“Exotic Shifter,” My New Chapbook, Coming Soon

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Good news: my latest project entitled, Exotic Shifter, will be available soon! In a previous post, I mentioned that I’d been working on two new projects. The first being a chapbook, Exotic Shifter, and the second being my next full-length volume of poetry (with a tentative release date some time in late 2015/early 2016). Well, we’re in the final stages of the editing process and the chapbook will be heading to the printer any day now.

Exotic Shifter is primarily about love and relationships. As my grandmother says, “Love is a metamorphosis.” Love changes things… Well, love changes everything. It’s impossible that we go through life loving anything or anyone (ourselves, others, our communities) without being changed. The poems featured in Exotic Shifter examine the transformative power of love (and/or how we can be transformed once we learn to love ourselves and others better).

Exotic Shifter will be published by 2 Pens & Lint, whose tagline is, “A New Direction In Poetry.” As their website states, “2 Pens & Lint strives to create an atmosphere where poets can build and maintain financial stability through the art of poetry while simultaneously using their poetry as a catalyst for change in their communities and broader society.”

2 Pens & Lint is a company that is completely supportive of the art of poetry and ensuring that poets have the resources they need to continue enhancing their artistry, their platform, and their business (which in essence will impact their communities and the world). This is why I decided to pursue publishing my chapbook with 2 Pens & Lint.

Exotic Shifter will be available for sale on the 2 Pens & Lint website and from me at upcoming events. Stay tuned for more details!

As always, I thank you kindly for your continued support. Much Love!

Exotic Shifter Cover Illustration: Patricia Swann (my grandmother, who also created the cover illustration for Prevail)

New Event: The 2014 Center Black LGBT Writers’ Forum

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It’s with immense pleasure that I announce another great event in August – The 2014 Center Black LGBT Writers’ Forum. This event will be part of The DC Center’s 2014 OutWrite Book Fair, which runs August 1-3, 2014.

The Writers’ Forum will be moderated by Wyatt O’Brian Evans, and writers/authors Cheryl Head, Michelle Sewell, Rashid Darden, and BuddahDesmond will serve as panelists. Panelists will cover a variety of topics surrounding the writing life, such as the creative process, publishing, strategies for success, along with sharing passages from their newest works.

The Writers’ Forum takes place Saturday, August 2, 2014 | 1 PM | The DC Center (2000 14th St, NW, Washington, DC 20009) | Facebook Event Page

The event is free and open to the public. So if you’re in the area, stop by!

Until next time… Peace, love, and many blessings!

Happy 2nd Anniversary to “Prevail!”

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I cannot believe it’s been two years since the release of my first volume of poetry Prevail: Poems on Life, Love, and Politics. Seems like it was only yesterday when I saw the email that the book had gone to the printer. And roughly 10-14 days later, it was available to purchase. Seeing my work published, especially this collection, was a major milestone. I went through a lot to get to that stage. And my what I’ve learned in the time since it was published.

I was trying to do everything when Prevail came out. To maintain the little bit of sanity I have left, I had to pump my breaks. I realized that if I broke my goals up into smaller pieces, execution wouldn’t be as difficult. This allowed for quick wins, which in essence brings you closer to achieving your ultimate goals (versus trying to attack everything head on all at once).

My goal this year was increasing visibility in the DC metro area (i.e. attending more events, performing, and making connections/building relationships). I went after some opportunities, while other opportunities came to me (all of which I’m extremely grateful). I’m in the process of planning for events for the latter half of the year (I’ll be sharing news about this soon). Aside from releasing my next two projects, the goal for 2015/2016 will be increasing visibility in other regions of the country.

After going through the publishing process with my first project, I feel like I could teach a course or two. There’s no need to spend a lot of money buying packages through an on-demand or vanity press when you don’t have to. Doing it yourself may be a more cost-effective option, especially if you have access to the right resources. Whether you self-publish or get picked up by a publishing company (indie or mainstream), you will still be on the hook for marketing/promoting your work. At this stage, I’d rather have more control over the finished product and how its marketed/promoted.

