Review of 2012 & Preview of 2013

I’ve been reading Happy Black Woman for ages, and in general, I love to read her monthly reviews. Basically, she looks over the past month and discusses what went well, and what she’d like to improve. But seeing as how 2012 ends in two days, a yearly review is in order. Snagged from HBW:

Flickr Credit to: Joli Sourire (OFF)

Flickr Credit to: Joli Sourire (OFF)

What I Want to Remember About 2012:

What was the most valuable lesson you learned this year?

Taking chances on myself, most definitely. That’s definitely something I want to keep doing as the year progresses – investing in myself, and my own personal growth and goals. 

What was the biggest personal milestone you reached this year in your relationships, health, finances, education and/or lifestyle?

I think I’ve had a few milestones this year: I cut off the locs I’d been growing since December 2008, and reading about Oneika cutting her own acted as the final push for me to do it. And today I went to the barber to get it shaped up (since it was uneven) and mowed down since it was way too big. I don’t miss having locs at all, nor do I miss having long hair – which I’ve had my entire life. This was especially enlightening when I did some quick math, and found that when/if I spent $50 a month to get my locs re-twisted, I’d spend about $600 a year. (Wow). But if I just got my new fro cut down every few months, at about $15, that’s obviously a massive savings. 

And I moved to Philadelphia for a new, contract job, even though I didn’t have anywhere to stay when I got here. Everything worked out, and I landed two great room mates and an apartment in a really nice neighborhood. 

I’ve also made some investments in my spiritual growth, such as meditating and praying every day – when I wake up, and right before bed. And I’m on the look out for new material to supplement my growth and finding new ways to help me get the type of life I want. Before, I would spend a lot of time reading, but not practicing. Now – not so much! 

What professional accomplishments (at work or in your business) were you most proud of this year?

Starting to do web development on the side. I’ve only just begun, but I’m really dedicated to becoming proficient in programming and building my skill set. While the job I have now isn’t best suited to me, it’s really opened my eyes to what I’d love to do – working in technology and computer science. So, stumbling upon a new career goal is DEFINITELY an accomplishment!

What was your favorite family/friends moment from 2012?

Hm. I think my favorite moment was being able to chat with Constance, a friend I made off of Twitter, for like two hours (or something) as we chatted about social justice.

What was the best book/blog/song/movie/restaurant/city/country/etc. you discovered this year?

Another hard one! The best book I think is Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. It’s really, really good. I highly recommend it. I don’t know if I saw any tremendously good movies this year. But one of the best blogs I discovered is about menstruation activism – which I found inspiring and knowledgeable. 

What I Want to Leave Behind As I Enter 2013

Which personal development area(s) did you make the LEAST progress on this year: health, finances, education, relationships, family, work and/or lifestyle?

Finances. That’s definitely my Achilles’ Heel. Even though I make more in my current job than I did in my previous, part-time employment. It’s still really frustrating to have student loans, credit card debt and chronic obligations (ie: cell phone bills, food, internet, utilities, rent, etc). One of my goals is to simply make more money so I can [literally] afford to do the things that matter to me the most. 

I also didn’t make any progress on my health. While I acquired a free membership to a semi-close gym, I actually hate gyms and the idea of working out (or even having to attend a class) agitates me. I looked into taking an aikido class downtown, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I’ve been searching on and off since October, but haven’t locked into anything yet. My eating habits are semi-better, but I really need to learn how to cook. Currently, I eat a lot of pasta. A LOT. 

What promises (to yourself or others) did you break in 2012?

I told myself that I’d take my credit card debt more seriously – since it’s not a lot – and actively work to pay down at least one of the credit cards. I haven’t tackled it at all, but I know why. I just need to DO it. 

What arguments/gossip/hurtful comments, if any, did you participate in or make this year that you wish you could take back and/or apologize for?

Hm… I do like to hear gossip because it makes me feel like I’m in the loop. I don’t hurl hurtful comments, not because of self-control, but because when I’m upset with someone I tend not to go that route.  

What opportunities, if any, did you miss out on in 2012 because of fear or procrastination?

I’m not sure! 

What did you do in 2012, if anything, that was out of alignment with your values?

I’m not sure – my values are changing all the time! Hah. But, I think a big one with my spirituality is that even though I know I should work on it, I haven’t. 

What I Want to Bring Into My Life in 2013

What do you deserve more of next year? What do you deserve less of next year?

