Thanks, Melissa!

Melissa Embry is one special lady — and writer! We met a few months ago when I conducted a writing workshop for the Mystery Writers of America, Dallas chapter.  I have been trying like the dickens to get back to a meeting because not only is the group filled with experts on how to kill people (for entertainment purposes only) and how to solve crimes (mostly on paper) but also, they know how to have great fun! And the camaraderie within the group is to die for (yes, pun intended!).

But back to Melissa…

Melissa Embry

Melissa Embry, Writer & Author

 

So after my talk, this young lady–Melissa–approaches my table and we have the coolest talk on her short story successes, her detour away from writing short form fiction and her eventual return to it. It was a great interaction. You know how there are some people you feel tied to even after talking to them for only five minutes? Well, Melissa’s that kind of person. Very open. Very honest. Very supportive. Very positive. Let’s see…did I leave out any verys? Oh yeah, very much a woman of her word. She told me she was going to blog about my session and lo and behold…she did.

Check out the thorough blog post she wrote and while you’re at her cyberhome, check out her background (fascinating!) and a few other posts. I promise you it’ll be well worth the extra keystrokes. Don’t forget to introduce yourself. She’s worth meeting.

Thanks, Melissa. You rock!

New (to me) Author Profile

It’s always exciting to meet a new author (new to me anyway) who lives in my vicinity and writes in the same genre (well, almost) as I do. Now you can meet him too…

James Reid

James Reid, Author

I met James Reid through a local writers group – the Writers Guild of Texas, where we are both members. I didn’t know initially we were in the same group because I don’t attend every meeting even though I should given the interesting and educational workshops they conduct. So when I finally attended a meeting (ah-hem!) and met James, we chatted and decided the value of a good writers group is well, invaluable. James followed up our brief discussion of “the value of a good writers group” with a blog post that I found wonderfully affirming.

Please take a moment to cyber-travel to his site and read what he has to say. And when you’re done, hyperlink to Amazon and check out his five-star rated murder mystery, Monsters Behind the Gates. I read it and wow!, two thumbs up.

Back on Track

Since July, I have been trying to blog. I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve started and could not finish. Oh, I had plenty of topics to write about. But either my emotions got in the way and stymied me or my thoughts were so jumbled I could not figure out how to arrange them into form or structure.

In July

I sat down to write a piece on freedom and had planned to post it around the Fourth of July holiday. But I quickly discovered I could not write about freedom when too many people are still not free. How can I espouse life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—words our founding fathers listed as guaranteed rights for citizens of this country—when people like me cannot get justice in the courts, cannot drive without being stopped for ridiculous reasons, cannot find affordable housing (even with a voucher), cannot even get an elected official to pick up his/her phone and talk to me? How can I celebrate freedom when rigged systems, unfair policies, oppressive practices, and pure hatred enslaves those who are the least, the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free? No, there was no writing about freedom, independence, or the old red, white and blue. Too much anger. Intense, boiling anger. No blog post.

In August

The last full month of summer arrives and surely that’s a good month to write about reading, writing or spirituality—the three topics I focus on on this site. Surely I am calm enough, loving enough, optimistic enough to write a mid-year status based on the numerology forecast for 2017 . I sit down to write about the numbers forecast for August and how the eclipse plays into that and dog-gone-it, more of the same. Intense emotions (anger, frustration, and at times hopelessness) and thoughts that are spiraling in a thousand different directions. Lord, what’s wrong with me? Surely my only blog post this summer will not be a reading list? (Not that summer reading lists aren’t important. I enjoy scanning lists of beach – or wherever your summer travels take you – reads.) Why can’t I focus? Why is it that every time I sit down to compose a blog post (or even read), my mind splinters – to the current civil war in America (Confederates versus Everyone Else); to the hate spewing from the White House; to protests denouncing indignities and un-Christian policies; to congressional attacks against core rights; to another shooting, another bombing, another natural disaster. Even the stunning eclipse on August 21st could not superimpose its beauty on this country. The moon performed its breathtaking show and seemingly everyone took a break from life to watch and be awed. But only hours after the show ended, what do we encounter? The threat of nuclear war from one country met by threats and bullying from another. It’s enough to bow in despair. No blog post.

In September

It’s been months now with my mind in tatters. Months now during which I can barely communicate verbally (oh, did I forget to mention a Mercury retrograde that had me talking like a toddler) let alone write – even a simple email. “This cannot go on,” I cry out and thankfully my anguish is felt. My angels, my Muse, my God, whatever spiritual being is hovering over me replies, “Pray!”

“What?” I answer back.

“Pray.”