Information about my next two projects is forthcoming. In the interim, be sure to check out my previous posts about Prevail. And if so inclined, buy a copy of Prevail, write a review, and tell a friend!

Thank you for your support. Until next time… Peace, love, and many blessings! ~ BuddahDesmond

Buy Prevail from: iUniverse | Amazon (Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle) | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million (Paperback | Hardcover)

Buddah’s Upcoming Projects and Events

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Hello All! I know it’s been a few weeks since my last post. Outside of my crazy work schedule, I’ve been revising, editing, and selecting poems for my next two projects. The first project is a chapbook which I’m pushing to release later this year.  The second project is my next full length volume of poetry which I’m hoping to release in late 2015/early 2016. Titles for each project will be forthcoming. I look forward to sharing more details as the process moves along.

I also have a few events coming up this month. I’ll be doing a reading at Open Mic at Busboys & Poets (Shirlington) in Arlington, VA | 5/12/2014 | 8PM-10PM. The open mic will be hosted by Joseph LMS Green and the featured poet is Dasha Kelly. I’ll be the spotlight poet for the evening. Tickets for the event are $5 and can be purchased the day of the event (beginning at midnight) via Busboys & Poets/Eventbrite. I’ll also be doing a reading as part of the 2014 DC Black Pride Writer’s Forum in Washington, DC | Grand Hyatt Washington (Lafayette Park Room – Independence Level) | 5/24/2014 | 12:30PM-1:45PM. If you’re in the area, please come out and support!

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Many Blessings!

~ BuddahDesmond

Happy National Poetry Month 2014

npm2014POSTERCourtesy of Poets.org (from The Academy of American Poets). Designed by Chip Kidd.

Happy National Poetry Month! If you’re a lover of poetry, hope this month affords you lots of time to read some of your favorite poets’ works, attend (or participate in) a few poetry readings, and/or write some poetry yourself (the NaPoWriMo Challenge, perhaps?). I’ve been doing all of the above. On my Facebook page, I’ve also been celebrating by sharing snippets of poems and performance videos of some of my favorite poets’ works.

Like music, singing, art, cooking/baking, poetry/writing is like a lifeforce for me. It speaks/sings to my soul. It doesn’t matter how often or how little I write it or how long I’m away from it, I always find my way back to poetry. Like writer Marisa de los Santos says, “Poetry foregrounds the quality [of music] in writing.” And how amazing is it when a poet’s words are not only singing on the page but singing/speaking to your soul?

If you haven’t already, check out posts on a few poets who’ve deeply affected me and inspired my work:

  1. Maya Angelou
  2. Langston Hughes
  3. Nikki Giovanni
  4. Sonia Sanchez

Here’s to you poets, and those who love them! Hope you have a beautiful National Poetry Month!

In love and poetry, BuddahDesmond

Takeaways from the 2014 Conversations and Connections Conference

This past weekend, I had the chance to attend the Conversations and Connections Conference in Washington, DC.  Organized by Barrelhouse magazine and sponsored by the Johns Hopkins University Master of Arts in Writing program, this was not the typical conference. Conversations and Connections is designed to help writers better their craft by providing practical advice on writing and publishing in “a comfortable, congenial environment where you can meet other writers, editors and publishers” (Conversations and Connections).

Panel sessions were varied in topics that were universal and genre-specific. Panelists/presenters typically had an informal and candid style which was most engaging. The keynote speaker was award-winning and New York Times best-selling author Marisa de los Santos (Love Walked In, Belong to Me, and Falling Together), whose charismatic, humorous, and insightful talk was a major hit with attendees.

One of the other highlights of the conference was the Speed Dating with Editors session.  During this session, writers had the chance to get feedback on their work, find out about valuable writing resources, and learn about where they should consider sending their work.

For $70, the Conversations and Connections conference is a great value for any writer committed to enhancing their craft, getting published, and connecting with other writers, editors, and publishers.

