6 African-American Writers to Read for Black History Month

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By Johanna Dickson, Digital Publicist


February is Black History Month, the annual celebration of the contributions of people in the African diaspora. The event started as a week-long observance in 1926 and was founded by historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. It was expanded by the leaders of the Black United Students at Kent University in 1969 and then officially recognized on a federal level by President Gerald Ford in 1976 as part of the Bicentennial. The month is now recognized in Canada and the United Kingdom.

It honors the past and present contributions African-Americans have and continue to make to our daily lives and culture, from Garrett Morgan, who created the first traffic signal and the gas mask, to George Washington Carver, who created peanut butter and 400 other plant products, to Lewis Latimer, who created the carbon filament.

In honor of Black History Month, here are six notable African-American writers and authors to read this February.


Toni Morrison is a novelist, editor and professor and the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Nobel Prize in Literature, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed characters. Morrison’s notable works include The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon and Beloved. She played a pivotal role in bringing black literature to the mainstream, editing the works of Henry Dumas,Toni Cade Bambara, Angela Davis, and Gayl Jones. Morrison also wrote children’s books with her son Slade before his death in 2010.


Zora Neal Hurston was a folklorist, anthropologist, and author. She authored four novels and more than 50 short stories, plays, and essays. She began her literary career after arriving in New York during the height of the Harlem Renaissance. Hurston’s most well-known work is the 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God a coming of age tale told via flashbacks. During the late 1920s and early 1930s she spent extensive time in the Caribbean and the American South as part of her anthropological work. In 1937 she received a Guggenheim fellowship to conduct ethnographic research in Jamaica and Haiti. It was during her time in Haiti that she wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God. Other notable works include Jonah’s Gourd Vine, The Great Day, and Moses, Man of the Mountain.


James Baldwin was a novelist, essayist, playwright, poet and social critic. His essays on racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies were collected in the 1955 book Notes of a Native Son. Other book-length essays include The Fire Next Time, No Name in the Street, and The Devil Finds Work. In addition to exploring issues of race, his works are notable for exploring gay and bisexual characters. Baldwin’s first novel, Go Tell it on the Mountain, is considered his best-known work. His other notable works include Giovanni’s Room, Just Above My Head, The Devil Finds Work, and Going to Meet the Man. He also collaborated with Richard Avedon, Margaret Mead, and Sol Stein on photography and non-fiction works.


Maya Angelou was an author, poet, dancer, actress, and singer whose career spanned over 50 years. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry as well as play, television, and film credits. One of her most famous works, her first autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, tells the story of her life up to the age of 17. Her books center on themes such as racism, identity, family, and travel. Angelou became a poet and writer after previous jobs as a fry cook, nightclub dancer and performer, a coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the decolonization of Africa. Her other notable works include Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie, Gather Together in My Name, On the Pulse of Morning, two cookbooks, three collections of personal essays, and seven children’s books. Angelou was also the first African-American woman to direct a major motion picture, Down in the Delta, in 1998.


Richard Wright was an author of novels, short stories, poems and non-fiction. His works concern racial themes especially those of African-Americans in the late 19th and mid-20th centuries. Some of the works he authored include Uncle Tom’s Children, Native Son, Black Boy, and The Outsider. Uncle Tom’s Children is a collection of four short stories about lynchings in the Deep South. The collection won him a Guggenheim Fellowship which allowed him to complete Native Son. Black Boy was an instant bestseller upon its publication in 1945. Literary critics credit his works for helping to change race relations in the United States in the mid-20th century.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. –The civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient was also a noted published author. ​Strength To Love was published in 1963 just before the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. That book, along with several others, are a collection of his letters, essays, and sermons primarily on the topic of racial segregation with some emphasis on religious values. Strength To Love, along with many other collections of King’s writings, are taught across the country in many schools and universities today, and stand as a testament to the power of his movement and contributions to society.



Related: Where’s The Book Hall Of Fame?


