The Journey from Hopeful Writer to Award-Winning Author

Clifford Thompson is an accomplished writer, published essayist and editor with a creative writing degree from Oberlin College. Despite his merit within the writing industry, Thompson exhausted all the traditional publishing avenues he could contemplate when seeking a publisher for his novel, Signifying Nothing. Thompson decided to self-publish because he knew he had a good manuscript and didn’t want to leave it in a drawer.

With the iUniverse team, Thompson felt he found a group of professionals who were both helpful and courteous. He maintained control over the look of the book and was very pleased with the way it turned out. Given the chance, Thompson says he would publish with iUniverse again.

“The book was very lovingly prepared so I was happy with the experience.”

His determination to publish Signifying Nothing resulted in the publication of a second book, Love for Sale and Other Essays, which earned Thompson a prestigious award with a $50,000 prize and the pride of achieving author success.

iUniverse author Clifford Thompson, face in focus, unfocused background.
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Inspiration for the Book

When Thompson was growing up in Washington D.C. during the 1960s and ’70s, his elderly, partially deaf grandmother also lived with his family. He recounts the family’s plans being centered around his grandmother because she couldn’t be left alone. Once he started writing Signifying Nothing about thirty years later, he realized the story of character Lester Hobbs – a mute, 19-year-old boy who suddenly begins to rap and throws his family into a whirlwind – was really about his grandmother.

“I think Signifying Nothing will appeal to anyone who has issues with members of his or her own family — in short, anyone.”

Winner of the 2013 Whiting Writers' Award

Thompson was one of ten recipients to earn the prestigious 2013 Whiting Writers’ Awards for his second book, Love for Sale and Other Essays. The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation awards $50,000 to each winner, who they consider to be emerging writers who show accomplishment and promise in the areas of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and plays.

“Mr. Thompson successfully creates a real sense of trajectory in this collection. Whether writing about jazz or film or his own experiences, his book is a chronicle of a writing life in time and history. What seems casual, veering, random is held together by a clear-eyed and terrifically smart inquiry, unflinching and not thwarted by foregone bias or rhetorical point-taking. These essays are reminiscent of Chekhov’s cold eye and warm heart.”

– The Whiting Writers’ Award Selection Committee, Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation

Award-winning author Clifford Thompson shares his experience self-publishing with iUniverse.

The Dream Continues

Thompson released a compilation of his essays in the book titled Love for Sale and Other Essays with Autumn House Press. Many of those essays, ranging in topic from books, film, jazz, visual art and American identity, have appeared in such publications as The Threepenny Review, The Iowa Review, Commonweal, Film Quarterly, Cineaste, Oxford American and Black Issues Book Review.

“My advice to aspiring authors: read as many books by as many writers as you can.” – Clifford Thompson

Thompson is currently the managing editor at the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness in New York City. He oversees the editing and production of the institute’s magazine Uncensored. Thompson lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is presently working on more essays, a memoir and a novel. Follow him on Twitter.

Signifying Nothing by Clifford Thompson

"Instead of waiting for the publishing world’s elusive 'Yes,' I could say 'Yes' to myself; i.e., I could self-publish. … in the end you either believe in what you’re doing or you don’t."

Clifford Thompson

About the Book

Signifying Nothing: A Novel is set in Washington, D.C., in 1979, focuses on the Hobbs family. 19-year-old Lester Hobbs is mentally retarded and mute - until the day he suddenly begins to rap at the top of his lungs. That development has a profound effect on the rest of the family, whose members struggle to figure out what it means, for Lester and themselves. Lester’s wise-cracking brother, Greg, the middle child, who has long alternated between being protective of Lester and being jealous of the attention Lester receives, tries with a spectacular lack of success to profit from his brother’s new ability. Lester and Greg’s sister, Sherrie - bright, pretty, responsible and aloof - tries to learn the medical explanation for Lester’s condition, which leads her to an affair with George Greer, a brilliant, married, womanizing neurologist. Meanwhile, Lester’s mother, Maddie, tries to adjust emotionally to the change in her son, and Pat, the father, works to figure out the right course of action once the cause of Lester’s rapping is revealed.

Book Reviews

"Signifying Nothing is almost as unique as its author. Only after a week's reflection, am I recognizing how skillfully this writer uses the disability of his main character to unfold the helix of the intergenerational relationships of a middle-class, black, D.C. family…" Continue reading

"Through the captivating storyline and the characters you will find yourself relating to more than you'd like, you will walk away satisfied from the literary experience, ready for more." Continue reading

“A thought-provoking and engrossing novel." Continue reading

“Thompson writes like a dream.” Continue reading

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