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.

One Month Wasn’t Enough

Last month we celebrated Women’s History Month and this month we celebrate poets and poetry during National Poetry Month. Because LIFE has been hectic since January, I wasn’t able to post my usual features on fabulous women authors and women groundbreakers. So without consulting the gods, I decided to carry over March and mix it up with April to feature some amazing women poets, some of whom (who vs. whom, anyone know?) I happen to share publishing pages with in Voices from the Block.

So without further delay, the first featured woman poet,

Danette Pic

Danette Cross

Danette is not only a soul-stirring poet, but also…

  1. a gifted vocalist
  2. an inspirational blogger
  3. an expert proofreader
  4. a newlywed
  5. and an all around good person. She’s one of those rare people you easily bond with because she has such an accepting, loving spirit.

I asked Danette to share a bit about herself as a creative person and here’s what she had to say from her soul to her pen to you…

  1. What prompted you to pursue writing as a creative outlet? I love creative expression and realized over time that writing repeatedly gave me the most comfort to the point that I, on occasion, crave the feeling of a pen in my hand.
  2. How do you get in the writing mood? I try to create a relaxing environment, sometimes with instrumental music. This allows my thoughts to flow uninterrupted.
  3. How do you know when a poem is “finished?” A poem is finished when the thought is resolved in some way. Typically, it stops “speaking” or “doing”.
  4. What or who has been your greatest writing influence? My love for reading and words as well as various poets and authors, like Maya Angelou, e.e. cummings, Emily Pound, Victoria Christopher Murray, Francine Rivers, Frank Perretti, J. California Cooper, Donna Hill and Cornel West.
  5. Do you have a preferred writing form? Poetry, short story, scripts, essays, etc.? Poetry. It’s my way of getting my thoughts on paper without strict grammar rules.
  6. What are your future writing plans? More poetry and hopefully some storytelling.
  7. What do you say to people who tell you, “I want to write a book?” Go for it and take it seriously. Use other critical pairs of eyes to produce a good read.
  8. What was your first thought when you held your first published work in your hands? “Wow. I’m printed on a page.” I was blown away, humbled and exposed. My secret was out. 🙂
  9. What was the most challenging thing about the publishing process for you? What was the most rewarding? The most challenging was adhering to deadlines. The most rewarding was completing each step along the way.
  10. How/What do you feel about the future of publishing? 2 things. 1.) I am excited for those who self-publish. Why wait on some select group to approve your work when you can approve yourself? 2.) I hope physical books last forever versus electronic everything. I love hardcovers and am fond of paperbacks.

A big thanks to Danette for opening herself to the world both through this interview and through her lovely poetry. You can learn even more about Danette and read some of her beautiful thoughts by visiting her blog at frolicfinagle.tumblr.com.

Thanks for celebrating women, poetry and more with me. I encourage one and all to go out and discover a new poet this month…maybe it’s you!

2017 in Numbers

The American New Year started January 1, 2017. The Chinese New Year started January 28, 2017. The astrological new year began March 20, which also coincided with the first day of Spring. What all these dates and “new beginnings” tell me is this is the perfect time to share a forecast for 2017. Yeah, I know some of you are saying, “she’s late.” I say, “not.” Only recently have I started feeling like I was finally out of the clutches of 2016. Only recently have I started feeling like a change is happening. Like I have a new sense of confidence, of hope and joy. It feels good to finally shake the severity of 2016 and smile more, laugh more, be more. I attribute this newness to the new year–regardless of the date it actually started.

So on to the 2017 forecast, a year that I’m sure will be like no other. Let me start by saying, I am by no stretch a forecaster. But lucky for us, I know one who is:  Cindy L. Herb. Cindy is a numerologist. She has studied numerology for over 30 years and knows it better than the backs of her hands.

 Cindy Herb

Cindy L. Herb – Numerologist, Author, Friend

When I asked Cindy to write a short post for me about 2017 and what to expect, she so lovingly agreed even though she no longer consults or counsels with individuals or companies on numerology. She only asked one thing of me…be sure to add a disclaimer informing readers this is a forecast only, not a done deal. Freewill and one’s own attitude is as forceful as the universal energies. So remember, how this year plays out rests with you and your heart!

