What’s in Store for 2018.

What’s in Store for 2018.

After tonight, the next time I post here will be on January 1, 2018. So this is the perfect time to share my writing goals for 2018 (some of which are already in full swing).

Here we go:

-Submit work to publications at least once a week

-Complete my E-Book. I have an outline. It’s time to execute.

-Complete my novel. This was on my list last year. I know achieving this goal will be a result of my effort and consistency. No excuses.

-Go to more events as part of James River Writers, our local organization for writers. I went to a Writing Show, their annual conference, a book reading and a salon but I can make time for more.

-Connect with and be of service to other writers

-Strengthen my accountability resources (Be more active in my online groups and with my current writing partners)

-Embrace opportunities to speak about my journey (whether that be as part of a panel, as a speaker or as a podcast guest)

-Read more (2 books a month). Some months I read more, some less. I would like to be more consistent.

-Continue to go to book signings (especially for local authors!)

-Continue blogging 3 times a week.

-Do #bloglikecrazy challenge with See Jane Write again in November! (That challenge stretched me and gave me the idea to incorporate Meatless Monday posts).

-Seek more opportunities to guest post (at least once a month).

-Continue to take writing classes, even if it’s just a one-day workshop.

-Write down my goals daily in my journal!

-Remember to keep having fun! This level of commitment to writing is still technically in its infancy so there is no need to compare my walk with anyone else’s. I love that last year at this time I didn’t have a blog, had never taken a writing class, had only been published on one site, never thought to apply for a fellowship, and did not have a writing group. All of that has changed in the space of one year. I feel like my eyes have sprung open. I am already excited about what goals I will get to post in December 2018.

Happy New Year to all of my readers! I wish and pray for the absolute best for all of you!

Your turn: What are some of your goals for 2018?

 

Getting Lost in “Big Magic”

Getting Lost in “Big Magic”

I picked “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert back up again. I have a horrible habit, especially with non-fiction, personal development books of reading a quarter of the way or halfway through, sitting it down and diving into another one. It got worse after coming back from Summit of Greatness 2017 with a whole new stack to add to my dysfunction.

Lately,  I have been reading a few pages every morning of Big Magic and there have been several moments where I have been slapping an invisible Elizabeth Gilbert hi-five in my bedroom.

Here are a couple of the gems that caused me to act a fool:

  1. On keeping a day job: “I held on to those sources of income for so long because I never wanted to burden my writing with the responsibility of paying for my life. I knew better than to ask this of my writing, because over the years, I have watched so many other people murder their creativity by demanding that their art pay their bills. I’ve seen artists drive themselves broke and crazy because of this insistence that they are not legitimate creators unless they can exclusively live off their creativity. And when their creativity fails them (meaning: doesn’t pay the rent), they descend into resentment, anxiety, or even bankruptcy. Worst of all, they often quit creating at all.”

That passage was screaming at me earlier this week. It was the exact confirmation I needed that I had made the right choice to leave where I was to provide more for our family. The insight was impactful because I realized I was putting undue pressure on my creativity and to be frank, I am not there yet. I will get there but it will take time. I will work on my craft and my discipline in the meantime.

2. On Permission: “It doesn’t matter in the least. Let people have their opinions. More than that–let people be  in love with their opinions, just as you and I are in love with ours. But never delude yourself into believing that you  require someone else’s blessing (or even their comprehension) in order to make your own creative work. And always remember that people’s judgments about you are none of your business. Lastly, remember what W.C. Fields had to say on this point: “It ain’t what they call you; it’s what you answer to.”

When I decided to leave my career at Social Services a few years back, I did not encounter a lot of negativity but I did have some hesitation about proclaiming my choice to pursue writing when I shouldn’t have had a moment’s hesitation at all. It was between me and my God, me and my husband and me and my creativity.

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Outside of writing, dancing and a couple of other commitments this weekend, I will devote my time to work on this dysfunction and blissfully get lost in the joy of reading “Big Magic.”

Day 3 of #bloglikecrazy is in the books!

James River Writers Conference 2017

James River Writers Conference 2017

I spent the weekend at the 15th Annual James River Writers Conference 2017 which started with Master Classes held on Friday, October 13th. I did not attend the master classes but I was there on Saturday and Sunday. The conference offered one-on-one meetings with an agent or an editor, panels on writing (both the business and the craft), Library of Virginia Literary Luncheon featuring an interview with honoree and Richmond native David Baldacci, an opportunity to play the Agent Dating Game and First Pages panel.

 

There were several sessions running concurrently so I could only go to three  each day. The first session was a panel of agents answering questions about paths to publication. One agent, Cherise Fisher, made a striking point that as writers, that we should understand our dreams. The consistent message was that we should be self-aware. We should know our genre, be able to name realistic but comparable titles and take time to research the agents-their Twitter, other authors they represent and books they have sold. Ms. Fisher from Wendy Sherman Associates, Inc. also reminded us not to forget about the smaller publishing houses. I particularly enjoyed the tip that we should write such a dynamic query letter that they should have to do little else before sending it to a publishing house/editor.

