The Blogger Week Unconference 2014: An Engaging, Informative, Highly Valuable Event

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I had the pleasure of attending the Blogger Week Unconference in May, and I must say that it was one of the best professional events I’ve attended in some time. Hosted by Black Bloggers Connect, the Unconference was part of Blogger Week 2014, a multicultural festival of bloggers, journalists, and social media mavens. Blogger Week 2014 featured both digital and in-person events such as Google Hangouts, Twitter parties, panels, workshops, and networking events.

The Unconference featured 13 engaging discussion panels and breakout sessions led by industry notables. Topics included: digital monetizing, social media strategies, the business of beauty blogging, personal and executive branding, PR, blogging in the Pan African world, using your blog to affect politics and cause change, and the power of blogger collaboration (to name a few). There truly was something of great value for bloggers, journalists, and social media mavens at all levels at the Unconference.

After blogging for 9 years and being on social media for at least 5 years, I’m far from an expert. I’m always looking for ways to learn more, improve, streamline, and enhance. So I welcome and am grateful for events like these. I honestly believe I got more value out of this one-day, $25 (early bird) event than I would have if I’d gone to one of the high-priced multi-day events.

One of the other elements that made this event so commendable were the people. There was a warm, inclusive, welcoming community vibe at the Unconference. Almost immediately, I felt comfortable and at home. It was like I was with my best friends and family. I connected with some really cool, intelligent, and talented people doing wonderful things. I would be remiss if I didn’t give some shout outs: Taiye Oladipo,MPH, Marc Polite, L. Laura Burge, Marquita Goodluck, Ananda Leeke, Caribbean Soultrekkers, Ni’cola Mitchell, and Vino Noire.

The Blogger Week Unconference is highly recommended! Thank you Jessica Ann Mitchell and Black Bloggers Connect for organizing such a FAB event. I look forward to attending many other Black Bloggers Connect events in the future.

Blogger Week Unconference Takeaways:

  1. Quantity is not important. It’s about the connection or relationship you have with your followers.
  2. Be authentic. Use your personality. Your voice is key. If you have passion, brands will come to you.
  3. Don’t lose sight of why you’re doing this, as it will keep you focused, motivated, and moving forward.
  4. Make yourself your brand. Know your key differentiators (what makes your brand unique) and use them to your advantage.
  5. Try to keep your brand consistent across platforms. Make contact information present. Be accessible. Responsive.
  6. Honor your word/commitments. If you can’t do it, be honest about it.
  7. Don’t be afraid of your potential. Own it. It’s going to take work.
  8. Be your own hustleman. Create a social calendar for yourself and get yourself out there.
  9. Make sure your message is simple but encompasses all aspects of yourself/your brand.
  10. Give the people what they want.
  11. Partnerships (meaningful, long-lasting, mutually beneficial) can help you solidify your brand. But be sure you’re partnering with organizations that represent your brand.
  12. Don’t pitch people your problems, pitch them your solutions.

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

Buddah’s Musings

freedom_by_find_myself_forever(2)Image courtesy of heatherfromthegrove.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a “Buddah’s Musings” post.  Here are five musings that have been heavy on my mind lately:

  1. Let go of that which you have no power to change. You’ll save yourself from a lot of unwanted, unneeded stress.
  2. Be an original. We have enough carbon copies running around as it is. Don’t add to the noise. Be the innovator you were born to be.
  3. We’re quick to talk about the importance of respect. But why is respecting ourselves so often a forgotten necessity? When you can respect yourself, you can respect others and command/demand it in return.
  4. Don’t allow others to railroad or reroute your dreams without your consent. If you have a vision for your journey, a passion or calling that you must heed, stick with it. Be true to it. Endure the many challenges that come your way, for they are preparing you for the blessings that will soon follow.
  5. You are not your thoughts.  The sooner you realize this the freedom to simply be will abound.  As Michael Singer, author of The Untethered Soul, says, “The day that you decide you are more interested in being aware of your thoughts than you are in the thoughts themselves — that is the day you will find your way out.”

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

I’ll Be Reading at Warsan and Xperience J’s Book Signing in Camp Springs, MD on 3/29/2014

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I’m happy to announce my next poetry reading will take place at Warsan and Xperience J’s Tomorrow’s Seduction: Kiss of Death Book Signing event.  The event will be held: March 29, 2014 | 1PM-3PM | Annie’s Art Gallery | 5814 Allentown Way Camp Springs, Maryland 20748.

Fans can bring a copy of their recently published book Tomorrow’s Seduction: Kiss Of Death or purchase a copy at the event for $15. There will be music and poetry/entertainment.  Light refreshments and mimosas will also be served.

I agree with the authors that this will be a great opportunity to meet and connect with others in the community.

So if you’re in the area on March 29, 2014, please come through!

To RSVP for the event, please go to the Event page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/255511394623816/.

To view the trailer for Tomorrow’s Seduction: Kiss of Death on YouTube, go to:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvITqnJL2TU.

To purchase a copy of the book in advance of the book signing on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Tomorrows-Seduction-Crystal-B-Judkins/dp/0615922880.

