Practice a day of not seeking validation! (don’t worry… I am hard on myself too.)
But together, let’s try this…
I love to read. Period. I didn’t get to do a lot of that this past year. I was a rookie English Literature teacher, I was preparing graduate school packages and doing more drafts on my latest novel. This summer it was all about reading, drafting (writing) and getting out of the city (beaches).
My favorite 3 that I read this summer:
Alice Walker -Anyone who knows me knows that I love prose and I love folklore. The prose in this book is magical! I found her POV writing to be confusing at times but it served its purpose for the storytelling. But the prose writing made me fall back in LOVE (again) with the magic of words.
Jamaica Kincaid – I can always count on her to teach me more technique on first person fiction writing. She is a genius with sentence temperature! Your typical story has structure for plot movement. She can twist plot in every sentence to keep you hanging on! But the genius part is, she’s writing just as we think. Constant growth/contradiction. Magic of words!
Mary Monroe – This was my second Mary Monroe book that I’ve read. The first one I read years ago and I suppose with life piled on top I forgot about her. NO MORE! This was my favorite book of the summer! I haven’t fallen in love and cared about characters as much as I did in this book in a long time! Magic of words!
My mentor/guide advised that I “find” time to read more. (We’ll see, with my upcoming schedule of teaching and school.) I told her about the books I read and why I chose these three as my top. Her reply was something to the tune of, ‘Because those books asked you something of yourself. They found you. Just as your readers will find your books, so take your time with your writing.‘
**NOTE: These are not new releases. Alice and Jamaica are two of my favorites and Mary Monroe’s book was published in 1995 (I believe). Other books I read this summer were:
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Liliane by Ntozake Shange
Diablerie by Walter Mosley
There are several things I love about teaching but most notably I enjoy the time off during holidays and summer. (while still receiving a check 🙂 This is especially rewarding to me who spent years as an executive manager in retail and worked every holiday and most weekends.
Now I know you must be thinking, ‘my goodness Nikki, the school year just started didn’t it and you’re already thinking about time off?’ YES! You would be correct in with that assumption! And I think I have just the thing to help me get through the first half of the school year and my first semester in grad school.
A few months back, one of my friends exercised “staying in the moment” by writing daily things on what she most loved about herself. She did this for 60 days and surprisingly enough, she said the first twenty were very laborious. Laborious because she was having a difficult time discovering what she loved, or even liked on some days. The statements had to be instinctively linked about her and not some indirect love for something or someone else. She said this helped with her daily self care even if it was only 5-10 minutes a day. With my schedule becoming 12 hour days Tue-Thur due to school immediately after work, I thought this “I Love…” regiment would be ideal to ensure I think about me.
For the next 90 days, I am going to write in this little journal different things I Love about me. This is extremely horrifying to me because it involves commitment and I can be so anal (for lack of a better word) when it comes to committing to something and what loyalty means to me. But I am at a stop in my life where I am both an educator and a student, literally, and I am content. How do I insist that I remain present under both titles? By involving myself daily, by communicating with myself daily. Hopefully this 90 day venture will prove to assist with that!
Join me if you may! Also, after this 90 days, it will be Thanksgiving and time for a week break from both work and school 😉 Clever, huh?
In between speaking engagements or during the interim of writing projects, I picked up side jobs to keep me financially ahead instead of becoming creatively stifled due to trying to maintain or “stay afloat”. After I wrote my play, “Hope’s Return”, I was introduced to the Atlanta theatre world and re-connected with previous theatre buddies. With this, I was invited on several occasions to apply to teaching positions in the theatre capacity.
After years of executive retail store management, I had NO interest in working with a theatre company and devoting my nights and weekends. And after experience with non-profit organizations, I had NO interest in working for a community/neighborhood theatre and contributing countless loads of money to guarantee a successful and professional looking production. Now, I have done both of these positions before and at that time in my life they were incredibly rewarding and I thoroughly enjoyed them. However, that time has come and gone. I have both of those t-shirts folded somewhere in my closet.
A few years ago, I began substitute teaching for public schools. I quickly learned, after several assignments, I was great with pre-k to 4th grade. I didn’t have the language or patience for any grade above 4th grade. I joyfully worked a full school year as a sub, even so that towards the end of the year, I was requested by teachers and principals more than I had to seek assignments. The following school year came and the only thing I wanted to change was to be stable as a long term substitute with two or three schools. I saw a posting for a long term substitute for a school that had three campuses. I thought that this would surely keep me busy and it is exactly what I had prayed for. I applied and got the position.
I started my six week assignment for a 4th grade English Language Arts (ELA) teacher going on maternity leave. I loved the environment of teachers I was around everyday! And as luck would have it, a fellow 4th grade ELA teacher had resigned and would be leaving around the same time my assignment would be over. Administration asked me if I was interested in becoming part of the team as a full-time ELA teacher, I accepted.
So there I was, I had entered a new career (outside of my artistry), for the 3rd time. A job that concluded between 3:30 and 4pm and was conveniently close to my home. And the best part, I was able to impose the magnitude of words in the young minds of brown kids 5 days of week. I was able to share my passion of sentence structure and reading on some impressionable minds. What I had never taken into account were the behavioral curves and obstacles that reared its’ ugly head every day.
Susan “Spit-Fire” Lively is a poet, spoken word artist, producer, photographer, educator, and activist from Belleville, IL. Co-organizer of “100,000 Poets & Musicians for Change – St. Louis” since its inception in 2011; Susan also produces the series’ “First Bloom” and “Women For Peace”, and co-produces the “Dia de los Muertos Fiesta”. In 2016 she became an Officer of Urb Arts’ Executive Board. In January of 2017 Susan produced the St. Louis leg of the international event “Poets & Musicians Against Trump” (with co-producer John Blair).
Lively’s been featured on “Literature For The Halibut”, “The Arts with Nancy Kranzberg”, the “Healthy Living Program” and PBS’ “Living St. Louis”. She has taught spoken word and creative writing at Confluence Academy, Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition, and for the Nine Network and St. Louis Fringe. Susan’s work has been published in “Static Movement”, “Postcard Shorts”, “Head To Hand”, “The East St. Louis Monitor”, “The PEN”, “Chance Operations”, “Drumvoices Revue 20th Anniversary Edition”, “SIUE News”, “Big Bridge“, “No Vacancy” and the social justice anthology “Crossing the Divide“.
When she was a girl in those days
Her Mama bought a piece of mosaic fabric
Weaved salvaged edges into historical truth
I heard her say
You could buy a piece of mosaic fabric
For ten cent a yard
She resounded with clarity
Through her veil of trimmed notions
For ten cent a yard
Inspiration was sewn into our lineage
Preserving amid the crow of notions
Her Mama made sack dresses from lack
Stitched threads that spurred our lineage
To crease hems in place of mediocrity
Sack clothing was made with praising hands
Because Southern crops impaled the boll of grasps
She turned to hymns instead of idle hands
And waved them like her Mama’s kinfolk
Who toiled fields that impaled their grasps
But their unbreakable spirit was their balm
Her Mama was as immovable as her kinfolk
She was vigilant and strong and learned
How to wear unbreakable spirit like a balm
That worked narratives into folded seams
She trained her daughters to be watchful; to study
How to buy yards of the mosaic fabric
And line their narratives into the upright seams
We weave our salvaged edges with tangible truth
She in Texas / South Dakota
She in Alabama / South Carolina
Empty beds / abandoned hairbrushes
a forgotten body