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Riverside Young Writers

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of spending time with the young women of Riverside Young Writers in Fredericksburg, VA. When I was approached at the James River Writers’ January Writing Show to speak, I was so excited. When I was these girls’ ages (13-19), I don’t remember having access to a group such as this. While we were getting the projector ready, I noticed one of their advisers reading announcements and observed the girls had pieces ready for critique. It wouldn’t even have occurred to me at 15 to seek out a group. I did take a Creative Writing class at school but I never thought about what was available to me outside of school. I thought I would just be content to write at home.

I spoke to them about my life as a blogger. I explained to them how I spend my time, my organizational process and emphasized the impact of reaching out for help and collaboration with other writers. I also stressed the importance of getting out into the world and recognizing that their lives are their content. I ended my speech by providing them with writing/blogging tips and encouraged them to remember to have fun.

Afterwards, the girls and advisers asked several questions. I was heartened by the interest. Even though I knew what I wanted to say and practiced a couple of times, there is still a chance that things can go sideways or the audience will find their phones more interesting. I was even gifted with an anthology from the adult group at Riverside Writers.

This experience gave me so much hope. Not just for my future as a speaker and a blogger but more so for the future of these young writers.

 

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Haitian Heritage Month Highlight: Jacques Roumain

My second feature for Haitian Heritage Month is poet, novelist and politician Jacques (Jean Baptiste) Roumain. Born in 1907 in Port-au-Prince, Roumain was one of eleven children and became one of Haiti’s most prominent figures until his untimely death in August of 1944.

In the late 1920’s,  he founded two literary newspapers La Trouee and La Revue Indigene and a political newspaper, Le Petit Impartial, to protest the presidency of Louis Borno for working with the U.S. government during the American occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934. He was even arrested at one point for “violating press laws.”

Later on in his career (and after Borno’s presidency), he was appointed to Ministry of the Interior. Roumain even traveled to the United States to study economics but while here, suspicions were aroused he joined the American Communist Party. Because of fear of arrest. he returned home and was convicted for conspiracy and treason and three years in prison.  In 1936, he was freed and moved to Belgium.

In 1938, he moved to Paris where he wrote several articles chastising the Haitian political elite. Over the next several years, Roumain was arrested for “mounting an affront” against a foreign head of state in France, fled because of World War II, spent time in Havana, Cuba and eventually returned to Haiti in 1941. He was a diplomat of the Haitian embassy to Mexico City and returned to Haiti in 1943 because he had fallen ill.

A notable literary connection was his meeting with famed poet Langston Hughes on his one and only trip to Haiti. Hughes even translated some of Roumain’s works, included Gouverneurs de la Rosee (Masters of the Dew).

While researching Roumain, what impressed me most, was whether you agreed with his political beliefs or not, one cannot deny his passion to stand up for them. He has been described as a poet, novelist, politician, ethnologist and revolutionary.  And it all ended at the age of 37.

Here is one of his most famous poems:

When the Tom-Tom Beats

our heart trembles in the shadows, like a face reflected in troubled water
The old mirage rises from the pit of the night
You sense the sweet sorcery of the past:
A river carries you far away from the banks,
Carries you toward the ancestral landscape.
Listen to those voices singing the sadness of love
And in the mountain, hear that tom-tom panting like the breast of a young black girl
 
Your soul is this image in the whispering water where your fathers bent their dark faces
Its hidden movements blend you with the waves
And the white that made you a mulatto is this bit of foam cast up, like spit, upon the shore
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A Weekend of Writing

This past weekend I went to a couple of events for Richmond’s Lit Crawl. I participated last year and was excited to support fellow writers sharing their work from a multitude of genres. I also had the treat of attending a special interview featuring writer, director and producer Iris Bolling at the Black History Museum as part of their Inside Out Series.

My first event was the Friday evening Lit Crawl event at Valley Haggard’s Life in 10 Minutes. Since I read as part of Life in 10 Minutes last year, I was anticipating supporting the writers this year. The variety of styles and perspective was nothing short of spectacular. I love walking away from a reading, ruminating about a somber moment in a piece or chatting about the humor and animation of a writer’s delivery. They should all feel incredibly proud of the work they produced.

Saturday morning started right with the Iris Bolling event. Inspiring is an understatement. Hearing her speak about how she started writing (being frustrated with the state of government), turning her books into movies and doing it all without established connections in the film and publishing industry was astounding. I was telling Hubby that I can think of no one in our local area with that kind of resume and gumption. One of the quotes that made me smile upon hearing was: “You never know what people are willing to do until you ask.” It resonated with me because while trying to grow my writing career, it’s something that hasn’t always been easy for me but I found it’s a necessity. Essentially, submitting is asking and asking a group or a friend to read your work leaves you vulnerable to “No” but it is an ask to make you better.

“You don’t have to wait for someone to green light your dreams. Green light yourself into dreams.”

She also  stated that she loves opening doors for people. Ms. Bolling even holds Green Light sessions at the local libraries to help budding authors and filmmakers. The spirit of giving is alive and well in her but she emphasized that she wants the information and experiences she gifts to be tools for self- empowerment. “You don’t have to wait for someone to green light your dreams. Green light yourself into dreams.” I walked away from that session feeling a little more in control of my writing destiny.

 

After a quick stop at Richmond Wellness Center, Hubby and I made our way to another Lit Crawl reading the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The subject was social justice.

