10 Things I Learned About Life From Lauryn Hill Lyrics

I'm pretty sure I shed an actual tear when I saw this magazine. Shout out to Kierna, Jocelyn and the whole Honey family.

I’m pretty sure I shed an actual tear when I saw this magazine. Shout out to Kierna, Jocelyn and the Honey family.

Yesterday my girl Belle posted on Facebook about a situation in which the solution was ripped straight from a Lauryn Hill lyric. And it wasn’t the first time she’d dipped into the well of #LifeLessonsFromLauryn.

I commented with the first #LifeLessonsFromLauryn that flooded my brain:

“Don’t be a hard rock when you truly are a gem.”

–Doo Wop (That Thing)

Once Belle sparked the topic, my mind zoomed back to 1998. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill dropped on August 25, the exact same week I formally quit my teaching job in East Orange and started working at Billboard Magazine as an editorial assistant.

Belle challenged me to round up my top 10 which was easy to do. There were many times, that year and since, when I’ve been faced with a situation and had to whip out one of my…

TOP 10 #LifeLessonsFromLauryn

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Fan Mail

 

Last year, I decided to offer a workshop on breaking into online/print pubs and how to pitch properly. I posted about it regularly on FB and Twitter.

The Write Pitch

I asked a few of my influential Twitter friends to tweet out the info. And they did. And the response I got was huge. And then I sent out an email and asked my influential publishing industry friends to forward. And they did. And the response was huge.

And I got lots of folks. And I had to rent a bigger space. And a good time was had by all. I loved it. LOVED. I decided I wanted to have a workshop monthly forever and ever amen.

I met Shenequa at my workshop. Knew within 30 seconds that she had that special something. That It. Got her working in publishing a few months later. And she's doing the damn thing.

I met Shenequa at my workshop. Knew within 30 seconds that she had that special something. That It. I whispered her name in the ear of someone looking for someone. And she’s been doing the damn thing ever since.  Get to know her. She’s gonna be assigning you work one day so you might as well introduce yourself now.

I did a repeat performance a few months later. But I could not bring myself to ask folks to disseminate the information again. I just posted on my own. Still got a decent turnout.

But then what? I had no idea how to keep the momentum up. I had gotten a head start from my friends. But I didn’t have any confidence to try it again. What would I do? Post on FB and Twitter every day again?  Then everyone would hate me…

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Do as I say. And as I do.

Debbie Allen, fame, kids from fame, Fame Dance, fame  30th anniversary.

In 1987, Debbie Allen was interviewed by the Philadelphia Tribune on life after the end of her hit television show Fame.

In the story, Debbie Allen discusses her plans for her then-three year old daughter Vivian.

Her exact quote about Vivian’s future:

“I don’t care if she can add or subtract, as long as she can tendu (basic ballet move).”

I was only 14 years old when I read that article. But it stuck with me. Is that wrong to impart your dreams for your child at such a young age? What if Vivian hated dance? What if she’s just not built for it? What if she turned out to love math? And became an accomplished mathematician? Debbie would not be satisfied if she was not also en pointe and could execute a flawless tendu?

I could not imagine how it would be healthy for a mother to want expect her daughter to follow in her footsteps that way. She was three years old!

Well, for Debbie and her daughter, it worked. Vivian Nixon recently made her debut on Broadway in the play Happy Feet. She also played the lead role originated by Julia Roberts in the television adaptation of Steel Magnolias. 

Oh. And she can dance.

Are you happy now Mommy?!

Are you happy now Mommy?!

I was so pleased to see Vivian excelling in the arts, just as her mother demanded dreamed. But I vowed that I would not impart my dreams onto my child.

And then, I gave birth to my daughter.

Macy

 

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Questions About: RUNNING

 

Just me and my....  Well, Junior is a boy. So I can't use that line.

 

Started running back in August. And I am proud to say, I’m for real a runner now! Like, that’s what I do! Not just something I’m trying to do.

Couch To 5K is your friend. I could not have gotten here without that app.

Now that I’m in the zone, I have questions. Most of them are probably self-explanatory. But I’m stumped. Help a sister out!

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encore.

