5 Reasons To Attend Vital Narrative’s MLK Weekend Writing Workshop & Retreat

BY: GREGORY HEDGEPETH



When I started Vital Narrative in 2014, I knew I wanted to provide a safe space for writers of color to share their work unapologetically in a comfortable setting. While 85% of publishing is created by and for non-POC people, VN exists to 



Almost five years later, we have the opportunity to continuing making good on that promise with our first annual MLK weekend retreat. This event will take place in Memphis, TN which is incredibly fitting. Mlk was killed in Memphis on April 4, 1968 — we want to honor that legacy by providing equity for writers of color.



During this retreat, writers will be able to share their work, have it critiqued, l



  • You will learn time management on how to write a book — whether you have a full-time job, kids or self doubt.

Despite the fact that I own a business, I still put in 40-50 hours a week at a full time job, plus I’m newly married with an 8 month old daughter. Despite these issues, I still find time to write and so can you.



  • Honest, direct feedback can only improve your writing.

So many of us spend months (years!) working on our books in isolation — I’ve found that having feedback not only allows for a second set of eyes (which provides a number of Be hefts) but also gives writers the chance to find plot holes, spelling errors and/or provide clarity. Your writing may make sense to you because you know the intent behind your words. However, someone reading your work for the first time may not understand. This is where critique aids in your process.



  • Clearly defined, uninterrupted time to focus on your craft.

Trying to find time to write can be difficult when you’re dealing with an overbearing boss, children who won’t stop calling your name, social media notifications that never seem to go away. This retreat ensures that you will have HOURS of time to focus and get your ideas down on paper.



  • Learn tools that will assist you in becoming a finishing your book without going broke, crazy or quitting your job.

In the last few years, we have created an incredibly talented roster of authors, each with their own roadblocks. We will help provide you with tools that ...



  • Because we really love books and want to help you reach your publishing goals.





Join us this January by clicking the link to register: 

Writers Asking Writers Questions | P. Curry & D.A. Alston

BY: P. CURRY


So, first things first, what motivated you to become a writer?

A: I've  always written, but it was mostly poetry at first, thanks to my teacher introducing me to poets like Nikki Giovanni. I think the transition happened after I was just given an idea and I ran with it. That idea turned into my first novel. And I've been loving it ever since.

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Who are some of your influences, literary or otherwise?

A: Obviously, Nikki Giovanni like I said earlier. I also love Rudy Francisco. But when it comes to novels, I would have to say Veronica Roth, who wrote the Divergent series. She is around my age - her success and the way she started has always been motivating for me. As well as JK Rowling and her whole process. But the first books I remember fully diving into were the Cheetah Girls series, and that was all thanks to Deborah Gregory.

 

How did you get on board with Vital Narrative?

A: I always tell people my journey to getting published was nothing but a God thing. When I first started writing The Unlikely Tale of the Royal Elite Squad, I wasn't even necessarily looking for a publisher. I honestly thought I would just self-publish at first. That all changed when I was talked to a friend of mine about my idea for a story, and it just so happened he was starting a publishing company and the relationship blossomed into what it is now.

 

What was the inspiration behind your Royal Elite Squad series?

A: Originally, the Royal Elite Squad was supposed to be a coloring book. One of my first loves was drawing and arts and, around that time, people were pressuring me to create a coloring book. So one day, when I was at IHOP, I began drawing the idea for this superhero coloring book on the back of their place mats . And then I thought ‘maybe it should have a storyline to go with it.’ That night I ended up mapping out seven books! A lot of it is influenced by young women and other people I know in real life. I've been blessed to know real life superheroes, so I used this book as an avenue to tell their extraordinary stories.

 (photograph by Ken Wolter)

(photograph by Ken Wolter)

 

You appear to be very passionate about both children and diverse representation. Are those two major factors behind your work?

A: Most definitely! I've been teaching and working with children for the past ten years and I love it. They were my biggest supporters during this whole journey when it came to writing this book. We will sit in class some days and just bounce ideas off each other - I would ask what they thought about this character or even just ask them ‘is this realistic?’ It really helped my writing process. I also learned a lot of them didn't read for the same reason I didn't as a child: because there weren't a lot of books that reminded them of themselves. I wanted to use Royal Elite Squad to show children themselves in another light.

 

Are you interested in having your book series hit the big screen or little screen one day?

A: Oh yes! I would love for it to become a Hulu series, which branches off into a movie. I want paraphernalia, I want dolls, T-shirts, movie soundtracks - the whole shebang! I just want it to end up being everywhere. And it will be!

 

What do you think the future holds for The Royal Elite Squad?

A: Greatness! It's only going to higher - no one can tell me otherwise. This is a story that needs to be told and I am blessed to be the one who gets to tell it. I want to be a beacon of hope for young men and women - for them to know that they are super and elite in their own right. They may not necessarily have a superpower, but who they are is their power. Everyone needs to be reminded of that sometimes.

 

As a writer, I feel like story ideas are swirling around in my mind all the time. Do you share that experience?

A: I am a natural dreamer, so I am always dreaming of new ideas, new opportunities, new stories and new ways to make things happen. But I'm also a planner, so if I plan it in my head, it's going to happen. As soon as something pops in my head, I usually write it down and tell my core group about it to get their opinion, and go from there.

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I notice that you are a very spiritual person. Does your spirituality influence your writing in any way?

A: Yes, I believe so. I truly believe my process to becoming a published author was nothing but God. And I say that, because everything happened so smoothly. I know so many authors that tell me their stories and how they went through the publishing process - and there’s so much angst and disappointment. By the grace of God, mine wasn't like that. Everything lined up so smoothly. From creating my story to finding Vital Narrative Press to finding an amazing graphic artist to do the artwork for my book - I'm just so thankful.

 

As a teacher, do you ever get any ideas or inspiration in the classroom?

A: Always! Kids are hilarious and they inspire me daily, from their mannerisms to how they react to certain situations to their funny nuances. My book is geared toward a younger audience, so I'm grateful to be surrounded by them all day, so I can really get an authentic representation of them.

 

What are some other goals you have in mind for your writing career?

A: Besides having an original series or movie on Hulu, I want to become a best-seller. I want to be able to travel the world, talking about my book. But honestly, the moments that I love and will never get tired of, are when people come to me and tell me how much my book meant to them or how they loved seeing someone who looks like them on the cover. Or Hearing that I'm telling their kind of story correctly. Or how good it made them feel to read The Royal Elite Squad. Honestly, that is thanks enough.


You can purchase The Unlikely Tale of the Royal Elite Squad by D.A. Alston here.

