Tag Archive | women writers

In Memory of “Sweet” Francis Ray

Scan_Pic0005

 

On Tuesday, July 2, Dallas-based romance author Francis Ray passed away. I was shocked when I heard the news and saddened. Even now (several days later) as I’m typing this I still can’t believe she’s gone. Yet even in the midst of my disbelief and gloom, I am still able to smile because of the beautiful memories that are exploding in my head. I was blessed to hang out with Francis for many years and it’s the times and experiences that we shared that reside front and center now.

Francis and I met in the early 1990s. She was already a member of North Texas Romance Writers of America when I stumbled upon and joined the group. From our first meeting, we clicked. Maybe because we were the only two black members at the time. Maybe because we both loved writing and reading. Or maybe because we shared a strong commitment to write about black people in love. Regardless, we clicked and I was privileged to watch (from the front row) her writing career coast, accelerate, then skyrocket.

I remember her writing career started with short stories for women’s and confessional magazines. Her stories featured white characters. Then, she moved into full-length novels with black characters. I remember her disappointment when a white editor told her she would buy her novel if she changed the characters to white. Francis said no and a few years later sold that same book, and yes, the characters remained black. I remember her excitement when she learned one of her novels would be turned into a movie. I attended the movie screening and if I was walking on cloud nine that night then she was floating in heaven. I also recall her being so emotionally impacted by a story she wrote on domestic violence that she started a fund to financially support women (and men) who desired an escape from abuse.

By the time God called her home, Francis had churned out an amazing 54 “sweet” romance novels. Sweet romances are defined as those that feature heroines with high moral values and limited life/sexual experiences. Sweet romances are usually light on sub plots but heavy on the main plot, that of boy and girl meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after. Francis was the queen of sweet romances and readers couldn’t get enough of them. Thousands of fans worldwide devoured her books, planting her solidly on both the New York Times and USA Today best seller lists. Not bad for a school nurse from the small town of Richland/Corsicana (Texas).

In recent years, I didn’t get to see or talk to Francis much. Our paths diverged but the memories haven’t and for that I am grateful. Thank you, dear Francis for the sweet memories. May you rest in sweet love.

Women’s History Month – Simone’s Influence

Simone da Costa
Simone da Costa
Creative Writer, Author, and Journalist

When Ann first asked me to be a part of an initiative she was concocting, a big smile swept across my face and lingered there for several seconds. Little did she know that I was elated at the thought of being considered for her project, an undertaking to recognize women writers as it is Women’s History Month in America.

There are a few great women writers who have helped influence my writing style, ones such as Mary Monroe, Philippa Gregory and Jane Austen, but mostly American novelist, editor and professor, Chloe Anthony Wofford who goes by the pen name of Toni Morrison.

I first came across Ms. Morrison’s epic work, The Bluest Eye let’s say in my late high school years, long ago. My first thought was wow, such rich detail of her characters and the brazen realism so meticulously ironed out. I speculate that Ms. Morrison purposely did not want to leave anything out. She had a story to tell and she would be damned if she did not tell it the way she saw fitting and she did just that.

With reading just a few words from her books she held my gaze, captured my eyes, moving from side–to-side, scurrying to get to the next page while my willing fingers worked in partnership with my eyes that somehow said to them, “Hurry, turn the page.” Her off-putting words commanded my attention; I became defenseless and I had to read on. I kept reading, though at times I might have tried to stop. Unaware of the grasp her words had, that her words had already won me over, I did not even know it until my scampering eyes told my willing fingers again to, “Hurry, turn the page” until I finished the book.

As a young writer, I am always growing and learning, and over the years I have come into my own style of inscription in that I believe in not only creating a good story for entertainment or amusement purposes, but also to unmask its true essence and make it believable. Whether it is fiction, non-fiction, romance or literature, I want to create and capture a world like no other.

Ms. Morrison has helped to shape my writing style because she has an innate boldness to stylistically write without fear, a fearlessness that surpasses all writing boundaries and communication barriers that some writers may be too weak or too afraid to try. Ms. Morrison has said, “I am sometimes frightened of what I write, but I can’t look away. I will not look away. That’s the one place where I’m going to, you know, make eye contact. It’s a free place for me. It’s not always safe, but that’s the one place where all my little vulnerabilities, and cowardice, cannot come to the surface.” http://www.empirezine.com. So, you see, if the stroke of Ms. Morrison’s pen can inscribe with such spirit, I one day hope to be able to do the same, of course in my own way.

The Bluest Eye
A Novel by Toni Morrison

Women’s History Month – Kate’s Influence

Meet Kate Policani – Author, Writer, Blogger, Journalist and More

Kate Policani

In the spirit of Women’s History Month, I asked Kate to share a little something about the woman writer who influenced her most, and below is her offering. Fascinating! Read on…

“When considering my favorite women authors, Jane Austen is the first name that comes to mind and one of my favorite authors of all time. She is a classic author holding the status of a staple of English literature. But her writing means more to me than just classics that we all read and metaphorically dissect in high school English class. Her books, and not just the ones made into movies, provided me with a wealth lacking in my culture.

