Introducing…On Womanhood

Seven years ago I launched an online mentoring program for aspiring writers called Focused Writers (www.focused-writers.com), not knowing that this intimate space for learning about writing and publishing would not only lead to books and blogs being birthed by members, but also to a tribe of mutual support.

When some of the members approached me about writing something together, I finally agreed, and in January 2021 we embarked upon a yearlong Mastermind Class of sorts, with me guiding them through every aspect of publishing – from idea stage to finished book.

Members have participated in every way along the way, from writing to editing to proofreading to formatting to designing the cover, and I’m delighted to share our “book baby” of personal essays – On Womanhood: Connecting and Thriving in Every Season.

Thanks to my friend and mentor Daphne Reid for writing our Foreword and to Chandra Sparks Splond for serving as our external editor. And most importantly, to our talented cover artist and Focused Writer member Dawn Edge Campbell.

We hope you love the cover as much as we do!

Also exciting for us as we release this book just in time for Women’s History Month in March, is our collective agreement to donate 100 percent of the proceeds from sales made from February 22 through March 31 to the YWCA USA.

Back in my reporter days, I covered a range of social issues, including writing stories about women working their way off of welfare, fleeing abusive relationships and learning to advocate for themselves and their children.

I also wrote about the organizations and nonprofits designed to support them, including the YWCA, whose mission is to empower women and eradicate racism.

So when my Focused Writers mentees decided to write a book together, title it On Womanhood, and donate a portion of proceeds from sales, the YWCA USA was a natural choice.

I am a six-year board member of the YWCA Richmond and can vouch firsthand for the staff’s dedication to serving women and children, in a myriad of ways.

Yet, we have chosen to contribute to the YWCA USA because our Focused Writers anthology authors are based around the nation – from Las Vegas to Houston to Savannah to Richmond. And each writer will be reaching out to her local branch, too.

So in addition to buying our short collection and supporting a great cause in the process, also take some time to learn more about the YWCA USA and the YWCA in your local area!

Stacy and the Focused Writers members featured in the anthology On Womanhood: Connecting and Thriving In Every Season
(Nailah-Benā Chambers, Margo Clifford, Jacqueline S. Owensby, Njeri Mathis Rutledge, Jackie Hunter, Wanda S. Lloyd, Cassie Edwards Whitlow, Belinda Todd, DaNika Neblett Robinson, Rita Flores Moore and Stacy Hawkins Adams.)

Value Friendships

By Guest Blogger DaNika Neblett Robinson – (In honor of International Women’s Day)

Like organizations, it is important to have a Board of Directors to assist you with the strategic direction of your life and ensure that you are prosperous. Their purpose should be to check on you, connect with you, and to challenge you to be a better version of yourself. These are the people who would probably say, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” (3 John 1:2, KJV).

Yes, you have to be careful about who you allow into your personal space. But, being too cautious can be detrimental. “Let your conscience be your guide” (Jiminy Cricket, from the movie Pinocchio, 1940).

At work, I have a Tribe that I connect with weekly. Being the only person of color in a senior leadership role on my campus, I know it is my duty to connect with subordinates, particularly those that look like me. During this weekly sync up, we talk about a variety of things. I create a safe space where they are free to vent as well as encourage. Other leaders may frown upon this approach but my authentic leadership style* compels me to:

* understand my purpose;

* practice solid values;

* lead with heart;

* establish connected relationships; and

* practice self-discipline.

As an author, I am a member of Focused Writers led by my mentor Stacy Hawkins Adams. My fellow writers and I receive writing tips from Stacy as well as each other. Writing a novel or speech or even a blog can be a lonely process. Having people you can count on to share what projects they are working on while gently nudging you to meet a deadline has been critical. Although we typically meet virtually, we have been diligent about meeting in-person as well. These connections have helped us to remember why we write and solicit ideas that can benefit us as we move forward.

In my personal life, I have my God Sistahs. These women serve as a sounding board for me. They have helped me to see things from a different perspective while loving me through my hot mess moments. Our friendships have gotten us through turbulent times when dealing with the loss of family members. Assisted us in rearing our children who are now adults. And ensured we remained in healthy relationship while supporting the need to breakaway when necessary.

On my path to become a doctor (Ed.D), I had the pleasure of spending three years with 17 brilliant people. Being a first-generation, nontraditional college student, I did not have the standard undergraduate experience.  No roommates. No student life. No sorority. But I do not feel like I missed out on anything because this cohort of smart people inspired me to be a passionate educator. We started the doctoral program very green and not knowing our super powers. Any time we have the opportunity to reconnect, we remind each other of how far we have come. Those moments together are priceless.

Being a busy woman who travels to and fro regularly, it is imperative for me to return to home base. The greatest of all friendships for me is that which I experience with my life partner/husband. He knows when I am drained and suggests I take a nap. I laugh at his dry jokes. We have intimate conversations about our children and what is next for them. Most of all, he is my biggest cheerleader. I could not ask for a better person to share my life with.

Hebrews 10:25 (NLT) says it best, “And let us not neglect our meeting together as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Do not downplay the value of friendships. Do not limit the number of people you allow in your personal space, simply because you fear being hurt once again. Know that all interactions are needed as you continue your metamorphic journey.

*George, William W. Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003.

Editor’s Note: This column first appeared on DaNika’s blog, The Metamorphic Journey. Visit here and subscribe: themetamorphicjourney.org.

DaNika Neblett Robinson is the author of  The Metamorphic Journey. This page-turning novella explores three teenage mothers’ quest to succeed. The Metamorphic Journey is also the name of a movement DaNika 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 graduate of the Ed.D. program in Educational Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University and an expert in transformational leadership, she speaks widely about excellence in leadership, in particular to women’s organizations and audiences. She also uses her knowledge to empower young adults to embrace their purpose. Learn more about DaNika and her body of work at themetamorphicjourney.org.

Why Women Matter

By Stacy Hawkins Adams
Today is International Women’s Day, and I salute the women who have helped raise, nurture, mentor and encourage me and others.
From our mothers and grandmothers to
our biological sisters (in my case, three of them, and their friends) to
our teachers and youth program leaders to
women mentors in the workplace to
sister-friends with whom we’ve mutually shared triumphs or tears, and who’ve climbed beside us or pushed us higher –
Thank you all.
It is in honor of you that I write women characters in my novels who stand together through highs and lows, tell each other the truth, love even when it’s hard, and grow together in purpose and grace.
Women who, like you, change the world for better.
Even in the darkest of hours, places or seasons, and even when you don’t realize it, your presence brings life-sustaining hope. Thanks for being the light.
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