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!

Friday Media Prep: You MUST Read These 5 Books By Black Women

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

Who would we be without books? I often think about the times in my life when a book brought be back from the darkness, and the ways reading made my life seem worthwhile again. On the other side of that coin are all the times an author pushed me to the brink, forcing my spirit to see things I hadn’t previously perceived. There is magic in the written word and being able to wield worlds in the space between covers.

Black women who write have been my salvation. In this life, in this body, I have felt the most magically undone at the hands of their words.  That is why I’ve chosen to feature five books by five authors who came into my life at exactly the right time. Each book has coaxed a pinch of growth from my soul whether I was prepared for it or not, which is precisely what a good book is supposed to do. I truly hope you will give one or all of these books a go after reading why I have loved them. Enjoy!

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The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison 

I owe an eternal debt to Oprah’s Book Club for selecting this book, which led to my mother buying the book, leaving it laying around, and catching my eye (no pun intended). The young black girl on the cover – a representation of the heroine, Pecola – felt familiar in a way no book had before. The contents were more familiar than I’d dare imagine.

Set in Ohio, the short novel follows two black sisters and their relationship with the young Pecola, a little girl who is considered ugly, because of her dark skin, short hair, and poverty. Pecola wishes for blue eyes so that she may be as beautiful as the dolls in the shops, and the novel tracks her quest to capture them. To call this book heartbreaking would be an understatement, but reading it made me feel less alone and seen in unforseen ways. It’s a brilliant  exploration of generational trauma, colorism, self-loathing, racism and the effects of poverty. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

I don’t think there’s a more  pertinent book for any of us to read in these times. Set in the very near future, Octavia E. Butler’s book (the first of two) is set in a time of climate-related disaster, broken governments and wealth inequality. The heroine, Lauren, possesses “hyperempathy”, or the ability to feel the pain and emotions of others as she witnesses it.  Lauren develops a religion called Earthseed in order to prepare those who follow her for a life beyond Earth.

Octavia E. Butler’s books changed my mind about what kinds of books Black women are allowed to write. For years I thought only White men could craft science fiction adventures, as that was all I had available in my library. Stumbling upon Ms. Butler’s books in Barnes and Noble one day changed all that, thankfully. Her vision is unmatched, in my humble opinion, and her capacity for hope has kept me from losing my own.

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Dancing on the Edge of the Roof by Sheila Williams

Black women in love gives me my greatest joy. Plain old, regular degular love, folks. I have inherited a soft heart from my mother, one that craves romance and tales of starting over to discover what lies beneath our fears and dreams. This lovely book by Sheila Williams was one of my first romance novels, and I have returned to it time and time again. It is delightfully effervescent, the kind of story that I didn’t want to end when it finally had to.

The story follows middle-aged mother and new grandmother, Juanita, on her journey to California to start her life again. She gets broken down in a small Montana town along the way and finds more than she bargained for – home.

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White Teeth by Zadie Smith

This book i just damn good. I mean, hopefully you know about the powerhouse talent that is Zadie Smith, but if not you should get acquainted with her via this one. I can scarce sum it up without going on for days, so just suffice to say that you have to give her a go. White Teeth has it all: War, love, science, 90s-era nostalgia, race, and transcendence. Dear reader, you would be remiss to skip it.

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Passing by Nella Larsen

Nella Larsen tackled a topic that I believe is still very taboo in the Black community. The concept of “passing”, i.e. being of a light enough complexion to cross the color barrier and claim a White identity, was and is something few of us talk about. Nella Larsen herself played with race in her own life, living alternately as a Black woman in the Harlem Renaissance, then attempting to disappear into White society to escape the persecution.

This book explores the lives of two friends who can pass for White and the paths they chose, one as a White woman married to a White man, and the other as a Black woman married to a Black man. It left me with sinking feeling, but it was a necessary exercise if I want to truly be considered a “book person”. This book is going to be made into a film, which I look forward to watching.

That’s all for today, my friends! Thank you, as always for coming along on the journey with me. Enjoy your weekends, whether you be snowed in, or free to roam the streets. Maybe give one of these titles a once-over?

 

Friday Media Prep: Forward, Ho!

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!

The month of November is already coming to a close a little sooner than I would like, but there is so much to look forward to in December. New books, new experiences and new discoveries lay just around the corner. To finish out the month I’ve got a few suggestions that I think will be particularly interesting and help foster the kind of forward momentum we all need before the end of the year. Happy Friday!