The social media panel gave insight into how authors Sadeqa Johnson, Sonia Yoerg and Panio Gianopoulos manage their social media. They covered topics such as when to post, scheduling apps used, blogging and the major importance of a newsletter in reaching your audience. I admired how they didn’t pretend to have it all figured out and advised if you don’t, then seek counsel! A solid piece of advice given by Sadeqa was to know your lane and build from there when posting on your media sites. For example, if you like gardening, post pictures and video of yourself doing things related to that along with content about your writing. They all acknowledged that readers like to feel as if they know you, not just your work.

The Literary Luncheon was fun and the food was tasty. I was grateful they had a real vegetarian option (a flavorful Portobello mushroom and peppers dish). It gave us the opportunity to reflect on the first half of the day with friends (my awesome writing tribe!) and meet new ones. David Baldacci’s interview was engaging and although emerging authors like myself can’t relate to his meteoric rise, I believe it gave us all a dream to aspire to.

The third panel was moderated by a local writer friend of mine, David Streever. It featured Library of Virginia Nonfiction Award Finalists Belle Boggs, Patrick O’ Donnell and Annette Gordon-Reed. Belle Boggs recited a quote I liked: “Writing won’t make you a living but it will make you a life.” They shed light on what it is like to devote copious amounts of time to research, interviewing and unearthing untold stories that were long overdue for its place in the sun.

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Library of Virginia’s Nonfiction Award Finalists Belle Boggs, Patrick O’Donnell and Annette Gordon-Reed moderated by David Streever.

The end of Day 1 was fascinating: an interview with “Hidden Figures” author Margot Lee Shetterly. Getting to hear how she grew up in a neighborhood full of engineers, professors and mathematicians in Hampton and had no idea the greatness she was in the presence of astounded me. I loved hearing about her professional background which included founding an expatriate magazine in Mexico with her husband and working on Wall Street. I believe we all gasped about how quickly the book and the movie deal came together after the book proposal was accepted. Listening to this woman was a sonic delight I will not soon forget.

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Thrilled I got to hear the phenomenal story of Margot Lee Shetterly, author of Hidden Figures!

The second day was introduced by highlighting Richmond Young Writers’ books. I was inspired by the literary talent of Richmond’s youth led by Bird Cox. After the opening ceremonies, the First Pages panel began. I commend all of these people who submitted their first pages and were willing to be judged. I submitted my first page last year. Although it did not get selected for reading, I remember the anxiety I felt waiting to hear my words read in front of a crowd of strangers.

There was a Lunch and Learn session. I attended the one about content marketing. Phaedra Hise of Legacy Navigator explained in detail what it takes to succeed in that field. She was blunt in what we should expect and be asking for with content marketing. The session was a welcome departure from the long form writing heavily discussed throughout the conference. It opened my eyes to revenue streams with writing that do not get enough attention at events like these.

One of the more notable panels was Sexy Narratives moderated by co-chair Robin Farmer with authors Sadeqa Johnson, Tia Williams and Marguerite Bennett. The way writers describe flirtation, sex and the buildup between two people is more than titillating conversation. Tia Williams referred to it as a “careful, slow manipulation.” I love this advice! We all had a good laugh at their blanket condemnation of clichéd scenes with heaving bosoms and throbbing body parts.

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Sexy Narratives panel moderated by co-chair Robin Farmer with authors Sadeqa Johnson, Marguerite Bennett and Tia Williams.

My last panel before the Agent Dating Game was Family Stories: For Your Family or the World? My book draws so much from both mine and my grandmother’s life that I knew I needed to hear whatever the panel had to say about this subject matter. I did come to a realization that since there are many details about my grandmother’s life in Haiti that I cannot corroborate, it is best to keep my work as fiction.

The final event was the Agent Dating Game. It was a rendition of the throwback TV show. This time an agent asks his/her bachelors (or writers in this case) the same three questions about themselves, story lines or characters and based on their answers, determines which author they want to learn more about. The segment even had a corny but hilarious host.

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The Agent Dating Game!

I need to say a few words about this year compared to last year. Outside of the crowd being bigger (they sold out this year!), it was much more diverse. The authors were more of a representation of what I like to see, which is a healthy sprinkling of what this world already has to offer. I hope they continue this inclusion for years to come. No one likes to feel like they are the only, or one of a few.

All in all, I am excited about returning next year. I will definitely be ready to pitch my novel and get to know more of the smiling, nervous, pensive, curious faces I see roaming the Greater Richmond Convention Center in 2018.

