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?  

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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!”

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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

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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?

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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-

Writers: Is it possible to balance a writing career and a full-time job?

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

So, it’s 5 pm on a Monday and your cell phone rings. On the other line is your literary agent telling you that a publisher has made an offer for your book. She negotiated a tidy sum, and you are now a bit richer than you were the day before. Yay! With this offer, you’ll be receiving all the accoutrements that come with a lucrative book offer, e.g., royalties, recognition, perks, etc. But you’ll also be expected to do speaking engagements, book signings, and all the things that come with such an opportunity. In short, you are officially a full-time writer, and you wave goodbye to your 9 to 5 in the rear view mirror.

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The above scenario only happens to a small percentage of writers. But it doesn’t mean that we should stop trying! We continue with our full-time jobs and carve out time during the day to write. Some do it just before the rooster crows—when the house is still quiet. Others hustle over to their local library or write during lunch. For folks like myself, evenings are the best time—everyone’s asleep or doing their own thing.

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I would love to find myself in a position where I could work from home on an FT basis doing something I enjoy—not many of us get that chance. But in this day and age, where a pandemic has forced us to re-evaluate what it means to work from home, it’s more important than ever to find the things you are passionate about. 

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Last Saturday, one of my favorite DJ’s talked about never giving up on your dreams. Thanks to COVID, he started DJing on IG to cheer the world up through music. As a result, his career took off in ways he never expected. Who knows what the future holds for us as writers? So, it doesn’t matter when you write—be determined to see your book on the shelves one day. And if that means working FT and writing on the side, then the sacrifice is worth it.

Are you an FT writer, or are you writing PT and working FT? Either way, I invite you to share your experiences!

Thanks for visiting!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Writers: What are your short-term and long-term goals?

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

As you know, writing is a process. It doesn’t matter if it’s an article, essay, short story, or novel, you’re dedicating a certain amount of time to your craft. But writing is also deadline intensive. Either you put yourself on a self-imposed deadline, or your editor, literary agent, or publisher puts you on one.

Deadline GIFs | Tenor

It took me some time to write my first novel, with all of life’s ups and downs. So, it was hard for me to put myself on a deadline. Now that I am approaching the end of my first major developmental revision with my editor, I see before me, short- term and long-term goals.

Goals GIFs | Tenor

Short-term:

1. Get my “full” manuscript to my editor so she can start her global review. If you are wondering what type of editor you’ll need, here’s a useful link: 

https://blog.reedsy.com/types-of-editing/

2. Start making requests for beta-readers. **For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term—you obtain non-professional readers who will read your work and offer their feedback. Of course, it helps if he/she enjoys reading books in your chosen genre.

3. If the feedback benefits my story, I will make changes and return it to my editor for a final proofread (another step in the editing process)

4. I need to review and tighten up my query letter and work on my logline a/k/a pitch. You know that one sentence from hell that is supposed to summarize your ENTIRE book! LOL! It’s good to have it down pat for a writers’ conference (should you attend one).

5. Attend my first writers’ conference in October (via online, thanks Corona! Grr!)

6. Confirm which literary agents I want to query. My list has grown within the last few months.

7. Begin the nerve-wracking process of querying in September 2020.

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Long-term:

1. My second manuscript needs work. I have neglected it for long enough. I’m sure the characters in that story are pretty pissed off. (next year)

2. To be in the position to query this story as well.

3. Hopefully, march in the commencement for my MA program. (It was cancelled, like most events.)

4. Receive an offer for representation and a book deal!! YAY!!

Celebration Dance GIFs | Tenor

If you haven’t created a list of goals, you should consider doing so. It may help you stay on the beaten path and not veer off into procrastination. What are or were your short-term or long-term goals? Have you achieved any of them? If so, I invite you to share them.

Thanks for visiting, and please come again!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

I’m Embarrassed to Say… I’ve Never Been to a Writers Conference

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

One of the most important things you can do as a writer is to attend a writers conference. It is the perfect opportunity to connect with publishers, literary agents, editors, and other creatives who write in your genre. You’ll attend seminars on things like ‘The Do’s and Don’ts of Querying,’ ‘Writing for Children,’ or ‘How to Create the Perfect Pitch.’ You may even meet your favorite author. Yet, I have never been to one—shocking.

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I’ve always wanted to go to a conference. Many occur all around the country each year. There’s even one in my area that I planned on attending in October (finally), but with Corona on the loose, I doubt it’s going to move forward. From what I’ve seen on websites, the more popular the conference, the more expensive it can be. On average, one can spend at least $500 for a weekend conference. But that does not include hotel accommodations, airline costs, or even gas if you plan to travel more than 20 miles from your home.