Books

Negroland by Margo Jefferson

Jesse Kadjo gifted this memoir by Margo Jefferson to me earlier in the week when I went to help her move, and I cannot wait to dive into it! Margo’s work details how her life as a member of the Black elite separated her from many African Americans and how discrimination and privilege play out in the Black community. It’s a work of art worth paying attention to, to say the least.

 

Articles

  • Them.
A darkened figure with her earrings, lipstick and ring highlighted.
Image via Them. by Tallulah Fontaine

Crimes against members of the Trans community are higher than any other group, particularly when you are a Trans person of color. The article I’m sharing, entitled “The Gap Between Glamour and Death For Trans Women of Color”, is a personal essay detailing the war between being out and proud in your beauty as a Trans person and staying alive.

You can read it [here]

  • BookFox

I’ve been reading BookFox, the superb blog of writer and editor John Fox, as I continue to develop my understanding of the writing world. In the post “The Power of Quitting: Why Every Writer Should Learn To Quit”, he gives advice that I desperately needed to to hear – that sometimes it’s not only ok, but best, for you to walk away from projects. There are times I feel so bad that I haven’t accomplished a goal, but then I remember how important it is to know when you’ve given it all you’ve got. I think it’s an important philosophy to apply to all aspects of life.

You can read it [here]

Music

Last, but not least, is this soothing and positively enchanting song by Johann Johannsson “Flight From The City”. I’ve been obsessed with it for days and I hope it brings you the kind of calming warmth it provided me.

Friday Media Prep: Viola Davis is Basically My Religion Now

I’m not even going to waste your time with a flashy-pants intro, because it’s Friday and we need to jump right into the goods and the celebration!

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Movies: Widows

At a very young age I was taught that it’s wrong to idolize people. As humans, we’re doomed to let one another down, ideals of what makes a good person are constantly changing and we all eventually fade away. More than anything, though, I think my parents were just afraid I would join a cult. Sadly (for them) I officially belong to the cult of Viola Davis, but can you blame me?! She’s brilliant, talented, kind, and emulates the kind of beauty I’ve spent most of my adult life chasing. So, you can bet your sweet booty that I’m running out to see Widows this weekend. The film, starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriquez, Liam Neeson, and Daniel Kaluuya, is about a group of widows to bank robbers who must take up their husbands’ failed heist to save themselves. I’m so there. Here’s the trailer if you need a little more of a push:

 

Reading: “A Toy Monkey That Escaped Nazi Germany And Reunited  A Family”

Gert Berliner by Claire Harbage/NPR

I was fortunate to read some quality works this week, but this piece from NPR about a man who escaped Nazi Germany with only a toy monkey for comfort and how that toy changed his life really punched me in the gut – in a good way. I highly recommend reading and giving in to some therapeutic crying. Read it [here]

Bonus: The School of Life

It always seems like The School of Life knows what silent battles are being waged in the back corners of my heart, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when they posted this video on how to stop worrying about being liked. It’s been one of the hardest lessons of my life, but I’m close to getting to a place where I’m not broken by every rejection, or burning for approval from the people I come into contact with. This video is a great reminder that deep, genuine connections are often rare, but always worth the vulnerability.

That’s all for me this Friday! Go out and live like you’re meant to.

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Friday Media Prep: The Books of Juliet Marillier

One of my favorite things to do is wandering the aisles of book stores. I can spend hours dragging my fingers across the bindings, sniffing the paper scent,  quietly daydreaming about the adventures within the pages. I spent a lot of time in Barnes and Noble when I was back in Kansas, munching on the New York style cheesecake sold at the cafe as I flipped through a book that caught my eye. I have no shame in admitting that I very often judge books by their covers, because my prejudice (when it comes to literature) has yet to lead me astray.

The last time I bought a book based solely on the composition of the cover was Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier. I had never heard of the author before, but the title sounded promising enough to warrant some investigation. Next to it were the last two books in The Sevenwaters Series: Seer of Sevenwaters and Flame of Sevenwaters, but I didn’t want to buy all three without knowing if I would enjoy even one. So, after a little internal negotiation, I went home with the first, only to discover that  Heir to Sevenwaters wasn’t the first in the series (silly me!) but the fourth installment. Praise be to Google books and online reviewers who made the plot of the previous three books clear enough for me to feel certain I could follow along!

