Writers: We’ve Made it Through

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

This has been one hell of a year. We’ve had more loss than gain, more sadness than happiness, and yet I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all managed (in different capacities) to endure. As we approach this out of the ordinary holiday season—one where most of us are missing those we love—I am ever grateful that my family and I can celebrate, even though we are far apart. Not all of us can say the same.

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But as a writer, I am also grateful for the ability to express my thoughts through words—to build worlds, envision characters, concoct plots, introduce diversity, create love where there is hate, find understanding where there is confusion, and now more than ever when traveling seems quite difficult, we can “…boldly go where no man has gone before!” (Thanks Star Trek) For many of us whose quarantine restrictions are stricter than others, books and other forms of literature are a lifesaver.

Best Lifesavers GIFs | Gfycat

I have a long list of books that I want to get, and it grows daily. I’ve promised myself that I will start checking them off in the new year. Here are a few:

Amazon.com: Daughters Of Nri (The Return of the Earth Mother)  (9781916042933): Reni K Amayo: Books
Reni K. Amayo – Daughters of Nri
Reni K Amayo (@renikamayo) | Twitter
Reni K. Amayo – Descendants of the First
Amazon.com: Rebel Sisters (9781984835062): Onyebuchi, Tochi: Books
Tochi Onyebuchi – Rebel Sisters
Amazon.com: The First Sister (1) (The First Sister trilogy)  (9781982126995): Lewis, Linden A.: Books
Linden A. Lewis – The First Sister
Review | 'Black Leopard, Red Wolf' | The Gazette
Marlon James – Black Leopard,
Red Wolf
The Sorcerer Of The Wildeeps: Wilson, Kai Ashante: 9780765385246:  Amazon.com: Books
Kalashante Wilson – The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps

If you are one of those individuals who relished the rush of Black Friday sales and the thrill of the deluge of shoppers in your local department stores, you are likely frustrated with having to cyber-shop. But perhaps you’ll consider adding books to the list of things you’ll want to get for your family or friends. Now that the cold weather season has arrived, this is the perfect time to climb into your favorite chair or sofa, wrap yourself into your favorite plush blanket, and dive into a new world 😊

I hope you have something ‘writerly’ to be grateful for this year! Wishing you and yours a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Writers: Age Is But a Number

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

Last week I was gifted with a fire drill in my office building. My co-workers and I traversed over twenty-one flights of stairs, and I knew that I would suffer for it later.  My knees were Jello afterward, and for days I was in anguish. My legs were incredibly sore, moving was a real chore and my youngest leaned on my leg. This caused me to yelp like my dog did when my son mistakenly stepped on his tail. LOL!

Courage The Cowardly Dog Gives an Angry Thumbs Up
Thanks a lot!

I did not start feeling better until yesterday. Every time we have fire drills in my building, I go through the same thing, and it’s a frustrating reminder that I am not a Spring chicken anymore. But when it comes to writing, age does not apply. It’s rather inconsequential when it comes to publishing. Many writers did not receive recognition until they were in their 30’s and up.

Paperback The Bluest Eye Book
Toni Morrison – The Bluest Eye (1970) –
Age 40
The Last Samurai (novel) - Wikipedia
Helen Dewitt – The Last Samurai (2000) – Age 44
J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1997) – Age 31
Amazon.com: The Hobbit (9780547928227): J. R. R. Tolkien: Books
J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit (1937) – Age 45
Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins Mysteries)
Walter Mosley – Devil in a Blue Dress (1990) – Age 38
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Octavia Butler – Patternmaster (1976)
Ms. Butler was in her late 30’s when this was published.
(1st novel)

So, as you can see, success is never out of your reach. Even Laura Ingalls Wilder found it at the age of sixty-five when she published the Little House on the Prairie children’s book series between 1932 and 1943. I continue to embark on my journey to publishing, and I hope you will do so as well—no matter how young or old you are!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Writers: It’s a New Day!

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

Millions of people in our country and I are still riding the wave of euphoria from Saturday’s election results. It was groundbreaking in so many ways—between the record number of votes (in-person and mail-in) and the states that flipped parties, it’s historical. But what’s even more important was the election of not only President-Elect Joe Biden but the selection of our country’s first woman of color Kamala Harris (Indian/Jamaican) in the second-highest position in our government, Vice President.

Kamala Harris Thank You GIF by Election 2020 - Find & Share on GIPHY

For women of color, little girls of color, women, and girls in general, this is a pivotal moment not just in our country but in the world. It shows once again that nothing is beyond your reach if you are willing to work hard for it. The infamous “Glass Ceiling” has been shattered on a whole new level, and now we have President Obama, Michelle Obama, and VP Kamala Harris to look up to! (There are many POC who have left their mark on our society, but I’ll only refer to the Obamas and VP Harris today! LOL!) I cannot imagine how lovely it must have been for VP Harris to share such a monumental occasion with her sister, niece, and other family members.

Glass ceiling shattered GIFs - Get the best gif on GIFER

Of course, this event resulted in a search for books written by POC who had strong opinions about the state of the government and politics. I’ll just be adding these to the growing list of books I would like to read!

Becoming
by Michelle Obama

The First Lady’s Memoir – Mrs. Obama talks about her origins, discovery of self, and her thoughts and experiences in the WH. I’m late but I look forward to reading this!