Expensive GIF - Find on GIFER

But if I am truthful, the cost is only part of the reason for my delay. Suppose I pitch my story to an agent, and he or she asks to see a part of my manuscript? Then (by the grace of God), they ask to see the ‘entire’ manuscript, and it is not finished? Imagine the embarrassment you’d feel when you tell them, “Uhh… Yeah. So, my novel is not finished yet—I’m still editing.” I never want to be in that position. It’s rare that your work so enthralls a publisher/literary agent/editor, that they’d want to wait until you are done. Don’t hold your breath. Likely, they will never take you seriously again. I know I’m dramatic, but it can happen, LOL!

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All in all, I hope that the conference in my area comes together (maybe a Zoom conference?), so I can attend. I’ll miss the rush of being there in person, but by October, I would have finished editing, and my novel will be ready.

Are you finished with your novel, short story, etc.? Have you been to a writers conference before? If not, are you ready to pitch your work to a literary agent or editor? If so, I would love to hear about it!

Thanks for coming through, and I hope you visit again!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Writers: Happy Belated Dads Day!

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

This past Sunday was Father’s Day, and though Corona has restricted our movements, it didn’t mean that we could not show our love to our dads by doing BBQs, calling him if he’s far away or exchanging gifts. My oldest son gave my hubby a big hug, the second son cooked, and my youngest son gave him something that he made at camp. 

Free Animated Father's Day Gifs - Fathers Day Clip Art

As we chilled out and binge-watched a series on Netflix, I thought about books that showed the love of the Black father. The term “deadbeat dad” does not apply to all fathers, and a father doesn’t necessarily have to be a blood relation. It can be an older male friend who shares wisdom with your child, a pastor that helps to keep your son or daughter on the straight and narrow, a godparent or in some cases; a mother who must play the role of both parents when the father is unable or unwilling to do so.

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Below are a few great books that show a Black father’s or father figures love in different forms. I hope one of them resonates with you!

Becoming Dad (Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood) by Jr. Pitts, Leonard, 9781932841176
Becoming Dad – Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood
by Leonard Pitts Jr.
Paperback Black Fatherhood II : Black Women Talk about Their Men Book
Black Fatherhood – The Guide to Male Parenting by
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Ph D.
of Thee I Sing – A Letter to My Daughters
by President Barack Obama
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry: 9780525553366 | PenguinRandomHouse ...
Hair Love
by Matthew A. Cherry
Papa, Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse, Barbara Lavallee, 9780811842655
Papa, Do You Love Me?
by Barbara M. Joosse

Janna and the Kings by Patricia Smith
Janna and the Kings
by Patricia Smith

Thanks for visiting and I invite you to come again soon!
S-

#BlackLivesMatter, Adults and Books

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

As the #BlackLivesMatter protests continue throughout the country and beyond, some of you may not be knowledgeable of the movement or its origins. In response to George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the death of teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012, #BLM was created by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi in 2013. Since then, it has become a global network and the term has been used as a battle cry for black civil rights.

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The term #BlackLivesMatter is much more than three words. It’s a fight for equality—a way to show that we are, among all else, human and should be treated as such. [That our lives matter!] The separation of individuals based on race is ignorant, deep-rooted, and just plain wrong. This revolution has now been televised and both blacks and whites are demanding accountability and real change. There is a great movie that came out in 1995 called White Man’s Burden. It occurs in an alternate reality where African-Americans are the ruling class and whites the oppressed. It was ahead of its time and a perfect example of what’s happening in our world today.

A friend of mine asked if I would forward her some books for her church group. She and many others (white and black) want to educate themselves and those around them on systemic racism, white superiority, affirmative action, and all the other issues we deal with as blacks in society. Here are the books I suggested:

Amazon.com: How To Be an Antiracist (9781847925992): Ibram X ...
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About ...
So You Want to Talk About Race: Oluo, Ijeoma: 9781580056779 ...
How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and ...
Road Map for Revolutionaries: Resistance, Activism, and Advocacy ...

I plan to read these books, and I hope you will too. It only takes one person to make a difference. Be brave and have that difficult conversation with your loved ones (adults and children). Change can be big or small, affect one person or many just as long as someone is willing to take that first step. Be the catalyst. 🙂

Thanks for visiting and come again soon!

