A message I watched on YouTube this week reminded me that just because we’re pursuing our passion doesn’t mean we’ll coast. In fact, living out our passion often requires sacrifice, late nights, elbow grease, and fits and starts. But because we love it, it’s worth it, right?
The story I’m writing these days is kinda like that – it requires digging deep, sitting in silence, answering the hard questions and embracing the authentic answers.
Yep, I’m talking about the novel I’m penning, but real life, too. For isn’t this how it’s supposed to work? Fiction is a reflection of life that’s meant to help you better understand yourself, and others. I’m excited to be in this “creating magic” phase.
Are you tired yet? I admit that I am. Tired of turning on the news each day to hear more bad news. Tired of carefully plotting trips to the grocery store or pick-up times for carryout meals so that I strategically encounter as few fellow humans as possible. Tired of wondering when this season of semi-isolation and racial unrest and economic uncertainty will ease.
Yet, what if…just what if this season has come to make us weary? To shake us up? To help us long for and actually create a new normal – a better world borne from the ashes of all that wasn’t working?
What if this darkness is the precursor to a brighter light and a better way – one that we can’t even imagine because it’s so powerfully positive? What if we do our part, in this present moment, individually and collectively, scared or brave, to make this so?
I humbly offer up my part, through the calling I’ve embraced since my elementary school days – my writing. For I know, that I know, that I know that there is beauty and hope and transformation available in and through the written and spoken word.
As you ponder your next steps and how you can somehow make this pandemic-laden season better for yourself and others, I invite you to bathe yourself in words that help you heal, cling to hope, find some measure of happiness and strengthen your heart.
I invite you to consume the words offered up here – in a few videos I recently recorded, in a recent blog post and in my on-sale book offerings (worthy reads or re-reads this summer). I also encourage you to explore and enjoy the many other options available from my fellow scribes. Challenge yourself to read at least two books this summer by authors who are new to you and whose work may not only entertain you, but also expand you in some way.
May what I share in this space be the start (or continuation) of your efforts to practice self-care and protect your spirit. You’ll need to do more and more of that during these uncertain times, and you should do so with gratitude and without guilt.
Nearly 15 years ago I penned a novel that still resonates with readers – and me – today. This nationally published book, Watercolored Pearls, shares the story of three women friends who find themselves relenting to the doubt, worry and fear that lurks in their daily lives – silent enemies that seek to overshadow their inner wisdom and beauty and mask their gifts and growth. Then an older woman comes along who sees herself in them, and remembers her own journey to wholeness. She tells them to take heart and be of good courage, and to keep going, because their individual paths are leading them to purpose, and even joy.
In the vein of the message I shared through those fictional characters, I share this poem with you. Aptly titled We Are Watercolored Pearls, I wrote it in 2014, for guests at a brunch I hosted to celebrate my 10th anniversary as a multi-published author. I share it with you now, during these turbulent times in our world, to remind you that it often takes shake ups and setbacks, twists and turns, pauses and pitstops to arrive at your destination whole and ready to thrive.
So stay the course, lean into life’s lessons and enjoy the journey as much as you can – with this poem serving up some inspiration.
Here it is: That look (and heart smile) I get every time I hear from a reader how one of my books has entertained, blessed or inspired.
Thanks to Deeda and Terri for touching base about Nothing But the Right Thing, to Sherry for letting me know Who Speaks to Your Heart gave her solace in her current life circumstances, while Erica shared that Watercolored Pearls did the same, and to the social media page Black Fiction Addiction for the shout-out to my novel Coming Home.
During stressful times like these, words can make a difference – both reading them and writing them.
Pull out a journal (or empty notebook) and let your pen flow with whatever fills your mind and heart – the good, the bad, the ugly, and I guarantee you’ll feel a little better. Encourage the young people in your life to do the same.
Then, find something good to read.
Need some inspiring quotes and musings to soothe you? Check out my recent compilation, Abound! Principles for Next Level Living, here: tinyurl.com/stacyabound
Seeking some spiritual food for thought? My devotional Who Speaks to Your Heart? may interest you: tinyurl.com/stacyheart
Want something fictional that both entertains and uplifts you? Check out one of my novels here: tinyurl.com/stacystories
And certainly, the work of my numerous fellow writers can meet your needs, too.
