Friday, December 31, 2010

Reverb 10: Day 31 - Core Story

December 31Core Story.
What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.)

My core story is love--love of self, love of others, believing that one is lovable and deserves to be love. That's the story I always strive to tell in my writing. That's the story I'm trying to tell for myself. Love doesn't just apply to the perfect people; one does not need to be perfect to give or receive it. All it needs to be is genuine, without an agenda. People want to give their love, and it's such a better life when one loves him or herself unconditionally. The problem is, it's very difficult, especially in a society where love is codefied with socially accepted beauty, with parameters on who can love whom, with the desert of love is supposedly directly correlated with things that really don't matter in the long run. I write to show people are people, and I'm learning I"m fine just the way I am; lovable just the way I am; that I need to love me, because I'm always with me. If I love myself, I'll never have to worry about being unloved again, and that will be a fantastic thing to know and understand. You receive what you put out in the universe; as soon as I put out that I am lovable and capable of loving, that will be the kind of energy I'll attract in my life, and that's the kind of energy that I not only want, but I truly need as well.

Everyone, thank you for keeping up with me and have a very Happy New Year (and Kuumba!)!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reverb 10: Day 30 – Gift

December 30Gift.
This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year?

The gift of acceptance, and it's a gift I gave myself. Learning to accept the good things, to accept the things I cannot change, and to even accept bad things will happen to you, and how to flip it so that I may learn and grow from it. Learning to accept myself and accept that people have already accepted me, and sometimes it's not my place to know why.

Reverb 10: Days 28 - 29

December 28Achieve.
What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today.

I want to be prolifically read next year; meaning, I want people to be able to read my work in such a way that publishers know I have some awesome stories to tell and people truly want to read it. The ten things I can do to accomplish that:

1.) Publish more. 2.) Promote more. 3.) Network more. 4.) Communicate with my lit agent and the publisher I already have more. 5.) Forgive myself more. 6.) Write more. 7.) Read more. 8.) Review more. 9.) Help others more. 10.) Pray more.


December 29Defining Moment.
Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year.

The defining moment of this year was when I woke up one morning and my irreverent self said, "For Lent, I'm giving up low self-esteem." I think without that decision, there would have been several other events I would not have handled very well, including the accidents I'd been in, the deaths I'd experienced, and even going back to my reunions. That moment of decision straightened my spine and inserted a core mantra inside of my that I could draw up whenever I started feeling really down; and I had friends that helped me along the way. That event was a definite, definite turning point for me.

Reverb 10: Days 26 - 27

December 26Soul Food.
What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul?

As soon as my roommate and I got onto the cruise ship for the RSJ anniversary cruise, we found the food deck because we were all famished. I cannot remember what we had for lunch, but I remember that dessert. It was a turtle cheesecake, and that was one of the best cheesecakes I'd ever had. It was soo good, my roommate even liked it--and she wasn't generally a cheesecake fan! I proceeded to spend the next five days looking for that cheesecake, but to no avail! I loved it; it made me so happy. It was a good way to start off an excellent cruise!


December 27Ordinary Joy.
Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year?

Whenever I can find a quiet moment and just let a book suck me in, that's an enjoyable moment; and it's actually these last few days that I've been able to have those because it's been almost nonstop for me this year. But that quiet, me and book moment...yeah. That's an awesome ordinary joy.

Reverb 10: Day 25 – Photo

December 25Photo – a present to yourself.

Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.


I took this picture of myself after I'd spent an afternoon at a port of call during the Romance Slam Jam cruise. I hadn't intended to stay long off the boat--just go onto the island, snap a few shots, and get back on the ship just to say I'd "been" to Jamaica. I was alone, so that had been the plan, until a group of readers adopted me for the afternoon and we met one of the readers' friends who'd moved to Jamaica a few years ago. During that trip I'd gotten hit on, bartered two of my books for two bracelets, and bought some Jamaican soap as souvenirs. It was a great afternoon; it told me that life is full of unexpected surprises, people can be truly lovely, and I'm so dope the men all pause! ;p Also, this picture is a good indicator of my hair lenght back in April, as it's grown much more since then!

Reverb 10: Days 22 - 24

I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas had a fantstic one and everyone will have a wonderful New Year! Here's my Reverb10 catch-up post!

December 22Travel.
How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

I traveled by every mode of transportation this year, which is pretty cool--boat, car, train, pane, bicycle! This year, I did fulfill a dream of traveling to the Caribbean as I'd never done it. Maybe next year I'll shoot for South America or even the Western half of the United States, as it's been a while since I'd been there. And Chicago to see my sister.


December 23New Name Let’s meet again, for the first time.
If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?

Hmm, I really like my name, so I don't know if I'd ever want to do that; but if I had to introduce myself with a pseudonym, probably Esther because it means star and I'm trying to let my inner light shine really brightly.


December 24Everything’s OK.
What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?



Around the time my grandmother died, there was so much laughter despite the deep sadness we felt; and so many other things were going right in many people's lives, that I knew not only would we survive this, we would be resilient while doing so. I truly believe Grandma had been putting some things in place for us before she passed, so even though I still get sad now, I can still look around and see how truly blessed I and my family is.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reverb 10: Day 21 – Future Self

December 21Future Self.
Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?) (Author: Jenny Blake)

Dear Savannah of 2011,

Don't ever let anyone silence or devalue your story, including yourself. When you start feeling muffled, open your mouth really wide and shout. It may not feel comfortable those first few tries, but don't worry about that. The more you practice, the more it'll become second nature. And try to use that cleverness for good instead of snark (more often; don't let go of the snark completely, however!)

Also, smile more. You have a beautiful smile, dear. And don't be scared of your walk, either. Your walk is fire; everyone else will be the moths.


Dear Savannah of 2000/2001,

You're about to enter a stage of ridiculousness in your life--both in good and bad ways. When you get to those hallowed halls of ivy, don't be too blown away by it. You made it into that school for a reason; and though you'll continuously meet people smarter, more beautiful, more talented, that doesn't mean your contributions are any less worthy. You will be a friend to the most unlikely of people--do not consider these friendships as shows of pity or that you are unworthy of them. You will be a valuable force to people, a breath of fresh air, a wonder. Allow that; don't discount it. And when you embark on that path to your dreams, be dogged and don't let those stumbling blocks (no matter how well intentioned they are) stop you from keeping on. Get up, brush those scratched needs up, find some bandages, and keep it moving. And if someone offers you a ride, don't be proud; accept it--but do your homework first. You want to take a ride, not be taken for one!

And you betta sang till the spirit moves in your heart.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Reverb 10: Day 20 - Beyond Avoidance

December 20Beyond Avoidance.
What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?) (Author: Jake Nickell)

I wasn't as outgoing as I could've been this year because I was still uncomfortable in my process of building up self-esteem. I thought myself too fragile to be on that social landscape, but now I realize I was selling myself too short, again. I found that out going to my reunions. People really do want to be around me and know about me and that was a cool thing to realize. However, there was a safety net there because I'd known (of) these people before. The trick is now to put what I'd learned there into practice among complete strangers. It has to happen sometime, especially since I want to ultimately make my living as an author.

Reverb 10: Day 19 - Healing

December 19Healing.
What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011? (Author: Leonie Allan)

I did a lot of crying this year. A lot. I hate crying; I try to avoid it as much as possible, but crying is a catharsis for all the emotional backlog I'd been keeping bottled up. I cried until my head split; I cried until my eyes were bloodshot. I cried until an entire box of tissues ended up in the trash. I cried for the myriad of hurts I'd packed down and down and down until I couldn't recognize one from the other. I cried for things I didn't even know I was sad about; I cried because I didn't have enough breath for laughter anymore; I cried because I was tired of acting like some cheesy scene in a movie didn't get me right in the gut. I wept for the unchangeable past, the uncertain future, and the volatile present.

