From the Depths of a Woman’s Heart was a poetry book I published in 2010. It was the first book I ever sold, a collection of poems I had written going back to High School and coming up to the present. Although I had missed the mark in many areas, people still bought it.
I am not saying to publish an unedited book and slap on a generic cover. That would go against everything I’ve ever written in this series. Ya’ll know I don’t play that. I have since retired that book and a few other books and even republished some books because when you know better, you do better.
I am saying that you just have to write the book at some point, even if you don’t know all the answers. From the Depths laid the foundation for me to get used to the Self-Publishing process, analyze what I did wrong, and improve the next time. My first several books were kind of like a practice run for me to learn and grow.
Nine times out of ten, aspiring authors who express interest in Self-Publishing have not written a book yet. And sadly, many of them spend a lot of time figuring out if Self-Publishing is for them. While there is nothing wrong with this, it can get in the way of writing a book to publish.
After having written the book, you might even decide that Self-Publishing is not for you, and that’s okay.
It’s easy to get sucked up in the never-ending sinkhole that is Self-Publishing advice. Everyone has an opinion about how it should be done, and everybody and they mama is an expert.
No wonder writers are confused and overwhelmed with the process.
Let me simplify it for you:
Start by writing the book.
Before you pull your hair out over how to get your story into the hands of readers, make sure you actually have a story for them to read.
Once you have a completed manuscript, you will better understand the information you need. You can ignore what does not apply and focus on what does.
Having something written helps you be selective in who you listen to and intentional about the direction you want to go.
Don’t be so busy researching how to start that you forget that the biggest lessons come from action.
“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
Zora Neale Hurston
Friday, November 13, 2020
It felt like I had given birth with nothing to show for it.
I was lying on my back in the emergency department of Wellstar Paulding Emergency Hospital with my legs open, my feet in the stirrups. I prayed the doctors examining and whispering over my vajayjay would hurry up. At first, it was just one doctor, but her face did not do a good job of concealing her concern. I could tell the amount of blood was overwhelming her. She called in someone else, and before I knew it, there were three doctors down there.
“Press down like you are having a bowel movement,” said one of them. She looked like she was in charge, and I was instantly terrified.
“Just a little bit. Press down.”
So basically, you are telling me to push. Push what? OMG.
I pressed down until she said stop, and I could see them trying to stop the bleeding. I felt like I was on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
I was thirteen years old in the summer of 2000, and my dad was sick and dying of cancer. The adults decided we should not witness his last days and sent us to Mississippi with our big sister. (My twin sister Tracey and me are the youngest of my dad’s crew, our other sibling’s already well into adulthood.) Here, at my sister’s house, I had the experience of my first period, and it was not modest or merciful. It came in as if it had been here before and stayed for a full seven days.
No one had explained menstrual cycles to me, we were not being taught about it in school yet, and my sister was at work. Shocked, I cried as Tracey looked on in astonishment. We were terrified. We knew about it, but we did not fully understand it. My stepmother predicted mine would come soon, and every time she brought it up, I would get upset.
“What you gonna do? Stop it from happening? You gonna be the first woman to not have a period?”
I sat on the edge of her bed, brought my eyebrows together, wrinkled my forehead, and curled my lips up with eyes that said, “Yup.”
In my mind, I really thought I could stop it. That’s because I had no idea why it needed to happen in the first place.
We eventuallyfound my sister’s pads, but no one had taught us how to put them on, so I stuffed my panties with tissue and waited until my sister got home.
Sadly, my story is not unique. When it comes to the woman’s body, many topics are considered so taboo they are rarely talked about or spoken of at all. Not even in the home. Sexual intercourse, the vagina, pregnancy, abortion, birth control, and menstrual cycles are topics people shy away from, like some kind of disease, leaving many women to learn through experience. Often, traumatic experiences.
