What is Writer’s Block?

I’ve never acknowledged having writer’s block because I don’t believe it is a thing. At least not a single problem to be overcome, but more of catch all problem for what keeps you from writing.

Think about it. Can you literally not write? Forget the staring at a blank page and not knowing what to write, but the actual mechanics of it. Of course you can write. Whether you type, use a pen, or dictate, the words will come out of those instruments at your direction.

The rub is what words come. I’m a firm believer in it doesn’t matter what you need, or want to write, just start and you will find your way there.

Write you shopping list, a wish list, a list of places you’ve been. Write out a poem or song you know by heart. Just write and keep writing for 20 minutes non-stop. Walk away. Come back tomorrow. Write about politics, about your opinion on a world crisis, on why you should be able to eat chocolate cake for breakfast. Write for 20 minutes then stop. Come back tomorrow.

Everyday, until you hit it. The day you can’t stop at 20 minutes. The day you figure out what it is you want to write. It will come. Writing is a practice you have to show up for and exercise whether you feel like it or not. Whether you have something to say or not. Whether you feel sick or tired, or are too busy. Show up everyday, for 20 minutes and practice being a writer. Banish writer’s block by writing.

How to Host a Book Launch Party

I had the privilege and honor of introducing and interviewing my friend Satin Russell at her first ever–book launch party. Never having hosted a book launch party before, she relied on her experience as an audience member to inform her own. It came off without a hitch, was entertaining and helped spread the word of her coming works.

How Satin Threw a Book Launch Party

Like writing styles, you have to find the method that works for you. Start by choosing a venue that suits your personality. Satin’s was at the small bistro Crave, in the charming town of Amesbury MA, which is noted for it’s thriving art community and plethora of downtown eateries. Crave’s warm and inviting ambiance with a eclectic selection craft beer and small batch whiskeys reflects Satin’s easy going, fun nature. The very knowledgeable bartender introduced us to some fine tasting bourbon and new whiskeys-added bonus for us cocktail lovers.

Typically, a book launch would occur at a book store, your home or rented venue, but thinking outside the box served Satin well. Crave graciously open early 12-3, before their dinner service. They even donated a gift certificate for the give-away. It proves-never be afraid to ask. The venue earned new customers, well worth their time accommodating this event.

Invite family, friends and fellow writers who will chat, nosh and take great enjoyment in bearing witness to your success. Surrounding yourself with those who love and support you is a smart move for a launch-if no one else show up at least you’ll have fun. Though this is a celebration don’t waste this opportunity make sure you publicize it. Market your launch event. Send out press releases, invite local media, and put up notices-everywhere.

Decide how you’ll actually run the event. Satin chose to have me interview her. This allowed her to relax and mingle before hand since she was nervous about standing up there by herself. She started with a reading then we interspersed the questions with a few short excerpt introducing the audience to the characters. We’d written the questions in advance, refining until we thought we’d covered everything the audience would be curious about. She is an eloquent speaker, at ease and funny. She ended with taking questions from the audience. I don’t think it could have gone any better.

Self-publishing isn’t an easy task.  It takes guts and faith in yourself. Satin’s commitment to pushing through the doubt, embracing all that you need to learn–hiring an editor, a cover artist, a format specialist, and marketing, impressed all of us.

I hadn’t thought much about throwing a book launch party before–my work is not quite ready for prime time–but I’m glad I got to see first hand how it could be done. Since then I’ve done a little research. Here are a few good resources if you are exploring how to host your book launch party.

Bookbaby’s How to Throw a Book Launch Party That Isn’t a Waste of Time

Writer’s Digest 9 Steps to Hosting a Book Launch Party

The Book Designer’s 12 Tips for Successful Book Launch Parties

Tiana Warner’s The Complete Book Launch Party Checklist

White Privilege: Riots and Protests and Fears, Oh My!

Some people seem to think that when an issue stops making the front page that it has stopped being an issue–I’m looking at you white people. Black lives matter and you need to listen to what they are saying.

Why you? Because you’re blessed by white privilege. Because through no fault of your own you were lucky enough to be born to the majority. Only when you own your privilege can it be mitigated and the playing field leveled for all. Isn’t that fair? Isn’t that one of the first tenets of childhood–be fair.

And do not mistake the actions of rioters for those of protestors. Voices heard long after the moment of heightened rage are no less outraged, their tenor is clear–stop marginalizing the lives of young black men. That is just the start.