A Promised Land
by Barack Obama

This is not President Obama’s first book but it is the most recent. It comes out later this month and it’s Vol. 1 of a 2-part series. According to writer David Remnick of the New Yorker, Obama discusses his views on the “ongoing American debate over health care: the root of the problem, the countervailing interests, the ambition, the setbacks [and of course] the politics.”

Frederick Douglass
Prophet of Freedom
by David W. Blight

Mr. Blight introduces the reader to Mr. Douglass in this Pulitzer Prize winning book. As a slave Mr. Douglass was taught to read by his slave owner’s mistress, and the rest, as they say, is history. He became one of the most prominent figures of his time, speaking not only against the horrors of slavery but on black civil and political rights.

Our Time Is Now
by Stacey Abrams

She was approximately fifty thousand votes from becoming the next governor of Georgia (2018), founded Fair Fight Action, an organization to address voter suppression, and largely responsible for the incredible increase of voters in her state in preparation for this year’s election—contributing to the Biden/Harris win. 

A Political Companion to W. E. B. Du Bois (Political Companions to Great American Authors) by [Nick Bromell, Charles Mills, Lewis R. Gordon, Anthony Reed, James E. III Ford, Melvin L. Rogers, Robert W. Williams, Alexander Livingston, Arash Davari, David Haekwon Kim, Vijay Phulwani]
A Political Companion of W.E.B. DuBois
by Nick Bromwell, et al.

During grad school, I noted that Douglass and Dubois didn’t always see eye-to-eye when it came to the black man’s betterment. However, they were both activists fighting against slavery and for the civil liberties denied to black men and women. DuBois was also a significant contributor to political thought. This book includes essays from new and established scholars.

I hope you find these books galvanizing and thought-provoking. As we embark on a new day in politics, government, health and our world, I look forward to better days ahead!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Writers: Viva la Democracia!

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

Viva la Democracia—Long Live Democracy! I came across this term today, and I thought it was so fitting since Election Day is on Tuesday and all that!

This past weekend was extra special. My oldest had two significant milestones: He celebrated his nineteenth birthday, and he was able to VOTE for the first time. Since he was away at college and missed the deadline for absentee voting, we brought him home so he could vote in person. It was so exciting and uplifting to share that experience with him. Strangers were giving him socially distant shout-outs and congratulating him on this big step towards adulthood and, more importantly, allowing his voice to be heard.

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As he marked off his ballet and slid it into the machine to be counted, I could not help thinking of the many men and women (black and white) who died for the right to vote or because they wanted to be a voice for the voiceless.

Vote Voting GIF by Laura Smith Art - Find & Share on GIPHY

Voting, as most of you know, is a privilege, and sometimes we forget why. I came across a few books that I would like to read on the black vote and women’s suffrage. If you haven’t already read them, perhaps you will do so in the future.

African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920 (Blacks in the Diaspora)
by Rosalyn Terborg-Penn

Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All
by Martha S. Jones

'Suffrage at 100' cover image
Suffrage at 100
Women in American Politics Since 1920 Edited

by Stacie Taranto
and Leandra Zarnow

Finish the Fight – The Brave and Revolutionary Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote
by Veronica Chambers

The Dream Is Lost: Voting Rights and the Politics of Race in Richmond, Virginia (Civil Rights and ...
The Dream is Lost—Voting Rights and the Politics of Race in Richmond, Virginia by Julian Maxwell Hayter
(This is a local author!)

Give Us the Ballot—The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America
by Ari Berman

As we move closer to Tuesday, I hope you have or plan to “Exercise your Rights” as they say and vote in this year’s election. No matter who you are or what you identify as—this is one of the most critical elections of our time. Though I am not what you’d call a “political” person, I felt it only right to use my small corner of the social media platform to incite or maybe sway interest in the importance of voting. Never believe that your vote does not count, because it does! Do your thang!

Vote GIFs | Tenor

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Writers: Are you PITCHING today?

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam! Today was the #DVpit event on Twitter, and for the first time in, I don’t know how long, I put my hat in the ring! For those of you who are not familiar, the term “pitch” has nothing to do with baseball. In this instance, pitching is when you want literary agents or editors to know about your book, illustrations etc. You can either pitch in a query letter, in an elevator (if you happen to be next to an agent who’s interested in your genre LOL), a writers conference, or in this case Twitter.

Do you see my hat? no? that's because i threw it in the ring - Dwight -  quickmeme

Pitches come in different sizes. In #DVpit, your novel’s description is meant to tantalize, making the literary agent or editor want to know more. On average, the pitch should not be more than 280 characters (yes, characters, not words). Summarizing your entire novel in such a small way seems impossible, but it can be done.

Your best DirtyBomb Meme? - General Chat - Splash Damage Forums

Should the agent or editor show interest, they <3 “like” your pitch, and you, in turn, will go to their Twitter page or website and find out their submission requirements. This can be anything from the first five pages of your “completed” manuscript, first 50 pages or the entire thing. Then the prayer, nausea, and constant coffee drinking begin LOL! But seriously, I was nothing but nerves today. I think I edited my pitch, then query letter, numerous times over the weekend.

Work In Prograss GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

A lovely representative from one of the literary agencies was kind enough to give me a quick critique of my pitch, and I walked away feeling much more confident about my choice of words and my chances of being seen. As of 4:42 pm, I did not receive much of a response, but I found three agents I am excited about contacting.

