Tamika Newhouse teaches how to make success happen at Black Writers Weekend

Romance author Tamika Newhouse is founder of the annual Black Writers Weekend, taking place Aug. 4-7 in Atlanta.

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Romance author Tamika Newhouse is founder of the annual Black Writers Weekend, taking place Aug. 4-7 in Atlanta.

Panels with pros, a pub crawl and an awards ceremony are on tap.

Tamika Newhouse plays a variety of roles in her jam-packed life: novelist, influencer, cowgirl. However, the one she is quickest to name, the one that informs all the others, is “PK,” or preacher’s kid.

People generally chuckle and nod knowingly when they hear that label, but she credits her church upbringing with making her a writer. By the time she was 9, she had scribbled more than 300 sermons.

“The church demonstrated community giving and a way to manifest dreams,” says Newhouse, who lives in Marietta. “It was a little like getting pregnant by God, because God was planting seeds. Twenty years later, those seeds bloomed as dreams come true.”

She would be tested, though.

At age 15, she became pregnant. “This boy took an interest in me, and I wanted to be loved,” she says with a shrug, “so we married when I was 18. And I stopped writing for a while.” Her goals may have felt deferred, but she was just getting started. Newhouse began work on a soapy romance novel she titled “The Ultimate No-No,” about a “fearless, very dark-skinned woman who challenges men in the romance department.”

That was 17 novels ago. Since then she’s founded Delphine Publications, an independent publishing company devoted to steamy romance, paranormal and Afro-futuristic fiction by Black writers; Delphine Legacy Media, a marketing and branding company; and the African American Movie Book Club (AAMBC) Awards.

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Author Terry McMillan will be honored at the AAMBC Awards Aug. 7. Courtesy Matthew Jordan Smith

Author Terry McMillan will be honored at the AAMBC Awards Aug. 7. Courtesy Matthew Jordan Smith

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Author Terry McMillan will be honored at the AAMBC Awards Aug. 7. Courtesy Matthew Jordan Smith

But at the moment, she is gearing up to host the annual Black Writers Weekend, Aug. 4-7 in Atlanta. Established in 2008, the event recognizes Black creatives in publishing, film and television with a series of panels, workshops, screenings, signings and a formal gala. Author Terry McMillan will be in attendance to receive the Maya Angelou Lifetime Achievement Award. Other headliners are gospel singer Darlene McCoy, Atlanta YA author Kimberly Jones and New York Times bestselling author Tia Williams.

“We will have a red carpet and make it as glamorous as possible, like the Grammys,” says Newhouse, who is not one for half-measures. “It’ll be Wakanda come to life!”

Black Writers Weekend features a host of events including “Cre8tiveCon” on Friday at the Auburn Avenue Research Library. There will be panels on publishing, entertainment law, social media and audio storytelling, among other topics. “Lit Crawl” takes place on Saturday in Castleberry Hill with stops at Iwi Fresh Spa, Parlor cocktail den and Neyow’s Creole restaurant. And it all culminates with the glam AAMBC Awards on Sunday at Frame 88 Studios in Doraville.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Newhouse grew up in a neighborhood where her family was the first Black homeowners. “Yes, I am a cowgirl for real,” she says. “I say ‘howdy’ to people instead of hello.”

Her father was pastor of a nondenominational Christian church. “I was a shy, lonely child who didn’t make friends easily,” she recalls. “If you’re a PK, you’re held to a higher standard. People have high expectations of your responsibility and accountability. I still feel that pressure to live up to a high regard. … Of course, I also wanted to experience everything when I was growing up. That’s part of it, too, being a PK.”

Because Newhouse, 36, became a parent early, her education was put on hold, but she eventually studied at St. Philips College in San Antonio, Texas.

In 2007, she began shopping around “The Ultimate No-No” but received a lukewarm reaction from publishing houses. So, she took a DIY approach; she self-published and took herself on a book tour. “I asked a lot of questions, did a lot of research,” she says, “It was very trial by error. I was young and aggressive and stepped on some toes, no doubt. But it’s all about manifesting your dream.”

It worked. Kensington Publishing House bought the book and re-released it in 2009. At 26, Newhouse moved to Atlanta because it “felt like a safe space for Black folks who are creatives. It’s a place conducive to creativity,” she says.

Apparently so. Newhouse has been cranking out books ever since: “Plain Jane,” “The Words I Didn’t Say,” “Kisses Don’t Lie.” Her characters vary, but her novels usually revolve around “strong women with broken hearts,” she says.

“My books have changed over the years,” Newhouse says. “They used to be about the search for the perfect relationship. Now they’re more about the search for self — with plenty of conniving in the background.”

Look for Newhouse’s next book, “Suga Hill 2,” in September.

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"Suga Hill Act II" by Tamika Newhouse

Credit: Handout

"Suga Hill Act II" by Tamika Newhouse

Credit: Handout

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"Suga Hill Act II" by Tamika Newhouse

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

But she isn’t just devoted to her own books. Newhouse is invested in the success of other Black writers. Through Delphine Publications she has published more than 200 Kindle ebooks with a print on-demand option.

“Tamika inspires me so much,” says children’s author Derrick Barnes, recipient of a 2018 Newbery Honor for his book “Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut.” “She faced a lot of challenges as a Black woman in general and a Black woman writer in particular, but she took the reins of her own career and did it her way. You have to give her credit — the woman dreams big and makes the people around her dream big, too. Don’t even think about saying ‘no’ to her.”

Newhouse, who dresses in vibrantly colored, flowing fabrics, prides herself on being a “social connector” who builds community.

“When I first began my work, Black creatives were extremely underrepresented in the publishing industry,” she says. “I wanted us on the red carpet at mega events. I wanted us on the cover of magazines and on billboards strictly for our books. Over the years we have broken barriers. More than ever before we are getting our stories on the big and small screen, and there are way more published Black writers than ever before.”

Newhouse deserves some credit for that, says Aiyla Williamson, editor and community manager at Delphine Legacy Media.

“Tamika is at the very center of the Black literary scene,” Williamson says. “She is a trendsetter. From ebooks to festivals to writer collectives, she’s always ahead of the curve. The way she interacts, supports and amplifies Black voices sets her apart.”

To that end, Newhouse produces a podcast called “Traces of Mika” that gives a platform to emerging players in the arts.

“I’m not doing any of this for accolades,” says Newhouse. “I derive a lot of gratification from helping others achieve their dreams. If mine came true, so can yours.”


EVENT PREVIEW

Black Writers Weekend. Aug. 4-7. Free-$140. Various venues. blackwritersweekend.com