I’m getting published!

I’m going to be a published author!

This summer, something incredible happened.  After a year of talking, then negotiating, then revising an agreement with a publisher- I SIGNED IT! This means that someone is legally bound to publish my novel within 18 months.  My manuscript will actually become a NOVEL!!

The publisher and I had gone back and forth on a date to sit down and sign the thing, but the lawyer in me wanted to do it over e-mail (because it’s easier to confirm it’s the right version, etc.).  So I did that and then scanned it and sent it at work.  BIG MISTAKE.  I literally started crying at my desk.  Someone out there thinks I got a bad performance review!

It was so weird because I knew this was going to happen for a while.  But then it actually happened and I felt so overwhelmed.  To have worked so hard on something for so long and then receive that validation is an incredible feeling.  I finally had a concrete response to the question “how is the novel going?” But, above all, I was overwhelmed because I was blessed to have had the experience at all.

Like Beyonce, I hate talking about who I am or am not dating in many circumstances.  It’s border line infuriating how society seems to define a woman by who they marry and when.  Or if they have kids and when.  But one thing I have always believed was that rather than pining for the security of relationship life while you’re single, you should enjoy the freedom and opportunity.  And likewise, rather than missing the freedom while in a relationship, you should enjoy the love and security.  Enjoy the benefits of what you have, when you have it.

I bring this up because, in that moment, crying at my desk, I knew that I was experiencing something amazing that I couldn’t at least in my prior relationships.  During this period of “freedom,” I had discovered what fulfilled me. I don’t know if it’s the vulnerability that comes with pouring your soul on the page or the sense that someone out there will finally understand you, but the experience really did feel like falling in love. I didn’t even realize that I thought that scenario—being fulfilled on one’s own—was impossible, until I had experienced it and the amazement that followed.

Epilogue 😉

I wrote this post shortly after signing the agreement.  I don’t know why I took so long to publish it, but during that time an editor has been reviewing my work and she got back to me recently.  The second wave of intensity is about to begin!



How do we go from Obama to Trump?

Eight years ago I felt so happy.  I voted for Obama because I trusted him, unlike any other political figure.  I believed in him.  I fell for the dream.  Believed in the change.  I knew through big decisions and small he would make my life better personally, and impact my country and my people in amazing ways.  I would think about the fact that he was going to be president and feel calm.

Today I feel displaced.

I spent November 9th thinking about “the bubble,” trying to understand the Trump voters.  I try to expose myself to different people, places, things, ideas-  but do I actually surround myself with the same people, places, things, ideas as everyone else on my Facebook feed?  Do I live in a bubble?  Am I trapped here?  Am I going about the world all wrong?  This was the existential displacement.

There is also this feeling of displacement within my own country.  How could I go from being so proud of being an American to feeling so humiliated by this place?  I know this country has done terrible things to its citizens.  But I don’t remember every feeling so ashamed by something that happened during my lifetime like this.  Literally wanting to cover my face and hide at the thought of Trump’s next tweet.

And then there is this city I’ve called home the last 8 years—Washington, D.C. When I arrived, it was bursting with promise, brimming with the excitement that was attached to the Obamas.  Restaurants opened.  A couple of reality shows tried to film here.  It became—dare I say it—cosmopolitan.  I watched D.C. change before my eyes, and I loved it.  And I loved my D.C. job—serving the public, being surrounded by people driven by public interest. Now I feel an overwhelming longing to go home to New York.  It’s like all of a sudden, I don’t belong here.

For a few days after the election I felt eerily calm, while the people around me cried or ranted.  It was either shock or denial.  Only recently have I started to feel anxious.  I hadn’t been writing, so it started to seep into my Write Practice post, which is supposed to be apolitical and innocuous (first time my post has ever been rejected).  So here I am.  Trying to write my way through.  I wrote a letter to President Obama last night to say thank you.  The only thing I can think of to do right now is to write.

5 Takeaways from the Blogging While Brown Conference

A couple of months ago, I decided to get my act together, start blogging again and figure out ways to get my name out there.  One idea that came to mind was to look for speaking opportunities at conferences where my story might be unique.  That’s when I remembered a conference a friend mentioned to me back in the day called Blogging While Brown.  This year’s location?  Washington D.C., which happens to be my current place of residence.