Vivica A Fox Lets Do This GIF by Face The Truth - Find & Share on GIPHY

If you plunged into #DVpit today, I hope your words reeled them in, and you got a bite! Have you ever pitched before? I invite you to share your experience!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Scene: Lovecraft Country

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

The Cthulhu (Khlûl′-hloo). I’ve seen t-shirts, memes, masks of all kinds for years regarding this creature. But besides being grossed out by the sight of it, I had no interest in knowing its origins until it was brought to life in the Lovecraft Country series on HBO. Don’t get me wrong. I am still not a fan of horror. However, I do enjoy Sci-Fi/Fantasy and write (as you know) in that genre. Were it not for my husband, drawing me into Matt Ruff’s dark world. I would have missed out on a great series.

Impatient cthulhu loading icon GIF - Find on GIFER

Partly influenced by the work of H.P. Lovecraft, the series is vastly different from his racist views. Ruff and Misha Green (showrunner) explore and confront systematic racism, the Tulsa race massacre, the lynching of Emmett Till, and many other horrors during the Jim Crow era – while including supernatural elements.  

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

Some of the scenes were difficult to watch:

– Ruby shedding her skin. (I barely peeked through my fingers.) It was hard to compare her gory metamorphosis to that of a butterfly. I would instead refer to it as a transformation of one’s inner self, removal of inhibitions, or a chance for Ruby to tap into freedom without consequence;

Lovecraft Country – Strange Case (S1E5) – BLACK WITH NO CHASER
“I enjoyed the entire day, using the only currency I needed: whiteness.” Ruby-

– Christina allowing herself to be beaten to understand better what happened to Emmett Till. (Even though I’m still unsure if that was her real purpose) and Leti watching as Tic’s ancestor burned alive during the massacre. 

Fire home GIF - Find on GIFER

Last night was the finale, and I hope HBO plans to move forward, starting with Tic’s son George’s life. It looks like Montrose Freeman and Letitia may have done an excellent job raising him since he wrote the story of his family’s origins. I’m seriously considering a royal blue wig or embracing the image of warrior Hippolyta this Halloween.

Lovecraft Country' soundtrack: An episode-by-episode guide - Insider
“I am…”

If you have not watched this yet, please do so it’s worth it. But if you are a scaredy-cat like me, don’t do it alone! LOL!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

A Writer’s Transformation

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

Fall is now in full swing. We are enjoying brisk walks, visiting pumpkin patches and apple orchards, wearing our favorite cozy sweaters, and dipping that piece of buttered cornbread into a piping hot bowl of chili. We have made it through to the last quarter of the year, and just as seasons change and trees transform (I so enjoy the shades of burnt orange, mustard yellow, and burgundy), we too experience transformation. In this instance, I refer to the writer’s transformation.

beauty family GIF by PAWORKS

With each word we write, regardless of the form we chose to write in, we undergo a metamorphosis. It can be small or large, but we are never the same. As creatives, we chose to share a part of ourselves with the world by writing books, short stories, and even music—and once it’s given, we can never take it back. But why would you want to? Do we not create because we are compelled to do so? Is it not human nature to want to make a connection—to leave a mark?

Cinderella Transformation GIF - Cinderella Transformation Gown - Discover &  Share GIFs

When I note the success of writers like N.K. Jemisin, J.K. Rowling, and Stephanie Meyer, I wonder if they started putting pen to paper because of a love for the written word, a wish to become famous one day, or both. Being picked up by a literary agent and eventually a major publishing house is a grand dream indeed. But such a thing will never be gifted to you. As you know, the writer’s journey, like the hero’s journey, is a bumpy road, riddled with moments of joy and disappointment. It is those very things that contribute to a writer’s transformation.

season 2 GIF

A creative on Twitter talked about some of her earlier works and how she cringed after reading them. I laughed because I feel the same way sometimes. “OMG! I actually thought I was ready to be published? UGH!” But I know for sure that my writing has grown in leaps and bounds. I would be more concerned if I did not change at all.

What ‘writerly’ transformation have you experienced? Are you more confident as a writer—less fearful of sharing your work with others? Perhaps, you aren’t quite there yet? Regardless of your level of transformation, I would love to hear about it.

Thanks for reading my thoughts, and please come again soon!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Does Music Insight Creativity or Distract from the Process?

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

Yesterday, I signed into my computer and brought up YouTube on my monitor. The songs I listen to started to play, and I ‘vibed’ to them as I edited my manuscript. Some people find music distracting while working, but I find that it gives me energy and gets my imagination moving. When I hear music like:

  • James Blake’s Retrograde; 
  • Robert Frobisher’s The Cloud Atlas Sextet (I discovered it in the movie); 
  • Solange’s Cranes in the Sky; 
  • Katy Perry’s Wide Awake; 
  • Civil Twilight’s Letters from the Sky; or
  • Ed Sheeran’s, I See Fire;

my thoughts travel to places only found within my mind’s eye and evokes emotions that seep into my words and characters.

GIF music - animated GIF on GIFER

For those who believe in writer’s block, music can also be an excellent remedy. It can loosen you up mentally and physically, and help you break through to the new ideas awaiting you on the other side. I am a visual person, and if I close my eyes and listen to certain types of music, I can picture characters and scenes in my head. For example, my novel is influenced by Yoruba culture.  As a Caribbean woman, I enjoy music steeped in the rhythm and beats found in my culture—which is quite similar to African tunes. Music like Kes’s Hello (Folklore Riddim), Yemi Alade’s True Love, Wiz Kid’s Smile or Koffee’s Toast draw me into a world where I can smell curry chicken, taste mango, peel cassava, feel warm breezes upon my skin, or see swaying palm trees on an island.