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Four Ways to Embrace a “ScreamFree” Approach to Your Relationship from a New York Times Best-selling Author

By Brian Feinblum, Chief Marketing Officer


I am proud to say that I have worked on and off with Hal Runkel and his Scream Free Institute for the past decade, helping him to successfully launch ScreamFree Parenting into a New York Times best-seller, and then to promote his sequel, ScreamFree Marriage. The Atlanta-based LMFT founded a non-profit organization to help couples, parents, teachers, and leaders to embrace a scream-free world.

Runkel believes that it takes a combination of clarity and commitment to help us stay cool and find clarity, both in our relationships and within ourselves. As a dad of two and a husband of two decades, he always strives to practice what he preaches while being open to learning more: “What my wife says I do best, along these lines, is ask for feedback, and ask for help.”

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This Valentine’s Day Make a Pledge to Try the New “72-hour Rule”

By Brian Feinblum, Chief Marketing Officer


​ “To have a successful relationship, both partners must adhere to the 72-hour rule,” says marriage therapist Dr. Margot E. Brown, who is represented to the media by MEDIA CONNECT. “This means that, from this moment forward, they are only allowed to talk about the upsetting behavior or situation if it had happened in the past 72 hours.”

Too often couples who are discussing one topic bring up past situations and make it a part of the conversation, and it inserts itself negatively between the partners.

“Forget the past and your conclusion as to what negative impression you have about how your partner keeps doing that same behavior,” says Dr. Brown in Kickstart Your Relationship Now! Move On or Move Out! “Make today a new and fresh day – free of agendas – just this conversation at this moment. Try it as an experiment. The goal is to focus right on what you are thinking and feeling now. When your partner starts talking to you (and you are both facing each other, not doing something else with your back to each other), tell your partner what you heard, how you feel, and what you need, right now! You have nothing to lose except perhaps a large and looming past that always comes between you every time you sit down and talk.”

If couples can abide by the rule, they can bury the hatchet on the past and permit themselves to only focus on the present. It’s like a statute of limitations for crimes, only this applies to marital complaints. On a romantic day like Valentine’s Day, pledging to keep this rule in mind for the future can help ensure future relationship success.

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Beyond Book Trailers: 4 YouTube Strategies For Authors


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By Anna Patrick, Digital Publicist and Social Media Strategist


“Booktubers.” A foreign word to some, but for the savvy author it’s a monicker that can’t be ignored – readers and the media alike have YouTube on their radar, because video hasn’t even come close to killing the star author. Especially when you consider that YouTube is the second largest search engine, right behind Google, and is owned by Google.

Many times we hear from the media that writing a book “isn’t enough” on its own, and that an author’s platform and visibility, both online and offline, are the keys to gaining media coverage.

So creating a YouTube channel is a way to attract more media attention while simultaneously making your own coverage, and to further leverage yourself as an expert on your subject matter through your content. Consider YouTube an extension of your brand beyond your book.

John Green is an excellent example of YouTube done right for authors.

We launched our MEDIA CONNECT YouTube yesterday, which will eventually showcase our authors’ media clips among other things, and it made me think about the ways in which each author can each use their own YouTube channels to further our publicity work together. The following four strategies can help achieve that:

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Why Publishers Should Be Thanking Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

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By Cori Cagide, Publicist

The New Year marks the start of new beginnings, “new year, new you” mantras, an influx of gym memberships and an uptick of self-help books being published. New Year’s resolutions are taken pretty seriously by some, who vow to be better, work harder, work less, eat right, get in better shape, etc., with a large majority vowing to do better than last year, and an even larger majority failing to last past the first month of their promise.

Zuckerberg_The End of PowerDon’t fret – it’s not just the common folk of the world who make these resolutions, celebrities are also making promises to themselves on how they’d like to improve themselves or their lifestyles in the New Year.

Take Mark Zuckerberg, for example. For 2015, he is challenging himself to read a new book every two weeks.

