The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘creative

June is my birthday month and what a month it has been. Fifty-two years ago, I was born during a time of civil unrest and great transition in the U.S. Martin Luther King was assassinated two months before I was born and Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated the day after my birthday. The second wave women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the Black Arts movement, the peace movement, and the LGBTQ movement were all well underway by the time I was a few years old. I’ve always known that my life as a scholar and creative person is predicated on the sacrifice of many nameless activists and change makers who helped pave the way for me. During the first week of June 2020, protests against police brutality directed toward Black and Brown bodies erupted in the United States and around the world. Over the past few weeks I have felt a gamut of emotions as many in the United States are wrestling with our deep legacies of racial injustice. I have felt stunned, uplifted, numb, exhausted, saddened, angered and empowered. I’ve tried to allow myself the time and space to experience all of those feelings.

It is rare that I miss a week communicating with you. Lately though, I’ve wrestled with what to say from one creator to another. Despite all the challenges happening in this moment, my creativity has never felt more solid, deeper or richer. During the past several months, I have dug even deeper into my creative urges and projects.  And, many seeds that I’ve been planting in my author garden have started to bloom. I’ve felt guilt though about sharing some of the recent joys and successes. I’ve wondered if readers would wonder why I wasn’t addressing the current moment more. As a creator of color, I am always navigating a complex, inner set of conversations that arise from the complexities of living in a racially stratified world. For example, I wondered should I address the conversations happening in publishing as a result of Black Lives Matter? Should I provide a list of resources about anti-racism for readers? Do I want to provide such lists? How much do I wish to talk about social justice and writing? By not talking about social justice and writing will people think I don’t care about the present moment?

Such questions left me tired.

Historically, writers from dominant communities have had the luxury of not thinking about these issues, or choosing to engage with them as they see fit. The good news is that is changing.

Here’s what I want to say to you, dear reader: I’m thinking about you. If you are struggling as the world is changing around you, you’re not alone. Your creativity and work, however, in the world matters. So does, in my opinion, trying to make the world more just. We as writers and creatives are being called on to undertake more visible and transformative social justice work in the world. This means exploring injustice at the micro and macro levels. In the writing world, this could mean looking at the leadership and structure of the writing organizations we support, the kinds of books we review, and the authors we network with. I believe this is a good thing. I hope you have the energy to do something to make the world more just in your sphere of life. It’s messy. It’s tiring and it sure isn’t pretty. If you don’t have the tools, find kind people that will share their tools with you. Doing this work in community makes the work more joyous.

Also, I have always known that my role on the earth is to uplift and inspire others. I do that in multiple ways as a coach and writer. It does no good for me to play small and hide in the shadows. There are a million ways to resist interrelated systems of oppression and for me, one of them is creating. It does no good for you to play small, either. I will write and share about whatever moves me. That’s basically what I have been doing for the last decade on this blog. I’m saying it here so that I remember it, too.

I’m sharing with you some recent writing joys. I’d love to hear yours, too.

My noir-ish story, “Miss Black Little Hill of 1965” appeared in the recent issue of Blood and Bourbon, a Canadian literary journal. I can now say that I am an internationally published author! A snippet below.

Miss Black Little Hill of 1965

Isabel fingered the teardrop emerald earrings while waiting for her husband to open the passenger door of their car. Two weeks into their marriage, and his gifts kept coming. And, he promised more! She smiled at her good fortune.

He’d caught her eye at church. Strangers at church always do. He said he was visiting his distant cousin. Smooth dark skin, wavy hair, a fine new peanut-brown cashmere coat. Ruby rings on his fingers. From Pensacola, the big city.

A smarter woman would have noticed different things about this man, asked pointed questions. But she didn’t need to be smart, did she? She was, after all, recently crowned Miss Black Little Hill. 1965 was her year, she could feel it.