Here are some takeaways from the sessions I attended:

Get Off Your Ass and Write: Stop Making Excuses and Start Being Productive (Rosalia Scalia)

  1. Always have a notebook and pen handy, as inspiration can hit at any moment.
  2. Discipline is about practicing good habits. It’s not about forcing yourself to do things you don’t want to do.
  3. Make time to write each day.
  4. Know your craft. Study it. Research it. Practice it.
  5. Read widely and without prejudice. This is what feeds the well.
  6. Characters drive the plot. You need to know your characters well. Know what choices they will make to move the story along.
  7. Taking a different point of view may help you tackle problems you encounter with your writing.
  8. Learn how to use the tools to become the writer you want to be.
  9. Create a relationship with yourself. Make a commitment to your work in order to achieve your goals.
  10. The ultimate goal with writing is raising it to the universal level.

The chemistry of the poetic line: Line Breaks and Poetry (Jim Warner)

  1. Line breaks affect how you read/hear poetry.
  2. Originally, the form of a poem was determined by line lengths.
  3. There are typically two ways to interpret line length: the way the head sees the line and the way the line is spoken.
  4. The goal of poetry: to channel the original energy of the source of inspiration for the poem.
  5. Make a break that is not obvious. Go against the breath.
  6. The chemistry of the line comes in revision.
  7. Know why (and be able to explain) the choices you make in your writing.

Keynote Speaker: Marisa de los Santos

  1. Poetry foregrounds the quality [of music] in language.
  2. Listen to your characters (this is your primary job).
  3. Set out a time to write that works well with your schedule.
  4. Be present in whatever you’re doing (be in the moment).
  5. Everything feeds everything else.
  6. Every book makes its own rules.
  7. If you’re having trouble with a story, you may be having trouble with the characters.
  8. You walk with faith that your story is going to lead the way.
  9. Find your way and do it.
  10. There’s no one right way to write.

Is Fiction Dead?: The Rise of Creative Nonfiction (Cathy Alter, Jenny Sullivan, and Tim Wendel)

Scenes

  1. Good scenes get readers involved immediately.
  2. To write a good scene, think of how you would put it in an email to a dear friend or family member.
  3. You can never go wrong with descriptions. Descriptions put the reader there with you.
  4. Create a sense of space that people can relate to.
  5. Interview others about events/experiences that you’re writing about to make them come to life, to make them real.
  6. Precise details can make a scene pop.
  7. Use attribution.
  8. Research.

Character

  1. Well drawn characters are three-dimensional.
  2. First person narration, if it’s necessary, lends credibility to what you’re writing. It creates authenticity.
  3. The goal: to tell the story without the need to be in it.
  4. Be flexible.
  5. Think about writing in third person. It’s more interesting to write from someone else’s point of view.
  6. Action = character. What they do on the page creates who they are.
  7. If the action is not building, the story won’t go anywhere.

Dialogue

  1. Dialogue builds characters beyond what descriptions can do.
  2. Can tell you a lot.
  3. Let the character’s voice come through so you don’t pass judgment.

Revision

  1. Be ruthless with your work and think about what is truly useful to your story. If it makes it harder for the reader to follow along, take it out.
  2. Read your work aloud.
  3. Scrub, scrub, scrub. If it sounds like (or is) a cliché, take it out.
  4. Take a break away from your work. You’ll see things you did not see before that you can improve upon.
  5. Don’t wear your writer and editor hats at the same time. It can damage your voice.

brenda.trinidad@gmail.com

I’ll Be Reading at the DC Metro Scholastic Writing Awards – 3/11/2014

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It’s with great happiness that I announce I’ve been selected to read a few works by this year’s American Voice Nominees at the 2014 DC Metro Scholastic Writing Awards!  Performing, giving back, and highlighting some of the Greater Washington Area’s up-and-coming writers—does it get any better than that?

