The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘women and creativity

Hi folks,

A few weeks ago I announced that I am participating in Greensboro Bound, a new and amazing literary festival. The festival is May 16-19. All events are FREE, though for some workshops and talks you’ll need to get tix ahead of time including for Zadie Smith’s talk and the conversation between musicians Ani DiFranco and Rhiannon Giddens. The organizers have poured their hearts and souls into this schedule and have planned an incredible array of workshops, talks and panels across all genres that tackle subjects from climate change to yoga. There’s something here for every kind of writer. Take a look at the schedule here.

This is my lineup for Saturday, May 18. I’m psyched!

  • 10 am  The Real and the Unreal: Speculative Fiction  with Valerie Nieman, Michele Tracy Berger, and Jamey Bradbury.

Excited to meet Jamey. Thrilled to be on this panel with Val. She also has a new book coming out this summer which I can’t wait to read. To the Bones is an Appalachian horror/mystery/eco-thriller mashup. Doesn’t that sound cool?

  • 12:30 pm Writing as Intersectional Feminism. Feminist Conversation with Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes, Michele Tracy Berger, and Cassie Kircher. Moderated by Jennifer Feather.

Wow! I live and breathe intersectional feminism as a women’s and gender studies professor and as a creative writer. I am really looking forward to this conversation.

  • 3:15 pm Afrofuturism with Michele Tracy Berger, Sheree Renee Thomas. Moderated by Gale Greenlee.

Sheree Renee Thomas is a writer, editor, publisher and pioneer in documenting Afrofuturism. I’ve admired her work for a long time, so I will try not to fangirl the entire time. I had the distinct pleasure of working with Gale (now Dr. Greenlee), a few years ago when she took my graduate class ‘Exploring Intersectionality: Theories, Methods and Practices of Social Change’. What a gift that she is moderating this discussion.

 

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I’ve been working on a Passion Project since the beginning of the year. In my January newsletter, I shared some thoughts about the joys of committing to a passion project. I have expanded the piece here:

In order to begin my PP, I had to do something pretty radical for me. On Jan 1, I stopped listening to writing podcasts, I stopped reading craft books and clicking on the columns of my favorite writing experts. I took a break from everyone else’s wonderful advice, knowledge, tips and went within. I got reconnected with my own CORE WRITING VOICE AND WISDOM.

This was hard to do! As you know I am a ‘resource maven’. I LOVE finding resources and sharing them with my community.

I, however, also believe it is super important to take breaks from the avalanche of others’ advice and guidance and deeply connect with our inner writing intelligence. That inner writing intelligence is always there, of course, but by the end of the year, it craves recognition and reconnection. It craves being in the center and having your undivided attention.

I also truly believe that whatever you focus on the first couple of days and weeks of the New Year sets the tone for the rest of the year. I decided to make room for a passion project that I’ve been dying to tackle. I am writing a creative nonfiction piece (maybe a memoir) about the year my mother left my abusive stepfather and we were almost homeless. I was ten and my sister was four.  Through a special state program, we wound up living in a Manhattan hotel on a floor designated for “battered women and their children”. This year changed my life and I’m investigating all the ways it shaped the woman I became.

A passion project is one that is both scary and ambitious and tugs at your heart. It’s one that has urgency. The one that has been trying to get your attention for all these years. The one where you don’t know if it will “pay off”, the one that is unruly and messy.

How do you make room for a passion project?

You look at your schedule and you notice what activities you do that are either draining, time-wasting, unnecessary or just take up space. We all have some of those. You look for slivers of 10-20% of activities that can be consolidated or cut to give you time. Then you get into the frame of mind where you get excited about your passion project (the one you would LOVE to do, but never seem to find the time). You imagine yourself working on the PP within the time that you have made for it.

To make room for a passion project in light of what’s already on your plate (and I’m assuming that could include, work, childcare, eldercare, exercise, life stuff, other writing projects, etc.) takes some effort. I know it’s not easy, but isn’t it also important to make space for a passion project that has been on your list for a LONG TIME that you intuitively know will bring you JOY, or at least make you feel really ALIVE?

I decided that I would write daily on the PP for 10-45 minutes beginning around 9:30 pm. This meant giving up and rearranging late night time with my partner (we moved our TV time up), ignoring work email (unless it was urgent),  not listening to podcasts, and shuffling other creative writing projects to earlier in the day. It has been challenging but also super rewarding. I began with a brief outline, but most writing sessions I started freewriting with, “I remember”. I now have about half of a journal or 65 handwritten pages.

