I Got A Book Deal – Now What?

You read that right, kid! In today’s post I’ll be explaining the process and what comes next for me. I hope you’ll stick around!

I used to imagine myself living all sorts of lives: a doctor, an adventurer, a journalist, maybe an astronaut? Little by little, those dreams transformed into this nebulous thing, a sort of hovering cloud of possibilities that enlivened me as they frightened. There was too much, you see. Too much to do, too much time, too little time to become the right version of future me.

artist GIF by Upamanyu Bhattacharyya
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Eventually, I realized all I really wanted – needed – was to dream. There would never be a life for me that would be fulfilling if I had to be the same person every single day. Sure, the outfits might change, but I would still be doing the same things, learning the same lessons, and wondering the same thing: what if?

If you haven’t rolled your eyes yet, here comes the kicker! I realized a few years ago that I needed to create. I needed to learn from other people and put those lessons into practice so that I would be brave enough to go after the seemingly impossible. I worked with my friend Jesse Kadjo to write for her food blog, I branched out into freelancing, and settled into writing full-time with the end goal being providing for myself as an artist. To put it mildly, it was agonizing!

 

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What no one tells you about creative endeavors is that once you start putting your imagination into practical practice (i.e. to survive) it becomes a job rather than an escape. You start to overthink it and second-guess your worth. Thankfully, I had help along the way in the form of interviewees on this blog, and outside of it, who reminded me that to truly create you have to forfeit some control. So, I accepted what I could not change – artistic limitations, access to influence, style limitations – and focused on what I could expand. I read more than I had since college and listened to hear. I went to conferences, I made friends who write, and I did my best to stay true to myself. When I heard no after no, I realized I would have to get tough if I wanted to see it through.

Here’s the good thing about rejection, though: it forces you to re-evaluate your intentions. I had to consider who I was writing for, why I was writing, what I wanted, and where I wanted to be. With those answers in mind, I was connected with Chelsea Lockhart, the founder of Written In Melanin Publishing. Chelsea began her company in 2019 to work primarily with Black authors to spread stories featuring diverse characters. We connected on Twitter, and instantly bonded (thank you social media!!). With my answers in mind, we spoke at length about working together. The decision to join was an easy one once I realized Chelsea wanted me as ME. That has been the best lesson thus far: those you’re meant to work with won’t want to change what makes you special. They’ll honor it. Even better, Chelsea asked me to come aboard as a co-host of her Melanin Chat show on YouTube where we talk to authors and artists about their endeavors.

The journey has been long and winding, but it isn’t over yet. I’ve secured a piece of the future and that feels wonderful. But, that nebulous cloud is still hovering, urging me to take another step in an uncharted direction. For what it’s worth, I’m no longer afraid to walk blindly. I hope you’ll stick around to see what comes next as this space continues on as a place for me to share not only my journey, but the inspirational stories of others.

Art GIF by Tessi Eng

Wherever you are, whatever you do, may you do it with joy!

How To Bounce Back From A Self-Care Extravaganza

I had the pleasure of traveling across the country to New York City for the weekend with my good friend, Jesse, for a girls’ trip.  We ate great food, marveled at the beauty of human creations in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and walked all over the Upper West Side until our feet felt like they’d been stomped by elephants. It was glorious. It was the kind of caring I could only ever dream of, but got to experience thanks to my phenomenal friend.

The Met, Egyptian Art
Amelia, Yours truly, Jesse
A happy tourist (Me)

The trip also got me thinking about what comes after something so great. What do we do with ourselves after the dust settles and we must return to our regular lives? You might not be flying for hours, spending money wildly, and luxuriating in a hotel like an heiress, but what if you take all the time you need to replenish your defenses only to come home feeling even more spent?

Taking care of ourselves can be just as exhausting as running our bodies ragged in the normal days of our lives. So, I would like some of my tips for bouncing back in your return to normality. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my access to travel, self-care, therapy, and wellness options, and I have found that even with the best of times I still need a little help finding my equilibrium. Below, I’m listing my tried and true habits for not only maintaining the good vibes of self-care, but also maintaining healthy expectations for who I’ll be afterwards.

