Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Person of Interest: Tameka Cage Conley

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Person of Interest: Tameka Cage Conley

Article excerpt

Writer Tameka Cage Conley has had 20 or so poems accepted for publishing; her play "Testimony" was performed at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture and an excerpt of it was performed in Los Angeles and Sydney, Australia.

It's a novel, however, that she started years ago in graduate school, that has gnawed at her. She's put it aside time and time again as she's pursued a Ph.D., and teaching duties at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa.; Duquesne University; University of Pittsburgh; the Community College of Allegheny County; and Chatham University. She also worked part time from fall 2012 until last spring at The Neighborhood Academy, a college prep school for low- income students in the East End.

But now the time has come. This past summer, her experience at a writing conference in California spurred her to stop teaching and write full time to complete her novel, "This Far, By Grace," which traces a black family over 60 years.

"I had an overwhelming response to my novel," she said of her trip to the Squaw Valley Community of Writers conference.

Then the Pittsburgh Foundation announced last month that she had received a $13,000 grant from the Eben Demarest Trust Fund, which is provided each year "to an artist or archaeologist to support creative and intellectual independence."

That will help Ms. Conley, 36, of East Liberty, to write full time this year.

"About a third of it's finished," she said about her novel.

"When I'm in a rhythm, I write anywhere from three to five hours a day," she said. "When I'm not, I'm always thinking of writing, so when I get to my computer, I know exactly what to do. ...

"Everything I do involves the act of writing, regardless of whether I have a pen in my hand or my laptop open."

She said that she already has two agents in New York who are interested in reading her novel when it's completed. …

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