Books in Art: Woman Reading by Kuroda Seiki

Love these types of pictures! Kindred spirits.

A Small Press Life

Woman Reading by Kuroda Seiki, circa 1890:

Woman Reading by Kuroda Seiki, circa 1890. Tokyo National Museum.

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Fire and Fury – this episode reminds me of one from The Golden Girls

download ggWell, certainly now on my reading list is Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, you know – the one for which 45 had a cease and desist letter sent to the publisher to stop its publication. That paper was wasted for naught. The book’s the Number 1 bestseller on Amazon and it just came out today!

Since 45’s primary credits involve being a salesman and a reality-show trumpeter (hmm, so how that term just fits), there’s no way I’d bet he didn’t think his theatrics about this upcoming book would really harm Wolff’s sales.

Watching it all unfold this week, I realized how much this episode of the White House Saga (and I do say that lightly; this shit is not really very funny) reminds me of The Golden Girls episode, “Vixen: The Story of a Woman”, when Blanche verbally trashes the book her sister, Charmaine, wrote – while they’re in the bookstore, during her sister’s book signing (!) – since, she thinks its about her life and its sexual escapades and adventures and the crowd tumbles over itself to get copies.

Just as I would have grabbed a copy of that one then, I’ve certainly gotta read this one… Sales like this show we’re for the most part always up for juicy dishing. And from what I’ve also read – there are tapes, so it’s not a sitcom sketch, which in truth, is really not a funny point. :/

My Reading Challenge for this year

Photo: Tonya Rice

Goodreads began their yearly Reading Challenge yesterday and, as usual, I’m in. Last year, I surpassed my goal of 10. Not as much of a lofty number as I wanted to set, but with work, parenting, marriage, and writing my own stories, that to me was the best and safest number.

So, this year, I’m at 10 again – for now. It’s a bar I know I can reach and I’d prefer to do just that. I’m also confident that I’ll surpass it as I did last year. 🙂

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Right now, I’m just past the halfway mark of the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. After that, I’ll return to finish Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende. Her latest book, In the Midst of Winter – I’m beyond anxious to get my hands upon, so I’ll probably reach for it after Island.

Photo: Tonya Rice

I’ve had an untouched copy of the grand classic, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, on my shelf for sooooo long, it’s not even funny. It’s a story I’ve been meaning to get to for years. I still haven’t seen the original Disney movie, since I refuse to do so until after I read it and with the new adaptation coming out directed by the dynamic Ava DuVernay, I’ve got to get my read on that immediately because I don’t want to see that in any other place but the big screen and a further delay may mean DVD-viewing instead. :/

The third story of Beverly Jenkins’s Old West series, Tempest, comes out some time this month. After tearing through the first two, Breathless and Forbidden, respectively, I’ve been honing in on the release date of this one and I can’t wait. I’ve learned quite a bit about blacks in the Old West and I’ll tell ya, she gives us some interesting and intriguing history lessons with heat – that’s for sure. A hot history book! Who knew?!

The long-anticipated An American Marriage: A Novel by Tayari Jones comes out just before my birthday next month and that’ll be a birthday present to myself!

What’s on your reading list so far this year? I’m always open to recommendations, so please share.

Last Year Wasn’t Such a Bad Year After All – for Writing

2017-06-30 15.11.35-1It was a pretty darn good [writing] year after all, that 2017.

As I welcomed 2018 and made good riddance to the last, I wound up giving pause to remember the fact that my writing life featured some fantastic accomplishments that I shouldn’t dare forget. Moving along each passing moment, going day-by-day in every other aspect that didn’t involve writing, I seemed to neglect keeping them in my line of vision throughout the rest of the year. So, this is my time to do so and to create this memory pocket for which I need to return often when I think I’m not stepping  towards my writing goals or even when I dare think that I’m not.

So, in my writing world of 2018, the following happily occurred:

  • Completed my MFA this year. After seven long years of study, I made it!


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Photo: Tonya Rice


Photo: Tonya Rice

Had the honor of being asked to write a blurb for the republication of a book by a dear friend of mine, Dr. Ethel Morgan Smith. Her book, From Whence Cometh My Help: The African-American Community at Hollins College, brought forth the silenced voices of the black community that had kept that college running with no credit until now. It’s made a tremendous impact on my college community going forward and the city of Roanoke as well. Highly recommended read!