Something opens inside me and all the tension, heartache and dark feelings I had been harboring inside me evaporates. I am immediately reminded that nothing is bigger than God. Not irrational world leaders, not hate-mongers, not climate change, not jumbled and wayward thoughts, not destructive emotions. Nothing. I am immediately reminded that the one true way to God is through prayer. I smile, sit back in my chair, close my eyes, take a few deep breaths, and think

Pray

Never ceasing

Always in the present

Always on time

Always right and appropriate,

Fashionable and in season

Prayer

Pray

To erase hate. To usher in peace.

For love to reign. For equity, justice, and fairness too.

To eliminate us versus them.

To join all in spiritual union.

Pray

Never ceasing

Until that day when ALL sees the ONE as ALL

Pray!

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Thank God, I am back on track!

Summer Reading Underway

Summer Reading 2017

It’s summer! A belated, yet no less warm (no pun intended) welcome to a more relaxed time, a time when reading figures more prominently in the schedule. At least for me it does and I attribute that to a lighter work load, but mostly to that glorious week called summer vacation. During that wonderful week of disconnecting from the daily grind of life, I have been known to finish up to three books (mostly fiction, 300 pages or less). So in anticipation of my summer vacation (and the reading I’ll do before and after that), I compiled my reading list, ordered my books, and have them neatly stacked, waiting on me. Take a look below at my “goodies” and let me know how your list compares. I’m always on the lookout for great reads (thanks Shamira for last year’s referral!).

Ann’s Summer Reading List – 2017

The Island of Lost Children by Kim Batchelor – A tale that reimagines (who introduced this word into our current language?) the friendship between Peter Pan, the lovable boy who flies and Wendy, the lovable girl who cherishes books. A favorite for adults and children!

The Roux in the Gumbo by Kim Robinson – A multi-generational family saga that traces the lineage of a Louisiana family from slavery to present day. Reminiscent of “Roots” and “Cane River,” it is a long read but quite entertaining.

The Writer and the Rake by Shehanne Moore – A love story that is no doubt all the title promises it to be. A time-traveling, wanna-be bestselling author changes a gentleman of dubious character into a hero. Or does she? Hmmmm, I already feel heat rising from this one.

Shadow of the Final Storm by Carol Craver – This is a story of family intrigue narrated by a ghost. Yes, a ghost! Think “The Lovely Bones” and you’re almost there. There’s no time like summer to prepare for Halloween!

Letters to Yeyito by Paquito d’Rivera – As a nod to my upcoming vacation locale, I am anxious to read about one of Cuba’s most legendary musician, Paquito d’Rivera. In this abbreviated memoir, he writes about music, career, expulsion from Cuba and life in America. I have a feeling this one is going to be a keepsake.

American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar – To get a jump on my fall reading, I’ll finish my summer reading with our book group’s selection for September. This book tells the story of a Pakistani boy growing up in America with struggles that center around identity and religion.

So again, how does your summer reading list compare? What other titles would you recommend?

Happy summer! Happy reading!

PS: During the time it took to create and post this entry, I finished the first two books on my reading list. Please check Amazon and Goodreads for the reviews I wrote about the books.

The Final Spotlight

Hello one and all! I’m back with the final installation on my series featuring women writers.

For the past few months I have been profiling the women writers who I am blessed to share publishing credit with in volume two of Voices from the Block. I’m not going to say I saved the best for last because all the women are simply amazing. As is Dawn Adams, today’s featured writer. Below is the interview I conducted with Dawn. I am so pleased to share it with you.

  1. What prompted you to pursue writing as a creative outlet? I was a voracious reader as a kid, so I guess it was rather natural for me to write as well. I was always jotting down thoughts, stories, phrases and poems that popped into my head.

 

  1. How do you get in the writing mood? I don’t have any type of ritual. As a matter of fact, I tend to write in spurts. My tag name is Nightwriter, which comes from a habit I have of waking up in the middle of the night and grabbing the notepad and pen on the bedside table and writing. A majority of my works have been sparked around two or three in the morning.

 

  1. How do you know when a poem, short story, novel, etc. is “finished?” It varies for me. There are times when I write straight through from concept to completion and I just know it’s done because it came together seamlessly and there is a peace about everything on the page. But there are the times when it comes one line at a time with days, weeks, months and even years in between before it all comes together.

 

  1. What or who has been your greatest writing influence? Oh, there’s not just one. There’s Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Stephen King, Carolyne Keene, Dr. Seuss, and the list goes on.

 

  1. Do you have a preferred writing form? Poetry, short story, scripts, essays, etc.? Poetry was my first love but I enjoy writing children’s stories and scripts also. I have yet to master the short story; however, I’m working on it.
Dawn Pic

Dawn Adams

 

 

 

  1. What are your future writing plans? I have a couple of contemporary adult novels and a children’s book series in the works currently.