Reverb 10: Day 18 - Try

December 18Try.
What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it? (Author: Kaileen Elise)

I want to try being more social. I did make some progress, but I tended to want that safety net of a group. In 2011, I want to try this "dating yourself" thing. My friends say it's the way to go, treat yourself to a night on the town, so I think I'm going to attempt that. Also, when football season next rolls around (since my team isn't going anywhere this postseason) I want to go to a game; or at least to a bar and watch it. Hopefully my team will make that outside trip worthwhile, because they certain didn't this year!

*pats Carolina*

Reverb 10: Day 17 - Lesson Learned

December 17Lesson Learned.
What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward? (Author: Tara Weaver)

The best thing I learned about myself this past year was I am awesome, ridiculously so, and I shouldn't think of my awesomeness as an albatross. I need to own it, embrace it, and share it with the world, and it's not my problem if folks reject it. Like Ms. Zora says, "I simply cannot fathom anyone not wanting to be part of my company." That's how I should approach life. And Part B of this lesson is, being awesome isn't the same thing as being arrogant, and the conflation of the two must cease. Nevertheless, there will always be haters but--


Reverb 10: Day 16 - Friendship

December 16Friendship.
How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst? (Author: Martha Mihalick)


I have to shout out two friends in particular for this prompt--BJ & Ruthy. They were especially instrumental to my Lent Project by holding me accountable to make sure I was sincerely dedicated to it. It would not be enough to say I've given up low self-esteem if I do not put any action behind it; and every time I slipped, they called me out on it. They each demanded more of myself; Ruthy held up a mirror to force me to see all of my wonderful qualities while BJ kept prodding me to own them. Sometimes painfully. And it wasn't as if my other fantastic friends hadn't said something similar to me in one way or the other, but these two women in particular were further along the very path I'd set out to travel. These two women were unapologetically awesome, and while Ruthy isn't physically here anymore, she's definitely is in spirit. And BJ, we rock on, chick!

*hugs*

Reverb 10: Day 15 - 5 Minutes

December 155 Minutes.
Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh)

- Grandma (unlikely I would really ever forget her) and her funeral. I'm glad she's finally at rest and the best thing about funerals is that they really are family reunions. There was a lot of laughter and fond stories, and I learned so much about what a community organizer my grandmother truly was. So dynamic and remarkable and I'm damn lucky and humble to be a part of her legacy.

- First cruise and the powwow I had with many of the superstars of Black romance. That I was able to sit at that table was truly an awesome experience.

- My Lent Project. I must remember this because to forget would be perilous.

- The Harvard Reunions--Kuumba and 5th Class. I needed that reminder of how not everything about my Harvard experience was horrendous.

- My lit agent! I was approached by my agent, not the other way around; and the fact this happened right as my grandmother was leaving this earth tells me it was my grandma's way of making sure her babies were still being taken care of even though she was gone; especially since my sister was offered a full ride to her graduate school as well.

- Ruthy. She unlocked so many hidden pieces of my mind and spirit and she never had a problem calling me beautiful. She's the truly beautiful one. RiP, Ruthy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reverb: Day 14 - Appreciate

December 14Appreciate.
What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it? (Author: Victoria Klein)

Myself. I didn't really do that for a long time. I took myself for granted, psyched myself out into thinking I didn't really matter to much of anyone in the grand scheme of things. Yes, I "know" my family did, but many times I felt like I was a failure to them, a burden, and that wasn't a cool feeling. And as for my friends, I truly didn't think I mattered to them. It wouldn't matter if I didn't show up to an event or not because I wouldn't be missed. But then, in the first few weeks of February I told myself to stop that foolishness. Shut up those toxic voices in your mind and pull the wool from your eyes. And that was a hard thing to do. Many tears were shed; many tears are still being shed, but that journey to appreciating myself has been the best thing I've done for me. That if I matter to no one else in the world, I need to matter to myself. I need to appreciate myself. And how I am to express this attitude is being as open and giving of myself as I can instead of being closed and inaccessible.

Reverb 10: Days 12 - 13

December 12Body Integration.
This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present? (Author: Patrick Reynolds)

It was actually while my grandmother was in the hospital. We were alone, no doctors, the other family and friends were gone for this period. I just sat with her, held her hand, and sang to her. I just allowed myself to be in the moment with her and she was in and out, but I know she heard me. It was a peaceful feeling. Hopefully, I can get that back without death being present in the room.


December 13Action.
When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step? (Author: Scott Belsky)

My next step is to do better about manuscript submissions. I let that slack off this year but I need to get back on that. As much as I like where I've gone and what I've done self-publishing, I have a bigger audience in mind for my work and I'll need help getting my work out there. So, more traditional publishers it is.

Reverb 10: Days 10 - 11

I haven't been really around to do these every day, so here's another catch-up post of the Reverb 10 prompts!


December 10Wisdom.
What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out? (Author: Susannah Conway)

The wisest decision I've made all year was to work on building up my self-esteem instead of languishing in low self-esteem as I'd been doing for so long I can't even really remember the last time I'd truly felt good and confident about myself. I faked the funk so well that I almost believed my hype until I was alone (which was often barring work) and just feeling so low my shoulders would slump automatically. However, this has been one of the best decisions I've ever made, particularly when faced with some very challenging moments during the year. Had I not started down this path, I don't know if I would have been able to survive 2010 as well as I had. I'm grateful for that decision and proud of the progress I've mad thus far.


December 1111 Things.
What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life? (Author: Sam Davidson)

1.) Negativity I have had enough of that, but it's not just negativity from outside factors, but the negativity that can brew within me. I don't need that. So, what I'll do is continue what I've been doing this year in that every time I find myself going down that path, I give myself a light mental slap and automatically find the bright side of whatever is going wrong. I find that generally does perk me up. That traffic jam I hit could give me time to work out a story idea or jam to some songs I hadn't heard in years or plan out what I need to do for the rest of the day or for the next. When I do that, I find my irritation lessens and I'm in a good place. So, yeah.

2.) Drama Unless it's playing out on a stage or on a screen, I don't need it. Luckily, I wasn't really involved in drama this year, so the best I can do is keep myself on the up and up and say what I mean and mean what I say.

3.) Clutter There are many studies that say the your home environment reflects your mental environment. I plead being a writer for the chaos that is the current state of my apartment! Nevertheless, I will do better with removing the clutter from my life by being more organized; and I plan to get that started, hopefully, during the last week of 2010 when I actually get myself situated from living out of boxes. Hopefully!

4.) Extra Weight I'd lost a lot of weight when I'd been in Boston and now I'd gained most of it back. I'm not happy, but I'm not punishing myself over it, either. So, I'm going to start my walking routine again to get those extra pounds off once more. In the meantime, though, I'm going to find some cute outfits to keep my spirits up as I do!

5.) Solitude For so long, I've been a hermit. I've got to stop that because I'm awesome and I shouldn't be selfish and deprive people of my awesomeness. I know this will be one of the harder things for me to let go but I know I need to for personal and professional success.

6.) Procrastination It really does me no favors, so I should be sharper with my responses, particularly when it can involve good things. I find myself procrastinating on positive opportunities as badly as I do with negative situations I want to avoid. I really do need to stop that.

7.) Passivity I need to create action instead of waiting to react to whatever happens. I've done that a bit with my decision to self-publish, but now I need to step beyond that. Getting my name out there and telling people yes, you really do want to get to know me/my characters because their awesome instead of waiting. I need to get my hustle on more than I have been.

8.) Bullshit I don't need people being fake with me. I don't have time. So when I start seeing it, I'll call it out and then avoid it until it stops.

9.) Waste I don't need to be wasteful in 2011. Use everything to it's fullest point and buy quality instead of looking at the bottom dollar. Also, create quality and don't waste any ideas. Just put them in the "abandoned idea" file until it really starts to sprout.

10.) Shyness I need to have faith people will be receptive to me and what I have to offer; so, once I stop being such a hermit and show how awesome I am, I won't dull my shine. Instead, I'll just hand out shades.