As luck would have it, I also found my first diary which chronicles a few months of that year.

This was buried under many other journals.

It’s humbling to see what one decides to document when one is a ten-year old!

My handwriting was much neater at 10!

Today, I have begun to transfer these writings into Scrivener. It feels good to move this work from my journal into the computer.

Passion projects replenish our creative wells. They are also addictive. I now will do just about anything to keep this work going though I have other writing projects to finish. These, however, are good problems to have.

I encourage you to find a way to go deep into your work, be it a passion project or something you have already started. And, that might mean taking a break from the outside world for a bit. That was crucial for me. The first quarter of the year is a great time to mirror nature. Winter is about going within and metaphorically playing in the dark.

Do you have a passion project that you want to tackle this year? I’d love to know!

The last weeks of December were so hectic that I didn’t get a chance to post any reflection about my writing life in 2018. I wanted to take a moment and do that now I had an excellent year in terms of deepening writing relationships and sharing my work locally and regionally. I definitely was a public writer.

I had the good fortune to participate in several literary events where I talked about and/or read from Reenu-You, gave a craft talk about my writing influences and/or  discussed Afrofuturism. I loved connecting with potential readers and new audiences.

My reading at High Point University through the Creative Writing Program. I also gave a talk for the Creative Writing club.

Loved being on this panel with other Black women speculative fiction writers. Park Road Books was packed and everyone wanted to also talk about Black Panther’s release. Lots of energy was in the room.

The Movable Feast event, in Winston-Salem, is held by Bookmarks. Bookmarks is a literary a literary arts nonprofit whose mission is to connect readers with authors.
The event is basically like “speed dating with authors”! As an invited author, you visit a table for 10 minutes, talk about your book, etc., then rotate to a new table for another 10 minutes and repeat. I met with 10 tables and met many wonderful people in book clubs.

I organized this local event for spec fic writers which was a lot of fun.

I also gave my Charting Your Path to Publication workshop to several new audiences and developed a new workshop, “How to Level Up in Your Writing Life” that was very well-attended.

My efforts last year were focused on submitting my short story collection to various contests (that offer publication with the top prize) and submitting fiction to SFWA qualifying markets. I’m still waiting to hear about some of the contests. Fingers crossed, there will be good news. I submitted to a ton of places and I have gotten some really encouraging rejections and a request to send more work. Rejection still stings, but over time, if an editor likes your work and encourages you to submit, that’s the beginning of a working relationship.

One of my goals was to begin an author newsletter and I finally did so in August! I have a commitment to those in my writing community to share resources and inspire. I don’t know why I waited so long to start!

I also kept up my blog and interviewed some terrific writers.

Reenu You was eligible for the Hugo Award, the Nebulas and the Manly Wade Wellman Award for North Carolina Science Fiction and Fantasy which was pretty awesome.

Nussia, my novelette was released by Book Smugglers in July!

 

In terms of craft, one of the things that I learned was how to tighten the dramatic arc in every scene.

The things that didn’t get completed include:

a complete revision of my mystery

a first draft of the co-written novel that my sister and I are undertaking

There’s a lot on my plate for 2019.  I hope to share some really great news soon.

That’s a quick overview for me–what did you learn about yourself as a writer in 2018? What were some of your accomplishments?

 

 

Happy new year, everyone! It feels especially poignant to begin the first post of the year with a special Author Q&A. More than a decade ago, before I formally began my coaching practice, I taught creativity workshops at UNC-Chapel Hill’s The Friday Center. They had a thriving adult enrichment program. My classes were popular and I met and coached people from all backgrounds. It is always a delight to run into people many years later and hear about their creative adventures.

Two months ago at the North Carolina Writers’ Conference, out the corner of my I saw a distinguished-looking woman. Her face looked familiar, but I only caught a glimpse before moving on to my next panel. To my great delight and surprise, this same woman came up to me at the reception. We immediately recognized each other. She had taken one of my classes at the Friday Center and credited me with planting a seed of creative possibility! At the time, she did not know that she even wanted to write a book. Yet, as she stood there, we both rejoiced about her newly published book, Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers. It was a joyous moment to celebrate this accomplishment with her. When I heard about the subject matter of her book, I couldn’t wait to invite her for an interview. I also was curious (as always) about what being on this writing journey has meant to her.