If you are joining me in shifting to teleworking over the next few weeks, lean into this time of lessened activity by still producing your best work, while taking care of you.
By now you may have seen the movie The Photograph, written and directed by Stella Meghie, starring Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield, Chante Adams and Y’lan Noel. My favorite character is Christina, played by Adams. Why?
Because she is the creative, ambitious woman of color and Black mother that many of us need to see. Everything about Christina is authentic, especially her beauty, talent, aspirations and passion for her craft. Her backstory is a southern blend of curiosity, flirtatious innocence and romance. She had me mesmerized from the start.
We don’t get to know everything about her, for example, how she became famous or details concerning her marriage. But the moviegoer in me didn’t really miss it (at least that much). Especially when Christina informed Issac (Y’lan), her first love, that she needed something else to look forward to besides making his dinner. When those words dripped from her mouth I sat up. There it was. The thing we are not supposed to say.
At that moment, I understood the reason Christina was born. She’d come to set us all free: the creative, unconventional, artistic women of color who need to create like they need air. Her bold declaration was Affirmation. Because many of us creatives suffocate unless we have space large enough to dream. When we witness Christina flee Louisiana and all that is attached, we’re riding shotgun; secretly rooting for her. Because we know that feeling. A feeling of obligation or a place competing with or feeling too small for our future.
The sheepish grin that crept across her face as the bus rolled on informed us that her regrets were left at the curb. Although we felt her man, we found solace that sis was going to be just fine. She’d chosen “bigger” although she hadn’t known what or where bigger was. She was running to and not away from her life. And a creative life is still a life. Phew! Pass the collection plate please.
As a woman, a woman of color, a wife, a published celebrated author who started writing decades ago, I felt that. Why? An unconventional path is not any easy one. For many decades there was no model, Google map or instructions for us. All women seemingly were put in the same box marked conventional. Therein lies the struggle.
For I, too, chose the unconventional path during my final year of law school. I wrote and published my first novel that year and landed a book deal shortly after. At the time, many of my friends were getting married and having kids. I was having a different type of “adventure.” It wasn’t wrong, just different. My aunts and other women in my family were proud. They encouraged me to fly, joining me as willing passengers on my journey. Christina was symbolic of women who dare to dream big, even if it cost.
The grief that Christina displays at one point in the film seemed to be derived from a need to force herself into the only box she knew. She didn’t give up her dream, but partially clipped her wings.
I truly believe that God honors our gifts and wants us to maximize our creative call, regardless of marital status, geographic location or other factors. However, freedom comes from choices and living an authentic life. He gives instructions to answer our creative call. And yes, sometimes we need Christina’s courage and wings!
The character of Christina wasn’t just about art. She desired and embraced other love, but struggled. She raised her daughter the best way she knew how. And married. However, her love of photography was clearly effortless and brought her the most joy.
A great character resonates long after the movie credits end, and the last page is read. I believe there is a little Christina in every woman. Christina reminds us we should not explain, grieve or limit our dreams. But make room for them. And sometimes that means finding the courage to “buy the ticket,” board the bus and ride to our creative destination as often as needed.
Norma L. Jarrett is a writer with traditionally published and indie titles. Her work has been featured in Essence, Ebony, USA Today, Southern Living and other media. She is married and resides in Houston, Texas with her husband and two dogs, Mylo and Lexi. Her titles are available on Amazon.com. Her next novel, Ivy’s Soul, is a multi-generational romance that will be released in 2020.
This compilation is a nod of gratitude to the many readers who regularly comment on my social media pages, email me or stop me when we cross paths in person to let me know that the words I post most most mornings are helpful, healing and inspiring. Truth be told, I write them to inspire myself as well! And I’m so grateful that they resonate with others, too.
With that in mind, I’m delighted to share Abound! Eat the cake. Dance with abandon. Forgive yourself and others too. Get back up. Don’t give up on love. Keep going. These themes and more are offered in Abound: Principles for Next Level Living.
And what is just as exciting as this compilation is the beautiful art on the cover and inside. My talented professional artist friend Dawn Edge Campbell collaborated with me on this project to create the cover and five other print-worthy illustrations inside, for your pleasure and inspiration.
So once again…introducing Abound! Please get your copy – and a few for your friends & loved ones today!
