Writing While Black for October 2020: Promising new African Diaspora anthologies and a plethora of online events

by Sumiko Saulson

Black talent at LCD: Erotic Storytelling Hour 

I am excited to say that I got a job as the host of the San Francisco Leather & LGBT Cultural District’s Erotic Storytelling Hour. The event takes place every other Tuesday between 8 and 9 p.m. PST. Since I started in mid-August, I have been working with Cal Callahan, the new district manager, to increase diversity. We have also started hosting a featured reader and guest of honor at every reading. 

Lambda Award-winning author Jewelle Gomez

For September, we had two Bay Area queer African American featured readers. Jewelle Gomez, the author of the double Lambda Award-winning “The Gilda Stories,” read on Sept. 1, and activist, writer and performer Rawiyah Tariq on Sept. 15.

Jewelle Gomez has some other news. Director Cheryl Dunye has purchased the rights to “The Gilda Stories” and is planning a multi-part series for television. “The Gilda Stories” have appeared on stage before. Her adaptation of the book for the stage, “Bones & Ash: a Gilda Story,” was performed by the Urban Bush Women company in 13 U.S. cities. The script was published as a Triangle Classic by the Paperback Book Club. 

An Oakland resident, Gomez is currently playwright in residence at the New Conservatory Theatre Center. “Unpacking in Ptown,” the third play in the trilogy “Words and Music,” will premiere at the New Conservatory Theatre Center in fall of 2021.

Activist, writer and performer Rawiyah Tariq

Rawiyah Tariq is currently living in the Bay Area while continuing work on their book “A Sovereign Embodiment” as well as providing care to Black queer and trans therapists via Project Ete Sen with Ella Ofori, LMFT, and launching the Black-centered My Black Body Podcast with Jessica Wilson, MSRD. You can also catch Tariq featured in the films “Fattitude” and “Heavenly Brown Body.”

The Sept. 1 episode featuring Jewelle Gomez was recorded. It is available on the San Francisco Leather & LGBT Cultural District’s Facebook page. Other episodes may be available there, depending upon the willingness of participants to be recorded. Active members of the San Francisco Bay Area Leather/LGBT community and former Bay Area residents with active ties to the community are eligible to read for a $20 stipend.

For more information, visit www.sflcd.org.

‘New Transmissions from the Dark Fantastic Continuum’

Audrey Williams is working on an anthology with contributors from the Bay Area’s AfroSurreal Writers Workshop and from the Association of Black and Brown Writers called “New Transmissions from the Dark Fantastic Continuum.” 

The book will feature cover art by Alan Clark, a book review by Rochelle Spencer, short stories by Jasmine Wade, Raina Leon, Trey Keeve and Radhiyah Ayobami, flash fiction by Thaddeus Howze, speculative poetry by Audrey T. Williams, a graphic novel by Alan Clark and segments from works in progress by Desi Lenc, Tara Christina and Dera R. Williams.

The anthology has an Indiegogo campaign, which has a mailing list for updates on the projects. Benefactors can also contribute there to aid in making the campaign a success. 

Hydra: A Series for Experimental Sci-Fi, Flash and Horror Writers

Audrey Williams will also be reading at the Association of Black and Brown Writers (ABBW)’s Hydra: A Series for Experimental Sci-Fi, Flash and Horror Writers on Halloween, Oct. 31. Hydra takes place Oct. 31, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. over Zoom. In addition to Audrey Williams, Ebony Williams, Elwin Cotman, Lynn Brown, Paul Corman Roberts, Reggie Peralta, Sumiko Saulson and Thaddeus Howze will be reading at the event.

Directed by Trey (Vernon) Keeve, the ABBW aims for equitable distribution and representation of Black and Brown voices across the East Bay lit scene. They are still looking for more readers as of this writing.

“This October will bless us with two full moons – one on the first and the other on the 31: Halloween. The Hydra: A Series for Experimental, Flash, Sci-Fi and Horror Writers and the People Who Love Them will resume for one month and one month only this October 2020.We are looking for creepy, compelling and surreal stories written by Black, Brown and marginalized artists. 

The readings will be on the Saturdays of Oct. 3 and Oct. 31, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. We are looking for seven readers for each reading. Readers will get 15 minutes of reading time to terrify and baffle our Zoom audience. Email your interest in performing to thirdvernon@gmail.com, and include ‘Hail HYDRA’ in the subject line. – Association of Black and Brown Writers, a space for all marginalized writers.

For more information, visit www.nomadicpress.org/abbw.

‘SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire’

Nicole Kurtz Givens is the editor of a hot new anthology featuring vampire stories from across the African Diaspora. In addition to telling the stories of Black vampires, the anthology highlights the work of a number of African Diaspora authors. Twenty-four of the 29 storytellers are Black.

