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

Megan Devine heashot

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.

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!

yahdon
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.

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!

alessandra balzer

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 .