11.) Disenchantment So often, doors would close on me and I would think it was the end of that, to the point I would try to get the door to close all on its own. Now, it's time to get those doors open; and if they don't budge, find a key, a sledgehammer, or a window so I can reach my goal, and sing a peppy song while I do.

(I can admit it took me a long time to figure out 11 things, but I do think these are a good start!)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Reverb 10: Day 9 - Party

December 9Party.
What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans. (Author: Shauna Reid)


This year was my 5th Class Reunion from college, and I went. This is notable because college was not, in fact, the time of my life. Well, I rephrase, it wasn't the best time of my life. In fact, many of the challenges I have now were born or exacerbated during that time; and honestly, I'd thought I'd reunited with all the people I cared about a month prior for the Kuumba 40th Reunion (which was awesome!). However, I thought attending would be a good for me to put some demons to bed. I had a serious level of trepidation...that turned out to be unfounded. I was hugging people left and right that weekend; folks telling me how much my entry in the Reunion Class book meant to them on Facebook (irony of ironies, Facebook was created while I was in school and he lived in the next house!) or in person; how they looked up to me or were proud of me because I was pursuing my writing. Folks side-eying me for letting my singing lapse! It was enlightening. I hung out with people for a long time with whom I hadn't been particularly close to the entire four years I'd been at school and had some really powerful discussions. Turns out a lot of us were stuck in "what am I doing here?" the entire time we were there; seeing all of these amazing and awesome people and wondering who thought we should share the same breathing space with them?!

And then I danced, something I rarely had done while I was at school because I was so self-conscious about myself. This time, I didn't care...people were shocked! They 1.) didn't know I could and 2.) didn't know I could like that (old school, baby!)! It was so much fun! The darkness of my old dining hall, the heat, the sweat, the smell of open bar alcohol on my dance partners' breaths, watching people get a little too reunited on the dance floor when it was time for a break. The little pasties that I didn't remember being that good five years ago--it was a good reunion and I'm glad I attended.

Reverb 10: Day 8 - Beautifully Different

December 8Beautifully Different.
Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful. (Author: Karen Walrond)


I'm not even going to lie; when I first read this prompt, anxiety took over. It felt as if this were a "test" to see how far I'd come from when I'd started my Lent Project, and my immediate thought was "not very far."

*slaps hand*

That is a lie, I know, but I also know I have been postponing the really hard parts of the Lent Project, which is full ownership instead of renting it out for various occasions or even being willing to sign a long-term lease so to speak. So, I slept on it (literally, I just went to bed); and then this morning, I peeped some other responses and then started to answer the question myself. I found myself shedding a few tears, having to take a moment, because I was frustratingly stuck. I was having trouble trying to figure out what was different about me that made me beautiful, and how that difference lit up people's lives. Part of the frustration was my continued discomfort in me saying something nice about myself...declaring something positive about the essential me. Even though writing is a personal endeavor that I've made public, it's not necessarily the "essential me", so I can declare I am a good writer (although, confession, it took me a long time to even get to that point). Even though I graduated Ivy League and am proud of that accomplishment, I'm not as hesitant to declare that because it's not necessarily the "essential me". And furthermore, I cannot really claim those as traits that make me "different" because there are many people who are writers and who are Ivy-League graduates, and that certainly doesn't guarantee anyone's beauty one way or the other. So, that long-winded explanation leads to this--the prompt frustrated and discomfited me because I couldn't fall back on the two things that I'd felt secure in declaring.

But I finally figured out something that I am going to own--The way I think is beautiful. Not what I think, but the way I think. It's as if I take information and then automatically flip it over to some (admittedly sometimes unnecessary) next level and play with it there before responding to a dynamic. I know I can fluster people sometimes because I'm dealing with something on Level D and the person with whom I'm talking really had just wanted to stay on Level A and maybe flirt to Level B. I make some of the most random connections sometimes; but I know my friends also count on that too. My sister is especially good at saying something random and I immediately know from whence the thought came, and she appreciates it so much. So, all that to say, when I don't get something, folks around me do a record scratch. In fact, one of my cousins called me out on it once when I was around 16/17 years old; I was NOT on my game with our hourly "Dozens" match and he was actually concerned for me! *pats him* Or my sister still teases me about being slow on the joke in White Christmas about the Doctor and the Well (let's just say, I didn't go Level D or even B with that one; my feet were glued and stapled to Level A! I was young, darn it! And yeah, sis is younger than I am but that's neither here nor there, okay? Not everyone can graduate magna cum laude!!! :P ).

So, I can make people laugh with the way I think when I say something clever; or give them a different perspective to help them solve a particular puzzle they have to them. Or people like the stories I write, which is a direct result of how I think. How I think it's linear; it leaps and bounds and skates and skitters. It meanders often, to the point I think of various scenarios just for fun. And then I amaze myself when those mental wanderings get me to an awesome destination that usually finds itself in a story I tell--whether to my friends or in a book that I write.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Reverb 10: Day 7 - Community

December 7Community.
Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris)

My job, actually! I work with a group of amazing people and they have really been a great support system for me. They boarded me overnight so I could catch a pre-dawn train; they shuttled me 20 miles out of their way to and from work when I was having car issues; they were understanding and gracious when my grandmother passed; they've been encouraging me on my professional career; and several have said they valued my opinions and I certainly value theirs. Coworkers have even forced me to be social, inviting me to happy hours that have lasted much longer than an hour and full of very worthwhile conversation. I am thankful and grateful for all of that, and I'm so lucky that every place I've worked thus far has been full of amazing people.

As for my community goals in 2011, my goal is to be more active in the community at large as a citizen, not necessarily in terms of an organization. Just be seen and present instead of falling back to my hermit tendencies. I will also like to follow up on the mentoring I'd gotten information on but never really followed through; that hadn't been the time then. I think it's finally arrived.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Reverb10: Days 1 - 6

