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.
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.
One of my writing goals for 2018 was to take writing classes again, whether it be a one-day workshop or a 6-week course. I almost didn’t start the year with a class but decided at the last minute that it should be a priority right at the beginning of the year. What makes it even more special is that it is Life in 10 Minutes again. I took a couple of sessions last year. It was my first writing class outside of school. I remember feeling so shy and unsure of myself. At the time, I was also in the throes of deciding whether or not I wanted to continue with graduate school (currently thanking God I made the right choice not to do so). This class did two things for me: It made me take a hard look at what I really wanted for my future AND it confused me.
Why the confusion one may ask?
After cracking my shell open and reading words aloud I wouldn’t have dared just a few months before, I thought it was time to decide what kind of writer I wanted to be. It seems silly now. But I thought I was this woman trying to finish a novel and anything else was superfluous. I had to confront all of the many colors, shades and textures of who I am as a writer.
I have just come back from the first session tonight. Even with all of the new faces and voices, the feeling is the same. We read our confessions, our musings, our wishes, our regrets, our stories, our characters out loud in communion with one another. We share our art. We share our lives.