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The author with her pup.
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Such a juicy cover!

Luckily, Juliet writes with such precision and beauty that I was instantly sucked into the world of medieval Ireland  and the story of the family destined to protect the magic of their lands. If you enjoy strong female leads who are resourceful, bright, brave and loving then this series is definitely for you. It doesn’t hurt that there’s some romance, too. I’ve finished the entire series now and I must say that I am so glad the cover caught my eye that day in Barnes and Noble, or I might have missed out on a family that I’ve come to love. I’m looking forward to reading more of Juliet’s work and discovering different authors and their stories as I wander the aisles. What are you reading these days?

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!

We’ve been granted another weekend to celebrate, so let’s do it! This week we’ve rounded up some of the best pieces of music, literature, and commentary for you to explore, as well as the movies hitting the scene. From Scarlett Johansson to mermaids, this list is a doozy. Enjoy!

Movies

Sorry to Bother You premiers this week and we can’t wait to see it. The film debut of musician Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You has been highly anticipated since it was first screened at Sundance in January. Lakeith Stanfield leads a cast of Danny Glover, Tessa Thompson, Terry Crews and Armie Hammer in a look at race, wealth, identity and perception through the lens of a young black man. If nothing else this film is definitely timely.

Ant Man and the Wasp

This is the 8 millionth Marvel movie to hit the cinemas in their 10 year dominiation streak, but we can’t stop running to the theaters to check out the films. Ant Man and the Wasp is the sequel to Ant Man (2015), which followed thief Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd) as he teamed with Hank Pym and his daughter Hope van Dyne (Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly) to save the day by shrinking to the size of an insect. Sounds crazy, but was so good! The sequel promises just as much of a fun ride, so you should check it out with the rest of us nerds.

Music

High as Hope by Florence + The Machine

This is the band’s fourth album and it arguably goes deeper than ever before. Florence Welch has opened up about her struggles with alcoholism, disordered eating, family relationships, and aging. Her voice soars and swells, stripped down to the essentials to deliver something beautiful. You can catch videos of the band’s recent performance here .

Books

The Seas by Samantha Hunt

Samantha Hunt’s novel is being reissued , and we highly recommend giving it a look if you’re interested in thinking about the nature of reality and identity through the eyes of a young girl. Narrated by a young girl who doesn’t reveal her name, the story explores her isolation with her mother in a small town and her belief she is a mermaid. We suspect the novel will stick with you long after you’ve put it down.

Articles

It was recently announced that Scarlett Johansson would be playing a trans man in her upcoming flick “Rub and Tug”. Writing for Slate, Evan Urquhart explains why it’s not only inappropriate, but downright offensive.  If you’re struggling to understand what all the commotion is about, Evan makes it quite clear. At a time when there is push back from marginalized groups about who gets to tell their stories, this misstep is particularly frustrating. Read Evan’s article here.

(If you already knew about Scarlett’s nonsense and just want to laugh at the burns she received, go here.)

In not so great news, the Trump administration is working to undo an Obama-era protection for diversity on college campuses, essentially creating a timeline for the revocation of Affirmative Action. You can read more about the process here.

Finally, in news that gives us hope for the future: on the 4th of July activist Therese Patricia Okoumou climbed the Statue of Liberty to protest the separation of children from their parents by I.C.E and the administration’s treatment of immigrants in general. Upon her release she had this to say,

“Michelle Obama, our beloved First Lady that I care about so much, said when they go low, we go high. And I went as high as I could.”

Please have that printed on a shirt for me IMMEDIATELY.

You can read more about Therese and view her press conference here.

That’s all for this week, folks! Take care of yourself out there!

 

 

 

 

Friday Media Prep: The SciFi Brilliance of Octavia E. Butler

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!

 

Happy Friday, all! This week’s Media Prep is dedicated to the wonderful literary works of author Octavia E. Butler. She is being honored today – her birthday – on Google, so what better time to bring more attention to a writer who possessed a formidable imagination? While Butler died in 2006, her legacy reshaped the modern Science Fiction genre in exciting ways that continue to ripple out. Before Butler, the protagonists in the genre were predictably white, straight and male, but her works feature African-American women who works with aliens, time traveled, and infused new life into her landscapes. Below is a short list of her works that you absolutely must give a go if you want to see the world of SciFi through new eyes.  If you are already a Butler fan, take to the comments to share your own suggestions!