Aging is a reality. Needing competent and compassionate healthcare as we age is a reality. I just turned 50 last year and I often think about what the next 30 years (or more) of my life will be like. I think about the importance of personal health and also a health care system than can work for all. My mother passed away at 56 and I often think about what kind of care she might have received as a senior citizen, if she had lived. The quality of care that our elders receive is of paramount importance. Nurse practitioners play a vital role in helping us navigate the demographic shift of aging Boomers that is already under way.

Marianna Crane became one of the first gerontological nurse practitioners in the early 1980s. A nurse for more than forty years, she has worked in hospitals, clinics, home care, and hospice settings. She writes to educate the public about what nurses really do. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Eno River Literary Journal, Examined Life Journal, Hospital Drive, Stories That Need to be Told: A Tulip Tree Anthology, and Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine.

I honored to welcome Marianna Crane to The Practice of Creativity.

-Why did you write Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers? What’s in store for readers?

I wrote the book because I had to. The patients I cared for hounded me for years until I finally told their stories. I also wanted to show the emergence of the nurse practitioner role.

The problems facing the underserved elderly are depicted. Unfortunately, the issues are not too different with the issues this population still faces today

I was the first coordinator of the Senior Clinic, which was located in a one-bedroom apartment in a Chicago housing high-rise for low-income elderly. It was novel to have a clinic for the elderly housed in a building where they lived. Each day was a total surprise. Folks walked into the clinic for a routine medical appointment or with a life-threatening illness or carrying a loaf of zucchini bread. The reader will meet these colorful characters as well as the opinionated staff that challenged me to rethink my values.

-What did you learn about yourself as a writer while you worked on the memoir?

I learned that what I wrote initially in the book was not a clear map of what I wanted to convey. I just wanted to tell this story. But what story? My memory cast my co-workers in roles that inhibited my progress. With each rewrite, I softened my harsh critique of others and uncovered some detrimental actions that I had initiated. My insight became sharper when I let the story percolate in my head rather than rushing to rewrite. Reflection and patience, albeit over seven years, finally enabled me to be truthful to what happened in the tenth-floor clinic.

-You were one of the pioneering nurse practitioners (NP) in geriatric care. Given the upcoming demographic shifts happening in the U.S. (e.g. Baby Boomer retirement) what expanded role might NPs play in helping the public to navigate this change?

Physicians tend to choose specialties that they feel are more exciting and well-paid than geriatrics. To offset the deficit of physicians that care for the elderly, NPs could step into the role of primary care provider. They are educated to see the total patient, not just physical illness. It’s important to note, however, that not one health care professional is optimal in delivering care to the elderly. An interdisciplinary care team working to address social, economic, mental, functional, and physical problems has been shown to be most helpful. The NP could coordinate this effort.

Who would you love to know was reading your book?

Oprah Winfrey.

-What’s been the most fun or surprising thing about being a new author?

Having the license and permission to talk about nursing and the care of the elderly as a trusted narrator. Telling how the role of the NP developed and the barriers that new NPs faced 30 years ago when physicians felt threatened is especially satisfying when other nurses are in attendance and we relive our shared history.

I am humbled that in various settings when I speak about my book, the fact that I am a nurse holds weight and credibility.

-What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

I am speaking of creative nonfiction, specifically the memoir.

Don’t be too sure you know what you are writing about in the beginning. Let it evolve. Trust that you have a story inside you that will declare itself. Step aside and let it unfold.

In retrospect, I see that having a preconceived notion of what I wanted to write had caused me to miss what was behind the real story—my belief about the stories from the tenth-floor clinic stemmed from what I remembered—my truth at that moment. The passage of time has a way of rearranging recollections. It was only after re-examining my place in my memoir that I uncovered what the story was really about, even if I had already lived it.

Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers is Marianna Crane’s first book. It is published by She Writes Press. Find out more her at here.

I’m thrilled that author and friend, Jessica Yinka Thomas has stopped by to share her recent, and super successful, crowdfunding experience for her forthcoming thriller, How Not to Make Friends, a sequel to How Not to Save the World. Crowdfunding is often an overlooked and underappreciated opportunity for authors to raise their profile, engage with an audience and raise money for their passion projects. I’m inspired by what Jessica has accomplished and excited to learn from her!

