Thanks to Tara Betts, author of Arc and Hue and Chloé Yelena Miller, author of Unrest for tagging me to participate in The Next Big Thing, a self-interview series for writers who have recent or forthcoming books/projects.

What is the title of your book (or story)?

SHE HAS A NAME

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Attempts for years to express my sister’s treasured presence in our family. When we were growing up in the late 70s/80s, conditions like autism often sentenced a family and its affected member(s) to silence, isolation and a vague, irrational sense of shame. I’m so glad that is changing.

What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry

Which songs would be on the "soundtrack" of your book?

Oh this is tough…I think I would have to commission some original songs as well as dig in the crates from these artists: Stevie Wonder, Minnie Riperton, Joni Mitchell, Jill Scott, Earth, Wind and Fire, Natalie Cole, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Blue Note artists like Davis and Coltrane, Bill Withers, Yolanda Adams, Cassandra Wilson, Zero 7, Meshell N’degeocello, most of Motown, The Valentines…I could keep going on this question…

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

The loving of a daughter and her difference; the beauty and burden of that difference--how it shapes a marriage, how it shapes sisterhood, how it shapes her life, and ultimately, how each and all of us matter.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It will be released in October by Four Way Books.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Hard to say…as several writers have noted, haven’t we been writing about some things all of our lives? I would guess it took about 4 years among other projects/distractions for me to really pen and gather this series of poems as a collection—the last two of those years within an MFA program, and that was 6 years and a few incarnations ago.

What other books/authors would you compare this story to within your genre?

There are fairly recent collections of mothers writing about their children with special needs that are really powerful…I am thinking of Erin Belieu, Amy Lemmon and Brenda Shaughnessy in particular.

But as far as I know, this is the first poetry collection about autism largely from a sibling perspective within a southern, African-American family.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

So much

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

· The cover art is an original painting by my sister

· Multiple viewpoints in the poems that speak to each other

· A few poems from the collection can be read at jubilat, Connotation Press, and an excerpt from a reading at CSI is under "Media" on this website.

My tagged writers for next week:

Can’t wait to read Nicole Terez Dutton, Maya Pindyck, Sheila Maldonado