My friend Nuri hipped me to this and I decided I would do it, and do I decided it would be a good way to avoid any more accidental hiatuses, at least for this month! I'm almost a week behind, but that's all right. I'll try to catch up in this post days 1 - 6 and then dedicate one post to the rest of the prompts.

~~~

December 1 - One Word.
Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
(Author: Gwen Bell)

Challenging. This year has been among the most challenging I've ever had. I have lost several people near and dear to me, including my grandmother on Mother's Day when I wasn't there, and a friend of mine who'd been instrumental to my growth as a writer and as a person. I've also decided to give up low self-esteem during Lent and for onward, and that is still a work in progress to completely own my awesome. Professionally, it was the dealing with uncertainty that is a constant challenge, even when they include the highs of releasing a new short story, gaining a literary agent, and more exposure and encouragement from fellow writers. On the other hand, the lows of dealing with negative reviews for a work that is very close to my heart, not being prolific in promotion and releasing more work as I would like; and even attempting a new style/genre of writing. However, all of those challenges that I've faced this year have hopefully prepared me for next year and the word I would truly like for it to be.

Fulfilling.

December 2 - Writing.
What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
(Author: Leo Babauta)

I play Cafe World on Facebook every morning, and that certainly has nothing to do with writing! And I can eliminate it; I probably won't, though, as it's become part of my daily routine! And also, in a way, it my daily nod to the friend I'd lost, since I'd joined the game strictly for her in the first place!

December 3Moment.
Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)

The first (of two) car accident I was in this year; I'd just pulled out of the ATM behind a rather large SUV. I looked down in my lap at my wallet that was still open and then looked up. The SUV's taillights weren't on, so I thought that meant we were moving...until I realized the SUV was not in fact, moving. I smashed up the front of the car really well, and I began shaking so badly, especially when a very irate driver came out the car berating me about talking on my cell phone (I was not) and asking me if I knew there was a pregnant woman in the car (I obviously did not). This bank run that was supposed to have taken 10 minutes tops ended up being over an hour, but what I took away most was "God Is Good", because no one was hurt, everyone walked away, and everyone, other than the irate driver, was nice enough to ask if I were all right as the SUV had several passengers and I was by myself. It was also the conversation I remember something wasn't right with my grandmother, because she didn't get all hyper with worry. She was very calm and measured; not that my grandmother was prone to hysterics, but her tone was a lot calmer than I'd expected, almost resigned. That conversation was a month and a week before she passed.

December 4Wonder.
How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)

The wonder in my life is realizing how things work out even if I think they are bleak; how things may not come how or when you want them, but exactly how and when you need them; and seeing how the consequences of past decisions pan out and being amazed at the what the results of trusting the instincts yield.

December 5Let Go.
What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley)

Low self-esteem, because it's a cancer. It's not completely eradicated yet, but I'm much further along now than I was at the beginning of 2010.

December 6Make.
What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)

The last thing I made was a mess; the materials I used were papers and clothes on the floor of my apartment--complete with opened shipping boxes and suitcases all over my living area. And the thing I would like to make is not a mess, and that would require an eternity of free time...or at least the holiday break, perhaps.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Accidental Hiatus

I truly did not mean to just peace out the way I have, so I apologize. I think part of the reason I became so silent is because so much was going on and there is so much to say but not enough words to say them. So, this is my apology for that and thank you very much for sticking with me and by me.

The high points:

- I've been writing! As you know, I released Go with Your Heart back in August and the response for that has been wonderful. Beautiful Trouble Publishing is a supportive publisher and I appreciate them giving me the chance to tell that story and for trusting me to help format their books! I just finished this year's NaNo (still in the RJC universe, but this time it's about Henry's parents Lydia and Takeshiro Inoue!) and as exhausting as that experience was, I was grateful for the challenge. I really enjoy writing these two!

- I made a contact with an editor at Harlequin who was so giving of her time and dispensed very useful advice. The trick now is for me to follow it!

- Kwame Alexander has offered me wonderful opportunities this fall, including being part of his Kwame and Friends (including Marcus Amaker and Joanna Crowell) reading at the John. L. Dart Public Library at the beginning of October and being a panelist at the Capital BookFest in November, along with Heidi Durrow and Noni Carter. Both women are fantastic writers and wonderful people, so it was truly an honor to share the panel wtih them! I also met Carol Mackey, who was so gracious, and Ms. Dori Sanders, with whom I had a fangirl moment. She said I could write! Y'all, I was definitely beaming like a kid in a candy store (speaking of which, definitely need to read Clover again! I also met another writer, Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond who encouraged me to keep my chin up and don't give up on traditional publishing. I took a picture with Victoria Rowell (that didn't save to my phone! *cries*), who is as gorgeous and talented in real life as she is on screen and I watched her panel with AlTonya Washington. I started talking to a young student who was also presenting because she was part of Kwame Alexander's Book-in-a-Day Program, and that was one of the most worthwhile conversations I'd ever had. I have every confidence this young lady will go far! The final panel was with Ms. Tananarive Due and Tina McElroy Ansa, who were fantastic and spoke some serious truth about what it means to be a writer and a community of writers. It was the perfect way to begin NaNo and a recharge of why I wake up at five or earlier every morning and start writing.

- Please go support my girl BJ Thornton. She's awesome and I want to write like her when I grow up. And Karen Lord. She was reviewed in The New York Times. Holla!


The low point:

I lost a very dear friend to me, Ruthy Charlot, in mid-October, which just really threw me for a loop because it was so unexpected. But every writer has their go-to cheerleaders, and Lord knows she'd become one of mine. She challenged me to be better, not in terms of skill, but in terms of having the courage to tell the story I truly want to tell...or the story that truly needed to be told. She made me more discerning about what I say, how I say it, and to whom I listen. She was even editing a story for me that was to be published back in November (That's on indefinite hold right now, but it will be released at some point.). She was brilliant, encouraging, and one of the most beautiful people I knew. She's missed. Dearly.


So, in these last four weeks of 2010, I hope I continue being productive and that 2011 sees more of me on your bookshelves and this blog, quite frankly!

SJF Books Universe

If you ever had a question for my characters, there's now a place to ask! First up is Reconstructing Jada Channing!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Writing While Sleeping

Yesterday evening, after a yesterday afternoon of great home-cooked lunch and awesome discussions with coworkers and the yout' who were study and volunteering at the Center, was full of happy hour with coworkers, licentious old white men who wanted a taste of brown sugar, and an excellent live musician who played real music (including Bill Withers, which made me happy, happy, happy!). I had some a drinks and sang a little, and I was happy (I'm a happy intoxicant...and a featherweight). I get home and I'm coming down from the happy hour (that was actually about 3.5 hours, but who's keeping track?) and I get ready for bed. As I was falling asleep, a bit of dialogue came to me.

"Two weeks ago, I never even knew you existed and now you're my entire world."

Her former, cynical self would've scoffed at such a line, thinking it cheesy; but the heart of her current being swelled until it released its fullness on her gentle sigh.

(c) 2010 by Savannah J. Frierson
No, I did not bounce up from my repose and jot down that line. I just prayed I'd remember it in the morning (which I did! yay!) and continued on to sleep. Why that line even came to me, I think, is because my coworker said she wished she would've known me and the other coworker three years ago so she could've invited us to the wedding. And that stuck with me, because there are people who come into your life that you never knew existed and you truly wonder what your life was like when they hadn't been in it; or what it could've been like if they hadn't been in it.

#deepthought

So I'm sleeping...I'm sleeping...and then suddenly I'm at work and Cornel West is at the administrative desk where I spend those 8.5 hours of my day. And there's a patron or someone here to speak to my boss and he's asking me about my relationship with Dr. West. And I start going on about how he was my very first professor at Harvard during my very first class at Harvard on 9/12/01 (true story) and then that scene fades away and I'm at a park holding hands with a tall, solid (and borderline buff, actually) blond gentleman. And apparently I'm his wife. And apparently he is beyond in love with me. And apparently I'm 31 weeks pregnant. And he drove a white, beat-up, 1998 Jeep Cherokee (I may or may not have done a Google Image Search so I could get the correct year of the Jeep) with the right side mirror hanging on for dear life and black scuff marks on the driver's side door. It's his very first vehicle, and it doesn't annoy me because I'm suck on the "WTH?" of the entire situation. Apparently, we'd been attending a friend's wedding (and in the subconscious of my dream I think it's actually an AU of Tim/Bevin) but it is actually I and some other nameless blond (I never learn his name or get a really good look at his face, actually). And in fact he's the one who told me I was pregnant and how far along. Of course, I look down and suddenly I have a belly (I mean, a bigger one than I normally have...and a really nice pregnancy!chest; my dress was too cute, I have to say!). Then I proceed to panic because I'd had a drink during happy hour and I have to console myself with the fact many of our predecessors had drank and smoked during pregnancy and folks didn't keel of and die then!

And then I wake up, and I'm annoyed because it's 4-something in the morning but more because despite my confusion about what was going on, I had never felt so loved and protected. I knew I could make him laugh and he could make me laugh (he was endeared by my "I promise I won't screw the baby up!" rationalizations) and he'd held me like 1.) he'd never let me go 2.) would shank someone for even thinking about hurting me.

I think I just caught a glimpse of what I try to get my characters to experience, especially my heroines. And it's funny how happy-hour discussions stay with you (is alcohol a serious absorbent?) to the point it helps you write even while you're asleep.

Not that I have any danger of turning into a lush. I'm beyond a featherweight!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

GO WITH YOUR HEART Available Now from Beautiful Trouble Publishing!

Posted Image



Go with Your Heart is out now! This is my first offering with Beautiful Trouble Publishing. Check it out and let me know what you think!



Shiloh Ray never thought her life would end up with her being a part-owner of a saloon with her brothers in the Oklahoma Territory, but that was just what had happened six years after she and her brothers escaped a Confederate camp during the Civil War. She hadn't seen the soldier who'd helped them escape in all of that time, but he was never far from her thoughts. He reenters her life at the same time the new doctor in town sets his sights on her, and she must decide whether to revisit her past or prepare herself for a new future.

Go with Your Heart

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Your characters' voices are especially evocative. How do you write your dialogue? Is it an organic process or do you have to work at it?

It's beyond organic! They are always talking. Being an author/writer is one of the few occupations where 'hearing voices in your head' is moderately acceptable!

Ask me anything

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What was the biggest disappointment in your life thus far?

I'm disappointed in the fact I'm still not as assertive as I'd like to be, but I'm working on it daily!

Ask me anything

"Go with Your Heart"--Coming Soon from Beautiful Trouble Publishing

GwYH


Shiloh Ray never thought her life would end up with her being a part-owner of a saloon with her brothers in the Oklahoma Territory, but that was just what had happened six years after she and her brothers escaped a Confederate camp during the Civil War. She hadn't seen the soldier who'd helped them escape in all of that time, but he was never far from her thoughts. Yet he reenters her life at the same time the new doctor in town sets his sights on her, and she must decide whether to revisit her past or prepare herself for a new future.

The release is part of Beautiful Trouble Publishing's "Cowgirl Series".