Writers Asking Writers Questions | Gregory Hedgepeth & Danielle Elaine

BY: GREGORY HEDGEPETH


What is the first book that made you cry?

A: I believe the first book that made me cry was Kite Runner. I remember most vividly how that book took me through so many emotions. I loved it. I still do and recommend it. It was a lot for me. Very eye opening. I find pain so poetic.

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What is your writing kryptonite?

A: My writing kryptonite would definitely be deadlines. Even deadlines I give myself, I can never seem to keep. I’ve learned a lot about myself lately, and one thing that keeps coming up is fear. I’ve been running from myself, and doing “the work” for so long out of fear. Now, my challenge is pushing past the fear, running straight to the things I’ve been running from and commit to myself and that work.

 

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

A: Sadly, I’m not friends with any other authors. I have friends who are creatives in other ways, we keep each other motivated by being honest with one another about our work, and ideas. We are honest about our kryptonites. Being vulnerable is truly an inspiring gift. People always ask me for advice when they want to start writing, and I always say just write. Get the words out and worry about perfect later. I live by this and Im always asking my friends to double check and edit things for me. Some writers I am inspired by push me to stretch my creativity, take my writing form, depth and vulnerability in my writing to another level. I just want to make a last impact on at least one person. I want at least one person to read my work and feel something.

 

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

A: If I could tell my younger writing self anything, it would be start now. I would tell myself don’t wait, and there is nothing to fear, however I don’t think my story would be as good if I hadn’t made some of the mistakes I made to get where I am today.

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

A: Publishing my first two books independently did not change my writing process, only my desire to solely do it alone. Independent marketing is hard. That saying about family and friends joining the bandwagon last is very true.

 

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

A: LOL!!! Far too many!

 

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

A: Yes, my novel details many experiences people would never believe. I am excited to see what people will decipher as true and fiction.

 

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

A: I would give up anything to become a better writer. I would give up fear and definitely procrastination. I’m not sure what the timeline for most writers is like, but I always feel like I’m off.

 

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

A: The most difficult part of my artistic process would be consistency and balance. Once I start writing, I take off and I’m on a roll. That’s a place I’d like to live in daily, even when I am not actively creating. Life has been such a rollercoaster, trying to pursue my passion, be a good mom, and find stability as an adult, I tend to get bogged down by it all which makes it difficult to get artsy at the end of the day.

 

Does your family support your career as a writer?

A: Yes and no. It’s the typical scenario: when I’m doing good they are all for it - but when I’m not, I need to “grow up”, “be realistic” etc.

 

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

A: Yes, I believe in writer’s block, I had it for a very long time. I think it is a subconscious unwillingness to produce for whatever reason that may vary person to person. There have been many times I wanted so badly to write, but for one reason or another I just couldn’t find the words.

 

Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. Any tips for aspiring writers?

A: My only advice is just get the words out. Don’t worry about writing rules and being perfect. That will come later. If you just get your words out, as you think and feel them, the process becomes less daunting. Also, there’s never a need to compare yourself. You would not have been given the gift or inspired creatively if you were not meant to write. You’d have the desire to do something else if there wasn't room at the writers table for you too. Don't compare yourself to others, and don't critique yourself until it’s time to edit.

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When did you first consider yourself a writer?

A: There was never an “aha!” moment - it was just something I always felt and knew about myself. I have always written, because I felt stifled communicating my emotions any other way. I had always wanted to be a published author, but never took my writing careers serious until I found out I was pregnant and decided to be a mom. I knew I couldn’t tell my daughter she could be and do anything, and have her believe me without having anything to show for my own dreams manifesting.

 

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

A: I have two projects in the works: one major and one a little less major (but not minor, lol). The latter is Fire Affirmations for Dope Women in Transition, a compilation of affirmations I have written over time, to preach to myself in hard times to push through and inspire myself. It’s for women and moms of all kinds creating space for us to be light with ourselves, to be vulnerable, to push through and execute our vision in spite of things seemingly crumbling around us. The major MAJOR project I’ve been working on for years now is A Minister’s Child, which may end up being titled Spratt Street. It is a novel based on my life and the wild things I’ve experienced. There will be tons of truth and many exaggerations as well. A Minister’s Child is an obvious title, because that is what I am. Spratt Street is part of the street address of the shelter I stayed in recently. I was there almost a year, way longer than I intended - but as you can imagine, there were some characters in there!

 

What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book(s)?

A: The most surprising thing is how much I’ve been through, how much I’ve endured. My resilience and strength. When you’re going through tough time after tough time after tough time, you kind of keep your head down until you clear each rough patch. To look back at it all on a macro level while writing make it profound to see that I am still intact, peaceful, and happy after it all.

Fantasy Film Casting for 'Calliope of Atalan: The American Dream'

BY: P. CURRY

 

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as Pan

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When I was conceiving the character of Pan, I thought back to every film I had ever seen with a character who was an abusive father and/or husband. I gravitated towards Jacobs’s portrayal of Joe Jackson in The Jacksons: An American Dream. In a lot of ways, their characters are very similar in the sense that they both are shady, sleazy businessmen who are loathed by their children. The biggest difference is that Pan is more neglectful than physically abusive, but both of them are monsters, no matter how it’s sliced or diced. If Calliope of Atalan had actually been released in the 90’s, Jacobs would have fit the role to a T.


Loretta Devine as Demeter

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For Demeter’s character development, one of the tropes I delved into was that of a woman scorned. In regards to classic 90’s films, what better choice would there have been in that department than Waiting to Exhale? With Devine’s character, Gloria, being the most matronly of the bunch, I closed in on her in particular. After deciding to base Demeter off of Devine’s image in Waiting to Exhale, I looked at some of her other roles as well. Devine’s character in Dirty Laundry was very similar to Gloria aside from being much meaner, so that definitely gave Demeter a kick in the pants as I found my initial characterization of her to be “too nice.”


Marcello Thedford as Julius

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In just about everything I’ve seen him in, Thedford’s always been the big guy in the back. His characters are usually gentle giants with a good sense of humor, an attribute that fits Julius’s character very well.


Brutus

Brutus is such a unique character that I really couldn’t pick an actor to play him. Omar Gooding’s character from Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper shares a number of similarities with him personality-wise, but even then he’s far too nice. Dominic Santana (All Eyez On Me) is VERY close to what I would imagine Brutus looking like. And yet, his only notable role is as Suge Knight, but not even insufferable, hyper-masculine and oftentimes-bigoted Brutus is THAT much of an asshole. It’s honestly way too difficult for me to choose.


