Award-winning journalist and host of TV One’s “Women of Power” Caroline Clarke discusses her journey and the discovery of her birth mother, Cookie Cole, daughter of legendary crooner Nat King Cole in her new book Postcards from Cookie: A Memoir of Motherhood, Miracles, and a Whole Lot of Mail.
Rolling out recently spoke with Clarke about her latest project.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book, Take a Lesson was one I wanted to write since I read my first book of oral history in college. I had access to a number of incredibly successful African Americans across a broad spectrum of careers, backgrounds and personality types, and I wanted a forum for them to tell how they made it in their own words. Pre-Internet, this was potentially mentorship for the masses. This second book was a big departure for me, primarily because I shifted from a career of telling other people’s stories to telling my own
What was the hardest part of completing this project?
The hardest part of completing Postcards from Cookie was releasing it from the safety of my heart and hands into the world of public opinion. Every author’s book is like their child; you create it knowing that you’ll ultimately have to let it go find its own way, make its impact on the world and have the world respond. But it’s still the hardest thing to do.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything about your latest work?
I am a working writer and have been for more than 20 years. Nothing is ever perfect or static, so if you ask me if I’d change anything about my latest book or blog or article or speech … yes! In hindsight I will always see room for improvement or some change that reflects new information or growth.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing or coming up with a concept for your book?
My writing stems from real life, not my imagination, and real life is never at a loss for great stories to tell or topics to tackle or illuminate with words.
Do you have a specific writing style?
My writing style is rooted in good journalism (with an eye toward honesty and objectivity), good storytelling (engaging he reader with some color and context, not just the facts), and good conversation (I am often told I write like I talk. Even people who don’t know me claim to clearly hear me and feel an intimacy with me when they read my work).
What advice would you give other writers?
My main advice for would-be authors is, never do it for the potential money or acclaim because neither may come and you want to still feel glad that you did it, that it was worth your time, talent and sacrifice.
What books have most impacted your life or life as an author?
So many books have impacted me. I particularly love James McBride’s The Color of Water and Sue Monk Kydd’s The Secret Life of Bees. I’m a big fan of short stories like Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri.
What books are you currently reading? Why this author?
I’m reading a few books by a few Indian authors, sent to me by a friend who happens to be Indian. I just finished The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow. It’s a debut novel (I love to read debut books) by a brilliant writer who nailed it her first time at bat.
What new authors have piqued your interest?
See above, and know that I’m always drawn to first-time authors like the insightful and hilarious Issa Rae “Awkward Black Girl” who launched her career in the digital space and has worked backward into the traditional space.
To check out Caroline Clarke on Women of Power TV visit http://www.blackenterprise.com/tv-shows/.