Langston Hughes, Poet and Playwright

Langston HughesJames Langston Mercer Hughes was born on February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri and died on May 22, 1967, in New York, New York.

His first successful poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” was published in The Crisis magazine in 1920 and met with high praise.  In 1921 he enrolled in Columbia University where he studied briefly, and during which time became a part of Harlem’s burgeoning cultural movement, commonly known as the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes later dropped out of school, traveled around the world doing various jobs.  In 1925, he met Vachel Lindsay, showed some of his poems to Lindsay who was impressed enough to use his connections to promote Hughes’s poetry and bring it to a wider audience.

In 1940, at 28 years old, Hughes published his autobiography, The Big Sea.  Around that same time he began contributing to a column in the Chicago Defender, for which he created a comic character name Jesse B. Semple, better known as “Simple,” a black Everyman that Hughes used to further explore urban, working-class black themes, and to address racial issues.  The columns were highly successful and “Simple” would later be the focus of sever of Hughes’s books and plays.The Collected Poetry of Langston Hughes

From the 1940s until his death, Hughes continued prolific output of poetry, plays and other works.  On May 22, 1967, Langston Hughes died from complications of prostate cancer.  A tribute to his poetry, his funeral contained little in the way of spoken eulogy, but was filled with jazz and blues music.  Hughes’s ashes were interred beneath the entrance of the Arthur Schomberg Center for Research in Black culture in Harlem.  The inscription marking the spot features a line from Hughes’s poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.”  It reads: “My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”

His work continues to be published and translated throughout the world.

For more information go to:

Suzanne Bogue


Comments Off on Langston Hughes, Poet and Playwright

Filed under Black History, blogs

Science Fiction Writer, Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler Octavia E. Butler

Born June 22, 1947 in Pasadena, CA

Died February 24, 2006 in Lake Forest Park, WA

Octavia Butler broke new ground both as a woman and an African American in the world of science fiction writing normally dominated by men.

Her father died when she was young and she was raised by her mother who worked as a maid to support the family. Despite suffering from dyslexia, she developed a deep love for books and decided to make writing her career at age 10.  She earned an associate degree from Pasadena City College and later studied under Harlan Ellison at the Clarion Fiction Writers Workshop.

In 1976, Butler published her first novel, Patternmaster. This book was the first in a series of works about a group of people with telepathic powers called Patternists. OtherPatternist titles include Mind of My Mind (1977) and Clay’s Ark (1984).

In 1979, Butler’s career took off with Kindred. The novel tells the story of an African American woman who travels back in time to save a white slave owner—her own ancestor. In part, Butler drew some inspiration from her mother’s work.kindred by Octavia Butler

“I didn’t like seeing her go through back doors,” she once said, according to The New York Times. “If my mother hadn’t put up with all those humiliations, I wouldn’t have eaten very well or lived very comfortably. So I wanted to write a novel that would make others feel the history: the pain and fear that black people have had to live through in order to endure.”

For some writers, science fiction serves as means to delve into fantasy. But for Butler, it largely served as a vehicle to address issues facing humanity. It was this passionate interest in the human experience that imbued her work with a certain depth and complexity. In the mid-1980s, Butler began to receive critical recognition for her work. She won the Hugo Award in 1984 for the best short story of the year, for “Speech Sounds.” That same year, the novelette “Bloodchild” won a Nebula Award and later a Hugo.  In 1995 she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship, nicknamed the Genius Grant.

For more information about this amazing science fiction writer go to:

Suzanne Bogue




Comments Off on Science Fiction Writer, Octavia Butler

Filed under Black History, Science Fiction

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther KingMonday celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy.  February is Black History month.   I plan to ask the Board of Directors for PPW to join me in celebrating Black History month by writing blogs about black writers.

King was an eloquent writer of moving speeches and sermons.  Dr. King also an orator and a freedom fighter.  He advocated non-violent change in a time of extreme violence and hate.

I don’t feel that I am capable of expressing the truth of Dr. King’s story, so I would prefer to direct to a website that can tell you exactly who he was and what he accomplished in his brief life.  Please take time to read about this man and his deeds.

Then, return here next week to read about other Black American writers.

Suzanne Bogue


Comments Off on Martin Luther King, Jr.

