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.

In Class

In the mornings, I often work from my bedroom. Sometimes, I play podcasts or music in the background. I was listening to “In Class with Carr”, a conversation between Karen Hunter and Dr. Greg Carr. They were fawning (rightly so) over Stacey Abrams. They discussed her intelligence, her organizational skills, determination and her career as a romance novelist under the pseudonym Selena Montgomery.

Dr. Carr asked “Where does she find the time? Is it discipline?”

Karen Hunter then uttered this profound statement: “What I imagine is that Stacey Abrams tapped into her fullness.”

She noted there’s enough time if we don’t waste it. Some people walk around as if they are waiting for life to crack open. What she observed is what leaves most people awestruck: She steps into the world fully unafraid.

I won’t claim to know the innermost thoughts of Ms. Abrams but she operates as if she left fear stranded on the side of the road 8 states away on a cross-country trip. She does not wait for excellence to descend upon her. She rises to meet it.

We all know that if she can, we can. This “In Class” episode prompted me to search for more material for my upcoming workshop, map out ideas for a new opportunity and create my profile for the See Jane Write Collective rather than scrambling to complete it later.

It also prompted another thought. Tapping into our fullness is our calling.

It is our birthright.

It is our most sacred duty.

All I can ask of myself is to honor it.

Day 60

I decided to take it a bit easier on my second workout today. After last night’s class, walking this morning and what felt like a particularly active day at work, I decided to not beat my body up with another strength class this evening. I do have a 5:30am tomorrow.

As I am writing this, I am almost in disbelief that today is Day 60 of 75hard. I have never worked out for 60 days straight in my life, let alone twice a day. And a gallon of water everyday, too? Nope! It also makes me realize how much can change in 2 months.

For me, the biggie is committing to completing the Trifecta but also going through workshop facilitation training to begin teaching in January and moving forward with the print version of my book.

I wish I had a way to compare brain scans from early September to now. Since I don’t have access to that, I am happy to settle for how I felt then versus now. I know too much about what I can do and how I can be to turn back. I think that knowledge is going to carry me through the rest of this challenge and onward.

I will carry it with me teaching my first class, leading my first workshop, selling my book and throughout all three races.

When the inevitable darker moments visit and the voice that sounds exactly like me threatens to sabotage everything, I will lean on these memories, draw from this well.

 

 

 

 

Soul Work

I’m so full right now.

I just left a workshop facilitation training at Life in 10 Minutes taught by Valley Haggard.

I got to hold space with people who are eager to give of themselves.

I was challenged to be a stronger listener.

I thought I knew how to listen but now I can see where the holes are and with time, they will be filled.

I now know if I had tried to teach before, I would have walked in with many more blindspots.

I come away from the workshop believing artists feed one another and grow together, especially if we are creating in service to others.

I knew I needed the education but I didn’t know I was going to be gifted with the breadth of wisdom that the room gave me today.

It is incredibly satisfying to leave an experience with questions answered I didn’t know I had when I walked in.

IMG_20191102_133239.jpg

I am not as scared of what comes next even as my heart predictably races and doubt threatens to creep to the surface.

I am not living this life or challenging myself to teach and participate in the healing of the fresh and decaying wounds of my future students so I can be settled and silent.

I am not sure what good I would be then.

Never stirring this soul of mine up.

 

 

 

Chances

I finally feel like I have turned a corner. I took a chance and proposed bringing a creative writing workshop to my job. I am proud to say it was accepted and in a few months, I will be teaching. It made my rejection from the residency I applied for much more palatable. I truly believe what’s for me is for me.

This year will also be my third time at The Summit of Greatness in Columbus, Ohio. I couldn’t go last year due to being selected for The Storyteller Project at The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. Although I have zero regrets about my choice to go to Alabama, I did miss my Greatness community. Everytime I go, a couple of things happen: I come back home with renewed energy to finish a project and I look forward to how we all change and grow the next year.

It’s a relief that I come away with being propelled into action. I never wanted to be someone who loves standing, jumping around, dancing and listening to successful people and then come home to do nothing but listen to podcasts and drown myself only in self-help books and other conferences. I see how easy it would be to get caught up in that world without creating your own but it wouldn’t be worth it for me.

But I am not interested in focusing on what I don’t want.

I want to focus on the fun and love I will undoubtedly experience and how it will drive me to keep taking chances until we all meet again.

Storytelling in Tuscaloosa

The other day I was accepted to participate in The Storyteller Project: Digital Storytelling for Women of Color at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa created by Dr. Rachel Raimist and Dr. Robin Boylorn. I paced the room after reading the email. I could barely contain my excitement!

I applied for the project after seeing a post on the See Jane Write Facebook group so special thanks to her for sharing it with us! Even though I don’t know exactly what’s in store yet, I do know I will be surrounded by 9 other women who also have a story to tell. Stories that may look radically different than mine. It’s the thing I look most forward to. Collaborating and learning and growing and developing with complete strangers united in one mission.

One question I’ve been asking myself since my acceptance: Who will I be on the other side of this experience? I have reasons to be both exhililarated and fearful of the answer and I think that’s more than enough reason to go and find out.

Every time I have taken a chance related to my writing or speaking, I have not had an ounce of regret. It has always brought me to a new level of self-awareness whether the outcome was what I pictured or not.

So next month I will spend a few days in Alabama, uncovering more of who I am and how I want to share her with the world.

 

Joy

I just came back from writing class and I wrote and read a piece aloud that made me laugh aloud. I could barely get through it. Now that I am at home, it reminds me how much joy there can be in the writing process. I think it’s as easy to forget as it to remember the deadlines and the pressure that can also come with writing. I am not sure if it’s because the class fosters openness and inclusion but I felt as if I could have said anything, anything deep and true and anything ridiculous and flighty and all of it would have been received the way it was intended.

In addition to other things I am taking away from writing workshop tonight, I am taking the joy. I need to be able to feel that while I am plotting a story line, writing a blog post or scribbling a heartfelt piece in 10 minutes, I am in the midst of a joyful experience.

I am creating joy.

 

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?