More of: Commitment – to myself, mostly. I rarely prioritize myself, and my own goals. I normally spend a lot of time worrying about what other people may want from me (ie: family) or worried about how I’ll be perceived by doing x, y or z. So in 2013 I want to spend LESS time fretting over other people’s opinions – not just about my life, but about things in general. My goal for 2013 is to alter my mindset so that I can manifest the type of life I want. Being around people who doubt themselves, or allowing their negative perceptions of the world to get to me won’t help me. 

What personal milestone(s) do you most want to reach in your relationships, health, family, finances, education and/or lifestyle?

Relationships: Dating. Even if it doesn’t end up with a relationship, I want to explore that. 

Health: Taking up a sport or physical activity – preferably self-defense or martial arts. 

Finances: Make more money, pay down credit card debt. 

Education: Continue attending web development courses, so I can learn to program. Find a mentorship and a network of other women who program to nurture and support me. 

Lifestyle: Live in my own apartment (no room mates). 

What professional accomplishments (at work or in your business) do you want to see for yourself next year?

For my writing to become a bigger part of my life/work. To be able to program – and get paid to do it. 

What do you want to learn in 2013?

Love. Manifestation. God.

What do you want to cross off of your bucket list in 2013?

Moving abroad to work. 

What I Want My Life to Look Like in 2013

What part of your life do you want to pay more attention to in 2013?
My work life. I definitely want my resume and cover letter and networking skills to be top notch!

Who do you want to spend more time with in 2013? Who do you want to spend less time with in 2013?
Hm. I’m not sure. I want to be present for myself, and spend less time with people who I don’t like or connect with. 

Which activities, habits or behaviors, if any, do you want to stop doing in 2013 because they no longer serve you?
Procrastinating. Doubting myself. 

Which activities do you want to start and/or continue doing in 2013?
My spiritual habits: praying, meditating, reading books (both fiction and non-fiction). Writing. Learning to code. Photography. Practicing the spiritual lessons I’m learning. 

What will your ideal day look like next year?
My ideal day would start off with me waking up in my solo apartment, with my cat purring next to my face. She’d be fluffy and adorable. The day will start with prayer, meditation and yoga. Then a shower. I’d eat breakfast first: toast, eggs, orange juice (my favorites). My cat will be meowing for food. Later I’d pop open the laptop, checking my e-mail while my partner is singing and getting ready for the day. The cat is on the laptop, swishing its tail. So I pick her up and take her to the balcony, where our apartment overlooks the Mediterranean ocean. That day all I have is a meeting over Skype, some code to clean up and to put the finishing touches on my novel before sending it to the publisher. My lover is ready to head out – we’ll be spending the day in Paris, and I can easily work on the train, and then spend the rest of my day meeting up with friends, and going out to dinner in my favorite city. 

Day 8 || Ideal Job For You

Today’s prompt: If you could have any job (and instantly have the training and qualifications to do it), which job would you want?

I think about this rather frequently. Not this prompt specifically, but about my next job, my next steps. What do I want to do? A huge part of my problem is that I don’t know what my strengths are, what I’m decent at except writing. But, this question is about pure idealism, so let’s just pretend. If I had all the instant training, qualifications and certifications: I’d be a teacher.

To me, teaching is rather versatile: you can do it anywhere, you can teach anyone anything, and the best way to learn things is to teach it to others. I once saw a quote, I forget where, that what you’re teaching to others, are things you’re learning yourself. Which, I think, is a great way to look at it. A lot of the time, it feels like teachers (in a more abstract usage of the word) are those who are have come much further than you, and it’s up to you to catch up to them in their wisdom. But that’s not necessarily true.

Teachers are also students – something I definitely am. Always learning, always trying to incorporating more knowledge into their own lives. To me, this is the perpetual student versus the idea of someone who avoids reality by burying their heads in academic text (ie: staying in college for all eternity).

So I think I’d like to graduate, so to speak, to a teacher. That would be pretty amazing.

I’m participating in National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo).

30 Days of Blog Posting.

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Day 5 || Giving Things Up and Productivity

Earlier today, I read a post by Penelope Trunk about productivity.

I really wanted to write about productivity, and make promises about dealing with my internal scripts about why I procrastinate on my writing, or why this is the second blog post I’ve written at nearly midnight – hoping to catch the deadline of writing once a day, every day.

It’s not that I don’t care about writing – I love it, in fact – it’s just that I have issues. I forget how much I love writing, perhaps because it comes so naturally to me. My relationship to writing is like a trine; in Astrology a trine is very harmonious aspect, it shows the relationship between the two planets as having an energy that flows naturally, without conflict. The problem is that the trine makes the person lazy in terms of how they incorporate that energy into their day to day life because they don’t notice it. Which is very much unlike a square, a hard aspect where the two planets are in conflict with one another. This conflict is very apparent and you spend a good deal of time trying to work on the energy of those planets, attempting to craft a type of balance or harmony between them.