Year 2017 Numerology Energy Vibrations

by Cindy L. Herb

Every year has a specific ‘Universal Year’ number associated with it, giving everyone the dominant general trends for the coming calendar year. In addition, all numbers exert vibrations from both aspects of our world, light and dark. Therefore, in any Universal Year you can expect to see both the constructive and destructive meaning of numbers. Since we all have choice, it is up to you to bring forward those traits you wish—either the constructive side, the destructive components or a combination of both.

The 2017 calendar year is a 1 Universal Year in numerology. Whereas 2016 signified a time of death of the old, 2017 is new birth. This year marks the beginning of a new 9-year Epicycle in numerology. Therefore, you will have more determination and self-confidence. Use this energy, as the things you do this year will affect the next nine years. So be decisive. Now starts a time of new things and major changes. So, if you have wanted to change careers, improve your health, retire or change directions in any way, now is a good time to begin.

Set new goals and begin the process of working towards them. Plan, have a clear vision and direct yourself with strong drive in order to achieve those goals. Look at 2017 as a year of opportunities. Do not worry if it takes a few months to get things rolling (especially since we are still in the shadow of 2016). Therefore, you may be more emotional within the first 3 months. However, if you stay focused, keep a clear head and are organized, things will work in your favor.

You can expect the following monthly highlights for 2017:

January: Emotional month as the energy of 2016 is still around conflicting with the new energy of 2017.

February: Events inspire creativity and optimism, as well as need for adaptability.

March:  Focuses on hard work, progress and opportunity. A time to set the foundation for plans.

April: Brings changes and the unexpected (such as career or residence), requiring more flexibility.

May: Concerns relationships and all affairs of the heart. Responsibility and home are featured.

June: Inward soul searching leaves you more serious and less social.

July: You will begin to see fruits of your hard work. This begins the best couple of months of the year to increase finances and career.

August: A time to let go of things no longer necessary in your life, making room for the new. It could mark the end of a certain era of your life.

September: Could be an emotional month, especially if you have waited to take advantage of the energy this year provides, NOW is another big opportunity to begin new projects. This month highlights heightened confidence, independence and individuality.

October: A time to work in the background, using an indirect approach.

November:  You may start to see your plans taking a more concrete form.

December: Finishing the year with a final push towards the goals set at the beginning of the year.

Copyright Statement: This article was written by Cindy L. Herb and may NOT be reproduced on any related website without express permission of Cindy L. Herb. Copyright 2017 Cindy L. Herb. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Didn’t I tell you she was great? I love her dearly and appreciate her more than words can express. I hope you were encouraged by Cindy’s knowledge and wisdom. Write to me throughout the year and let me know how things are going for you. And I promise to do the same via this channel. In the meantime, if you’d like to read more about Cindy and her amazing journey to becoming a numerologist, check out her book “Awakening the Spirit:  The Open Wide Like a Floozy Chronicles” by clicking here.

cindys-book

 

Make it a GREAT 2017!

 

Amreeka = America = The World

In recent days, we’ve been bombarded with news stories of the fallout of Trump’s decision to halt refugee resettlement efforts, stop refugee entry, totally ban Syrian refugees and step up deportation. Stories of people stranded, handcuffed, turned away, stripped from their children and deposited at the Mexico border with nothing but the clothes on their backs. These stories, like the decision that started all this coverage, were hard to digest. I was angered, frustrated and at times, sad, lacking hope. As I often do when distressed, I sink into books. I find that reading helps me to either recenter or escape (and regroup later when I emerge). I opened my reader, hoping to find my center, and scanned the various unread titles. I ran across this one, A Country Called Amreeka: U. S. History Retold through Arab-American Lives. How appropriate at a time like this, I thought and hurriedly launched the book.

alia-malek

This non-fiction book by Alia Malek is a history book (covering the ’40s through the early 2000s) told in parallel. One parallel track is the Arab-American version of history as told from the perspective of various Arab-Americans who lived the history and the other parallel track is the American political/media version as reported by news outlets and governmental agencies. I purchased the book last November (2016) after meeting the author and hearing her speak. Back then, I was impressed with her message on inclusion and unification, and her thorough knowledge of U.S. and Middle East history. But since reading her book, I have been more impressed with her ability to educate me. In Amreeka, the Arab-American word for America, I have deepened my knowledge of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the struggles Arab-Americans have had in America, and how slanted news reporting can be. Also, through her thorough and insightful education, I have been reminded of what powerful tools “hope” and “prayer” can be.

