Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Going "Postal" is Not an Urban Legend

The term "going postal" has been used in jest quite often in relation to employees who seem to flip out on co-workers and bosses as a result of a major US. Post Office incident that happened years ago in New York. Apparently, "going postal" is still going strong.

Former Postal Worker Kills Seven

Coretta Scott King--Always A Queen

Today marks another day of loss in the annals of Black History. But as with her husband the late Dr. King, the legacy of Coretta Scott King will live on.

Coretta Scott King

Monday, January 30, 2006

Your Health Your Future At Risk

Health Workers' Choice Debated
Proposals Back Right Not to Treat

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 30, 2006; Page A01

More than a dozen states are considering new laws to protect health workers who do not want to provide care that conflicts with their personal beliefs, a surge of legislation that reflects the intensifying tension between asserting individual religious values and defending patients' rights.

About half of the proposals would shield pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control and "morning-after" pills because they believe the drugs cause abortions. But many are far broader measures that would shelter a doctor, nurse, aide, technician or other employee who objects to any therapy. That might include in-vitro fertilization, physician-assisted suicide, embryonic stem cells and perhaps even providing treatment to gays and lesbians.

Because many legislatures have just convened, advocates on both sides are predicting that the number debating such proposals will increase. At least 18 states are already considering 36 bills.

"It's already a very hot issue," said Edward R. Martin Jr. of the Americans United for Life, who is advising legislators around the country pushing such bills. "I think it's going to get even hotter, for lots of reasons and in lots of places."

The flurry of political activity is being welcomed by conservative groups that consider it crucial to prevent health workers from being coerced into participating in care they find morally repugnant -- protecting their "right of conscience" or "right of refusal."

"This goes to the core of what it means to be an American," said David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations. "Conscience is the most sacred of all property. Doctors, dentists, nurses and other health care workers should not be forced to violate their consciences."

The swell of propositions is raising alarm among advocates for abortion rights, family planning, AIDS prevention, the right to die, gays and lesbians, and others who see the push as the latest manifestation of the growing political power of social conservatives.

"This is a very significant threat to patients' rights in the United States," said Lois Uttley of the MergerWatch project, who is helping organize a conference in New York to plot a counterstrategy. "We need to protect the patient's right to use their own religious or ethical values to make medical decisions."

Both sides agree that the struggle between personal beliefs and professional medical responsibilities is likely to escalate as more states consider approving physician-assisted suicide, as embryonic stem cell research speeds forward and as other advances open more ethical fault lines.

"We are moving into a brave new world of cloning, cyborgs, sex selection, genetic testing of embryos," Stevens said. "The list of difficult ethical issues involving nurses, physicians, research scientists, pharmacists and other health care workers is just continuing to increase."

Most states have long had laws to protect doctors and nurses who do not want to perform abortions from being fired, disciplined or sued, or from facing other legal action. Conflicts over other health care workers emerged after the morning-after pill was approved and pharmacists began refusing to fill prescriptions for it. As a result, some lost their jobs, were reprimanded or were sanctioned by state licensing boards.

That prompted a number of states to consider laws last year that would explicitly protect pharmacists or, alternately, require them to fill such prescriptions.

The issue is gaining new prominence this year because of a confluence of factors. They include the heightened attention to pharmacists amid a host of controversial medical issues, such as the possible over-the-counter sale of the Plan B morning-after pill, embryonic research and testing, and debates over physician-assisted suicide and end-of-life care after the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case.

"There's an awful lot of dry kindling in the room," Martin said.

At least seven states are considering laws that would specifically protect pharmacists or pharmacies.

"Every other day, I hear from pharmacists who are being threatened or told they have to sign something that says they are willing to go along with government mandates," said Francis J. Manion of the American Center for Law & Justice, which is fighting an Illinois regulation implemented last year requiring pharmacies to fill all prescriptions, which led to a number of pharmacists being fired. "The right to not be required to do something that violates your core beliefs is fundamental in our society."

Opponents say such laws endanger patients by denying them access to legal drugs, particularly morning-after pills, which must be taken quickly. They say women often must go from pharmacy to pharmacy to get those prescriptions filled.

"Women all over the country are being turned away from obtaining valid and legal prescriptions," said Jackie Payne of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "These kinds of laws would only make the situation worse. It's shameful." Planned Parenthood is supporting efforts in at least six states to pass laws requiring pharmacists to fill all prescriptions.

At least nine states are considering "right of refusal" bills that are far broader. Some would protect virtually any worker involved in health care; others would extend protection to hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities. Some would protect only workers who refuse to provide certain health services, but many would be far more expansive.

At least five of the broad bills would allow insurance companies to opt out of covering services they find objectionable for religious reasons. A sixth state, Pennsylvania, is considering a bill designed for insurers.

"These represent a major expansion of this notion of right of refusal," said Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that studies reproductive health issues and is tracking the legislation. "You're seeing it broadening to many types of workers -- even into the world of social workers -- and for any service for which you have a moral or religious belief."