Disparity Limits Opportunity

So long as people (again…looking at you white folks) deny that institutional racism placed both Brown and Wilson where they were and are, societal mores stagnate. We’ll never progress past what separates us-anger and resentment. We get ever more defensive, take sides–which divides us even further. Stop digging in your heels as if the recognition of your privilege will cost you something sacred. Fairness is like love, unquantifiable, there’s more than enough to go around.

A little self-reflection may help. When what you “believe” denies others their reality, you are the oppressor. How it happened, and why it is happening still are the results and the consequences of our political system, educational system and the economic disparity that continues to divide and depress communities, people of color, and the poor–regardless of race but disproportionately to anyone not white.

Stop throwing blame back in the face of those oppressed. Looking at the bigger picture doesn’t abdicate personal responsibility, we own our actions, but recognizing the systems that created the inequalities are where we need to start in order to change them. Disparity limits opportunity.

These systems don’t operate in a vacuum. We are not meant to blindly believe in our political parties, or elected officials. We have the right to protest and demand fairness, equality, and the equitable distribution of power. It is our duty, especially when you are in the majority. We (wave your hand in the air with me pale faces) have the power and responsibility to vote to protect those our privilege of majority hurts. You have the power too my friends of all ethnicities (well, you know when congressional districts aren’t being redrawn to deny it).

Everyone must regard the process with respect and acknowledge that it can and should be the means with which we enact change. You do matter, your vote and voice matter. Protest are part of that process. Riots are not. Rich white men (looking at you Koch brothers, Wall Street and the GOP) you need to back the fuck off. Your interference is a form of looting and no less senseless and destructive to the fabric of our communities as riots. Clearly, money and politics do not mix. Voting money out of our system is the only way to ensure all voices are heard.

Start with a no-brainer–NO LOBBYING ALLOWED. Then, stop screwing around with voter rights GOP. Really? Come-on, suppression of voting rights should not be a political strategy. If you can’t win on the merits of your political policies, change them, not who gets to vote. And let’s set real term limits, and PACS, and contributions by companies…I could go on, and on here.

Ugh! Politics, I know, who wants to face that lot. No matter your agenda, liberal, conservative, moderate, be fair to all. Politician’s used to understand that the most important tool in their arsenal was compromise. Now, it seems to be derision, fear-mongering, and illusion.

We the People

Every life matters, Brown’s and Wilson’s. If you don’t work to better the lives of all members of our community the entire system will remain unbalanced and inherently unfair. This is not what our country stands for.

We the People? What a mixed message American culture has. What symbol stands uniquely for America more than the Statue of Liberty? Do you know what’s written on the brass plaque just inside our lovely lady liberty? A sonnet,  “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus. The second half reads,

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Do you remember that? Remember when being the melting pot of the world was something we took pride in? Now we’re keeping families apart, building walls to keep them out instead of opening our arms to help them. Why? I think a lot has to do with how much has been taken away from us by the richest in our nation. That we feel the need to defend what little we have, even from each other, but especially from anyone new coming here. This the direct result of the financial crisis a majority of Americans find themselves in. Everyone is afraid of losing anymore ground.

True Colors

Like science deniers (do not get me started on that) many whites “believe,” there is no validity to white privilege. That they are not recipients of privilege by the very virtue of being white. They are truly color blind and not in an altruistic state some like to claim either.

Color-blindness is a deficiency of vision, an inability to see differences, a fault in development. Not seeing what others value of themselves is an insult. Color blindness is denial of anothers right to be seen on their own terms.

Of course we are different and we should be, culturally, ethnically, musically, athletically, and by every other defining facet to being human. That’s the fun stuff, our differences. It’s what makes us interesting and challenging.

Geez, I’m white, I can’t change that. What can you do?

Change the lens with which you view the world. Not to be blind to the differences but to see them more clearly, learn from them, be enriched by them. By focusing on our differences you bring attention to the contrasts, negative and positive.

For specific ways in which whites can become allies in the fight to end racism…

Try these resources:

http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2014/08/ferguson_how_white_people_can_be_allies.html

http://mic.com/articles/97900/10-simple-rules-for-being-a-non-racist-white-person

http://www.tolerance.org/supplement/white-anti-racism-living-legacy

http://bmoreantiracist.org/white-people/29-stupid-things-white-people-do-and-what-we-can-do-instead/

 

I recently came across this food blogger who is addresses racism in a much better way than I ever could. You know, without hitting you over the head with her opinion like I do. People are much more likely to hear you if you aren’t screaming at them about what jerks they are for not thinking the way you do.

So, for an excellent discussion on race (and bonus! delicious recipes and lovely photos) check out the eloquent Julie Ruble at Willow Bird Baking.