He has plenty of encouragement, too – with over 30 million followers and a self-proclaimed “book club” there’s no reason the CEO/Founder of Facebook should have any qualms with completing his challenge. I mean, it’s not like he has to run a company or anything, right?

Zuckerberg announced his plan to do so on January 2nd, encouraging his massive following to join him in a Facebook group aptly named, “A Year of Books” (which has over 67,000 likes to date). According to a piece from Publisher’s Weekly, Zuckerberg says he will be selecting titles with “an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies.”

The first book on his list is The End of Power, by Moises Naim, which was released by Perseus in March of 2013. Although the book is almost two years old, publishers are starting to notice the effects of being a part of Zuckerberg’s book club, with the hardcover skyrocketing to #1 in all of its categories on Amazon.

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Why You Should Make ‘Time to Read’ on January 24

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By Nicole Martineau, Publicist


This past July, book lovers across America awoke to the devastating news that the popular book-giving project, World Book Night, will suspend its operations. But thanks to a recent collaboration of top literacy advocates, bookworms have a brand new reading event to look forward to.

Penguin Random House, the National Book Foundation, Mashable and GoodReads have come together to launch National Readathon Day, a “marathon reading session” set to take place on Saturday, January 24 from noon to 4:00pm EST.

During the Readathon, participants will gather and read at homes, libraries, bookstores, schools, and other venues to raise awareness of illiteracy in America and support the efforts of the National Book Foundation.  

According to the U.S. Department of Education, illiteracy is a serious problem in the United States: 14 percent of Americans, or 32 million people, cannot read. The National Book Foundation hopes to combat these alarming statistics through signature programs like BookUp, the National Book Awards, 5 Under 35, the Innovations in Reading Prize and NBA On Campus.

Advocates have been using #TimetoRead, the official hashtag of the Readathon, to spread the word on social media. According to Ad Week, as of January 16,2015, $20,000 has already been raised since the launch of the program.

So if there’s a book you’ve been itching to read, January 24 is the perfect day to start! To see a list of participating venues or to learn more about the event, visit their site here.

MEDIA CONNECT publicists will also be participating, join us on social media using #TimeToRead with your book choice and progress – we will be tweeting from @FPmediaconnect!


Related: World Book Night 2014 Recap


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Facebook at Work: Will It Work?


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By Dee Donavanik, Publicity Director


This week, Facebook announced that it would be launching a new platform that aims to increase office productivity. According to the Wall Street Journal, though in the early stages and currently available to only a number of test companies, Facebook at Work is a “collaboration tool that lets colleagues communicate through a web interface or a mobile app, instead of using email… Facebook says a key feature of the app is Groups, which the company believes could replace email lists that appear never-ending and seem to grow larger with time.”

“We have found that using Facebook as a work tool makes our work day more efficient,” Lars Rasmussen, Facebook’s director of engineering, tells WIRED. “You can get more stuff done with Facebook than any other tool that we know of, and we’d like to make that available to the whole world.”

Though it has been compared to existing programs such as Yammer or Connections, Facebook at Work hopes that the Facebook platform, already familiar to its billion users, will give it an advantage amongst its competitors.

But is this enough to sway users? According to ZDNet: “unlike the social network you already know, however, it won’t have ads nor will it, Facebook promises, track your corporate user data.” However they also point out, users don’t exactly trust Facebook with their privacy anymore given its track record. So if individuals don’t trust Facebook with their personal information, why would organizations trust them with even more delicate and sensitive business data?

There are several other questions that could be raised here. Most of us have smart phones and are usually constantly checking our email anyway, so is another outlet necessary?  Even though the personal and professional networks are separate, is there any chance the information could accidentally overlap, thus revealing private details you didn’t wish to share with our colleagues?

Do we really want Facebook to know all that goes on in both our personal and professional lives? Probably not. But like or dislike, the success of Facebook at Work remains to be seen.


Related: Twitter: The Bookstore?