Keisha Knight-Pulliam as Isis

When thinking of Isis’s character description, Rudy Huxtable during the later seasons of The Cosby Show fits her to a T, even though Isis is much quieter, nicer and more even-tempered than Rudy ever was. But Pulliam has shown herself to be a versatile actress time and time again, so I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a problem had this been a movie or television series back in the 90’s.


Orlando Brown as Atum

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Most people may know him as Eddie from That’s So Raven, but before that, he was 3J on Family Matters. 3J was always a little jokester, so Brown would have definitely been a good fit for Atum.


Tyrin Turner as Herc

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Caine doesn’t have that much in common with Herc personality-wise, but Turner comes pretty close to my idea of Herc’s appearance.


Countess Vaughn as Bolina

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Bolina is a very minor and inconsequential character in the grand scheme of things, but I do imagine her being short with loudly colored hair and a high-pitched, squeaky voice, so Kim Parker definitely fits the bill.


Big Boi as Perseus

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Slurring, Southern-style drawl? Check. Floppy hair? Check. Pothead? Check. Basic sense of dress? Check. Laid-back demeanor? Check. Rapper? Check. Yeah, 1990’s-era Big Boi has Perseus written all over him.


Erika Alexander as Urania

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Urania is another character on the minor side of things, but I do have big plans for her. Being a career-oriented woman, in a lot of ways, she’s based on the image of Maxine Shaw from Living Single. The biggest difference is that she’s much more pleasant to be around.


David Alan Grier as Leto

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This may seem like a bizarre choice, but Grier is actually a very versatile actor. So no, Antoine Merriweather from “Men on Film” wasn’t what I had in mind. Joe from The Carmichael Show on the other hand is perfect. I think Grier could play a stern, ornery and old-fashioned paternal figure very well.


Harry Lennix as Zeu-se

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Remember Mo’ Money? His character, Tom Dilton, is exactly the sort of pompous, snobby and condescending elite I have in mind for the character of Zeu-se, even if he’s the complete opposite of Zeu-se appearance-wise. Samuel L. Jackson was another actor I considered - not only is he closer to the appearance, but he’s played quite a few characters with ruthless motivations over the years.


Jill Marie Jones as Hera

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Even though she hasn’t made an official appearance just yet, I already have a very thorough image in mind for Hera. As the wife of Zeu-se and matriarch of The House of Peloponnesian, I imagine a ridiculously self-absorbed and materialistic woman who has a taste for nothing but the finest things in life, dressed head to toe in a number of designer labels with a very aloof demeanor, bougie attitude and classist mindset to boot. For those who remember the series Girlfriends, each of those descriptors fit Toni Childs like a glove.


Joseph Gannascoli as Romulus

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When I first started this thing, the image I had in mind for Romulus was a slightly more sinister Danny DeVito. Upon watching a random episode of The Sopranos, I closed in on Gannascoli’s character, Vito Spatafore, and he just fits. Not only is he close in appearance to Romulus, but he’s also close in personality with a proper balance between his comedic moments and his threatening ones.


Steve Schirripa as Cicero

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I was never really into The Sopranos, so I’m not all that astute on the characters. However, Schirripa’s character, Bobby Baccalieri, was probably the nicest guy there. While Cicero is far from a nice guy, he’s shown to have a conscience and a soft side on a number of occasions, especially when it comes to his daughter. Baccalieri is also a big guy, refrains from getting his hands too dirty in Mafia business and isn’t taken seriously by the other Mafiosos, which are other attributes he shares with Cicero.


Bianca Santos as Fortuna

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While this deviates from the theme of actors from the 90’s, I really struggled to find any actresses from that time frame that fit into the image I had in mind for Fortuna.


Sharon Stone as Tyche

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Going back to the mob movies, I remember Stone playing the character of Ginger in the film Casino. Like Tyche, she is an abrasive and nagging alpha bitch who was prone to manipulation and, likewise, made for a horrible mother.


Diahann Carroll as Syne

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For some reason, Syne strikes me as an older version of Claudine - at least in a vastly different universe.


Kirstie Alley as Hestia

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One defining attribute of Hestia’s character is her fashion sense. Back in the 90’s, Kirstie Alley was widely thought of as being one of the most fashionable women around.


Dianne Wiest as Themis

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One of my all-time favorite movies is Edward Scissorhands, and Wiest’s character in the film, Peg Boggs, was an absolute hoot. She was stuck in the 50’s, and so naïve and oblivious just like Themis.


Kirsten Dunst as Eris

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In her younger days, Kirsten Dunst looked very close to how I imagine Eris would look, even though I don’t recall Dunst ever playing a character with a similar personality.


Lauren Ambrose as Moirai

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I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something about her just strikes me as the type of girl whose nice face belies a mean, catty and judgmental personality underneath.


Omar Epps as Thespis

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Nia Long as Melpomene

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When it came to films with predominantly African-American casts in the 1990’s, I feel that they all pulled from a relatively small pool of talent. There were a number of actors who seemed to be in just about EVERY movie, Omar Epps and Nia Long being two examples. The whole idea I had for Thespis and Melpomene is to create a sort of running gag about that. There’s a scene where Calliope’s watching a movie which they star in, but all the details about said movie are so vague and generic, it creates the whole “another one of those movies” effect. While minor and inconsequential, I think the whole plot line surrounding nameless and faceless Thespis and Melpomene movies will make for a fun little easter egg in the background for those who get it. Not to shade Epps or Long at all, as I think both of them are wonderful actors, but due to appearing in so many of those “nameless and faceless” movies back then, they are woefully underappreciated, as are a number of other African-American actors regarded as relics of the 90’s.


Bumper Robinson as Troy

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Bumper Robinson is one of those actors who we’ve all seen in a number of films and shows, but we can never remember the guy’s name, if we ever even knew it in the first place (I had to do quite a bit of digging to find out what it was myself). Back in the 90’s, he was always that “dream guy” that girls took one look at and fell head over heels for. As Troy is a very suave young man who girls instantly feel smitten with, I think it’s a good fit.


Lester Speight as Pothos

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I was VERY close to picking Terry Crews for this role, but found that choice to be a bit too basic. When thinking about other actors who are large in build with intimidating, angry faces but are total goofballs in most of their roles and/or in real life, I thought back to Calvin from My Wife and Kids. Looking through Speight’s other roles, he’s usually playing a humorous character like Calvin or Terry Tate or some sort of security figure. All of it works really well for my idea of Pothos.


