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.

Review: “What Truth Sounds Like” by Michael Eric Dyson

what the truth

WHAT TRUTH SOUNDS LIKE: RFK, JAMES BALDWIN, AND OUR UNFINISHED CONVERSATION ABOUT RACE IN AMERICA, Michael Eric Dyson. St. Martin’s Press, $24.99 (294p) ISBN-13: 978-1-250-19941-6
Publication date: June 5, 2018

An Acerbic Truth. A Bold Truth. An Encompassing Truth. An Unsettling Truth. A Disruptive Truth. A Troubling Truth. A Terrible (or Terrifying) Truth. A “Truth” Truth (Ruth).

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson’s latest—just happens to be his greatest (book that is). In what is a defining moment in his authorship and critique about all things “race” in America, Dr. Dyson utilizes the full power of his protruding arsenal of words, incalculable intellect, and asymmetrical compulsion for expressing complexity using simplicity as well as simplicity using complexity to tell an unfiltered, uncomfortable, uncompromising truth: An Acerbic Truth. What Truth Sounds Like: RFK, James Baldwin, and our Unfinished Conversation about Race in America is an alarming but astonishing, disturbing yet defining, and exhausting while exhilarating literary spectacle that uses a meeting between then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and James Baldwin et al (in May of 1963) as a backdrop to contextualize the current racial climate in America.

Dyson “slices and dices” and “fishes and dishes” an inconvenient, almost mean-spirited, occasionally cryptic, bushel of truth with a perfect admixture of edge and eloquence. Politicians, Artists, Activists, Intellectuals, Crackers, and Bad “Niggers” (one of the chapter titles) beware. Dyson dares to spare no one; not friend, or foe, or historic figure, or president. If you are in his analytical or conjectural line of fire, be prepared to be assailed with verbal projectiles. This book is not for the faint of heart.

Dyson lays the groundwork by recounting the events that led to this historic meeting and provides a brief bio of the major players involved (i.e., Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, Lena Horne, Dr. Kenneth Clark, Lorraine Hansberry, and the only surviving “witness” amongst the aforementioned, Harry Belafonte). However, the most compelling figure in attendance was probably the least known, Freedom Rider Jerome Smith, who did not mince words. When Kennedy intimated that Blacks shouldn’t listen to the incendiary “lyrics” of the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X because that could spell trouble, Smith said, “You don’t have no idea what trouble is,” and that’s when the meeting went downhill—or uphill (depending on your perspective) from that point.

In the succeeding chapters, Dyson uses his verbal scalpel to dissect and his barrister-esque elocution to build a case for the final chapter, “Even If: Wakanda. Forever,” which is arguably Dyson’s most powerful utterance ever. I would humbly suggest the reader to begin by reading the final chapter first to enhance the experience and to better appreciate Dyson’s indomitable genius.

At nearly 60 years old, one can sense as Dyson transitions from “old head” to “elder” that What Truth Sounds Like, is a precursor for what will be his greatest works, which will undoubtedly happen post-Trump. But for now, What Truth Sounds Like, is a Wake-up call for the Woke which is why this book is minimally 25 years ahead of its time.

Thus far, we have only “witnessed” Dyson’s intelligence; his wisdom has yet to be realized—and it is as imminent as our mortality. And, as imminent as his reconciliation with his teacher-mentor-friend-brother: Dr. Cornel West. And that’s an Acerbic Truth, Ruth.

Reviewed by Professor Clifford Benton

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

DIANN VALENTINE
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.

Review: “Authority Marketing” by Adam Witty and Rusty Shelton

authoritymarketingAUTHORITY MARKETING: HOW TO LEVERAGE 7 PILLARS OF THOUGHT LEADERSHIP TO MAKE COMPETITION IRRELEVANT, Adam Witty and Rusty Shelton. ForbesBooks, $16.95 (160p) ISBN-13: 978-1946633132
Publication date: May 3, 2018

While many modern business-related books stake claim to having the “answers” few actually deliver. An exception to this trend is the recently published Authority Marketing by Adam Witty and Rusty Shelton. The authors assert in this world of social media, branding, and hypercompetition, the paradigm has shifted from product-centered marketing and personality-centered marketing to “authority-centered” marketing; thus, they have developed the formula: Expertise + Celebrity = Authority.

In short, according to the Witty & Shelton: Effective Authority Marketing involves a strategic process of systematically positioning a person as the leader and expert in his or her industry, community, and marketplace to command an outsized influence and edge on competitors.

The authors cite seven pillars of Authority Marketing (and dedicate a chapter to each one): Branding and Omnipresence; Lead Generation; Content Marketing; PR in Media; Speaking; Events; and Referral Marketing. During the course of these chapters, Witty & Shelton provide compelling anecdotes to illustrate concepts so the reader “gets it.” The language is straightforward, not stuffy, and the authors don’t write as if they are being paid by the number of words (or syllables for that matter).

