Writing History: New BHM presentation

Ealey-The Stone ThrowerIn February, Jael Richardson will launch a new Black History Month presentation: Writing History. The presentation includes an age appropriate interactive history quiz and a short clip from The Stone Thrower documentary, followed by a motivational message about how students can begin a path to history-making success now through their academics.

 

Teachers and students alike will walk away from the session with insight and information.

 

For dates, pricing, and bookings, contact Jael through the CONTACT section of the website or at jael.richardson(at)gmail.com. Jael Richardson is also available for book clubs, corporate presentations, and panels.

 

Passing the Baton Blog Tour

 

PASSING THE BATON: FOUR QUESTIONS ON WRITING

 

I was asked to join a blog tour by the smart and brilliant Eufemia Fantetti (who has a well-fitting kind of name that you want to give a truly smart and lovely character). She is the author of the short fiction collection, A Recipe for Disaster and Other Unlikely Tales of Love, which was runner up for the 2013 Danuta Gleed Literary Award. You can read her answers to these same questions at eufemiafantetti.com.

 

What am I working on? 

I am currently working on my first novel, Gutter Child. It is a dystopia set in the past that explores a question I have been wrestling with ever since I started my first book, a memoir about my father: How do you survive in a world designed for your failure? What makes some thrive and others, perhaps the greater majority, falter?

 

The story focuses on the life of Elimina Madeleine Dubois, a young woman who is born in the Gutter and adopted as a baby by a woman who raises her on the Mainland as part of an initiative to help a growing population of disadvantaged children. It is a novel about the ways a world can be set up to steadily improve the status of some at the expense of others.

 

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

It’s hard to know how things differ from others, outside the obvious subject matter. I can say that I didn’t originally set out with the intent of writing a dystopic novel. I had a general idea of the plot and I had a firm sense of the main character. A dystopia just seemed like the right “container” for the story.

 

Gutter Child is perhaps unique from other dystopic novels in that it is a dystopia set in the past, where most dystopias set out to tell the story of an alternate world somewhere in the future. Gutter Child will address how the events of the past have impacted our current circumstances. It focuses on characters of colour and explores the challenges associated with class and the problematic nature of systemic racism.

 

Why do I write what I do?

In terms of genre, I have been published in three different forms (theatre, memoir, and children’s literature). While many writers specialize in a particular genre, I believe that every story finds its own format(s), and I enjoy the task of finding that “write fit”. I equate it to finding the right container for a gift. There is something good that happens when  the box fits nightly around the thing you want to share–not too big and stuffed with tissue and not too small. Once I know the key elements, and maybe the key character(s), I evaluate the best method of presenting it.

 

There are two key governing concepts that influence what I write about in terms of content:

  1. I write what I need to understand. I write to answer questions.
  2. I write what compels me, what causes me to lose sleep, or what grips me from what I’m seeing/reading in the news, the thing I cannot seem to shake.

 

Gutter Child, for example, evolved from an encounter I had in my father’s hometown of Portsmouth, Ohio and from an interview I did about my memoir The Stone Thrower. I could not get over the meeting and I found myself making ill assumptions about people that deeply bothered me. I had to write about it. I had to figure out where my own assumptions came from and how to present the complex problems I saw in African-American/Canadian communities, and the flawed ideas I had because of the way (and the places) I was raised.

 

It’s important to note that as a woman of colour, I feel compelled to write things that can change the way people think about race, in particular. It is not a coincidence that the main characters in the fiction I have written are women of colour who are finding their place in a world that is unwelcoming at times, or a world that presents great, often impenetrable, obstacles. This is my world, and this is what I consider my greatest duty and responsibility as a writer.

 

 

How does my writing process work?

I am very goal oriented, which probably stems from a childhood spent fully engrossed in competitive sports. Reading was a side hobby. But that practice-first-play-later, train-hard-and-be-the-best work ethic has proven helpful in the often isolating world of writing.

 

Once I figure out my general story, once it keeps me up at nights or causes me to talk about it compulsively, I get an outline done pretty efficiently (assuming I have the time and space to do so–I have a five year old and I kind of have a job, so this is trickiest part—allowing myself the time to create thoughtfully). I talk about my ideas with other writers early on and I listen for feedback and advice on the gaps and the strengths of my ideas.

 

Then I write. Usually by the time I’m 2/3’s of the way through a draft, I have an idea about how to change things. It’s a dangerous way of procrastinating for me.  Getting to the end of each draft is the hardest thing, but has proven to be the most important lesson in writing. I have to see each draft all the way through. Like running a race. No matter how bad you start a race or how bad you are in the middle or near the end, the important thing (as my dad used to say) is to finish.