~~~~


Shiloh turned to douse the rest of the lights, so many questions whirring through her mind. It had been four years since she'd seen him, since he'd guided her and her brothers to a Union camp under moonlight. She hadn't wanted to leave him in the midst of war, with the deafening reports of guns and the smell of smoke and burning flesh, and had tried in vain to convince him to stay with them. But he'd smiled, kissed her forehead, and promised he'd always be with her. Shiloh didn't know how that would've been possible when she nor her brothers had no idea where they were going after their escape; but they'd ended up West, and West was a lot of territory. Still, that hadn't stopped her heart from beating extra fast whenever she'd caught a glimpse of someone who could've been familiar. Funny how it remained steady when she finally did reunite with the man who'd changed her life so much.

Shiloh heard him stand and she glanced his way as she moved from behind the counter to the door. He approached but maintained space between them. She'd forgotten how tall he actually was, having to tilt her head back to look into his eyes. Then again, her brothers weren't tiny, either, but it was merely a tilt of the head to look at either of them. The lamps from the street provided a little light in the otherwise darkened saloon, but she wouldn't have needed that to know he was staring at her. The power of his eyes couldn't be ignored.

"I will walk you home," he said softly.

She shook her head and left the saloon, his footfalls thumping behind her on the plank steps. "That's unnecessary. It's just down the way. Within shoutin' distance."

"Your brother thought it fit to walk you there before he left."

"I'm a single woman and he thinks I can't take care of myself," Shiloh said, walking on to the boarding house. Nashoba's laugh seemed to curl into her ears, making her smile.

"You know that's not true. He just wants to make sure you don't have to, chilita. That is what one does for someone he holds dear."

Shiloh looked away from him to hide a blush he wouldn't be able to see even if it were high noon. Very rarely did someone speak to her with unadorned tenderness. Nashoba had called her brave and was still able to acknowledge the fact she was a woman. Even her brothers could be borderline crude with her, but that was their way. She didn't put up with foolishness or posturing, but that didn't mean a small, feminine part of her didn't want or appreciate soft words and gentle phrases. Granted, she preferred britches to the long skirts most women wore. She enjoyed the freedom and the ease with which she could move. She also thought that much fabric was a bit wasteful, and she didn't abide by unnecessary excess.

"It is the same reason why I am walking you back, Shiloh. That and because…"

He didn't respond, as if letting the memories of what happened between them all those years ago swirl between them. It had been intense, bringing about irrevocable changes for her, she knew; but she sensed for him as well. Definitely for his people. She couldn't help but hear of the battles going on throughout the territories between the Indians and the Army. But he was here, and at least the shell of him was whole.

"I've missed you too," she whispered, stealing a peek at him.

"Hmm," he intoned, stroking his chin. "Miha moma…"

Shiloh burst out laughing and shoved him lightly. "I will not say that again! You lucky you got that much out of me."

"I've gotten more than that in the past…"

She abruptly stopped walking, glad she had that excuse for she was at the boarding house. He turned to her, his lips tilted in a half grin. Shiloh looked down at her feet to hide her responding grin, the boots she wore dusty from the road and scuffed from age. A larger pair of boots, much newer and nicer, came into view, the tips of those touching the tips of hers.

"I will see you again," Nashoba said.

"In another four years?"

"Not quite that long," the deep voice replied. "Sleep well, chunkash champuli."

Sweetheart. Grinning wider, Shiloh kept her head bowed and didn't raise it again until she was sure Nashoba was out of sight.


(c) 2010 by Savannah J. Frierson

Friday, July 16, 2010

New Release--"Trolling Nights: Interludes"

TNI Cover

Hey, y'all! Have you missed Tim and Bevin Capshaw? Fret not! I just posted up a collection of short stories featuring the Capshaws. Two may be familiar to you while one is completely new. I'm trying a new publisher/distributor, also. Please let me know if there are any issues. I hope you enjoy and thank you so much for your support!

