I'd like to say thank you to everyone who has supported me on my journey to completing my first novel. To those of you who don't know me or my work and are visiting this page for the first time, welcome.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to share with you a little of my progress as I begin research on my new book -- a yet-to-be titled historical novel, set in the 1920s and involving the founding and establishment of The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the predominently African-American labor union, led by A. Philip Randolph. Sleeping car porters worked on the railroads, cleaning and preparing sleeping cars and acting as valets and waiters for passengers. The union struggled for more than a decade before they received recognition and equity from the Pullman Company.

As part of my research, I'll be traveling by train from Oakland to New York City, following the path of those porters from years ago. This trip will include a visit to the A. Philip Randolph Museum in Chicago. Along the way, I'll be sharing with you what I learn and experience. Thank you for coming along.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Follow-up to #PitMad

I apologize for taking so long to follow-up on my last posting.

I wish that I could say that it was due to a deluge of interest but ... no.

I found about Pitch Madness through one of the many newsletters I subscribe to. I discover many great programs, workshops, residencies this way. Sometimes not for me, but for other creative friends. Anyway, I was excited. I thought I had a great pitch. My only concern was the timing.

Pitch Madness lasts from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST. You can repeat your tweet twice every hour and hope that some literary agent who happens to be online will take notice, choose you as a favorite and invite you to query. But how to update that Twitter feed when you are a single mother, have an hour commute and you teach back-to-back classes? Hmmm...apparently, there's an app for that.

So I download this app, Hootsuite, which (in theory) should allow me to schedule tweets throughout the day. I spend all night scheduling the tweets to go live every thirty minutes. I even vary them slightly so that they won't get rejected. I'm thrilled that I figured this all out after my son went to sleep.

The next morning, I check my phone. Two tweets have posted on schedule around 8 a.m.  and 8: 30 a.m. EST and I have two favorites already. YES!

I can't investigate more. I'm off to work. In between classes, I try to discreetly check my progress. Nothing. Then I worry.

Is it my pitch? Is it my idea? Is this book dead before it reaches the light of day?

I check the Twitter feed. None of my scheduled tweets have posted. For some reason, I can't post from my phone and since I still have another class to teach, I don't have access to a computer for, at least, eighty-five minutes.

When I do get to a computer, I have only a few minutes to post before I'm off to pick up my son. I think about my favorites and console myself with the thought that it only takes one. That's all I need -- the one good agent who really cares.

Well, turns out, I didn't have two favorites. I only had one. The same person choose me twice. Well, great, she's enthusiastic.

Well, turns out, she wasn't an agent. She was an intern. But that makes sense, since agents are so busy.

Well, turns out, she didn't work for an agent. She works for a publisher -- who was looking for people to enter their writing contest.

So that was ... disappointing. My sister says that one day this will all make me laugh.

You know, it's been a while and it's still not funny.

I will say this. There were quite a few writers who got interest from agents, so it's legit. I checked out their websites. I think Pitch Madness is probably great for writers of children's books, anything from picture books to young adult. Most of the categories and the agents cater to a younger audience than I am seeking. Perhaps, it isn't right for me.

Doesn't look like there will be some magical happy ending or fairy godmothers helping me to find an agent at the moment.  Just some hard work and a thick skin.  Perhaps, one day, my sister hopes -- a sense of humor. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


So, this is unexpected. Fresh from the inbox -- Twitter is hosting a pitch-a-thon, of sorts. For about twenty-four hours, you can pitch your manuscript two times per hour for every completed manuscript while literary agents monitor the feed.  If interested, an agent will favorite the pitch, which is considered an invitation to query.

Here's my pitch:

Sons of Promise is a Civil War era ghost story about one family's legacy of sacrifice and silence as they try to define what it means to be free.

Tell me what you think.

Oh, and wish me luck. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Novel

Several years ago, I came across an interesting fact in a book called The Black Book -- slaves in Washington D.C. were emancipated in 1862, almost an entire year before slavery was abolished nationally. It stated that, at least, seven black men claimed compensation for a total of 28 slaves that they had owned. It was strange fact that stayed with me for a long time. 
As an undergrad at the University of California, Berkeley, I had the opportunity to participate in many long discussions about race and race relations. What has always interested me was not only how African-Americans relate to America but how they relate to each other; so my novel, Fruit of the Seed, examines the question, what are the bonds that keep a growing diverse community together. Fruit of the Seed is a historical novel about a family of free blacks who owned slaves at the beginning of the Civil War. It is the story of the ties that holds a family together --of history, of faith and of memories.
I am seeking representation for Fruit of the Seed; however, you will be able to preview excerpts sometime this year. I hope that you enjoy it.

Challenge Accepted

I'm mostly challenging myself -- to get a publisher within a year. The urgency has less to do with my ego than inertia and my own inability to "get my head out of my ass."

 I've been sitting this novel for over a decade now and haven't made single stride towards getting published. Due less to a lack of skill than commitment.I just haven't tried hard enough. I've been too scared, I suppose. Rejection. Criticism. You all know. The novel is as finished as its going to get. Time to get it out of my dusty drawers (The kind you open, not the kind you wear) and drop kick it into the world.

