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Pulitzer Winner Writes First Novel

Suzan-Lori Parks isn't one to rest on her laurels.

First she was granted a $500,000 MacArthur "genius" grant. Then, her Broadway play, "Topdog/Underdog," made her the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for drama.

Now, she has just published her first novel, "Getting Mother's Body." She visited The Saturday Early Show to discuss the book about a pregnant Texas teenager who sets out to dig up the riches buried in her mother's coffin.

Parks is known for her works for theater, such as "The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World," "The America Play" and "Venus," which won an OBIE — an award that acknowledges Off-Broadway theater works. Her first feature film, "Girl 6," was directed by Spike Lee.

Her new novel, "Getting Mother's Body," is set in West Texas, where Parks spent some time at while her father was with the Army in Vietnam. As a teenager, she lived for a time in Germany. She later graduated from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, where she took a creative writing seminar with James Baldwin.

She told the Seattle-Post Intelligencer that Baldwin believed in her long before she believed in herself. He also taught her to be tough on herself and he was, "encouraging in a scary way." Park says she began writing at a very early age, but it wasn't until she took Baldwin's course that she first had the sense that the people she was writing about were standing right behind her, telling the story. She always intended her stories to be read aloud.

Parks now heads the Dramatic Writing Program at CalArts and she is adapting the Toni Morrision novel "Paradise" for Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films. She is also writing "Hoopz," a Disney basketball musical based on the Harlem Globetrotters.

She lives in Venice, Calif. with her husband Paul Osher, who is a jazz musician, and their pit bull Lamb Chop.