Michael Douglas as Hadrian

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He fits the physical profile of Hadrian very well. Of course, a large amount of his roles have been as shady businessmen or morally dubious political figures, so if he was Hadrian, I’d imagine he’d totally own the role.


Julia Roberts as Theia

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Given her background as a mistress to wealthy businessmen, for research purposes, I looked to the classic 90’s rom-com, Pretty Woman. I’m aware it’s not exactly the same, seeing that Roberts’s character in the film, Vivian, is a sex worker who has a much kinder attitude and warmer demeanor then the cold and slightly rude mayor’s wife who sleeps with other men on the side that is Theia, but there are a number of parallels in their narratives, which is why it’s easy for me to see Roberts as Theia.


Narcissus

Like Brutus, the image and character of Narcissus is so strong, she’s taken a life of her own. In my mind, everything about her is so distinctive I struggle to imagine her as any actress I personally know of (although, I will admit that a few of Kathy Bates’ roles did serve as an influence, especially Annie Wilkes from Misery and her depiction of Delphine LaLaurie in American Horror Story: Coven).


Chazz Palminteri as Remus

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As the other brother of Romulus and Cicero, Remus was the cold, humorless and most straightforward one of the three. Palminteri usually plays the “straight man” in mob movies, so he would do an exceptional job pulling off such a character.


Jada Pinkett-Smith as Pandora

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Before marrying The Fresh Prince, Jada was one of Black Hollywood’s ‘it’ girls. She was sexy and alluring with an air of mystery surrounding her - qualities very much in line with Pandora.


Eartha Kitt as The Oracle

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There’s a few characters whom I unintentionally dream-casted the moment I began to develop them - The Oracle is one of those characters. Although she doesn’t make an official appearance until the second book of this series, I already imagine her as a refined, sophisticated woman who holds strong political and feminist views that she isn’t afraid to share with the class, speaking with a cat-like purr all the while. She has Miss Eartha written all over her.


Calliope

Suffice to say, with Calliope I suffered the same problem I did with Brutus and Narcissus. While I wouldn’t quite say she took a life of her own, the image I have in mind for her is very hard to pin down. I thought of Brandy, Aaliyah, Taral Hicks and even one of the Mowry twins, but alas, none of them really fit. In some ways, I guess that could be the beauty of it. The majority of the tale is told from a first-person perspective after all. When you think about it, that makes you, the reader, Calliope Thessaly. As you take the journey, you are tracing her footsteps. It is rare that you will ever know something she doesn’t know.


Calliope of Atalan: The American Dream will release on November 23.

Writers Asking Writers Questions | Yvette Luevano & gsoell

BY: YVETTE LUEVANO


How long have you been writing and when did you really start calling yourself a writer?

A: I've always written but inconsistently (which is basically everything in my life). It's really based on what I feel like I "need" to write. Do I need to write a poem? Do I need to write an essay for school? Do I need to write a journal entry about this feeling or event? I'm always writing but sometimes it's less artistic and more practical. And, to be honest, it seems so far-fetched to call myself a writer that I don't. Maybe when I have a published book in my hand, I'll actually accept the title.

 

How did you get into poetry?

A: I was really inspired after my vacation last year in the psych ward and needed to write something and to write it well. I had been laboring under the illusion that I couldn't write poetry for years but my prose never got to a level I felt confident in. I decided to try poetry again and it fucking clicked.

 

Your work touches on themes of identity, language, mental health, sexuality. Would you say that your personal life informs your work? To what extent does it influence your writing?

A: My personal life is my work and the foundation of my writing. Small Nights Gospel is entirely autobiographical. I'm hoping to evolve from that style in the near future.

 

What does the creative process look like for you? Do you have a set routine or mood that you need to get into in order to write?

A: My creative process is a mess because I'm a mess. I need to be able to process my emotions or thoughts to be able to write and, as someone with severe depression, that can be difficult. My best strategy is to seize the moments where I have the balance and energy to harness my words. I always have a small notebook because I like the tactile feeling of writing and that fuels the creative process as well.

 

Tell me about your favorite place to read and write.

A: Is it super basic to say that I like to write in Starbucks? I have a really specific order that I get almost everyday (venti iced coffee with vanilla and soy) and when I go in the mornings, it feels like my life is just together. I also like to read and write in bed. I have this really expensive and luxurious bed because I literally do everything important in it. I earned my Master's degree in that bed and wrote most of my book in that bed.

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Who do you love to read? Which poets excite you the most?

A: I have to confess, I don't read poetry enough to have a favorite author (I'm so ashamed omg). However, Neil Gaiman is my favorite author because his writing is so beautiful and poetry-like. If I could live in his writing, I would. The best I can do is aspire to his level.

 

What do you love to do outside of writing?

A: I love playing with my dogs. I adopted two Chihuahuas and I'm obsessed with them and we're best friends. On a more pretentious note, I also love to read and visit breweries.

 

What images or ideas do you keep coming back to in your work?

A: I play with images of birds and the ocean a few times in my current book. I feel like the auras and energy around these images are worth unpacking, even in minor ways.

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How do you feel you have grown as a writer?

A: I found my niche. I really sucked ass at prose. It actually wasn't that bad but most of my writing was static and expressionless. I found a genre in which my brevity and creativity could flow more naturally. I also think being honest in my writing, being unembarrassed by perceived vulgarity, and understanding who I am (good and bad) helped my writing grow.

 

When you write, do you have a particular audience in mind? Who do you write for?

A: I write for people who don't know what the fuck they're doing. Because I'm that person. I have no idea where I'm going and I have no idea how the fuck I'm getting there but I'm getting there and it's going to be a triumph when I arrive.

 

The idea that an artist must suffer for their work is one of our most damaging cultural myths. Self-care is important, especially in these difficult times. What is your favorite way to be kind to yourself?

A: My self-care is more practical because my mental health is so wacky and extremely inconsistent. It often takes the form of paying bills, making appointments, packing lunch for work, etc. It can also just be a low-stakes activity like reading a book or watching something on Netflix.

 

 

Small Nights Gospel will be released January 18.

Writers Asking Writers Questions | Darlene P. Campos & P. Curry

BY: DARLENE P. CAMPOS


DARLENE: You have a book that's about to be released - what emotions are you feeling?

P. CURRY: A wide range of them. Part of it is sheer disbelief; I really can’t believe this is finally happening. I’m also feeling a bit overwhelmed as now that I’m about to be published, I’m really not sure how to go about actually pushing and marketing my book. I even have a few questions in the back of my mind that are scaring me. Like….is this thing going to crash and burn? Is it even ready yet? Will people love it? Will people hate it? Could it become a bestseller? Could it be “discovered” and turned into a worldwide phenomenon? There really is no way to know.