S-

#BLM, Books, and Children

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

We were just starting to create some semblance of normalcy (whatever that is ) in regards to the Corona pandemic, and now we are in the midst of an epidemic that targets and, in many cases, kill black males and females in our country. As a result, the #BlackLivesMatter movement is in full swing, and protests abound have been occurring all over the US and internationally. 

Black Lives Matter March Sticker by Mia Page for iOS & Android | GIPHY

There was a time when we tried to shelter our children from things that hurt their tender sensibilities. But unfortunately, that has passed. With the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many other victims, we as parents are now responsible for introducing and explaining the topics of #BLM, racism, white privilege, and the reason for the protests.

This powerful ad explores how black parents talk about bias with ...

Last weekend, my youngest son and I watched CNN and Sesame Street’s town hall on racism. It was a great way to discuss with him what’s happening in the world. The program also answered questions from children and parents, both black and white, on what we can do as a society to introduce change. Having the Sesame Street characters discuss (disliking someone because of what they look like) helped to bring some lightness to a heavy subject.

Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism in Austin at Online

If you have young children and you’re not sure how to discuss this matter with them, there are several books out there based on age group, that can be of assistance. Here are a few:

Pre K: Shades of People by Shelia M. Kelly

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Pre-K: The Skin I’m in: A First Look at Racism by Pat Thomas

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Age 3-5: Hair Love – by Matthew A. Cherry. Illustrated by Vashti Harrison.

Destiny Discover Home

Age 5-8: Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights by Rob Sanders

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Age 5-8: Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

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Here are some useful websites as well:

http://www.act4socialjustice.com/awesome-social-justice-books-kids/
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/parenting/kids-books-racism-protest.html

https://www.weareteachers.com/books-about-social-justice/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/kids/8-empowering-middle-grade-novels-kids-interested-social-justice/

https://www.doinggoodtogether.org/bhf-book-lists/chapter-books-to-fuel-social-justice

https://www.embracerace.org/resources/where-to-find-diverse-childrens-books

I hope these sites and the books they offer are useful to you as a parent and your little ones when discussing the topics of race, and diversity 🙂

Thanks for visiting!

Ibukun! Blessings! 
S-

Writers: Where Do You Go to Find Inspiration?

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

More than ever, in the age of Corona, it’s important to find things that inspire you and your writing. But since we are restricted from going out (for a good reason), where can you go, or what can you do to bring positive energy and fresh ideas to your prose? Depending on where you live and whether your city has begun Phase 1 of reopening certain establishments, what venues or locales are good places for inspiration?

Inspiration GIFs | Tenor

National Parks

Can you say ROADTRIP! Grab the family or make yourself get out of the house and head to a national park/trail in your state. It would be a great way to become motivated (mentally and physically), respect social distancing protocols, and breathe oxygen that’s not in your living room! 

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People watching

In my city, restaurants have started outdoor dining again with appropriate spacing between individuals, etc. What better way to find new ideas than to people watch? If you are alone and you have a pad and pencil handy, you might see someone or something that will introduce a burst of insight—new character, environment, story arc, etc. (Don’t forget your mask 😉)

A Capricorn And Sagittarius Watching Someone Suffer GIF | Gfycat

Your backyard

If you are blessed with a backyard, perhaps you can tend to your garden, pull out your lawn chair and dig into a new book, or, better yet, discover or rediscover camping! Imagine pulling out a tent and sleeping bag, burning a marshmallow or two and doing a bit of star watching. There are a few constellations above my home that I’ve always wanted to identify. Stargazing is the best time to do it, and a new revelation may invade you!

Star Gazing Twinkle GIF - StarGazing Twinkle NightSky - Discover ...

Go walking at the oceanfront

Some beaches have reopened. However, if you’re not comfortable being around crowds, (I’m not there yet.) consider choosing a time with the least amount of foot traffic. Perhaps, sunrise or later in the evening in an area that’s not so popular. Sitting alone or with a friend in the middle of a relatively quiet beach and letting the sea air hit you, will contribute to your peace of mind and sweep away your ‘writerly’ cobwebs!

Feeling Alone GIFs | Tenor

As writers and just people in general, we have to be more purposeful and creative when it comes to getting out. Even if it’s just walking around your neighborhood and waving to folks on the other side of your street, if you are dealing with writer’s block or you just need new ideas, head on out and see what new adventures await you!

Have you been inspired by something or someone you saw recently? I would love to hear about it. Thanks for visiting, and please come again!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Aspiring Writers: What are 3 things you wish someone would have told you?