 

I shared last November that I attended the Hay House Writers Workshop in Houston. It is hosted by Hay House Publishing, a leading giant in the publishing field on health, spirituality and personal transformation books. In the workshop, they teach you about the publishing business, especially how to write and pitch nonfiction book proposals. Unlike fiction manuscripts where you complete the entire book and then pitch your work, in nonfiction, you write a proposal *before the book* and pitch the idea.


I had wanted to attend this conference for years as I have been working on a book about creativity for some time. So, I made the commitment to go. It was a gift to myself. One of the wonderful things about the workshop is that attendees can submit their book proposals six months later to HH in consideration for publication and you only “compete” with the other attendees. How cool is that? There were about 250 people in attendance and about 75 people submitted proposals. They provide three publishing prizes. Although I didn’t win one of them, I did receive HONORABLE MENTION for my book proposal: The Creative Tickle: 52 Ways to Tap into Your DNA and Divinity!!! And with honorable mention (which I didn’t even know they did) I got SPECIALIZED FEEDBACK on my proposal from the Acquisitions editors. How cool is that? I’m that much closer to getting my ideas into the world. I’m so glad that I didn’t talk myself out of going to the conference (which would have been easy to do for a million reasons) and also of submitting my work (ditto!).

I gathered some of the many wonderful authors together to do a virtual reading from Feminine Rising: Voices of Power and Invisibility, a collection that was released last year, edited by Andrea Fekete and Lara Lillibridge.

I shared some insights from the introduction and then several amazing contributors read an excerpt of their piece. I read a snippet from my essay, “The Poisons Our Mothers and Grandmothers Drank”. The anthology was published last year and there were a few live readings. Timing is a funny thing though, many of us had hoped for the collection to be more visible and despite their being more than 70+ authors, it was hard to get the marketing efforts off the ground. Then the readings that were scheduled for this spring were cancelled due to the pandemic. I decided to reach out to the editors and suggest hosting some virtual readings. They loved the idea and I ran with it. I’ll probably host two more. It was fun and I always learn something new using Zoom. Writers and readers are all desperately seeking community and to feel connected and virtual readings help. I also think that this collection gets timelier every single day.

In late April, I started a YouTube channel. I have been populating it with short excerpts of me reading from recently published fiction. It’s been fun!

 

Reminder: Last Write-IN happening tomorrow: Thursday, May 28 (3-5 pm and 8-9 pm EST).

How it works:

You log on through a Zoom link, see me on Zoom (everyone one is muted, and video off) and I lead you through a 5 minute writing prompt, mindfulness exercise or gentle stretch.

After that, I turn on an online timer for 45 minutes. You write. At the end of 45 minutes, I come on and encourage you to take a break before the next session (i.e. stretch, drink some water, etc.). We do the same thing during the second hour.

To get the Zoom links for tomorrow’s Write-IN, go here.

 

Hi Writers,

Right now many writers I know are struggling with focus, accountability and staying inspired. Like other aspects of our lives, our precious writing routines have been (and continue to be) disrupted.

What many of us crave is connection, both to other writers and our inner writing rhythms.

A few weeks ago, I hosted several FREE Write-INS to gather together virtually and write.

I called it ‘Write, Connect and Share’: Virtual Write-INs’

Here’s how it works:

You log on through a Zoom link, see me on Zoom (everyone one is muted, and video off) and I lead you through a 5 minute writing prompt, mindfulness exercise or gentle stretch.

After that, I turn on an online timer for 45 minutes. You write. At the end of 45 minutes, I come on and encourage you to take a break before the next session (i.e. stretch, drink some water, etc.). We do the same thing during the second hour.

Why this structure? It’s been proven one of the most effective ones for helping writers minimize external and internal distractions. And doing shorter sessions prevents binge writing. This is the structure that I have used consistently and successfully for both my scholarly and creative work for the past five years. This format encourages a mindful approach and helps me write smack-dab in the middle of my busy life.

So, many folks showed up at the Write-INs. Some people came to all of the sessions, others to just one session. Some stayed for the full two hour block and others came for one hour. Many people said it was the first time they had written in weeks. Others noted how calm they felt before and after their writing session.