Palm Trees GIFs | Tenor

I saw a movie called The Photograph a few months ago, and the soundtrack is exceptional. There were times where the music said more than the words spoken by the characters. Especially, when a scene was particularly emotional (love, hate, despair, joy, etc.) I shared what I thought would be great music for my novel’s soundtrack in an earlier blog post. I may visit that topic again once Amachi’s Hope is published!

What are your feelings regarding music and writing? Do you feel as I do, or would you rather silence while creating? I invite you to share your thoughts! Thanks for visiting, and come again soon!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

“Are you a Fraud?” What is Imposter Syndrome?

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

A few days ago, a woman on Twitter wanted to know if anyone had experienced or was currently dealing with Imposter Syndrome—belief that you’re not as good as you thought you were. In this instance, the writer questioned whether she was a good writer. She received so many rejections to her queries that the writer was contemplating throwing in her writerly towel. Which I thought was sad. Many other writers and I told her not to give up and keep pushing forward.  

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I’m sure that many professional writers (both living and dead) and writers on many levels of their literary journey have gone through the “Am I Good Enough?” stage. Even now, as I inch closer to pitching next month, my stomach feels queasy, and Doubting Thomas has begun to invade my headspace, whispering sour words of discouragement. 

doubt – Page 3 – GIF

But I must say that I had full-blown Imposter Syndrome a few years ago. I screwed up the courage to turn in the first five pages of my manuscript for a pitch competition, and basically, I was kindly demolished. But it made me realize that my novel was not ready for pitching or querying. I can look back at that time and see that experience for what it was—a hard lesson that I needed to learn.

Lessons GIFs | Tenor

Now I am much more confident about the work I’m putting forth and feel ready to pitch and query my novel. Do I feel like an imposter? Right now, I cannot say that I do. I feel optimistic about what awaits me on the horizon. But I am also bracing myself for the possibility of rejection, which is part and parcel of the game. 

You Got This GIFs | Tenor

Are you experiencing Imposter Syndrome—questioning whether you have the right stuff, or have you pushed that negative energy aside? Regardless of what side of the spectrum you are on, I’d love to hear your story.

Thanks for coming through, and please visit again soon!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

The Last-Minute Manuscript

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

So last week, I read one of the many blog posts out there about writing. This one referred to the elusive email—you know that diamond in the rough, a rare pearl in a sea of query rejections; that email from a literary agent asking to see your FULL manuscript?  

happy, nice, suicide squad, applause, clapping, will smith, clap, 1live,  applaus, happy clapping Gif For Fun – Businesses in USA

The thing that stood out in her blog post was not that she got THE CALL. But that she queried when her manuscript was unfinished.

Gasp GIFs | Tenor

The writer teetered between joy and terror and pounded out the last four chapters of her novel overnight. She then turned it over to the agents (the writer had been blessed to receive two requests at that point) within the next day or so.

The idea of being in such a situation strikes fear in my heart.

Emotions of Fear, Horror on GIFs. 100 Animated Images

I could never create quality work under such pressure. It would be gibberish. LOL! I am in the habit of editing multiple times, and I could not turn in my work without an editor reviewing it first. Of course, everyone’s experience is different, and she said as much. But I cannot stress enough the importance of making sure that your manuscript is done BEFORE querying, especially if you are querying for the first time. Now, if you are an old pro, then this rule may not apply to you or maybe you thrive under pressure!

If you are a planner and not a pantser, then perhaps it’s not impossible to produce the last chapters of your novel on short notice. I tried being a planner once, but that fell through. I could not write without feeling the need to change something in the story.

Change Is Good Video GIFs | Tenor

I’m glad that the writer (who has likely published more than one book by now) got the call of her dreams. She did not mention if she found herself in such a situation again. But considering how stressful it was, she has likely steered away from the last-minute manuscript.

Are you a published writer? If so, have you ever queried knowing your novel, screenplay, article etc., was unfinished? How did you feel about doing so? I welcome you to share your experience.

Thanks for visiting, and please come again!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Redemption Song: My Interview with Kioi

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

Today I am interviewing Kioi. A former antagonist in my novel Amachi’s Hope. He is a descendant of Amachi and has done a complete 180 since his story began. Kioi is the perfect example of redemption. One who has changed his life for the better—though I don’t think he entirely agrees. 

***

Me:    Welcome, everyone. I would like you to meet Kioi. Formerly a villain in my novel Amachi’s Hope, and a member of the now-defunct Shopana tribe. How are you today Kioi?

Kioi:   Blessed!

Me:    How so?

Kioi:   Thanks to the lovely Tarisai (she will always be the love of my short life) and the goddess Amachi’s guidance, I was given a chance to reincarnate and to somewhat make amends for the terrible things I did in my early life.

Me:    Like what?

Kioi:   (Kioi winced) Don’t you know my story? You are the one who wrote it?

Me:    True. But my audience has not read my book yet.

Kioi:   Well, let’s put it this way. Many of the things I did in my past life were influenced by a horrible creature. He used the Shopona and me as pawns to enact his evil plans.

Me:    You mean Bujune?

