It was a typical, sweltering summer in Atlanta, 2008. Fifteen wide-eyed would-be authors gathered at Valerie Boyd’s “Book Proposal Boot Camp” to try and break off a bit of her brilliance and shine it into gold.

Those who know Valerie won’t be surprised to learn our group quickly became family.

One after the other we aspiring authors went around the table and pitched our concepts, which, in retrospect, had an immediate feel of group therapy since book topics often had autobiographical elements with the need for vulnerable self-disclosure.

Valerie created a safe space for us to do just that. Creativity bounced around the room.

When my turn came to describe my book about emotional intelligence in men, Valerie Boyd set her kind, brown eyes on me.

“So, Will, are you ready to be on Oprah?”

* * *

Born in Atlanta in 1963, Valerie Jean Boyd was supernova in a bottle, a light of empathy, truth and blunt justice. An Atlanta native, Valerie was journalist, professor and acclaimed author of many books, including “Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston.” It was her brilliant encapsulation of trailblazing-black author Hurston that caught the attention of Alice Walker, who, when seeking to publish her diaries, asked Valerie to work with her on the collection.

Valerie’s posthumous editing work, “Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker,” publishes in April via Simon & Schuster.

Enduring bond

After our 2008 workshop ended, my connection with Valerie grew stronger and deeper. She helped me continually refine my proposal, even connecting me with some agents who expressed interest. We had numerous coffee dates with strategy sessions and refinements. (She successfully talked me into switching-gears to narrative non-fiction, an approach I’m even more sure of today.)

When Agate Publishing was looking for authors to launch its new digital imprint, Valerie recommended me. Thanks to her suggestion I got my first official book deal to produce and write Pizza for Good, a multimedia, digital blueprint on how to use America’s favorite food to raise money for charity. The book would later be produced in paperback, and I was a featured author at Decatur Book Festival in 2014.

I’m forever in her debt, and will always remember the friendship that blossomed out of our weekend of self-disclosure. I’m still in touch with Caitlin & Cole, and would love to hear from others as well. If you’re reading this, please reach out! We should have a reunion to celebrate Valerie’s impact.

Sagittarius twinsies

My way of thanking her, in an accidental way, was my son Cam being born on her birthday. “Yay!! Awesome!” she replied on 11 Dec when I texted her the news. “I was secretly hoping he would come on my birthday! Congrats, papa!”

Today, I can all but guarantee lots of writers Valerie touched will be dusting off manuscripts and proposals, dreaming up ways how they can make her proud by getting ideas off the drawing board and in the hearts and minds of readers.

Valerie’s legacy will be about her own work, to be sure, but she also leaves behind myriad other stories she helped cultivate and nurture, mine included.

I never did make it on Oprah, but she has her own network now so… you never know.

Dance with your rainbows, my dear. We love you. ❤️

(Banner image credit: Cindy M. Brown. Videographer for above clip: Arno Hunter Myers)

Will Pollocksideways is a perpetually cranky New York City escapee based in Midtown Atlanta. He’s a freelance multimedia journalist, media analyst and author of two books (award-winning Pizza for Good & Leaving Triscuit), with more on the way.

In 2001, Will earned his Masters from The Medill School of Journalism, graduating with highest honors from the magazine sequence. As permanent member of Journalism’s National Honors Society, he’s been active in monitoring, writing and blogging about media and journalism ever since he graduated.

Obsessed with good storytelling and journalistic excellence, Will uses snark, humor and reason to distill dumb shit and make it fun. He’s a seeker/maker of non-consensus news, and helps you cure crankies by finding the nut in every story.

As for-profit media continues to fail us, it’s more important than ever to find reliable sources. Authentic storytelling exists—you just have to look for it. On this blog you’ll get ideas, not ideology. Sass with class. Reporting with rapport. Evidence with a touch of evil. You get the idea.

CrankyYank is a safe space for whistleblowers, sources on background, and anonymous tips. Please follow this link to learn more about secure contact options. Twitter DMs are always open.

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