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

For the past couple of days, I have definitely been fighting this feeling. After my Water-Workout-Write 21-Day Challenge, I felt like I was the person that could accomplish all of my goals but not writing about it every day took me away from my accountability tool. I haven’t reached my water intake goal in days! I am going to set an alarm every couple of hours to remind me starting tomorrow and report back how that works out for me. I have been very physical at my job yesterday and today and I am feeling sore. My body is tired but I will take on a real workout tomorrow.

Going back to the imposter syndrome, I sent in an application online to be in a group of local creatives. I had reservations around doing it because I assumed everyone in the group was already more established and making a financially healthy living with their craft. Because I am not able to say that yet, I felt doubt and fear creep up. I actually used Mel Robbins’ 5-Second Rule…5,4,3,2,1…GO! I quickly filled out the application and pressed SEND. If it doesn’t work out, what have I actually lost?

Then I asked myself why was I allowing myself to feel any negativity? My guest post with foreverbemoved.com was published on Tuesday. I am so proud that I shared my story about being resilient in the face of health challenges. Here is the link if you’d like to read it: http://www.foreverbemoved.com/skin-deep-resilience-face-health-challenges/

Today, I bookmarked sites to submit to by Sunday. I have set a goal to start writing my essays tomorrow afternoon and finish them by Sunday as well. I can’t lie. I do want it all and I am going to use every tool I can to make sure I follow through with all of these goals so I may be counting down a lot over the next few days.

My Water-Workout-Write 21-Day Challenge may be over.

But I am not.

Day 21

Day 21

Day 21

It’s here!!! The final day of my Water-Workout-Write Challenge is completed. I am preparing to leave for Columbus, Ohio tomorrow morning so I have been on my feet all day. I am happy to report I barely had a coughing fit today and may only have to use my inhaler once this evening. I have fallen behind on my water intake so I will have to get on that. I know the challenge is basically over but the focus on increasing my water intake is something I want to continue.

Speaking of habits I want to continue, I’ve decided what my goals are for the foreseeable future. I will work out five days a week, publish a blog post twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, drink 100 oz. of water every day, submit to a publication or blog once a week and complete at least 2 essays a week.

The essays will be a new undertaking for me. I could never “get there” with my novel. I felt like there was a truth I was trying to tell but I was poorly disguising it as fiction. I grew up believing that one day I would use my imagination to weave a poignant and magical work of fiction. Except I haven’t been able to do it. With each writing class I’ve taken since the beginning of the year, I’ve drawn closer to the conclusion that my novel should be a book of essays. It made sense that the agent that read my work said that although she didn’t have a problem with my crafting, she didn’t “connect” with my writing. Even though she is just one person, I do believe she had a point. I will always love fiction. I have been surrounded by a lot of personal development books lately which I appreciate and have grown fond of as well. But the magic for me is in the stories. And my essays can be those stories. I am not sure what took me so long to admit it. But there it is.

These past 21 days has taught me what I should be writing right now. It has taught me that I have the discipline to issue a challenge to myself and complete it. It taught that if I make myself accountable, that I will choose not to fail. It has taught me that I need accountability. It has taught me that I want to be a disciplined person. I never placed importance on that notion before. I knew being undisciplined wasn’t taking me where I wanted to go but it never mattered enough until the lack of results wasn’t only staring me in the face, it was slapping me in the face. And the sting hurt like hell.

Outside of the lessons learned, there was a win. The piece I submitted last weekend will be published next Tuesday! I will post all the details next week. There is nothing like seeing the fruit of your labor. I am chasing that high. Even when I may feel uninspired, I am going to remember this challenge—not only the lessons that came from it but the pride I feel swelling up in me as I write these final words to close it.

There is one last thing. This blog is fairly new but I did have a few followers who read it and supported me throughout these 21 days. You know who you are.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Day 4

Day 4

The first day in this challenge with a schedule change. It was really Sleep-In Saturday for me. I didn’t want to leave the bed. Getting out of it was a struggle and as beautiful as it was outside today, I chose to let my body rest. I eventually got up and did another Afrifitness video. My husband and I had a signing we planned to go to for Arvat McClaine’s new book, When Black Women Speak the Universe Listens. I decided to wait until after the signing to get another workout in. In the meantime, I was able to fit in about half of my water intake for the day. As I am writing this, I still have the other half to go.

We thoroughly enjoyed the signing. It is always inspiring to watch a new author stand up and talk about his/her work, observe their nervous energy and then watch it fall away as they answer questions about their baby they’ve just birthed and are finally sharing with the world. I know my turn is coming. This challenge is teaching me I can build the discipline muscle to finish the works I have been writing and outlining for some time now. The fears I harbor about rejection don’t seem as daunting anymore.

After the signing, we walked downtown. I have been walking alone lately which I love but I always appreciate my husband’s company. Today taught me that I have to be ready for any schedule changes in completing this challenge. Adapt.

Stay tuned for Day 5!