Thank you powerful women for your hard work, respect to my work and push to others’ work! I am motivated to know you exist. I wanted to give away three copies of my new novel SPEAKING OF SUMMER to a woman who is worthy of a boost, for herself or to boost other women in life. The book gives example of what it means to fall out of community and have to overcome a lot to find it again. It is a story I know I am not alone in knowing well and figured others out there are like me, too.
The book giveaway winner is Develyn Biagas: a longtime educator and youth advocate now working on her PhD, with a specialty focus area of African-American girls and the school to prison pipeline. She also works in young adult literature and plans to publish her first YA novel soon. I am happy girls she works with now have someone like her to look up to.
Her life mission is near and dear to my heart. It is a mixed blessing to enjoy a career in literature today; my concern for more young Black men entering prison than college consumed me to write my M.F.A. thesis in this frightening context, which led to the unexpected sale of that thesis to become my first novel Upstate. I was so happy to hear from her for the giveaway because I know the future Dr. Biagas has taught Upstate for years to high school students (which isn’t to say I wasn’t impartial, but just a bit grateful my work has lent itself to another’s).
She says the book sparked the funny story that anyone who’s faced a classroom of teenagers, including myself, can only dream might happen: Students willingly stayed after class and school to finish a book. It shows the importance of creating for all contexts, as what pains us may just be what others need to get uplifted in life.
Ms. Biagas is about that uplift! Back in 2012, she contacted me for an interview on her blog Pretty Me Perspectives, where she spotlighted special women and girls. She found out I was busy making plans for my birthday and made sure to get it ready in time to post as a nice present. At a time when the fanfare of that first book was over and a second book was old news as well, this was my first interview in years and only interview for years after. We talked about everything from how to motivate young people, to our writing goals, to Love Jones. Her efforts to reach me to share something for others was a boost I needed to know others need me to continue my work despite the odds. Two novels and much more work later, I am reminded of the collective that always floats us along.
Ms. Biagas now works with energetic continuing high school students in Riverside, California, amidst the throes of social science PhD program studies. Whew- let’s send her strength! Find her at @WriterDevelyn on Twitter and Instagram. Send her a nice note or reach out to interview her about what she is doing with young people, school to pipeline prevention and scholarly work on African Americans.