Each year, students in grades 7-12 are encouraged to participate in the The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.  Almost 200,000 students enter their art and writing “for review by panels of art and writing professionals, and compete for recognition, scholarships, and publication opportunities” (Writopia Lab | Scholastic Writing Awards).  2.5 million students have been awarded over $25 million in cash awards and scholarships since 1923.  Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards Alumni include Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Robert Redford, Joyce Carol Oates, and Zac Posen.

Writopia Lab was selected by the Alliance of Young Artists and Writers to serve as the Scholastic Writing Awards Regional Affiliate in the Greater Washington Area.  The Scholastic Writing Awards serve as not only a celebration, but also a platform for students to creatively express themselves with their budding talents.

The Scholastic Writing Awards will be held: March 11, 2014 | 6:30PM to 8:30PM | Artisphere’s Spectrum Theater | 1611 N. Kent Street Arlington, VA 22209.  The event is open to the public.  If you’re in the area, please come celebrate the brilliant talents of some of the DC-Area’s most promising teen writers.

Congrats to all of the nominees and winners!

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Many Blessings, BuddahDesmond

Nothing But Love (from ‘Prevail’)

I’m just a brotha tryin’ to make it,
livin’ paycheck to paycheck,
tryin’ to stay afloat.
I don’t have a lot,
but I have all of the necessities,
and I’m happy with that.
Hopefully you can be happy with that too,
’cause all I can give you is love,
nothing more    nothing less,
just a healthy dose of unadulterated, unconditional love.
No additives, artificial sweeteners, or trans fats involved,
just love.
’Cause all I want to do is love you—for as long as I can.

All those other things,
like money, clothes, and diamond rings,
you know—the finer things—
they’re all real nice, but can you hold on to them at night?
Will they keep you warm,
will they provide you with a shoulder to cry on
and someone that you know you can confide in?
Will they love you like I can love you?
Hell no!
They provide a temporary high
to whatever you may be missing in your life at the time.
We need substance:
something that will last and stand the test of time,
something that we can hold onto.
And I’ve got it for you:
it’s love,
all love.
You feel me?
If not,
then we can stop wasting each other’s time right now by not going any further.

’Cause I’ve got nothing but love for you,
nothing but love to give.
I’ve got nothing but love.

© 2012 BuddahDesmond 

“Nothing But Love” is featured in the “Love” section of Prevail: Poems on Life, Love, and Politics. Prevail is available at iUniverse, Amazon (Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle), Barnes & Noble, Book-A-Million (Paperback | Hardcover), and other retailers.    

Related Post:
101 Days Project: Prevail
BuddahDesmond Featured in MOOV Magazine 
Full Poetry Reading from OutWrite 2012 
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With… BuddahDesmond on JoeyPinkney.com 

Learning to Breathe: An Evening with Terry McMillan

Image courtesy of USA Today.

Too many of us are hung up on what we don’t have, can’t have, or won’t ever have. We spend too much energy being down, when we could use that same energy – if not less of it – doing, or at least trying to do, some of the things we really want to do. ~ Terry McMillan, Disappearing Acts (1989)
On April 20, 2013, my partner and I attended “Learning To Breathe: An Evening with Terry McMillan.”  The event, presented in partnership with the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, was part of the PEN/Faulkner 2012/2013 Reading Series.  Moderated by writer, professor, and PEN/Faulkner board member Lisa Page, this event offered readers the chance to exchange in conversation with one of the most creative, thought-provoking, and inspiring literary minds of time.  

“Learning To Breathe” was divided into three partsreading, interview, and Q&A.  During the reading, McMillan read a selection from her upcoming novel Who Asked You?  With an anticipated release date some time in fall 2013, the novel will be told from the perspective of 15 characters in first-person.  Who Asked You? is full of wit, realism, and social commentarytold in McMillan’s signature style.

One of the key aspects of McMillan’s work has been admitting or getting to a truth.  She has a knack for using self-realization, self-discovery, and humor to help her characters get to their truth.  The common belief is that we have to go through something or be down-and-out in order to get to our truth.  McMillan dissuaded this notion saying, “You don’t always have to be depressed to admit a truth.”  

