How to Build a Better You

This image, posted online by an unknown source, featuring this anonymous quote, inspired me:

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From my perspective, these are timely words for this Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. For years after Dr. King’s service and sacrifice, there is still the need to do what he lived and died to ensure: the snuffing out of hate; more people following the Golden Rule; everyone looking beyond race and ethnicity into one another’s eyes and hearts to see (and experience) mutual humanity.

So I challenge myself – and you – to care enough to do a little more, to be a little better, to…

Do what it takes to create a life and not just live.
Keep seeking the good in others;
growing into a stronger, kinder, wiser you,
and giving from the purest, most selfless place in your heart.

For when you persistently seek, grow, give and live with hope, resilience and integrity, your courage and optimism will inevitably overflow and touch the people and the world around you.

How’s Your New Year “New You” Doing?

We often make resolutions at the dawn of a new year, believing that with a fresh date and fresh start, we can jumpstart what fell by the wayside weeks, months or even years earlier. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t – a reality that all of us can own.

In my case? I haven’t started exercising regularly yet in 2019, although my gym is awaiting me. And I’m still trying to convince myself to give up refined sugar.

I did purge my closet, and that felt oh so great. Yet I’m still in the process of mapping out a quarterly To Do list, to make sure that by the time I reach April, I can actually mark as completed most of the 90-day goals I set out to achieve.  (That list will be finalized before this month is over!)

Tackling goals like these year after year is refreshing in a way, because they are reminders that we always start again; that we should never stop living, learning and growing.

Yet, the first step, in one sense, is the easiest: We’ve talked ourselves into doing what we know is right and good for us in both the short- and long term.  On Jan. 1 of (whatever year) we’re psyched and excited.

However, then comes Day 2 and Week 3, and before you know it, Month 10. Taking step after step, day after day, in moment after moment is where we must keep talking and walking and envisioning that for which we long.  For it is after taking step after step, day after day, in moment by moment the magic, the movement and the new reality await us.

Are you up to the challenge and the change required to actually shift into this new space? I think I am, even if I have to recalibrate and restart on Day 15 and then again on Day 30 and Day 225. For, when we really decide we’re ready and we choose to really dig in, we’ll be able to appreciate the small transformations along our journey that make it as worthwhile a process as achieving our ultimate goals. Even if the process takes longer than we want (which it often does), we can stay on course by remembering that delays aren’t denials and “not now” doesn’t mean not ever. life_spiritual_breathing_sea_world_corunna_it_vibrates_beauty-1188436.jpg!d

I’ve done it before, and I’m aiming it to experience those mountain moments again, for both my big and small dreams. Are you with me?

If so, remind yourself throughout the process – on the days when sticking to your goals isn’t fun or when it seems easier to say you’ll get to it  “tomorrow” – that the change you long for – the change I long for – requires that we change our minds today.

Throughout your process, remind yourself…

When you’re open to consistently learning and growing;
to seeing life from another person’s point of view;
to stepping outside your comfort zone;
to helping someone else just because;
to opening your heart to new adventures at any age;
to living in peace and ensuring others that same opportunity,
the sky is not your limit and your joy can’t be contained.
It’s the true definition of changing for the better; of transforming into more of you.

–  Stacy Hawkins Adams

Why Christmas Stories Matter

For those of us who are Christians, nothing matters more than the original Christmas story, which is the reason we celebrate this annual holiday- the birth of Jesus.

However, I believe that another meaningful use for this season is a study and reflection of all that Christmas and Jesus’ birth represent: giving and receiving, unconditional love, grace, joy, and creating special memories.  These are the intangibles that, as one grows older and wiser, tend to become more treasured than any presents wrapped in pretty paper and tucked beneath a gorgeous tree.

Yet, on our route to that discovery, it’s wonderful to have stories – both fiction and nonfiction – that entertain us while helping us recognize areas in which we can grow or help others thrive.

With this in mind, it has been my pleasure to “birth’ a short story this Christmas to share with both longtime readers of my fiction and those who are coming across it for the first time. This super-short piece can be read in one sitting, but I hope its themes will linger during the holidays and long afterward. Sentence-COVER

To learn more about The Sentence Between Us, view my live TV interview with the local CBS station in Richmond, Virginia here.

Also enjoy my Q&A for author/editor Chandra Sparks Splond’s blog here:

You can read a synopsis and download your copy of the short story here: The Sentence Between Us.

Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays!