Going beyond all of that, I am very happy and excited. For years I’ve been telling people I’m a writer but up until now haven’t really had anything to show for it. It truly means the world to me to finally have a book on the way. I know I still have a long way to go before I get to the point I wanna be at in my writing career, but this is a definite step in the right direction that I feel will open many doors of opportunity for me.

 

If you were hungry and couldn't cook for yourself, which character in your new book would make the best chef? 

 A: Well this is random, LOL, but it would likely be Demeter. One major element of this character is how she loves cooking. In particular, her cooking is everything to her. She stands at the stove with a smile, concealing the turmoil which goes on within. I suggest you read my book if you wish to know the whole story behind that. Just saying.

 

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? 

A: You know, I’ve attempted many different things. Cooking. Art. Photography. Graphic Design. Barbering. And a few others. Now, mind you, I did and still do enjoy all of these things, but only as hobbies. I’ve briefly worked in all of these fields and it was like, the minute it became a job, I either lost interest or realized I just wasn’t cut out for it. And yet, the whole time I was doing all of that, writing showed itself to be my true talent time and time again.

 That being said, foolishly enough, it was a talent which I ignored for the longest time. Going all the way back to elementary school, teachers, family members and various others would shower me with praise over my writing and I just shrugged it off each time. In particular, I remember one English teacher in high school who routinely pushed me to get into poetry competitions, join fiction writing programs and even recommended me for a summer writing course with a prestigious author (I can’t remember who it was). Each time he asked, I just said no thanks. And yes, I now HIGHLY regret blowing all of that off.

 I continued to be “eh” about writing until my second year of college. This was when two very pivotal incidents happened. The first was when I walked in late to my U.S. History class towards the end of the semester, only for the professor to be all “Well there he is!” It was then everyone cheered for me and upon asking what happened, she proceeds to tell me that, in her thirty-plus years of teaching, my final essay was the best paper she had ever read. The second was when another teacher accused me of plagiarizing my paper. I was called into the English Department and everything just so she and the department head could check over my sources to make sure I didn’t copy anything, only for the two of them to be stunned when they saw I didn’t plagiarize a single thing. Suffice to say, it was then when I finally realized I should probably take the writing thing more seriously.

 

What's your usual writing routine like?

A: I’m not sure I could say I have one. At least not a healthy one. Beyond being my profession of choice (even though it’s not paying the bills yet), writing is also my escape. Given that my day job is in a field that’s not at all related to writing, at the end of each day, I’m pretty much hyperventilating over the fact that I’ve spent my entire day not writing. So the minute I get home I immediately get on my computer and start typing my fingers off.

Granted, I’ll admit this may have had something to do with pressure. After all, I was really eager to get either Calliope of Atalan or something else I was working on published and/or noticed. I may develop a healthier routine now that I don’t have that dark cloud hanging over my head. In particular, I greatly enjoy spending time at cafes. Something about coffee, music and a baked treat really gets my creative juices flowing.

 

If you could go on a writer's retreat with any author, who would it be?

There’s quite a few actually. Harry Potter is one of my all-time favorites as well as having some influence on Calliope of Atalan so of course I’d love to spend time J.K. Rowling. Another book I drew inspiration from was Akata Witch, so Nnedi Okorafor would be another choice.

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Let's talk movies! Who is your favorite screenwriter and why?

A: You know, this is a bit of a tough one for me to answer given that when it comes to movies, who’s acting, who’s directing and/or who’s producing all take priority to me over who’s writing. The writing process for a film or TV show is much different than it is for a novel. With a book, the writer is also the actor, the director and the producer. It’s up to them to tell the story, give a convincing performance, create the image and keep the idea and presentation of it under control.

With film and television, the writer only has to tell the story. Not to say this makes them less important of course, but there’s a distinct difference. I’ve seen numerous films and shows which had a good story that was ruined by terrible acting, cinematography and/or production. On the other side of that coin, there’s also a lot of films and shows out there with horrible stories but the acting, cinematography and/or production are fantastic enough to mislead the audience into thinking it’s a good story.

I still have a lot of admiration for screenwriters, so I’m in no way trying to speak down on them here, but I feel that when it comes to good screenwriting, the actors, directors and producers are just as important in bringing that vision to life. After all, if Calliope of Atalan were ever to be adapted into a movie and/or television series one day, I wouldn’t want just anyone to direct, produce and/or act in it.

 

If you had the chance to write an episode for any TV show, past or current, which show would it be?

A: I would love to write an episode of Black Mirror. I really gravitated towards that series in particular because I frequently find myself feeling disturbed and/or uncomfortable with a lot of modern technological advancement, so it’s good to know I’m not at all alone there, lol. One recent digital innovation I’ve felt particularly disturbed with is the whole “Alexa” thing, so if I was given an offer to write a script for a horrific satire of that item, I’d jump on it in a second.

 

Are any of your characters based on real people?

A: Yes, quite a few of them actually. I have a lot of experience with women who have been through a lot in life and yet resort to taking out their anger and depression on others; Demeter in particular draws influence from that. Upon rereading and revising, I noticed that I subconsciously drew from my own high school experience when writing a lot of the teenaged characters that Calliope interacts with throughout the novel, and I’m not sure if I can say that’s a good thing or not. Pan is essentially a walking satire of patriarchy and toxic masculinity, especially in the black community, so I know more than a few individuals who are just like him. Brutus on the other hand is a combination of just about every “fuckboy” type I’ve ever met in my life, lol.

 

What's a goal you hope to attain in your writing career?

A: I have a long list of goals, but one of the most important ones is to have some sort of impact, especially in regards to representation. As a minority myself, I’ve grown quite tired of being limited to certain outlets in order to see faces that look like mine. I’ve always been drawn to works that fall under the umbrella of speculative fiction, and until very recently it was quite rare to have well-rounded, three-dimensional and sufficiently humanized depictions of not only black people, but also non-black POC, members of the LGBTQ+ community, religious minorities, people with disabilities, people of size and neurodivergent individuals as well in such works. And really just in general.

In recent years, we have been moving in the right direction. In the arenas of fantasy, science fiction, superhero/comic-related material, horror, supernatural, alternate history and what have you, I’ve seen a marked improvement across the board. But there’s always work to do. I want to be a soldier in this revolution.

 

Do you have any advice for unpublished writers?