Empty Stage

Thank you, thank you, Thank you. You’re far too kind.  Now can I get an encore? Do you want more? –Jay-Z Encore 

 

 

I started blogging in January, 2009. Not sure why. It wasn’t a part of any grand plan. I just wanted to write stuff. And a blog seemed like a cool way to do it. My first book had been released and I thought it made sense to have some kind of presence online.

I had no idea what to say.

A few days earlier, Jermaine Hall, my friend (and sometimes boss), emailed me about a young lady named Jenny who was looking for advice about writing. She sent me an email and when I finished reading it, I fired off a harsh response. Jenny was being mealy-mouthed about her desire to write. She didn’t want to say it clearly. And I told her about herself; if you want to be a writer, say it.

A thought occurred to me soon after. What I had said to Jenny in that email is the same thing I had said to a gazillion young writers over the years. I emailed Jenny and asked her for permission to use our conversation and emails in a blog post based on something I told her about writing, “Succeeding as a writer is about tenacity, not talent.”

And thus, my first blog post here was born.

The next two years are a complete blur.

I blogged every. Single. Day. Without fail. Sometimes on the weekends too. I wrote like a madwoman. I walked around looking like a normal mother/wife/writer. But inside, millions of mini-Aliyas were constantly scouring the world for another blog topic. What’s that? Your nephew Jordan says you’re not a traditional wife? Get on it girls! Wait. Did you just wear a onesie to your husband’s high school reunion? We got another blog topic coming through! Can’t do your kid’s hair? Got a book coming out? Your ex-boyfriend blocked you on Facebook? Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go!

I remember going to an industry event one day and running into my friend Anslem Samuel. Anslem’s popular blog had been one of the reasons I’d decided to start blogging.

“Yo,” he said. “How are you blogging like that?” he asked.

“Like what?”

Anslem looked at me like I had snakes spiraling out of my head.

“Like, every day!”

I really and truly did not understand why Anslem was so incredulous. I decided to start blogging. I needed to put content up every day. So I put up content every day. The end. Isn’t that how it was done?

I didn’t get it. Until I got it.

Eventually, me and the mini-Aliyas collapsed. The blog stopped being fun. It was hard coming up with topics. And my regular work was suffering. My whole life was suffering. I wrote a dramatic au revoir post and shut down my blog.

And of course I started a new blog almost immediately. I posted less and felt less pressure. But it wasn’t the same. I removed the au-revoir post, (the one and only time I have ever taken down a post). And I quietly returned; I woke the mini-Aliyas up and put them back to work.

Work became intense. I wrote five books in five years. And I had more in progress. The WordPress dashboard was starting to give me hives. A week off turned into two, which turned into months. My second novel, Diamond Life, was published in February 2012. I knew that I had to write something on my blog to let folks know, even though my heart wasn’t it. When I logged on to the Dashboard, I realized it had been a full year since I’d posted. I was disheartened and disillusioned.

Blogging had been so much fun. I had built such a vibrant community. The blog had become a great place to vent, rant and of course market myself and my work. And it kept my writing fresh and snappy. You post on a blog every flipping day for two years and you will not have a problem doing your freelance writing work. Those words will be flying out of you like the roaring rapids.

As the most recent post on my blog became more and more outdated, the mere sight of the blog really bothered me. It didn’t help that I was twenty pounds overweight in the picture of myself in the post.

AliyaFatFace

 

I changed my settings so that Google would be my home page instead of my blog. I didn’t do any of the WordPress updates. I simply pretended the site never existed.

Eventually, I retreated further from writing in general. No Tweeting. No Facebooking. I did the assignments I needed to do. Didn’t attempt to come up with anything new. I sank into a deep depression.

And then one day, I tried to pull myself out of it. I took a deep breath, opened up my laptop and told myself, just write anything. Anything that comes to mind.

My hands were frozen in mid-air. I could not think of a single thing to write. My mind was blank. I felt dull and mentally clumsy. When I looked down at the keyboard it felt like all the letters were on the wrong keys.

This continued for a long time.

One day, I sat in my living room across from my husband. I tried to explain to him that I felt like something had physically happened to me, like I’d had a stroke or a session of electroshock therapy. He tried to convince me that it was just a phase and I started howling. I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe. It was just a phase?

