In January 2014, I presented a poster workshop at Catholic University titled “Self-Publish Your Success, to a librarian audience. You can view the presentation at http://lis.cua.edu/res/docs/jslaughter.pdf.
Knowing there wouldn’t be a large number of minorities in attendance, I prepared myself to answer the question, “Why do you have a Black Writers organization?” Anticipating the question really made me think about why I do what I do in promoting people of color to write and to self-publish.
Here’s the reason why I do it.
I read my first book authored by a person of color as a junior at Bowie State University in 1983. One of my classmates, Dwight Cook, suggested I read “Nigger” by Dick Gregory. I remember thinking, “Black people write books?” After I finished this autobiography, I went on a journey and read as many books by African American authors as I could find. Why was I so unknowledgeable? I had attended primarily white middle and high schools, and was subliminally taught Black people couldn’t read or write. In my senior year of high school, I completed a creative writing paper and my English teacher asked me where I found the content. She didn’t believe I could be creative enough to write the A paper. Then later in life after I had been employed at a job, which required a writing test, the powers in place continued to question my writing ability.
But that’s ok, because I know everything happens for good. I first published my daughter’s book “Poems from an American Youth” in 2001, and then self-published my book of letters titled “Clear Skinned” in 2002 after I graduated with a BS in Organizational Management. Self-publishing gave me permissionless success in so many areas. From 2002 - 2006, I initiated and edited a newsletter for the Presbyterian Women in the National Capital Presbytery; from 2003 – 2008 I taught three online writing courses at UniversalClass.com; and in 2012 I graduated with a MS in Library and Information Science. If I my writing ability was not constantly questioned, I don't think I would have pushed myself so hard in so may areas to succeed.
Every February, known as Black History Month, we learn about Black Americans who blazed the trails before us. We need to hear these stories of triumph or failure also. Although there may be many books in your area of expertise, or hobby, or general knowledge, there is at least one person who will benefit from your words. Initially don’t worry about grammatical errors; getting your thoughts in print is the most important first step. If you have any type of unpublished material in Microsoft Word, whether poems, short stories, novels, biographies, I encourage you to visit lulu.com and print just one book. That’s all it takes, one book, to make you an author.
I began this email telling you of my success with the poster presentation at Catholic University, because I had a lot of negative self-talk leading up to this moment. However, I needed to leave a positive legacy. Self-publish to leave a tangible memory of yourself for future generations. And if you can make some money along the way, that’s an added plus!
Judine Slaughter, Executive Director, United Black Writers Association