Here’s the best part—I’m doing it again for FREE on Monday, May 25 (7:30-9:30 am EST) and Thursday, May 28 (3-5 pm and 8-9 pm EST).

I’m only offering this support to folks who are readers of this blog and/or subscribers to my newsletter .

I’d love for you to join me.

Writing together, in community, in a focused way can boost the writing routine you have or get you back on track if you haven’t been writing much during the past few weeks.

To get the Zoom links for the upcoming Write-INs, go here.

 

Hi writing peeps,

Most writers I know are having a difficult time staying connected to their writing life. In the past six weeks, you’ve probably had your schedule upended in completely dramatic ways. Your writing routine is now very different than it once was. Me, too.

This was the #truth

Some of us aren’t writing and really want to. Many of us still have deadlines and projects.

How can you move forward on the writing that matters most?

You know my mission is to serve creative people. I’ve recently written a short guide ‘Ten Ways to Keep Connected to Your Writing Self during COVID-19’. In it are some powerful ways to get and stay inspired. These are techniques I’ve culled from years of working with clients through my coaching practice. You’ll love this information and find it valuable. [And, the guide includes some cool bonuses, too]. It’s my FREE offering to you.

I’m only offering this to people in my community. You won’t find this information elsewhere.

Click here to get your ‘Ten Ways to Keep Connected to Your Writing Self during COVID-19’.

*Also, if you are reading this and work in a creative area besides writing, I believe you’d find the guide useful, too.

Photo credit

Creative peeps, what are you doing Friday (tomorrow!), 10am-12pm EST?

I’ll be a virtual guest for the Wonderland Book Club, co-sponsored by the NC Writer’s Network. I’ll do a short reading from my sci-fi novella Reenu-You recently published by Falstaff Books. This book club is known for digging deep into craft which I’m looking forward to. The group will have questions and I’ll take yours, too. It will be interesting to discuss this story set in the 1990s about a virus that exploits racial and gender health disparities given current events. I also hope to say a few words about staying creative during a crisis and share thoughts about the writing life.

I’m so grateful to organizer Alice Osborn for suggesting a virtual meet up since Quail Ridge Books is closed.

I hope you’ll join me (whether you have read the book or not) for some of the time. I think it will be fun and nourishing for all.

The novella is available at all online booksellers.

Zoom link is available here.  Two step registration process.

Art credit

It’s been a weird few days for all of us, huh? About two weeks ago, I left for Copenhagen and by the time I got back (with some difficulty), COVID-19 was in full swing. Later this week, I’ll share some reflections about that trip and how we can keep writing some during this difficult moment.

In the meantime, I’m sharing something that I’d love your help supporting and/or signal boosting. This is my second invitation to a crowdfunded anthology and I’m super excited about it! [BTW, I am working on the edits to my story that I wrote for the successfully funded Witches, Warriors and Wise Women, due out in June]

LET’S SLAY!

Do you like vampires? Vampire slayers? A fresh take on vampires and vampire slayers? Mocha Memories Press is crowdfunding Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire, an anthology which will be groundbreaking as it explores vampires of the African Diaspora. I’m one of the invited authors that will be submitting a story along with Sheree Renee Thomas, Steven Van Patten, and Teri Clarke! Mocha Memoirs Press is run by the incredible Nicole Smith and has been a force in amplifying the work of diverse voices in speculative fiction.


We’re almost halfway funded! Please consider supporting this anthology, there are lots of great perks available (with great names like hunters, slayers, stakes and blood drinkers). $1 perks available! Feel free to share with others! TY!

 

Stay safe and healthy!

I’m grateful for the opportunity to explore my feelings and relationship to the term ‘Afrofuturism’ in this recent essay for the online quarterly magazine South Write Large: Stories, Arts and Ideas for the Global South. Is this a term that you have heard a lot about? How do you engage with Afrofuturism?