Maybe for some people, writing is like a square – a hard aspect – where they realize that they have to write because it’s a pain not to. For me, it’s not a pain to go without writing, but when I actually do it, I realize how much more in harmony I am with myself.

Perhaps my issue with productivity has more to do with seeking harmony – or not seeking it, as the case may be – and preferring chaos, and disorder. Part of that chaos is procrastination which is essentially prioritizing activities (or people) who don’t help you further along the path you’re trying to create for yourself. Another part of that chaos is not even realizing that you’re creating it, or not being aware of the long-term effects. For example: I don’t really enjoy waking up in the morning, I prefer to sleep in even though I normally wake up early enough to bathe, eat breakfast and get some writing in before arriving to work on time.

Instead I wake up and try to measure how much more sleep I can get – which doesn’t really become sleep as I wander in and out of consciousness hoping that I don’t wake up too late and be tardy to work. Then I realize what time it is, and pray that my room mate is just brushing her teeth instead of taking a 30 minute shower. As usual, my own shower ends up being too long and if I want to eat breakfast, then I run the risk of being late. Normally I skip out, preferring to snack on some junk food as I make the nearly ten minute walk to the train station. When I arrive to work I’m starving, and kicking myself for not having written when I said I would and spend the whole morning looking forward to lunch.

My day isn’t ruined by the chaos, but I’m not productive and I feel less like myself when I procrastinate.

But there’s no moral to this post: in order to be productive, you have to figure out what doesn’t serve you, or what doesn’t align with your long-term picture and get rid of it. But it’s hard because being productive is also about responsibility and taking ownership of what we want – which can be scary.

I’m participating in National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo).

30 Days of Blog Posting.

If you click the badge, you’ll be taken to the NaBloPoMo and you can join in yourself!

Girl In the Mirror | Interview with Alix Golden

I’d been following Alix Golden for awhile now, having stumbled upon her blog (and promptly falling in love). She recently published a book, and since I love to chat it up with creators, I asked to interview her. So here it is:

1. GIRL IN THE MIRROR is your first novel. I’d love to hear about your process. How long did it take you to write GIRL IN THE MIRROR?
It took 2 years from the time I wrote the first word until I finished my first draft. There was a lot of things going on in my life during the time I was writing. I hope that next time, it won’t take quite that long.

2. How much time did it take for me to find a publisher? How many query letters did you send out? Did you receive a lot of rejections at first? (Or did you self-publish? If so – what was that process like?)

I never tried traditional publishing. I decided to publish myself to retain control over the process. Self publishing is a lot of work, more work than I imagined. I never thought about designing a cover or choosing the font… When you self publish, writing the book becomes the easy part. The real work begins when you’re trying to get it on the shelf.

3. Did you ever feel nervous about putting your work out there?
Absolutely! I feel nervous about it now. I feel better since I’ve gotten the first review out of the way, but I’m still nervous. I put so much of myself in the book, it feels as though people are looking inside of me when they are reading. I can’t hide.
4. Your character is also a black lesbian. Can you explain to me a bit about what prompted you to create her? Did you draw from your own life experiences? Or did you completely make everything up?
The character reminds me of myself. She has a lot of me in her and I pulled a lot of this story from my experiences. Of course I took a creative license, but a lot of it is based on my own reality.
5. I hadn’t seen you on Twitter in ages! (I suppose you were writing!) Do you require a certain type of atmosphere in order to write? What is your usual process during the time you wrote this book?
That depends on what I’m writing. If I’m writing a regular scene with dialogue and interactions, I can write in any situation. It could be a party going on around me and I could write. If I’m trying to write a sex scene, I need to be alone with music to write the scene. The mood has to be set to be realistic.
6. Did you have a peer look over your work to help you as you wrote or did you handle all the edits yourself?
I’ve had a few people look over my work to catch things I may have missed. After you’ve been staring at words for months on end, you start to miss the obvious mistakes. Every writer should have someone review their work before printing. I was told once that you should let someone that knows more about writing than you do to read your work. It’s great advice.
7. What’s your favorite aspect of writing? What makes you love it so much?
It’s creating an alternate world. When I was writing this novel, my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and passed while I was writing. When you’re telling the story, you get an opportunity to take a break from your real life.
8. Do you plan on writing a second novel? Have you already begun work on something else?
I’ve already started working on the next novel. The working title is The Price of Paper, but it will probably change.
9. When is the release date? Will it be available in retail stores or through some other means?
It will be released on September 1st. It will be available on Amazon, but I’m not sure about retail stores. You will be able to walk into a retail store and have them place a special order for the book, but the decision to carry it in stock on the shelf is made by the bookstore, not by me. You can always find links to all of my work on my website:

Alix B. Golden, Author

Writing Is A Part of Me. What’s A Part of You?