The list of authors whose works will appear in “SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire” in order of appearance are Sheree Renee Thomas, Craig L. Gidney, Danielle Little, Milton Davis, Jessica Cage, Michele Tracy Berger, Alicia McCalla, Jeff Carroll, Steven Van Patten, Penelope Flynn, Lynette Hoag, Steve Van Samson, Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald, Balogun Ojetade, Valjeanne Jeffers, Samantha Bryant, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Miranda J. Riley, K.R.S. McEntire, Alledria Hurt, Kai Leakes, John Linwood Grant, Sumiko Saulson, Dicey Grenor, Lisa Woods, LH Moore, Delizhia D. Jenkins, Colin Cloud Dance and V.G. Harrison

The anthology will be available in e-book, paperback and hardcover. E-book copies are available for pre-order at https://amzn.to/2XMTsJF.

Sunday, Oct. 4, the Bay Area Book Festival presents Berkeley #UNBOUND, an all-day, free, virtual mini-festival, kicked off with a ticketed keynote program on Saturday night, Oct. 3.

Catching up with L. Marie Wood

L. Marie Wood, one of the authors in “SLAY,” has a novel coming out soon. L. Marie Wood’s novel “The Realm” is about a man who closes his eyes to the only life he’s ever known and opens them to a new and dangerous world. It will be released on Oct. 29.

This horror sci-fi mashup puts readers in the thick of things right from the start. The newly dead from all over the universe are being hunted by a formidable race of giant beasts, the likes of which have never been seen by the living world. Before long, he meets others from all over the universe that are doomed to live in this terrifying realm with him. This place is like nothing Patrick ever learned about in life – it is neither heaven nor hell, neither purgatory nor Sheol

Author L Marie Wood is in ‘SLAY,’ has a new novel coming out in October and received awards for two plays.

Patrick will encounter clusters of people huddled together for safety, but he acts as a lone wolf – they don’t trust him, and perhaps with good reason. He is key to the future of “the realm:” Patrick must right old wrongs and fight against all the terrors the realm has in store. He must fight to save his family and, indeed, all of his descendants. His revelations will impact the living world as well as what comes after. Wood’s second novel, “The Promise Keeper,” a vampire tale that spans space and time, from Benin to New York City, won the Golden Stake Award in 2019. 

L. Marie Wood decided to revisit her passion for writing screenplays in 2017 and it has paid off. After having earned an undergraduate degree in communications with a focus in film production from Howard University, Wood chose to focus on prose rather than screenplays. After continuing her education to earn an MA in English and creative writing with a focus in screenwriting from Southern New Hampshire University more than a decade later, her love for screenwriting was rekindled. 

Since 2017, Wood has written eight screenplays – four feature-length and four shorts. All of them have either been chosen as official selections, semi-finalists, finalists or category nominees at film festivals. Her short screenplay, “Home Party,” won the Harold L. Brown award at NOVA International Film and Music Festival.  Most recently, both her feature length screenplay “The Black Hole” and her short screenplay “Idol” were chosen as official selections in the Urban Mediamakers Film Festival. Learn more about her work at http://www.lmariewood.com/.

Symposium for the Outer Weird and Outer Dark podcast

The 2020 Outer Dark Symposium on The Greater Weird took place online Aug. 14 through 16 and featured a number of African American authors, such as Valjeanne Jeffers, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Violette L. Meier, Kyoko M and myself, Sumiko Saulson. The event usually takes place in Atlanta.

Although it’s over, you can still tune in for interesting readings and panels, such as Episode 060: State of Black Science Fiction Panel, at Subsume Summit Atlanta, moderated by Milton J. Davis and featuring Gerald L. Coleman, Marcus Haynes, Violette L. Meier, Balogun Ojetade and Kortney Watkins, plus News from The Weird with Justin Steele and an introductory interview with Kortney Watkins on The Outer Dark Podcast.

For more information visit www.theouterdark.org.

San Francisco Zine Fest 2020 – CyberFest

This year, San Francisco’s Zine Fest was called CyberFest and took place online for three weeks in September, from Sept. 6 through Sept. 26. It features 150 zinemakers! And for the first time, it has three guests of honor: Alex L. Combs, Deth P. Sun and Tanna Tucker.

Zinemaker Tanna Tucker is one of three guests of honor for SF Zine Fest 2020.