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

I know that some individuals frown upon the word “aspiring” when referencing writers. But it’s fitting because not all writers have published work online or in a magazine or even created their blog (yet). So, for those of you who are new to the game and have yet to experience the odds and ends of writing, I share three things I wish someone told me when I started.

  1. Be 100% sure your work is ready before you query.
Querying 101: Everything you need to snag a literary agent – Tauri Cox

One of the things I did early in my ‘writerly’ journey was query literary agents. My novel was finished (or so I thought), and I had it edited. I could not understand why I kept receiving rejections until I sucked up the courage to enter a pitch competition.  I sent out the first five pages of my manuscript, and the editor (who I can now admit was hard but fair) pointed out my story needed structure and work on the plot, etc. My feelings were hurt, but after I got over my initial embarrassment, I realized what she said was true. I did not know at the time that there were so many types of editors, and if you don’t have the right one, it can make or break your story.  I only used a line editor. What I needed was a developmental editor—one who would help me with the organization and structure needed for my story. The editor I’m working with now is fantastic!

2. Join a critiquing group.

How to Handle Criticism (in GIFs)

After my pitch competition debacle, I joined a writing group that opened my eyes to the writing process. I discovered the “hero’s journey,” character development, structure, plot, world-building, etc. I also developed a harder skin when it comes to receiving critiques from peers. I felt like Lilo sometimes LOL! I was with them for about three years and created a second novel in the process! I live in a pretty creative town filled with writing groups for different age groups, genres, and stages in my writing journey. Plus, it allowed me to connect with people with shared interests!

3. Writers never stop learning.

Animated lettering on Skillshare. | Never stop learning, Lettering ...

Early this month, I graduated with a Masters in Creative Writing and English. I felt that I needed to pursue this degree because I was missing something as a writer. Not only does a book require a foundation, but so does the writer.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, no one comes out of the womb, a professional writer. It’s a process that takes years to develop, and you never stop learning.  Each time a writer creates a new book, it entails research, constant revisions, communicating with those who may know more than you, etc. Some feel that pursuing a degree is a waste of time. But the growth I experienced within the last few years and the work I put in was worth it. If you are not interested in a degree, find other ways to enhance yourself as a writer: Attend writing conferences, read and read some more (in your chosen genre), and, as I mentioned above, associate with other writers. We tend to rub off on each other! LOL!

Are there things you wish you knew when you started writing? I welcome you to share your stories!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

Writers: When is it time to kill off a character?

Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!

You are working on the umpteenth version of your novel. For the most part, the story is flowing well, except you are struggling with what you should do with a particular character. Does this individual still have a purpose? Is he/she a villain that should have “caught it” a long time ago? Or perhaps it’s a hero that decides to sacrifice himself or herself to save another? How do you determine when it’s time to kill off a character?

You Will Be Missed GIFs | Tenor

The main character in the second story of my novel knew that his days were numbered. He was receiving warning visions for some time, and the tool that he used to defend his kin was slowly but surely killing him. But creating and then implementing his death was rough.  As writers, we all make a connection with our characters, so some are harder to get rid of than others. Morenike was a stubborn man that tended to be hard on his family. But as the story progresses, the reader discovers his caring nature. He and his children fought against a common enemy together, and when he died, they were not given a chance to say goodbye.

Say Goodbye GIFs | Tenor

When I think of Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsey Bolton in Game of Thrones, they were two characters who TOTALLY deserved the ugly deaths they received. There’s a certain glee that comes from getting rid of such characters, not to mention the satisfaction given to the readers (and in this case the viewers). Between Joffrey’s poison and Ramsey’s dog attack, karma was given free rein. LOL! 

Yes, They Deserved To Die And I Hope They Burn In Hell! GIF by ...

Closure for a character does not always come in death. They may be a ghost that cannot ascend until they avenge themselves or someone else. In some stories, a character may be killed and later reincarnated to finish what was left undone. A perfect example of that is one of my favorite characters from The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. Aslan’s death by the hand of the White Witch, surrounded by all the evil creatures of the realm, was painful for the reader and for Susan and Lucy to watch. But when Aslan rose again (thanks to the Deeper Magics, before the Dawn of Time), it was right and fitting.

Aslan GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Have you been struggling with getting rid of a character? Did you kill off a character and realized later that it was a mistake? I’d love to hear your story!

Thanks for coming thru and I hope you are well!

Ibukun! Blessings!

S-

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