An example used to illustrate the point of personal branding made by the authors is their mentioning of David Meerman Scott who decided to insert his middle name to distinguish himself from the numerous David Scott(s) across the globe. Think noted sports journalist, Stephen Smith—I mean Stephen A. Smith. Witty & Shelton also discuss the importance of “owning” your media presence, keynote speaking, writing a book, and using Twitter—strategically!

Authority Marketing’s strongest attribute (inarguably) is its intent on being written as a “how to” instead of being a jargon-laden, academic treatise overrun by “analytics” and theoretical constructs. The book is a must-read (excuse the cliché but it applies in this case) for college students (regardless of major), entrepreneurs, and people who want to go from being “dreamers” to being “doers.”

Reviewed by Professor Clifford Benton

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 .

Interview With James Mtume About His Unsung Story!

JAMES MTUME PHOTO

Society is the thermostat. It sets the temperature. Artists are thermometers. We reflect what the temperature is.” This is among the many potent quotes that emerged from So Booking Cool‘s interview with Grammy award-winning musician, songwriter, activist, and radio personality, James Mtume. His timeless hit song, “Juicy Fruit” (the heavily sampled cut for numerous artists including the late Notorious B.I.G.’s smash hit “Juicy“) is celebrating its 35th anniversary. Not bad at all for a song that almost did not get released. The Philadelphia-bred icon has not yet penned his autobiography, but a starting point for telling his story will be covered in his upcoming episode of the docuseries, Unsung  to air this coming Sunday.

The Philadelphia-bred composer had early exposure to jazz music with his father performing the genre. Mtume created a list of the three musicians he desired to work with and ultimately was recruited by one of them, Miles Davis, who would become a cherished mentor. It was Davis who encouraged Mtume, who became the first black Middle Atlantic AAU champion in the backstroke before taking the music world by storm, to explore different sounds. “When you finish a musical genre, put it away,” the 71-year-old advises younger and aspiring artists. “Once you cross a musical bridge, burn it, so that you don’t have to go backwards.”

Listen to the full interview to learn more about Mtume’s thoughts on the music industry, the artists that impress him today, how seeing Elijah Mohammed and Malcolm X speak when he was 14-years-old changed his life, the parallels between the social movements during the 60’s and present time, the proudest moment of his illustrious career, and more!

For more information, visit Mtume on Twitter or his official website 

Interview With Emma Dryden, Founder and Principal of drydenbks!

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When Emma Dryden was among the many publishing professionals who got laid off in 2009, she allowed herself time to regroup and ultimately took matters into her own hands. Just a year later, the praised drydenbks was launched. Dryden utilized her expertise and connections as a longtime publisher at Simon and Schuster and founded her own consultancy service for children’s books, in which she supports authors, illustrators, publishers, and agents. Her clients also include those thinking of joining the consultancy field. In other words, she still gets to live her passion every day, and has now worked in the industry for more than 30 years.

P1050536Emma posing with her book What Does it Mean to be an Entrepreneur? that she co-wrote with by Rana DiOrio, illustrated by Ken Min

“I urge people not to undervalue themselves,” Dryden told So Booking Cool.

The English graduate’s books have been awarded by many including a John Newbery Medal and Honor, Caldecott, three Coretta Scott King awards (author, author honor and illustration), New York Times Best Illustrated Award and Edgar Allan Poe, just to name a few. She credits the authors she’s worked with for these honors. In addition to running her company, Dryden is also an author and speaker, and hopes to expand into the podcast world.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about drydenbks and how you can become a client or start your own consultant business, perseverance, her thoughts on children’s television, the mistakes she made earlier on in her career as an editor, her favorite adult series, and more! For more information visit her website.

Interview With Teri Coaxum, Author of Peaceful Pondering: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Inner Peace!

TERITeri Coaxum, professor, business coach, and founder and CEO of Coaxum Connects wrote her debut book Peaceful Pondering: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Inner Peace in hopes that people will allow themselves to become a priority in their lives. “The book is about finding that off button,” the motivational speaker told So Booking Cool. The self-help guide, published by Xlibris, discusses the important distinction between integration and balance when it comes to leading a peaceful life–something Coaxum has learned from her  own amazing and loaded career.

In 2004, Coaxum became the first African American woman Deputy State Director for Senator Chuck Schumer. Prior to this role, she was the Project Manager of Community Relations for the former Brooklyn District Attorney, Charles Hynes. She would eventually become the Regional Advocate for the Office of Advocacy’s Region II during Barack Obama‘s presidency, in which she served in the Small Business Community. Coaxum reveals she manifested working for the Obama Administration and put it into her vision book (not board!)

Image result for peaceful pondering   The New York-based educator (John Jay, Metropolitan, and Medgar Evers) also discusses mentors and sponsors, and networking vs. social climbing and opportunists, all of which she says can be distinguished by nurtured relationships. She also mentions some of her favorite self-transformation books, including those she has recommended to her students. Check out the full heartfelt interview above!