Often employing an Afrofuturist framework, Tanna uses comics and drawing as a way to map her relationship to the Black Diaspora and to interrogate the utility of Black presence – or absence – in historical and mythical spaces. She is currently illustrating the Afrofuturist graphic novel, “Black Kube,” written by Ytasha Womack (Abrams ComicArts, Megascope 2022). Her work has been featured in LAAB Magazine, The Nib and in various anthologies, including “Black Comix Returns” and “Cosmic Underground: A Grimoire of Black Speculative Content.” She recently concluded a political power fellowship at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

All three weeks of programming are available on their YouTube channel. I was fortunate enough to be a part of a 10-zinemaker block between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 8. It is on their YouTube channel – I am the third zinemaker.

Tanna Tucker will be presenting a Q&A Sept. 20 at 4 p.m. and Thinking Captions Reading Sept. 24 and 6 p.m.

For more information, go to sfzinefest.org

Berkeley Book Fair’s #UNBOUND virtual festival

On Sunday, Oct. 4, the Bay Area Book Festival presents Berkeley #UNBOUND, an all-day, free, virtual mini-festival, kicked off with a ticketed keynote program on Saturday night, Oct. 3. 

“The Bay Area Book Festival’s big fall event, Berkeley #UNBOUND, features a diverse group of world-renowned thinkers, writers, academics and trailblazers, including U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, Stephen Best, john a. powell and Ishmael Reed, to offer bold visions for the future of California and our nation.” – Julia Drake, Wildbound PR and Literary Management

In addition to U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, the festival features a number of prominent African American and African Diaspora speakers of particular interest to San Francisco Bay View readers. They include W. Kamau Bell, host and executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning CNN docuseries United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell, young adult fiction author and  long-time Walt Disney Studios executive R.C. Barnes, author of “None Like Us: Blackness, Belonging, Aesthetic Life,” Stephen Best, Poetry for the People Director Aya DeLeon, director of the Othering & Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley john a. powell, and National Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist Ishmael Reed, the author of “Mumbo Jumbo.”

For more information, visit https://www.baybookfest.org/berkeleyunbound/.

LitQuake 2020 Online

This year, LitQuake will take place online between Thursday, Oct. 8, and Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.  It will present such luminaries as Molly Ball, Jericho Brown, The Cockettes, Cory Doctorow, Joy Harjo, Juan Felipe Herrera, Tommy Orange, Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn, Kevin Kwan, Fernanda Melchor, Christopher Moore, Tom Perrotta, Tommy Pico, Pamela Sneed, Amy Tan and Natasha Trethewey.

Jericho Brown, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning “The Tradition, will be at LitQuake 2020 online.

African American and African Diaspora authors include Jericho Brown, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning “The Tradition,” Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of the Lambda Literary Award winning “Here Comes the Sun,” award-winning Afrolatina Y.A. and juvenile fiction author Aya de LeónPamela Sneed, author of “Sweet Dreams, Kong,” author and entrepreneur Dara Beevas, author of “How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community,” Mia Birdsong, queer Black poet Tianna BratcherChekwube Danladi, author of “Semiotics,” Jay Dodd, author of “Mannish Tongues” and “The Black Condition ft. Narcissus,” Saracei J. Fennell, founder of The Bronx is Reading—Bronx Book FestivalTonya M. Foster, author of “A Swarm of Bees in High Court,” former Poet Laureate Ciera-Jevae GordonRae James, author of the “Johanna Hudson Mysteries,” poet Cyree Jarelle Johnson, poet laureate of Los Angeles Robin Coste Lewis, historian Nell Irvin Painter, poet Will Smith, author of “Knucklehead” Adam Smyer, mystery writer Faye Snowden, author of “Radio Imagination” Mimi Tempestt and poet and author Lauren Wheeler.

For more information, visit https://litquake2020festival.sched.com/.

Horror Writers Association Diversity Grant

The Horror Writer’s Association has announced its first annual Diversity Grant. The Diversity Grants will be open to underrepresented, diverse people who have an interest in the horror writing genre, including, but not limited to writers, editors, reviewers and library workers. 2020 is the first year each grant is offered, and four will be awarded. The number of grants awarded in the future will be subject to the amount of funds raised. Each 2020 grant is worth $500 and may be spent on approved expenses for a period of two years following the awarding of the grant.

For more information, visit horrorscholarships.com/diversity-grants.

Bestselling author Sumiko Saulson writes award-winning multicultural sci-fi, fantasy, horror and Afrosurrealism. Winner of the 2017 Afrosurrealist Writer’s Award, 2016 HWA Scholarship from Hell, and 2016 BCC Voice Reframing the Other Award, (he)r monthly series Writing While Black follows the struggles of Black writers in the literary arts and other segments of arts and entertainment. (S)he is gender non-binary. Support (he)r on Patreon and follow (he)r on Twitter and Facebook.