Credit to: gregoryhogan

While college was winding down, I eventually took a Creative Writing 101 course to fulfill a general requirement to graduate. I hadn’t really wanted to take it, but for reasons that have forsaken me, I did. So many girls at my single sex college were aspiring writers that it was difficult to throw a stick and not hit someone working on their first novel. It had been unusual for me, since I rarely shared my interest in writing. I remember being in 8th grade, and hitting my first fifty pages in the book I was creating. Then, when I was sixteen, I had finally cracked over 150 pages for another novel I was writing.

So you would think I’d be in heaven, attending a school well known for its English/Creative Writing program (admittedly – when I was 18, I had initially applied specifically for that reason). Not exactly. The second, and last, creative writing class I took involved an incompetent graduate student “professor” and a class totaling almost twenty people. Not exactly conducive to in-depth analyses of each other’s work – or anythingrather.

But, this isn’t about me riffing on my alma mater, or my poor experiences with graduate students masquerading as English professors – this is about me never talking to other people about the fact that I love to write. My family knew I liked it, my other writer friends knew it – but I didn’t stamp it on my forehead, or wear it like a proud identity. For the longest (even now), I believed in keeping passions a secret. I didn’t mind – and often times relished! – talking to people about things that annoyed me, or criticizing various habits I witnessed around me. Conversely, I fell into the camp of lamenting my lack of skill in other areas: like math and science that fascinated, but inevitably, eluded me.

The fact that I enjoyed writing seemed mostly buried deep within me, sometimes to the point where I forgot that I even LIKED to write. I remember a hiatus I had taken from writing unintentionally, mind you, but when I had finally written a story it felt nearly orgasmic! It was like pieces of me were being unlocked, and I had connected to something deeper. A part that was me. I think about this moment a lot – this feeling that writing is such an integral part of me.

If I’m being honest – I do feel pangs of intense jealousy and over-protectiveness about writing. I turn my nose up at fan fiction, and lament aspiring creators who attend expensive graduate programs just to be told to use less adverbs. I get prickly when someone compliments someone else’s work but not mine. But then my ego explodes when someone remarks on how talented I am, basking in one of the few instances of praise I receive.

It’s difficult for me to talk about what writing means to me in person, how defensive of it I am. Little by little, though, I get to share what I love with you guys!

So tell me, what do you love (but keep to yourself)?

Interview: Tameka Frost (Author)

While spending a lot of time on Twitter has proved to be fruitless in the past, about two weeks ago I “overheard” a conversation between my followers. One of them was talking about her writing! So I quickly decided to e-mail her and talk to her about her process. Here’s our interview!

So, it’s pretty exciting that you’re getting a book published!! I know we can’t talk specifics, but I would love to hear more about your process that got you up to this point: 

How old are you? Where are you from? What do you do now as your career? 

I’m 34, I was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and I now reside in north Mississippi. I work for a major cell phone company, not really what I call a “career”,  but for now, it pays the bills. 

When did you start writing? Did you ever want to do it professionally?  

I started writing when I was in the 8th grade, and my English teacher gave us an assignment to write a short Halloween story.  After intriguing the class with my weird, but scary story, my teacher tried to convince me to enter into a writing class for young gifted writers. I declined, but after realizing that I had that talent, I have been writing ever since. I just recently, about two years ago decided to go all the way, and do it professionally. 

Do you have any favorite books that inspired you? Or authors?  

Oh yes! It would probably be easier to just name my favorite authors, because I have several favorite books. To name a few favorite authors: Teri Woods, Miasha (My most favorite) Eric Jerome Dickey, Terry McMillan, Devon Scott, D.L. Sparks, and Daaimah S. Poole. 

Are there specific things like you to focus on in your writing in general: race, gender, sexuality, location, etc?  

Honestly, no, not really.  I have been through so many crazy things in life, and I also just sit up and think of things that I would probably like to read, myself, and I just kind of add them all in together.  As my writing career grows, I will be able to factor in more interesting things like different places that I have traveled to, different people and different cultures that I have encountered, etcetera. 

Were there any books that made you upset and made you think, “I am going to write something better than that!”?

I have to say that Miasha’s book, Diary of a Mistress, is the one that probably sets my writing on fire.  That was the first, and only book that I was able to read in one day. I can remember having the book with me in the drive through line at McDonald’s because it was so good that I couldn’t put it down! It was so suspenseful, and throughout the story, I was on the edge of my seat, as we do in movies! 

