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The Intern Journals #2

Welcome back for the second edition of my blog!

Last Saturday I was up early to check out the Harlem Book Fair with Todd.  This is an important event for Blacker Inkwells since it shares a similar goal with the Book Fair: promoting African-American literature.  Although I live near Harlem, it was the first time I had been to the Fair, which attracts thousands of authors, publishers and buyers annually.

On a day hot enough for some Fahrenheit 451 action, three rows of plastic tables lined the blocked off street.  Authors who had reserved space had been there setting up since nine, and by the time we arrived it was already a bustling scene.  It reminded me of the street Fairs I am used to seeing in my neighborhood; except instead of stands selling anything from gyros to plants to socks, it was only for books and far more condensed.

The atmosphere there was surprisingly intense.  With sellers constantly vying for our attention, we couldn’t walk a few steps before being passed a flier or called over to a table.  This certainly wasn’t my typical book-buying experience.  Never once had an author personally tempted me to a nearby aisle in a Barnes and Noble.  Getting this kind of close attention from those involved with the making of the book was exciting and definitely worthwhile.

With the weak economy as the greatest factor, this year’s Fair was slower than past ones, according to Todd.  A fast year, I’m assuming, then is something more resembling the running of the bulls.

My reaction to the Fair was split: part inspiration, part intimidation.  As someone who loves reading and writing it’s easy to be moved by sharing a city block with so many who share these passions.  It was motivating from the standpoint of someone wanting to make a career out of writing to walk through and take it all in.  After all, here was example after example of people who completed the arduous process of publishing, whether by writing or working behind the scenes, all neatly laid out in front of me in rows.

Intimidation also played a role in my day due to the sheer size and social significance of the event.   To give you a sense of what I mean, there were chartered buses from as far as Florida that came just for the Fair (literally, we saw Greyhounds parked out front).  Then there was the tenacity of some of the sellers.  But then again you have to keep in mind how much these writers have out on the line – selling their work is also selling who they are or what they believe.

Getting a first-hand tour of the event also got me excited for next year, when Blacker Inkwells will be back with a vengeance.  Without giving anything away right now, let me just say you won’t want to miss it.

Thanks again for checking out the blog…


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The Intern Journals

As Blacker Inkwell’s first ever summer intern, I’m very excited to share with you some of what I’ve learned and experienced along the way.  After beginning the internship by venturing out to New Jersey two weeks ago, it already seems like I’ve done so many new things.  Hope you enjoy…

One of my first ongoing projects of the summer is beginning to digitize Blacker Inkwells music archive for use on various mixtapes or soundtracks related to his writing. Therefore, the first few days on the job were spent learning my way around a turntable and the computer program Audacity.  Considering I had never really handled vinyl before, let alone actually played it, just putting it on, cleaning it, letting it spin and pressing record seemed risky.  Fortunately, the required skill set doesn’t exceed that.  Although I’m a beginner at the art of DJing (rather, what’s below beginner? Novice?  What’s below novice?), I have to admit that simply adjusting the volume dials is a cool feeling.  Needless to say, I have a newfound respect for DJs everywhere.

Hip-Hop is one of the many interests Todd and I have in common.  While I’d like to consider myself reasonably well-versed in the genre, my knowledge does not go beyond the classics and some of the better-known underground artists.  But this is little help to me considering that the majority of Blacker Inkwell’s archive is from the late ‘70s into 2000 – outside my scope.  But it turns out to be a great opportunity for me, however, because working with records primarily from the founding years of hip-hop, listening to Todd’s collection has resembled a kind of history lesson.  There have been moments throughout listening to the records while they’re recording in which I’d catch something that sounded really familiar and have it curiously linger with me for a while.  Later, I began to realize these certain lines, or parts of a verse, that I recognized had been cut from older songs and used as the hook on a more recent track.  Although it may seem unoriginal, using parts of a song from over twenty years ago as inspiration for their own music is a true homage to hip-hop’s roots.  For example, I’ve heard of NWA’s infamous “F The Police,” but not Jay Dilla’s earlier version.

Therefore, the stuff I’m used to hearing now isn’t so different from the music Todd grew up on.  This method of recycling material comes full circle in the greater scheme because it links the music I know back to the tracks that established hip-hop in the first place.

Despite our common interests, it’s true that Todd and I are of different generations.  Growing up in the 2000s, as far as I know music comes from a box, aka an iPod.  How does it get there?  I don’t know.  But when you click the song, it plays.  Working with vinyl, however, has a whole different feel about it.  There is something about dropping the needle on the record and watching it spin that creates a much deeper connection to the music.  Not only is it a grittier experience than having the music pre-packaged for you, but it also feels more closely related to the production of the song.  The imperfections in the audio can always be removed on a computer, but hearing the little skips and pops makes me feel like I’m in the studio with the artist, he’s behind the glass and I’m in front of a huge soundboard just bobbing my head.  I never would have expected getting this sense of closeness to the music simply by counting the rings in the record, watching the waves bounce or feeling the record’s weight in my hands.

While some of the content of hip-hop (at least among the deeper, perhaps less commercial artists worth listening to – more Talib Kweli, less Lil Wayne) certainly remains throughout the years, it is a shame that the intimacy one feels with the music itself by handling vinyl has been replaced by the demand for convenience in the form of an iPod.

So as far as internships go, I’d say I’m one of the lucky ones.  While other kids my age are getting coffee and sending faxes, I’m reading, writing and listening to great music – can’t ask for much more than that.  Of course, sliding how I’m now an amateur DJ into conversations doesn’t hurt either.

Thanks for checking out the blog, and an update on the adventures will be along shortly,


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it’s hot outside, so we back to keep it cool!

Good people!!!

What’s the word?!?!? So yes – it’s been a little second since I’ve been here, but as always, we have plans to keep the summer rollin’, as always. So here are the main updates that y’all definitely want to stay tuned for:

1 – Of course, we made an appearance at the Harlem Book Fair this year (Saturday, July 17th, 2010 on West 135th Street). While we didn’t do an author table, there were a few meetings were Todd Craig, blacker inkwells publishing CEO brokered a few major situations…stay tuned for that, because the announcement is going to be quite serious!!!

2 – blacker inkwells officially welcomes intern Scott Etkin. Scott will be here with us until the end of the summer, helping to push the ball along even faster!!! Watch out for updates to the blacker inkwells facebook page, as well as Scott’s weekly blogs which will start this week!!!

3 – Stay in tune with the “Special Treats” section on the site. We will be hitting you frequently with new special treats, free music downloads, updates on what’s hot and poppin’…you know – the usual blacker inkwells foundation scenario!!!

4 – Be on the lookout for the MAJOR announcements on the new blacker inkwells book projects. These three projects (two are books and the other is a book series) will definitely grab you, as the writers involved are known for their penwork! I’m not gonna spring the chickens just quite yet, but anticipate word before the end of the summer!!!

5 – Also be on the lookout for a few exclusives promos and events, including the “summer of student” promo, which will include a very special and limited edition run of tor’cha…more soon on that.

So again, good people, we are back at it!!! And as we move through the summer and towards the New Year,  you will definitely want to be in-tune with the unveiling of the blacker inkwells “end to 2010” movement…

You know it never stops…and with that, more soon…

Peace and light – as always!!!

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