Kioi:   Please do not speak his name out loud. (Kioi looked about as if he expected Bujune to slither out from the nearest corner).

Me:    Sorry. But he is no more. Thanks to you, the ancestors, and descendants of the Olorun, Ifa, and remaining Shopona. Power in numbers and all that.

Kioi:   Indeed!

Me:    Do you feel guilty for your second chance at life and first chance at love?

Kioi:   Yes. I still do. The lives that were taken; their souls will never truly rest. They’ll never experience rebirth, connect with their families or find love once more. How can I not understand their need for vengeance?

Me:    Agreed.

Me:    There was a musician named Bob Marley, who wrote a song called “Redemption Song.” I feel like his words are fitting to your redemption.

Kioi:   You mean he was a storyteller?

Me:    I’m sorry. Yes! But his words were accompanied by music. The song was written many years ago (in my realm), and people relate to these words in different ways. Here are some of the verses: 

“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery

None but ourselves can free our minds” …

“How long shall they kill our prophets

While we stand aside and look?”

I feel as if you have accomplished these things in your journey to enlightenment and freedom. Freeing yourself from Bujune and his mental bondage and standing up with your brothers and sisters (living and dead) to defeat Bujune. Don’t you agree?

Kioi:   Well. When you put it that way, I guess I have redeemed myself. But it’s still hard to accept. So many people died because of me. It’s part of the reason why I did not believe I deserved to be loved or deserved to ascend to Orun; oh, I mean heaven. (Kioi showed a rare smile)

Kioi:   One last question. Do you have it within you to forgive Bujune?

Me:    (The look on Kioi’s face answered my question.)

Kioi:   How can you ask me that! He ruined my life! Took me from my mother, made me suffer mentally and physically, used me to kill others! How can you ask me such a thing?

Me:    I’m sorry. But isn’t the road to ascension also paved with forgiveness? If the High God did not think you capable of it, you would not be in Orun.

Kioi:   Perhaps, but I think I was allowed in because the High One also felt he had something to atone for.

Me:    I assume you mean him turning his back on your suffering?

Kioi:   Perhaps.

Me:    Well on a more poignant note. Do you think you’ll ever see Tarisai again?

Kioi:   By the goddess, I hope so. I’ll never love anyone as I did Tarisai. Thank you for bring us together.

Me:    It was my pleasure. As a parting gift, I’m going to play “Redemption Song” so you can hear all the words. Ibukun brotha!

Kioi:   Blessings to you as well sista!

If you would like to know more about Kioi’s journey, I hope you’ll read Amachi’s Hope when it’s published in the near future! 🙂

Writers: No Excuses!

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

As some of you may already know, #ChadwickBoseman Marvel’s T’Challa in the #BlackPanther franchise lost his fight with colon cancer. He was only 43 years old. Aside from the mark he left on the cinematic industry and black community as a whole, Mr. Boseman was the epitome of bravery during a situation that would have broken others. Little to no one knew that he was sick, and he worked tirelessly almost to the end. As I read the articles and listened to the reports about him, it only re-emphasized that if you want something bad enough, nothing should stand in your way—in other words, no excuses.

Beyonce Excuses GIFs | Tenor

God knows this year has been beyond difficult for many of us. We are still dealing with a virus that is without mercy and has taken away many of our loved ones. Nonetheless, we endeavor to endure, to push past the negativity, and continue to work towards our goals. 

Wonder Woman GIFs | Tenor

When faced with the frustrations that come with publishing/writing, one can feel compelled to throw up their hands and say, “I’ve had enough! I’m tired of the rejections, harsh critiques, writer’s block, hours lost, etc.” But nothing worthwhile comes for free. If you need a moment like I did to step back and re-evaluate your writer’s process, then take it. But make sure you “get back on the horse” as they say, and finish what you started. Don’t linger solely on your negative experiences, but think of the positive comments and encounters that encouraged you. Stand in front of your mirror and say out loud, “I’m on the right track!”

Me trying desperately to get my players back on the right track after they  misinterpreted the info I gave them... - dndmemes

As we move through the rest of this year, also think of all the things that you want to achieve—whether they are ‘writerly’ goals or not. Then create a list and put them before you. Give yourself a deadline for each, regardless of the size. If getting published is your goal, move forth. Getting a house, going back to school, losing weight, buying a car, becoming debt-free, cooking a meal without burning it, it matters not. I’ve said this before, ‘Do not stand in your way.’ Mr. Boseman accomplished more in 43 years than some have done in a lifetime. 

Are you ready to make your dreams come true? What steps are you willing to take to make that a reality? Remember, no excuses! 🙂

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

The World Through the POV of a Writer

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

It’s lunchtime, and I am on the way to my usual salad spot to do a quick grab and dash. Wearing a mask on such a lovely day stinks, but it is what it is. The streets (in comparison to how they were a few months ago) are quite different. The traffic is light, and there are only a handful of people moving about.  We all go out of our way to adhere to the good ole’ social distancing rules but give one another a friendly nod as we pass.

10 Alternative Ways to Greet People While Keeping Distance

As I hustle up the street, it crosses my mind that if I were looking for fodder for a book, I would not find it here. There was nothing to incite a flurry of imaginative thought, which was depressing. Writers tend to view the world around them differently than the Average Joe. They may look at my boring, relatively desolate street and suddenly think of an excellent idea for a dystopian novel. Another might look at an empty parking lot as the perfect place for a clandestine meeting between secret lovers. Even better, they may look at the site of a recently demolished building and think of an intensive thriller where a villain is stalking the protagonist. Well, look at that, I thought of something after all! LOL!