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The writers pictured L to R: Jack E. White, Stacy Hawkins Adams, Robin Farmer and Michael Paul Williams

 

In the midst of times such as these, I was ready to hear every bit of what they had to say. Even though they read a variety of work from Op-Ed pieces to excerpts from their fiction work, I noted that a lot of their pieces and commentary weaved in Christianity’s role in civil rights, too.  Since there was time left after the readings, there were several questions that kept the conversation lively about Richmond’s outdated and offensive monuments (and the timing of their erection) and how children are educated about slavery and civil rights. As they read, I found myself feeling a bit angry about some of the things that simply haven’t changed but grateful for the conversation it spurned.

Events like Lit Crawl and the Inside Out series at the Black History Museum are supposed to inform, inspire and bring awareness about the vibrant literary community here in Richmond.

Job well-done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meatless Mondays: Vegan Potluck Cookout

This past weekend, Hubby and I went to another vegan potluck at a friend’s home. This time, it was a cookout complete with barbecued seitan ribs, corn on the cob, garden burgers, potato salad, pesto pasta salad, fresh cantaloupe slices and ice cream. Hubby even baked his chocolate chip cookies again.

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Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-11-28,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

Since it was basically the same group, we had an amazing time yet again. I was pretty wiped out from attending 3 events and cooking before we even got there but we looked forward to seeing everyone and of course, it was all worth it. I also realized I had never been to an all-vegan cookout, either. We were all outside, talking, laughing, eating at picnic tables and watching the children run and swing. There’s really not much of a difference.

There’ s comfort in going to a place where you don’t have to explain why you eat what you do but by far, the comfort is always because of the people.

And the connections.

As I’ve written here many times before, it never stops being about the people and the connections.

 

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My Experience at 2017 Pop-Up Conference

I spent this past (snowy) weekend at the 2017 Pop-Up Conference hosted by talk radio host, social media coach and web designer extraordinaire Sharvette Mitchell. The two-day conference featured a keynote speech by Kim Coles (from Living Single) and Channel 6’s Antoinette Essa. It was geared toward female entrepreneurs and the theme was “Monetize Your Platform.”

I know there are many writers who may not see themselves as businesswomen (or men). However, that could not be further from the truth. Even if we are lucky enough to be plucked up  by a major publishing house, we have to depend on ourselves to market our work effectively. The artistic side of me tends to slink away from the word “sales” picturing a stereotypical, pushy car salesman. However, how are people supposed to know about or purchase your labor of love unless you learn to present it to the world? I know no one has ever knocked on my door asking to read my work.

I figured even if no part of the presentations catered to a writer, I would undoubtedly learn something I could apply.  Right from the beginning, any doubts that I may have harbored about whether this was right for me were immediately squashed. Sharvette’s “Hey Girl Hey” ambassadors, Stacy Rodriguez and Toni Winston, were friendly and engaged me immediately. Her team was so organized I was tempted to sing “Formation” as things started to gear up. Registration was seamless and I was invited to sit at a table by a panel member, Yolanda Gray, a warm and welcoming life coach who made me feel right at home with her message of female empowerment.

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Me and Yolanda Gray, awesome Life Coach I met on Day 1!

After a rousing presentation by Confidence Coach, Speaker and Author Shirley T. whose emphasis on relationship building and connection made me walk right to her at the end of the evening and hug her, we were welcomed by  Sharvette herself. I think she figured we were warmed up by the hors d’oeurves, conversation and Shirley T. so she threw us right into the fire. She broke us up into groups of 4 and we had to come up with a 60-second skit for one of our businesses. It wouldn’t have been so intimidating if Ms. Kim Coles herself hadn’t made a surprise appearance and watched all of our skits!

Needless to say, we made it through and it was a lot of fun! It was fascinating to see all of the joy and creativity pour out of all these women. It was the passion they had for their businesses that shone through more than anything. There were also plenty of other writers there so any fears I may have had about that were allayed on the first night.

The second day of the conference ran from 8:15-5 and there was so much useful content that I ran out of room in the notes section of the binder provided and moved on to filling up my journal. There were many highlights. They were panels on branding, going from ideation to execution, building media relationships with Antoinette Essa, a session about sales conversations led by skin care business owner Ellice Darien, and the keynote speech “Broadcast Your Brilliance” by Kim Coles.

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Maya Harris, founder of L.AMA Learning emphasizing the wisdom of listening to what your community needs when building your business.
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Me on the red carpet. What a cute idea!

One of the notable standouts was “Unlocking The Giant Within-Identify, Train and Unleash your Giant–I’ts Screaming to Come Out. It was led by Chief Apostle Olive C. Brown, a local author and Faith Coach. Her content was incredibly uplifting and I fell in love with the idea of “the female Giant.” It’s rare to see us presented that way, even when that’s exactly who we are and must be in this world.

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Me and Chief Apostle Olive C. Brown with her book “Unlocking The GIant Within.” This woman of God had the entire room rocking!

Sharvette’s presentation about monetizing your platform provided the most useful, actionable content for me. She broke down specific tools and strategies to earn income online, even according to your gifts. She was insightful enough to realize some of us are better writers than speakers and vice versa and gave us options for both when creating and selling our products (ex. email courses vs. video courses). Her delivery made me feel like I needed to go home right now and get to work!

After the day was done, I was smiling. I hope I not only made connections but possible budding friendships. There was a lot of strength and grit in that room but there was an air of gratitude, service and connection fostered in that room, too.

Without a doubt, I will be popping back up for 2018.