Honestly, start small. To elaborate: I began work on Calliope of Atalan: The American Dream in 2014. Very early in the process, I would momentarily post excerpts of it on my old Tumblr, and managed to come in contact with Greg and the Vital Narrative through sheer dumb luck. He liked what he saw, words were exchanged, and I was signed to the roster the next day.

Now, personally, I think I just got VERY lucky here. I had no idea what I was doing, and had I never spoken with Greg, I’m pretty sure that the moment I finished my first draft I would have just naively submitted the manuscript to Penguin or something, only to give up after getting my rejection letter, even though I already knew full well they only publish like five percent of the books submitted to them.

Instead, I was found by an independent publisher who liked what he saw and was willing to give me a chance. The editing and revision of my novel was a long and arduous process that lasted for nearly three years, but after all this time I can honestly say it was worth it. Had I sent my novel to a major publisher, they likely wouldn’t have said a thing about why it was rejected. Greg and Sacha both took the time to painstakingly review it so I would know exactly what to fix. I ended up actually learning even more about writing in the process. Even if it may take some more time for me to reach a wider audience, I am truly thankful for this experience and to be apart of this team.

Long story short, don’t sleep on the independent and small-name publishers. With Vital Narrative, I found a team that was more than willing to thoroughly and personably work with me on my project. Much better than having to deal with a team of editors from afar who would either reject me without a word and/or drastically change things in my work without my consent. Besides, just being published alone is valuable experience, even if you don’t become J.K. Rowling overnight.

Release Date Set For T.J. Love's Next Book

Announced last night on Twitter, The Habitual Wordsmith T.J. Love will release his new book of poetry, Son, SHINE, on November 23.

This is the follow-up to his 2016 critically acclaimed book of poetry, Speaking In Tongues: Love In Five Languages.

Darlene Campos Discusses Struggle With Anxiety and Depression In New Interview

BY: STAFF

 
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Darlene Campos was recently interviewed by Let's Fox About It Media and revealed her personal struggles with anxiety and depression and also hopes to feature a character with the same issues in a future publication.


I [just] finished reading ‘I AM NOT YOUR PERFECT MEXICAN DAUGHTER’ by Erika L. Sánchez. The protagonist, Julia, has depression and anxiety and it was so refreshing to see a main character with these traits. I connected to the book a lot, and I aim to do the same with future characters. Mental illnesses shouldn’t be taboo. They’re a real and important subject to address and literature is a great way to do this.

You can read the rest of the interview here and purchase her second novel, Summer Camp Is Cancelled, here.

Darlene Campos Reveals Interviewing Over 60 People for 'Summer Camp'

BY: STAFF

 
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Darlene Campos recently spoke with Book Riot about Summer Camp Is Cancelled and revealed interviewing at least sixty people in preparation for her second novel.


I did have to do tons of research on children who are deaf, the 1990s, and Catholicism. This research consisted of reading several books, articles, watching informative YouTube videos, and conducting interviews. I interviewed over 40 people who were either devout Catholics or lapsed Catholics. Additionally, I interviewed over 20 people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Jessica Flores’ YouTube channel was a BIG help with research on deafness, too. Reading books and articles an watching videos are a great way to conduct research, but interviewing people is my favorite part because I get real, personal responses.
— Darlene Campos

You can read the rest of the interview here and purchase Summer Camp Is Cancelled here.

Authors Interviewing Authors | Darlene & D.A.

BY: D.A. ALSTON

 
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DA: Your second novel is about to be released to the public - what does that mean to you?

DC: It feels surreal to have a second book! Ever since I was a kid, I just wanted to have a book published. Having two out soon feels like my dream of being a published novelist is still going strong.

DA: As a creative sometimes we go through the highs and lows. How do you maneuver through the constant worldwinds of life and still create?

DC: That’s a great question. The thing about life is that it can be thwarted at any time. We have a daily routine, but sudden changes come up when we least expect it. It’s important to remain level headed during a whirlwind to make good decisions. However, it’s also okay to have a breakdown every once in a while. Writing is an awesome way to jot feelings down and just let it all out.  Being a novelist with a publishing house contract means projects still need to get done, so even when my life is extremely stressful, I have to keep on writing. A plus side about writing is that you can make your own world where everything goes your way – I think that is why I’ve always used writing as a coping mechanism.


I’ve always used writing as a coping mechanism.
— Darlene P. Campos
 

DA: What has been one of your highlights of your writing career thus far?

DC: A lot has happened in my career ever since my first novel, Behind Mount Rushmore, came out last year. I’ve had interviews, won an award, landed a spot on a literary radio show, etc. But out of all these cool accomplishments, the best moment was when a reader reached out to me on Twitter to tell me, “Behind Mount Rushmore is my new favorite book.” That moment overshadows everything else.  

DA: If you weren't writing, what do you think you would be doing?

DC: I’d be wishing I was a writer! I can’t imagine being anything else.

DA: With this second book, what do you help people gain from it?

DC: I really hope the perspective on those who are deaf changes for readers after they encounter this book. There’s this huge, skewed idea that those with different abilities can’t do anything and that’s completely NOT the case. My day job is in education and I’ve worked with students who deaf, blind, etc. and their work has always been equal to or better than students without these different abilities. My father has been deaf in one ear since childhood and he’s a doctor. That’s the most important lesson of the book - just because someone is differently abled, it doesn’t mean that person is lesser abled in any way.

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DA: What's a normal writing session like for you? How do you prepare? What usually happens?

DC: When I’m not distracted by the internet (hah!), my writing is pretty productive. For novels, I usually start by outlining the characters rather than the plot. It helps to know what a character is like, because I can figure out how the character would act in a certain situation. That makes the plot a bit easier to write. For example, readers familiar with Behind Mount Rushmore can guess very well how Jay Eagle Thunderclap would act if he locked his keys in his truck, because they already know his colorful personality.


My biggest goal is to quit my day job and write full time.
— Darlene P. Campos
 

DA: This book is geared towards young adults. What books were influential for you at that age?

DC: There were many, but the ones I can remember off the top of my head: Buried Onions by Gary Soto (an author who is very important in Summer Camp Is Cancelled by the way), To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and pretty much everything in R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series.


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DA: What was the most difficult part about writing this book?

DC: The hardest part was the research on Catholicism. I’m not Catholic nor was I raised Catholic, so my knowledge of Catholicism was basically nothing when I started writing. However, I interviewed several practicing, lapsed, and former Catholics who provided me with tons and tons of knowledge. I visited Catholic churches, read lots of books and watched many videos starring priests sharing their knowledge. By the time I finished researching, I felt like I could probably be confirmed as a Catholic myself!