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2014 MEDIA CONNECT and Finn Partners Annual Holiday Parties

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Back, left to right: Anna Patrick, Cori Cagide, Emily Labes, Mick Andreano, Deborah Kohan, Steve Matteo, Karissa Hearn, Brian Feinblum, Adrienne Fontaine, and David Hahn. Front: Joy Smith, Alexandra Israel, Johanna Dickson and Lindsey Hall


December 12th marked the annual Finn Partners holiday party, held in the D&D building in midtown east just a short walk from the office. A gourmet pasta bar was featured, and cocktails were served.


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Back, left to right: Emily Labes, Karissa Hearn, Cori Cagide, Alexandra Israel, and Anna patrick. Middle: Adrienne Fontaine. Front: Lindsey Hall and Johanna Dickson


My favorite thing about the holiday party: Karaoke! Having the chance to get to know other people in departments. Very friendly, jovial event.

Lindsey Hall, Associate Publicist


The gourmet pasta bar was delicious! We all had a great time with our teammates and FP colleagues.

Karissa Hearn, Senior Publicist


The karaoke performances were most memorable for me. There are so many talented people in our office!

Joy Smith, Administrative Assistant

Cori Cagide and Anna Patrick

Cori Cagide and Anna Patrick


A fun night had by all! The photo booth was my favorite, we felt that we had to top last year’s group photo and I think it’s safe to say that we did! It was great to catch up with everyone outside of the office, get dressed up, and enjoy wonderful food.

Anna Patrick, Digital Publicist


The photo booth is always a great time, and there’s never dull moment when a microphone and karaoke system is readily available to the talented group at FP.

Cori Cagide, Publicist

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Clifford The Big Red Dog Outlives His Creator, But Not Our Imaginations


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By Brian Feinblum, Chief Marketing Officer


Norman Bridwell, creator of lovable children’s book series Clifford the Big Red Dog, died at the age of 86 early this year. Dozens of his books have been published since the first one launched over a half-century ago, in 1963.

Could a dog be big enough so that its owner – a little girl – could ride him? Sure, when you are about the size of a house!

Through he was clumsy and had a tendency to dig things up, the affectionate dog embodied kindness and playfulness. The four-legged creature became a friend to several generations of children, including my two young children.

The New York Times reports that over 129 million copies have been sold.  The books led to an animated TV series and a full-length animated film.

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Video’s Failed Assassination Attempt on the Radio Star

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By Emily Labes, Associate Publicist


It seems that every time there is some major technological advancement in broadcast media, there’s always that one guy who pipes up and says: “I’m curious to see how this [insert catchy name of newfangled app or device here] will affect the radio industry.” This is almost always inevitably followed by that other guy, who knowingly replies: “Well, radio is a dying medium anyway.”

Is it, though?

While smug guy and even smugger guy might be content with this resolution and ready to turn their conversation to more pressing topics, perhaps they should look at all the facts first, or more specifically, one incredibly statistically significant fact: terrestrial radio reaches roughly 9/10 of the American population each week.

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2013, 91 percent of Americans over the age of 12 reported listening to the radio at least once a week. This number dropped a mere 1 percent from 2012, when 92 percent of Americans heard AM/FM radio each week. In fact, although there has been some fluctuation, this number has remained virtually unchanged for the last decade.

This data doesn’t even take satellite radio, online radio, and podcasts into consideration. Sirius XM subscriptions now sit at a hefty 26.3 million, up from 25.6 million in 2013. Given that many of these subscriptions likely belong to families of two or more people, it’s pretty safe to assume that there are at least twice as many listeners as there are subscribers.

Internet radio is, unsurprisingly, on the rise as well. Edison Research reports that 47 percent of Americans over the age of 12 currently tune in to internet radio at least once a month (up 2 percent from 2013), with 36 percent of Americans listening to internet radio each week. Terrestrial radio stations are starting to take notice of this trend. WGN-AM, the #1 News/Talk station in Chicago, with 1,085,800 estimated listeners, recently launched a .fm station, in lieu of an FM counterpart.

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