Finally, after all of your requests. I am thrilled to announce that Provenance is now an audiobook. Available on Audible, Apple Books and Amazon, as read by narrator, Sean Crisden, the family saga of love, loss, and redemption, takes on a different dynamic dimension. A preview is available on any of the audiobook platforms. Enjoy!
(noun) A period during which one hears nothing from a normally communicative person or group.
I used to be a relatively reliable blogger, and I will be again. To make that happen, I need to make some changes. I am one of those lucky people who has been fortunate to merge vocation with avocation. I am an art lover and creator; I’m an administrator at the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA) by day and a novelist most nights and weekends. My blog posts have chronicled musings and missives about my novel Provenance—its characters, insights about the history in the book, my visits with readers and, progress on the sequel, Promise. However, like a jealous lover, the arts administrator part of my life has elbowed its way to the forefront, edging out the novelist a bit. Being the writer that I am and always will be, I have much to share about both of my loves.
So, I’m going to switch things up a bit and use this space to share both sides of Donna by adding a bit of Baltimore art to my writer repertoire. I’ll still share my fiction writing discovery and creation but spice up my offerings with some of the remarkable opportunities I’m experiencing in Baltimore’s vibrant art scene. I’m turning up the volume—radio silence ends now.
The Future of the Arts with Wes Moore
Part of my job at The Baltimore Office of Promotion and The Arts (BOPA) is that I get to talk to great people about the impact of the arts. I just did a radio interview with the amazing Wes Moore for his series, Future City, on Baltimore’s popular NPR station, WYPR. You can hear my conversation with Wes and other Baltimore art educators, activists, and non-profit leaders by clicking on, The Future of the Arts.
If you don’t already know why Wes Moore—author, social entrepreneur, educator and CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation is amazing—start here.
You’ll be hearing from me more often and, I’d love to hear from you!
I am still savoring the spectacular Saturday afternoon I spent with Baltimore’s Sistas Thrilled About Reading Book Club. Member, Jean Moore, whom I met at the 2017 Baltimore Book Festival, extended the invitation to surprise the members of the club when they discussed my novel, Provenance.
Jean told them I was a friend of hers just sitting in on the club because I was considering becoming a member. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear the remarkable group of ladies discuss their honest impressions of the book, raise questions about the characters and speculate just what the author was thinking. It was as much fun, after Jean revealed that I was the author, to have the opportunity to answer their questions, explore the character’s motivations and actions and, gain insight into readers’ perceptions.
Thank you, Jean, and the entire book club for a great afternoon of conversation and commandery. I will definitely take you up on your offer to come back when Promise, the sequel to Provenance, is published in the fall of 2018.
I spent a wonderful afternoon with members of the Carroll County Chapter of the Maryland Writers’ Association. Hosted by the Finksburg Branch of the Carroll County Public Library, we talked about “Crafting Characters that Take on a Life of Their Own.” Thank you, Joelle Jarvis, president of the chapter, for the invitation, as well as everyone who came to hear me speak. I so appreciate your time and the warm and attentive reception you gave me.
To: Donna Drew Sawyer, Author of Provenance: A Novel Subject: “Provenance” has been selected for the Go On Girl Book Club reading list It is our pleasure to inform you that your book, “Provenance” has been chosen as our May 2017 reading selection in our Novel category.
That email arrived last November, from the Reading List Chair and the Author Correspondent for the Go On Girl! Book Club. With over 30 chapters in 16 states from California to the Nation’s Capital, Go On Girl (GOG), is one of the largest national organizations dedicated to supporting African-American authors. Every year they choose just 12 authors to read, discuss, review and champion. This year I was honored to be one of them.
Throughout May and into June, I was lucky enough to sit in on GOG book club meetings with chapters from across the country, from California to Maryland/DC right in my backyard. College-educated African American women buy and read more books than any other demographic group and the women in GOG epitomize this audience of engaged and impressive women readers. It was such a joy to talk with them—as an author I gained insight into my writing and got to see firsthand how the characters and story I created resonates with readers. They all hated Charlotte, loved Hank and worried about Lance. They embraced the historical figures that I intertwined with my fictional characters and I was thrilled when several GOG readers told me they did additional research on Belle da Costa Greene and Eugene Bullard.
I thank all of the Go On Girl chapters across the country for reading my book and especially the chapters I was fortunate to talk with for sharing their enthusiasm about Provenance. A special thank you to everyone who wrote reviews on Amazon and Goodreads—those reviews are manna for an author.
My time as the Go On Girl Book Club reading selection has been an honor. Thank You!
I started out to write a book about a man. By the time I finished my novel, Provenance, it had become the story of five women—distinctly different in age, outlook, and objective—and how they uniquely shaped their lives as they changed the life of one man. Mother, Grandmother, Caretaker, Counselor, Lover—these women became provocateurs and touchstones in the life my primary character, Lance Henry Withers. They also shaped me as a writer as I came to understand the complexity of each character and the role they played in the arc of Lance’s life. Several factors informed the actions of each woman in Provenance—when and where they lived, marital status, social restrictions, age and most importantly, aspirations. These were key in how each woman acted and reacted in a story that surprisingly – even to the author—gave them equal footing with the primary character.
I begin Provenance in the early 20th century and followed my characters through five decades—a period of remarkable change in the lives of the women in the book as well as women in the real world. My character, Charlotte, was born in 1881 with a burning ambition to change her circumstances and, the sobering fact that she needed the complicity of men to make her dreams reality. Maggie, Charlotte’s daughter and Lance’s mother, was the opposite of her mother. She sought dependence—first on her husband and then her son—suffering betrayal and loss that she was not equipped to deal with without a man. Del, who managed the Whitaker household, became a study in wisdom, determination, and dignity during a time and place, the 1930s in the segregated south, when these were attributes not afforded people of color. Belle, was a woman before her time. During the 1930’s to 50’s, she was as sexually and socially unconventional as she was independent, intelligent, and beautiful teaching Lance how to live fully and successfully. And Emma, who embraced the emerging independence of women in the 60s and 70s, taught Lance about true love, and how it thrives when a man and a woman are equals.
Five women—provocateurs and touchstones—who changed a life as they, and the world around them, changed.
I have very mixed feelings about National African American History Month, also called Black History Month, which is why I haven’t added posts to my blog during the month of February. Historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History suggested the week that became the month of February’s annual observance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. Since the history of African-Americans has been the hidden and marginalized history of the United States of America, I believe there should be full integration of African-Americans in American history. I wonder if giving the history of African-Americans one month on the calendar and “American History” all year all the time, further marginalizes the important people, events, contributions and sacrifices February is supposed to celebrate.
Some say take the month and really celebrate; others say you can’t, in just a month’s time, celebrate or even tell how America became America on the backs of people who still struggle for respect and a fair share of her riches. I raise these issues though I don’t pretend to have the definitive answer to this historical equity dilemma. What I choose to do is share what I know and what I find out about Black History in America—my history—throughout the year.
All of these people, places, events, contributions, and sacrifices are too much history for a mere month, so I will continue to write about American history in all of its colorful glory when the spirit and history move me, be it February or any other month of the year.
I am planning a series of posts for Black History Month but when I saw this and it had to take precedent. Thank you, Eunique Jones Gibson of Because of Them We Can for this gem. Who better to call out all of our adult nonsense than our children. Jones Gibson is a Bowie State University alum; my husband Dr. Granville Sawyer is a professor there. So proud of the vision and talent HBCU’s give to our country!