My Literary Club

I just read an article from Booksparks, a comparison of literary salons and book clubs. I must say that the article simplifies the role of each type of assembly. After reading this funny piece and in response to Booksparks question (“Check out our fun and silly infographic comparing literary salons and book clubs. Which novel group do you belong to?”), I have to change my definition of my own book club and now call it a “literary club.” Mine is a literary club because of its combination of a literary salon and a book club. How so?

How does my club differ from the typical book club and a literary salon?

According to Booksparks, literary salons are a selective gathering of likeminded intellectual individuals discussing the topic of literature. Book clubs, on the other hand, are a collection of people who found enough time in their busy schedules to talk about a book they half-read.

My Literary Club: What I used to call my book club has now evolved into a literary club. (I do not like the connotation of a salon with reference to academic matters.) There are 232 of us, a selective gathering of likeminded intellectual individuals who found enough time in their busy schedules to discuss about a book they finished.

If a member does not finish the book by the next face-to-face gathering, he or she is encouraged to excuse self from that month’s discussion and try again with the next book. We do not “half-read” a book, nor should anyone do or admit to doing such a thing.

How do we select books?

In planning ahead, the organizer solicits book suggestions from members on interesting and unique books that will cover months of reading. We respond with choices of what we would like to read. She sends out the titles of books that we gave, and we vote. The winning books are targeted for each month, so that we know months ahead what we are reading and can secure our books any way we wish.

Also, the organizer can suggest a number of books that she thinks are of literary significance and offer those. We share our opinions, and if we agree with her, those books/novels enter our reading list and are marked for an applicable month.

Who is invited to my club?

All book lovers are invited: scholars, academics, professors, pretty, single people, rich, retired folk, people with a spare hour, parents, college students, hopeless romantics, daydreamers, and bookworms. I find myself in as many as 10 of the categories here, but as Booksparks puts it, “Can we all agree that the best part of any reading group is the book?” Yes, we can! 

For how long do we meet?

The meeting is set for an inflexible two-hour duration. We begin promptly with food ordering, find a seat, and begin with introductions and networking while the chef prepares our food. The restaurants we go to are also mindful of our two-hour meeting time. Therefore, they get our food ready within minutes.

Where is my literary club held?

We do not meet “online or in a neighbor’s toy-littered living room.” We meet in swanky eateries around town. For the first few minutes after we arrive, we greet each other, order our food, and we make small talks as we get to know each other. This is also a chance to network, and I have met some interesting people from all “works of life,” and colleagues: college professors and other teachers. We eat first and discuss the book after the tables are cleared.

What do we wear?

No member has shown up yet in clean yoga pants. We dress up for the event, not necessarily in designer cocktail attires, but we dress the part.

What food and drinks do we eat and drink?

As I indicated above, we gather in swanky eateries that do not serve alcohol so that we can focus on discussions and contribute intelligently without the inebriating effects of alcohol. Each person orders what he/she wants or none at all. With my high food allergy history, I stick with fresh fruits, fresh vegetables/salad, and water.

What do we discuss/do?

On a day with good attendance, we usually close off almost the entire restaurant. We do not discuss “kids, spouse, politics, upcoming events,” and any other personal and distracting matters. For the two hours of our gathering, we focus on the books in clicks of five to ten people since we try to confirm with the restaurant set up. We tried in the past to combine all the long tables, but it proved difficult to hear everyone, so we now stick with discussions in groups.

On book exchange days, we bring free books to give away to others and pick up books we would love to read. If someone picks up a book you brought, you can give a 30-second review on it. Because of my love of reading, I always take several books in a bag and bring home several books to devour.

After the major focus, which is the book, and if people form closer bonds, they stay behind and discuss kids, spouses, politics, and other upcoming events. I have done this with different people over the years since joining the literary club.

Thanks to Bookspark, I now view my book club (I mean, my literary club), in a different and in a more appreciative light. The image below was provided by Bookspark.

book-club-infographic

Keeping up with the Smiths

We borrow film critic Mick LaSalle’s six qualities that make a great movie to analyze the dynamic husband and wife team of Willard “Will” Smith and Jada Koren Pinkett-Smith. The couple has two movies playing in theaters as we write.

Theory: Jada Pinkett-Smith accepted the movie (Bad Moms*) offer knowing how minimal and how inconsequential her role would be and knowing that it will do nothing for her career. The movie belittled her amazing talent, or she took it just to get out of the house because she needed a break from directing and producing.