  • At a play based upon Dr. Smith’s book, “African Violets”, my daughter took her first trip to my alma mater and she watched me fangirl when we met Nikki Giovanni! My goodness, we learned her poems in third grade!! Lifelong fan!
Photo: Tonya Rice
  • Completed the first of my trilogy “The Boutique Series” (which was introduced in the short, Burying the Bitter: A Boutique Series Short, a few years ago), that I’ve been working on for a while… Good news: Publication expected in the next month or so! More details soon!
  • On our family trip to New York this summer, we did sooo much, but one highlight was dining at Dorothy Parker’s Round Table at the famed Algonquin Hotel! (Nah, it wasn’t the same table, but still…!) I even brought along the manuscript to my first story of The Boutique Series to work on there!
  • I attended the James River Writing Conference – first time in six years – and saw folks I hadn’t seen in a while and met new writer friends… even finally made in-person connections with some of my Twitter friends! Motivation, camaraderie, and inspiration galore! This time, I went with something to pitch – my thesis/that historical novel – and I did! I’m sooo hoping and praying she gets back to me soon with positive news! 2017-10-14 19.28.18
  • And I participated in NaNoWriMo, too, for the first time. Got halfway through another historical piece that’s been dangling around in my mind for a while. I didn’t make the full, expected 50,000 word count, BUT at just a bit over 15,000 words (15,218 to be exact), it’s a lot more than I had when I started on November 1! It’s the next novel I’m working on!

Well, with this chronicle, I discovered that my writing life wasn’t as dire as I’d come to believe after all. I have to keep this with me!

I’d love to hear your writing accomplishments from last year too. Please share and let me know what your plans are for this year!

I’m posting my reading list tomorrow… please stay tuned. I plan to pop in here a bit more than last year!

Now, on to 2018 and Happy New Year, Everyone!


Thoughts on Selected Pieces by Joan Didion (Slouching Towards Bethlehem)

Photo: Tonya Rice

There’s a new documentary of Joan Didion coming up this month on Netflix, Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold, directed by her nephew, actor Griffin Dunne (“Who’s That Girl”, Frasier: “The Friend” – one of the best episodes), that I can’t wait to see. As my tribute, I’m posting a few of my thoughts on her essays from her rightfully, highly-acclaimed Slouching Towards Bethlehem this month. These were from my grad school classes, so a few may have other works I discussed, but for the most part, it’s all Didion.

I’ll have some from The White Album, her other collection of essays, later… just finally started on that recently. She’s one that keeps me motivated.

In “Marrying Absurd” of Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion opens with a Kodachrome-tinged setting of Las Vegas in a detached, sardonic tone and leads us to couples who married there in many circumstances at all hours. The initial rhythm is journalistic, a steady beat of facts; her subsequent longer sentences and quotes soon imply opinion. The tongue-in-cheek disposition takes over and the investigative report about the town’s thriving wedding industry becomes more entertaining. The account of the family at the end of the piece presented more of the tragic and pitiful than glee. A Southern Gothic feeling. I didn’t think it was to be a comedic article; however, its incredulous air sets it on the border.

As a classic film fan, I found “California Dreamin’” to be an interesting cavalcade of Hollywood’s Who’s-Who and a 1960’s account of celebrity sociological influence. Didion’s tenor is less mocking in this piece, yet her dark wit keeps her in it. Her research and quotes allowed the article to properly inform the reader about the institute, corporate masterminds, and their affect on the country’s culture. There was a statement from a patron at the conclusion, which could leave one engaged to pursue more about the institute or simply baffled by the words alone: “These sessions are way over my head, but I go out floating on air” (Didion 78). With that, I loved the way Didion allowed the reader to make his own conclusion about the institute.

Didion’s “On Going Home” reminded me of some of my journal entries, particularly

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Joan Didion, photo courtesy Pinterest

those expressing a passage of time and place. It produced an odd notion to publish some of my own personal pieces. I understood that longing, the tug and pull, between then and today. Recognizing her husband’s disconnection from the place she’d called home long before they made their own. Of falling back into that home’s ways, that were “not my husband’s ways”; of being back in the presence of the place “filled with mementos quite without value to him” (164). Of falling into the familiar with others who are a part of that familiar and wanting to be there – alone with them and not the present that doesn’t understand. It was raw, unflinching, so personal, and no longer private. It was lyrical, beautiful and I envied her ability to share it so.

