Writing Resources and Tips from the CAAWC

Writing Tips from Members

From Valjeanne Jeffers:

The moment you put pen to paper, you are a writer.

Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity: if you don’t start a project, you’ll never finish it.

Believe in your writing, cherish it, and let it become your passion.

Twitter: @Valjeanne

From Angela Belcher Epps:

Maintain a relationship with at least one writer so there’s someone in your life who understands your intentions and challenges.

Don’t look for validation from family and friends. It’s your journey.

Believe that the best is in front of you—which motivates you to go deeper and hone your habits and behaviors.


From L. Teresa Church:

I start each day by thinking about an issue, event, person, or subject that’s worthy of literary examination and make sure to write every day, even if this results in just a poem, a stanza, or a page.

I think of writing as a chosen line of work and keep the necessary tools (manual or electronic resources) at the ready.  

I write everywhere I go. In preparation for long-distant road trips, my first order of business is to pack a bag with pens and note pads. Something magical happens when I am a passenger traversing the landscapes of familiar and unfamiliar towns and cities. Without fail, I always jot down notes or ideas about something that comes to mind or catches my eye.

Try to write from anywhere and on anything.  It eliminates the need to have the “perfect” place and space to write.

Remember that your words have power.

Nothing is ever lost; you can always write it again.

From Bridgette A. Lacy:

Don’t give your work away for free.

When you get money, invest in something you need to make your work better.

Treat your writing like a profession, not a hobby.

Twitter: @bridgettealacy

From Cedric Tillman:

Be original. With so many people writing, make sure you’re well read enough to know what the world might be missing. Challenge yourself to bring your unique take on our inevitably common experiences to everything you write. 

Carve out time to write. Generally, the more time you put into a project, the happier you’ll be with the end product.

Share the work you love on your social media outlets, if you use them. It’s a way to keep you engaged with other people’s work and does a kindness to those authors whose work would never reach your friends if it wasn’t for you.

Twitter: @cedrictillman
Cedric Tillman on Goodreads

Suggested Resources: 

A Capsule Course in Black Poetry Writing by Gwendolyn Brooks, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Haki Madhubuti, and Dudley Randall

This is a short (less than 100 page) primer on teaching poetry from the perspectives of these four preeminent black poets. From Brooks: “Language-ordinary speech. Today we do not say ‘Thou saintly skies of empyrean blue…’ Forget ecstacy, ethereal, empyrean…Loosen your rhythm so that it sounds like human talk. Human talk is not exact, is not precise…” From Madhubuti: “Originality must be stressed…Brooks has said a poem should be a “memorable experience…” and “Writers waste time, as do most people, this is why discipline is so important.”

Into A Light Both Brilliant and Unseen: Conversations with Contemporary Black Poets by Malin Pereira

Pereira, an African-American poetry scholar, discusses writing and life with an impressive lineup that includes Cornelius Eady, Rita Dove, Harryette Mullen, Elizabeth Alexander, Wanda Coleman, and Yusef Komunyaakaa.

The Soul of the Full-Length Manuscript: Turning Life’s Wounds into the Gift of Literary Fiction, Memoir, or Poetry by Zelda Lockhart

She helps writers navigate the internal filters that sabotage honest creative expression.

The Life You Were Born to Live: A Guide to the Thirty-Seven Pathways of Life and How to Find Yours by Dan Millman

He presents a birth-number-based guide that helps one grasp underlying principles related to one’s individuality.

Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, edited by Manjula Martin

A collection of essays from today’s most acclaimed authors—from Cheryl Strayed to Roxane Gay to Jennifer Weiner, Alexander Chee, Nick Hornby, and Jonathan Franzen—on the realities of making a living in the writing world.

This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley

Mosley highlights how to:
– Create a daily writing regimen to fit any writer’s needs—and how to stick to it.
– Determine the narrative voice that’s right for every writer’s style.
– Get past those first challenging sentences and into the heart of a story.

Deep Sightings and Rescue Missions: Fiction, Essays, and Conversations, by Toni Cade Bambara

This portrait of Toni Cade Bambara reminds me of the reasons that we all write. 

The Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler

We are still discovering all of the things that Octavia foretold in her work. This is a timeless novel that helps me think about how I wish to write about writing, life, and love.

James Baldwin: Collected Essays, by James Baldwin

There is no better essayist than Baldwin.  His craft is flawless.

So Long a Letter, Mariama Ba

I love the epistolary art-form of this novel and the things Ba uncovers how to escape the societal and personal prisons. 

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