Starting Your Dreams Later In Life and Embracing the Detour

Jenee Darden speaking at Creative Mornings I know it's been a while since I've posted anything but that's because of my job. I'm working as a reporter covering Oakland and I host an arts segment on the radio where I get to interview amazing artists from around the Bay Area. Plus I'm publicizing my book  and building my speaking career!  You know what's funny? I thought this would all happen by the time I was 27-30.  Nope. That wasn't God's plan for me. I'm finally beginning to do the things I've wanted to do and I'm almost 40 years old. Some people reading this who are 40 will say 40 is still young. But some younger people reading may think 40 is nearly ancient. But I'm writing this post for those who like me, thought their career and personal dreams would come true much early in life. I'm here to tell you not to give up.  You know, death inspires life. A number of my relatives and friends have passed away, ranging in

Black, Female and Nerdy-licious
Interview With '32 Candles' Author Ernessa T. Carter
Part 2

Click here if you missed Part 1 my interview with '32 Candles' author Ernessa T. Carter. She also runs the blog Fierce & Nerdy.  Ernessa and I talk love, fertility and hair in the second part of our interview.

The story takes a switch of tone when Davie moves to LA. The book is a bit of an emotional roller coaster. There are parts where I wanted to cry, then crack up laughing. Were you emotional writing it?

People always say it switches tone, but I feel life is a switch of tone. I was a playwright dealing with these deep, cynical plays about love and relationships and religion. Then I met this really great guy and I was so happy. I sat down to write a play and I didn’t have that cynical sadness anymore. What do you do with all of this happiness? I started writing the book. That’s kind of like what life is after you fall in love, a tone switch. You don’t think the same way. You don’t write the same way either. Yeah it was emotional for me, all within the course of writing this novel I fell in love, got married.

Which disputes the image of black women not being marriageable, especially those of us on the chocolaty hue of the color spectrum.

What I find very interesting about all of these discussions is not only am I happily married black woman but I know a lot of happily married black women. Why are we never invited to the discussion?

You come off to me as a woman who thinks outside of the box. And I’m looking at the bio on the jacket of your book. You’ve worked as an ESL teacher in Japan, a music journalist in Pittsburg, a payroll administrator in Burbank, a radio writer for Ryan Seacrest. You were in the LA Derby Dolls. We as black women can do anything. Some of the things you’ve done, they’re not things that people would say, “That’s what black women do.”


I would do all of those things. Is there any pressure for you to fit in this mold of “this is what black women do”?

My mom was a huge nerd. She really loved “Dr. Who” and “Star Trek.” She had her nose in a book all of the time. She was the family’s nerdy sheep. My family is very loving and accepting. There was this kind of realization that [my mom] Betty and her daughters were these huge nerds. Our hair was never right. We all wore glasses. It’s just one of those things where you learn how to fly your freak flag.

I was reading on your blog that you just cut off your hair again. I know a lot of black women are doing the “big chop.” The "Big Chop"  is where black women cut off their to go back to their natural hair texture. Maybe maybe it has been damaged by a relaxer and they just want to grow fresh.

In my case I was already natural.

Right and there are people like you who have been doing this for [a while]. And you did it twice?

This is actually my third one. I big chopped in high school when I first went natural at the age of 17. Then I eventually grew dreads and I big chopped those into a natural. I’m about to start the process with …in vitro fertilization to hopefully have a second baby. The first time that I did it, we were frustrated because it’s a process learning you have to get invitro fertilization…I had big chopped it before and this year I have two books I want to sell.

So, big chopping is a good luck thing for you?

Yeah I guess for me it’s a good luck thing…The next book is “The Awesome Girls Guide to Dating Extraordinary Men.” It’s all about dating in LA.

Is it a novel?

It’s a novel…all from quirky black girls’ perspectives. Tammy from “32 Candles” becomes one of the main characters in this book.

Oh, we have a spinoff. There’s definitely a need for the funky black girl to be represented. She exists but we don’t see her enough [in the mainstream]. Last thing, what did you learn about writing a book after the process that you wish you would’ve known before?

Mostly I wished I worked on my social skills a little more. You think that being a writer, you’re going to be alone all of the time. And you’re going to sit in front of the computer. But a lot of it is learning to talk to a lot of different people. In my opinion, even if you’re a wanna-be writer: work on your social skills, make friends, learn to give a speech. I think a lot of writers beat themselves up or their publishing company. I try to forgive myself for any mistakes I think I might have made. Life is a journey. Writing is a journey.


  1. I read Ernessa's book and I met her in person. She's an authentic woman and a sensational writer. I'm trying to surround myself with women of knowledge, power and talent so that I can grow strong and confident. I think it's important that we support each other's dream so we can all reach our destinations. This blog and Ernessa's books are just the beginning.

    the Super Sistah

  2. Ernessa is a great person. 32 Candles was awesome. I loved it, loved it, loved it. I met Ernessa in high school, she was quirky and looking back I think it was awesome that she was being herself and not trying to be like everyone else. I remember when she cut her hair off she was so confident. She was the smartest in our class and I wish I was more like her. I am so proud of her. Congratulations Ernessa T. Carter

  3. @ Super Sistah -- I enjoyed talking to her. It felt more like catching up with a girlfriend than an actual interview. She's great and I agree there are big things to come from her in the future.

    @Shawna-- Thanks for the background info on teenaged Ernessa :). She is definitely out of the box and I appreciate a woman who isn't afraid to be true to herself.

  4. @Super Sistah-- Thanks for the compliment on my blog!

  5. Thanks Jenee for a great interview. I received Ernesta's book during Blogalicious 2010 and have it on my reading list for 2011. I am looking forward to reading her words this year. Keep shining!

  6. Thanks Ananda! Let me know your thoughts about the book once you finish it.


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