Sleep!

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Disney

Sounds obvious, but is it something we let ourselves do after vacation? Or after a yoga session, or a hike, or a round of face masks and Judge Judy? Nah, didn’t think so! Think of it this way: you’ve just pumped your body full of that good stuff, like endorphins, adrenaline, and other sciencey things. Thus, your body is going to need to power down. I hate to sound like Morpheus in The Matrix, but at the end of the day we’re all walking and talking batteries. We need to recharge even if we’ve just been doing another form of powering up. Catch some zzz’s!

Ease back into your routine

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I know most of us use the weekend for our self-care extravaganzas – it’s just the way our work lives function. We feel guilty missing work, so we hold out until Friday evening to get down to business. That leaves us with going back in on Monday to face the monotony. This goes counter to everything we’re taught, but I would challenge you to not take on big projects right away, or act like the superhero you are first thing Monday morning. You’ll be feeling unstoppable, no doubt, but you’re going to be regret biting off more than you can chew. This isn’t about avoiding work all-together, but rather not falling prey to the urge to do it all. Take your time.

Don’t throw all the internal work out the window

relaxed yoga GIF by Hannah Bronfman
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This is really the tough one for me. I was super zen in New York, but that’s easy to do when you’re far away from responsibilities, stressors, and a regular routine. I was able to unwind and be introspective without being bogged down with the minutiae of life. When I go back I was understandably tired and sore from walking, then flying for 6 hours, but I was instantly unhappy when I set foot through my front door. So, what gives?

Well, I think I was looking for reasons to be stressed out.  If I were to go deeper, I would discover I was hunting for reasons to rob myself of the goodness that felt unearned. Self-sabotage is real, especially after something bigger than what you normally allow yourself to have.  So remember this, first and foremost: You have earned the good things that you get. We deserve the cakes, face masks, rest, hikes, movies, hours of conversation with loved ones, vacations, therapy sessions and joys of this life, no matter what.

Whether you be traveling far, or taking a weekend for yourself at home, I hope you enjoy it to the fullest without worrying about what comes next. We’ve got memories to make, after all.

Celebrate Make It Rain GIF by Captain Cuts

Healing In Nature

If I could, I would love getting paid to lay in bed with a book all day. We often joke in my house that in a past life I was either an old baron who had every whim catered to, or I was a dutiful, yet lazy dog. There was a time those comparisons bothered me, but the proof is definitely in the pudding. All I ever want to do is read, eat cereal and sleep – not the best way to go about life all the time, but it’s who I am.

On the other side of the coin is my partner: all tree climbing, hiking, swimming, and dirt. Where I’m a happy (and clean) bookworm, he is a wild man, content to spend his days exploring caves and playing in the water. We are the poster children for opposites attracting. I have a background in sports and exploration, thanks to some cool opportunities, and he isn’t exactly Donnie from The Wild Thornberries ( throwback!), but we still had to meet in the middle when it comes to the great – and mosquito-y- outdoors. Thankfully, that middle ground means I get to experience the wonder of California through the eyes of someone who sees magic in every pond and dusty path.

 

Our walks have given me a chance to unwind, to decompress from the pressure of trying to find myself in words. It might sound counter-intuitive to be apart from what I love, as reading and writing are what give me a sense of myself, but I’ve begun to see how much weight that love packs onto my brain. Being in nature, next to my wily companion, I can breathe out and release all the information I’ve hoarded unnecessarily and bring back in a little relaxation. There’s no pressure in nature, no over-thinking, no need for wit; it’s as simple as one step forward, or back, or up.  Sometimes what we love to do can box us up in ourselves, keeping us from experiencing growth in new challenges. Out in nature I get to be a different kind of me, one that isn’t fighting to be right or safe. Instead, I get to follow the lead of someone I trust, and that is a beautiful thing.