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Being a writer can be tiring. (Speaking only for myself of course!) Your mind rarely shuts off. If you are someone that writes consistently, you are always looking for new ideas—whether it’s for a book, short story, blog, article, etc. Sometimes being under a deadline (self-imposed or not) takes away the fun of just coming up with creative ideas. This is where the infamous “writer’s block” might rear its ugly head. But don’t let that creature scare you. If anything, walking away from your work and going out (even if you live on a quiet street in the middle of a pandemic) can be just what you need to re-ignite your creative juices.

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What is your ‘writerly’ POV? What lens do you use when you observe the world around you? I invite you to share! Thanks for visiting and come again soon!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

My First Experience with a Beta Reader

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

There comes the point when you should utilize the services of someone outside your friends and family. Intentionally leaving your story and self-open to either: “I love it!” or “Dear Lord, you may want to reconsider having writing as a possible career choice!” LOL! So, I finally did it. I screwed up the courage and communicated with a beta reader for Amachi’s Hope on Fiverr. https://www.fiverr.com/ It’s an excellent website for finding beta readers and other freelance services. 

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When choosing a beta reader, make sure:

1. He/she is skilled in that area.

2. They have plenty of positive reviews about their work performance from other writers.

3. They discuss in detail what you should expect from them: a fair, detailed, no-nonsense critique that tells you the strengths and weaknesses in your novel (in the form of a report)

4. Acceptable fee for their services.

5. Tight on deadlines.

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My experience with my beta reader was great! I could not be happier. I got back my review a day before it was due. She sent me a detailed report discussing all the positives and the areas that needed work. Nothing she said to me was shocking as I knew there would be parts that required adjustment. But most importantly, it was her genuine love of my book. It made me feel good knowing my words had such an encouraging effect on her as a reader, and she completely understood the message I wanted to convey.

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2020 has been a crappy year thus far, but not completely. I am more determined than ever to get my book traditionally published, and this experience has only added fuel to my fire—next steps: one more beta reading, copyediting, and pitching! 

Have you used the service of a beta reader before? If you have, was it a positive or negative experience? If not, have you thought about doing so?

I invite you to share your thoughts. Thanks for visiting and come again soon!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Can a novice writer offer sage advice to other writers?

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

We have all been there. You got up one day and decided, “I want to write a book!” Some of us know what we want to write about, while others have to mull it over. You may have been immersed in writing for some time—like myself. I am not a novice, but I wouldn’t call myself seasoned either LOL! Perhaps you have a blog, or you’ve been posting short stories on Wattpad and have a following. What genre are you most interested in? Do you want to be the next Tolkien, N.K. Jemisin, Nora Roberts, Octavia E. Butler or are you greener than the first blade of grass on a Spring day—with no idea where to begin?

Grass GIFs | Tenor

Any writer worth their salt started from the bottom. They’ve had to do research, join critique groups, tolerate rejection, and talk to other writers about their experiences.  Wading in ‘writerly’ waters is not a simple thing, and if you are not determined to be published one day, you may sink. As such, the novice writer should find as much information as they can on the process. Pick up the most recent Writer’s Digest book or check out their website. Find out if they are a pantser or planner. Check out writers’ conferences. See what the big hoopla is about the dreaded query letter (never too early). As he/she moves forward in their journey, they may be filled with advice—willing to share the ups and downs and lessons they’ve learned thus far. 

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There’s no such thing as a writer that knows everything. Even the seasoned writer has to do the groundwork for a new book when developing their plot, characters, milieu, etc.  You don’t have to be a certain age to become a published author, either. Lately, I’ve seen children as young as twelve becoming bestselling authors. It’s all about finding that niche. What are readers looking for, and how can you profit (professionally, personally, and hopefully financially) from it?

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But most importantly, whether you are a novice or seasoned writer, shouldn’t you love what you do? It’s that passion, that need to share your voice with others, that will keep you moving forward even if you question whether writing’s really for you. Writers support writers (well, at least they should) no matter what level they are. So, if you are just starting out and you discover something that will benefit another writer, pass it on. They, in turn, may pay it forward. 

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What information have you shared as or when you were a novice writer? If you are a seasoned writer, do you have any “sage” advice for those who are just starting out? If so, I invite you to share, and please visit again!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

What possessed me to start blogging, AGAIN?

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

“What in the hell am I going to write about this week?” is the question that plagues some bloggers when they post. Some of us post weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly. But it doesn’t get much easier unless you are a planner, and you know what you want to write about far in advance, or you have two or three posts already created. Rarely do I find myself in such a position. With everything I have going on in my life, I don’t start thinking about ideas for my post until the weekend. You’re probably wondering, “If blogging causes you so much angst, then why do it?” Why indeed. 

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Amachi’s Hope (version 2.0) is not my first foray into blogging. It was 2014, and I wanted to find ways to promote my book. Yes, this novel has been simmering for some time. Aside from the interviews conducted through neighboring bloggers and a talk radio show where I read an excerpt from my book, I wanted to make a real connection with what I hoped would be my future readers. So, I started blogging, and it was terrifying. When I uploaded my first post, I was excited and nervous—unsure if I made the right decision.

