They were waiting all along…

These past 2 weekends have been filled with some of the most beautiful people, poetry, truth and art. I had the honor of co-facilitating a writing and yoga workshop entitled “Our Whole Black Selves” with my dear friend, poet and yogi Kisha Hughes on September 12th. We had planned this event for well over a year. When COVID hit, our plans came to a standstill but they were not forgotten.

We held it at The Baresoul Yoga studio with the Well Collective (gorgeous space!). Because it was a BIPOC yoga only event, the space created was void of the tension that comes with having to explain yourself and of apology. There is such a special freedom in spaces like that and I am proud Kisha and I facilitated it. The event was 45 minutes of yoga (which I desperately needed to focus and center myself) and the rest of the time was devoted to journaling, sharing and witnessing the truths spoken from each of the women who attended. Each participant was given a copy of my book “She Lives Here” and two of my pieces were read and served as inspiration for journaling prompts. On the drive back home, I felt many things but this overall: an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

Throughout the week, I held onto small moments of the event: the sound of our collective breathing, knowing smiles from one woman to the other and the smell of the herbs and flowers wrapped in twine gifted to me and Kisha.

I held on as I prepared for the next event—a vision I had since early spring—to bring an open mic poetry event to my local library. In March of 2021, celebrated poet Brian Voice Porter Hawkins reached out to find female poets to honor Women’s History Month during his event “Bards and Brews” with Birmingham Public Library. I answered the call and my exchanges with Brian and the lovely experience of the event inspired me to forge ahead with my idea to bring an open mic to our library. It was of the highest importance to me to have poets (both novice and veteran) share their art in an open, supportive, uplifting and diverse environment.

After the library said yes and months of planning, our first session in the series, “From the Page to the Mic” made it’s debut this past Saturday. This was my first time hosting an open mic so the nerves were present but I trusted all the work, prayer and good intentions. It surpassed all expectations for me. All of the poets were celebrating one another and read personal, powerful pieces. I now have an even deeper understanding of how vital it is to bring a beautifully inclusive community together to honor the art of poetry.

Now that the first session is over, my excitement is only building for the next 2: October 16th (amplifying BIPOC voices) and in November 13th (work reflecting our origin stories) with Henrico County Public Library.

In the midst of this, I am also honored to participate in the James River Writers Conference for the first time answering questions about “How to Own Your Story” as a ShopTalk presenter. As I give all of you these updates, I am remembering a shyer, slightly quieter and less confident version of myself who chose to only dream about these realities. I am not reaching that far back. I hope this serves as inspiration to stand in the truth if who you are, who you want to be and rest with the knowledge there is a community of people who were waiting for you all along.

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.

 

James River Writers January Writing Show

You know when something goes wrong right before a big event and you start to believe it may be an omen?

That was me last night. I noticed a thread trying to run away from my sweater so I grabbed a pair of scissors to gently cut it off. I soon realized I had a dull pair of scissors and was doing a little too much to get it off. In a matter of seconds, I not only taken the thread but cut a hole right in my sweater. Seconds before I was about to dash off to the Firehouse Theater to sit on a panel for James River Writers Writing Show: A 2018 Creative Plan for Scheduling, Motivating  & Organizing Your Writing Life.

I found another sweater, crossed fingers and toes, said a prayer and went to the panel.

I am relieved and proud to proclaim that my worry was a waste of time. The evening could not have gone better. My fellow panelists, Michelle Mercurio and Evans Hopkins were not only knowledgeable but there was a sense of ease in how we interacted with one another. The positive energy from the audience was palpable and relaxed me right away.

Karen Chase and Kris Spisak organized the evening to a T. Although Kris was unable to join us as a moderator last night, Karen took the reins and the panel went smoothly. We discussed topics like dividing our time, motivation and even our writing spaces. I particular loved Michelle’s powerful advice she gives to her clients to plan how they want their 2018 to end. Evans’ vulnerability was unforgettable as well. He realized how retreating from the world also leads to an absence of material to write about.

The panel discussion flew by and before we knew it, it was time for a quick intermission and the Q&A session. Even though I spent a limited amount of time with the audience members, there was an undeniable warmth present in their questions  and our interactions. Even through the blinding lights during the Q&A, it felt like we were all in it together, asking and fielding questions, sharing our stories and frustrations and wisdom gained from our experiences.

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From left: Evans Hopkins, me, Michelle Mercurio and our moderator, Karen Chase.

What cannot be overlooked or undervalued is the colossal amount of support I received from my friends and husband. I love that I have People. People that can be counted on. People that will show up without barely having to be asked. My husband is part of my People. I am keenly aware that is not everyone’s situation.

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With some of my People (my friends Morgan and April along with Hubby) who came out to support me! I wish I had gotten pictures with everyone!

There is gratitude. Gratitude for being asked, to being able to participate, for an audience of writers and non-writers alike who seemed to pick up what we were putting down, for James River Writers and for the smile that never left my face.

 

Too Much?

I just got off of the phone with a good friend of mine and we were discussing celebrating wins or rather why people aren’t.  She pointed out that while we are worrying about whether to celebrate or how to celebrate, time was still passing by. We let worry steal our minutes, hours, days and as the Good Book says we cannot add an hour to our lives by worrying.

We waste the moments. I let that slide in, slink around and settle for a minute.

Why do we do that? Question if we’re doing too much, being too much? And while I am going down this rabbit hole, what is too much? Let me give you some context. I am sitting on a panel for James River Writer’s first Writing Show of the year and I will reveal a project I’ve been working on next week.

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Ready for the Writing Show!

While I feel excitement and curiosity about what I will learn and experience, I tend to be low-key. It’s usually not my style to announce things by shouting it from the mountain top.

However, I would like to learn to come in at above a whisper.

Especially if I want to be heard.

 

 

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?