Best,

bana

~~~~

"The First Weekend" Timothy Capshaw celebrates his first weekend in Charleston and sees someone he knows will make his trip more worthwhile than he'd ever imagined.

"Always Sweet" Bevin Moore's act of charity unsettles her in delicious ways.

"Welcome Home" Tim's return to an empty house from a three-month mission overseas wasn't exactly what he'd had in mind.

"TROLLING NIGHTS: INTERLUDES"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Brainstorming

Would anyone be interested in buying short stories featuring the characters from established novels as I write them or should I wait until I have several and publish them all at once? Quick reads, so to speak? I'm trying to figure out the best way to do this. I may go to a different self-publishing company to do this... *hmm*

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Making Moves

So, it's close to 1:30 in the morning and while I'm not wide awake, I'm definitely awake enough to type this. It doesn't help it's kind of hot in my apartment right now, which that, and the fact I left my pot roast and sweet potato souffle on the stove because I really conked out around 9 this evening (but didn't go to sleep; that process took an entire hour, but I was definitely willing it with all my might), woke me up around midnight, I'm also just anxious. My book sales have been trickling, but luckily I can still say I'm selling books even though it's really been over a year since I released anything brand new. In that year has been a period of adjustment--new job, making more networking contacts in the publishing industry, losing my grandmother, car accidents (yes, that's plural), and the fact I'm essentially a secretary at my day job with no benefits and not the kind of security that makes my family happy. I really like what I do there, but the type of job it is really is in the distinction--temporary. I knew that when I applied and when I accepted it, but my coworkers are so supportive and they're really good. I can say I've been lucky to have worked in two different places where the people I'm with support each other and encourage each other. I can admit fear to losing that should I move on, but I do have to consider that now, especially when my authoring/editing income has been a little lean. This isn't to say I haven't been writing; while I wouldn't say I've been writing like a fiend, I've finished a novel and two short stories this spring/summer, not to mention the other work that's already done that needs somewhere to go.

Oh, and I have an epublishing agent as well. If I didn't mention that before, I definitely am now. That was a big scary step to get that agent because I've been doing it by myself for so long (and I could make that analogy extend to my lack of a love life, but I may just give that to a character. Heh.), but I knew it was necessary. It's okay to have help along the way, and my Lent project has helped me not only accept it when offered, but seek it out. Except, I didn't seek out this agent, she sought me out, and I liked what she had to say, so I'm excited and realistically hopeful. I'm also going to be part of the Capital BookFest Charleston in November. Peep the appearance list. Yes...y'all think I can multitask being an author and a fan?

I also format books for Beautiful Trouble Publishing, and I've been asked to write something for them. Hopefully, y'all will like it. It's a historical short story (actually closer to a novella) featuring an ex-slave who is reunited with the Confederate soldier who helped her and her brothers escape a Confederate camp during the Civil War. As soon as I let you know how I managed to keep that short I'll tell you!

Okay, the A/C cut on and off, so maybe it's a bit cooler for me to attempt sleep. But if you're up also reading this blog, I have some other things you can read that actually feature plot. And happy endings. Those are awesome, yes.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Over It: The Mainstream Media's Preoccupation with Black Women and Marriage

A month ago, my grandmother, the woman who raised me, passed away on Mother's Day. She was a woman who was so very loved in her community, a woman who'd worn her husband's wedding ring, a husband who'd died thirty-seven years prior, until days before she made her transition. She was from an era when more often women, irrespective of race, were married than not; but she lived during a time when that expectation shifted, especially for black women. I count myself as lucky that I had a grandmother who impressed independence, success, and being the best "Me" I could be instead of one who bothered me about when was I going to give her great-grandbabies. In fact, she impressed upon my sister and I caution and good choices—be very careful when and with whom you build a family. Somehow, I don't think she was the only grandmother/mother/aunt/godmama/sister/cousin who has been telling women of my generation that same bit of advice.

However, it seems it's hurricane season, and black women are the mighty rocks in the middle of an ocean bracing against the punishing waves of mainstream media and “experts” who are only so-called because said mainstream media (MSM) stuck a microphone in his face regarding black women and (the lack of) marriage. Yes, his. Very few women, and even fewer black women, seem to be part of the discussion. Instead, we’re called upon to react, not to propose a hypothesis, because maybe we’ll tell it like it is, which many of these “experts” don’t want to hear. It’s much easier to tell us what we’re doing wrong; what we should be doing, instead of acknowledging that we’re doing many things right—and even many things MSM tell other women (read: nonblack women) to do in order to “get a man”. No, let’s just bypass strong, committed relationship, but “a man”. Not necessarily “a good black man”, because those are unicorns who don’t want black women no kind of way. Our standards are astronomical, some of these “experts” say, because the majority of us demand a partner who is on our level (not solely status/material level) or who is working to get there, and vice versa. Of course, you have the outliers in every race of women who want someone to do everything and give them everything for nothing in return; but as normal when people of color are in the media, those outliers, the negatively stereotypical ones especially, are used as the boilerplate for all of those people of color; in this case, black women.

When we’re growing up, we’re told to reach for the sky with our goals in terms of a career & life aspirations; that we can do anything and be anything as long as we set our minds to it. Why then, should I and other black women expect/settle for the anthill when it comes to our mates—irrespective of color or gender? The black women discussed in these articles are accomplished, educated, intelligent, well-traveled, financially secure, and overall attractive. Why is it, then, their fault they don’t “have a man”/partner? More, why is it there are no articles about slack, noneducated, little-traveled, and broke women having problems getting “a man”? Or is the case of “of course those women don’t have life partners” w/ a subtle insinuation of it doesn’t matter how high you (black women) climb, you still aren’t worthy? Or even more damning, “the ‘sadiddier’ you get, the less likely you’ll find a man (of any race) who wants you.”? Naturally, this is not only counterintuitive, but also nonsensical. I’m of the firm belief you get what you put out, and if I put out “I want half-assed men/partners”, that’s all I’m going to get, which will inevitably leave me unhappy. I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be unhappy; and there’s a reason an anthem in the black community among women especially is “I can do bad all by myself.”

Which may be why black women aren’t getting married in the first place. The divorce rate, particularly, apparently, for black women in this country, is ridiculous, and it would be ridiculous for anybody to marry just to avoid being a negative statistic. I think I and a lot of other black women would rather put off marriage or not get married at all than to marry someone not worth the effort. Some are even willing to “man share”, especially when one considers the apparent “dearth” of “available (i.e., worthwhile) black men”, but even many articles admit most women don’t even know they’re sharing men. Then folks seem to be operating under the assumption these women even want to get married at all; like Tina said, “What’s love got to do with it?” Marriage is a sacrifice that, until recently, didn’t really work in an independent woman’s favor. You’re giving up your name, your identity to “cleave” unto a whole new one. If you are established as one person, it’s a pain to have to change your name, and all the things that are in it, because you married the love of your next five-to-ten (even though the societal time frame should be until death). And did I mention divorce is expensive? Being single is definitely more fiscally sound than getting married to your first ex-husband. But this recent deluge of articles about black women and why are they single and why no one wants to marry them seems to be trying to induce a state of panic among the targeted group of black women, in which I include myself: educated, intelligent, well-traveled, possessing of good home training, and attractive. And single. But I also have standards, standards that are actually more flexible than many would assume given these articles. They’re so flexible, high melanin content is actually not a requirement in my dating choices.

Yes, folks, that means I’m open to interracial dating.

But when you read those articles about “interracial dating at all time high”, there is the continuous sidebar of “except for black women and Asian men”, but very little analysis of how the intersection of race and gender pan out into those baleful statistics. How the masculinization of black women and the emasculation of Asian men in Western society in particular play a role in their “suffering” marriage rates to people in other ethnicities. There’s even little acknowledgment of the racialization of marriage to begin with, that “interracial” marriage only counts if there is a white person involved. But as the rhetoric pertains to black women in general, the either/or of it all is, quite frankly, frustrating. The articles are usually framed as “black women are the least likely to outmarry of all races” which means “the pool of available black men is shrinking because a ‘great’ number of them outmarry”, thus “black women need to look elsewhere, or else they’ll be alone” except “Well, black women aren’t at the top of the list for chosen mates, even for black men”. Of course, this rhetoric breeds contempt between the sexes intra-racially, which is counterproductive on so many levels. Some vocal black men claim black women aren’t loyal, aren’t “down”, are greedy and whatever other negative stereotypes they’ve absorbed from society, and vice versa. And as someone who writes many love stories featuring black women with nonblack men, this previous tack of “excuses” why to outmarry is annoying, myopic, and just as racist as a KKK member saying black people are lower than dirt. As a black woman born of a black man and a black woman, and a woman who has seen many Barack & Michelle Obamas in her family before she even knew a Barack & Michelle Obama existed, I take great exception to the “grass is greener” school of thought for interracial marriages. The funny thing about pedestals, folks can fall off once you put them up there.