My Unlikely Path to Afrofuturism

Afrofuturism is everywhere these days. From the staggering success of Black Panther to the revival of Octavia Butler’s works, especially the prescient Parable of the Sower written in 1993, to the award-winning novels by N. K. Jemisin, these books have ushered in a new moment. We’re not just talking about literature or film, but music, fashion design, visual arts, and social activism as well. What often gets lost or flattened, however, when a phenomenon enters the mainstream, is the nuance, history, and multiple viewpoints on said phenomenon. Read the rest of the essay here.

February has been a rich and wonderful month. It felt as if I was in deep communion with the writer, folklorist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960). For many years, I’ve been fascinated by her life. ZNH was ahead of her time as a writer and scholar (she was the first Black woman to receive a doctorate in anthropology). She was also a cultural icon and transgressive artist.

Zora Neale Hurston

In 2016, I started a story, “Etta, Zora and the First Serpent” that takes place in the 1930s. Etta, a dancer at the Cotton Club, meets the charismatic ZNH and gets entangled in one of Zora’s schemes to conjure secrets from an old spirit. As you might imagine, trouble ensues.

I am generally fascinated by the time period of the 1920s-1940s and have always been interested in the Cotton Club as my maternal grandmother danced there for a brief period. In the story, I get to explore the race, class and gender dynamics of the day as the Cotton Club practiced segregation (only white patrons were seated) and colorism (i.e. African American female dancers that were hired were typically “light-skinned” or with a “cafe au lait” complexion).

Several Cotton Club dancers

The Apollo Dancers at the Cotton Club Revue in 1938. still from BEEN RICH ALL MY LIFE, a film by Heather MacDonald

I was inspired to finish this historically themed horror story (with a twinge of fantasy), and then submit it in 2018 for a specific anthology. It got rejected from that anthology and I went to work on it some more. Last year I submitted it to AfroMyth: Volume 2-A Fantasy Collection and it was accepted!

I went through intensive edits on the story. What was refreshing, however, was that I didn’t have to work much on the structure of the story (I often struggle with plotting), but instead needed to beef up description in the last quarter of the story. It was one of the shorter stories I have written, submitted at 5,000 words (which was the maximum word length). In the revisions, however, I wound up adding another 500 words.

AfroMyth: Volume 2 was released today! It features fourteen fantasy stories featuring characters of the African Diaspora.

I love the cover of this collection!

Zora had her spirit fingerprints all over my life this month. I was invited to attend the 31st annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities. It took place in early February in Eatonville, FL.  Eatonville, a historically all Black town is where Zora grew up. The Festival spans multiple days. This year the theme was the multiverse and Afrofuturism! There was an academic conference, an outdoor festival and tons of activities and festivities.  I was with an amazing group of speculative friction writers, all paying tribute to ZNH, her genius and legacy.

Standing, left to right P. Djeli Clark, Nwatchukwu Iheoma, Bill Campbell, Tenea Johnson. Seated: Maurice Broaddus and Chesya Burke. We are all looking very writerly!

It’s rare that I have the opportunity to read with and connect to other Black writers, especially in the field of speculative fiction, so my time at the ZNH Festival felt pretty magical.

If you are a speculative fiction reader, I hope you check out the collection. You can find it at all online sellers. Amazon link is here. Here’s the book trailer to check out, too.

I’ve returned to monthly column writing and I’m thrilled about it. My first adventure with column writing was with the Chapel Hill News from 2012-2014. I was discovered by an editor at the CHN through a very personal and vulnerable post that I shared on social media. He encouraged me to become a ‘My View’ columnist. See more about that story here.

For that column, I wrote about a variety of topics including the perils of petite fashion, my early life, my mother, creativity and feminism. I absolutely loved it and learned tons including the ability to write to deadline, what kinds of columns move readers and how to cultivate a nonfiction writing ‘voice’.

Now, I’ve decided to write for the Chatham County Line, a refreshed monthly community paper distributed in the county where I live. I took up monthly writing again for several reasons:

-The publisher is a longtime friend and is interested in making sure a diversity of voices are represented in the paper.

-I like that he has updated the paper and I want to be part of the positive and forward thinking changes it fosters in the community.