The main point of any conference is to network, but my plan was to attend as a more passive participant.  After all, 90% of what I learned about blogging came from Google and trial and error (I learned the other 10% from Joe Bunting and The Write Practice), might as well attend a real life session or two. Also, I thought I’d check it out to see if BWB was a place where I could pitch something in the future.

I went, and here are my takeaways:

I can make the mobile version of my blog look better!

I attended a session on the Mobile user experience and discovered that it is sooo 2012 for a blog to not look right on a smart phone.   Naya Scarbrough gave a great presentation about designing a blog with the user in mind.  She reminded us that there is a pretty good chance people are reading our blogs on a phone and we should act accordingly.  She also provided some thoughtful tips on how to assist readers who are visually impaired.

I agree with the concept (I mean, my favorite writers are the ones who write with the reader in mind) I’m just lacking a bit in the skills.  Still, I was inspired by the session and, as of today, you no longer see a weirdly cropped version of my header when reading my blog on your phone! Woo hoo! (But I had to change themes to make it happen, which is why my blog looks slightly different now).

Podcasts are the new blogs.

Last month my friend Nicki (who I’ve known since high school) started a podcast called Side Hustle Pro focusing on women of color who turned their side hustles into full on businesses.  When she first told me about the idea, I was really impressed- a podcast, wow!  So cool!  Even though I listen to podcasts literally every day, it never would have occurred to me to start one.  Nicki was at the conference too so I joined her at a workshop hosted by Rob Walsh called “How to be a Podcasting Rock Star.” By the end of the session, I knew Nicki was onto something.

I don’t remember the exact stats but basically there are a million blogs out there and like 1000 podcasts.  Of those podcasts, 75% are hosted by men.  This means that the podcast market is a lot less saturated than the blog one, especially if you’re a woman.  Rob Walsh also pointed that it’s simply easier for people to consume podcasts.  Where it’s hard to multi task while reading a blog, you can listen to a podcast while walking, driving, riding the train, working, exercising, whatever.

So why is everyone blogging?

Black people blog about gaming.

And everything else.  One of my favorite parts of the conference was the Black Weblog Awards*.  The awards ranged from Best Fashion to Best Business to Best Gaming or Comics Blog.  I loved that because it was a reminder that black people blog (i.e., write) about all sorts of topics and do it well.  So shout out to the gaming/comics winner The Deep End Review as well as the person behind Quirky Brown Love (Best Original Graphic Design winner), who made this point in her speech.

There is a point to personal blogs.

At the start of the conference I was still wondering if I should change the direction of my blog.  It is essentially a personal blog because I write about my views and experiences and don’t really try to teach anyone anything or sell anything (although those are welcomed side effects, especially when this book comes out).  I thought, should my blog be more intentional in these ways?

Spoiler alert: The answer is no.

It was the winner of the Best Personal Blog award, Yetti Says, who reminded me why personal blogs are important.  On Yetti Says, she writes openly about mental health issues and made the point that sharing your experiences publicly does a service for people who find themselves in situations similar to yours.  As she spoke I remembered that they was a large reason why I started this.  I imagined that one day I would reach my goal of publication and people would want to know how I did it.  My blog would show them that it wasn’t easy, that I had doubts along the way, but I was able to make it happen- and therefore so could they!

On the other end of the spectrum, words from Arsha Jones–a speaker at the conference who is all about turning page views into dollar signs also convinced me to keep doing what I’m doing.  I told her I had this blog and eventually a book to sell.  She said that authors really do have to sell themselves on their blog to get people interested in their books.  I took that to mean I should keep doing what I’m doing.

 “Writing Your First Book” is a valid topic for a session at Blogging While Brown.

As I mentioned, one of my goals of this conference was to identify potential opportunities for me to potentially speak at it in the future.  What do you know, one of the sessions was called “Writing Your First Book” by Stefanie Newell.  I couldn’t go because I had a conflict, but I think that’s something I’ll be able to talk about one day!


*If you’re wondering why the Blogging While Brown conference had Black weblog awards, I believe it is because they took over the awards from another organization.  Still, it might be worth expanding in light of the conference name…