 

Check out the other ladies on the tour:  Kathy Para, Ayelet TsabariTheodora ArmstrongLorna SuzukiMatilda MagtreeAlice ZornAnita LaheyPearl PirieJulie PaulSarah MianSteve McOrmondSusan Gillis, Jason HerouxBarbara Lambert.

 

Stay tuned as the blog tour continues with Aga Maksimowska and Alexis Kienlen.

The Stone Thrower’s First Father’s Day: It’s a Photo Finish

Ealey-The Stone ThrowerA year ago I celebrated Father’s Day with my father after our second trip to Portsmouth. The book was in the editing stage, as was the TSN documentary. A few months later, they both launched to readers and viewers alike.

 

My father and I did interviews together in the fall. We spoke at schools together throughout the school year. One of my favourite questions during this time was, “How has The Stone Thrower changed your relationship?”

 

My father and I have always gotten along, but we have never been teammates. Until now. We understand one another better, and while we don’t talk all that much more than we did before, the silences and the spaces between our words are richer.

 

At a book launch at the Mississauga Living Arts Centre, a photographer caught one of my favourite moments so far–a photograph of Dad giving me a proud kiss on the cheek while holding up a copy of The Stone Thrower.

 

So this Father’s Day, we’re sharing the love, and inviting all of you to celebrate the beauty of inspiring fathers.

 

Grab a copy of The Stone Thrower (ebook or print, purchased or borrowed) and capture a moment with your dad…or a dad and his kid(s). We’ll be picking a few of our favourites after Father’s Day and then the voting begins. We’ll be giving away a VISA gift card and an autographed limited edition Chuck Ealey t-shirt.

 

So here’s to great dads…and let the photos roll in.

 

THE STONE THROWER: IN THE NEWS

Two weeks after The Stone Thrower: A Daughter’s Lessons, a Father’s Life was released in bookstores, Jael Ealey Richardson is making news.

 

This week, following a successful book launch at The Great Hall, an article appeared in Share Newspaper based on an interview with Richardson and her father. On Saturday, September 22 Richardson will go on air with Ted Woloshyn at Newstalk 1010. Tune in at 12:30 to join the discussion.

 

Richardson will also be appearing at Word on the Street on Sunday, September 23 to sign copies of her memoir. Thomas Allen Publishers will be located at booth #237.

 

On October 12, Richardson and her father will appear on Canada AM to promote the documentary, The Stone Thrower: The Chuck Ealey Story, directed by Charles Officer as part of the CFL’s 100th anniversary series, Engraved on a Nation.

 

 

 

 

YOUR MEMOIR’S OUT…SO HOW DO YOU FEEL?

The Stone Thrower is on the shelves and in the mail. Copies are sitting next to peoples’ bedside tables; some are laying in a bag somewhere where someone plans to start reading it tomorrow, eventually. Some people are reading it. A few, so they say, have finished it. Gulp.

 

In light of The Stone Thrower’s bookstore exodus, people have been asking: how do you feel now that it’s out there?

 

It’s difficult to answer in one word. One sentence. Even though I’m officially an author.

 

The Book Launch in Toronto brought together all of my favourite things—Motown music, food, friends from university, high school, childhood. My family was there to share the most monumental accomplishment of my career. It was perfect. But how do I feel about those words I spent four years shaping on my computer floating around out there – in some one’s household?

 

The most profound quantifier of how this whole experience feels—what it’s like to let a book go, particularly a memoir where you divulge all that’s personal and private—and return to the normalcy of motherhood, teaching, wife-dom, and daughter-dom, took place this weekend when I was in Toledo, driving from our hotel to the American “book launch signing” at Barnes & Noble with my father and brother.

 

We were driving down a road in Toledo, past the home where my Grandma Earline died over fifteen years ago (one of the earliest triggers for the writing of The Stone Thrower). My father started to tell us a story.

 

He told us about a girl he was walking around town with in 1968. She was white and when she reached out for his hand, they walked together for a moment interlocked until a short, old white woman stopped them on the road and said, “Young lady, does your mother know what you’re doing?” My father and the girl subsequently released hands and went on their way, pondering whether 1968 was so different from the social barriers present in the decades that preceded them.

