Terry McMillan Heads to Anguilla to School Writers on the Publishing Industry

The award-winning author and screenwriter joins writers and thinkers such as Randall Robinson and Hill Harper at the first Annual Anguilla Black Lit Fest

BlackEnterprise.com: Your not just an author, you’re a brand. When you think about the future of your brand, what is your ultimate goal?

McMillan: I don’t really think about that. What I want to convey to these young people is that I did not know Waiting To Exhale would create such a storm, and then on top of that it would become a movie. I didn’t know any of that stuff was gonna happen. You can’t plan that. You can’t project your own success. Maybe had I received my MBA in Goldman Sachs well that’s a little different, but anything you do that you have to create is organic. I’m not trying to sound cute or anything but I think one of the reasons it did so well was because I wasn’t preoccupied with it doing well. It’s simply what I do–sit in front of the computer thinking about the people I’m writing about.  What I find disconcerting is when someone’s approach to writing is the hope that they can make a living. When I first started writing I didn’t know anyone, even very few White writers, making a living. Even when I wrote How Stella Got Her Groove Back I knew it would sell because they buy everything, but the entire book was written as an internal monologue—thoughts in her head—and I knew they couldn’t pull that one off as a movie. Think again. So again, I don’t think about that kind of thing as far as branding goes.

BlackEnterprise.com: Are there any young writers you’re mentoring?

McMillan: No, I get asked that a lot. It’s really hard to do because most of writing is about reading. Last week on American Idol, they were saying this is the best show ever. I stopped watching it like a year ago. It got on my nerves so all I do is The Voice—I turn my back while I’m at the stove and I can tell whose record I would buy. When it comes to talent, you either have it or you don’t. They say it takes 10,000 hours to become good at anything, especially in the arts you have to give it your all. Nowadays people are so impatient and everyone wants to get rich. It’s like, “Show me the trick, show me some short cuts. I want to have it just like you Ms. McMillan.” And that’s what I want young writers to know, that I much prefer to have longevity than fame. I’d rather have an impact than fame because fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

BlackEnterprise.com: You’ve always been honest and outspoken about a range of issues or topics from how Will and Jada Pinkett Smith raise their children to independent book imprints publishing trashy tell-alls. Do the perils of fame and stardom ever compromise your freedom of speech?

McMillan: My criticism was based more on my fear of [Willow and Jaden Smith] losing their innocence and childhood at such a tender age.  I respect both of their parents. I hope always to be outspoken but I have to be careful what I say so that it’s not misconstrued.

BlackEnterprise.com: Are there any genre of books that don’t tickle your fancy?

McMillian: Urban fiction, science fiction, horror and espionage books.

BlackEnterprise.com: What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to writing process?

McMillan: That it’s too bad you can’t get it perfect.

BlackEnterprise.com: Does writer’s block truly exist, and, if so, how do you combat it?

McMillan: Writer’s block is simply fear that you can’t live up to the story you want to tell. Most all of us experience this at some point. Also, when we are so engrossed in our own world that we find it difficult to slip into a fictional one. Sometimes, however, immersing yourself into the fictional world often makes the real one, with all of its problems, seem less burdensome or easier to deal with.

BlackEnterprise.com: How do you feel technology has helped or hurt book sales/promotions?

McMillan: People are spending more money on ebooks, but less on hardcover and paperback. I hope children still get to know what it feels like to turn a page, and, as an author, I can’t sign an ebook. Nor do I want to.

BlackEnterprise.com: What is the best/worst money advice you’ve ever received?

McMillan: The best: Pay your taxes and don’t spend it just because you can afford it. Invest it in something safe. No one has given me bad money advice to my knowledge. I don’t listen to anyone who doesn’t have any.

BlackEnterprise.com: Smartest/Dumbest investment you’ve ever made?

McMillan: Smartest: My education, a few stocks and mutual funds that are still doing well. Dumbest: Savings bonds and a savings account (back in the day!!!!)

BlackEnterprise.com: What do you hope your legacy will be?

McMillan: That I was an honest human being who tried to tell honest and compelling stories about Black people in such a way that was empowering and life-affirming.

For more information on Anguilla’s Black Lit Fest visit http://ivisitanguilla.com/anguillas-literary-festival-accommodations-packages/

 

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