I’m not looking for a pedestal. I’m not looking to be worshipped or to worship someone other than my God. I don’t need to put down black men to “justify” why I like Bob or Juan or Yoshi or Mohammed or Hakan, and black men need to stop doing that to justify their nonblack partner. It 1.) cheapens why you’re in the relationship in the first place and/or 2.) reveals you don’t like yourself or who your people are. Having sex and having children with someone of a different race doesn’t make it love/nonracist. Ask Sally Hemmings or the countless other black women who’ve had to submit to white men’s sexual force. “We’re all the same color when the lights go out” people like to say to “prove” they aren’t racist, but how you treat me when the lights are on matters far more to me than how you do when they’re off. And contrary to popular belief, I’m not going to let you treat me any kind of way. Respectful or loving, or you can keep stepping, which would be your loss, because I have a lot of love to give. But I love myself and respect myself too much to just give myself willy nilly.

I’m over it. Over it. I’m over the MSM telling me I think I’m too good for the right love; that I should just accept anything because he’s “all right” and has high melanin content or because he’s white (there’s very little talk about other ethnicities of men/partners for us, curiously). I’m tired of these articles focusing on material criteria/status markers when, for me anyway, those are not the top five qualities I look for in a mate. Can we talk? Can we make each other laugh? Can we create those butterflies in each other’s bellies with just a glance or a smile? Do our faces split into an automatic grin whenever someone just mentions your/my name? Do we have the same values; and if not, do we still respect and listen to each other when we differ? Why are folk so concerned about not only who I let in my bed, but who I let put a ring on it? And yes, BeyoncĂ© got it wrong—I’m not letting anyone who merely likes me put a ring on it, either. You gotta love me and vice versa. Two-way street. Until then, I and many other black women will live our successful independent lives until Mr./Mrs. Right is ready to enter a partnership with us instead of settling for Mr./Mrs. Right Now; and for my part, I’ll continue to write about black women falling in love with their The Ones no matter the color. I always tell my readers I may put my black heroines through some mess, but she will always have her happy ending. That’s why I write the books and that’s why you read them.

I have the right and even the responsibility to demand that for myself in real life too. Don’t be mad you can’t make the cut. Step up your game, son!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

2010 RSJ Cruise Recap

It would’ve been much wiser for me to write a log of what happened each day I was away, but that would’ve been too logical, so I didn’t do it. Instead, I let myself experience everything—including my going to bed much earlier than any self-respecting twenty-something should, but bump that because when a woman’s tired she’s tired! Yet my waking hours—none of them was wasted. I was rarely bored, and unlike the last time I’d gone to this conference, few of my waking hours were spent in my room by myself (although at the last Romance Slam Jam, I was writing Trolling Nights—so I was productive!). I think the best way to do this is to go day by day, although I’m sure to combine some days as some thoughts may flow into the other.

Wednesday through Friday

My coworker/friend hosted me Wednesday night and gave me a ride to the train station Thursday morning. The train pulled out of Charleston at 5AM and I pulled into Miami around 6:45PM. What did I do on the train? Sleep. I tried some writing and I tried some reading, but I primarily slept. It was frigids on the train, and if I didn’t have too much stuff because of my books, I would’ve packed a blanket, no lie. I also called my friend because it was her birthday, and then my grandma and sis. But other than that, Travel Thursday was uneventful. Also, the hotel in Miami was okay. It was very “It will do, pig” and nothing epically awesome or epically tragic.

Friday had me taking an unexpected, unwise, and highly blessed romp through Miami in an effort to get my nails did. I got off too early from the bus, because the street I wanted was 8th street, but there are apparently 80 “8th Streets” in Miami, and the one I was on wasn’t mine. I walked through a Miami neighborhood that was no South Beach. There were fenced-in yards, “Beware of Dogs” signs on said fences, and bars on the windows on my way to the nail salon. This is where Boston/city living kicked in, because I walked like I knew where I was going (thank god for VZ Navigator!) and though I’m sure maybe three black people (and probably none of them American) lived in that neighborhood, I greeted people I saw and kept it moving. Damn near kissed the nail salon when I found it! The place was definitely not tourist-Miami. It was a neighborhood joint, complete with the meat man selling beef (all of this is in Spanish and I could follow a little). Busted out my Kindle and started talking to another woman beside me about ebook readers and the types of books we like to read. Didn’t mention I was an author but that’s okay. At the end of it all, my polish on the left pinky and right thumb didn’t make it pristine like out of the salon, but I’m not so vain that I whined too much. I’m a writer—I use my hands, it was bound to happen; but my feet were tight.

Friday evening was the book signing. Rochelle Alers remembered me from RSJ 2008 and gave me a hug. I…was shocked as hell…and so squeed on the inside! And then Pamela Leigh Starr—one of the first authors I read who wrote IR remembered me and we chatted a bit. Sat next to Shirley Hailstock, who was an RWA president and one of the foremothers of Black romance (and I love her voice; it’s such a calming, soothing tone). Finally met Iris Bolling—fellow self-published author, although she took a step beyond me and owns her own small publishing company—who won Debut Author of the Year, and she gave me a hug and said there was no reason for me to shy and lack confidence. Met Lissa Woodson, aka Naleighna Kai, who basically taught a master class on “getting your hustle on” all week. She was sold out at the book signing and STILL managed to sell more on the cruise to everyone—and I mean everyone. Met people who kept saying “I keep seeing your book on Amazon…” and then they look at me oddly like they cannot believe I wrote that book and then the six others I have published. I was much calmer this year, something Monique Lamont noted when we saw each other (I was a hot mess, last time, wet behind the ears and high strung don’t even begin to cover it!). Deatri King-Bey, Evelyn Palfrey, Denise Jeffries, AC Arthur, Gwyneth Bolton, Viola Walker, and Victoria Wells were all people I (re)connected with at the signing. Every one of these authors was so gracious and excited to see one another. It was bolstering, and the traditionally published ones had much advice for me and wanted to learn more about self-publishing and the wealth and willingness to share information was invigorating.

And because I was more comfortable with myself, over the course of the three years since Being Plumville came out, I was more comfortable approaching readers who might not have ever heard of me; but then there was one woman who’d e-mailed me before the event wanting to know if I had books. I met her and we got into a discussion about black romance and black love, black women in love, interracial love, and it was so great! And then other readers willing to give me a chance just based off of another author speaking to me or buying my book or telling me they’ll check me out—it was so great! Considering I’d arrived to the signing DIRECTLY after getting off the bus from the nail salon (the return trip was drama-free!), it was great.

I had dinner with Gwyneth Bolton and her husband afterwards, and it was wonderful getting to know them. Afterwards, I think I met my roommate (I say think because by this point I was doing the slow-blink so my memory’s a bit fuzzy!).

Saturday

In the future, I’m going to need this hotel to be on point with its breakfast service on cruise embarkation day. They know everyone and her cousin is trying to get on a boat somewhere, so why was service so slow? The poor hostess had to do double shifts by being a server too! Be that as it may, when we finally got the food, it was good. Ate with Victoria Wells and her sister, along with some other readers, but there was minimal conversation outside of “where’s the waiter?” Yes, it was that problematic. As we checked out of the hotel, the readers and the authors got a chance to chat more, so I hung out with my roomie, Monique Lamont, and Denise Jeffries while we waited on transportation to the pier. Those two women are mad funny and very nice for letting us tag along with them! Also, I will say Carnival Cruises is one of the most efficient operations I’ve ever seen in my life. Considering how many people were waiting to get on the boat, the embarkation process was swift.

Once on the boat, had some of the best cheesecake ever and that was the last time I saw it all trip! When I say I was hunting for that cheesecake…I know I should be ashamed to admit it, but I was. It was so good! We met the people with whom we would be eating dinner with for the next five nights and they were from Houston, DC, and California by way of Kansas City. I met one of the readers before at Beverly Jenkins’s Pajama Party in October, so small world! But they were wonderful dinner companions. They were picture happy too. Y’all should be proud of me, because I didn’t try to lean out the pictures! After dinner, we had the welcome reception, and I finally met Bridget Midway there, who is also someone I’d like to be when I grow up in terms of hustling and getting her name out there. I sold more books (practicing my hustle!) and I even drank some alcohol (I don’t drink normally, but...I’m not going to turn down free liquor!). And then I promptly went to sleep.

