The Launch of She Lives Here

This past Friday, my new book She Lives Here was celebrated virtually on Life in 10 Minutes’ FB page. I have been asked several times since then how I feel. I feel relieved, excitement, hopeful and more at peace. I didn’t even know how much anxious or nervous energy my body carried until Saturday night, where I slept for well over 9 hours. I was even full of adrenaline Friday night. I paced the room,. feeling like I should be going somewhere but where do you go to let loose in a pandemic?

The launch party itself was a lovely experience—the introduction, the reading and the Q&A. The L10 Press team and I logged on a few minutes early to get settled and prepare for showtime. I am glad we did because it gave me time to breathe deeply and mentally ready myself to read into the Zoom void. I chose 8 pieces to read and decided to end it with my last piece “She Lives Here” because I wanted to emphasize leaning into joy. I wanted to end feeling triumphant.

During the reading, the only visible audience I had was my publisher, Valley who fist pumped and pantomimed claps enough for 10 people. Her muted presence spurred me on. What was unexpected is the emotion that bubbled up when I read one of my more vulnerable pieces entitled “The Rules.” The first time I ever read it aloud to my husband, I teared up. I have read it to myself a handful of times since so when I found myself choking back tears, there was a sense of surprise but I pushed through. I knew the pieces that make me feel more inspired were coming and I would find refuge in reading them.

Launch party night!

After it was all over, I had time to respond to messages and watch the playback. One of the things I treasured most was reading the comments. There was so much love in that virtual room. I knew they could feel me. It was what I wanted more than anything. For my words on the page to be taken to another level, an understanding that cannot be matched in someone else’s voice.

I look forward to doing more readings, interviews and sharing more of my heart with readers. I hope more of you can join me as I continue to choose joy as She Lives Here makes its way out into the world.

If you would like to order your own copy, please go to https://www.lifein10minutes.com/unzipped-issues/unzipped-issue-2-she-lives-here or for a digital copy, it’s available on Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

She’s Here!

I asked God to make me like water. It’s a sentence I have written down several times over the past few weeks as I have been preparing for the release of my new book of prose and poetry “She Lives Here” with L10 Press (Issue 2 of Unzipped, their new literary magazine subscription service).

I am proud of this book and am in love with the cover art created by Alexandra Antoine.

I have been writing about God making me like water because while I know overall this process is a joyful one, there will be moments of overwhelm and frustration. Since perfection doesn’t live here (or anywhere else), I will make a mistake while being interviewed, find a typo or someone I expect to support me decides not to. Even though my nature is to try to control these outcomes, the truth is that these things are inevitable. I want to ride this wave of gratitude for everything that has gone right.

When I was 11, I wrote about what kind of writer I wanted to be. I dreamed of being a novelist and writing for TV. Although the description doesn’t quite match the reality at this time, there is a part of me that wants to reach back 29 years and tell that little girl, “We did it!” A friend of mine asked me how it feels to know you wrote it down as a child and didn’t let the dream go. I didn’t have the words. It means I didn’t forget about her. I didn’t let alternate career choices, other people’s expectations, my own fear, anxiety, perceived ideas of “what should happen” stop me from trying.

I also want to let things flow like water, be water, is because I cannot control any reaction to my work either. As I wrote, I tried to embody the Nikki Giovanni quote: “You must be unintimidated by your own thoughts because if you write with someone looking over your shoulder, you’ll never write.” It took a couple drafts to get there but I trusted in the value of not holding back. I am thinking back to how I placed some of my more raw pieces in the middle of an earlier draft as if my publisher and editor wouldn’t be able to find it. I had to trust in the healing my relationships went through so I could open up about traumas and disappointments experienced in a real way. I know what has been worked through so I could write without deep fear of being disrespectful.

I ultimately wrote with freedom and love.

While writing, I gained clarity on why I made certain rules for myself, how, what and who I love, my capacity for forgiveness and the value of accountability. Writing “She Lives Here” has created space for me to be more of who I am—a Black woman who chooses to dream, live, and write with joy.

With joy, I would like to invite you to the virtual launch party of “She Lives Here” on Life in 10 Minutes’ Facebook page on March 19th at 5pm EST!

If you would like to pre-order before the official release on March 15th:

https://www.lifein10minutes.com/unzipped-issues/unzipped-issue-2-she-lives-here

I hope you all enjoy “She Lives Here” and find pieces that inspire or speak to you.

It’s to Put Flowers In…

Another challenge from my Pens Up, Fears Down writing workshop: Write a 2-page story with the prompt about an uninvited guest showing up early to a party.

I am standing in front of my dresser, silently cursing myself for not being a grown-up yet. Why don’t I have a decent jewelry box that holds everything I need? I quickly picked up earrings and a necklace that was spilling from the box. I surveyed myself in the mirror and nodded, pleased at the way the jewelry sparkled against my black dress.

“Sean, can you zip me up? I call out to my husband. He jogs up the steps, secures me in my dress and doesn’t even wait for me to do my obligatory spin and “Well, how do I look?” before jogging back down to continue watching his game. I shake my head and follow him downstairs.

I was arranging the hors d’oeuvres and asked Sean “Do you think we have enough food?”

“Yes, and if there is anything else we need, I can go out and grab it.” he reassures me.

“I know you’re right. I just want everything to be perfect for Mom. She is going to be so surprised!”

“I know. And she deserves it. You know what? I do think we need more ice though.”

“Hurry back, you know my sister will be right on time. “

Sean left and I paced the floor. I started fluffing pillows and refolding throw blankets. A couple of minutes later, I heard a frantic knock on the door.

“I bet you that is Ash. She just had to be early.” I muttered aloud as I raised up on my toes to look into the peephole and then I stumbled backwards. Definitely not Ash. It was our father. Why is he here? I huffed to myself…And how did he know to come here tonight?

The bell rung and there was another loud knock. I could not bring myself to wrap my hands around the knob. My fingers were shaking. It’s like he has a radar for when things are going well for her, well for us. Even through  the doubt and wishing Sean was home to deal with him, I decided to push through the hesitation. I can’t just leave him on the doorstep, exposed to the whole neighborhood. He probably would just stand there and wait to shuffle in with the throng of guests. I turned the knob.

“Hi Daddy.” I said softly.

“Hi Sweetheart, he replied, tucking his gift underneath his arm and stretching the other out for a hug. I received it reluctantly.

“So, you just stopping by?”

He just stared at me instead of answering and then proceeded to walk right past me and set his gift down on the table.

“Ash invited me. And I wanted to come. I haven’t seen your mother in two years. I just want to say Happy Birthday. This has gone on too long.”

“Daddy, I don’t want any trouble tonight. You can leave the gift. I’ll tell her it’s from you. You are free to call her if you want. No guarantee she’ll pick up. But just call her. I only want to see Mom smile tonight.” With that, I took his hand, hoping the sting of the door I was now holding open would be softened.

“Zora?”

“Yes? I bought her a vase. She always loved them, it’s to put flowers in. I never gave her enough flowers.”

I nodded and watched him as he walked into the night, his head down. I picked up the box, felt the weight of the vase.

“It’s to put flowers in.” I repeated aloud.