 

  1. What do you say to people who tell you, “I want to write a book?” Just do it!

 

  1. What was your first thought when you held your first published work in your hands? (Silence)

 

  1. What was the most challenging thing about the publishing process for you? What was the most rewarding? The most challenging, I think, were the deadlines. I missed a few and had to negotiate additional time. The most rewarding was the feedback, I received. It’s always humbling to hear that something I’ve written has connected with someone in a deep and lasting way.

 

  1. How/What do you feel about the future of publishing? We’re in the digital era, which is great. I have Kindle and Nook apps on my phones, computers and tablets, so I understand the convenience and appreciate it. We have access to more content than ever before and from virtually anywhere in the world. But I’m still old school. I love the feel and smell of books, so my hope is that they never go away. When I think about the publishing process, I see self-publishing gaining even more prominence in the industry and becoming the norm. It has lost the stigma that was once attached to it. And in this age, where everyone wants to tell their story their way, self-publishing gives them the control that is not available in the traditional model, and that is encouraging to many would-be authors.

So now you know what I know. Dawn is not only a talented writer but also a poet, editor, trainer, cheerleader, philosopher, yoga practitioner, mother, entrepreneur, and so much more. I guarantee when you read her poetry in Voices you’ll be impressed.

I hope you enjoyed this series on women writers. It certainly put many smiles on my face to present it. If your summer reading list still has an open spot, I ask you to consider adding Voices from the Block. Thank you in advance, and happy reading!

Here’s Lei…Another “Voices” Author

I am proud to present another author whose work appears in the anthology, “Voices from the Block,” Lei Scott.

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Lei is a poet, songwriter, creative non-fiction memoirist, and a jazz singer. She and I met over ten years ago when we were both volunteers for a community program called, the African-American Read-In. When the Read-In ended, our paths diverged and then one unexpected day, we reconnected through our writers group, the Writers’ Block, www.writersblockinc.org. When I first read her pieces in “Voices,” I was blown away. Her storytelling ability is amazing. In fact, I’d call her a natural considering she hasn’t taken many writing classes and has never attended a writing conference. She is a neophyte to the literary world. Below is the interview I conducted with Lei. I hope you enjoy learning more about this young lady and that you’ll get a chance to read some of her writings.

  1. What prompted you to pursue writing as a creative outlet? I didn’t pursue writing, writing pursued me and there was nothing creative about it. At the age of eleven, my mother made her transition. Pen and paper called me, luring me to unleash the pain into written words. This was a way of escape for me. I could take it out of me and pretend the ugliness ’round me was only words on paper.
  2. How do you get in the writing mood? Most of the time, I don’t get in the mood. The mood gets in me. When “it” calls, I better answer. Sometimes I’m defiant, especially in the middle of the night when I’m sleeping “real good.” But this never works out for me because no matter how awesome and wonderful I think the idea is and I just know I’m going to remember “it,” in the morning, I seldom do. However, while I don’t prepare myself to get in a writing mood, my favorite writing space consists of a beautiful bright sun, mountains, the view and sounds of water flowing, birds chirping in lush green trees and a nice cold or hot something to drink in my hand.
  3. How do you know when a poem, short story, novel, etc. is “finished?” When there is nothing left to write, a peace comes over me announcing “it is done.”
  4. What or who has been your greatest writing influence? Ann Fields (I promise I did not pay her to say this!). Ann is a great mentor and has supported and encouraged me as I take my baby steps. She is knowledgeable and well skilled in her writing craft. She just doesn’t write words, she creates visions with her words. She is a beautiful sister with a big heart. I appreciate her and everything she has done for me and the Writers’ Block, Inc.
  5. Do you have a preferred writing form? Poetry, short story, scripts, essays, etc.? I don’t know yet, I’m just starting. Before this is all over I plan to put my creative hands to whatever spirit brings to me to write, and taste all the flavors. I feel blessed that there are so many forms to choose from and the universe is infinite.
  6. What are your future writing plans? Keep growing, writing, expressing, cleansing, healing and sharing my spirit through words and music until all the hurt is gone and every heart is smiling. Looks like I’ll be writing for a very long time.
  7. What do you say to people who tell you, “I want to write a book?”  I get excited and talk about Ann Fields and the Writers’ Block. I say “go for it” and “everyone has at least one book in them.” I don’t say anything negative or discouraging. They will find out how challenging it can be at times and when they reach those stumbling blocks I hope they have their own “Ann Fields and the Writers’ Block” in their corner.
  8. What was your first thought when you held your first published work in your hands? Thank you God, we did it.
  9. What was the most challenging thing about the publishing process for you? This was my first published piece. Exposing myself to others, during the critique process, and listening to, what I felt at the time, as judgement on my life and creativity was hard. I learned to grow thick skin and keep on writing. What was the most rewarding? Realizing that I actually completed the process, I didn’t give up or give in.
  10. How/What do you feel about the future of publishing? Publishing has become easier with the ability to self-publish. I see an increase in self-publishing as we move into the future, opening doors for writers who might not have had the opportunity to be read. The challenge of getting out to the masses may still exist and the major publishing companies may still control who makes it to the top. But making it to the top and bringing in a bunch of shekels is not always the most important thing – using the gift God gave you is. Write on Writers, Write on, Lei Scott.

