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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.

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!

Being a Good Literary Citizen

In a few months, American citizens will elect a new president, a new leader who will set and direct the country’s agenda for the next four, maybe eight years. While I don’t want to talk about which candidate has my vote (I promised when I started my blog four years ago that I would avoid the BIG THREE–politics, sex and religion), I do want to share that I take my citizen duties very seriously and will be at the polls bright and early on November 8th.

Being an American citizen is not the only citizenship I claim. I am also a literary citizen and I take those responsibilities just as seriously. At least I have, starting this year. Let me explain…

Earlier this year, the Writers’ League of Texas (WLT) sponsored a panel discussion on the topic:  what is means to be a good literary citizen. The panel was moderated by the president of WLT and panelists consisted of a book publisher, authors and an ex-literary agent. One by one they shared their views on the topic with remarks ranging from the use of social media, book reviews, networking, attendance at conferences/festivals, mentorship, community outreach, bookstores (retail and online) and more. I should stop at this point and explain that the moderator defined the word literary to include all aspects of writing, publishing and marketing, this being a more expansive definition than the usual application.

I spent a lot of time after that session thinking about how being a good literary citizen plays out for me. What, in fact, it means to me and that brings us back to 1) deciding that I was indeed a literary citizen; 2) what that looks like for me in practical, everyday life; and 3) my commitment level to that role.

So since I have decided I am a literary citizen, an invested member of one of the world’s greatest fraternities, and because I want to be a good literary citizen, this is how it plays out in my life.

As a good literary citizen I PLEDGE to

pledge-of-allegience

  1. As a reader – attend books fairs/festivals; buy books from local bookstores and online; support my library with attendance at hosted events and by utilizing their many services; write and post book reviews; use social media to promote authors, books and festivals; encourage young readers; read aloud to the young (and old) ones in my family; give books as gifts.
  2. As a writer – tell the best story I can; commit to continuous improvement in my craft; maintain involvement in writing/critique groups; honor my writing time; focus on my writing goals; find ways to keep the creative juices primed; be open to changes in the industry.
  3. As an author – support the players (readers, writers, book clubs, writers groups, non-profit literary groups, libraries, bookstores, literary publications, events and programs, etc.) in the literary field; promote, advocate or comment on legislative regulations and business practices impacting the literary world; protect the image of the written word; teach young and adult writers about the craft.
  4. As a publisher – publish quality books at a good value for readers; share stories that entertain but also cause readers to think and feel; work to improve the literacy rate by sharing my love of reading; embrace new technologies and practices; support the host of players that make this the absolutely best industry to work in.

I  know this is a mouthful (or rather a pageful) and I reserve the right to adjust and update these duties as I collect more experiences in this great experiment we call literary. But I’d like to hear from you. What are your thoughts about being a good literary citizen?

Photo courtesy of Wesley Hitt/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Unforgettable Mothers in Literature

One of the many things I am grateful for is my love of books and reading. I credit my mom with this love because I grew up watching her fill her leisure hours reading, and because our house was always filled with books (books, books everywhere just like my house now). This weekend as we celebrate Mother’s Day, I thought it would be fun to swirl books, reading and mothers together to create a short list of unforgettable mothers in literature. Take a look at the list below. Perhaps you’ve already met these mothers, and if so, you know that they range from heavenly (like my mom) to warped. But one thing they all exhibit is the very thing that mothers are known for…love. If you haven’t met these mothers or if you want to reacquaint yourself with these women, this is a great weekend to pick out a book, kick back and enjoy! 

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Reading!

 cover_whatcamebefore_1[1]  “What Came Before He Shot Her” by Elizabeth George

th[8]  “Voodoo Dreams” by Dr. Jewell Parker Rhodes

thX3WKPC9W  “The Living Blood” by Tananarive Due

th[3]  “Dolores Claiborne” by Stephen King

41sVNRTt5cL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_[1]  “A Worn Path” in the collection “A Curtain of Green” by Eudora Welty

9780312193379[1]  “Some Soul to Keep” by J. California Cooper

thYPD60P7E  “The Book of Ruth” (Bible) inspired by God

Inspiration Continued

On Thursday, July 16, writers around the world were inspired by NaNoInspiredDay. On that day, writers encouraged each other by posting words, quotes and actions meant to inspire:  to inspire words, to inspire the completion of works, to inspire turning on the computer or picking up the pen, to inspire the prioritization of writing, etc. I found the inspired postings on Twitter and Facebook did just what they were intended to do–inspire. I was inspired to honor a truth concerning a short story I had been struggling with. I was inspired to write more words. I personally did not post anything on Thursday, but I am today. A friend sent me the link below and I am sharing it with you in an effort to keep the inspiration going. Click on the link and after you’ve read the 25 quotes, let me know the ones that move you. The ones that moved me? #2, #3, #9, #13, #16 and #25. Be inspired! Happy writing!

http://www.buzzfeed.com/juliapugachevsky/quotes-that-will-make-you-want-to-take-more-risks-with-your?utm_term=4k9bccy&sub=3100213_2642780#.ss6zqWWVqV