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about & events

#VoteThatJawn, to bring young voters to the polls in Philadelphia in 2020, is still going strong. I help youth leaders, students, and interns, all fabulous, tell their stories. Follow us. Share. Register. Don't stop now!


It's out: the paperback edition of my memoir, Ladysitting: My Year with Nana at the End of Her Century (also available on audiobook).  This short opera, The Gospel According to Nana, with composer Liliya Ugay, gave me a chance to write a libretto based on the mash-up of life and death and love and fear of caring for our101-year-old grandmother. Now the story will inspire my new play for Philly's Arden Theatre.

My General Tubman, my first play, enjoyed sold-out houses at the Arden, from January to COVID. Harriet Tubman time-travel, love, war, iambic pentameter...Director: James Ijames; Producing Artistic Director: Terry Nolen, and dramaturg Michele Volansky. Danielle Lénee led a gorgeous cast.

Non-fiction includes the best-selling memoir Black Ice and a collection of stories for young readers, Free! Great Escapes from Slavery on the Underground Railroad. Began writing and editing professionally for TIME, TV Guide, and Newsweek. Now, my blogs appear on Medium.com. Novels include The Price of a Child, a woman's escape from slavery, chosen as the first One Book One Philadelphia offering; Pride, my take on the girlfriend novel; and If Sons, Then Heirs: rural, Black heir property in South Carolina, love, family, and the lynching that almost destroyed it all. I've written scripts for videos at The President's House exhibit on Independence Mall in Philadelphia. 


I teach Creative Writing at UPenn. Grateful to have received the Provost’s Award for Distinguished Teaching twice, most recently in 2017.  


Founded Art Sanctuary in1998 to enrich urban Philadelphia with the excellence of Black arts, and stepped down as director in 2012. Other civic work: President of the Union Benevolent Association; and appointed to Philadelphia's School Reform Commission, as chair of the Safety Committee that eliminated zero-tolerance punishments for children.


Other honors: The Philadelphia Award, and honorary doctorates from Swarthmore, Muhlenberg, Colby, and Keene State Colleges, and Arcadia and Gwynedd Mercy Universities. 

Jane Dystel, of Dystel, Goodrich, and Bourret, has been a great literary agent and friend since before Black Ice. 

Jodi Solomon's speakers' bureau schedules my lectures: fast and friendly!

. . . More? Read and download:


 Events Online 

  • A Richness of Words: Abington Library Book Talk
    Nov 10, 7:00 PM
    Abington Library conversation: about Ladysitting--and lady writing. I'll be Zooming from Nashville, TN, where I'm researching the Fisk Jubilee Singers.
  • Haverford College Reading
    Apr 29, 7:00 PM – 8:10 PM
    Archived here: https://vimeo.com/563378874/498f2d2d5a
  • 6ABC's the Art of Aging
    Jan 09, 7:00 PM
    Thanks to reporter Steph Walton for a lovely video tidbit packed with great images!
  • Telling Your Health Story
    Nov 14, 2020, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
    The Philadelphia Inquirer has invited me to deliver the keynote to their two-day virtual health writing seminar against the backdrop of COVID and challenges to the Affordable Care Act. Tell your story, too!
  • Words First Podcast
    Sep 22, 2020, 9:00 PM
    Talking libretto writing with the amazing opera director and choreographer Keturah Stickann.
  • To Celebrate Ladysitting
    Aug 04, 2020, 7:00 PM
    For 2020: Ladysitting in paperback, a new Arden Theatre commission of it, plus the short opera, The Gospel According to Nana. My first public reading about caretaking our grandmother at the end of her life still tells the story: Black life, death, love, fear, laughter. All at once.


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