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The first time I saw her, I knew that Jewell Parker Rhodes was a griot. The author of two successful novels, Voodoo Dreams and Magic City, Rhodes is known for her extensive research, detailed descriptions, and clever development of setting and plot. Voodoo Dreams was a 12-year project that grew out of her dreams about Marie Laveau, the legendary hoodoo queen of New Orleans. Magic City, centered around attacks against the prosperous black community of Tulsa, Okla., owes its birth to tales told by survivors and an exhaustive search through archives. Rhodes’ readings are engaging events involving front-porch yarn-spinning and social history. Her new book, Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors, describes the techniques that she and other African-American writers use to create and celebrate identity, culture, and art. At 4 p.m. at Vertigo Books, 1337 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 429-9272. (Gary Lilley)