-Writing a column increases my profile locally.

-I told the publisher I want to focus on topics of creativity and inspiration, areas that I’m passionate about and ones where I want to deepen my publishing record.

-I also want to take risks in what I write about creativity. That feels pretty vulnerable. Writing a blog can be an intimate experience, but readers are spread across the globe. And, subscribers to blogs generally have an affinity for what a blogger is sharing. Writing for one’s community, knowing that you might run into someone, that read your column, in the grocery store is a different feeling.

I’m excited though about this adventure and I hope you’ll check it out, too. This month’s theme was ‘Get Out of the Basement:  Cultivating a Writing Community.’

I’m a creative writer. It’s taken me a long time to publicly claim and affirm that designation.
There is no one path to being a writer or embodying a writing life. 

You can find the rest here.

Remember, small local papers always need interesting writers with something to say. Consider pitching yourself as a columnist!

Reenu-You is about to have its second life. It has been published by Falstaff Books. I love the cover design by Natania Barron, Falstaff author and artist. In our back and forth conversations, we decided on a theme that implies a cityscape and a viral threat (in the book my virus has a spiral pattern) and that is more in line with covers of sci-fi books that are about epidemics. This cover has a grittier and darker feel than the original.

I love how Natania gets at the hair/beauty product idea with the scissors and styling tools in the main box.

I have been thinking a lot about cover designs. I’ve been very lucky that both Book Smugglers (the original publisher) and Falstaff have included their authors in cover design conversations. That is not always the case in publishing.

Whether you are traditionally or indie published, understanding the importance of the role of book covers in selling one’s book is essential. I found a recent episode from the Write-Minded podcast with an industry professional extremely valuable. Check out Brooke Warner and Grant Faulkner’s interview with Julie Metz (‘What Every Author Needs to Know about Cover Design’). Metz is an industry veteran and discusses everything authors need to know about covers from multiple perspectives (i.e. readers, publishers, designers). I found it highly informative and loved knowing the history of book cover design from the 20th century until now. Another takeaway is that authors aren’t always very good collaborators. They can sometimes be rigidly attached to a concept that falls way outside the norms for reader expectations for a particular type of book. Online, readers spend seconds skimming book covers, so there isn’t a lot of time to grab them visually. The professionals know what they are doing when they make suggestions to authors!

A request for reviews: Reviews of any length help authors. I have 18 reviews thus far on Amazon and 25 on Goodreads and I’d love more. Interested in reading Reenu-You and doing a short review for Amazon, Goodreads, etc.? And, short can mean one sentence. I would be happy to send you a digital copy for an honest review. It’s a novella, so it’s short and intense. It’s sci-fi with a twinge of psychological horror. If you are a very new reader of the blog and don’t know what Reenu-You is about, see below. If you’re still interested, email me at mtb@creativetickle.com

You can purchase the book on Amazon here. Also available at all online retailers.

Back Cover blurb:

What if a visit to the salon could kill you?

What if a hair product harbored a deadly virus?

Kat is an out of work ski instructor who just wants to pack up her deceased mother’s things, leave New York, and return to Aspen. Constancia is a talented but troubled young woman who just wants to start her first semester of college.

In different shops across New York City, they and hundreds of other women of color try a new hair relaxer called “Reenu-You.” Then things start to go horribly awry.

Within days, they find themselves covered in purple scab-like lesions—a rash that pulses, oozes, and spreads in spiral patterns. They are at the epicenter of a mysterious virus spreading throughout the city. As the outbreak spreads and new cases pop up in Black and Latino communities throughout New York, panic, anger, and questions fill the streets.

What is this virus and where did it come from?

Is it corporate malfeasance?

Or is this an orchestrated plot to kill minority women?

In the face of a terrifying and uncertain future, Kat, Constancia, and a small band of other affected women are forced to confront their deepest fears to save themselves and others. As the world crumbles around them, they will discover more about each other, learn about themselves, and draw strength to face the future together. Reenu-You looks at the social and political meanings of hair, female friendships, and viruses.


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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