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Sweet sixteen and trying my best to look like a model. What was I thinking?
After graduating high school, I took off a couple of years from school, but not from learning. I joined a writers' workshop at Columbia University led by John O. Killens. One of the members I met and became friends with there was Nikki Giovanni. Later, I joined a workshop with Quincy Troup. Every day, I learned something new about my craft.

Two years later, I entered Livingston College, Rutgers University in New Jersey. It was an exciting campus to be on because many of the professors there were working artists. Larry Ridley, a bassist, started the first American university jazz department. The English staff included authors Toni Cade Bambara, novelist Nathan Heard, poet Nikki Giovanni, and Nuyorican poet, Miguel Algarin. I couldn't have been in a more stimulating environment.

At Livingston, I dove into classical literature, fell in love with Yeats, Neruda, and Blake, and learned the fine art of revision from writer and professor Marc Crawford. (He made me rewrite the first paragraph of a novel so many times, I thought I'd go cross-eyed! But, by the time I was done, I had learned volumes, especially about how to capture a reader's attention from the very first paragraph.)

Is it Far to Zanzibar?
I majored in English literature and minored in African languages, focusing on Hausa and Swahili. After completing my degree, I won a grant from the Ford Foundation to do further language studies in Tanzania. My year there led to the book Is It Far to Zanzibar?.

There are two great things about being a writer. One is that I get to go to work in my pajamas! The leather chair where I curl up to write my original drafts on a yellow pad, is only a few feet away from my bed, and the office where I type and revise my work on computer, is in the next room. (No traffic jams!)

The second great thing about being a writer is that everything in my life becomes fodder for my books. My childhood church experience gave me the fuel for Come Sunday, a special friendship led to Meet Danitra Brown, my memories of a tour of China mushroomed into Tai Chi Morning: Snapshots of China, and so it goes.

I wouldn't call myself lucky, because hard work and perseverance form the bedrock of my success. But I'd definitely say that I'm blessed because, as a child, I dreamed of being an author some day. And now, by God's grace, I am.

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