Like Tomorrow’s Seduction: Kiss of Death on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/TomorrowsSeductionKissofDeath.

Janet Mock and The Power of Defining Ourselves For Ourselves

janet-mock-amos-mac-opmagImage courtesy of Amos Mac of OP Magazine and janetmock.com.

If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive. ~ Audre Lorde

There is freedom in knowing ourselves and defining ourselves for ourselves. There is freedom in living in our light and telling our stories–oft stories that need to be told. When we allow ourselves to be defined by others, our lives are muted, shortchanged, and disregarded. There is no power like that of naming yourself and claiming your truth. This is what Janet Mock has done and continues to do as a fierce writer, advocate, and creator of #GirlsLikeUs, a movement which encourages trans women to live their lives openly and visibly.

In late February, I had the opportunity to attend an intimate talk by Janet Mock at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, DC. This event was part of a book tour in support of Mock’s New York Times bestselling book Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, and So Much More. The ever-engaging Helena Andrews, journalist, pop culture critic, and author of Bitch Is The New Black, facilitated the talk.

In 2011, Mock came out as a trans woman in the misgendered Marie Claire article, “I Was Born A Boy.” At a very early age, Mock knew what her identity was and that it did not match the sex she was assigned at birth. She always knew she was a girl, even though the world tried to refute, devalue, and silence her true identity through gender policing, heteronormativity, and transphobia. It was a struggle, but Mock was adamant about who she was and was determined to live her life authentically. In no truer words, Michaela Angela Davis told Mock, “You got your girl. You saw who you were and you got her.” And that she did!

Aside from an affirming family, Mock credits community as being pivotal in her path to womanhood. In seventh grade she met her best friend, Wendy, who was also a young trans woman. Mock says Wendy connected her with a community of older trans women who she bonded with. Through them she had examples of what trans womanhood was, which further shaped her identity and what she wanted her womanhood to be.

It was in this community that Mock says other trans women began calling her “Baby Janet” because of an uncanny resemblance to Janet Jackson. During this time, Mock admits being completely enamored with Jackson’s critically acclaimed album The Velvet Rope. The Velvet Rope is a collection of deeply introspective songs, many of which unveiling pain that Jackson held inside for many years. The album touched on depression, self-love, self-worth, sexuality and social issues like homophobia and domestic violence. Mock saw many parallels between Janet’s heartfelt music and her own life. So how fitting is it that she, too, would ultimately name herself Janet.

During the talk, Mock also discussed the notion of privilege and “passing.” In this society, we often place too much emphasis on beauty and attractiveness. Often times, beauty can overshadow a person’s skills, gifts, talents, and experiences. Mock acknowledges privilege in being attractive, but she does not let that define who she is. She says, “I do the work. I will not let people reduce me to a pretty face.” Mock also scoffs at the notion of passing, for she is a woman who is simply being herself.

When it comes to telling your story, Mock says you have to do it first and foremost for yourself. Tell yourself the truth about your experiences. She recommends finding someone you trust to share your story with. When you feel ready, share the story publicly. For young trans women, she says “Shut out all the noise. Tap into your own truth. Find your advocates.” For many of us, it’s crucial that we find our families in the spaces we’re in.

As her journey continues, Mock hopes that her work speaks for itself and that her story is one that opens minds, shifts language, and inspires others to be their authentic selves. When asked by Marc Lamont Hill on HuffPost Live about the message she hopes people take away from Redefining Realness, Mock said, “I think my biggest thing would be to empower girls who grew up like I did. To give them language and access to explain and understand their experiences. For so long, I…blamed myself for a lot of the hardships that I went through and I would like to free them from that. And I hope that the book frees a lot of people to understand these issues more.”

And what can we expect from Mock in the future? More writing, of course. She’s planning to write a book which addresses the beauty myth from the perspective of a black trans woman. She’s also looking into TV as another platform for storytelling.

Janet Mock, thank you for doing the work. Thank you for being the beautiful spirit that you are and for sharing your powerful story with us. Trailblazer, keeping shining!

I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community. I hope that my being real with you will help empower you to step into who you are and encourage you to share yourself with those around you. ~ Janet Mock

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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

Thank You, Langston Hughes!

hughes1Image courtesy of Travalanche.

Today is not only the first day of Black History Month, but it’s also the birthday of poet, novelist, playwright, and activist Langston Hughes (1902-1967).  Hughes is one of the reasons why I write poetry today.

Growing up, I spent countless hours in the library losing myself in Hughes’ masterful poetry.  His poetry was jazz.  It was blues.  It was filled with so much spirit and life.  He captured the richness of our culture and history so eloquently.

Even given the social ills of the day, his work was evidence of his hope for a world where unity and equality trumped racism, inequality, and injustice.  Though the times may be (somewhat) different, the relevance of his writing remains strong.  The same can be said for the influence and inspiration of his artistry.

Thank you Langston Hughes for not dimming your light.  We honor you for your greatness and the blessings of your many contributions.  Here’s to you!

I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes

I, too sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.