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I blogged every week for almost two years (which I believe was an achievement). I shared my journey on writing Amachi’s Hope, editing, pitching, other story ideas, and my opinions on social issues. I had some followers in the states, but most of my readers were in Europe. Until now, I’m still unsure why but I had no complaints. After a rather crushing experience with #pitchwars, I decided to step back from my blog and dedicate more time to my novel.

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Fast forward to last year; I reactivated my blog. I was finishing my MA program and in the process of starting developmental edits for Amachi’s Hope. So far, the blog is going well. It keeps my creative juices flowing! But it’s still (occasionally) a struggle to come up with topics. However, I’ve also stepped farther into the social media pool by creating Twitter, IG, and FB pages. I have followers on those pages, but blogging not so much. I’ve read plenty of articles about drawing readers to your blog: Following bloggers who have interests similar to your own and posting on their pages. Offering to do a guest post or doing interviews. Goddess knows I need to get better about doing those things. Readership is not gifted to you; you have to work for it.

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One of my Twitter colleagues recently expressed how difficult it is for her to blog. She started her blog gun-ho and gradually felt herself losing interest. Have you ever found yourself in that situation, or are you a planner with blog posts galore and plenty of followers? If so, I would love to hear about your experiences!

Thanks for visiting and come again soon!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

“Why do you write?”

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

Since today is #MotivationalMonday I thought is would be cool to share a short story I wrote a few years back. I hope it gives you the incentive to keep pushing forward in your writing, editing, querying or whatever part of the journey you’re in at this moment! Enjoy!

***

“I am a writing genius!”

Thirty-year-old Olivia, a/k/a Liv, stood before a hanging mirror and barked out her daily mantra. Sucking her teeth, she rolled her dark-brown eyes at the image.

“Who are you kidding?”

For just over six years, the gaping maw that was her mailbox spewed out rejection letters from publishers, literary agents, editors, none of whom were interested in anything she had to say. 

“There isn’t a market for your type of work—consider another genre.”

Frustrated, Liv found herself standing at a crossroads—should she pack up her manuscript once and for all or ignore the Doubting Thomas that whispered in her ear each day.

“Give up, Olivia! Writing is for everyone, but you!”

Liv dragged herself into the living room and flopped down onto a frayed, gingham print couch.

“Maybe I should re-write my story.”

As quickly as that idea crept up, it was ruthlessly crushed underfoot.  Liv zoned out as her mind rocked back to the past.

***

“Come on down and get a free turkey with any 75-dollar purchase!”

“Hurry! Supplies are limited and Thanksgiving …”

Liv leaned forward and switched off the small black AM/FM radio on the counter beside her. Getting up, she made herself walk away from the sturdy table, chair, and laptop that were her closest friends for the last two years.  Slender fingers and slim, brown arms stretched towards the chipped ceiling of her quaint apartment in NoHo.  Liv sauntered over to the living room window and slid back the beige curtain that blocked her view to the bustling street below.  It was 2:00 a.m. on a Saturday, and the city still pulsed with life.

Liv laughed out loud and hugged herself tightly. “The final period at the end of the last sentence has been written. My work here is done.”

 She rolled her eyes. “Geez, I sound like that monkey from the Lion King. I need to get out more.”

After two years, Liv’s 450-page manuscript or masterpiece (according to her) was finished.  All the characters in her head had been brought to life on paper. Closing her eyes, she could see their images and hear their voices.  Liv knew their personalities, fears, hopes, and dreams, and now she planned to share all of that with the world.

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“I remember that night like it was yesterday. I was elated but filled with equal amounts of anxiety and hubris.  My book was one of a kind, and when the publishing industry caught a whiff of it, I would be an overnight success!”

 Liv laughed when she thought of it. After a long night of binge-watching Harry Potter movies, Liv woke up the next morning and dove to her computer.

“N.K. Jemisin, here I come!” She bellowed to no one in particular.

Soon Liv’s life consisted of only work, home, critique groups, and an occasional dinner with her parents. Liv’s mom was skilled at bombarded her only daughter with guilt. She’d lay on her Jamaican accent to push her point home—sounding like she just came off the boat. It didn’t matter that her mom had been in the U.S. since 1968.

“Imagine. I brought you into this world, and you can’t find time to come and see me?”

“Mom, I just saw you two weeks ago!”

“What is two weeks? When mi dead and gone, then you will feel it!”

 ‘Note my mother was as strong as a lion and still is.’

“Maybe if I had a grandchild, I wouldn’t require so much of your precious time.”

After I escaped, I admitted to myself that I was turning to a hermit. If there was an AA for writers, surely I would have joined. The coming and goings of the world were of no real consequence. My answering machine was full, and the milk in my fridge was way past its expiration date. I would peek out on occasion to make sure there were no fires to put out, but then I’d bury myself into and under my prose like a mole would dirt. Writing had become an addiction. Now I wonder if it was worth it.

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The new year was just days away, and still, I had no luck.  If I were foolish enough to make writing my sole means of support, I would have been living on the street.  Everyday colorful envelopes appeared in my mailbox. I was invited to several holiday parties, but I was in no mood for any of them. 

It was 10:00 p.m. on New Year’s Eve when a loud knocking sound came from my door.

“Olivia! I know you are in there. Open up!”

I dragged myself from the couch and opened the door to my high-spirited cousin Lorraine. 