Stacy Hawkins Adams 

Chat With The Author: Inspiring Readers Inspires Her to Write More

Meet Chandra Sparks Splond, a multi-published author, editor, speaker, blogger, wife and mom, advocate of reading and champion of writers. Today she shares what fuels her love of words and her passion for helping others find joy between the pages (or on reading devices and audio) as well.

In what genre do you write?  First, thank you so much for having me, Stacy. I mainly write for the young adult genre, but I have also published a few books for the middle grade and new adult markets.

What is the title of your most recent book?  My most recent release is a Christmas hfh-splondshort story called Home for the Holidays. It’s about a 15-year-old girl named London Bridges who is dealing with her parents’ divorce over the Christmas school break. She’s bummed because her mother has nixed her plans to visit her father where he now lives in Atlanta. When she finds out her brother, Landon, is going to the mall, she begs to go along—partly from boredom and partly because she has a secret crush on his best friend with whom he’s going. The day ends up unfolding in ways she can never imagine.

What is your primary goal as an author? As a writer, more than anything I want readers to be inspired by my words—whether it’s through my books, my speeches or my blog. I’m also on a mission to get people excited about reading. When I do events around the country, one constant refrain I hear is that reading is boring. I believe people who feel this way just haven’t encountered the right book. I’ve had lots of readers tell me they didn’t like reading until they read one of my books because it reflected their reality. I write the stories I didn’t see when I was growing up, about kids like me and my friends and their issues. This seems to resonate with readers.

What has been the most surprising feedback you’ve received from readers about your current book or another recent title? I think the most surprising feedback is how much a story has impacted readers. As a writer, I often wonder if my words are making a difference, so it always surprises and humbles me when someone gives me validation that they are.

What has been the most surprising aspect of your author journey? The most surprising aspect for me is the way my author journey unfolded. I’ve known that I’ve wanted to write books since I was 14 years old. It wasn’t until after I had my daughter in 2004 that I actually sat down to write a book, though. As a parent, it occurred to me one day that I couldn’t encourage my daughter to pursue her dreams if I had never pursued mine, so I challenged myself to write a book before my daughter turned a year old. I finished my first manuscript a month after her first birthday. Once I did that, I challenged myself to land a book deal before she turned two. I received the offer for my book Spin It Like That two months after her second birthday. What’s interesting is I had actually been hired to ghostwrite Spin It Like That. About halfway through writing the book, the celebrity I had been hired to write it for decided she didn’t want to do a young adult novel. My editor came to me and said, “I think we should just let you publish the book.” It was nothing but God. I was writing a book in the genre I’d always wanted to write in, and instead of waiting the normal year or so for my book to hit the shelves, it came out about six months after I received my official offer. God is just awesome like that.

How do you continue growing as a writer? I believe great writers are readers, so I read a lot—mainly via audiobooks these days. Most of the time my reading is for fun, but often it’s for professional and personal development, too. I also do a few webinars or workshops whenever I see something that interests me.

Who are two or three writers you admire or consider mentors? I consider Jacquelin Thomas, Vanessa Davis Griggs and Kimberla Lawson Roby to be mentors—and my friends. Not only are they great storytellers, but they are also Godly women. I’m blessed to have great relationships with all of them.

What else are you passionate about, i.e. if you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing? I’m blessed that my other passion is also my profession. I’ve been an editor for 25 years. I’ve worked in various aspects of publishing, including serving as a copy editor for Good Housekeeping magazine. I was also the consulting editor at Kensington Publishing for BET Books/Arabesque, the African-American romance line. I was the editor for amazing authors like Brenda Jackson, Donna Hill, Leslie Esdaile and Rochelle Alers. I signed quite a few popular romance authors like Angie Daniels, Melanie Schuster and Celeste Norfleet to their first major book deals. I also do freelance editing, and several of my clients, including the late E. Lynn Harris, have made the USA Today, Essence and New York Times bestsellers lists.

What do you like to do for fun? For fun, I love to eat, hang out with my family, craft and plan parties.

_Chandra Sparks Splond headshotChandra Sparks Splond is an editor, speaker and award-winning author and blogger. She is the owner of West End Publishing, LLC., and was the consulting editor for Arabesque romance at Kensington Publishing. She has also edited for Random House, Moody Publishers, Kimani Press, and Hyperion, as well as several New York Times, USA Today and Essence bestselling authors. She was a copy editor for Good Housekeeping, Newsday and The Morning Call, and has written for Black and Married with Kids, Brides Noir, Weddingpages, and Romantic Times.  Visit her at www.chandrasparkssplond.com or on: Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/bookofsplond; Twitter: https://twitter.com/cssplond and Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chandrasparkssplond/.

