How We Do It: Black Writers on Craft, Practice, and Skill



How We Do It: Black Writers on Craft, Practice, and Skill

This edition

"How We Do It: Black Writers on Craft, Practice, and Skill". Ed. Jericho Brown. New York: Amistad, 2023. x+341 pp.

Table of contents

• Jericho Brown / Introduction

Who Your People?
• Daniel Omotosho Black / Rhythm in Writing
• Crystal Wilkinson / Asking Questions and Excavating Memory: Creating Complex Fictional Characters
• Rion Amilcar Scott / When a Character Returns
• Jacqueline Woodson / What Do You Want from Me?

What You Got?
• Curdella Fordes / The "Natives of My Person" or Blood Is Not Enough: A Meditation on Literary Kinships
• Jewell Parker Rhodes / Sweet, Bittersweet, and Joyful Memories
• Marita Golden / How to Write a Memoir or Take Me to the River

Where You At?
• W. Ralph Eubanks / Looking for a Place Called Home
• Natasha Tretheway / On Abiding Metaphors and Finding a Calling
• Breena Clarke / How They Must Have Felt--Imaginary Tulsa: Empathy and Writing Historical Fiction
• Ernest J. Gaines and Charles Rowell / This Louisiana Thing That Drives Me: An Interview with Ernest J. Gaines [1979]

How You Living?
• Rita Dove / Seven Brides for Seven Mothers
• Camille T. Dungy / Once More with Feeling
• Tayari Jones / Craft Capsules: "An American Marriage"
• E. Ethelbert Miller / Craft and the Art of Pulling Lincoln from a Hat

What It Look Like?
• Tony Medina / Ready for the World: On Classroom, Craft, and Commanding Black Space
• Afaa Michael Weaver / Wrangling the Line, Meditations on the Bop
• Tiphanie Yanique / Fiction Forms: How to Make Fun and Profundity Possible in Fiction
• Jericho Brown and Michael Dumanis / Jericho Brown in Conversation with Michael Dumanis

Who You With?
• Jamaica Kincaid / Those Words That Echo . . . Echo . . . Echo through Life
• Tricia Elam Walker / Write What You Know or Nah?
• Ravi Howard / Nations Through Their Mouths: Silence, Inner Voices, and Dialogue
• Frank X. Walker / Writing through Loss and Sorrow: Poetry as a Practice of Healing
• Barry Jenkins and Morgan Jerkins / An Interview with Barry Jenkins and Morgan Jerkins

How to Read
• Evie Shockley / Nothing New: Black Poetic Experiment
• Angela Flournoy / Yearning, Despair, and Outrage: Writing Loss in Fiction
• Terrance Hayes / Journal
• Carl Phillips / Muscularity and Eros: On Syntax

Going Back
• Elizabeth Nunez / Plotting the Plot
• Mitchell S. Jackson / Re-Vision
• Charles Johnson / The Art of Revision: Most of What You Write Should Be Cut

• Darlene R. Taylor and Dana A. Williams / Afterword

About the anthology

• Includes a mix of new and previously published essays and interviews on writing by black authors.

Publisher's description

• "More than 30 acclaimed writers--including diverse voices such as Nikki Giovanni, David Omotosho Black, Natasha Trethewey, Barry Jenkins, Jacqueline Woodson, Tayari Jones, and Angela Flournoy--reflect on their experience and expertise in this unique book on the craft of writing that focuses on the Black creative spirit. How We Do It is an anthology curated by Black writers for the creation and proliferation of Black thought. While a creator's ethnicity does not solely define them, it is inherently part of who they are and how they interpret the world. For centuries, Black creators have utilized oral and written storytelling traditions in crafting their art. But how does one begin the process of constructing a poem or story or character? How do Black writers, when faced with questions of "authenticity," dive deep into the essence of their lives and work to find the inherent truth? How We Do It addresses these profound questions. Not a traditional "how to" writing handbook, it seeks to guide rather than dictate and to validate the complexity and range of styles--and even how one thinks about craft itself. An outstanding list of contributors offer their insights on a range of important topics. Pulitzer Prize winner Jericho Brown explores the lives personified in poetry, while Pulitzer Prize winner Natasha Trethewey explores decolonizing enduring metaphors. National Book Award finalist Angela Flournoy illuminates the pain of grief in all forms and how it can be revealed in the act of creation, and iconoclast Nikki Giovanni offers an elegiac declaration on language. New and previously published essays and interviews provide encouragement, examples, and templates, and offer lessons on everything from poetic form and plotting a story to the lessons inherent in the act of writing, trial & error, and finding inspiration in the works of others, including those of Toni Morrison, Shakespeare, and Edward P. Jones. A handbook and a reference tool, How We Do It is a thoughtful and welcome tool that offers direction to help Black artists establish their own creative practice while celebrating and widening the scope of the Black writer's role in art, history, and culture. Contributors include Daniel Omotosho Black, Jericho Brown, Breena Clark, Rita Dove, Camille T. Dungy, W. Ralph Eubanks, Curdella Forbes, Angela Flournoy, Ernest Gaines, Nikki Giovanni, Marita Golden, Ravi Howard, Terrance Hayes, Mitchell S. Jackson, Barry Jenkins, Charles Johnson, Tayari Jones, Jamaica Kincaid, Tony Medina, E. Ethelbert Miller, Elizabeth Nunez, Carl Phillips, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Rion Amilcar Scott, Evie Shockley, Natasha Trethewey, Frank X Walker, Afaa M. Weaver, Crystal Wilkinson, Jacqueline Woodson, Tiphanie Yanique."

Reviews and notices of anthology

• Kirkus Reviews 1 May 2023.
"Though the book is for 'anyone who is a student of the craft,' its primary purpose is to inform and encourage emerging Black writers in particular. . . . A must-read treasure trove of practical wisdom for Black writers, writing teachers, and anyone interested in the craft."
• Sanders, Joshunda. "'How We Do It,' a collection of essays on the craft of writing, speaks directly to Black writers." "Boston Globe" 29 June 2023.
"All of the architecture that is needed in a guide for how to develop as a writer, how to think, practice, and dream on the page is included in this anthologized collaboration with the Hurston/Wright Foundation."

See also

• Anappara, Deepa, and Taymour Soomro, ed. "Letters to a Writer of Color." New York: Random House, 2023.
Includes contribution by Tiphanie Yanique.

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