 Crowdfunding To Launch Your Next Novel

 “I will publish my second novel by the end of 2018.” That’s the goal I set for myself back in April of this year. I began thinking about the best way to raise funds to self-publish How Not to Make Friends and to publicize the book. After consulting with numerous friends, including fellow authors and entrepreneurs, I came to the conclusion that the two goals could be combined through a crowdfunding campaign. Running an effective crowdfunding campaign is a lot of work with many pitfalls along the way. But, I found it to be a very effective strategy to raise $8,000 in 30 days while strengthening my fan base.

My initial goal was $5,000, enough to break even, covering the costs of the campaign, professional editing, cover design and the initial print run. I was very fortunate to raise that goal several times over the course of the campaign. I think a huge part of my success was having an existing fan base and incredibly strong support network based on the success of my first novel. Knowing that I would be primarily speaking to existing fans and friends made it a lot easier to reach out and ask for support. If you’re considering putting together a crowdfunding campaign to launch your next book, here’s what I learned from the process.

Build your network

The platform that I used, iFundWomen, estimates that about 2% of your potential backers will actually make a contribution. When I combined my personal contacts who might be interested in the novel (500), the mailing list I built from publishing my first novel (800), personal social media contacts on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn (4300), social media contacts through my novel Facebook page (1000), I had about 6600 potential backers. The estimate of 132 backers was pretty accurate, particularly considering the overlap in the various contacts. Every last one of the 103 contributors to my campaign were friends, fans or friends of friends.

 

Don’t depend on the kindness of strangers. In my experience, very few, if any of your contributions are likely to come from strangers who are browsing the crowdfunding campaign platform that you select. Before getting started, make sure you’ve built a strong network of friends and fans on social media, through your blog or website and in your email distribution list. Give your network a heads up that you are planning to launch a campaign before it kicks off to begin to generate some excitement.

Select the right platform

Picking the right platform to launch your campaign is critical. Kickstarter is the largest crowdfunding network out there but it has an all or nothing model. If you don’t raise your goal amount in the time frame you’ve set, all the funds are returned to the contributors. Kickstarter charges a 5 percent fee on projects that reach their goal. Indiegogo, one of the larger platforms gives you the option of all or nothing model or a flexible goal. Keep in mind that if you reach your goal, Indiegogo takes a 4 percent cut; if you don’t, the fee jumps to 9 percent. Most sites charge a credit card processing fee that’s around 3 percent.

I decided to go with iFundWomen, a crowdfunding platform for women led startups and small businesses. iFundWomen provides a supportive platform with a rich set of free resources from expert coaching to in-depth campaign management tools. Not only can you make your goal flexible, but they have excellent customer service where you can change the closing date or even the goal amount of your campaign with a quick email. Every month the platform reinvests 20 percent of their standard fees back into live campaigns. I was fortunate to be one of a handful of campaigns to receive funding from the platform back in September. iFundWomen charges a 5 percent fee.

Pick engaging rewards

For a novel crowdfunding campaign, there is a pretty compelling reward, the actual book, once it’s published. I offered several different versions of my new novel at different price points: $10 for an EPUB version of the book, $25 for personalized autographed copies, and $50 for personalized autographed copies of my first and second novel. I was pleasantly surprised that the most popular reward was at the $100 level, an opportunity to be listed in the acknowledgement of the book along with autographed copies of both novels. I used the themes of friendship and international exploration from my novel, naming the reward levels after translations of the word “friend” in different languages represented in the novel.

 

 

One of the rewards was a book club bundle, 8 autographed copies for a $250. I was surprised that no one selected that reward, but later realized that it would be tough for a supporter to get their book club to agree to read the book during the brief campaign period.

The reward that I was most excited to try out was the opportunity to name a character in the novel. I was thrilled that 5 people select this option at the $500 level.

Market the heck out of your campaign

The crowdfunding campaign is your opportunity to tell your writing story. It’s an opportunity to share what motivates you to write and what you hope your readers take away from your novel as a way to engage and inspire your network. Once you’ve got your campaign in place, it’s helpful to send it out to a few close friends, both to get feedback and also to secure a few key initial donors. You want to demonstrate some initial momentum when you first share the campaign with your broader network.

