Anita Gail Jones Recommends...

When I’m deep in the writing trenches and need motivation and inspiration, I find both in many places, often turning to books by writers I trust, no matter what genre. It could be James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Eudora Welty, Derek Walcott, Billy Collins, or Nikky Finney—good writing begets good writing. Although I never listen to music while I’m writing, I do turn to favorite pieces of music for a reboot and respite. In early March 2020, when I began the query phase for my debut novel at the same time that the pandemic hit New York City hard, the book industry was devastated and I was afraid my manuscript would suffer an early demise. It was hard to focus on polishing up the manuscript. But music saved me. “Love’s Divine” by Seal had become a favorite on my exercise playlist. Listening, I imagined scenes from my novel as frames in a movie with Seal’s soul-filled lyrics as the soundtrack. I even sketched storyboards, unaware that this would eventually lead to my novel’s book trailer, which my husband and I produced with the help of a dear friend a little over two years later. Even now, I turn to the trailer for inspiration; it remains a source of therapy when I feel too alone in the process. It reminds me that I’m not alone: I have friends who believed in the story enough to help make a trailer, and I have characters that are alive.
—Anita Gail Jones, author of The Peach Seed (Henry Holt, 2023)  

Photo credit: Amira Maxwell