 

Kindred

Dana, a young African-American writer living in California in the 1970’s is suddenly transported back in time to the Antebellum South, where she must keep the son of a slave owner alive. Butler pulls no punches with the narrative, as Dana is forced to choose whether or not to keep a vicious cycle going so that her own ancestors might be born, or allow the cruelty of slavery to die with the young man who will inherit the plantation. This book might be hard to swallow, but it is more than worth the read.

Parable of the Sower

This novel might be set in a future rife with unrest, but isn’t your typical dystopian romp. The protagonist, Lauren Oya Olamina possesses the power of “sharing”, or hyperempathy as Butler referred to it. She can feel the emotions and physical sensations of others, be it pain or joy. Lauren goes on to create her own religion called Earthseed, which posits humankind has a higher calling in the universe. Now, more than ever, this book deserves to be revisited.

Dawn

This book is the first in Butler’s Xenogenesis Series, which chronicles the destruction and potential rebirth of the human race. After nuclear warfare rendered the planet all but demolished, an alien race called the Oankali takes the few surviving humans in an attempt to begin again. Through the human survivor Lilith, they hope to merge the two races into a species capable of surviving without the weaknesses both bring into the fold. The series is a triumph of imagination, and is in development with Ava DuVernay to be brought to the small screen.

Friday Media Prep: My Dad is Still the Greatest Hero

Happy Friday, kids! Today’s post is in honor of the person who was my first hero and the baddest guy on the block, my father. This weekend we’re supposed to be exalting his name, buying expensive and shiny cards, and eating whatever he wants, because Sunday is Father’s Day, but I wouldn’t have a problem bragging about my Pop any day of the week.

My father was 26-years-old when I was born – a kid himself – yet, I think he was born ready to raise babies into halfway decent people. We spent our days together while my mother completed nursing school, playing with Barbies, going to the park, and exploring the world. In fact, most of my traits are mirrors of the behaviors I picked up from him in those early imprinting years; from the way I walk, to how I look, his DNA is ever-present.

My dad’s – and most heroes – greatest strength is his capacity for caring and the bravery to do what is difficult yet right. Over the years I have watched my dad inspire children in his classroom to be whomever the want to be. I’ve seen them return after graduation to hug him, thank him for his ability to make school fun, then go off and achieve their dreams. He’s coached athletes (including my brother) to championships. He’s made young people without an ally feel seen. Then, at the end of his long days, he goes home to be a regular guy and cook for the family he loves.

There’s surely no greater hero than my dad, but I’ve prepared a list of some characters who come mighty close to his standard. Below you’ll find my weekend media recommendations if you’re feeling like you need to get a heroic boost for the upcoming week. Enjoy!

 

Incredibles 2

Image via the Hollywood Reporter

It’s an exciting time to be alive, because the stars aligned for us to (finally) get the sequel I’ve personally been dying for – Incredibles 2. Since we might have to accept that a third one won’t be on the horizon for another 300 years, I highly recommend clearing time on your schedule to go see it. We went as a family of adults last night, and it was quite the event. I can safely say 90% of the audience was over 21, yet no one was too caught up in adulthood to sit silently at the best moments. The sequel begins where The Incredibles left us with the family battling the Underminer. From there on it’s a family adventure that the world needs right now. I couldn’t help but laugh at Mr. Incredible’s struggle to maintain the home while his wife, Elastigirl, moves to the fore to fight crime. My dad never let on that being the daytime caregiver was difficult, beyond how much he hated cutting the crust off all my sandwiches. (Honestly? I still hate the crust.) However, in Mr. Incredible’s devotion to be above all things a good father I saw my own. Rest assured that both succeeded.

 

Origin (Wolverine)

 

Via Marvel

When my dad was a kid he collected comics like candy. He only had to pay 25 cents to read about Spider-Man’s exploits, or to imagine he was one of the X-Men. Growing up in small town Western Kansas only offers so much entertainment, but with his comicbooks he could imagine he was anywhere else. Sadly, after college he gave away or threw out most of his originals. However, by the time my brother and I came along he’d amassed quite the impressive collection. Let me put it like this: Kevin Smith was able to finance his first film with the proceeds of his comic collection. My dad calculated that he has more. His is a treasure trove of tales that formed many of my favorite childhood memories. I’m quite certain my brother and I can thank the afternoons of reading with my dad for our love of storytelling and adventure. The above comic is Origin, the tale of Wolverine’s life that was unknown to his comrades in the X-Men. I remember when this 6-part series came out, because we were dying to know more about our favorite member of the team. Wolverine was gruff around the edges, yet always seemed loving and misunderstood to me. I got a little of that tough love in my younger years. I highly recommend checking up on this story in your free time.

