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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.

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

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.

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.