The Whatcom County Library System collaborates each year with a local author for its Read & Share program, a collection of author events and activities aimed at sparking conversation and meaningful connection through the writer’s work and the community. This year, Bellingham author Clyde W. Ford joins WCLS’s Read & Share program with his award-winning memoir, Think Black. WCLS Executive Director Christine Perkins and author Clyde Ford sat down with WhatcomTalk to discuss the upcoming program’s events and community conversations centered around Think Black.

WCLS launched the program as an opportunity for local readers to connect over great books and ideas.

“We’ve specifically gravitated toward memoirs of Northwest authors that share their personal history with us as a way of starting conversations about being human in Whatcom County,” says Perkins. “Clyde Ford is not only an accomplished writer but very gifted in sharing his skills of writing with others and teaching people through writing workshops.”

Think Black

This year’s selection, Think Black, follows Clyde Ford’s father, John Stanley Ford, in his career as the first African American software engineer at IBM. Think Black illustrates how racism had an impact on both the relationship between Clyde and his father and John Ford’s perspective on his own life in the midst of a technological boom.

Photo credit: David Middleton

“Technology is ubiquitous, and the pace of change has been incredible in the way it affects all our lives,” Perkins says. “It’s fascinating that Clyde Ford’s father was there at IBM right in the early days of a huge technological revolution. Just within one person’s lifetime, this incredible transformation has happened, and it hasn’t all been smooth or without its challenges. We learn through Clyde about the issues affecting or related to race, and how technology plays out for people of color. With 2020, and the heightened understanding and awareness of some of the racial issues in our country, it just makes it something so worth exploring.”

Writing Workshops for Adults and Teens

Ford’s author events will feature writing workshops, including separate program dates for adults and teens. “He has multiple presentations he will be doing online for Whatcom County Library System as part of this program, but the writing workshops are the ones we’re the most excited about,” says Perkins. An online program targeted at adults takes place on Saturday, October 8, and a workshop for teens on November 10.

Clyde has written Think Black and his newer book, Of Blood and Sweat: Black Lives and the Making of White Power and Wealth, but he’s also published other works, including a murder mystery series set in Bellingham. “He can help writers of all shapes and sizes start learning how to engage people with their writing,” Perkins says.

Clyde Ford’s newest work, “Of Blood and Sweat,” is a vivid portrayal of how African American labor generated white wealth and continues to fuel the white one percent to this day.

The value of Ford’s guidance as an award-winning author and multi-hyphenate is priceless. “I’m not sure I ever decided I was going to be a writer when I was in practice as a chiropractic psychotherapist,” says Ford. “I had a very famous writer who was a patient, and he used to tell me I had a book inside me. He said it every time I saw him, asking, ‘You know you have a book inside of you, right?’ Eventually, I decided to write the book. That was 30 years ago or more, and once you get the bug for writing, it’s not something you’re called to do, it’s something you feel compelled to do.”

Memoir Began as a Hollywood Screenplay

Ford began his father’s story as a screenplay for Hollywood, but circumstances ultimately led him down a different path, which culminated in writing Think Black.

“There was a downturn in publishing from 2009 to 2010” says Ford. “New York wasn’t buying a lot of content, so I turned my attention to Hollywood and doing some screenplays.” Ford wrote a screenplay about his dad, and when his agent noted that Hollywood looks to have intellectual property behind screenplays, Ford decided to write the book. “I was very lucky to get in touch with a luminary editor at Harper Collins who’s no longer there, Tracy Sherrod. Tracy was, at the time, the highest-placed African American editor in the publishing business and she understood what I was trying to do with the book and liked it. We had a great collaboration.”

Ford’s work has influenced multiple generations who connect deeply to his messages and beautifully written prose.

“I think the way to understand that connection is to understand that story has always been a way of healing, in terms of mythology,” says Ford. “One of my earliest books is on the role of mythology and personal and social healing so, for me, storytelling is always a great way — whether the stories are true or the stories are made up — to heal personally and socially.

“For people who have found those books insightful in a way that helps them come to terms with circumstances of their lives or circumstances of the world they find themselves in,” Ford says, I’m grateful that my books might help them in that way.”

This year’s Read & Share program promises to inspire both readers and writers throughout Whatcom, connecting them to a meaningful and significant body of work while providing the unique opportunity to learn from a beloved local author.

VisitRead & Share for more content and register for Ford’s author events taking place over the next month.

Per WCLS’s Read & Share page:

Author Events — ONLINE
Registration is required; space is limited. 

Saturday, Oct. 8. 1:00 PM-2:00 PM
Adult Writing Workshop with Clyde Ford
Clyde Ford is the author of 14 works of fiction and nonfiction. In this workshop, the author shares tips to inspire your writing practice and to craft stories that will engage people. 

Thursday, October 20, 7:00 PM–8:00 PM
Think Black Book Talk with Clyde Ford
The Bellingham-based author vividly describes the journey of researching and writing his award-winning memoir. In her review of Think Black, librarian and noted book critic Nancy Pearl said, “Using the experiences of both his father and himself, (Ford) frames the story of race in America over the last 70 years.” Audience questions are welcome. 

Thursday, October 27, 7:00 PM–8:00 PM
Magical Mystery Tour with Clyde Ford
The author shares how he became a writer. This inspiring session is ideal for anyone fascinated by the creative process.

Saturday, Nov. 5, 1:00 PM-2:00 PM
Of Blood and Sweat Book Talk
Ford’s latest book, Of Blood and Sweat: Black Lives and the Making of White Power and Wealth, was published to acclaim in April 2022. In her review of the book, WCLS Collections Librarian Mary Kinser wrote: “Ford meshes his storytelling talents with his skills as a historian, tracing the ways in which Black labor built the very structures and systems on which our nation rests.”

Thursday, Nov. 10, 4:00 PM-5:00 PM
Clyde Ford Creative Writing Program with Teens (Grades 6-12)
Teen writers, join us for a special hour with author Clyde Ford. He will share insights about writing and publishing and will answer your questions about becoming a published author. “I am interested in helping people find their voice in the written word. Finding themselves in finding their voice,” Ford says.


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