By day, Dr. Trevy A. McDonald is a tenured professor of journalism who helps young minds hone their storytelling skills for a variety of communications professions. However, she also has another avenue for feeding her love of research and writing: penning and publishing fiction.
Her most recent works are two women’s fiction novels. The first book is titled Time Will Tell, and the sequel is Round ‘Bout Midnight, which explores the journeys of childhood friends Thomasine, Rachel and Hope as they seek to heal from hurts, unmet needs and unresolved issues. As these women mature and grow, they learn that life is best lived one day at a time, with each new day starting “’round ’bout midnight.”
Meet (or learn more) about Trevy here, as she shares her path to publishing books that feature characters who keep readers turning pages long into the night.
In what genre do you write? I primarily write women’s fiction, which I call “ChocLit” with a literary flair. My current work-in-progress is a middle grades series about the Civil Rights movement.
What is the title of your most recent book? My most recent book is titled Round ‘Bout Midnight. It is the sequel to my novel Time Will Tell. Both books are titles of songs from an early Wynton Marsalis recording The All-American Hero. In Time Will Tell each chapter is titled after a song which was current when the chapter was set and relates to a theme in the chapter. In Round ‘Bout Midnight each chapter is the title of a jazz song, and most of them are standards. The first chapter, It Never Entered My Mind is also the opening line for each of the three main characters. Other chapter titles include “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” “Rise,” “Love’s Serenade,” and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.”
What is your primary goal as an author – what do you want your readers to get out of your books? My goal as an author is in line with my life’s purpose, which is to use my God-given gifts and talents to uplift, inspire and empower others in an informative and entertaining way which brings them joy.
What has been the most surprising feedback you’ve received from readers about your current book or another recent title? One reader shared that Round ‘Bout Midnight is more than a work of fiction and compared it to Paula Giddings When and Where I Enter and Alice Walker’s “In Search of Our Mother’s Garden.” For this reader, Round ‘Bout Midnight is about a form of liberation that begins within.
What has been the most surprising aspect of your author journey? The range of audiences my novels attract. I think the biggest compliment came from a 98-year-old reader who recently read Time Will Tell and Round ‘Bout Midnight back to back. She shared that she stayed up late at night reading until she finished the books, and that she relived her younger days through the characters.
How do you continue growing as a writer? I’m an avid researcher and reader. I also explore other forms of art, such as photography and painting. This helps me in creating pictures with words in my fiction writing.
Who are two or three writers you admire or consider mentors? Yolanda Joe, Jacquelin Thomas and Venise Berry.
What else are you passionate about, i.e. if you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing? I am also a tenured professor of broadcast journalism. Representations of marginalized groups in mainstream media is an issue that I am extremely passionate about.
What do you like to do for fun? I enjoy running, photography, films, baking, painting, and my new hobby—knitting.
Trevy A. McDonald is an author, independent book publisher and tenured professor of journalism at the University of North Carolin at Chapel Hill. She was just 25 years old when she earned her Ph.D. from this university’s renowned journalism school and is the first African American woman to be tenured at the school. She pursues her passion and life purpose through writing and teaching. She also owns Reyomi Publishing, LLC, a successful independent book publishing and consulting company based in Durham N.C. Trevy is the author of the novel Time Will Tell, co-editor of two scholarly anthologies, and has contributed to numerous anthologies and publications. Her latest release is Round ‘Bout Midnight, the sequel to Time Will Tell. Learn more about Trevy at drtrevy.com and connect with her on Facebook at facebook.com/DrTrevy and Twitter at twitter.com/DrTrevy.
If you grew up watching television in the 1990s, you may already feel as if you’ve “met” my featured writer today. Literary advocate and actress Karyn Parsons played the role of Hilary Banks, cousin to Will Smith’s character on the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, from 1990-1996.
For years, she has operated Sweet Blackberry, an award-winning animated film series that shares little known stories from African American history; and this week, Karyn’s lead role became author, when her debut young adult novel, How High The Moon, was released. (Congrats, Karyn!)
This historical fiction book tells the story of young girl in the Jim Crow south who is attempting to reconnect with her mother and learn the truth about her father. The novel is based on the experiences of Karyn’s mother, a librarian who grew up in Charleston, South Carolina.
