A woman sitting on top of a bed reading.

My Literary Heroes

Today is National Superhero’s Day and these guys are my heroes in writing and literature.

Connie Briscoe- When I read Big Girls Don’t Cry, I immediately started following all of Briscoe’s other books. Reading Briscoe’s books makes me feel like I’m listening to one of my girlfriends. Her realistic-fiction style of storytelling immediately captivates her audience. She tells stories that women can relate to. When I learned that Briscoe was a DC-native that made me feel even happier and proud that someone from my city had written bestselling novels. It inspired me to tell stories of my own.

Daniel Black- author of many historical fiction books is a brilliant writer. They Tell Me of Home and Perfect Peace are my favorites. Black’s storytelling is not only about our history as African Americans, but our culture and the way we live our lives. Sometimes when people hear the words “history” or “historical” they think facts, textbooks, and statistics, and then automatically shut down. While it is true that historical fiction includes facts, it’s still carefully woven into good fictional storytelling. That’s what Black’s writing does. His characters are unique, strange, smart, weird, and funny, just like some of us are in real-life. Black inspired me to tap into historical fiction since I love talking about the past. I have always enjoyed family saga and our history as African Americans. Black inspired me to weave in our culture into my stories.

J. California Cooper- was a legendary storyteller. She reminds me of my Grandmother who would tell stories about things she remembered growing up. J. California Cooper’s books are funny. Always told in first-person, but we never know the person who is telling the story, LOL. Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime, and Homemade Love are my favorites. Each short-story collection is filled with stories that are funny, inspirational, faith-filled, and leaves readers with a moral message. Cooper’s work inspired me to not only entertain but to help my readers see the lesson from the story. Cooper’s work is legendary because her books can be read at any time and anywhere and still matter. That’s the thing I love about books that are traditional like Cooper’s.

 Leonard Pitts Jr.- Before I Forget was the book that made me absolutely love Pitts’ writing. Pitts is an author who never misses a beat. The intricate details of his writing paint vivid pictures that move across the printed pages smoothly like silk. Leonard’s work is wonderfully pieced together as he tells readers about African American family life. Pitts is not only a novelist but a journalist whose commentary I deeply respect. His work forces me to hone my craft. His writing is so darn-near perfect that he makes me pay attention more to how I write. Whenever I want to take the easy way out in describing something or someone, I think to myself, what’s a better word that Pitts would use. In my later books, I stepped up my game because of Pitts. I know if he were my teacher, he wouldn’t expect anything less.

Margaret Johnson-Hodge- Like a song that hits you at the right time, Hodge’s books came into my life at the right time. Hodge has a wonderful way of stirring up emotions in her readers by the actions of her characters. I would get mad, feel sad, and then close her books with a smile on my face and a warm feeling in my heart. Hodge’s work taught me a lot about creating emotion and how to show those emotions without telling it. Instead of saying “she felt sad” Hodge shows her readers what made that character feel sad. Hodge also taught me the importance of pace in a story. You can’t rush a story and neither can you drag it out. Warm HandsA Journey to Here, and True Lies are my favorites.

Omar Tyree- What can I say? Tyree was the spark that kick-started me into writing. His book, Flyy Girl was like the story of my teenage life or the life I vicariously lived through the Flyy girls of my generation. Tyree was the modern-day urban fiction hero in the 90s. He wrote stories about urban life, urban families, and urban culture at a time when it needed to be told. Every girl and boy I knew as a youth connected to Tyree’s books. The dialogue of his characters and their style of dress was spot on to the trendy culture. I not only loved Tyree’s books, but I was also inspired by his entrepreneurship. Even today, I admire how he takes his own destiny into his hands. He doesn’t beg for handouts from the table, he BUILDS the table. He inspired me to self-publish my own work and to build a brand. Tyree talked about brand-building long before this plethora of self-publishing authors took off. Tyree continues to level-up his game and I’m always chasing behind him because I know something good will come out of it as well.

Terry McMillan- Last but certainly not least, is the queen of women’s fiction before it was even called “Women’s Fiction.” McMillan stands on the shoulders of literary giants Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, and Zora Neale Hurston. Her work filled every woman’s hand who sat under hair dryers, who sat on front porches, who laid in bed into the wee hours of the night, who simultaneously cooked with babies tugging at their aprons or who sat behind a desk yearning for something better. McMillan told the stories of nearly every woman’s experience and she told it well. Mama, Waiting to Exhale, and Disappearing Acts were my favorites. McMillan’s work made me connect more with women of a mature audience. It made me work harder at developing female characters that other women could relate to. McMillan’s work was also honest, funny, and realistic. I learned to inculcate some of that into my own writing. McMillan taught me not to sugarcoat anything but to make the story palatable.

To all of my favorite authors, you truly are my heroes. 


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