A writer's writer.
Campbell first appeared on BIBR's cover for July/August 1999, our fourth issue; and she was one of the authors who had pushed us in recent years to get herself and other "real" authors on the cover, as opposed to the celebrities we have favored in recent years as we focused on reaching newsstand buyers. I trust she will forgive us that we are only now putting her on the cover for the second time.
In that issue, Campbell was featured in an article on how she and E. Lynn Harris reached, held onto and coped with their success. ("When You're Young, Gifted and Bestselling, BIBR, July/August 1999.) She knew that she sold especially well among black women, but she was more pleased that her audience was much wider, appealing to every demographic: male, female, white, black, Asian, Latino, young, old.
"I think the most amazing thing is that I never know who my readers are" she told BIBR then, relating the story of a white antique dealer who agreed to take a check only after recognizing her name and gushing that she had written his favorite book, Brothers and Sisters (Berkeley, 1995), about interracial friendship. "I am intensely interested in the way the races relate,' she said. "And I'm interested in getting to the love. We have some stuff to teach each other."
I did not know her as well as many people did, but I first became aware of her around 1980, I believe, from her freelance work. In particular, an article she did about "color-struckness" within the black race, even after the heyday of Black Power, was under consideration by The Washington Star, where I worked. If memory serves, it was an adaptation of a longer piece she had done for a magazine. As an editor in the feature section, I was asked to cut it to a length more suitable for the newspaper, and she and I worked long and hard over the phone to agree on the trims. I remember being impressed by her attention to detail and grasp of language and nuance, because not all writers can work with an editor in that way and actually be agreeable and helpful.
Back in those days, complexion was a subject few people had talked about, much less written about--and "in front of white folks" The prejudice between light-skinned and dark-skinned blacks was an open secret, and D.C. society was one of its hotbeds. So it was somewhat of a bombshell that she dropped. I think one of the reasons my bosses had me look at it was concern that it would offend the sensibilities of Washington's African American elite, and it helped that I was a light-skinned black woman, presumably with knowledge of the minefields. The article ran and generated a lot of response, as I recall, not all of it good. Campbell and I never met then, though I like to think that, since we had so many friends in common, we would have become friends if I had not left town to take another job just before The Star died.
I saw her a few times years ago at journalism conventions mostly, when she was freelancing, but I did not remake her acquaintance until after I came to Black Issues Book Review full time as executive editor nearly four years ago. I ran into her at the BookExpo of America in Los Angeles, where she was happily signing books surrounded by adoring fans as usual, and at numerous gatherings since, the last time at the National Book Club Conference in Atlanta two years ago. Our article includes pictures of her in her element at that event. She was a close friend of our founding associate publisher Adrienne Ingrum, who met her when she acquired and edited Sweet Summer: Growing Up With and Without My Dad (Putnam Adult, 1989).
I was always impressed with Campbell's intellect and poise, but also by her down-to-earth approachability. She was especially open to her fans and autograph seekers. The people who knew her best spoke so warmly of her. She will be missed not only by her readers, but also by her friends in the literary world. A memorial is scheduled for February 18, on her birthday, in Philadelphia, her hometown.
In the 1999 article, one of the things she said about dealing with the success seems especially apt now. She said that when doubts creep in: "You have to take the pressure off" and return to "a state of knowing." To her that was "knowing that it's good enough. That I am good enough. Knowing that I am the vehicle. That it will come through.... I call God. Or get centered, and let God call me ... I want to write in a state of joy" It is our hope that she has reached the ultimate state of joy.
The "beginning" part of our New Year issue comes in our story about the recording of the Bible by an all-star cast of actors, singers, preachers and other celebrities ("Hear Ye, Hear Ye--The Scriptures! Live Remix!," page 22). Inspired By ... The Bible Experience: New Testament by Zondervan is just the start of the project. The rest of the Bible comes out this year. It promises to be a vehicle to bring the message of the scriptures to a whole new generation of people who are more comfortable with light, moving pictures, sound and music in contemporary language than dry Old English in small type on thin paper. For those who are believers, this is a landmark moment.
Our annual literary calendar, page 15, also offers a variety of opportunities for new experiences in 2007, and our annual Black History Month package, beginning on page 26, presents a wealth of selections with new insight on lynchings and the Civil War.
We have witnessed a year in which we successfully made the transition from ownership under CMA Publishing Co. to Target Market News, Inc. We also launched our Blacks & Books, a monthly supplement for African American newspapers. We continue to press toward greater success to serve our readers.
Angela P. Dodson
BIBR Executive Editor
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|Title Annotation:||executive editor's view|
|Author:||Dodson, Angela P.|
|Publication:||Black Issues Book Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2007|
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