So, you’ve just met Lei Scott. I told you she was impressive. And I think you’ll be even more impressed after you’ve read some of her writings. Excuse me now while I go prepare myself for her upcoming songwriting workshop. I know it’s going to be as awesome as she is. Happy reading! Live creatively!

A Continuation of Women and Poetry

A few weeks ago, I was pleased to introduce Danette Cross, a fellow author in the recently released Voices from the Block. I am continuing my series on women writers who are also poets as a nod to Women’s History Month (March) and National Poetry Month (April). This time out I am super excited to feature Kisura Usiku.

Kisura Pic

Kisura writes poetry and fiction and freelances in her spare time. When she’s not writing, she’s making the world a better place through her role as Special Educator in her local school district. In Voices from the Block she has the most diverse offering–a poem, a fiction start (the first few scenes of a novel in progress) and a creative non fiction essay.

I asked Kisura a few questions so we could get to know her better and below are her responses. I hope you enjoy reading her comments and learning more about this dynamic young writer.

  1. What prompted you to pursue writing as a creative outlet?

I’m not sure if I’ve ever pursued it…writing sort of strolled up to my house one day, knocked, and when I opened the door, writing moved in. I guess that means we just clicked. Writing showed up and the connection felt like the most organic thing that’s happened to me.

  1. How do you get in the writing mood?

Reading, listening to great music or watching other creatives work…I also get into the mood to write via emotional pulls: if someone pisses me off or if I am overwhelmed with love, lust, bitterness, rage or snark…I write it out.

  1. How do you know when a poem, short story, novel, etc. is “finished?”

It’s different for different forms for me…with a short story, I enjoy writing endings that leave you wanting more…you know, that’s the end of that conflict, but there’s something lingering or something that makes a reader wish the story went on. A poem, I know it’s done when I’ve conveyed the message in a way that vibrates…like the message echoes in the head of the reader. It’s difficult to pull that off, at least it is to me, so sometimes I will leave a poem unfinished for awhile because I’ve lost the mood or I’ve gone through the emotion that has caused me to pen the poem in the first place. I usually come back to it when the emotion resurfaces.

  1. What or who has been your greatest writing influence?

Um..well there are quite a few and the list is still growing, but some of my favorite writers are Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Lucille Clifton, Gwendolyn Brooks, Toni Morrison, J.K. Rowling, Amy Tan, John Steinbeck, Gillian Flynn, Colleen Hoover, Paula Hawkins, Caroline Kepnes, Robert Dugoni, Robert Bryndza, and quite recently: Yaa Gyasi and Angie Thomas.

  1. Do you have a preferred writing form? Poetry, short story, scripts, essays, etc.?

No preference…just write what moves me.

  1. What are your future writing plans?

I plan to finish and self publish a labor of love: a book of poems about, for, and to my husband…as my first self published book. I have no intention of marketing or doing anything that falls within the traditional realms of publishing/self publishing with this book and will only publish one copy…it’s personal, just for him, but an accomplishment for me because it will be my first published book. It’s the most romantic gesture I can offer…and he deserves that and then some. From there I’m working on a mystery and a literary fiction novel…

  1. What do you say to people who tell you, “I want to write a book?”

Ha, me too, let’s stop talking and do it.

  1. What was your first thought when you held your first published work in your hands?

I still can’t believe it…I held it in my hands and just looked at it and thought, WOW! I’m in here (regarding Voices from the Block)? I half expected to open it and discover that I was the victim of some cruel joke and my writing was cut out of the anthology at the witching hour.

  1. What was the most challenging thing about the publishing process for you? What was the most rewarding?

What isn’t? But if I had to pick I’d say the most challenging thing to me is finding a great cover designer and editor. The most rewarding is avoiding clichés while writing.

  1. How/What do you feel about the future of publishing?

That’s a question that goes against me living in the now…LOL. How do I feel? I feel that I am the future in publishing…not in a self centered way, but in a visualize and manifest my dreams, law of attraction type of way…so I see published works in my future. As for the industry of publishing: it’s controversial…the big five have clout but there is a growing eclipse with self publishing and indie authors. It’s no longer looked down upon…and that’s a great thing for ALL writers in my opinion. You get total control over your art from start to finish…

To check out Kisura’s writings, click here! And I’ll be back in a few weeks with more women as poets.