Austen’s work has a wealth of culture. When I first read them in my teen years they supplied me with rich, mature subjects at a time when I was surrounded by shallow media. The stories brim with dynamic relationships and overflow with emotional intelligence. I loved, and still love, the simplicity coupled with the complexity of life. They were the opposites of my full, loud, busy life with scant substance.

My love for Austen’s books and the modesty of the period spurred me to seek other authors from her era. Bronte, Burney, and others provided me with entertaining stories as well as insight into my own culture’s downfalls and virtues. I lived in a culture where I had to cling to and protect my own innocence from intruding media filled with pornography and violence. It seems life is more violent and explicit now, at least in public, than it was through their eyes.

Austen and her contemporaries struggled with life as second-class beings, dependent on their fathers and husbands for freedoms most of us take for granted these days. Their culture was very different but their desires were the same: to be loved, to be respected, to protect those they loved, and to succeed in life. All this, Austen conveyed through story and character in a way that brought the struggles to life. As women who can own property, can be educated equally with men, and can make legal decisions ourselves, we can learn a lot from Austen’s work about strength and resourcefulness. We can remember that the freedoms we have aren’t something that women have always enjoyed, and we can be grateful to those who won those freedoms for us.”

Thank you Kate for sharing your thoughts about the woman writer who influenced you. You are not alone; there are many Jane Austen fans, and isn’t it wonderful to know that even generations later, she is still shaping lives with her masterfully crafted words.

To learn more about Kate’s wonderful collection of books and writings (and purchase a copy or two), visit her at:
Kate Policani.com
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads

Women’s History Month – The Influence of Women Writers

During March, we take the opportunity to highlight the accomplishments that women have made to this country. I, too, want to recognize Women’s History Month by celebrating a variety of women writers; many who have influenced me. I encourage you to make a special effort this month to read works by the talented women writers I have chosen to spotlight below. In addition, I invited four of my contemporaries (Kate Policani, Pari Danian, Simone da Costa, and Sean Wright) to share their thoughts on the women writers who influenced them. They graciously accepted my invitation and their posts will appear every Friday this month on my web site. So join me and my guest writers in this month-long celebration of the women writers we love.

Ann Petry was the first black woman author to top sales of over one million copies for her novel, The Street (1946). She also wrote short stories and children’s books.

Elizabeth George is an American who writes mysteries set in England. Her popular Inspector Lynley Mysteries have been adapted for TV by the BBC.

Helene Johnson’s poems are considered a model for aspiring poets. Her best known work, Poem, is still celebrated today for its simple majesty. She died in 1995 at age 89.

Susan L. Taylor served as editor-in-chief for Essence magazine for almost twenty years. In the Spirit is a collection of her inspirational columns from that magazine.

Anita Shreve has written more than a dozen novels, several of which have been adapted to the big screen. Early in her writing career, she won an O. Henry prize for short fiction.

Tina McElroy Ansa is known as a novelist but her talents extend to journalism, screenwriting, publishing and more. Her novels have held spots on many national bestseller lists.

Bebe Moore Campbell was a best-selling, award-winning author whose works dealt heavily with race relations, social causes and effects, and socio-economic gaps. She died at age 56, a treasured legend.

Alice Dunbar-Nelson published her first book, Violets and Other Tales in 1895. However, she achieved success with The Goodness of St. Rocque, which showed blacks in roles other than as slaves or minstrels.

Margaret Atwood won the Booker Prize, an international prize for fiction, in 2000. Her works have been translated into more than forty languages.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper published her first volume of poetry at age twenty in 1845. Her writings tackled the tough issues of her time such as abolition, human rights and equality.

Jamaica Kincaid immigrated to the U. S. at age 16. She was a staff writer for The New Yorker and authored many short stories, articles, essays, as well as novels.

Sandra Brown has published more than seventy novels in the romance and other genres. Her works appear regularly on the New York Times bestseller list, and have shattered worldwide sales records.

Valerie Wilson Wesley writes children’s books (Willimena Rules), mysteries (Tamara Hayle Mysteries), and novels. Many of her works have achieved bestseller status and won awards.

Nora Ephron turned to screen and novel writing after a successful career as a journalist. Her works have been published in Esquire, New York Times magazine, and other notable publications. Later in life, she became a film director and producer.

Diane McKinney-Whetstone’s novels have captured many awards including the Black Caucus Literary Award for Fiction — twice! She also writes short works which have appeared in magazines and anthologies.

Anne Rice has written more than 28 novels, several of which were made into movies. Later in her writing career, she turned to Christian writing.

Sandra Cisneros’ collections of stories have appeared on bookshelves since the eighties. Few American writers have achieved the international success that she enjoys; this, a testimony to the universal messages embedded in her works.

Jan Karon started writing at ten years old and won her first writing competition at that age. She is the award-winning, bestselling author of the Mitford series and Father Tim novels.

Connie Briscoe’s works have made frequent appearances on bestseller lists nationwide. She has penned novels, a novella and non-fiction works.

Eudora Welty is an American literary icon, who, upon her death in 2001, left the home where she lived and wrote her fiction and essays to the state of Mississippi.