If Lebron James woke up one morning with one leg, he’d realize immediately that he would never play pro-basketball again. He could get a prosthetic and get on the court in a much different way. But the NBA would be a wrap. Forever.

Now imagine Lebron crying, telling his wife about how devastated he is that his basketball career was over.

Now imagine his wife saying, don’t worry. This is just a phase.

Lebron would look at her like she was nuts. A phase? Chick don’t you see my leg is GONE?

That’s how I felt. My husband thought my inability to write was just a phase. And I was convinced, convinced I tell you, that the writing section of my brain had been permanently damaged. I felt like someone had shifted things inside my brain so that when I felt like I was raising my arm or kicking my feet I was really sticking out my tongue or blinking really fast.

I later learned that our ability to write—and create as a whole—is controlled by the frontal lobe in our brain’s left hemisphere. Several factors can cause this area to stop working properly, including depression.

Now I don’t know which came first, the frontal lobe breakdown or the depression. But they both worked in tandem to keep my laptop closed for over a year.

And then, on August 15, 2013, I wrote this in my journal:

“I wrote today. Like, for real for real wrote! Fiction!! And it was good!! I wrote today! Thousands of words with a plot that excited me. I can’t believe it. I really wrote today. Feels so good to have my laptop…on  my lap.”

Ever since, my brain has been trying to catch up. I swear to you, I have written more words in the past 10 weeks than I did in all of 2011 and 2012 combined. That’s my word.

I’m over 50,000 words deep into the idea that popped into my head in August. I haven’t even finished a proper outline, I just sit down and type like a madwoman for hours on end. I get to the end of chapter or a scene and then look around and realize that the house is completely dark or that I’m 45 minutes late picking up my first-grader from school. Most times, when I come out of it, I’m sweating and out of breath.

Usually when I write, I sit down and think about what I’m writing and then slowly begin. Words come tentatively and then build up. I think of it like the beginning of an ice skating routine. First the skater slides onto the ice, serene and serious, a few slow figure eights and smooth spins. And then comes the triple sow cows and the backflips as the music crescendos.

Right now? When I start writing, I come in doing back flips and holding my leg behind my head and spinning like a top. No warm up. No cool down.

A few days after the writing returned, I wrote a post on Facebook, my first in nearly a year. I slipped into a trance in Starbucks and wrote this rambling rant on why and how I fell off the social media planet and how grateful I was to be back. That post was at least a thousand words, if not more. And that was just the beginning. I’ve written at least 10,000 words in Facebook posts since August. I started prefacing my updates with a warning about their blog-size length.

And then my girl Luvvie sent me a message on Facebook.

What would you say if I insisted you start your blog back off an no pressure on posting all the time?

your statuses cannot remain FB statuses. These need to be on a website. I need you to kick your blog back off and tell people not to ask you for an update. that they will come as you feel.

NEED.

 

I groaned. I knew she was right. I just couldn’t do it. I went to my site and stared at my big old toothy grin headshot. I was sick of looking at that chick. Blech.

Oh close your mouth for God's sake.

Oh close your mouth for God’s sake.

I talked to several designers about a complete re-design. I saw themes and ideas that got me all tingly inside. But was I really ready for an LL Cool J-style don’t call it a comeback site? I wasn’t sure.

Luvvie had an answer to that too.

You need the simplest of simple wordpress sites. i’m talking about the default wordpress theme. No slideshow, none of that. just a simple site that won’t make you wanna fight the air.

Something clicked. I quickly went to wordpress and checked out the default site.

I wanted to cry. It was exactly what I needed.

White space. No bells and whistles.

Luvvie walked me through some basic design things and I even managed to cobble together a quick header and a background. This time, I put a static page on front. If I post daily weekly monthly or yearly, the first thing you will see (and more importantly, what I will see), will be the same.  No more stressing the date of my last post on the home page.

Update: changed my mind. Most recent posts belong on the main page. The end. 

If you’re still reading, then you are one of my dear readers. The folks who hold me down no matter how often I blog, no matter how long it takes me to finish a book, no matter how long my FB posts are. I love you for it.