But today, I'm putting that all behind me. I'm going to document, as much of this as I can possibly stomach and see what happens. You can watch and cringe. I know I will.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Was named John Steinbeck Fellow for 2012/2013. Gave my first reading this past December. It can be viewed on the following link.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Authenticity: The meaning of blackness

Au then tic i ty: [n] The quality or condition of being authentic, trustworthy, or genuine.

I’ve been thinking about authenticity a great deal lately. Perhaps it is a by-product of getting older; I am not so much impatient, as I am short on time. The older I get, I realize that I don’t have as much time for other people’s agendas because I’m trying to complete the items on my own bucket list. I want to make the difference clear because I could, if I wanted to, tolerate or indulge other people’s issues but I no longer have time to waste. Not if I am to do what I feel I was put on the planet to do. So instead of the usual equivocation, I’m going for the jugular - not out of malice, but out of necessity. I tell people what I think, how I feel and what I intend because it is expedient. How much time do we waste when we don’t tell the truth? And how much time passes while we get frustrated when our needs are not met? How much aggravation do we endure trying to discover the truth from one another, when a little honesty, up front is all that was needed? I can tell you, personally, that the difference in my life now and the way it was before is profound. The difference has been frightening and freeing because in coming to my own, I recognize that there are so many people who have not.

In my own life, I have had my authenticity called into question by my own family because I have a college education. How many of us have endured questioning the likes of a Congressional confirmation because our people suspected that education somehow changed us? We are forced to prove our authenticity by speaking Ebonics, sporting a dashiki or overpriced athletic shoes or watching an episode of Meet the Browns -- until we leave the family reunion and retreat to the privacy of our own homes, free to be ourselves. However, some of us, in the secret recesses of our consciousness are wondering ourselves – What does it mean to be black?

I ask myself – how should we define black (or any other) authenticity? Cornel West has written:

…blackness has no meaning outside of a system of race-conscious people and practices. After centuries of racist degradation, exploitation, and oppression in America, blackness means being minimally subject to white supremacist abuse and being part of a rich culture and community that has struggled against such abuse. All people with black skin and African phenotype are subject to potential white-supremacist abuse. Hence, all black Americans have some interest in resisting racism – even if their interest is confined solely to themselves as individuals rather than to larger black communities. Yet how this "interest is defined and how individuals and communities are understood vary. So any claim to black authenticity – beyond being the potential object of racist abuse and heir to a grand tradition of black struggle – is contingent on one’s political definition of black interest and one’s ethical understanding of how this interest relates to individuals and communities in and outside black America. In short, blackness is a political and ethical construct.

Blackness is a political and ethical construct. I understand this. Based upon our hundreds year history in these United States, people of African descent shared a social condition, which sought to control their individual and collective destiny. This social condition bound people of African descent regard of class, education and culture of origin. Then that condition seemingly disappeared. The mechanism of legal segregation and Jim Crow is dismantled and some members of a once united community begin to prosper. Without the social condition that once bound us together, what do we become? Who are we? What does it mean to be black now? I cannot disagree with Mr. West but blackness, not only, is a historical, political and social construct -- but also a cultural one.

Cul ture: [n] the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.

But what about those of us who have defined not only identified it politically and ethically, but culturally? What if what I define as blackness has something do with a common history but also a common language, common habits, customs and worldview? The question then becomes what is or more specifically, which black culture? Urban, inner city? Rural south? Upper middle class? West Indian? West African? Which is more genuine? More black? Because all of these have a shared interest in eliminating racism but the cultures are different, aren't they? If that is the case, which is black?

Co opt: [v] To take or assume for one's own use; appropriate

ALSO To neutralize or win over (an independent minority, for example) through assimilation into an established group or culture

I’d like to believe that there is more that holds black people together than a common phenotype and a history of violently sustained racism and attempted genocide. I’d like to believe that what holds us together is deeper than that. Because the truth is, if that is all there is, then that really isn't enough to sustain us. We will continue to trivialize our history, allow others to define us and our identity will continue to co opted, regurgitated and sold back to us in bright shiny little packages by those who have no investment in either social justice or sustaining and nurturing our culture, however you may define it.

It is time to finally have a serious discussion about what it means to be black in America beyond the impact of racism. Understand that this in no way, means that we should abandon the fight against the institution of racism nor do I champion the argument in a post-racial society, the a discussion of race is no longer relevant What I am saying is that in our increasingly multi-racial, poly-lingual, it becomes increasingly important to understand who we are. As we live culture, we also create it. The continued creation of black should be deliberate, thoughtful, nurturing, not left to chance or in the hands of those with their own agendas. So what is it, people? Tell me, who are we?

Friday, July 17, 2009

San Francisco Writers Anthology

An excerpt from this novel-in-progress is published in the 2009 San Francisco Writers Conference Anthology. Available on both iUniverse and Amazon.

Check it out!

DailyLit: What I'm Reading Now


© 2008 L. Rebecca Harris