2015 has been beyond amazing for me! After relocating to Atlanta a few years back to help with family, I worked as a performance poet doing feature sets locally and in the surrounding states. However, the pay was no where near close to what I was familiar with living and performing in northern and southern California and the opportunities were not as versatile in regards to branching in education and art funding programs. Grudgingly, I returned to the corporate world and had to let all the stories and voices pile in my head.
After one too many phone calls from my colleagues in California asking why they hadn’t heard from me or seen me on the speaking/performing circuit, I told them I was back in the 9-5 world. But I assured them that the stories had not left me and I would return to writing/performing soon enough. My prayers became my art and I journaled constantly. Then in the spring of 2014, I set some dates and goals:
- I set the date I would resign from my job.
- I decided to write a play and set a deadline, Hope’s Return
- I decided to write a novel and set a deadline, The Town Dance
- I decided to compile the poetry and prose I had been writing and publish another poetry book, yardwork
I had never been so artistically hungry in my life! I pulled out all of my old contacts and began to network and let them know I had some “new stuff” coming soon. I was fortunate enough to book speaking/performing engagements even before the work was published. Very fortunate and grateful. I also decided that I would not return to the poetry scene as active as I had before. I realized two things, 1) I despise the art form of slam poetry, (I ALWAYS have had a problem with the underlying politics of it) and 2) my poetry does not go well with liquor. In Atlanta, like most cities, slam poetry has become the norm and venues that might offer pay for performances are in clubs or venues that serve liquor. I needed a new plan, I had to do something different this go around.
I began the arduous work of query letters and there were two positive responses I received for publishing my novel, that I was interested in doing business with, that wanted to publish me after the elections in early 2017. What?! No stranger to self publishing, I went that route and made sure my literary work was within the correct word count to be considered a novel. But I was warned I would have problems getting into book stores for reading/signings as a self publisher and that deemed to be true. However, after brainstorming with colleagues I determined that the subject matter in my novel presented workshops and talk back points for student groups and departments at colleges and universities. Ambitious huh? Well, I booked nine colleges and universities to present a talkback I entitled, “Do We Know Your Name?” So I was paid to speak and sold out of my novel at every event 🙂 (And if you didn’t know, self published authors LOVE when you buy directly from them. Buying from Amazon to get a rank is nice… but, you get the picture, right?)
Known as a poet, my poetry book is doing well. My earlier writings, in particular, Mississippi Window Cracks, have even picked back up in sales. And then there is my last baby of the year, my play Hope’s Return. After being rejected locally and regionally SEVERAL times, I had a friend look at my query letter to determine if I was doing something wrong. He told me, “The letter is fine. It’s your subject matter that people are having a problem with in your novel and your play.” He suggested just as I had to go beyond book stores to colleges for my novel, I was going to have to go beyond Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee theatre. So, I submitted my play to the National Black Theatre Festival, the largest festival for African American theatre in the country, and was accepted. Who knew! The play was picked up by two companies and officially gave me the title Professional Playwright.
My plans for 2016 are scary big but so were the decisions I had to make in 2015. So COME ON 2016!!!