Supporters say the laws are necessary, given the rapidly changing nature of medical research and care.

"We live in a culture where more and more people are on opposite sides of these basic issues," said Manion, who has represented an ambulance driver who was fired after she refused to take a patient to a hospital for an abortion, a health department secretary who was not promoted after she objected to providing abortion information, and a nurse who was transferred after she refused to provide morning-after pills.

Opponents fear the laws are often so broad that they could be used to withhold health services far beyond those related to abortion and embryos.

"The so-called right-to-life movement in the United States has expanded its agenda way beyond the original focus on abortion," Uttley said. "Given the political power of religious conservatives, the impact of a whole range of patient services could be in danger."

Doctors opposed to fetal tissue research, for example, could refuse to notify parents that their child was due for a chicken pox inoculation because the vaccine was originally produced using fetal tissue cell cultures, said R. Alto Charo, a bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin.

"That physician would be immunized from medical malpractice claims and state disciplinary action," Charo said.

Advocates for end-of-life care are alarmed that the laws would allow health care workers and institutions to disregard terminally ill patients' decisions to refuse resuscitation, feeding tubes and other invasive measures.

"Patients have a right to say no to CPR, to being put on a ventilator, to getting feeding tubes," said Kathryn Tucker of Compassion and Choice, which advocates better end-of-life care and physician-assisted suicide.

Others worry that health care workers could refuse to provide sex education because they believe in abstinence instead, or deny care to gays and lesbians.

"I already get calls all the time from people who have been turned away by their doctors," said Jennifer C. Pizer of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, who is representing a California lesbian whose doctor refused her artificial insemination. "This is a very grave concern."

Friday, January 13, 2006

Nifty Getting Hers Commercial

Listen to Getting Hers

The Romance Club is a great spot for promoting your book. Laura is tireless in her efforts to bring your book into the hearts and homes of the reading public. The MP3 link is for a commercial that aired on her weekly internet radio show Lauras All About Books.

When you get a moment, visit the site and check it out.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


(image placeholder)  CROSS TALK  internet radio at its best

Ever wonder what it takes to get an agent, why you pay them a fee, how to find one and what exactly they can do to propel your career?  All those questions and more will be answered by our guests, literary agents Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen of the Larsen Pomada Agency in San Francisco.

They will discuss the literary business, what they are looking for, what’s hot on the marketplace and how to find an agent that’s right for you.

Join us for an informative discussion on THURSDAY, JANUARY 12 AT 7 P.M. EST ON CROSS TALK.

Simply tune your browser to http://artistfirst.com and listen while you work!!

Of course you can have your questions answered by the experts live by sending an email to dj@artistfirst.com during the show.

Donna Hill & Anna Dennis
Co-hosts Cross Talk

Monday, January 09, 2006

Oprah's Been Conned--Well I'll be Damned

Oprah Winfrey who merely needs to breathe your name in her sleep to make you and overnight success--and millionaire bestowed that blesssing on author James Frey. As a result his book A Million Little Pieces sold more books than we can count.

Alas, according to some sources Mr. Frey hoodwinked and bamboozled Ms. W... You be the judge.


Sunday, January 08, 2006

Are We Reading Smut??? Hmmm

The jury is wildly divided among African American readers, reviewers and authors. Has black literature taken a turn for the smutty with the deluge of Urban, Street Lit, and Ghetto centered books--or is it merely a response to a readership that has been ignored? Obviously if there is no demand there would be no supply. Publishers see dollars signs and it's off to the races.

Well recently, an article appeared in the NY Times by a well-respected journalist and author. Below is the article in full.

What say you??

Op-Ed Contributor
Their Eyes Were Reading Smut
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Published: January 4, 2006
Snellville, Ga.

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Rodrigo Corral
LAST month I happened to go into the Borders Books store at the Stonecrest mall in Lithonia, Ga., about a half-hour from my house here. To my surprise, it had one of the largest collections of books by black authors that I've ever seen outside an independent black bookstore, rows and rows of bookcases. This is the sort of discovery that makes the pulse quicken, evidence of a population I've spent most of my professional life seeking: African-American readers. What a thrill to have so much space in a major chain store devoted to this country's black writers.

With an extra spring in my step, I walked into the "African-American Literature" section - and what I saw there thoroughly embarrassed and disgusted me.

On shelf after shelf, in bookcase after bookcase, all that I could see was lurid book jackets displaying all forms of brown flesh, usually half-naked and in some erotic pose, often accompanied by guns and other symbols of criminal life. I felt as if I was walking into a pornography shop, except in this case the smut is being produced by and for my people, and it is called "literature."

As a black author, I had certainly become familiar with the sexualization and degradation of black fiction. Over the last several years, I had watched the shelves of black bookstores around the country and the tables of street vendors, particularly in New York City, become overrun with novels that seemed to appeal exclusively to our most prurient natures - as if these nasty books were pairing off back in the stockrooms like little paperback rabbits and churning out even more graphic offspring that make Ralph Ellison books cringe into a dusty corner.

