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”!

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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/

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.

Interview With Daniel José Older, Author of the “Shadowshaper” Series, “Dactyl Hill Squad” and More!

daniel jose older photoDaniel José Older penned his first novel in 2009,a manuscript that would be rejected forty times and eventually put on hold as he gained inspiration for creating other stories. This story is Shadowshaper, the YA bestselling series praised by New York Times (“magnificent”); Kirkus Reviews, “a must”; and Publishers Weekly, “exceptional.” And yes, there will be another installment of the thrilling sci-fi fantasy.

Of course So Booking Cool asked Older to give advice to writers who are experiencing what seems like endless rejection, which also prompted an insightful conversation about the different states of rejection, and which of them are useful. “It can feel very circular because you feel like you’re getting nowhere,” the former paramedic said. “But if your focus is really on the craft and becoming a better writer, then the rejections will get you to that goal.”

Even as an accomplished author, Older’s goal remains to improve and write better books. He believes it is critical as a writer to self-reflect, work on the craft, and trust the gut.  “When we’re talking about your gut, what that really means is you understand the beating heart of your story better than anybody else. You may not be able to put it into words…usually the heart of a story is not an elevator pitch; it’s a little more complicated than that; it’s almost poetic and that’s why it takes the whole book to get to it.”

Listen to the full interview to learn about the upcoming projects he’s excited about, including the highly anticipated Dactyl Hill Squad (Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic), his new Skillshare class, the gadget he uses to create his magic, his favorite sci-fi and fantasy works, Octavia E. Butler, and more! Visit his website for more information.

Interview with Diann Valentine, Author of “Going The Distance For Love”!

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Photo by Robert Ector

Love and relationship expert, television personality, entrepreneur, speaker, publisher, and author, Dianne Valentine recently appeared on So Booking Cool in support of her debut book, Going The Distance For Love: 22 Tips On Handling Your Issues and Finding Love…Wherever It May Be. As someone who informs that she has been in love with love since she was seven-years-old, this is an endeavor close to her heart, no pun intended. The book was composed of her and her friends’ personal experiences, a process Valentine described as a “lethargic” in having to think back on her life. However, she used these real stories to provide the lessons learned, and more importantly, to help women realize they are not alone.

“…Even experts and authors kind of create this picture that they have it all figured out and that they’re perfect; and the reality is I am an expert because I’ve lived it, and I’ve seen it, and I’ve experienced it, and I’ve studied it over the course of my entire career. I didn’t wake up yesterday and say ‘oh, I’m a love expert.’ I’ve been with women in love for over twenty-five years,” said the wedding planner and interior designer. Women have appreciated the knowledge, experience, and candor she demonstrates in Going The Distance for Love.

Listen to our full interview with Valentine to learn more about her insights on love, relationships, and being single (including their respective misconceptions), some of her past dating blues, why she thinks black women should consider dating in Rome, her response to our suggestion of her writing a romance a novel, and more! For more information, visit Valentine’s official website.

Interview With Nono The Poet About Her Poetry Book “Soul Vagina”!

SOUL VAGINAWhen asked how she thinks her book, Soul Vagina: In Between Sex and God, Who Am I? will be received for years and generations to come, Nomxolisi Ndlangana carefully considers the question before answering, “Depending on which part of the world we’re talking about…this is a book that might be banned. And if that is the case, then I have done something very right.” Ndlangana, known as Nono The Poet, hopes her debut poetry collection will contribute to the movement and progression of women.

In just a few months of its release, Soul Vagina has caused a stir with its bold title, which led to Nono and So Booking Cool discussing why vagina is a controversial word. Even at the book’s launch, a gentleman in the audience admitted that saying or hearing the word “penis” makes him uncomfortable. Women have been able to relate to the book, especially regarding the highs and lows of relationships. “You can expect a lot of sex, yes, but I use it as a medium to explore different ideas about sexuality, self-identity, and the intricacies between two people in a relationship,” the author said.

nonothepoetpicNdlangana, 30, has been writing for most of her life. She was born and raised in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and relocated to America nearly a decade ago, fulfilling her dream of coming to New York. She earned her B.A. in Media Studies at Hunter College. While performing spoken word and eventually crafting her EP, Wet Paint, she studied the journey of successful women, such as Oprah. In doing so, she realized there is no straight line to success, which helped her to not be so hard on herself.

