Time off the next few days without the expectation of going to work, a class or a meeting. I have days off but I regularly schedule appointments, meetings and errands. The only thing I am committed to is posting here until the end of the month.
2. Time to read. Octavia Butler’s “The Parable of the Sower” and “The Parable of the Talents” have been on tables and nightstands throughout my home. Started and put back down to write, sleep, work and binge watch to unwind. I am a better writer when I read and also far more inspired.
3. Taking a few more bike rides before it gets too cold. We haven’t out on our bikes in a while and I want to get back out there. I don’t believe I have ridden my bike through fall leaves since I was a little girl. I am looking forward to doing that again.
4. My upcoming workshop “Get Lifted: Using Music and Poetry to Find Your Light.” I keep finding songs and poems that seem perfect for it. I am hopeful listening, writing and reading aloud together will produce an experience that actually leaves us lighter and ready to try it again.
5. Seeing my family over Zoom tomorrow. It’s been a few months since we have all seen each other at the same time virtually and in person, years. COVID-19 has taken away so much but it cannot take this.
I was drawn to reread Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert recently. I had takeaways when I read it a few years ago but this time I read it for a very different reason. It was for the reminder to give myself grace and surrender to the process. I knew I had a self-care writing session to lead, another writing class in December, a bloglikecrazy challenge coming and pages I needed to edit and submit in November. With all of that on the horizon, it would be natural to think I wouldn’t want to crack open a book, let alone something I’ve read before.
Big Magic serves to remind the reader of the sacred nature of creativity and how you must protect it. Protection looks like not putting too much pressure on it to financially support me, engaging with it and remembering it’s part of my gifting from God. It made me laugh, recognize when I was not honoring my gift and that time spent away to come back to my work with new eyes is essential.
When it came to a close, I knew I wanted to commit deeply. Gilbert describes a ceremony where she took a vow to wed writing when she was young. I may never take such vows but my commitment is riding with me, a silent partner who occasionally reaches over to change the music, hold my hand and take over just when I think there’s no more road left to travel.
This weekend, Hubby and I attended the Heart Festival at a local meditation center. Earlier that week, I saw two lectures that seemed interesting: The Science of Meditation and Meditation as Medication.
Due to driving and walking a bit further than anticipated, we were a little late but came in on the tail end of the first portion before the introduction of the meditation. I wished I could have heard what she had to say. However, we did get a chance to participate in the meditation which lasted much longer than I expected–at least a half hour.
The chairs were comfy, the room darkened and my feet were bare– a seemingly perfect recipe for a successful meditation. However, my mind and heart raced. I wondered why I didn’t hear more about the science, how long would it actually last and then hoped I would eventually drift off to sleep to tame the pace of my thoughts.
I never did but it got me thinking about being in the moment. During the second presentation, Dr. Dilip Sarkar addressed our short attention spans, the benefits of yoga therapy and shared concrete evidence of improved health of his students and patients. I could have stayed another hour. One thing that stuck with me is his emphasis on achieving a meditative state all of the time. It reminded me of 1 Thessalonians 5:17: Pray without ceasing.
I understand the spirit of the verse and Dr. Sarkar were asking for the same thing: peace and contentment without the oppression of anxiety and the illusion of control.
After the Heart Festival, we went to a local bookstore for a poetry reading to support my friend Hope’s book “Traveling the River.” It was followed by an open mic where I was encouraged to read a couple of pieces. Normally, if I were to read I would have chosen to wear something different, pieces would have been printed out and read aloud to myself a couple of times.
Last Thursday I went to a book launch for “Traveling the River” a moving book of poetry by my good (and wildly talented friend) Hope Whitby.
After congratulating her and taking pictures as if I was a proud mama, I took my seat and waited for the reading portion of the evening to begin.
A word kept coming to mind as I waited and persisted as Hope told stories of what inspired certain pieces and as she read her work to us. A word kept coming to mind as I took in the beauty of the Japanese artwork around me. A word kept coming to mind as I watched her supporters fill the seats, ready to toast her with cake and champagne.
I have spent many evenings in writing classes with her, around a table in reserved library spaces and cafes listening to her stories and poems and sharing literary dreams. She gave me my first book about haikus and was one of the first people to buy my E-book last year. When I heard she was asked to write this book, the first book by Valley Haggard’s Life in 10 Minutes press, it came as no shock at all. It felt right. It felt as if my friend’s time has come.
When your friend or family’s time has come, you stop and celebrate. You plunk down your money and buy. You gift it.
I know to become a better writer, I must read. I used to swallow books whole the moment I got them, as if I was almost racing myself to see how fast I could finish before devouring the next. Over the last couple of years, I noticed I have slowed down considerably, reading more about books I should read rather than actually reading them. I have written more than I ever have but have also read the least.
