Writing to Live: Four Authors You Need to Know
by D.A. Steward

If I asked you to name 10 published authors who are LGBT and of color (without the help of Google) could you do it? How about if I broadened the scope to mainstream authors, directors and actors? Go ahead. I’ll wait.

After becoming completely depressed at failing the above exercise myself, I sought out to find published authors that are LGBT of color to add to my very short list. The search first led me to a friend, which then led to a Pandora’s box of possibilities. Our writers are out there. But unfortunately they often go unnoticed on a national level.

Here are the stories of four writers of which you should definitely take notice:

Malcolm Varner

In 2009 Malcolm Varner was in the midst of a mental health crisis. While hospitalized and being treated for bipolar disorder, he made two promises to God – that he would never look to suicide as an answer for escape and that he’d dedicate his life somehow to being an advocate for those dealing with mental illness. Two years later he self-published Looking Beyond the Storm: Selections of Poetry.

“I often say writing saved my life,” Varner said. “It was my way of coping; it sort of allowed me to move beyond where I was and give me hope. Beyond what I was feeling, encouragement was there.”

“[Looking Beyond the Storm] started after I moved to Columbus. It was a way to rebuild myself,” he said. “And during that process, I thought, ‘why can’t this become a book that could inspire others?’”

The series of uplifting poems sparked a chord and the success of his first book quickly led to a second.

“I’m also the author of two blogs, ‘Living to Write, Writing to Live’ and ‘My Brothers Keeper,’ which was just a way to give myself encouragement throughout the week,” he said.

A friend asked whether Varner would be turning these posts into a book and thus Creating Positive Ripples: 100 Messages of Encouragement was born. This collection, along with a sequel to Looking the Beyond the Storm is set for release later this spring.

You can find Looking Beyond the Storm on Amazon.com. Visit Varner’s blogs at living2write.blogspot.com and 4sglbrothasonly.blogspot.com.

LaToya Hankins

LaToya Hankins

After a lengthy career in the fast-paced world of newspaper journalism, LaToya Hankins found herself in a cushy government job in her home state of North Carolina. But she found that her creative appetite was not being fed.

So last year, after coming home from her government job, she sat at the computer and soon churned out SBF Seeking, a semi-autobiographical tale about a woman coming to terms with her sexuality four months before she’s to be married to a man.

“Most of SBF Seeking mirrors my experiences but the juicy stuff is just fiction,” she said. “One thing I love about novels is that I can rewrite my reality.”

Hankins is already hard at work on her next project, set for release in early 2013. It’s called Krho and follows the lives of three young ladies in college and how their lives and friendships change 10 years later.

“It’s a book about how friendship sustains and how sisterhood helps you deal,” Hankins said. “I’ve already got it written, but right now it’s in the editing process.”

SBF Seeking is available on barnesandnoble.com and Amazon.com. You can find out more about Hankins at www.latoyahankins.com.

Rashid Darden

Rashid Darden

Rashid Darden had a fascination with Greek life early on. He’d grown up the only child in a single-mother home, and once he stepped onto the mostly white campus of Georgetown University in his hometown of Washington, DC, the need for brotherhood grew stronger.

It wasn’t until grad school that Darden pledged Alpha Phi Alpha, but this void spilled over into his writing during undergrad. Lazarus, his first novel about the struggles of a black gay college student making his way through the Greek system, was a labor of love that started as a play in 2000.

“As a black gay male I had always asked, ‘what if?’” Darden said. “What if I pledged? How would my line brothers take me? What if I dated a varsity basketball player? What if a Georgetown basketball player was gay?”

“You often see books and movies about historically black colleges, but none about black experience on a mostly white college campus,” Darden said. “I wanted to tell a story that hadn’t been told before.”

In 2005 Darden wrote Covenant, the sequel to Lazarus, which follows the love affair that sprouts between Adrian and Isaiah, the campus’ star basketball player. And just last year he wrote a third and final chapter to the series called Epiphany, where the realities of their love spill over into their personal and professional lives.

Covenant is the love story and Epiphany is the more responsible story about Greek life,” Darden said. “It wouldn’t have been fair not to share the experiences of Adrian and the responses to the tragedies of the first two novels.”

On May 27 during the Memorial Day Weekend Black Pride festivities in Washington DC, Darden is hosted a launch party for all three of his novels.

“It’s been 12 years since I started this project; this event is a culmination of a season and the re-birth of my career, reminding people that I’m here and I’m always going to be here,” Darden said.

Find purchase information for Lazarus, Covenant and Epiphany and more on Darden at his website, www.oldgoldsoul.com.

Uriah Bell

Uriah Bell

Uriah Bell is taking a bold leap of faith. The self-published author of two poetry books (Mood Swings, Epiphany) is taking a break from writing books to start his own publication called Truth magazine.

“I want to give a more positive face to the gay and lesbian of color community, more specifically the black diaspora,” Bell said. “I want to present something besides the sexploitation and exploitation that we seem to be slowly succumbing too.”

Bell, a financial and marketing wiz and Detroit native, has taken the full financial burden to get Truth off the ground. He’s editor-in-chief of the magazine and will be publishing it through his own company, Rising Voices Press, which also printed both his books. He’s also started a Kickstarter.com campaign that’s raised nearly $1,800. (To donate visit www.truthmagonline.com)

The bi-monthly magazine was set for a June 1 release to kick off Pride season, and though currently living in Boston, Bell is skipping the regional market and starting right off with a national focus.

“There’s going to be sections on health and wellness, arts and entertainment, lifestyle, culture, politics and social activism, spirituality. And there’s going to be a regular column called Caribbean Corners the focuses on the advancements of lesbian and gay issues in Caribbean nations,” he said. “We’re going to talk about the things that we don’t talk about in our community. It’s not going to be fluff; it’s all going to be very substantial.”

You can find more information on Bell and his work at www.uriahbell.com. For more on Truth magazine visit www.truthmagonline.com.



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