My professor’s question below allowed me to expound a bit more – something I have little trouble doing:

Prof.: Why is [the idea to publish some of your own personal pieces] an odd notion? What specific qualities does it take to make personal pieces or journals successful for publishing?  What traits do you think they need to have?

Me: It’s an odd notion for me since I’ve always been more comfortable sharing my fiction. I’m able to narrate or give a narrator the opportunity to explore experiences which may or may not include real life events (altered a bit anyway) along with those imagined.

As I began reading James Conaway in Patti Sims’s book, Literary Nonfiction, I noticed he provided a sound answer to your questions during the introduction ahead of his piece: “The best approach to autobiography is, paradoxically, a story about someone else to whom the writer is attached emotionally…”. I agree. Memoir should be compelling and relatable to the reader. Those that have reached me were those focused on specific experiences and the effects on the writer. My understanding, attachment and some sense of connection maintained my interest. One example for me comes from Patti Smith’s Just Kids, which wasn’t just a powerful and emotional elegy to Robert Mapplethorpe, it was a love letter to the craft of art and writing. It was a rally cry for me to get off my butt and answer that call as well.

The Robert E. Lee Monument – The First Monument of Monument Avenue, Richmond, VA

The Robert E. Lee Monument, Richmond, VA – Photo: Tonya Rice

The first monument erected on Richmond’s Monument Avenue was the Robert E. Lee Monument. Located in Lee Circle (within the intersection now known as Allen Avenue and Monument Avenue), the statue, commemorating the South’s Lost Cause, was unveiled on May 29, 1890 to much fanfare and controversy. The Lee Monument has been a vital focal point of the city’s landscape since its dedication that day. For many years, until recently, it was featured as the city’s logo.

The decision to erect a monument to honor General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War, had been discussed among leaders of the former Confederate states since his death in 1870. Under the management of the Lee Monument Association, Governor Fitzhugh Lee (General Lee’s nephew), and other state

The Robert E. Lee Monument, Richmond, VA (Intersection of Monument and N. Allen Avenues) – Photo: Tonya Rice

officials, progress was made towards development. By 1887, a location for the monument was determined. Otway S. Allen, owner of the area just outside the city limits west of Richmond, offered a parcel of his land.

Renowned French sculptor, Marius-Jean-Antonin Mercié, whose work includes the Francis Scott Key Monument in Baltimore, was commissioned to design the monument. His elaborate marble and bronze depiction of Lee atop of his beloved horse, Traveller, was accepted by Association members and other associates close to the project. The equestrian statue stands sixty-feet high, including the pedestal. City Engineer C.P.E. Bergwyn, who also worked as the consulting engineer for the Association, designed the plans surrounding the statue and further development of the area to include sidewalks and trees along the planned street expansion.

As the country strove to reunite within the first twenty-five years after the war ended,

The Robert E. Lee Monument, Richmond, VA – Photo: Tonya Rice

controversy regarding the close involvement of the statue from Richmond and the Commonwealth to honor a Confederate general erupted. Municipal funding was provided for a portion of the monument as well as improvements to the lot around Lee Circle, escalating concern that Richmond may have preferred to return to the antebellum era. John Mitchell, Jr., one of the first black councilmen in Richmond and the editor of the Richmond Planet, declared the venture to be a treacherous act. Additional debates involved the city’s fiscal backing of a project outside of the city limits. In 1892, the monument was brought into the city via annexation.

The Robert E. Lee Monument Circle, Richmond, VA – Photo: Tonya Rice

On the morning of the statue’s dedication, a parade over four miles long, led by Governor Lee, took place through the city to Lee Circle. Thousands of people, including veterans of the Civil War, from across the country visited the former Confederate capital to witness this long-awaited event. Colonel Archer Anderson, whose father headed Tredegar Iron Works, was chosen as the principal speaker of the dedication. In his speech (later published as “Robert Edward Lee: An Address Delivered at the Dedication of the Lee Monument” in the Southern Historical Society Papers), Colonel Anderson expressed his admiration for Lee, as well as encouraging gatherers to regard the monument as “not a record of civil strife, but as perpetual protest against whatever is low and sordid in our public and private objects!”

Soon thereafter, former Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston pulled the cord to remove the enormous cover and Richmond received the Lee Monument.

Originally posted on April 13, 2011 on examiner dot com. 

The Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site in Richmond, Virginia

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The Maggie L. Walker House, Richmond, VA | Photo by Tonya Rice

The home of Maggie L. Walker, formally known as The Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, is located at 110 ½ Leigh Street in Richmond’s Jackson Ward. It has been a part of the National Park Service since 1978 and opened as a public museum in 1985. Preservation of her home as a national landmark presents an esteemed honor and tribute to this African-American woman who, at the turn of the 20th century, emerged as one of the nation’s most astute and influential business leaders.

Maggie Lena Mitchell Walker was born in 1867 to a former slave in the home of Elizabeth Van Lew in Church Hill. The site is now the location of Bellevue Elementary School. Van Lew, a member of a prominent local family and staunch abolitionist, was a spy for the Union forces during the Civil War. Young Maggie was a member of First African Baptist Church in Court End. After her father died, she worked with her mother collecting and delivering laundry for white customers. At this time, she noticed the economic and employment disparities between whites and blacks in the city. This discovery compelled her to later help blacks fiscally improve their lives.

At the age of fourteen, she joined the Independent Order of St. Luke, a benevolent society formed in Baltimore after the Civil War to aid blacks during times of illness and funeral needs. During this time, she taught school and studied accounting at night. After she married Armstead Walker, she stopped teaching, yet continued her mission with I.O. St. Luke and elevated through the ranks of the organization. By 1899, she was elected to its highest position, Right Worthy Grand Secretary of St. Luke, and had later risen to Secretary-Treasurer. Under Mrs. Walker’s skilled leadership, the organization grew into a successful financial institution. To help blacks become economically stronger, she chartered the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in 1902 under I.O. St. Luke. She became, not only the country’s first black woman bank president, but the nation’s first woman bank president as well. The bank was located at First and Marshall Streets in Jackson Ward. By 1920, over six hundred homes had been financed for African-Americans in the area by the bank, helping to decrease a factor of economic disproportion she witnessed as a child. In 1930, the bank merged with two other black-owned banks forming Consolidated Bank and Trust. For several years, she remained the president of this financial institution, which at one time had several locations in the Richmond and Hampton Roads areas. In 2011, Consolidated Bank and Trust was closed.

In addition to her efforts with I.O. St. Luke, Mrs. Walker also served on several boards of other local organizations such as the Richmond Chapter of the NAACP and the National Association of Colored Women. In 1936, the second public high school in the city for blacks was built and named after her. It closed in 1989 and reopened in 1998 as the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies.

Mrs. Walker and her family purchased the house in 1904. The Italianate-style townhouse

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The Maggie L. Walker House, Richmond, VA | Photo by Tonya Rice

was built in 1889 by George Boyd, an African-American contractor. It’s a two-story brick structure, which they had updated and renovated by the distinguished black architect Charles T. Russell. Russell designed many homes and businesses in the area. He also renovated Ebenezer Baptist Church on Leigh Street. Her home was expanded to twenty-eight rooms and they added electricity and modern heating units. To accommodate Mrs. Walker as her health declined, Russell later added an elevator. Mrs. Walker remained there until her death in 1934.

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The Maggie L. Walker House, Richmond, VA | Photo by Tonya Rice

Sitting in the middle of “Quality Row”, the erstwhile term for the 100 block of Leigh Street, where many affluent blacks of the early, bustling 20th century resided, the home is recognized by the prominent green and white striped awning. Jackson Ward was a very vibrant, busy, and economically sound neighborhood and the Walker family cherished it. Many of the other homes of the block are also noted as a part of the National Park Service, and they’ve been renovated to reflect the charm and prominence of the era. It is a beautiful home, replicating the Walker family lifestyle of the 1930s, exhibiting their furnishings and décor.

Visit The Maggie L. Walker Historic Site. It’s a great opportunity to view a film reflecting the times of Richmond during Mrs. Walker’s life and receive a guided tour of her residence. There is also a gift shop.

Hours of operation are:

  • Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., (Winter Hours: November 1 through February 28);
  • Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., (Summer Hours: March 1 through October 31).

House is closed on Sundays, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day.

Originally posted on April 15, 2011 on examiner dot com. This article has since been updated.

The Serenity of Monumental Church, Richmond, Virginia


Monumental Church, Richmond, Virginia. Photo: Tonya Rice

During a performance on the night after Christmas, 1811, fire destroyed the Richmond Theatre, killed many citizens, and left this city in mourning. Those who were left dazed by the sudden horrors they’d witnessed and survived acknowledged the heroic efforts of a local slave, Gilbert Hunt. Standing outside of a window under flames and falling debris, Hunt caught several women who were handed to him by Dr. James McCaw, a local physician. Before the building nearly collapsed around them, Hunt pulled McCaw to safety; miraculously, they escaped.

