Marita Golden, creative writing teacher, lecturer, and an award-winning author of 19 books,
recently joined us for an Unerased podcast talk to help launch our She Wrote The Book campaign. The following is adapted from our conversation.
You’re a writer, teacher, mentor, coach, and literary institution builder. How did you get started?
Golden: Well, I came into the world as a storyteller. I was always a very curious child and I read everything that I could get my hands on. And from a young age, I was writing—poetry, stories, letters to the editor, everything. Writing is just the way I lived in the world, and the way that I continue to live in the world.
We’re launching She Wrote The Book because we know Black women are not only prolific writers, but also voracious readers who support our sister authors. Can you speak to that with regard to your own commercial success?
Well, I started the Never Survive Foundation with Claude McKelvey, which was an act of literary cultural and political activism. We wanted to create a community where Black writers could find the tide of support that they needed. So, I’ve been involved in that kind of work for over 30 years—supporting Black writers and working as a mentor. When I talk to young writers, I always tell them that giving back and supporting their fellow writers is a huge part of what they need to do.
You coach a lot of people – mostly Black women – who have a book in them surging to get out. What is the most important advice you’d share with would-be authors about writing and publishing?
Writing and publishing are two very different things. The first and most important thing is to listen to your authentic voice. Your story may come to you in ways that seem crazy, but don’t be afraid to embrace it. I think when we gain skill and confidence, we may want to sacrifice authenticity. In getting published sometimes publishers will want to put you in a particular box or be some flavor of the month, but you don’t want to sacrifice the essential qualities of your story that make it unique. There has never been a time that people have had more independent power to control their work and their art. So, when people tell you no and you want to say yes, you can just close that door and go where you can say yes.
The publishing world has changed so dramatically over the decades. Some have resorted to self-publishing. What’s your perspective on bypassing the industry gatekeepers and doing it yourself?
In April , I will be offering a self-publishing from A-to-Z workshop with Tracy Chiles McGhee, who’s an award-winning author and independent publishing strategist. People can find out more information on my website. I think [self-publishing] is a totally legitimate and reasonable alternative. We have a lot of writers in this country—people who have amazing stories to tell and who can write quite well. The industry simply cannot absorb all of those stories. So therefore, independent publishing is a very viable option. There are challenges with it, but there are challenges even when you’re published by a mainstream publisher. If you have the stamina, it is entirely doable.
Editor’s Note: Marita Golden’s most recent work The Strong Black Woman How a Myth Endangers the Physical and Mental Health of Black Women interrogates the detrimental premise that Black Don’t Crack. In a day when Black Girl Magic is a winning slogan, the author challenges Black women to tap into self-care and champion their own physical and mental health needs.