For her part, Karyn (who I had the pleasure of meeting through a mutual friend) is simply delighted that her words are gracing the world in a way that adds meaning and rich perspective. Enjoy this Life Untapped Author Chat with her, and be sure to pick up a copy of her novel (or download the ebook version) just in time for your weekend reading.
In what genre do you write? My most recent book is historical fiction; however, I love short story fiction. I’ve started writing something else that is also historical fiction, but I am feeling the itch for writing a short story. I have a couple things that I’m anxious to get out.
What is your primary goal as an author, i.e., what do you want your readers to take away from reading your book? Mostly I want them to surrender to the world of the book and empathize and relate to the characters in the book. Hopefully, the story and characters will challenge some preconceived ideas and opinions. I know I learn a lot when I write and uncover truths that I didn’t always know were there when I started writing. And while it isn’t my primary goal, I do love the many lessons that historical fiction offers.
What has been the most surprising feedback you’ve received from readers about How High The Moon? There as a direction that I went in the book – can’t talk about it specifically as it’s a spoiler – that I was pleased to find readers (at least the ones that spoke with me about it) liked. I had been concerned people might have a problem with it. So vague if you haven’t read it, right?! I was also just really excited that people were responsive to the story and its characters. It’s my first book, so it’s new for me to communicate with people this way. I’ve shared stories with small groups before; friends, writing groups, teachers and classes. That’s a different kind of share. A workshopping, really. To hand over something finished to strangers and have them be engaged and invested in the characters and the story, that’s been very cool.
What has been the most surprising aspect of your author journey? Even though I’d always written here and there and had been a big reader throughout my life, I took to really focusing on writing AFTER I’d made a name for myself as an actress. And as serious as I was, I think I expected others to dismiss the idea of me as a writer. I’d been an actress for so long. It’s what everyone identified me as. So, when motherhood came along and threw me completely off course, there was a sadness that shrouded the writer me. I hadn’t given up, but I was becoming embarrassed by not being able to find time to write. And I was even more afraid to tell people I wanted to write because, well…I wasn’t writing! So, when I bumped into an old friend – a literary agent – who knew me for being as much a writer as an actress, and he encouraged me to write something, that encouragement went a long way. It meant so much to be seen. It was hard and clumsy, but I wrote my novel. And now, because of that accomplishment, even when things are tough, I don’t doubt that I’m a writer or concern myself much with what others might think.
How do you continue growing as a writer? Reading and writing. Reading all sorts of books, reading about writing, and then just writing. Giving myself permission to be silly and messy and bad, bad, bad. And then…more reading.
Who are two or three writers you admire or consider mentors? I truly admire Toni Morrison. At the same time I admire how clean Hemingway writes. I had already known some of Jacqueline Woodson’s work, but in taking on writing for a young audience, I read more of her work, re-read and paid more attention. Her writing really resonates with me and, at the same time, feels so natural and right. I also read interviews with her and saw her speak. She’s so smart and generous and she’s got this enchanting soul. A lovely person. In a way, she’s a mentor. I trust and feel truth in what she has to say.
Do you think you’ll continue to act in coming years? I still love acting. I think if I could do theater, that’s where I’d be. That’s the best place to be able to really act. To not be so encumbered by all of the technical and production distractions. I get nervous in front of an audience, though. Ugh. That’s always been a mountain for me, that part.
What else are you passionate about? If you weren’t an author and actress, what else would you be doing? We’re big movie people in my household. My husband is a filmmaker and I’m a real film geek. I also like to bake even though I’m really, really bad at it. No one eats my stuff. But, I don’t care, I still like it. And I’ll get better.
Karyn Parsons is best known for her role as Will Smith’s cousin Hilary Banks on the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. After leaving acting behind, Karyn has gone on to found and produce Sweet Blackberry, an award-winning series of children’s animated films, to share stories about unsung black heroes in history, featuring narration from stars such as Alfre Woodard, Queen Latifah, Chris Rock, and Laurence Fishburne. The films have screened on HBO and Netflix, and are enjoyed by schools and libraries across the country. Karyn’s debut novel, How High The Moon, hits bookshelves this month – March 2019. To learn more about Karyn and her body of work, visit sweetblackberry.org or friend her on the following:
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.
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:
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 short story calledHome 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 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/.