News from Heidi
Here you can find news about the book, festival, and what's happening with Heidi.
Publishers Weekly put out a special report on African-American publishing this week only to get slammed for the questionable cover titled "Afro Picks" depicting a disrobed black woman with an afro made of "afro piks" as her hair. The good news was that the controversy brought more attention to the notable books listed. Thank you Early Word. Among them were (yes) The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, and two friends' books which appear in January: Dolen Perkins-Valdez's Wench, and Jacqueline Luckett Searching for Tina Turner. You can read more about these two awesome reads in January's Essence magazine.
An early version of the manuscript showed Rachel all grown up at the beginning of the Part 2. The book spanned 25 years of her life. It was a total mess. I realized pretty soon that I couldn't keep growing up her voice --her chapters are told in first-person present tense--and I should make it simpler and set the book over the course of six years instead.
The Salvation Army Harbor Lights Center mentioned in the book was where my mom did an internship when she was studying for an Associate's Degree. I remember going there and thinking what a great view of the Starlight Parade they had. When I was in Portland last, I saw the center had moved off of Burnside. But I think it's still in business.
Many people in publishing lament the days when editors really edited. I am not one of them because my editor, Kathy Pories, was an editor extraordinaire. She read through each of my drafts--I think three in total--and wrote extensive notes each time. She really helped me streamline the book's shape. I couldn't have asked for better guidance. Read a cool interview with her here.
When I don't know how to finish a paragraph or sentence, I type "***" and hope that ***.
The day after I wrote this passage:
And I am getting better at covering up the middle parts. When Anthony Miller kicks the back of my chair in class, I focus on the bump bump bump until he stops. I can focus on the bump bump bump and not say anything. I hear the smile on his face as he bumps my chair. Is he counting the number of times he can bump before I tell on him? I don’t tell on him. And when Antoine mocks me in a baby voice when I answer the questions right, I don’t have to cry anymore or be so tender. When something starts to feel like hurt, I put it in this imaginary bottle inside me. It’s blue glass with a cork stopper. My stomach tightens and my eyeballs get hot. I put all of that inside the bottle.
I found this bottle in a Venice, CA thrift store. Freaky, right?
When they recorded the audio version of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky a couple of weeks ago, they needed help with the pronunciation of the Danish words. I brought in the best resource I could find: my mom! She called in and was recorded saying a list of some three dozen words that the actors could use as a guide. Tak Mor!
Reading over the book recently, I was struck by how often I write about photos or paintings. Many of the images I write about are real photos or paintings. I was fascinated by this photo of my Aunt, who I think was part of the Rose Festival court, and John F. Kennedy--it gets a brief mention in the book. Here's the actual photo. My aunt is on the far right. Oh, and that's JFK on the left!
When I read through the second pages (the second to last draft of the manuscript before it goes to print), I was so excited to see that yes, it was indeed a book. All the words were in the right order and made a story. Maybe even one that people liked. But, I also realized there were some passages that I loved that didn't make the final cut. Should I post some of those "lost passages" here?
The downtown bookstore mentioned in The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is Powell's Books even though it's not mentioned by name. That was one of my favorite places in the entire world when I was in high school. I'd walk in with $20.00 I had saved up and see how many books I could buy. Sometimes I'd walk away with more than 10. I loved that place. I still do.