Mixed in with the relaxation, between naps and chapters, is the wondrous clarity I get out in the wild. Yes, it is important to do what you love, to seek knowledge, to lay about under a warm blanket with some tea, but what about the feel of the wind on your scalp? There are many types of freedom, none better than the rest, but I can now (somewhat begrudgingly) admit that the freedom I get beside a stream is almost as good as Tolkien. It feels a little bit like healing.

So, I encourage you to get outside wherever you can, however you can, to get a respite from the oftentimes break-neck flow of life. Not every city is near the woods like mine, but even a little break outside, away from work, or the TV or those pesky family members can do wonders. You might just find you like it.

 

 

 

Friday Media Prep: Black Girl In A Big Dress

Do you have any hobbies that you feel certain no one will understand? For lots of us, it’s common for people to think you shouldn’t, or can’t, like something based on your background. I remember my parents teasing me for liking Coldplay and singing along to every song on Parachutes for hours on end. I used to lay up in our old tree house, singing “Yellow” over and over until the neighborhood dogs had enough with the bellowing and started barking. I think it’s fair to say most of us have prejudicial feelings about who can like what, where we’re supposed to fit in, and why some things just aren’t cool.

What I love about “Black Girl in a Big Dress” is the way it confronts those notions. Because Adrienne,the heroine of the web series, is African American people think it’s odd for her to be enamored with dressing up like a Victorian lady and trotting off to tea parties. However, she is dedicated to enjoying her passion and gives into her heart’s desire. The show is so refreshing and riot! By watching her escapades, I’ve begun to question my right to joy even if it might seem a little crazy to the outside world. After all, who are we to deny our own hearts? Below is the first episode. Let me know in the comments what you think of “Black Girl in a Big Dress” and what hobbies you have that might be surprising!

Bessie Stringfield, Your New Patron Saint of Adventure

Each week we will feature the kind of everyday heroes you can look up to. They come from all walks of life, age groups and beliefs. We hope you’ll learn as much from them as we have!

August is the month of changes, of possibilities, endings and beginnings. Schoolwork looms nearer, pools are emptying, but the month also offers the potential for discoveries academic or otherwise. I have a love-hate relationship with August; as a curious (i.e. nosey) kid, I looked forward to being in school and being introduced to new concepts in the classroom. All my friends were at school, rather than scattered about on vacations or busy playing sports, and we could compare stories, sunburns, or how tall we’d gotten in the months away. However, August also symbolized the end of leisurely freedom – the late nights watching HBO and eating ice cream without my parents knowing were pulled to a jarring halt right around the middle of the month.

Still, what I remember most about August, about those weeks leading up to my return to normality, is watching my Dad prep for his classes. Most people think History teachers have it easy. The common belief is they simply tell every class the same thing over and over again. That’s true for most, but my Dad isn’t your average nerd. Each year he looked for unique ways to spark a little interest in his students. He read new books, watched new documentaries, and went off to conferences around the country. My brother and I always looked forward to what he would bring back from his travels to exotic places like Atlanta and Phoenix.

Bessie Stringfield, today’s person you should definitely know, reminds me so much of those days spent watching documentaries with my Dad, enraptured by the adventures and daring lives. Bessie was born in 1911 and by the time she died in 1993 she had earned the moniker “Motorcycle Queen of Miami” for her feats on the Harley-Davidsons she loved. Despite the restrictions of the times, Bessie got her first bike at the age of 16, then traveled the country alone. She slept on her ride when she was denied a room at hotels, rode in carnivals for money, then eventually made it through all of the states in addition to Europe. He skill was so formidable that she would become a motorcycle courier in WWII, tasked with transporting sensitive information.

She embellished many of the details of her life for the rapt audiences of her young relatives and the children she took care of after settling in Florida as a housekeeper, however the fact that she lived an extraordinary life remains unquestionable. She was posthumously inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame in 2002, long after her death, but I doubt she needed the accolades to validate her bad-assery.