But this blog is not for you this time. It’s for me.  But you’re welcome to visit whenever you’d like.

Now if you’ll excuse me… I need to change my homepage.

-A

**1, 927 words. That’s gotta be a record. Good gravy.

 

 

 

 

 

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Quotes to Live By…

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.

—Cyril Connolly
I came across this quote today and it really struck me. Each Wednesday, when I do my Twitter Q&A, there are always comments from people who are afraid to get the words down because of what other folks might say–or not say. It’s really hard to let go and let the words flow. There is always “the public”, both real and imagined, that can choke us up.
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Revisiting a classic…

I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately. Everything but the novel I need to jump back into. When I feel this happening, I take a step back and give myself permission to not write. (Sometimes that’s just as important as forcing yourself to write). When I can’t write. Or I’m just not writing for whatever reason, I read. A lot.

Going back to an old favorite does a few things for me. Every time I dust off my faves, I find something that I missed in my previous  reads. I also get to pay close attention to how the plot and dialogue are shaped in a book that works. When I feel like my characters are stilted and the dialogue feels forced,  I go back to the books that taught me how to write in the first place.

And I don’t just mean books like my favorites from Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison. I take it further back even than that.  I go back to The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, a favorite of my fifth grade self.

I just bought From The Mixed Up Files… on my iPad. It’s so comforting to crawl into bed and rediscover these timeless characters that are just as I remember them.

This is what I want for my own work! I want people to hold on to it. Come back to it and re-read possibly.  How good could a book possibly be if you never want to pick it up again?

Dear readers: What are your favorite books from your childhood. Do you have a favorite young adult book that helps you fall in love with reading (and writing!) all over again?

I’d love to hear from you!

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Raymond vs. Raymond

The timing could not have been much worse.

Usher has been awarded full physical custody of his sons Usher V and Naviyd from his ex-wife Tameka Raymond. This one was a shocker. Though the mudslinging was heavy on both sides, many people, (myself included), assumed that they would share custody and that the boys would live primarily with their mother.  Instead, an Atlanta judge ruled in favor of Usher, stripping Tameka of her custodial rights. (They will share joint legal custody, which is customary).

Jaws dropped all over the Internets. Particularly since Tameka tragically lost her 11 year old son Kile just last month after a boating accident.  Should Usher have postponed the trial for some time while Tameka grieved? Reports say the judge would not allow it. Should he have given up the custody battle altogether given the tragic circumstances? Depends on who you ask.

I know that marriages end all the time, even those with young children. But it pains me to see things spiral out of control as they did in this case. I’m sure both sides have valid arguments for wanting primary custody but the best case scenario is for the boys to be in a safe, loving household.

I’m sure that Usher wants to be a full-time father to his sons.  I also believe that his wife is a good mother or she would have been stripped of all her parental rights. And no matter what Usher might say, there’s a part of him that feels vindicated. Like he “won” and his ex-wife “lost.” I know any number of baby-daddies who would feel the same way. Many times, the court systems makes fathers feel less-than and it often goes without saying that in most cases, children ended up living primarily with their mothers.

Miami Heat basketball player Dwyane Wade has been exactly where Usher is right now. Last year, he was awarded full custody of his two sons from his ex-wife. His ex was even taken into police custody for not returning them from a visit. The mother has liberal visitation opportunities but the boys do not primarily live with her.

Assuming they were not abusive or severely troubled, I feel for Dwyane and Usher’s exes. It must be devastating to lose custody of your child. And although it shouldn’t matter, the blow is doubly hard for a woman who has maintained custody since birth.

And at the same time, I’m glad to see that things seemed to be changing for fathers in the courtroom. It is actually understood and accepted, (and expected), that a man can take full responsibility for his children whether or not he’s married to their mother.

The only wrinkle in this whole store is the issue of money. Dwyane and Usher have it. Their exes don’t.  Which means they could not hire top-notch lawyers with background in custody law. Did that have an impact on the custody decisions here? I don’t see how they could not.

Dear readers: Do you think Usher and Dwyane would have gotten full custody of their children if they were not well-paid celebrities? Do you honestly believe that a father can raise children alone as well as a mother can? I’d love to hear from you.

