Wednesday, June 17, 2020

"The Talking Drum"

Lisa Braxton is an essayist, short story writer, and novelist. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Southern New Hampshire University, her Master of Science in Journalism Broadcasting from Northwestern University and her Bachelor of Arts in Mass Media from Hampton University.

Braxton applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, The Talking Drum, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Talking Drum is the first page of Chapter 7 in which we learn that protagonist Sydney is at an appointment with newspaper executive Maxwell Turner.
Maxwell Turner’s photo was deceptive. He appeared to be a tall man in the photo that ran with his weekly column in Inner City Voice. However, Sydney had to look down at the newspaper executive to meet eyes with him as they stood in the doorway of his office in Downtown Bellport.”
The browser learns that Maxwell Turner has been a force in the urban community, has won awards for his work in journalism, and has rubbed elbows with luminaries, such as actress Cicely Tyson. Sydney finds all of this a bit intimidating as she sits down to talk to him about why she wants a freelance writing position at his newspaper.

This test does not work for my book, but this page is critical to the remainder of the story. Sydney’s meeting with Maxwell Turner is the foundation for a thread in The Talking Drum that will become larger and more textured as the story continues. Without the action on this page, a major portion of the plot would not be developed or resolved. Page 69 sets the stage for dramatic moments throughout the rest of the book. The browser may read page 69 and think that it is an innocuous scene, full of description, and not much tension, but may be curious as to where the story is going based on reading this page.

Page 69 is interesting because it takes the reader inside the offices of an urban weekly newspaper covering the black community. These types of newspapers are rarely depicted in literature. We see that Maxwell Turner is a lone wolf of sorts, running the newspaper, writing his column, meeting with community members, which is often required for publishers and editors of community-involved weeklies. Turner is an executive, but because of a small staff and likely a small budget he has to do a little of just about everything to keep his newspaper relevant. The reader also gets a sense of the protagonist’s innocence about the newspaper industry. Page 69 contrasts Maxwell Turner’s hard-nosed news demeanor with Sydney’s shy and formal manner.

--Marshal Zeringue