I blame the liquor.

Sunday

Started off my day taking pictures of Cuba and walking the track on the deck. That wind…grace of God I didn’t go blowing overboard—it was so strong! I don’t know how many laps I did, but I think I earned the melons, pancakes, grits, eggs, sausage, croissants I had for breakfast. I sat and talked a long while with Niambi Brown Davis and another reader, and they thanked me for doing their walking for them! Lol After that I got ready for my day, including getting my netbook because I was going to do some writing, dammit! Except, I didn’t. Instead, I sat with Ms. Alers, Gwyneth, Deatri, Lissa and some readers and we just talked for the next four hours about everything from television to movies to fandom (yeah, that was me lol) to healthcare, to courtesy in society to black identity to publishing, romance as a genre to black writers in general and it was good! It started to pour-down rain while we were talking, but we weren’t on an exposed area of the deck and where we were, there was a retractable dome, so it was all good. But, yo, I can say I shot the breeze with these women; and even though I was the youngest at the table, people still included me and I really should’ve taken notes listening to them. They were so full of wealth and wisdom and I’m very lucky I was included in that conversation. Sooner than we thought, it was time for dinner. It was the Captain’s night, but I didn’t go meet him. I wanted my cheesecake! That I didn’t get…alas. But I did dress up-ish, nice top and black slacks. After dinner I talked with Iris about ebook publishing and I felt every rock on that boat on that 8 deck (my cabin was on deck 1 and the aft—not a bad cabin, actually). And then, because I was determined to do some writing, I went on the main deck and find a little corner tucked away. I started writing, and I bounced my knee, which caught the attention of some guy. He came and made small talk, first about my knee, then made the assumption I was worried about something. I said not really, then told him I was a writer. I gave him my card; he asked what I wrote about. He told me about his wife and kid and then he said he would buy a book. Awesome, but I was getting sleepy, so he said he was going to get the money and come back. I signed the book because I needed this to be a quick transaction because I was sleepy.

Dude never came back. I was too sleepy to feel rooked.

Monday

It was raining (and by raining, I mean torrents), so I had to go to the gym to do my walking. It was as if the entire ship was in there, but luckily I timed it just right so a treadmill became available as soon as I walked in. I preferred the deck, but during my twenty-minute exercise, found out Sherlock Holmes was coming on later that day; but in the meantime, I caught the beginning of The Time Traveler’s Wife as I walked. Then I ate breakfast alone and took too many pictures of the Ocho Rios port. I couldn’t meet my friend in Jamaica. :( However, even though those plans fell through, I said there was no way I wasn’t getting off the boat and actually go to Jamaica. So I waited a few hours (and finished watching The Time Traveler’s Wife. It was definitely a wait for cable movie IMO) after the rush off and I was content to just stay right by the dock and get back on. Besides, Sherlock Holmes was coming on later and I hadn’t seen it yet. Come to meet some of my dinner-table buddies waiting for a friend who now lived on Jamaica! I’d intended to just sit with them and then go back to the boat when their friend arrived, but they invited me along and…I went! Man, as soon as you got on the street, folks were trying to sell you something, take you somewhere, etc. One woman said she’d twist my hair. Of course I said no—as nice as her hair was; if they’re anything like black hair salons, I would’ve been wherever she’d do my hair well after the boat set sail! And…it’s just not that safe to do. Anyway, we are browsing the stores for things and as I browse, I see a guy sitting against the wall near a store. He looked like he was wearing a uniform so when he looked at me I acknowledged him. No, he wasn’t the authorities, but a vendor, selling bracelets (1 for $3 and 2 for $5). And…he started to hit on me: “I like a woman with big breasts, big hips, big thighs, big ass—” *record scratch* I wasn’t ready for all of that! I said “Oh…” I mean, what do I say in response? This is all as he’s trying to sell me his bracelets, by the way. So I told him I’d take two bracelets in exchange for one of my books (because I had them with me; and yes, I sold some books in Jamaica). So he did (and he took a picture with some of my books) and then he asked for my number. I said no, because those International charges aren’t cute, but he could e-mail me. He said he didn’t know how to e-mail. I told him go to a library and ask for help (but much more nicely; I’m trying to keep this recap as efficient as possible! lol). Then we left and I had some Jamaican rum at a restaurant on the island (not…a local hangout spot by any stretch—definitely for cruise folk). Then we said goodbye to the tablemate’s friend (we exchanged cards) and returned to the boat in time for me to miss the first 20 minutes of Sherlock Holmes. I don’t think those 20 minutes were very important anyway.

That evening was the dinner and the Emma Awards, which honors the best in black romance and Ms. Alers gave the keynote address. She touched on a lot that we spoke about on the confab Sunday afternoon, and it was awesome. The awards ceremony was nice and quick too! I wasn’t up for anything but everyone who was nominated and won were very deserving. Afterwards…I went to bed. I’d had liquor at the ceremony.

It was free! It was green! I was feeling adventurous…

Tuesday

Grand Cayman Island day! Today was being lazy on the beach day too, hence no walking this morning. My roomie, who’d gone to a Jamaican beach the day before, decided to take it easy today and just go on shore when she felt like it. So, I was by myself and got on the tender to shore (if you didn’t catch the last tender at 3:15pm ship’s time, you’re SOL because the boat was leaving at 4pm, so this was a day you really had to be mindful of the time—especially when GC is an hour behind!), Kindle at the ready because I have books to read! Except, AlTonya Washington was also on this excursion. She had a book too.

We did no reading.

We pretty much talked the entire time and, like before, it was a great conversation! Here’s an author traditionally published with THE premier romance publishing company, and she’s self-publishing as well and we started talking about the state of publishing, especially for African-American writers, and it went into a discussion about relationships, etc. She’s a SC native, so we had that connection. I gave her The Beauty Within to have and I have her books on my Kindle. After returning to the ship, we had lunch and talked some more. Learned a lot from her!

Later that night, there was a Michael Jackson tribute in one of the clubs so I went to that; later that night, I actually got up and did Karaoke (No More Rain (In This Cloud) by Angie Stone, but I have to dock 2 pts from the Karaoke machine for having no Nina Simone. How do you let that happen?!).

Wednesday

The Caribbean was not having it. That water was rough on our last day. We felt every rock on that boat—ridic. Nevertheless, the Reader Sessions were that day, and I stayed for all of them. I was also part of one. They were all informative and I’m glad I stayed for all of them. Ms. Starr and Altonya both approached me and said they loved the books of mine they were reading. That certainly helped me sell more books! Also, because I’d mentioned Mildred D. Taylor was among my favorite authors during my Readers Session, Emma Rodgers (one of the founders of the Slam Jam and the woman for whom the Emmas are named) gave me her card and recc’d 100 Years of Solitude for me to read. Considering the last time I’d read that book it was in Spanish, I think I’ll give the English version a try! I spoke with Crystal Rhodes who spoke with me as well, said she was impressed with me, bought a book from me for her daughter. She’s a playwright, traditionally published and self-published, so her encouragement meant a lot! Lutishia Lovely/Zuri Day took a look at the Trolling Nights cover and raved about it. I told her I did the cover and she was even more impressed.

Can I just say shout out to the self-published authors? True story; we are the business. Renee Flagler is on point and doing her thing. I loved the look of her books. Just classy. Ann Clay was very lovely as well and has several projects in the works. We also exchanged cards. I met some more readers, passed out more cards, then ate some lunch. I don’t really remember what all I did after the Reader Session, but probably packed because it was not a lot of down time between then and dinner. At the last dinner found out someone knew a classmate of mine from Harvard and I would be seeing this classmate this weekend. I declare the world is entirely too small! I told my friend when I saw her and she got all happy and gave me a big hug like I was the woman I’d mentioned! Lol We took more pictures and then said goodbye to everyone, thinking it would be the last time we’d see each other.

Except it wasn’t. I definitely saw Ms. Alers again, Ms. Clay, and I went with Monique and Denise to the airport (even though my friend Shayla was letting me stay with her and her family in town before taking a flight to Boston the next day—it was just easier for my friend to get me from there). So there were more goodbyes, but even these weren’t final. I’ll do better keeping in touch, I promise, and we’ll see each other, God willing, in Baltimore for the next Romance Slam Jam. And as for me; I didn’t sell all of my books; in fact, I gave a lot away, but that wasn’t the main point for me. I got exactly what I needed to get out of this trip—confidence and the chance to own what I was doing. I didn’t really own it last time in 2008, although everyone I met was encouraging. The fact people, this time, were saying how proud they were of me, how encouraging, how inspiration almost—it was a great and humbling feeling. I learned so much and I was able to teach as well. I had a really great roommate who taught me how to cruise properly and I hope she keeps up with her writing! The next RSJ, I’m going to need her to have a red badge instead of orange for aspiring! And thank you to the readers who were willing to listen and give me a chance and to the authors who were willing to listen and give me advice. Yeah, RSJ Cruise was definitely good. And if I forgot anything or anyone, that doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate the experience, just means my grandma didn’t pass on her elephantine memory to me!