Sunday, March 20, 2011

#blacklitchat with Heidi Durrow

We had a wonderful discussion on March 20 with Heidi Durrow, bestselling author of The Girl Who Fell From The Sky. This is her debut novel and it won the Bellwether Prize for Fiction.

Heidi was a great guest host and we learned a lot about her journey with the novel - which was rejected dozens of times by publishers who thought there was no market for a story about an bi-racial girl. I think that's astonishing. It seems to me that anyone who is paying attention would know that a beautiful novel that speaks to both the adolescent experience as well as the multi-racial experience would resonate with contemporary readers. But I'm just a reader ...

We asked Heidi about whether Nella Larsen's work influenced her. And we learned that she considers Nella Larsen to be her muse and that Heidi placed a marker on the author's grave. Heidi wrote about that here: My Nella Larsen: Remembering Her.

Read our chat transcript to catch up.

Learn more about Heidi and the novel on her web site, Follow her on Twitter (@heididurrow) and/or Facebook.

And check out the festival she co-founded, the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival. It's scheduled for June 11 - 12, 2011 in Los Angeles.

I'm so looking forward to reading more of Heidi Durrow's work. The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is a beautiful story and exactly the kind of book I want to highlight through #blacklitchat - beautifully written, engaging, and bringing something new to our understanding of culture and literature.

If you haven't read it, add it to your "to be read" list.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Save the date: UCF Book Festival, April 16

2011 UCF Book Festival
Saturday, April 16
For book lovers of all ages.

Last year I heard about the UCF Book Festival (I can’t remember where I saw it first) and was immediately smitten. A book festival, right here in Orlando, at the university where I went to grad school – that is almost too easy to love.

Naturally I couldn’t just put it on my calendar. Nope, I had to stick my nose into things and find a way to volunteer and bring my literary passion and professional skills together for a good cause.

And I ended up connecting with Rich Sloane, who I’d met years before, and pitched in to help promote the festival.

On the big day I took my kids, hoping they would enjoy it, too.

Turns out we all had a great time. I’ve been to many book festivals as an attendee and also serving as publicist for an author. It’s always good to be around so many people who love reading and to have an opportunity to talk to the authors behind the work.

What really stood out for me as a mother was just how robust and fun the “kids” section of the festival was. It was not some corner tucked away from the action. The kids section was the central area of the exhibit hall and it’s clear that the festival organizers want to make sure that families get a lot out of the event.

There were interactive performances throughout the day (story tellers, reading buddies, and Storm Troopers and Princess Leia). As we walked the exhibit hall many of the vendors had items to give kids, including books, so the festival does live up to it’s ideal of helping to promote literacy.

I wasn’t able to go into any of the author panels for adult titles – I didn’t think that my kids would sit still for it and it’s not really appropriate for them to hear a reading from a book that’s for grown ups. However, I did get to see and meet authors in the big hall where they did their signings.

For us a Saturday that includes stories, songs and games, books for mom and kids is a winner.

I’m very excited to be volunteering with the festival again this year. As part of my commitment to the event, I’ll post some blogs over the next few weeks about the festival and the authors who are coming. But don’t wait for me, check out the author list now. You can also get updates on Twitter - @UCFBookFestival or on Facebook.