What I love about the story of Bessie Stringfield is her relentless pursuit of what made her happy. Against the protestations of her family, she traversed the segregated and misogynistic landscape of the United States in search of her own slice of that ever-elusive peace we experience in following our hearts. When I lie awake in this unfamiliar town, missing the comfort of a controllable environment, I try to imagine what Bessie might have felt right before she did a trick for an audience. I sit in awe of her grit and feel slightly gobsmacked that she had the audacity to be free.

If you need encouragement to follow where your soul wants to lead, if you need a push to re-discover your dreams, or just a reminder that it’s alright to be a little bit off, look no further than Bessie. August is the month of discovery, after all.

Who are you emulating today? Let me know in the comments whose stories you can’t get out of your head. As always, stay safe out there!

You can read Bessie’s obituary in the NYT here.

I love this art essay of her by Rejected Princesses, which you can read here.

Do These 10 Things Before Your Next Big Move To Avoid A Monster Meltdown

Yesterday I officially became a Californian. Leaving the midwest behind was that bittersweet mixture of anxiety, elation and hope for the future I used to experience right before taking a plunge into a new body of water. When you can’t see the bottom it’s easy to imagine monsters slithering about the sides, waiting to gobble you up. Instead, I would discover (after dipping my toes in five times) there was nothing so dangerous to fear that I couldn’t survive.

Few experiences can spark an anxiety attack like moving away from everyone you know to an unfamiliar place. Hell, even knowing the place and what to expect can still be frightening! Today I want to share with you the list that aided me in this crazy transition. I found that when I was looking for advice online most lists were missing the human aspect – how to take care of yourself mentally and how to curb the understandable stomach knots that form.

Transitions for survivors, or those with depression or anxiety, can be truly painful. As I learn more about the ways trauma re-shaped my mind, I’ve discovered an obsession with control and order. In response to having control stripped from me, I now itch for ways to box up that which could mess with my flow. The unknown world at large with all the possibilities for chaos just scared me silly!

Now, I’m on the path of confronting my fears. A huge part of my healing journey has been the pursuit of chill. Going with the flow. Trusting those who have earned my confidence to help me take care of myself. And now, diving into waters I’ve been dreaming of exploring. So, this list is what has helped me with the dive, beyond most of the practical stuff you might read on other sites. Whether you’re going across the country, or a state nextdoor, these things could make it much easier on your mind.

Please let me know in the comments what you do to prepare yourself for big changes!

1. Secure a place to live (Airbnb, apartment, house, friend’s couch)

I was able to go to bed sooooo much easier in Kansas with the knowledge we had a place to stay once we were in California. This takes time and money, but it’s worth it. You want to make sure you’ve secured a safe place to rest, where you can decompress after that trip. Finding housing after the fact is a freakout waiting to happen. If securing a rental isn’t doable from your current home, you can buy a little time by utilizing an extended stay hotel or Airbnb. Either way, try to get your stay squared away early.

2. Eat your favorite dish at your favorite restaurant

Letting go of the familiar is hard, but it’s made more difficult if you don’t give it a proper goodbye. Mark and I ate at our favorite restaurants before we left so that we could move forward without regrets. We had ramen at our favorite noodle spot, po’boys, thai and burgers in the week leading up to the move, because we didn’t want any kind of regret attached to something positive. For me, regret is like a fog that distorts the present. You can’t enjoy the view fully through the haze.

3. Make sure your license and passport aren’t about to expire

Practical and also stress reducing. You’ll have to update your license for your new residence, however if you’re traveling with a license or passport that is about to expire you will be dealing with an unnecessary headache. There are extra fees when it’s updated late that should be going towards rent and food. Make sure everything is up-to-date before you leave, to buy yourself more time to get it all switched over.

4. Try something you always talked about doing in your current home

Here’s where regret seeps in for me. There was a cute little bar Mark and I kept talking about trying out. We’ll go next weekend was the usual response when we drove by. By the time we were finally ready to go? Closed permanently! We both groaned. In this case there wasn’t much we could do, but I still wish we’d tried it before the owner moved to a bigger city.