Early last year I walked into a B. Dalton bookstore in a New Jersey mall where the manager had always proudly told me how well my books were selling. This time, I was introduced to a new manager who was just as proud to show me an enhanced black books section teeming with this new black erotica. I've also noticed much more of this oversexed genre in Barnes & Noble bookstores over the past few months, although it's harder to see there since the chain doesn't appear to have separate black fiction sections.

But up until that visit to Borders in Lithonia, I had thought this mostly a phenomenon of the black retail world, where the black bookstore owners and street vendors say they have to stock what sells, and increasingly what sells are stories that glorify and glamorize black criminals. The genre has been described by different names; "ghetto fiction" and "street lit" are two I've heard most often. Apparently, what we are now seeing is the crossover of this genre to mainstream bookstores.

But the placard above this section of Borders in Lithonia didn't say "Street Lit," it said "African-American Literature." We were all represented under that placard, the whole community of black authors - from me to Terry McMillan and Toni Morrison, from Yolanda Joe and Benilde Little to Edward P. Jones and Kuwana Haulsey - surrounded and swallowed whole on the shelves by an overwhelming wave of titles and jackets that I wouldn't want my 13-year-old son to see: "Hustlin' Backwards." "Legit Baller." "A Hustler's Wife." "Chocolate Flava."

I've heard defenders say that the main buyers of these books, young black women, have simply found something that speaks to them, and that it's great that they're reading something. I'd agree if these books were a starting point, and that readers ultimately turned to works inspired by the best that's in us, not the worst.

But we're not seeing evidence of that. On Essence magazine's list of best sellers at black bookstores, for example, authors of street lit now dominate, driving out serious writers. Under the heading "African-American Literature," what's available is almost exclusively pornography for black women.

As I stood there in Borders, I had two sensations: I was ashamed and mortified to see my books sitting on the same shelves as these titles; and secondly, as someone who makes a living as a writer I felt I had no way to compete with these purveyors of crassness.

That leaves me wondering where we - writers, publishers, readers, the black community - go from here. Is street fiction some passing fad, or does it represent our future? It's depressing that this noble profession, one that I aspired to as a child from the moment I first cracked open James Baldwin and Gabriel García Márquez about 30 years ago, has been reduced by the greed of the publishing industry and the ways of the American marketplace to a tasteless collection of pornography.

I realize that publishing is a business, but publishers also have a responsibility to balance street lit with more quality writing. After all, how are we going to explain ourselves to the next generation of writers and readers who will wonder why they have so little to read of import and value produced in the early 21st century, why their founts of inspiration are so parched?

At times, I push myself away from the computer in anger. I don't want to compete with "Legit Baller." But then I come across something like "The Known World" by Edward P. Jones and again I am inspired.

But I must say that I retain very little of the hope and excitement and enthusiasm that I had when my first book was published eight years ago. I feel defeated, disrespected and troubled about the future of my community and my little subsection of this carnivorous, unforgiving industry.

Nick Chiles, the editor in chief of Odyssey Couleur magazine, is the co-author, with Denene Millner, of "A Love Story."

Saturday, January 07, 2006

I'm Teaching Writing Again

As of Monday, Jan. 16th I will be an instructor, once again, at Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center in Manhattan. (96th Street and Broadway).  The class will meet each Monday from 7-9 p.m. for eight weeks.
I will be teaching Novel 1: From Concept to Publication.  The course will cover everything from generating story ideas to characterizations, plot development and pacing as well as the use of dialogue and narration, editing, writing the synopsis and the admission process.
Those who have work in progress are also encouraged to attend as the course will be structured based on the levels of the students. Those students will then be preparing their work for submission to editors by the end of the eight weeks.  Several of my former students have gone on to be published.
Classes are small with no more than ten students per class, so you will get individual attention. This is a workshop format, very interactive.  The more you put in the more you get out.
There will be an assignment each week. Students are asked to come prepared with a three ring binder, ( & paper) and 3 x 5 index cards.
The class is intense, but fun and definitely informative.  So if you've ever had an idea and just didn't know how to get it going, this is the course for you.
Please feel free to forward to those who may be interested.
To register call 212 864-3375.  For more information on other classes offered, please visit http://fdcac.org

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


(image placeholder)    CROSS TALK

Join CROSS TALK with Donna Hill and Anna Dennis on http://artistfirst.com on THURSDAY, JAN. 5 AT 7 P.M. EST when our first guest of the New Year will be award-winning author ERIC PETE.

Simply tune your browser to http://artistfirst.com and click on the Listen Now link at 7 p.m. EST. Don’t forget to turn on your speakers.  Listen while you work!

Eric will be discussing his new book DON’T GET IT TWISTED (image placeholder)

If you want to chat with Eric live by sending in a question or comment, send it to dj@artistfirst.com and your comment will be read live on the air.

Be there… and Don’t Get it Twisted!