Author: Aliya S. King

prison

This week, I scoured the streets of Newark to find a guest blogger. Okay. I didn't really. It was totally staged. Ha. I've known this kid since he was 14 years old. He was my student at Clifford Scott High School, (straight A's. But a smart mouth.) Shydel James has worked as my personal and research assistant for three years. For a decade, I've encouraged him to write--something he has a natural ability to do. He resisted. Went into acting instead. Which was cool. But I know a writer. And I know it's his destiny. After years of transcribing my interviews, dealing with publicists and running my literary life, he began dipping his toe into the written word. And now, I want him to dive in. Shydel is my heart. But as close as we are, I knew nothing about this story until last week when he pitched it to me. I am so proud to have him as a guest blogger. On Father's Day, we ran a very sweet roundup of fathers who put in work and make their children proud. Shydel has no such story. It's a common story, alas. And one that I hope will provoke discussion. Enjoy.

[caption id="attachment_2713" align="alignnone" width="450" caption="Me on my first birthday. With my dad, Robert E. King. And My great-grandmother Mozell Crawford. "]Me on my first day. With my dad, Robert E. King. And My great-grandmother Mozell Crawford. [/caption] When I was starting my first day of school, my dad kneeled down to my level for a pep talk. I had a lump in my throat. I was clutching my chocolate brown satchel tightly. It was a new school. A new grade. And I would be the youngest in the class. We both peeked into the classroom. Everyone was so tall. It could've been a lecture on quantum physics as far as I was concerned. "You'll be fine," my dad said. I nodded. I got up on tip-top to peer inside the glass door once more and my stomach did a flip flop. "Just remember what I told you about your antennae. They're right here," he said, pointing to the top of my head, right where my tight ponytails were fastened. "You see something that don't seem right, your antennae will let you know. Now you can't see 'em. But they're in there. And they'll never steer you wrong. Do your best." And with that, I was off. 1979. First grade. Columbian Elementary. My dad's words rang in my head for years. It's the single most important bit of advice I've received from Robert E. King. And throughout my life, there have been many times when my invisible antennae were gesturing wildly: that dude ain't no good. this magazine is not worth the trouble. this apartment is too good to be true. this chick is trying to play you out. I haven't always listened, of course. But I know it's there. And I'm grateful my dad broke it down in a way a four year old could understand. A tribute to dads. Near and far. For their love, understanding and wisdom.

[caption id="attachment_2681" align="alignnone" width="450" caption="A supporter of defeated presidential candidate Mousavi is beaten by government security men as fellow supporters come to his aid during riots in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, June 14, 2009. (AP Photo) #"]A supporter of defeated presidential candidate Mousavi is beaten by government security men as fellow supporters come to his aid during riots in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, June 14, 2009. (AP Photo) #[/caption]
Clover is actually working on a really dope series of guest blogs. She's going to highlight a story she wrote for XXL and show the entire process from writer's draft to publication. But while we hash that out--she's got something to say about how Twitter is impacting both political protests and journalism. It's timely and thought provoking. And I urge you to check it.

Reporter I'm going to share three of my real life pitches that worked with various degrees of success. The first is a very informal pitch I sent to Smokey Fontaine at GIANT. I was writing for GIANT regularly and I had a relationship with Smokey. So I didn't need to introduce myself or explain why I was the right person for the project. This style of pitching is ONLY when you have a strong relationship with the editor. I'd run into Smokey a few days before and he told me to send him a few ideas. This was one of them.

Reporter I got an email from a dear reader yesterday. And she was a bit frantic. She's just published a short piece in a national entertainment magazine. (Yay!) She sent off a thank you email to the editor, (good job!), and asked about pitching more stories. The editor invited her to start pitching. (Yay!) And then she freaked out. What to pitch!? She started flipping through the magazine, hands on her keyboard, ready to dash off an email with tons of great story ideas. Luckily, before she pressed send, she emailed me:
Hey Aliya!
How are ya? I'm kind of in a bind. Do you have any advice for generating story ideas? I got the green light to start pitching [NAME REDACTED] But I think my ideas are wack or they already have them covered, which means they're not original. I can write. I know this. Pitching is my problem!!! Ughhhh.
I told homegirl to step away from the keyboard. She was about to make a grave mistake.

Hey people. Can I be not-so-nice for a moment? I sort of feel like I'm kind and friendly and helpful here in the blogosphere. 'Least I try to be. And I love my online family. But out there, in the real world? I get some of the most inane questions about writing and the writing process. Sometimes, it makes me want to smack someone. Or at least write a blog post about it. But I don't. 'Cause I don't want people to think I'm not kind and friendly and helpful. This is all going somewhere. I promise.