I have not finished the book yet but already I am telling everyone I know to read it. It’s a heart-opener for those who need a reminder that all people are worthy of fair and equal treatment regardless of skin color, religion or national origin. It’s an educational lift for those who rely solely on mainstream media/news sources, and it’s an eye-widener for those who thought they knew the ins and outs of our American political/media system.

Again, the book is, “A Country Called Amreeka:  U. S. History Retold through Arab-American Lives” by Alia Malek or visit http://www.aliamalek.com/ for more details.

Now is the time to live for others, to fight for all!

And Still I Rise

It doesn’t seem like it would be Black History Month without a mention of Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. This stalwart intellectual, author and filmmaker is a regular supplier of commentary and programs for the Public Broadcasting System, a sample of which includes his recent “And Still I Rise:  Black America Since MLK” documentary (there’s also a book; see below.).

hl-gates-book

When I am able, I watch his show Finding Your Roots, which traces the family lineage of famous people sometimes going as far back as their original homeland. I will never forget the episode with Chris Rock (actor, comedian) who discovered his great grandfather (I might be missing a great) was a Union soldier who took up the fight for freedom once he became free. Rock cried when he discovered this and I cried, too. It was moving! After learning something that profound, how does one not stick out one’s chest and proudly proclaim, “I’m black and I’m proud!”

As we celebrate Black History Month I think about what Black America would look like if every black person stuck out their chest and said, “I’m black and I’m proud,” and meant it. I imagine there would be no more gang violence or black-on-black crime. I imagine the effects of separation by light-skinned versus dark-skinned would vanish and there’d be a great reduction of black men in prison or on the streets. In the Black America of “I’m black and I’m proud,” education would be priority number one, hard work number two, and one goal—the continued rise of all black people in body, spirit and mind—would be the be all, end all.

Black people, we can do this! We can still rise, and not only during Black History Month when pride runs high, but all year, every year. Even if our great-grandfather did not fight for freedom, we can all claim a legacy of freedom fighting. How? By voting. By writing letters to our newspaper editors or writing emails to news/media outlets. By attending board and council meetings and challenging our leaders when necessary. By creating our own non-profits that address societal ills. By starting our own businesses (and supporting those businesses). By posting positive images and facts over negative ones. By speaking truth regardless of how hard that might be. By fighting, fighting, fighting.

Black people, we can do this! If our forefathers could rise out of slavery to run countries and businesses, to raise healthy families, to hang on to positive morals and values, to make a way out of no way, how can we not rise with all that is available to us? We can do this. We can rise. We must rise.

New Year, New Book

It feels good to start the new year with an accomplishment and that’s exactly what the release of “Voices from the Block” is…a major accomplishment.

 

voices-from-the-block-ebook-november-2016

 

I was heavily involved, along with three other writers, in bringing volume two of “Voices” to life, and I can honestly say that even with my first self published book in 2013 (with a high learning curve to overcome) I never encountered so many delays and production issues. It’s like Mercury Retrograde shadowed this book its entire twelve months of production. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. But, finally, it is here!

Like volume one, volume two of “Voices from the Block” is a compilation book of poems, short stories, creative non-fiction essays and for the first time ever – fiction starts. “What is a fiction start?” you ask. A fiction start is a way for an aspiring author to showcase a work in progress by publishing the first few scenes of their fiction novel in an anthology. This allows the author to garner readers and build interest in the story even while it is in the draft stage. Basically, it’s a tease!

In this volume of “Voices,” readers will encounter four new writers, all members of the Writers’ Block. As well, three veteran writers/members have returned to put their stamp on the project. In spite of the production issues, I am extremely proud of this collection. As Toyette, one of the co-authors in this work said, “It just keeps getting better and better,” and I couldn’t agree more. There are some really strong pieces in this anthology and the feedback from early readers has been amazing. If you’d like to check out the first few pages of the book and judge for yourself, click on one of the links below.

AMAZON

BARNES & NOBLE

In March, I plan to spotlight some of the writers whose works appear in this anthology. Please stay tuned to learn how they kept the vision alive. And now…on to the next goal of 2017–write, write, write!

Signing Off

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy New Year!

Yes, it’s the holiday season and starting now until January 2, 2017, I am signing off. I plan to spend the holidays traveling, visiting family, checking in on friends, and immersing myself into many a comforting and spiritual holiday traditions. During this period of absence, my wish is for you and your families to enjoy a blessed season full of goodness, joy and cheer. Peace be unto you now and always!

Love,

Ann