DA: What are some of your goals for your writing career?

DC: For now, my biggest goal is to quit my day job and write full time. I know it’s super hard to get to this point, but a lot of writers have gotten there and I’m sure I can as well if I work hard enough to expand my career. Another goal is to have a movie produced. I’ve already written one film script, so I have a story set for whoever wants to pick it up.

DA: As a woman of color, how important is it to tell stories from your point of view?

DC: To be honest, I feel that all stories are important and I don’t think that my point of view is any more or less important than another person’s point of view. It’s true that certain people have greater credibility for certain subjects, though, yet everyone has a right to their opinions and feelings, even if we don’t agree. I’m sure there are some screwed up people out there who think my perspective on certain subjects doesn’t count or doesn’t matter only because I’m a woman, a minority and/or both. And whoever those people are, I have just three words for them: go to hell.


Darlene P. Campos's second novel, Summer Camp Is Cancelled, is available now for pre-order and will release on August 3rd. Her first novel, Behind Mount Rushmore, can be purchased here. You can purchase D.A. Alston's first novel, The Unlikely Tale of the Royal Elite Squad, by clicking here.

 

Darlene Campos Reveals Why She Included Cypress Hill On Her Spotify Playlist

BY: DARLENE P. CAMPOS

Earlier this month, we shared the playlist for Darlene P. Campos' Summer Camp Is Cancelled, featuring 19 songs inspired by the book. Those songs were selected by Darlene herself, and below, we feature the reasons she selected those songs.

 
 

Pearl Jam – Even Flow

I was born in 1991, but I grew up with two older siblings who would constantly play top hits of the 90s. Hearing my siblings play Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, etc. was a daily thing. Since Lyndon is a middle school kid in the middle of the 90s, I was pleased to make him a fan of the songs I grew up with and still listen to often. “Even Flow” is one of my all-time favorite songs.
 

Smashing Pumpkins – Today

I’ve been a fan of the Smashing Pumpkins for so long, I remember when Billy Corgan had hair! This song plays on a radio the day Lyndon introduces Melody to Fernando, her crush and his enemy. Lyndon loves this song, but definitely not on this specific day.
 

Cypress Hill – Insane in the Brain

My brother has loved Cypress Hill for a long time. He’s the one who introduced me to this band. I’m not a fan of rap, but there are a few rap artists I like and Cypress Hill is one of them. As I wrote SCIC, I went on YouTube to find 90s playlists to get me in the writing mood. This tune came on randomly and I started dancing in my chair! Additionally, I thought Lyndon and his friends would like this band because they are Latin artists, something that was just getting started in music at that time.
 

Stone Temple Pilots – Plush

This song plays as Lyndon dances with Melody. They dance together and in a split second, Lyndon does something that makes him feel extremely embarrassed. Read the book to find out why!
 

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Soul to Squeeze

This song has an important role in SCIC. Like I said above, read the book for the full
details.
 

Pearl Jam – Black

Lyndon says this song is one of the saddest songs he’s ever heard. This song really stuck with me throughout high school when I felt lonely due to a couple of unrequited crushes. It’s such a deep and sad song that I always find it hard to listen to without a few tears flowing from my eyes.
 
 

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit

This is probably THE most defining song of the 1990s. So, of course Lyndon and his friends would love it!
 

Smashing Pumpkins – Cherub Rock

This song is another Smashing Pumpkins classic. Since Lyndon is a fan, he adores this song as well.
 

R.E.M. – Drive

This is another important song in SCIC. I chose it as the background music because the beat of it begins quite ominously which perfectly fits the situation Lyndon finds himself in.
 

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under the Bridge

While this tune is about the effects of drug addiction, I thought it was about loneliness when I first heard it as a middle schooler around Lyndon’s age. It does certainly highlight feelings of isolation though and Lyndon experiences this a lot throughout the novel.
 

Vicente Fernandez – Por Tu Maldito Amor (For Your Damn Love)

This is the ultimate breakup song sung in Spanish! Grandma Raquel, Lyndon’s grandmother, is known to blast Vicente Fernandez while she completes tasks around the house. I’m sure she has blasts this track at some point! It’s also the song Javier, one of Lyndon’s best friends, suggests as a serenade to Melody.
 

Vicente Fernandez – Hermoso Cariño (Beautiful Dear)

This is a cute song for a child. It basically talks about a child being a precious gift from Heaven and it’s one I can picture Grandma Raquel singing to Lyndon, her beloved grandson. She might be fierce and mighty, but she loves her grand baby.
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Jane’s Addiction – Been Caught Stealing

Another 90s hit!
 

Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun

This song was HUGE in 1994 when it first came out. Since Lyndon’s story takes place from 1993 to 1994, this amazing hit would definitely be part of his life.
 

Ron Gutierrez – I Have Loved You with an Everlasting Love

Lyndon says this hymn is his favorite hymn to sing during Mass at Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church. While this version is a jazz rendition, I’m sure he’d love it!
 

Mr. Mister – Kyrie

This is a song Edgar Perez, Lyndon’s father, plays when he attempts to “fix” his old grill. Though it’s a rock song from the 1980s, it has religious tones to it and could be counted as a worship song. Maybe if Mr. Perez plays it enough, he can skip Mass one Sunday, but Mrs. Perez probably wouldn’t let him.
 

U2 – Gloria

U2’s Bono is a devout Catholic, so it’s no surprise that he writes Catholic themes into several U2 songs. This specific song features a beautiful chorus sung by all the members in Latin. It sounds like a Catholic Mass with rock music! Since Father O’Brien is from Ireland, it seems appropriate that he would be listening to this song when Lyndon approaches him for advice.
 

The Cathedral Singers – Angels We Have Heard on High

Lyndon mentions singing this song during Christmas Mass 1993. There are many, many Christmas songs, but something about this one gets to me every time I hear it.
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Selena – Bidi Bidi Bom Bom

Though this song is never mentioned in SCIC, I can bet Lyndon hears it sometime in 1994. It’s about a woman describing the way her heart palpitates (the sound of her heart goes ‘bidi bidi bom bom’) when she sees her crush walking down the street. I can imagine Lyndon hopes Melody feels this way about him.

Summer Camp Is Cancelled will be available everywhere books are sold on August 3.

Official Soundtrack for "Summer Camp Is Cancelled"

BY: STAFF

We asked Darlene P. Campos to curate a Spotify playlist for her book, Summer Camp Is Cancelled and she selected 19 incredible songs featuring R.E.M., Cypress Hill, Pearl Jam and Nirvana.