Theory: Will Smith took this movie (Suicide Squad) knowing how much glorified his role would be. The movie exalted his amazing talents, and he dominates (more like shares the limelight with Viola Davis, who was so BAD that the bad guys called her cruel!).

Will’s movie and its cataclysmic topic gave Jada’s movie a serious disadvantage. Pitting terrorism against incompetent mothers lopsided the scale. Will Smith’s heavy-hitting plot trumps Jada’s light and so humorous one. Suicide Squad grabs the audience from screen opening to the last scene.

Attributes of a Great Movie

Jada

Will

Topical Unrecognized and unappreciated struggles of overworked mothers √√ Random terrorist attacks must be nipped ASAP. √√√
Timeless human values √√√ Sadly, terror has become the way of the world. √√√
Great performance  (Not her fault, just the script’s fault) √ √√√
Overarching consciousness Mila Kunis and her friends gave it overarching consciousness. Deadshot/Will Smith gave an overarching consciousness. As bad as his character was, he seemed to bring the self-serving characters into humanity. √√√
One memorable scene The party scene was it, but Jada was not in that scene. Several memorable scenes, but most memorable is (Will Smith) Deadshot helping his daughter with complex math problems. √√√
Ends on a note of complexity, not just ambiguity √√

Wicked PTSA president turns good and invites her opponents for a ride in the jet.

√√√√

(The meeting between Viola Davis and Ben Affleck clinched it.)

Key: √ = Stars

*Jada is too talented for Bad Moms and for the pitiful role she was given. However, the role of a good actress is to do the best with the hand she is dealt even when she is dealt a hand with nothing.

Taking Stock of Half the Year: January to June 2016

This has been an incredible year so far.

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Breakfast with 2015 Grant Sponsors in January 2016: I walked into the Katy ISD building to find a life-size picture of myself. That stopped me in my track. It was a humbling and profound moment.

 

 

 

 

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NCTE (Texas): I was one of two teachers lucky to attend an all-expense-paid National Council of Teachers of English conference in Austin with Katy district-level coordinators. (Second from the right, bottom row.)

 

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WHATCE: A few weeks after that, I attended the local conference of the West Houston Area Council of Teachers of English workshop.

(Dispay of Grant-funded resources and student work samples at an event)

 

 

 

 

Celebration reception for 2016 Grant Recipients: I walked into the Katy ISD Imagination Grant reception in May to find another life-size picture of me. I have come to accept these chance meetings of me sprouting in unexpected places and times. (Life-size picture of me stands on the floor of the reception hall. Picture on the right is displayed on the screen of me–with yellow feather–receiving the Grant check in May 2016.)

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Houston Chronicle: I was interviewed in late June for the Community section of the Houston Chronicle newspaper. (Fourth row from the front, second from the left)

–Picture was taken with other Imagination Grant recipients for 2016/2017.

 

 

Thank you, Janet Theis!! Thanks to Dr. Steele, Lydia Dennis, Amanda Palmer, William H. Rhodes, and everyone who has helped me to get to this phase in my career with Katy ISD.

I am excited for what will unfold for the rest of the year!

My Christian Father

This month we honor all fathers. Ironically, in my male-controlled Nigeria, Father’s Day is not hyped up or accorded the same level of celebration as Mother’s Day, or I must not have remembered hearing secular men celebrated on any given special day.

In America, we honor fathers on the third Sunday in June, which falls on the 19th, to be exact. I borrow this American concept to share my Nigerian father, Chief Martin K. Ohanenye. To etch his absence into me and to make Father’s Day’s importance even more relevant, our father passed away during that week in 1996 in Nigeria, on the 22nd of June.

My father was a very religious man, a Christian father, a cosmopolitan human being, an exemplary philanthropist, and the most brilliant and renowned business man. I want to thank my father posthumously and share my appreciation for his prominence in our lives. I want to share my most profound love for my father. While he lived, he was the epitome of the Christian father. I will borrow Mark Merrill’s “10 Ways to Be a Better Dad” criteria to examine my father’s qualities.

  1. Love Your Children’s Mother: That he did and showed it in his care of her and atten-
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    My parents

    tion to her needs. My mother had a free reign of our homes and her businesses. My father showered her with love and much more. Nothing is more gratifying to a woman than to know that she is loved, that all her needs are important, and that she could have the audacity to ask for and to get whatever she needed or wanted for herself and for her children. In return, my mother showered our father with the most unparalleled devotion, attention to his needs, and with boundless love.