“Seriously, Liv. Do you plan on bringing in the new year like this?  Depressed and alone, wrapped up in an old, dusty-ass blanket like some spinster with Dick Clark as your only company?” She asked as she sashayed in.

“I received another rejection letter today.” I mumbled and flopped down onto the couch. 

Sighing, Lorraine rolled her brown, oval-shaped eyes and gingerly sat down next to me. She wore a sexy, black velvet mini dress. Lorraine swiftly brushed her hands over her svelte, hips, and thighs and got back up. Her stoosh self would not tolerate a bunch of lint spotting her dress like polka dots. 

“Liv,” she said wearily. 

“I’ve wanted to ask you something for a while, but I wasn’t sure how you would react.”

“What?”

“Why do you write? I mean seriously, why do you bother?  It has been what, almost five years, and still, you’ve heard nothing.  I mean, what drives you? Because if this was me,” she looked me up and down with pity, “I would have given up a long time ago!”

I did not bother to correct Lorraine on how long it had been. It would have looked even more dismal.

“It’s hard to explain Lorraine.” I let out a long-suffering sigh.

“And to tell you the truth, only a writer would understand.”

Lorraine frowned as she attempted to get up.  I quickly grabbed her wrist.  “Listen, Lo, I did not mean to insult you, but it is what it is.  Only another writer would understand what I’ve been through.” 

I pointed to my large wooden shelf. It was overflowing with books.

“Do you think those authors were discovered overnight? They struggled just as much as I am. But they found someone willing to take a chance on them. I need that too.”

“Well, your dream is not going to come true, while you are here moping around! Come on!” Lorraine yanked me off the couch and pushed me through the bathroom door.

“You have a half-an-hour to get dressed.  I am going to a party, and you, my dear, are coming with me!”

Wake Up Sigh GIF by Denyse®

I sighed deeply, beyond ready to shake off the old year and begin thinking of ideas for the new.  But I felt guilty for insulting Lorraine and wanted to keep the peace.  Jumping into a yellow cab, we stopped in front of a skyscraper at the corner of a major intersection downtown.  There was a lot of excitement as people rushed to get to their destinations before midnight.  After paying the cabbie, Lorraine pulled me out of the car and into a beautiful, brightly lit lobby. 

“You better hurry, ladies!” said the doorman as we hustled by.

“You only have fifteen minutes left!”

As we ran into the elevator and the doors shut before us, I turned to Lorraine. “Who’s throwing this soiree anyway?” I asked suspiciously.

“You’ll see…” Lorraine responded with a secret smile. 

We were on the fiftieth floor when the doors opened. My mouth fell open from shock.  Stretched across the top of a set of ballroom doors was a banner:

THE ASSOCIATION OF AFROFUTURISM AUTHORS

NEW YEAR’S EVE GALA

I had to fight the urge to yell out.  Tickets for this event were sold out months before.  I squeaked when one of my favorite authors strolled by. 

“I don’t know what to say.”  I wrapped my arm around Lo and gave her a big squeeze, but it did not last long. She wasn’t one for drawn-out displays of affection.

“Lo, this is so unlike you.”

My cousin rolled her eyes when she saw the smirk on my face.

“When I listened to you this evening, for a moment, I thought you were giving up.  It does my heart good to know that your inner fire still burns bright!” Spreading her arms out before her, she carried on. 

“There are publishers, agents, and authors galore. I bet before the night is over, you’ll be one step closer to your dream!” 

Lorraine pulled me into the crowd just as the old year ended, and the new year began.

“New beginnings abound!” I yelled.

***

Thanks for visiting! Come again soon!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Writers: Can creativity be taught?

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

What is creativity exactly? Merriam-Webster defines it as “the ability to create; the quality of being creative.” But as you know, creativity comes in many forms. For example, did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? That you had the knack for putting pen to paper and opening the door to new worlds? I’ve loved books since I was a kid and enjoyed writing even more. Ever since I made up a story about a car dangling over a bridge in second grade, I knew I was in trouble. 

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Today I came across a Twitter post where a tweeter commented about a book she read. I cringed when she stated that the book was awful and no matter how gentle the review, all her comments would be negative. This made me wonder: Can creativity be taught? If someone decides “I want to be a professional writer!” and never had the inclination to write before, how do they know if it’s in them to create prose, to wax poetic, to manipulate words in a way that crafts characters, places, emotion? That’s a hard question to answer and not something you’ll know overnight.

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While in grad school, I created a curriculum for a fourth grade English class. I swear that was one of the hardest things I had to do and gave me even more respect for teachers. (Let’s not even talk about what they’ve done during COVID.) So, in this instance, I can see how creativity can be taught. You’re learning different aspects of the English language—built upon through the years, until you can use those words to express what you think and feel.

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Some writers have it, that one thing that makes their stories stand out among others—a voice that draws in a reader from the very first sentence. While for others, it can be heartbreaking to put so much time and energy into something, to discover that it’s not meant for you. It’s similar to a story I read where a protagonist realized after years of dedication and money; that they were never going to be a professional musician. Instead, they would only be a patron of the arts, living vicariously through others, a dream that will always be out of reach.

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Ugh. I know that’s depressing. But I’ve always said that you’ll never know unless you try. Go forth ‘writerly creative’ your answer awaits! You may discover that all you needed was a professor or colleague to expose you to your truth—whatever that may be.

Would you say that you’ve always been a creative writer, or was it something that you were taught? Regardless, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. Thanks for visiting! Please come again!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

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