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You can listen to the entire soundtrack below or on Spotify.


Summer Camp Is Cancelled will be available everywhere books are sold on August 3.

Vital Narrative Announces First Annual Weekend Workshop & Retreat

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DATE: Friday, August 31, 2018 - Sunday, September 2, 2018

WHERE: A private location in Memphis, TN

PURPOSE: To unplug for three days, fellowship and read the work of other authors, as well as offer the opportunity for authors to receive a critique of their works in progress

COST: $350 ($275 if booked before August 15)

Spots are limited. Click here for tickets.

Fantasy Film Casting for 'Summer Camp Is Cancelled'

BY: DARLENE CAMPOS

 

Belita Moreno as Grandma Raquel

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As a kid, I grew up watching George Lopez. I loved Belita’s character, even though she was actually much meaner than Grandma Raquel. Belita was always a sassy, no-nonsense person in her portrayal of George’s mother. But, she was also very harsh at times, so if she were to play Grandma Raquel, she’d have to turn down her harshness just a smidge.


Javier Bardem as Father González

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Who else could play Father González BUT Javier Bardem? Javier usually plays a villain and why wouldn’t he? He can speak death using only his eyes and face. He scared the hell out of me when he played Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men. Javier is 100% perfect to play Lyndon’s strict priest and I know he’d do a marvelous job.


Ardal O’Hanlon as Father O’Brien

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In the 90s, Hat Trick Productions made the show Father Ted, a hilarious comedy based in a fictional part of Ireland. The show surrounds the daily life of a Catholic priest, Father Ted, and his co-father, Father Dougal, who was played by Ardal. Ardal’s character was goofy, kind, and gentle, just like Father O’Brien. Since Ardal has experience portraying a funny priest, he would adapt to Father O’Brien’s role very easily.


Horatio Sanz as Uncle Manny

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I remember seeing Horatio on Saturday Night Live back when I was in junior high and thinking he was the funniest cast member of the lineup. He’s extremely talented at doing impersonations and exaggerating his facial features to get a laugh from his audience. If anyone can do an awesome job playing the most annoying character in SCIC, it’s definitely him.


Eva Longoria as Mrs. Donna Pérez

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Not only is Eva Longoria an excellent actress, but she’s also a huge philanthropist for children’s causes. Because of her generous history, I know she’d play a great mom to Lyndon. Additionally, she is also a Texan and since Summer Camp is Cancelled is rich in both Mexican and Texan culture, she would know exactly what to do for her role.


Jaime Camil as Mr. Edgar Pérez

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Jaime Camil has been in both Mexican and American productions. He was the voice actor for Miguel’s father in Coco and he’s also been on Jane the Virgin as well as other comedy shows. His background in making people laugh is perfect for playing Edgar.


Last, but not least – who would play Lyndon Baines Juan Pérez?

This is a hard question because I really don’t know! Lyndon is such a sweet boy and he has strong beliefs in friendship and how others should be treated. Whoever plays his character should have similar personal beliefs.


You can pre-order Summer Camp Is Cancelled by clicking here.

 

Cover Reveal For 'Summer Camp Is Cancelled'

Darlene Campos' second novel, Summer Camp Is Cancelled, will be released on August 3rd, but today, we officially reveal the cover. Pre-orders will begin Friday, June 22nd.

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Summer Camp Is Cancelled is a young adult novel about Lyndon, a Mexican boy from Bat Springs, Texas who is enamored with his best friend Melody, a deaf girl who uses a whiteboard as her voice. Pre-orders will begin Friday, June 22nd.

Yellow

BY: Q. VERGARA


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There's something about an overcast windy rainy day that completes me. The whites blending with the grays and blues. The smudged sky made my heart smile. The whistling of the wind in the palm trees as the voluptuous clouds lollygag by, pulls my mind to wander. I can't help but listen to Coldplay's first album on repeat. The cold air kisses my cheek through the window trying to lure me out.

 "I miss you," she whispers before building up her might and billowing a hard gust of her breath through the trees and she leaves. My eyes try to follow her long flowing invisible silhouette but I only catch the train of her gown and the damage left in her wake. Before long, the trees and plants fall back to their resting positions and sway as if they had never been touched. I can't be certain if it's her lulling them as her breathing swells or Coldplay's melodies and lyrics serenading the leafs.

 

And on and on from the moment I wake

To the moment I sleep

I'll be there by your side

Just you try and stop me

I'll be waiting in line

Just to see if you can

 

Coldplay's words always held a special meaning to me. The melodies felt like a familiar embrace, like a familiar scent on familiar clothes. I could close my eyes and feel your breath on my ear. It's been 15 years since I've touched you. Why do days like today remind me of you? The song ended leaving me a moment with the cold realization that I may never go back home. Coldplay spoke to me as the Wind teased me to come outside for a hug. Her breath was intoxicating. The moisture in the air teased a light rain fall.

 

I awake to find no peace of mind

I said how do you live as a fugitive

Down here where I cannot see so clear

I said, what do I know

 

I felt like a fugitive unable to relax until I made my way back to you. I was born with your soil and roots beneath my feet. We came from the same dust. But here where loyalties lie and citizenships brand, I wait and long for you through the cold murmurings of the wind. Sparks was one of my favorite songs on this album. I couldn't help but sing along in a wispy low voice. The sun reflected light off the clouds in a way to almost make them look like they were satin and glimmering--winking at me. My face broke into a gentle smile.

 

Look at the stars

Look how they shine for you

And everything you do

Yeah they were all yellow

 

Yellow. This was the epitome of my love for Coldplay and cold days like this. I was fixated looking out the window at the branches dancing to Chris Martin sing. I knew they were dancing for me. The California Hills laid at my feet in comfort of this moment, blowing kisses back to Saudi. Cold days like this have always been my favorite. I used to miss home in a way that pained my soul but now, I miss it on my favorite days.

When I met Saudi, without the American Narrative, I was in 7th grade. He stood misunderstood with a sparkling smile.

 

Your skin

Oh yeah, your skin and bones

Turn into something beautiful

You know, you know I love you so

You know I love you so

 

I fell in love with his traditions and ideas--the way he spoke and how he laughed from the middle of himself. He was eager to learn how I lived and how I didn't judge him for his hard consonants. He loved me beyond the way people talked. He loved me the way a child loves with every ounce and fiber of his being. Saudi loved me in a way that I longed for on these cold days. Saudi's love gave me warm pillows and heated fluffy blankets filled with memories and smiles. His love grew my virtues, and when America tried to teach me how to think, He reminded me to lead with love.