This morning, I was reading the last of “Becoming” by Michelle Obama. It dawned on me how much I missed quiet time where I flew through chapters, uninterrupted. It conjured memories of paydays when I lived alone. I would pick up a decadent meal and at least two books from a nearby bookstore and enjoy a night to myself, indulging in flavorful treats and becoming addicted to new characters.
As part of my self-care, I pledge to revisit that part of myself more often. The woman who takes an afternoon to get lost in another writer’s creation, another writer’s world.
I owe it to myself right now and the writer I will grow to be.
Today is my birthday and I spent it doing some of my favorite things plus taking a brief look back. I walked around with Hubby, spent ample time in a bookstore and ate delicious food. My brief look back was because I did it at my college Alma mater.
I hadn’t been in 12 years. It was surreal to drive by old dorms and regale Jeff with stories of a time gone by. It was strange to see everything new and comforting to see how some things never change. I almost wanted all of my friends to be here with me so we could laugh at all the same memories.
But the loveliest part was it felt like I was properly introducing an old segment of my life, of me to my husband. A place where I started to grow into the woman he married.
Of all of the places we could have chosen to celebrate this new year, I am glad we chose this one.
It warms my whole heart to look into the past without being stuck there.
This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of meeting #1 New York Times best-selling author Angie Thomas. In addition to her book signing, she gave an in-depth look into how and why she wrote her first novel “The Hate U Give.”
She shone a light on why hip-hop had such a profound impact on her growing up. It appealed to the rebel in her and idolized what she heard and saw on TV. She spoke about it giving a voice to the voiceless and even rapped a few bars from classics such as “The Message” and recited poetry from the late great Tupac Shakur.
What I loved most besides actually getting to meet her was her passion: lifting hip-hop up without completely letting it off the hook, giving us a personal roadmap to writing and publishing her book, and most touching for me was watching how she lit up answering the teens’ questions during the Q &A. I could feel how much she wanted them to hear her and how much she believes in them.
You can’t fake that kind of passion–not that well. I related to her when she spoke about being a Black girl in predominantly White spaces and the anger that is felt when microaggressions are hurled your way. I was all too familiar with her story of not standing up for herself when she should have. One of the best pieces of advice she gave was not everyone deserves your energy. You try to show them the way. If they learn the lesson, great. If not, move on.
It was a reminder I needed. I shed a couple of tears during her presentation. I could feel her bravery and how much she actually cares about the equality of ALL people. There was so much solidarity in the room as she spoke about justice.
Listening to her made me feel like my Black life matters. She was a voice I could hear. And one I hope to be reading and listening to for a long time to come.
Wedding season is officially here! As many of you know, I released my E-book journal “What I Love About You: A Guided Journal to Writing Your Proposal and Vows” to help people express themselves on the day they decide to propose, get married or even on an anniversary!
I had so much fun pondering over the prompts, finding inspiring quotes, writing poetry and recalling my own fond memories of the proposal and writing my vows that I wanted to share 3 prompts from my E-book you may enjoy:
1. What did he/she introduce to you? (A new hobby, special vacation spot, favorite book or movie, spiritual practice or sport etc.)
I included this prompt (and accompanying questions) because what your partner introduced you to may have changed not only who you are but may have changed the course of your relationship. It may have brought you closer together and that can definitely be worth including in your vows.
2. What is the most impactful thing they have ever done for you?
I encourage the reader to go deeper, beyond the physical with this one. Your partner wants to know the effect you have had on their life. Never underestimate the power of acknowledgement.
3. What are you looking forward to experiencing as a married couple?
This can be as simple as trips you plan to take, as challenging as the fears you plan to conquer or as life-affirming as the family you plan to expand.
I hope you enjoyed reading these tips. There are more accompanying questions and 12 other prompts you can use in “What I Love About You: A Guided Journal to Writing Your Proposal and Vows” available right here or at https://www.etsy.com/shop/WhatILoveAboutYou?ref=pr_shop_more
Today’s feature is Kettly Mars, an award-winning Haitian poet and novelist. I wanted to feature her for a very specific reason, besides her talent. She worked as a administrative assistant for several years and didn’t begin to pursue her writing until she was in her 30’s. I love that she knew it wasn’t over because she started down one path and had the courage to go down another. She has written seven novels and several poetry and short story collections including young adult. She writes in French but her work has been translated into Kreyol, English, Italian, Dutch and Japanese.
My hand and the stone (as translated by Alexander Best)
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.
Welcoming us to Lit Crawl
The fabulously talented writers from L to R: Valley Haggard, Elizabeth Ferris, Cindy Cunningham, Sadeqa Johnson and Paige Fulton
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.
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.