 

Castelvania

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Last, but certainly not least, is the Netflix show Castlevania! We all just discovered this series on the streaming service, and I had no idea it was a video game back in the day. My brother and husband played it when they were kids, but I was too busy being cool and having friends. Luckily, it’s been revived in the form of an animated powerhouse that seriously delivers on the fights and gore. My brother and I were early lovers of anime and East Asian cinema, thanks to my Dad. We regularly snatched up Studio Ghibli films from Blockbuster, tried to imitate Bruce Lee, and desperately waned to be like the Samurai of Kurosawa’s films. Watching Castlevania takes me back to those days of my youth in a delightfully ridiculous way. The show is all about the fight to stop Dracula from destroying Wallachia through his horde of demons. Enter a drunken badass named Trevor, and you’ve got yourself the kind of show anyone could eat up. Season 1 of Castlevania is available to watch in its entirety and it’s only 4 episodes long. You have no excuse to avoid it!

 

There you have it! I wish I could list more, but then you would be here all day, instead of celebrating the heroes in your life. One of the many things I love about my dad is how he tried to show my brother and I that heroes aren’t one thing. It’s not about your size, gender, sexuality, race, or ability, but about calling on the strength to be good in the face of hardship. My dad isn’t the kind of man who will gravitate naturally to the limelight, but he’s exactly the kind of person who deserves it. Above all things, I hope my dad knows I’ve survived this wild life with a smile due to being imbued with the confidence of his love.

Stay strong out there. Be the hero of your story today.

 

 

Friday Media Prep: Mermaids, Moms and Movement

Every Friday I will feature the books, movies, TV shows, and other works of art that have been inspiring me, or that I’m looking forward to experiencing. Please share your suggestions below!

Hello, hello, you beautiful people! To round out this wonderful week, I want to send you of with some programming and reading that just might inspire you to get moving, get creating, or get up from a funk. Below you’ll find my selections for the weekend. Saturdays and Sundays are my time to settle back into what I need for a happier life, and these suggestions have got me thinking deeper than before. Enjoy! And as always, stay strong.

Siren

Image via Freeform

This show on Freeform honestly had me at the diverse cast and black mermaid. I remember flopping around the lake near my childhood home, dreaming I was a beautiful lady of the sea – I even have the video footage to prove it! But, this show isn’t your average damsel in distress romp. The mermaids are powerful and ferocious in their own right and striking beyond comparison. Throw in commentary on conservationism, the autonomy of the female body and gender stereotypes, and you have the perfect show for a chick like me. You can stream the first season of Sirenon Hulu before season 2 premiers next year. I also recommend reading this article on Black Girl Nerds for a deeper dive (*wink wink) into the symbolism of the show.

Motherhood

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Elena Scotti for Amazon

As a newlywed who is constantly being pressured to have a popping belly, this title instantly stood out to me. However, after reading Stassa Edwards’ wonderful review of Motherhood Sheila Heti, I’m now dying to cop it. The book focuses on a creative woman’s ambivalence about having a child. Can you remain true to yourself while also being a good mom? Do you have to sacrifice everything or is there middle ground? Does one choice make you a bad person? This topic is rarely presented through the lens of a woman on the cusp of a decision so life-altering, which I truly appreciate in my current state.

Serena Williams all over the place

Serena Williams Harper's Bazaar July issue cover
Image via Harper’s Bazaar

I have been a fan – dare I say obsessively – of Serena and Venus Williams since Venus jumped onto the scene as a young, lanky teen. To see a girl with braids, beads, brown skin and muscles playing a sport I considered off-limits for people like me was life-changing. When Serena hit the courts it was basically game over. Serena didn’t have the type of body people wanted to accept as feminine, which truly affected me deeply. I can’t even count the number of times she was called some variation of ugly in an attempt to rob her of her glory. Yet, she stood tall and continued to kick that booty. Now, she’s a wife and mother who refuses to slow down or be defeated. You can catch Serena in the newest issue of Harper’s Bazaar, playing in the French Open (3 AM EST) or over at her new clothing line. I’m trying to grab a few of her lovely pieces.