Raleigh, N.C. — No one seems to notice the intense warmth in the crowded, book-filled room of Quail Ridge Books & Music located in Raleigh, N.C. All eyes are on Hill Harper, author of "Letters of a Young Sister: DeFINE Your Destiny. Its debut follows a lot of buzz and fans are eager to support it. How does it compare to the author's first best seller, "Letters to A Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny?"
A cure for writer's block
Harper creates camaraderie, along with lots of commotion, as fans shuffle to make room for latecomers. The atmosphere is electric.
"Where are you going?" he asks from the podium. He doesn't wait for a response, but instead, he shares his vision for young women and men and offers tips to master the game of life. He admits that his personal journey is not complete, a revelation that surprises fans who are familiar with his lucrative background.
"CSI:NY," a television crime series about solving mysterious deaths and crimes, features forensic scientists in New York City's Police Department. Harper portrays the intelligent and refined Dr. Hawkes, a role for which he received a 2008 Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a drama series. Numerous television shows and feature films define his resume. He holds degrees from Brown University, Harvard Law School and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
Harper speaks with authority on such topics as sex, dating, racism and empowerment. And last, he urges fans to ask questions. "You can ask me anything, he says. And they do.
"Have you ever had writer's block and how did you get rid of it?" Surprise, laughter and applause follow this young boy's question, but Harper doesnt miss a beat. "I've had writer's block. Absolutely. But I don't try to get rid of it," he says. "I don't even like the word try ... I just allow whatever comes to come."
The kid loves the attention. And so does the crowd!
Bling is the word
"Bling" is the word Harper uses to describe the fancy cover of "Letters to a Young Sister: DeFINE Your Destiny." The book's clever design is intentional - even the size of it is part of Harper's elaborate plan. But the real treasure lies between the covers as contributors share wisdom, diversity and success.
Harper is the first to admit he doesn't know everything; and he has no qualms about enlisting the help of friends, both male and female. Blair Underwood offers advice on self-esteem; and Niecy Nash solves problems with humor. Tavis Smiley encourages us to dream big. But most impressive is Michelle Obama's response to a question from a girl who is teased because she makes good grades. Michelle also urges young girls to get involved - to make sure their voices are heard. Good advice is just what a girl needs!
Pencil and paper
"What do you want your life to look like right now, next week, next month?" Harper takes us on a journey of self-discovery. He makes us think. Readers are motivated to ponder actions and consequences. But what's really surprising about his message is the power of pencil and paper. He urges readers to write down ideas, thoughts and plans. Start a journal. Witness the power of words.
It all makes sense
Body image is a struggle for many young girls and Harper has a strategy for defeating low self-esteem and poor body image. He suggests focusing on a happy, vibrant version of yourself.
Serious topics such as sex, debt, education and depression are reasons enough to pick up this book and (borrowing from Harper's advice) pass it on for someone else to enjoy. Harper takes it a step further by sharing personal failures and victories. He keeps it real by showing us how others have struggled and prevailed.
Faith. Passion. Drive. It all makes sense ... even for us old girls.
Q&A session with Hill Harper
Hill Harper, author of both "Letters to a Young Sister: DeFINE Your Destiny" and "Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny" chats with book columnist Karla Mass.
Q: How does "Letters to a Young Sister: DeFINE Your Destiny" compare to your last book, "Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny?
A: Obviously it's similar because they're both written for young people. But young women are different from young men. Women are more complex. With young women, we find that some are doing very well in school, but have self-esteem issues. This book is longer and it goes into more issues than "Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny." I'm proud of my newest book. It's quite different. Self-esteem is not gender or age specific.
Q: Has your acting career prepared you, in any way, for a career in writing?
A: Absolutely. Everything relates. Attending Harvard Law School and becoming a better critical thinker has made me a better actor. I've definitely used what I've learned in my writing. You've got to entertain and make it an enjoyable read, whether it's drama or comedy. It all starts on the page. If the script is horrible, it's not going to be good. With a book, it's all about the page. I'm glad people are entertained and inspired by the book. I'm proud of the response.