What is your writing schedule like? Do you like to listen to music or have a playlist that gets you into the groove?  

I don’t really have a writing schedule.  I have found that when I try to say, “Ok, when I get home, I am going to write for an hour, at this time, or that time” I have writer’s block, or I feel some kind of anxiety: like I am putting pressure on myself.  I have to do it, in silence, when the rhythm hits me, which is pretty often, luckily. 

Do you attend writing groups or workshops and let others read your work? 

No, not as of yet, but I do have in mind to start a writers/readers group. 

How long did it take for you to start and finish your current novel?  

It took way longer than it should have. I thought of the idea for the book about four years ago after a terrible break up.  I started on it, then stopped.  I lost the content, then started on it again. I gave up after a huge writing block, and no direction, because I didn’t carefully plan it in my mind before I started.  Now, the book is almost complete, and prayerfully, will be published and flying off shelves very soon! 

What inspired the plot and idea for your current novel?  

I had a bad break up a few years ago, and the original idea for the book was to write a story based on that relationship and how things went down. Instead, once I started writing it took on a mind of it’s own and became way more interesting than the relationship, itself. LOL! I don’t really do outlines or anything for my blogs, short stories, etcetera; I just let it flow. 

Do you have any tips or advice for writers who are starting out and want to be published?  

Yes, my advice is one word: WRITE! Also, do your research. Use the internet to search how to get started, who to contact, and how to contact them. If you have any books that you have read, especially by your favorite author, search the book to find information on who published them, and contact them for information on how to get in touch with them to possibly discuss publishing your book. Don’t put  a lot of your work online, and don’t give out too much information unless you have it fully secured and copyrighted. 

How many agents did you query before your book got accepted? Did you face a lot of rejection during that time? What did you do to keep yourself motivated?  

Actually, I’m still really looking for a publisher.  I am in talks with a publishing company that will handle the professional editing for my book, and honestly, this may be the one that rolls for me.  

You can contact Ms. Frost through her Twitter (@_TheHurricane) or her blog (http://mizzhurricane.wordpress.com)

 

#YesGayYA – LGBT Novels

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loathed YA. At least since high school, which tends to be the demographic for Young Adult. I loathed the lack of black characters, and how all the characters seemed to be clones of each other in some way, shape or form. There just didn’t seem to be a lot of diversity – in any respect – and generally, YA had become the bane of my literary existence. With one exception (the Uglies trilogy) – I avoided YA with fervor.

In addition to my YA ban, I’d also renounced a lot of reading in general because of the lack of POC and LGBT characters specifically, since these are things I look for. So for several months, I read only non-fiction, but it’s not as satisfactory as a good science fiction or fantasy novel! While I go back and forth with my dislike for YA with the fact that in general, many mainstream novels lack any kind of decent representation.

Recently, someone linked me to Malinda Lo, a lesbian YA writer, who has two books out with lesbian lead characters. Ms. Lo wrote a post detailing the amount of LGBT books being published each year, and thanks to some links on twitter, I came across an extensive list of LGBT YA books available. Some of the books have LGBT leads, while others have LGBT supporting characters. Additionally, much like my previous post on POC authors, there’s a list of books with POC characters too.

Thanks to the wide world of blogging, there are sites dedicated to exploring diversity in books and being aware that we need to bring more attention to books written by POC.

There’s no telling how difficult or easy trying to get your book published might be. Often times, it seems, a book’s success demands on a mixture of marketing and pure luck. Who would’ve guessed that Harry Potter would’ve become as popular as it did – though it took awhile before it finally took off. I remember being in the minority when HP originally came out, and it wasn’t for several years until I met other HP fans. So I would hate for anyone who is interested in publishing a book with LGBT/POC characters to feel dissuaded.

Often times, representation is difficult to come by. Our experiences regarding our race, gender, sexuality, class (etc) colors our perceptions of the world, and often times in many niche environments (ie: blogging) certain types of people are going to be drawn to that place. It can be hard to create diversity when your experience is both knowingly and unknowingly excluding other types of people and their experiences. Books are definitely no exception to this – and more work definitely needs to be more inclusive.

What kind of representation would you like to see more of? Not just in books but in movies, comics – any kind of media you consume on a daily basis (including blogs!).

As a side note, I’ve entered into a giveaway with a chance to win an ipad 2! I’ll link to it here, in case you’re interested in winning one as well. The contest ends September 30th and by October 2nd, you’ll find out who won! LAMFinances – giveaway