  2. Spend Time With Your Children: Even though there were nine of us, and as busy as he was, our father
    Marces_Convocation

    At my brother’s university convocation

    made each one of us his priority. We could reach our father any time, knew where he was at any given time, and knew that he would be available to each of us. I felt especially close to him as the middle child and as the last girl. In a place where mothers were solely responsible for raising the children, it comforts me that my father featured in a huge part in raising us. He knew what we were up to and where.

  3. Earn The Right to Be Heard: There was no question that my father was heard. The right belonged to him without any doubt. He hardly spoke, but when he did, people listened more attentively than they did to F. Horton. My father’s words have been my atlas and compass.
  4. Discipline with a Gentle Spirit: I was disciplined with “The Look.” Once that look was directed at me, I checked myself and corrected; we did not need words. Our father molded and corrected without much exertion, and we learned just how much he loved us through that method of discipline.
  5. Be a Role Model: My father was my first, best, and last role model. I compared men who courted me to him, and they fell short drastically. My father had to ask me to stop comparing my suitors to him; different times, different people, he said. “You keep doing that, you will never get married.”
  6. Teach the Lessons of Life: I learned so much from my father, lessons of Christian life and love, lessons of endurance and ambition, lessons of the heart and mind, of charity and tolerance, exemplary conduct, humility, walking in the faith, and many other lessons. These instructions have helped me make good choices and helped me to avoid the very terrible and costly ones. He never did anyone any wrong, never spoke harshly, and was the quintessence of Christianity.
  7. Eat Together As a Family: Regardless of the extent of the intrusion of business matters, my father always came home for lunch. My favorite part was preparing our lunches, especially his. He ate all three meals at home except when we all traveled to the village. Even at that, he ate all his meals at that home. My father always made us fruit cocktails/salads with the abundant fruits from trees that populated our home in the village. As unheard of as it was for a man of his status to do anything culinary, his humility knew no bounds. He always made us popcorn and later bought us a huge popcorn machine.
  8. Read to Your Children: My parents always read, read aloud within earshot of anyone who would listen, and were grateful to anyone who would share in their love of reading. When business slackened in her grocery store, my mother would pick up a book and would read it aloud. Growing up, I never realized that our parents did not attend high school. They both were so much wiser and more knowledgeable than university graduates. I never realized their academic level. I devoured books so much that my father built me my own library and gave me the key.
  9. Show Affection: My father showed love in many ways and quite often, not effusively. As closed to open display of affection as Nigeria was back then, my parents touched quite frequently and caused brows to go up. My father and my mother would banter, and I would dream of marrying a man who knew what it meant to be playful with such rare looks and other non-verbal and verbal ways. I knew I was loved. I would say that both parents loved me equally, even as it was evident that I was a daddy’s girl.
  10. Realize a Father’s Job Is Never Done: It was unheard of for a father to allow his unmarried daughter to dash out of Nigeria to “wild” America alone and hustle and bustle after a university degree. Despite advice to the contrary, my father allowed me to speed off to these United States, a most self-sacrificing gesture for which I have been eternally grateful to him. He gave us the wings to direct our own lives trusting that he and our mother raised us well. My father’s “encouragement and discernment” left us with a fulfilling legacy. He knew his job was not finished. We lost him too soon.

On this Father’s Day and every day since 1996, my heart breaks anew. I am consoled that he lived to see me obtain my Master’s in Journalism, lived to give my daughter her Ibo name, and to speak to her on the phone several times.

On this Father’s Day, I went to Mass at 7:30 A.M. in honor of my father, cooked up a medley of dishes for brunch, and sat down with my daughter, brother, and son-in-law to honor our fathers and all fathers everywhere.
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Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers in heaven and on earth. Thanks be to God for all of them.

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Works Cited

Merrill, Mark. “10 Ways to Be a Better Dad.” Family First. 12 June 2001. Web. June 19, 2016.

Tuttle, Brad. “5 Awesome Old-School TV Ads for Financial Service Companies.” Time.  20 March 2015. Web. June 19, 2016.

What to Know Before Assembling the Marketing Plan

Prior to this year, I had not produced an entire marketing plan. I had created parts here and bits there. After going through the entire process, I believe anyone so determined can complete that daunting task.