 

It’s an interesting story—of race and history, prejudice and ignorance. But if you’ve had a chance to read The Stone Thrower, you’ll know that what’s monumental about that moment was that my father just told it. He volunteered that story. He just opened up and told us everything. My brother and I were shocked–my brother even more so than me, because I’ve been working with my dad on The Stone Thrower while my brother was living in Japan. This kind of willing disclosure from my father was rare, virtually unheard of, before my brother moved three years ago.

 

So the next day, when I visited the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival and stood amongst authors I have read and admired for years–authors like Tanis Rideout, Linda Spalding, Michael Ondaatje, and George Elliott Clarke–and someone asked me how it felt to have this book about your father finished, published, out there, I smile big and wide. “It’s changed everything. And it feels amazing.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WEEKEND MY MOTHER WENT AWAY

The Stone Thrower is about lessons I learned from my father’s life—lessons about life, faith, race, and family. But not all of the things I remember about my father made it in there.

 

One of my earliest and most vivid memories of my father happened when my mother was away for a weekend. My father was left to take care of all three of us, although I hardly remember my siblings being there. I must have been about nine—my sister twelve, my brother fifteen, both infinitely more independent perhaps at a friends for a sleepover.

 

I was getting ready for church and I had come into my parents’ room—a large rectangular space with a bed and a tv in the middle, an armchair with a footstool in the corner. The carpet in the room was a velvety, emerald green.

 

My father had to do my hair, so he sat on the footstool and I sat on their velvet carpet. There were dark patches where the carpet strayed in a different direction, streaks where the vacuum cleaner had slid over top of it hastily before my mother’s departure. I pressed my hands in and then lifted it to check the imprint.

 

I sat between my father’s legs—his dark brown limbs deeply coloured from the summer’s warmth, scars where his days on the football field had marked him forever. His ankles were skinny, his shins and calves scattered with such a sparse amount of hair that it looked as though he had shaved them. He said that their was Cree Indian in his blood, that First Nation’s people had minimal body hair.

 

I felt the hair that was pulled back on my head fall around my ears, down against my shoulders. My father fumbled, fingers clumsy in the elastic that had held it all together. Knotted, fuzzy brown hair was wild in all directions.

 

I heard my father pick up a brush and I waited. I heard a deep futile breath, a sign that my father was exasperated before he had even started. The brush went to my hair and swept downward, loose and without purpose. The tangles clung together while the brush in my father’s strong hands pulled away ineffectively.

 

“Dad?”

 

“Mmhmm?”

 

“You can pull harder.”

 

I felt my father’s hand pull the brush through with more pressure, letting up as it got close to a knot of tresses. I turned and grabbed the brush gently from my father. I held one hand on my scalp like my mother did and pulled the brush through, then started again at the top when things got difficult. I pulled and pulled, as my leaned back to watch me. Fuzzy pieces lost their grip on one another, as my hair grew in body. Eventually all of my hair hung in one soft even length around me.

 

“Now use the other brush to pull this all back. As tight as you can, Dad.”

 

I felt his long fingers gather all of that hair, his index and thumb gathering together what my mother needed her entire hand to accomplish. I felt him pull on that soft hair and brush it all together, just like I told him. I felt that elastic wrap and wrap around that gathering until I had a ponytail. It felt different, but when I reached back it was all tucked in there.

 

When I went to church that day, women in the front lobby smiled at me. “Mom’s away this weekend is she?”

 

I just nodded and tugged on the floppy ribbon my father had made into a bow for me.

 

 

SO YOU WANT SOME MORE FOLLOWERS

So you’d like some more followers. You want to attract people to your business or simply network, and so far your numbers aren’t rising—or at least not fast enough.

 

Getting followers seemed easy. It’s easy to follow, it seemed natural people would also want to follow you. Not so. You can be on twitter for months and only creep up one person a day, even if you’re doing all those good relationship building things like Thank you’s and RTs as outlined in previous blogs.

 

Here’s a basic fact that’s crucial to filling up your following: FOLLOW OTHER PEOPLE. If you’re not Justin Beiber or crassly harassing Hollywood celebrities with regular witty tweeting, people won’t naturally be inclined to follow you. So plan to add 10 to 20 regular people per day who are people who you would want following you. The number depends on how aggressive you want to be with your increase, but the regularity is important.

 

Before you object or say how hard this will be, let me tell you three ways to keep it simple.

 

That’s madness, you say, that’s simply too hard and too many people. You’re right. So here’s what you do.

