October, We Hardly Knew Ye. (Or, Time’s Moving Too Fast. Let’s Have a Giveaway!)

Pop Culture + Media Thursday, October 29, 2015

This month, man. What the hell? Where did it all go?

Here we are staring November — and basically the end of 2015 — right in the face. It kind of feels like the only salve for this whiplash we’re all experiencing from Earth’s rapid revolutions is a giveaway, right? Right.

In fact, let’s make it a double-deal, yes? Absolutely, yes!

Part 1: The beautifully restored 25th Anniversary edition of Edward Scissorhands Blu-ray. (Also: How is this moving 25 years old already??!)

Part 2: A slightly more modern coming-of-age story — Paper Towns, based on the YA novel by YA master John Green.

MMM-DVD-giveaway | Photo by: Nicole Blades

And to walk away with both of these Blu-ray sets all you have to do is tell me one thing (that’s not Thanksgiving) that you’re looking forward to in November. That’s it.

The randomly selected winner will be announced November 6!

Why You Should See ‘He Named Me Malala’ This Weekend

Pop Culture + Media Friday, October 9, 2015

“There’s a moment when you have to choose whether to be silent or to stand up.”– Malala Yousafzai

Back in the summer, I was invited to an advanced screening of the new documentary He Named Me Malalaabout the 18-year-old Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  The message in the film is strong: Use your voice. Speak out against injustice. Stand up for change.

And do it now.

I’ve long been fascinated by Malala’s extraordinary story and moved by her fight for girls’ education and empowerment around the world. So going into the film, I was prepared to be inspired. What I didn’t expect, though, was to find out how funny and charming Malala is! The documentary does an excellent job of going beyond her lofty platform and showing Malala as a person. A really sweet, sparkling, big-hearted young woman moving through a complicated world with focus and compassion.


After seeing the movie and talking with some of the good folks at the Malala Fund, I happily signed up to be an Ambassador for #HeNamedMeMalala.

It’s a movement I’m proud to be a part of, and I look forward to working with this group — long after the film has left theaters — to continue turning my compassion into action.

Here’s the official trailer:

The film opens this weekend in 400 theaters in the U.S., and I’m telling you, it’s a must-see. Take your kids*, especially. Let them see how one voice can roar and rattle that which is crooked, corrupt and unjust.

And to help parents start conversations with kids, the Malala Fund has put together a helpful Parent Discussion Guide.

Let me know if you and your fam head out to see the film this weekend. Drop me a line here or find me on Facebook and Twitter.

(*Parents should note that the film is rated PG-13: There’s nothing graphic, per se, in the film, but there are definitely disturbing images and themes around about the violence.)


Fresh For October: #30WriteNow Kick-Off and a ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ DVD Giveaway

Pop Culture + Media Thursday, October 1, 2015

Three years ago today, a friend and I decided to start the #30WriteNow October Writing Challenge. The rules around it were simple: Write for at least 30 minutes without stopping to edit or second-guess. Just spill it out on the page. It could be for your blog, an essay, your novel — doesn’t matter. The point is: you write, consistently! And you do this every day for 30 days. (We use October 31st as a spare tire, in case you miss a day during the month).

I’ve continued the #30WriteNow challenge each year, sharing writing prompts every morning on Twitter, should you need a little help getting those story juices flowing.

Today’s prompt: VACANT.

All right, so who’s down to do this? Well, if you are, get to it. Write!

Nicole Blades | Imagelogger | The Great Pumpkin

With fall officially here and freshness in the air, it feels like the right time for a giveaway, yes? (The correct answer is only ever yes.)

Have you been watching the new fall TV shows? I know. There’s so much damn television on these days, will we ever really feel caught up? Some of the shows are good, but there are plenty that are a lot less, uh, good.

One show that had a solid debut and came back strong for its second season this year is ABC’s Fresh Off the BoatThe quick “what’s it about”…

Eddie Huang, a 12-year-old hip-hop head and jokester, moves with his family from D.C.’s Chinatown to Orlando where his dad, Louis, tries to get rich or die tryin’ (shouts, Fiddy!) in the steakhouse biz. It’s set in the ’90s, which has baked-in jokes on its own, and the rest of the family — especially the mom, Jessica — bring the funny.

So … Fresh Off the Boat‘s Season 1 DVD is out and up for grabs right here!


All you have to do is share which TV shows you’re most hyped about seeing — either new or returning — with a quick line about why, and you’re in the running to win this free DVD box set, which includes a gag reel.

The winner will be announced October 15th!

My Guest Post on The Debutante Ball Blog: Talking Diversity (or Lack Thereof) in Publishing

Pop Culture + Media Monday, July 27, 2015

My buddy and fellow writer mama, Colleen Oakley, asked me to write a guest post on a blog for which she’s been writing for the last year, celebrating her fantastic debut novel, Before I Go. The blog is called The Debutante Ball, and my guest post topic was Diversity in Publishing. Here’s that post! I want to again thank Colleen and the folks at DB for giving me the space to talk about an important topic.

And be sure to head over to The Debutante Ball blog for a chance to win a signed copy of my debut novel from a few years ago, EARTH’S WATERS.