Her Story: How Getting Away Helped Me Get Back to Me

By Guest Blogger DaNika Neblett Robinson 

I slid the balcony door open, walked to the end of the railing in front of me, and stood there. Soaking up all of the beauty.  To my left was the sun rising as it peaked through the palm tree leaves that swayed from left to right. In front of me was a picturesque view of someone parasailing over the aqua blue water beneath them.  To my right was a middle-aged man wearing earbuds and walking a trail in the 70-degree weather that would peak at 90 degrees by midday.

I sat down and reflected.  I was on vacation.  I could finally stop for a few days and do nothing.  No emails to check.  No meetings to hurry to and no numbers to crunch.  No football practice to scurry a child to.  No choir performance to slip in the back of the auditorium to hear my baby’s alto voice melodically come through.  Nothing but me, God’s creation, and the fears I had decided to toss into the body of water in front of me.
Back home in the U.S., where I was a leader in my community and at work, I often had to be mindful of eyes watching me – which made me as cautious as the seasoned woman I observed wading in the beach water in front of me, holding the arm of the person who walked beside her. My trip to paradise allowed me to throw caution to the wind, however, as I boarded a catamaran and sailed with the native who guided the vessel to the furthest part of the blue horizon that I could see with my naked eyes. As I sat there on the open vessel, I realized that I had conquered a fear.
You see, I had pondered that boat ride for a few hours, afraid I would drown like I almost did at 10 years old.  Only this time, it was not a pool.  I was surrounded by water so deep I was sure that if I took a plunge, the life jacket would not save me.  At this moment, on the catamaran, I felt superior.  Fear no longer controlled me.
Traveling exposes you to many sites and experiences and provide opportunities to reset, regroup and refresh.  One could choose to go thousands of miles away from home or simply a car ride down the street.  The idea is to get away and do things outside your norm.  I’m glad I did, and I encourage you to do the same. Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you for it.
DaNika Neblett Robinson is the author of a novella, The Metamorphic Journey, about three teenage mothers’ quest to succeed. The Metamorphic Journey is also the name of a movement she founded to provide individuals with opportunities to foster personal growth. DaNika has served as a higher education administrator for more than 20 years and is currently the CFO of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary. A recent graduate of the Ed.D. program in Educational Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University, she holds several other degrees and uses that knowledge, coupled with her expertise in transformational leadership, to empower young adults to embrace their purpose. Learn more about DaNika and her body of work at www.themetamorphicjourney.org.

Plan Your Social Media Break – After Reading This

Vacations are great for many reasons – they give you a chance to do nothing if you want; to savor each moment without rushing; to be fully present in your here and now.

What I’ve learned over the years is that this even applies to breaks from social media. (According to a recent Washington Post article, a Pew Research Center study shows that 68 percent of Americans have either temporarily signed off of social media this year or left various platforms for good.)

I took time away from my social media pages last week and part of this week to brainstorm a few writing projects; to connect with fellow writers and authorpreneurs, and to strategize/envision my first quarter of 2019.

All good stuff and worthy of the focus I gave.

But equally important was the time I took to enjoy each day and each encounter – from leisurely reconnections with longtime friends and the meeting of new ones, to an empowering luncheon with amazing women leaders to the simple yet heartwarming phone chats with two of my 20-something nephews, who (unbeknownst to each other) called me out of the blue last week to shoot the breeze. Both of them made my day. 🙂

So my point? Consider taking your own social media break (whenever and however long suits you best) to enjoy your family and friends in real time. Focus on some goals away from the hustle and bustle of the internet highway.

It can be refreshing and revealing, and perhaps you’ll return ready to appreciate – all the more – the good that comes from connecting online, as well as the good you rediscovered within.

Stacy Hawkins Adams original quotes

How to Succeed at Being You

On this first day of November, may we all remember to define and strive for success in ways that fill us and fuel us to bring our best selves to each day and every encounter. The outer trappings of winning at life should simply be the “gravy” we’re grateful for; not the end game.

So here’s my challenge to you (and to myself): For the next 30 days, let’s bathe ourselves in an attitude of gratitude, so that we can more fully appreciate the present for all the gifts it holds. They are there; let’s take some time to see them, big and small – from the breath you’re breathing in this moment to the smile a stranger may have shared.

See yourself as a winner because you are, in your own worthwhile way. And in the places where you’ve stumbled or tumbled, look for the lessons that can help you grow.  Embrace them. Doing this will help accelerate success, because life rarely offers a straight and seamless path to victory.

It is the bumps and bruises and twists and turns along the way that make our journeys – and especially our successes – all the more meaningful and memorable.