 

  1. Go through the people in your interactions who you like—people who have RT you or mentioned you. Try to find people who are as close to your ideal follower as possible (for example, my husband’s in real estate, so it’s ideal for him to be followed by people in the GTA or who are at least in Canada, @mark_richardson). When you visit that person’s profile (this is so much easier on the Iphone app), scroll down to the bottom and find the section “Similar to”. There are typically three people listed there. Check them out or add them on instinct. I ALWAYS check to see their tweet ration and follow ratio. I avoid following people who have lots of followers and follow very few. You can also go further to a longer list of 10 people and do the same. Do this until you find your ten new tweeps.
  2. You can also go to someone you like, who has a lot of followers, and see who their followers are. Follow them, they follow you, lahdee-dah, same effect.

 

This is too much, you say, I don’t want to follow all of these people? Tough one. You’ll have to go back to your Justin Beiber plan then and become uber famous—or watch hours of reality tv and Entertainment Tonight and develop a Hollywood geared potty mouth.

 

But you don’t have to follow all of those people for very long. If they don’t return the favour, drop them. Mutual promotion of like-minded people only works if you’re both engaged.

 

I use ManageFlitter to run a check every so days on the people who don’t follow me back, You can pay to have this automated, but I like to do it manually. There are some people, like Margaret Atwood or Barack Obama, who I don’t expect to follow me at all. I still like them. I unfollow people who are inactive, who don’t talk a lot or who fail to provide useful insight.

 

So if you want followers, get going. Follow follow follow!

 

The Stone Thrower Book Launch

Jael Ealey Richardson’s first book will appear in bookstores on September 8, 2012. The Stone Thrower: A Daughter’s Lessons, a Father’s Life, traces the life of her father, quarterback Chuck Ealey, and explores issues of race and history.

 

The author will launch the much-anticipated memoir at Queen West’s The Great Hall on Wednesday, September 12 at 7pm.

 

“I have been waiting for this day for a long time,” Richardson said. “Writing a book is one thing, but giving it back to the family and friends who helped along the way is going to be special and emotional. I’m so excited.”

 

Richardson has been working on the memoir for four years. Since completing the project, the book was picked up by Thomas Allen Publishers. The memoir also served as a resource for an upcoming documentary about her father–a documentary directed by acclaimed filmmaker Charles Officer and produced by 90th Parallel Productions.

 

The documentary, which bears the same stone-throwing title, will appear on TSN, CTV and Bell Media partners sometime this fall.

 

 

The Stone Thrower listed amongst the “biggest books” of the fall

The Stone Thrower by Jael Ealey Richardson appears in The Quill & Quire

 

In a list of memoirs and biographies that includes the lives of icons like Neil Young, Lloyd Robertson, Jack Layton and broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi, Jael Richardson’s Stone Thrower is also being toted as one of Fall 2012′s “biggest books” by Canadian magazine Quill & Quire. Described as a combined memoir and biography, the story of CFL quarterback Chuck Ealey, written by his daughter Jael Ealey Richardson, is amongst the much-anticipated nonfiction reads this fall.

 

The Stone Thrower will be available in bookstores on September 8, and is available for pre-orders online at Indigo and Amazon.

 

THE TWITTER 4-1-1 RULE

We exist in a barrage of advertisement and self-promotion, and in the twitter-sphere it seems those inherent desires to be seen and noticed have been magnified in epic proportions.

 

So how do we avoid it? How do we put ourselves out there to grow our businesses and our market, how can we feed our families and do what we love, with a more selfless attitude?

 

Enter the 4-1-1 rule.

 

The 4-1-1 rule (or 9-1-1 for you extra generous tweeters) is an approach you can use to manage your twitter presence in a way that emphasizes the essence of community—modern day, fellow back-scratching. It helps twitter users who are engaging in a dynamic, changing environment, manage their presence in a way that incorporates a pay-it-forward mentality.

 

It means that for every ONE self-promotion, for every ONE occasion where you present your own work and your own writing (self-promotion includes your personal updates and your auto-posts), you should do the following:

 

  1. Engage in ONE conversation. Be human—respond to another writer’s writing or ideas. Read their blog and let them know how it helps. Isn’t it great when that happens to you? Scratch a back.
  2. Promote FOUR other writers. This could be sharing their blogs, retweeting, or passing along a review of them you find online. If you’re using the 9-1-1 rule, up this to nine promotions.

 

A fellow tweep recently wrote that Facebook is for old friends and Twitter is for new relationships. Since joining twitter and April, I couldn’t agree more. I love both social media sites for those very reasons. So when it comes to twitter, make “friends”. Be a good friend. Communicate generously.