Filed under Black History

Myriads of Reasons

By Linda HutchersonPenguin scene Mary Poppins

When asked where she got her ideas for her books, a successful author claimed, “They just come to me.  They are mine.  Every jot and tittle, each word is mine.”  That may be true in a sense, but not totally.  Ideas don’t just “come” to us, they are born from life itself, our life.  And perhaps, just perhaps, one of the myriad of reasons one uses not to  write is the realization that every word reveals a part of our self.

A friend and I traveled over an hour to see “Saving Mr. Banks”, a movie about Walt Disney and the author of Mary Poppins.  It revealed two things to me—the fortitude of Mr. Disney and the wisdom of Mr. Disney.  P. L. Travers refused to sign over the movie rights of Mary Poppins to Disney unless she had complete control/approval of the finished product.  She insisted on being present at all stages of the script creation.  The script, the set design, as well as the Sherman brothers’ song lyrics were scrutinized, criticized, redone. Travers alienated everyone involved, even the chauffeur.  Mr. Disney made reconciliation after reconciliation to save the project.

Walt DisneyThe turning point in the struggle between Disney and Travers was the declaration by Travers that Mary Poppins was not about saving the children, but saving Mr. Banks, the father.  We, the movie-goers, thought Travers was appeased until Disney introduced the penguin cartoons into one of Dick Van Dyke’s musical numbers. Travers, thinking the cartoons a betrayal of trust and former spoken agreement, left for England without signing the movie rights over to Disney.

Disney caught the next plane available and exhibited both fortitude and wisdom in the next scene at Travers’ home in London.  He shared stories of his father and empathized with Travers in her pain. He understood she was unable to save her father from drink and disease in her childhood in the outback of Australia. He understood why she protected the story of Mary Poppins—it was her story, her father.

Further evidence of one’s reticence to write is a testimonial from a close friend some twenty-five years my junior who just posted this blog:

In the world of Ursula LeGuin’s book A Wizard of Earthsea, the source of all magic is in the naming of things. To know the true name of a thing is to understand its very being, to have power over it. A man’s true name is a guarded secret and revealed only to a few trusted friends. For many years I was afraid to share my thoughts; to express myself both verbally and in writing because I feared others having, if not power over me, at least understanding. Even in our world, for good or ill, naming has power.

Now, however, after acknowledging his personal struggle he can say:

I embrace that I am a thinker and a philosopher, but lean close now as I whisper in your ear. “My true name is Writer.”  Scott Adair, blogger,

 What is your true name? Is it Writer?  If so, be brave, my friend, and true to yourself.


Comments Off on Myriads of Reasons

Filed under Writing

New Year’s Resolutions

Shel Silverstein summed up his advice for young writers in a poem in his book, Where the Sidewalk Ends . The poem is titled “Melinda Mae”Melinda Mae before whale

Have you heard of tiny Melinda Mae,
Who ate a monstrous whale?
She thought she could,
She said she would,
So she started in right at the tail.

And everyone said,’You’re much too small,’
But that didn’t bother Melinda at all,
She took little bites and she shewed very slow,
Just like a little girl should…

…and eighty-nine years later she ate that whale
Because she said she would!!!

 My  interpretation of this poem is that one should never give up.  Life is a long journey and it might take you eighty-nine years to achieve your goals, but if you don’t give up you will get there.

I think it is excellent advice for young and old writers and for people in general who have a daunting goal they wish to attain.Melinda Mae after whale

One thing I haven’t done in a long time is make a New Year’s Resolution.  I always failed at them.  But by using the philosophy in this short poem, I now resolve that in 2014 I will meet all of my deadlines.  That includes posting to this blog every Monday, getting the PPW Newsletter out on time and making meetings and appointments without fail.  Finally, it means that all of my personal writing goals will HAVE deadlines and that I will strive toward meeting them.

It also means that I will have to push some of my fellow writers  a little harder, because some of my deadlines depend on them fulfilling their deadlines.

But if little Melinda Mae can eat a whole whale, then I can reach my goals too!

Comments Off on New Year’s Resolutions

Filed under Deadlines

The Stuff of Gift Giving

By Bernice SimpsonGift giving

“I have too much stuff already.” It’s surprising how even empty-nest homes are overstuffed. But, “No Christmas presents, please,” does not mean “don’t exhibit love for me with anything more than an e-card.”

To honor loved ones on gift-giving occasions takes creative thinking. Are there better places to get creative than at small businesses?

The best place to start? For writers, books often top the list. Buy them directly from regional authors. Check Twitter or Facebook for your area’s writers. That’s where Lubbock’s Joe Trent and Mary Andrews trumpeted their books on small Business Saturday.