Try things before you go – karaoke, a bookstore, a concert, a museum, any place you’ve been putting off. I think this is the best way to know for sure whether or not you were missing out on something. Letting go will be that much easier.

5. Say goodbye to the people you love

You gotta. I know it hurts and you don’t want to start with the water works, but don’t take off without giving your people time to process seeing you go. They need to be able to let you leave just as much you need to be able to move forward. We took our time seeing our families and friends, but it still didn’t feel like enough. I can’t imagine my mental state if we hadn’t made time for it at all.

6. Create an on-the-go self-care plan

This one is a lifesaver! I’ve said it before, but self-care is the most important thing you do for yourself. Everything on this list is self-care! Why wouldn’t I demand you continue the love fest on the road? Before we left, I rounded up some of my favorite “quick fixes”: a lavender bath soak for the hotels, rose water for my hair and face, a relaxing playlist for when I wasn’t driving, my favorite snacks (veggie straws), my favorite blanket, relaxing movies and lots of clean underwear. We were on the road for four days, but having things that eased my mind naturally eased tension in my body. All I ask is that you not skip out on doing what you need to be happy along the way. You deserve a good trip!

7. Identify medical professionals in your new area

This might be the most difficult step on the list. When you’re not in the area and don’t have anyone to ask for recommendations it can feel hopeless. However, if you sit down for a few hours and take your time you should be able to round up a few names. I usually use these search terms: “[town name] + therapists” to get started. Local hospitals can provide information about professionals associated with their system of searching isn’t planning out. This one can take time, so don’t feel obligated to get it done before you leave. Having it on your to-do list for when you arrive is good as well.

8. Think about what kinds of groups you would like to join

Yep, you’re gonna have to make some friends. The worst thing to do when you move is to isolate yourself. How are you going to learn what you like about the place without locals? Now, not everyone is safe -that’s a sad reality – so it’s ok to be picky. Before we left, I researched women’s groups in the area, yoga studios, political groups, book clubs and classes so that I had options to meet new people. I’ll go to each, try them out, then move forward with the ones that made me feel welcome, and, most importantly, safe.

9. Work out a realistic fail-safe

I promise I’m not including this to scare you or talk you out if this big change; on the contrary, I want you to go for it! Since I’ve been using the swimming analogy, think of it like this: you’re most likely not going to jump into a pool without knowing how to swim, but if you fall in there are lifeguards around to save you. My dad regularly had to jump into pools and the ocean to save my brother, because he didn’t understand his limitations. Life happens. We think we’ve got a hold of things, then sometimes we’re out of our depth. Mark and I agreed if this town doesn’t work out, we’ll stay long enough to save up and leave for the next town. If you have to move back home? It’s ok. Your safety and mental health are more important than what anyone else thinks. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

10. Breathe. Then breathe again.

You can do it. If I can do it, with all my flaws and anxiousness, you can, too. I think you’ve survived time and time again. There have been dark days, but then you made it through to the light. Pull strength from the truth that you can make it, then breathe over and over and over again until you arrive at your next adventure. If we’re going to be in this world, we’re going to live it well.

Good luck, my friends!

Your August 2018 Mood Board

I wake up in a cold sweat the first day of August. This happens every year, without fail. I jolt from my bed in a total state of terror that I’ve forgotten my homework or am running late for practice. I think spending all that time procrastinating, then rushing around, is to blame for my negative association. In reality I truly loved school – it was where all my friends were, where I could express my self and grow. So, after the dread falls away in the morning, I think of other kids (big and small) preparing themselves for the next step in life. I hope they are afforded the kinds of safe places I was, havens to be themselves.

Today’s mood board was created with the intention of evoking thoughts of education, growth, and the discoveries of life. I hope you enjoy it!

What’s motivating you this month? Have you had any homework dreams? Hit me in the comments!

 

Friday Media Prep

Every Friday we will feature the inspiring books, movies, TV shows, and other works of art you have to check out. Please share your suggestions below!