By way of introduction to establish my credibility, I am an English composition instructor at a college and also teach English literature to high school seniors. In effect, by teaching at the college level as well, I am catching students at critical points in their secondary and post-secondary journeys. Prior to that, I taught public speaking at Kennesaw State University and University of West Georgia. Also, I taught grammar and an assortment of courses to gifted middle school students.

Additionally, I am an authorpreneur, the convergence of my creative side (writing) and the business aspect of my creative side. Evidence of my creative side is that I have written extensively and have been published in several media outlets. As part of that business aspect of my creative side, I own a publishing company.

[Incidentally, the term, “authorpreneur,” was coined by and made famous by Australian author, Hazel Edwards, as recently as 2011 (Morris, n.p.).]

I cannot over-emphasize the importance of the marketing plan. Everyone who is considering publication needs to become familiar with this process and engage in it. Of course, it takes trial and error to become confident and competent in it. In its entirety, the book proposal is the marketing plan that entices a publisher and/or an agent. It puts a book (figuratively) in the palms of the agent or the traditional publisher.

Drs. Gregory Fraser and Chad Davidson of University of West Georgia call the marketing plan “a close analysis of cultural signs and a set of informed recommendations” (Frasier & Davidson 11). They urge all students to undergo the process of creating the documents that make up the marketing plan: “Outside the academic environment, however, students will need to take part in this activity no matter what goals they hope to achieve” (Fraser and Davidson 11).

The advice is not to be taken lightly. Every agent and traditional publisher demand it, and it is as the professors indicate: a cultural sign agreed upon by all in the book business and a set of informed recommendations expected for submission by all in the book publishing business. The advice is not only for students but also for anyone who hopes to submit a book (fiction or non) for agent representation or for publication (if choosing to bypass the agent, which traditional publishers will not tolerate).

As I indicated earlier, completing this process is a trial-and-error exercise. I have, at one time or another, written many query letters, pitched my novels and children’s books, written aspects of a book proposal, composed synopses of my novels for jackets and possible plugs in the right places should I be fortunate to be required, written my author resume (a.k.a, author profile) and the accompanying cover letters, crafted book descriptions, and provided a chapter-by-chapter explanation of one of my books.

I must not have followed the protocol: I queried and solicited traditional publishers directly, a cardinal sin. Rejections abound daily, and they can break a budding author, but resilience is key. Referring to the rejection of his first novel by 31 publishers, James Patterson indicated in Chapter 2 of his Masterclass Online Course, “I have the scars. The scars don’t go away.”

He called the rejections “31 wrong opinions.” That rejected first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, won the Edgar Award for the ‘Best First Novel by an American Author’! Again, resilience is key. Alternatively, independent publishers have become quite lucrative as Plan A (where authors ignore the highly recommended but frustrating road of traditional publishing) or Plan B (where authors fall back on independent publishers after rejections by traditional publishers).

I have listed the components of a marketing plan. Of course, marketing plans vary. Before a writer submits the items listed below, he/she is urged to research publishers to ensure they publish his/her genre and whether or not they accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Marketing Plan Parts and Pieces:

  1. Pitch: a one-sentence explanation of the book’s content or theme. Condense the 100,000+-word novel/book into one sentence.
  2. Query letter: a semi-business letter that introduces the project and writer to an agent and/or publisher. It should be single-spaced.
  3. Book proposal: the plan for the book and should contain
    • A longer synopsis of the book (500–1,000 words)
    • Table of contents
    • Marketing plan
    • Author biography/resume (with professional credentials)
    • Sample chapters, and (if requested)
    • A chapter-by-chapter synopsis of all the chapters

A writer must start the journey over every day. The writer must be passionate and must be willing to learn and to grow daily. At the urgings of Doctors Fraser and Davidson, every student/aspiring author needs a marketing plan and must create one or several.

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Works Cited

“Book Proposal Boot Camp” Southern New Hampshire University. 19 November 2015. Web. December 2, 2015.

Fraser, Gregory and Davidson, Chad. Analyze Anything: A Guide to Critical Reading and Writing. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2012. Print.

Morris, Linda. “Becoming ‘Authorpreneurial’ Online.” 22 November 2011. Web. November 28, 2015.

Patterson, James. “Passion + Habit.” Masterclass. 2015. Web. December 28, 2015.