Donate your purchases to the public library in the name of the one whose shelves are already bowing. If that ungifted, but honored person wants to read the books, they’re available, right?

The Buffalo Bookstore in Canyon, TX supports PPW’s authors. It’s exciting to see works in print by friends fairly new to the writing scene, like Craig Keel and Natalie Bright. You’ll find your favorite romance writers there as well. If you want a custom message above an autograph, they, typical of small businesses, will try to accommodate you.

Brighten a church library with glossy, artful covers. Dianne Sagan’s series, “Women of the Bible,” under $12.00 per title, makes the entire set affordable. What a thoughtful way to express your love for the honoree named on the book-plate.

The folks you care about need to eat. Give consumables. Custom orders at a Mom and Pop barbecue restaurant are important to tiny enterprises. Have them smoke a brisket or other meat to perfect tenderness for you. Similarly, do your locally owned bakeries turn out home-made tasting baked goods? If not, ask your friends if they know anyone who creates delicious and decorative cookies or cakes for special occasions in their own kitchens. Help that stay-at-home mom put food on her table.Christmas Food gift

Small businesses, most without storefronts abound. PPW member, Mike Akins, teaches karate. A gift certificate for basic lessons in self-defense could save your loved one’s life. Do you know someone who is struggling to pay their office rent? What would that person charge to organize and scan a family’s photographs?

If you can write a check for a heftier sum, hire a writer to save a senior’s life in print and produce a family’s future heirloom. But will its value ever compare to that of the here and now? Think of the senior’s pleasure in relating a lifetime of vignettes to a sincere listener.

People with too much stuff can represent the stuff of dreams for writers, artists, and others with services to offer. As a writer (therefore a creative person) what can you do to help gift buyers and small businesses think outside the box for the benefit of both?

Comments Off on The Stuff of Gift Giving

Filed under Writing


Writers' Voiceby Travis Erwin 

Defining voice is a bit like nailing Jell-O to the wall. The harder you try, the messier things get.

But let’s give it a shot. Voice is a writing style. It is both a particular book and its author’s personality—right there on the page. In acting terms, think stage presence. Voice is not just about word choice, but also sentence and story structure. Voice can be everything. It can overcome a weak plot, unlikable characters, even shaky grammar and sloppy writing. Voice is the proverbial, “I don’t know what it is, but I know it when I see it”.

And whatever it is, it grows in a bed of confidence so as writers we must learn to trust ourselves—and  our voices.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. ~ Steve Jobs

 Steve Jobs is not an author, but still, there are things to take from this quote.  Confidence breeds boldness. Take a few chances. Not everything you write will resonate. But sometimes, just the act of writing and getting your work out there—whether it be in a critique group, a Facebook post, a tweet, or whatever—will give you the confidence to write something else. To take that chance in your other writing.Man with Megaphone

The most successful politician is he who says what the people are thinking most often in the loudest voice. ~Theodore Roosevelt

 Voice is one of the most fragile elements and sadly is often edited, or “critiqued out” in the many drafts it takes to create a finished piece. Stand true to the emotion and heart of your words. Say what you want to say and say it loudly. That is not to say we should bristle at any and all criticism, but just a declaration that, as writers, we must trust certain aspects of our style and simply recognize that not everyone will approach the craft and structure in the same way.

The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can. ~ Neil Gaiman

Marvel at and admire the writers you love, but don’t try to be them. Don’t strive to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. Be the very first you.

It’s all you got.

In life, finding a voice is speaking and living the truth. Each of you is an original. Each of you has a distinctive voice. When you find it, your story will be told. You will be heard ~ John Grisham

 Ask yourself questions. Why am I writing this story? What drew me to it and its characters? Then think how you would tell the story orally. Would it be serious, funny, or a fast paced thriller? A writer’s voice is a tool used to make a reader feel. It sets the tone, the tempo, and anchors the reader to the point of view. But it is an abstract art prone to subjectivity and translation.

The best writers have a feel for it. They recognize when they have found the voice that is not only natural for them, but for the story they want to tell. And the only way to do that is have confidence in your storytelling talents, in the story, and in the characters you are sharing.

There is no magic formula for finding or developing voice. There is no on or off switch for it. No Fairy Godmuse to wave a wand over your keyboard and bestow you with it. We as writers must work and hone our voices for there are no experts with can’t fail tricks.

And if somebody tells  you there is—chances are they are full of something other than it.

Comments Off on Voice

Filed under Writing