EverybodyDigital to serve as a platform for short-films. He noticed the need when he realized many short-filmmakers feel lost after the film festival circuit ends. The aim is to help creators extend the life of their projects. Similarly, Akeem says he and Jessie are also looking for talent to join Mansa Productions.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about filmmaking, film festivals, Maldonado and Akeem’s big upcoming projects, their advice for aspiring writers, producers, etc., and more! For more information visit Mansa Productions and EverybodyDigital.