McMillan has said, “Writing is a form of praying on paper.”  It provides us with a way to really understand who we are, what makes us tick, and what we care about.  She shared that she wants us all to be happy and “sickening in love… be assets and not liabilities… be happy about who we are…[be] forgiving…”  Her critically acclaimed and award-winning novels like Mama, Disappearing Acts, Waiting to Exhale, and A Day Late And A Dollar Short are evident of this.  In addition, McMillan’s writing has afforded her (and her readers) greater empathy, compassion, and a better understanding of people she might not have in real life.

When asked about how she develops her characters, McMillan said you not only have to listen to how people talk but you also have to get outside of yourself in order to authentically tell someone else’s story.  “You have to get lost in someone else’s skin,” she says.  “Because otherwise it’s phony.”  For every story she’s written, she knows every single detail about her characters.  Even if the details don’t make it into the book, it illustrates the point about knowing who (and what) you’re writing about.  This, I’m sure, is how and why the characters always speak to you when in the midst of writing projects (as McMillan and so many other writers have noted).

As far as her process, McMillan never writes more than one chapter a day.  A work day for her can vary from two hours to eight or more hours.  But she admits that she’s quite spent when she’s finished writing for the day.  For chapters that are emotionally taxing, she may take a break and continue writing them the next day.  McMillan emphasized that no matter what you do, you must “find your own rhythm.”

McMillan also imparted her insights on the ever-changing publishing industry and provided some advice to aspiring authors.  She said the industry is racist and sexist, to some extent.  And that it is particularly harder for new authors to get contracts, especially for African American authors.  When McMillan’s best-selling book Waiting To Exhale was released in 1992, the publishing world was turned upside down by the mere fact that so many black people were reading and buying books (in droves).  If you looked at the press, you would think a new renaissance had started (when really it was nothing new).  I was only 10 years old at the time, and like McMillan, I too was insulted because the implication was that black people did not read (let alone write) and that we didn’t buy books.  The reality is that the publishing industry had ignored some of their largest book buying demographics.  To take advantage reap the benefits of this, the industry started beefing up promotion and doling out large advances to several black writers at the time.  Many of these writers were pummeled with accolades and kudos that were well beyond anyone’s expectations.  And sadly, you don’t hear about many of them today.

Fast-forward years later to the impact of a fledgling economy, and the infiltration of Corporate America into every facet of our lives, and we understand why it’s so hard for writers to get contracts.  And if you do get a contract, forget about book tours.  The chances of your publishing company setting up book tours are slim-to-none.  McMillan said she is quite fortunate to be able to live off of the royalties from her book sales, but she acknowledges that she, too, could be standing in the welfare line at any moment.  Her advice to aspiring writers: do not get discouraged and do not quit your day job. 

The next time McMillan is in town, I highly advise checking her out.  You won’t regret it.  

To learn more about Terry McMillan, go to her official website: http://www.terrymcmillan.com/.

Bibliography:
Mama (1987)
Disappearing Acts (1989)
Breaking Ice: An Anthology of Contemporary American Fiction (1990)
Waiting To Exhale (1992)
How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1996)
A Day Late And A Dollar Short (2001)
The Interruption of Everything (2005)
It’s Okay If You’re Clueless: And 23 More Tips For The College Bound (2006)
Getting To Happy (2010)

A Tribute to Our Beloved Writers

 
Performance artist, poet, playwright, and novelist Ntozake Shange. Image courtesy of Tumblr.
Your words have moved us
Warmed us in ways only the gods could.
Yours were the voices of nations
     speaking for others who had been silenced,
     or for those who hadn’t quite found their voice yet.
Your stories evoked emotions
     some we never imagined anyone could tap so literally within us.
But you’re the catalysts,
     the messengers,
     transparent vehicles for lessons of a higher kind.
And we—the recipients of your gifts
     continue to stand in awe, honor, and praise,
     for the art of your words dutifully expresses our humanity.
© 2012 BuddahDesmond