Editor’s Note: Here at The Debutante Ball, we strive to give an insider look at our experiences with the publishing industry. But we also like to contribute to the dialogue on important topics in publishing, which is why this week we’ve decided to focus on diversity— and have each asked a guest author to discuss their experiences in the industry. We know we can’t solve the issues with a few blog posts, but we’re hoping we can add to the conversation and perhaps even spark some new ideas. 

51491+weLiL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_My guest this week is not only a dear friend and colleague from my magazine editing and writing days, but she’s also a published author, award-winning blogger and has most recently scored a two-book deal for her 2nd and 3rd novels with Kensington Books. (At the end of this post, we’ll be giving away a signed copy of her debut Earth’s Waters to one lucky commenter). Without further ado, please welcome to The Ball: Nicole Blades.

Keep it positive. That was my plan when I set out to write this guest post.

I was going to start by talking about my all-time favorite teacher, Mr. Harry Polka, with his bushy beard, plaid shirts and genuine, warm comportment. He was my third grade teacher, and though he didn’t believe in homework — “Your parents don’t take home their work, do they? — he very much did believe in storytelling. That, and the Beatles, whose music he played on an antique record player during class every day.

Mr. Polka was an important figure in my life, because it’s through him and my father that I caught the storytelling bug as this curious kid growing up in Montreal. And I’ve been putting my wild words and imagined worlds on paper ever since.

Then I was going to move into my reading life in this post, resting on nostalgia for beat, talking about my first encounter with Toni Morrison (The Bluest Eye), Octavia Butler (Kindred), Maya Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings), Langston Hughes (The Ways of White Folks), Edwidge Danticat (Breath, Eyes, Memory), James Baldwin, August Wilson, Alice Walker, and right on up to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Zadie Smith and Teju Cole; delving into how it felt to see me, or at least some likeness of the Black experience, show up on the page and command my full attention.

I was going to relish in those moments of true representation in the countless books I happily and regularly got lost in, with different versions of Black Life baked into the story, and how seeing all of those vast and rich worldviews, cultures, environments and backgrounds pushed to center stage — on purpose — to entertain, enlighten, edify, and engage made me feel counted, considered, seen.

Yes, for this guest post, I was going to focus on all of this goodness and more, keeping my Silver Linings Playbook tucked in my back pocket (you know, just in case), as I unpacked what it means to be a black writer in a very white publishing world.

But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t truly hold to this “positive spin” approach I had planned, because when it comes to talking about the dire state of diversity in publishing, there is no positive spin. The lack of equity, the continued marginalization of black and brown writers in the overwhelming white publishing industry is stark and exasperating. Crushing, even.

Just look at the numbers: According to annual data collected collected by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center, the number of children’s books published featuring “African-American content” went from 93 to 179 last year — almost double. But that’s 179 out of the 3,500 books that were published in 2014. That works out to 0.05 percent. Not even one whole percent.

And for writers of color working on the adult lit side, the atmosphere is just as bleak. From the paltry percentage of books by writers of color reviewed by the New York Times(a trifling 12 percent in 2012) and the annual, highly respected summer reading lists that almost consistently feature zero books by authors of color to the alabaster panels at major publishing industry events, conferences and literary award shortlists, and the monochromatic industry itself — editors, agents, book buyers, publishing Big Cheeses — forget the playing field being uneven, the game is rigged.

Originally, I wanted to go with a “positive” angle for this post because I’ve been very fortunate to land an agent and, recently, a two-book deal with Kensington Books, working with a talented Black woman editor there. I didn’t want to come across like I’m standing on a soapbox from inside the room (albeit, barely in the foyer,) into which so many of my fellow writing warriors of color continue battling to gain access.

But that worry fell away, because I know that speaking the truth is at the core of storytelling, and self-editing and mincing words about the galling lack of diversity in publishing does nothing to amplify the message that change must come.

And while it’s thoroughly encouraging to see authors of color like Jacqueline Woodson and Junot Diaz win prestigious awards, and writers like Roxane Gay and Ta-Nehisi Coates move deeper into the Special Rooms, invited to sit at the table and go and come at their leisure, it’s simply not enough. Of course I don’t mean to diminish the significance of these writers’ accomplishments. No, I see each as a victory to be celebrated and counted as wins for the overall community of black and brown artists. But we need more. We need bigger shifts. We need tides turning in order to steer closer — and with some urgency — toward a publishing world that is reflective of the one in which we’re living.

GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by Noon (EST) on Sunday, August 2 to win a copy of EARTH’S WATERS. Follow The Debutante Ball on Facebook and Twitter for extra entries — just mention that you did so in your comments. We’ll choose and contact the winner on Friday. Good luck!

Blades_bioheadshotNicole Blades is an author and freelance journalist who writes about motherhood and race, identity, culture, and technology. Her debut novel, EARTH’S WATERS, was published in 2007 and her second novel, THE THUNDER BENEATH US (Kensington), will be published Fall 2016. Follow her on Twitter and her award-winning parenting blog Ms. Mary Mack.



Originally posted on The Debutante Blog.

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