After that, the challenge is finding creative ways to regularly reach out to your network via email, social media, text and yes, even phone calls, during the campaign period. iFundWomen has a comprehensive tool that is an end-to-end campaign planner from putting together your pitch, to mapping your network map, to laying out your campaign goals, to planning each week of the campaign. iFundWomen’s coaches playbook was essentially my business plan for the campaign.

Don’t’ discount the importance of the video as part of your campaign. I resisted putting together a video for several weeks, thinking it would be too much work and wondering who would watch it anyway. I spoke with several friends who had completed successful campaigns along with the coach from iFundWomen who stressed the importance of the video. Some people prefer to watch a brief 2 to 3 minute video, others will scroll through your campaign text. It doesn’t have to be complicated. I worked with a fantastic local videographer through Iron Worx Media, to pull together a series of photos capturing my writing journey, overlaid with an audio recording. I got some great feedback on the video during the campaign and now it lives on my author website.

Follow through

The campaign turned out to be a very effective commitment device. I had 103 people expecting to receive copies of my novel before the end of the year! The campaign also provided me with the funds to move forward with two rounds of professional editing to polish up my novel. I had the opportunity to work with The Book Smugglers on development editing and with Lystra Literary Services on content editing. I was able to work with the very talented Jen Rhoton on the cover design. And I’ve now published the novel on lulu.com, my favorite print-on-demand publishing company.

The result was a beautiful product I have now been able to share with all of my crowdfunding campaign supporters. Last weekend, I autographed almost 200 copies of my first and second novel, over a long weekend, in the middle of a snow storm. I’ve started to see posts on social media from delighted fans and friends who have now received their long-awaited rewards. I can’t wait to hear what they think!

Jessica Yinka Thomas

Like many superheroes Jessica Yinka Thomas leads a double life. By day, she teaches social innovation and sustainable business at the Poole College of Management at NC State University. By night, she is a social justice novelist, author of the How Not to Save the World series. Jessica’s writing highlights her twin passions for technological innovation and for creating significant social change through entrepreneurial ventures.

Jessica’s iFundWomen campaign: https://ifundwomen.com/projects/how-not-to-make-friends

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessicayinkathomas/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jyinkathomas/

Website: www.jessicayinkathomas.com

 

Got a speculative fiction lover on your holiday list? Consider this new anthology by Book Smugglers with my story in it!

Look at this awesome cover!!!

I was so exited to receive my complimentary copy of the NEW Awakenings Anthology from Book Smugglers. The six stories span the gamut of fantasy and science fiction and many have a young adult theme.

Last year, Book Smugglers solicited short stories about ‘awakenings’ of all types in the speculative fiction genre. I submitted my manuscript “Nussia…I Said Her Name Like Mine” to them on Dec 31, 2017 and found out in January that my story was chosen for publication.

Nussia debuted in July.

Here’s a description of the collected stories: An unlikely volunteer in a magical war. A young African American girl who “wins” a competition to host an extraterrestrial. A girl with ice in her heart, and another with an ancestor on her back. A cybernetic detective, and an Empress facing the first Choice of her life. Awakenings collects six short stories of different revelations, including:

  • “When the Letter Comes” by Sara Fox
  • “Nussia” by Michele Tracy Berger
  • “The Girl With The Frozen Heart” by Y.M. Pang
  • “Running” by Itoro Udofia
  • “Phantom Limb” by Reiko Scott
  • “Timshala” by Leah Cypess

I’m so honored to be with this group of writers and I’m loving everything I’m reading. Additional perks of the anthology include a brief ‘Inspirations and Influences’ essay and an author Q&A that follow each story.

(*click on small cover image above to purchase paperback)

*E-book: Awakenings

*links are to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The literary community has lost a brilliant playwright, poet and visionary–Ntozoke Shange has died. I am quite sad.

I discovered her work in college and was transfixed by it.

Two of my favorite novels of hers include Sassafras, Cypress and Indigo, a novel about three African American women who are sisters and their path of creative self-discovery and Betsey Brown, a historical novel that chronicles what desegregation was like for an African American girl in the 7th grade in St. Louis, Missouri.

Shange wrote poetry, plays, children’s books, and novels, leaving us a rich corpus of work.

I took a workshop with her in my early 20s that was truly transformative and gave me courage and inspiration that I drew on decades later. Her work influenced a whole generation of women of color creatives. She will be missed.

Read more about her here.


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

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

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