-A

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Just me and my BICTH

On Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta, Scrappy’s mother, (quite the character), calls out a woman for being a b-word. She even spells it out. Kind of. In her rush to get her point across, she misspells the word. It’s a mistake that caused an uproar on Twitter and folks have been teasing her ever since.

But all humor aside, the use of the word bitch is enjoying a resurgence right now. (Not that it’s ever really fallen out of favor)

Kanye dedicated a song about “his bitch” to Kim Kardashian.  I haven’t heard the song but the concept left me scratching my head. Is Kim really okay with being called a bitch? By her man? Is that cute? Not in my world. I know, it’s supposed to be a term of endearment. You my bitch. Yeah, no thank you.

For weeks I’ve been singing along to The Dream’s new song, Dope Chick whenever it comes on the radio. I came across the unedited version and imagine my surprise. The song is actually called Dope Bitch and the chorus says nothing but I got a dope bitch/a dope bitch.

Again, The Dream is heaping praise on his “dope bitch.” He’s not cursing her out or throwing the word around in a derogatory way. But the song is jarring nonetheless.

And then there’s Meek Mill, who came under fire recently for his song Amen. A Philadelphia area minister said that Meek’s song is blasphemous because in the chorus, he thanks God for all the “bad bitches in the building.”

I don’t want to be called a bitch. Full stop. But I can’t lie and say I haven’t referred to myself as one at times. It’s very similar to the N-word. Some folks are okay with using it to define themselves and those close to them. Some people never use the word under any circumstances and lots of people are somewhere in between.

Does it matter if I occasionally use the word bitch to describe myself? Does this mean I’m giving someone license to use the word towards me?  Even Beyoncé has been known to drop the B word to get the point across about who she is.   On the song Ego, she belts out the line, “Ego so strong/ you must admit/ I got every reason to feel/ like I’m that bitch.” And on her song, Flaws and All, she admits to being a train wreck in the morning and a bitch in the afternoon.

Beyonce is the high water mark for me in just about anything. And I think its very interesting that I see nothing wrong with Beyoncé using the b-word to describe herself as being a boss who must be reckoned with.

So what does this mean for Kanye, The-Dream and Meek Mill. Should we clutch our pears or sing along?  I’ll let you decide.

Dear readers: What are your thoughts on the B-word? Use it sparingly? Or never it all. Can the word bitch be used in an affectionate way?

I’d love to hear from you!

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Really, Lebron?

I fell in love with Shaquille O’Neal years ago. He signed a deal to have a sneaker named after him that would be less than 50.00. At the time,  Jordans were running for at least twice that. The Shaq shoe wasn’t the most popular. And the fact that they were sold in Kmart and Walmart didn’t help matters.

But plenty of young children with little money were able to connect to a popular basketball player by wearing his shoe. I loved Shaq for that.

The urban fashion world desperately needs someone like Shaquille right now. And it won’t be Lebron James.

It was announced this week that Lebron’s namesake sneaker is crossing the $300.00 barrier. The kicks will cost a whopping $315.00.   I think Lebron has a personal responsibility to keep the price of his shoe realistic. I know it’s a free market society and money talks. But is there ever an end?

The thing is, the sneakers will sell. And as long as their selling at 315.00, Nike will have reason to sell them for that price. If the price goes up to 500.00 and people stop buying them, then they will have surpassed their threshold and they’ll bring the price down. It’s all about supply and demand.

Even thought we live in a capitalist society, I still think there should be some thought given to your target audience. Many of the young people who will salivate over this shoe will simply not be able to afford them. Some would argue that there are a lot of things that are aspirational and this is just part of life. This is true. But not many of those things is endorsed by a public figure with a very public persona.

Maybe I’m just getting old. When I was in high school in the late 80s, the hottest shoe you could rock were a pair of 90.00 Filas. And people got robbed for them all the time.

So maybe this is just a sign of the times. A pair of 90.00 Filas has morphed into a pair of 315.00 sneakers with sensors that tell you how far you leap on the court.

I accept it. But I don’t have to like it.

Dear readers. What’s your price threshold for a pair of shoes? Would you pay this much money for any child in your life to have this shoe? I’d love to hear from you!
-A

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