Name: Celia Anderson
Birthplace: Chicago, IL
Current Residence: Fayetteville, AR
We understand that you worked for the late E. Lynn Harris, what was that experience like?
E. Lynn taught me valuable lessons, first to never be afraid to go first and leave a path and second, to find my own voice and refuse to be a carbon copy, and lastly to always reach back and help the next generation. Like any job, it had it’s challenging times because he demanded excellence, but even that has faired well for my life. E. Lynn gave me the chance to sit at the feet of some awesome writers, whom I also learned from, and to go places and experience things that I may have never had the chance to.
Please describe your current or most recent project. Include a brief overview, your motivation for the project, and any notable challenges you encountered.
My newest novel is “Daddy’s Home,” the sequel to my first Love, Ocean. It simply continues the story of a young lady who is displaced from Hurricane Katrina. At the time the storm hits, her father is fighting in Iraq. This novel is set in Houston, a city I had a chance to live in for awhile during my tenure with E. Lynn. My motivation for this project was all the students I met on my first tour. Across the United States the response was the same, young people simply couldn’t put the book down. I knew then that I had to write a series. The most challenging thing has been convincing the world that statistics are wrong, this generation will read if someone writes to them.
What is your earliest memory of being a writer?
Oh wow. This is a great question, because I feel like I was put on this earth to write. It’s more than a job for me; it is certainly my kingdom assignment. When I was 7th grade, I wrote a poem that was published in the yearbook. All of the teachers were proud of what I had written, because it was such a mature view of our world. I talked about how gangs, pregnant women who do drugs, how the crime rate is rising, and the justice system is failing us…things that an average 13 year old wouldn’t think about.
When were you first published? And under what circumstances?
Well, once again I have to thank E. Lynn for my first publishing deal. In 2005, I sold a short story to Random House as a part of compilation called “Love Is Stronger Than Pride.” The book has yet to be published, and since his death, not sure if it will be, but I made a copy of the check and framed it. What first time author can say that they were selected to be in a compilation along side E. Lynn Harris and published by Random House? It was an awesome feeling.
How do you identify and nurture ideas for new projects?
I used to try and “come up” with ideas for books. In fact, I have three manuscripts that I wrote on my own that have never been published–they suck. lol. All of my ideas are a result of me listening and tuning in to young people. I write what they cry out for.
Please describe 1-3 authors/writers/performers that have influenced your artistic style?
I am a huge Whoopi Goldberg fan, her “this is me, this is who I am” style definitely gave me the courage to live above the influence. Both Sharon Draper and Sharon Flake paved the way, writing good stories in this genre long before my novel was even thought about.
What 2 books and 2 CDs should everyone own?
“The Mis Education of the Negro”- Carter G. Woodson, “Liberation Narratives” Haki Madhubuti and I can’t leave out Sista Soulja “The Coldest Winter Ever”… I know you said two books, so I will stop, but I can go on all day!
Music…everyone should have a copy of “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” L-Boogie where are you? We miss you! And I must admit, Alanis Morrisette’s “Jagged Little Pill” go me through some things!
Do you believe African American authors have an obligation to the African American community? Why or why not?
Hmmm…I live by the law of nature that says anything that you put into your body will manifest something on the outside. For example, if you eat Big Macs, you will eventually see them in your thighs. The same goes with books and any art form really, once people let your work inside of them, it will produce something on the outside, whether you like it or not. I accept the responsibility; therefore I believe I have an obligation to the community to first tell the truth and second to not write anything that will produce something negative in anyone else’s life, regardless of how much money it will make me. I can’t speak for other artist; people are motivated by different things. If money is reward enough than so be it, but it isn’t for me.
What is the biggest misconception about you and/or your work?
Wow…this is a question I don’t have an answer for. I stopped paying attention to the negative things a long time ago; it’s the only way I can leave room for the positive ones :-).
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Write….Write…. and when you are done listen for awhile, then write again.