This week’s Media Prep is particularly exciting, because it will be my last one written as a Kansan. My husband and I are currently deep into the process of packing up our lives to head across the country to settle near the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California, which has been an invigorating and exciting experience. It’s a huge move, a huge step forward for both of us, and I’m excited to see how And then I lived will grow along with me. Today, in honor of this adventure, I’ve put together some media for you to engage with that reminds me of home. While a little light on content today (packing is hard!), what you get still packs a punch. Ideally, you’ll be inspired to face each new horizon with more joy than fear. Enjoy!

Music

“Kansas” by Talos from the album Wild Alee

Reading

  • “Mars to track blood moon in double celestial treat on Friday” [ The Guardian ]

You can watch the lunar eclipse live tonight [here]

  • “Sorry racist nerds, but Starfire is a black woman” [ i09 ] 
  • “The heartbreak of raising a black daughter in a red state [ NYT ]

As always, thank you for joining this space and stay safe out there!

How To Survive Comic Con Like a Boss

The time for nerds to reign supreme has come! Out of the shadows and into the streets, like the plague we are, the smell of sweet fandom is everywhere now that it’s Sandiego Comic Con season. I went to my first San Diego Comic-Con in 2013 and the experience was mind-blowing. My brother and I weaved through the crowds, swooping up free stuff like kids or feral wolves. We took part in a Viking competition – and almost won! – and tried a zip line. I have yet to go so wild in public since.

In the mix of all the joy that comes with letting your geek flag fly while surrounded by happy people in Deadpool onesies, it is so imperative to learn ways to navigate safely. Today we’re going to break down what you should be doing while you let loose at the Con, or any event that draws a large, jubilant crowd. Whether it be a huge fan event like Comic-Con, a concert, or a carnival, these tips are sure to keep you safe and happy. Planning for outings of this magnitude can do a number on those of us with anxiety, so continue reading to find out how to prepare yourself for the event!

Debate GIF

Take care of your body

This means sleep, food, a safe shelter, AND watching out for yourself while you’re out and about. You don’t have to carry a weapon or start training in jiu jitsu, just make time to figure out a shuttle service, exits, and when things end. A common misconception out there is all nerds are nice. If you’ve spent any time in the comment sections of i09, CBR or Youtube, you’ll know this to be false. Bad people exist everywhere, just like good people, so please take care of yourself. Taking time to eat and stop to rest will keep you from crashing like a ton of bricks before you’re ready to stop and will keep you alert enough to monitor your surroundings.

Go with someone you trust

I debated putting this point first, because it has such a huge affect on your experience and how you approach it. I do not advocate for going to events of this magnitude alone, as it is so easy to get overwhelmed in the crowd. Plus, who is going to take pictures of you with celebrities or cosplayers? More importantly, who is going to have your back? We’ve all got friends we love to be around, who make us laugh or think deeply, however a person you trust is much more important. Go with someone you mesh with, who cares for you enough to say no to a party with strangers covered in red flags, or who knows when to say yes to one more lap around the booths. Liking someone and trusting someone are two different things, so be sure to weigh your options. You don’t have to be fans of all the same things – in fact, I’ve found it’s better when you’re not.

Allot for time

Rome wasn’t built in a day and fandom won’t be fed in an hour! When I say this place is big, I mean HUGE. There are events outside, events inside, games, food, booths, panels, everything! It’s truly a wonderland. That might sound daunting, but if you go into it knowing you’re going to have your hands full you can begin to plan. Sit down with your buddy or buddies before you head out for the day to figure out how many hours you want to stay and what you would like to see knowing that it is ok for those plans to change. There’s no doubt you’ll want to do other things once you’re there, which is why it’s important to set aside time for your group to explore. You’ve got to be flexible if you want to enjoy the experience. The website – like most events of this magnitude – provides a scheduling breakdown to help folks navigate safely, which you can view here.

Celebration GIF

That’s it for now, kids! Just remember to be patient with yourself, take your time, and don’t get wrapped up in looking cool. No one looks cool at these, which is part of the magic. Let us know in the comments if you’ve ever gone to a con in another city or if you’re in San Diego now!