The city arranged to purchase the site and agreed to bury the victims, many of whom were charred or reduced to ashes, at the site. Their remains were placed in two mahogany coffins. It was soon decided to commemorate the lives of those lost by erecting a church over them.

Robert Mills, Thomas Jefferson’s sole architectural student, laid out the plans of this

Monumental Church, Richmond, Virginia. Photo: Tonya Rice

Greek Revival structure. Mills later designed the Washington Monument and the White House of the Confederacy. When the church opened in 1814, it was known as Monumental Episcopal Church and remained such until 1965. Chief Justice John Marshall and a young Edgar Allan Poe were a couple of its well-known parishioners.

The names of the dead are engraved on the memorial stone of the portico, as well as on the tablet next to the entrance of the church.

The VCU Medical Center (formerly Medical College of Virginia) has fully developed around the church. However, while standing inside the cast iron fence and the grounds, it’s easy to ignore the massive structures that now encapsulate it as well as the hustle and bustle of Broad Street that pass by.

The area creates a quiet, serene environment, so one is poised to stop and respect the purpose of the memorial. In 1814, the city decided to mark the resting area of those lost so suddenly and violently; today, those grounds continue to direct reverence.

In 1969, the church, located at 1224 E. Broad Street, was noted as a National Historic Landmark by the National Register of Historic Places. It is now owned by the Historic Richmond Foundation.

Originally posted on September 11, 2010 on

Indie Urban Lit Festival at the Richmond Public Library

RVA pic pngThe Richmond Public Library is hosting their Second Annual Indie Urban Lit Festival this Saturday, June 24, 2017 – tomorrow, as a matter of fact –  10:00 am – 5:00 pm at the Main Library, 101 E. Franklin Street, Richmond. Indie authors of the urban lit genre are featured but many other authors in other genres, like me, including poets and memoirists, will also be in attendance with our books and the chance to talk to readers. Over 40 of us!  Including, There will be workshops, discussions, music, and readings. A bibliophile’s love fest!

Yes, you read right… I will be there! With copies of my shiny, new paperback, bb shorts cover new (3)Burying the Bitter and Selected Short FictionHOT OFF THE PRESS!

Come to Downtown Richmond to mingle and meet with your favorite authors of the Richmond, Virginia area! Celebrate and support indie authors. Learn about the writing biz yourself! Participate in some of the workshops that include:

  • “Self-love and Walking in Your Purpose” – to be honest, this is the one I look forward to seeing myself… We writers are so damned hard on ourselves!!
  • “Books are a Business”
  • “How to Turn Your Book into a Best Seller”
  • “What is Urban Fiction”

Music and books… a great way to spend a Saturday, downtown! I hope to see you!!

List of authors below on this cool video produced by the Richmond Public Library:

More information here.

Richmond Public Library, Main
101 E. Franklin Street
Richmond, VA 23219

Saturday, June 24, 2017
10;00 am – 5:00 pm

Burying the Bitter and Selected Short Fiction – AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK!

bb shorts cover new (3)Relationships! It’s always about Relationships, isn’t it?

Well, as frustrating or even as lovely as they can be, they manage to inspire our best stories!

The spectacular news about all this?! “Burying the Bitter: A Boutique Series Short”, my Amazon Top 100 Kindle Short Story in Family Life Fiction, is now available in paperback along with three additional shorts, featuring such challenging relationships!

I’m so excited and even more thrilled to share this news with you!

About the Selected Short Fiction

In “Burying the Bitter”, Eveline must return home to her uncle’s funeral, a service she’d prefer to miss. Uncle Neville wasn’t the kind, old uncle the rest of the public deemed him to be and remembering his life is not what she wants to do.

In “Without Your Goodbye”, Shelby meets Mr. Right, soon after she was dumped by Mr. Wrong. The new man’s got an unexpected angle. Don’t they always? (Also available for Kindle)

In “Faye’s Cookout Day”, Faye discovers more than she desires about her husband and her marriage… in her ninth month of pregnancy.

“Arnie Somers” is a poignant tale about everlasting love and a cherished brooch that begins with a devastating accident. Choices are given, but what defining decisions will Arnie make? (Also available for Kindle)

Will the circumstances of their fragile relationships strengthen them or break them? The chance to find out is here. Their tales will linger with you for a long time.

Order your copy today!