In fact, she  discusses how those in her life who are moving up the corporate ladder and have the house, car, etc., have been supportive and are amazed with what she’s accomplished thus far. “They could not be more proud and feel they are lacking next to me, which is crazy because I don’t have half of what they have. But I realized that everybody wants to do what they love…most of the time we settle instead of going after our dreams.”

Listen to our complete interview to learn more about Soul Vagina, Ndlangana’s approach to writing (does she prefer writing with a pen or on a keyboard?), the book that recently made her cry, the importance of having a manager and team, her advice for other fellow writers, developing confidence, her next EP, and more! Visit her official website for more information.

Interview With Alessandra Balzer, Co-Publisher of Balzer + Bray!

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When Alessandra Balzer was fresh out of Colgate University, where she majored in French Literature and minored in English, she took her first job at HarperCollins as an editorial assistant. Years later she would become co-publisher of her own imprint at the same company. Balzer and Donna Bray, a fellow HarperCollins colleague, were both experienced and eager to become entrepreneurs. In 2008, they launched Balzer + Bray. 

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasThe Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth, Beyond the Pond, authored and illustrated by Joseph Kuefler, I Am Enough by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah Ariel and Leah on The OffBeat by Becky Albertalli are among just the few of the New York Times bestselling, critically-acclaimed and award-winning titles that Balzer + Bray have published.  Many of these titles have also become feature films, including The Hate U Give, which is slated to hit the big screens in October. “We like to do books that are risk-taking, when it’s appropriate, and when it offers a new voice and perspective,” Balzer told So Booking Cool.

Balzer is excited for the forthcoming titles at her company, including Kheryn Callender‘s second book and first YA novel, This Is Kind of An Epic Love Story (due in the fall) and writer and screenwriter Ben Philippe‘s Field Guide to the North American Teenager. “Thank goodness we’re finally seeing more different voices represented in children’s books and we have a long way to go still,” Balzer said. “[Field Guide] is an important book because it’s about a black boy having love stories, friendships, and drama, like anyone else. And I feel like we need a lot more of those.”

Balzer, whose publishing career spans 24 years (including a tenure at Disney Hyperion), worked under the tutelage of Katherine Tegen (Katherine Tegen Books, HarperCollins) and Nancy Siscoe (Knopf Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House). She went on to edit titles that became National Book Award Finalists (Sold by Patricia McCormick, The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich; Clementine by Sara Pennypacker and Marla Frazee)  Caldecott Honors (Mo Willems),and Newbery Medal-winner Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi, to name a few.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about publishing, Balzer’s advice for aspiring book editors, such as the pros and cons of specializing in one genre and being involved in multiple genres, the inspiration behind of I Am Not Enough, her favorite projects, and more! For more information, follow the co-publisher on Twitter.

Interview With Deborah Gregory, Author of The Cheetah Girls!

DeborahGregoryHeadshotAs a child, Deborah Gregory‘s life circumstances required her to utilize her reading and writing skills for the benefit of her illiterate foster mother. It is the reason she says she became a writer and author. “If she had told me ‘make me laugh,’ I’d be a comedian. There’s no question about it. She controlled my every thought and movement,” she told So Booking Cool. This is just one of the compelling realities of The Cheetah Girls creator’s life. She revealed that she discovered the details about her paternal side, which included learning that she has a half-sister who resides in New York like herself. What’s more is she searched for her mother for 20 years.

The Cheetah Girls, a story that follows the lives of a young, ambitious girl group who also happen to be close friends, is close to Gregory’s heart. “I’ve never had a circle of friends, and that’s what these girls were to me,” she said. As a child she fantasized about being in a singing group, though she says she wouldn’t have pursued it because she can’t sing. She may not have boasted a talent in music, but even prior to having a bestselling series, she found success as a runway model, fashion designer, entrepreneur (she owned two boutiques in New York City) and award-winning journalist. Each of these areas of business proved instrumental in the development The Cheetah Girls.

Gregory knew Andrea Davis Pinkney from their days of working at Essence magazine, who would acquire and edit The Cheetah Girls, which would expand into a beloved franchise (three high-rated films, soundtracks, sold-out tours, dolls, etc.) Gregory’s success naturally resulted in her writing another book, Catwalk.

Listen to the complete interview to learn more about Gregory, foster care, therapy, how Destiny’s Child helped influence The Cheetah Girls, the girls who covered the original books, including former girl group, Before Dark, her thoughts on the film adaptation’s Hollywood casting, advice for authors, her upcoming projects and a lot more! For more information visit her website or Twitter .