“I was around 13 when I asked my Aunt about sex because a lot of my friends at school were talking about it. Instantly, she asked why I’m around those kinds of friends and why I would ever ask that kind of question. She went on to tell me that I shouldn’t be having sex until I’m married and mentioned that I shouldn’t have a boyfriend either. I knew for sure that I was never going to come to her again.”
Afia, 18, of Pawtucket, RI
In the Black community, girls are sometimes shamed for even bringing these subjects up. When my stepmother scolded me for being upset about periods, she didn’t know she was setting me up to be ashamed of it. She never talked about how natural it was for women or asked me why the thought of it made me so upset in the first place.
The teachable moment had passed, and like Afia, I knew I would never come to my stepmother to discuss periods. And, for a long time, I did not even like to say that word. I had developed a deep shame about it.
According to Netflix’s new series, The Principles of Pleasure, one name used to refer to the woman’s external parts back in the day was the Latin term Pudendum, from the verb Pudere, meaning “to make ashamed.”
“…let me know, and we can go get something,” my Aunt said loud enough for us to hear in the other room.
She drank and played cards as they discussed prom and prom night. Her insinuation that if we planned to have sex, we should let her know “so we can go get something” was the extent of what I assumed was “the talk” about sex and birth control. There was no explanation of what she was even talking about. We were also already having sex by then. Not only did her comment make us ashamed to discuss sex with her at all, but Auntie was a couple of years too late anyway.
But parents are people too, and “it’s difficult to recreate experiences that were not modeled for us, and many Black parents of today grew up with inaccurate and negative messages about sex,” says Melissa Carnagey, founder of Sex Positive Families, an organization that supports parents in having sexual health talks with their children.
Tracie Gilbert, Ph.D., Training and Technical Assistance Manager at Answer, which publishes Sex, Etc. had this to say about why some Black adults may not talk to their children about sex:
“Black parents being nervous about talking with their daughters about sex is not only common but historically influenced by the desire to protect them from racism and white supremacist ideas about Black sexuality. Historical tropes about Black people included that they were hypersexual and had loose morals.”
But this is not exclusive to Black women. All women have experienced similar traumatic experiences surrounding sex, menstrual cycles, and birth control.
These myths could be why some adults (like my Aunt, stepmother, and Afia’s Aunt) avoid the conversation altogether.
Like periods and sex, infertility is another topic many women do not openly talk about. As someone who has struggled with it for years, I hope to break the silence by sharing my experience.
How my menstrual cycle started would set the tone for the future of a tumultuous relationship between me and my reproductive system.
November 13, 2020
“Yes, she’s miscarrying,” said the doctor-in-charge.
As an Indie Author, I understand the pressure of writing and publishing books. Here are some tips to help you stay calm during the storm. I planned on giving several tips at a time. However, our first took up most of the space, so I have to break this down into two parts.
Get Out of Your Immediate Environment
This past weekend was my first time out of the house in a long time. Part of this cabin fever was that I could not go out due to doctor’s orders. I have not publicly spoken about the details yet, but I had an emergency surgery to treat an ectopic pregnancy in February. I won’t go into detail because I have an entire blog series coming about it. I will say that the physical recovery was long, and I found myself getting depressed.
Even after my stitches healed, I knew I was still a mess emotionally. I told my husband I needed to get out of the house. I didn’t care where we went, and it didn’t have to be anywhere far, but I needed to go. And if he didn’t want to go, I was going by myself.
I was being dramatic, but I was also serious.
We decided to visit Florida (the parts that aren’t too far away from us, like Jackson and St. Augustine). We just packed up and left, and I feel highly refreshed having taken that trip. We took a boat cruise, inhaled the fresh air, walked up 219 stairs of the Lighthouse, went out to dinner, drank wine, and acted like two High School kids with no curfew. This unplanned trip turned into one of our best romantic getaways.
But you do not have to visit another city.
Getting out of your environment can also mean changing where you write. I am notorious for going to the library and Barnes and Noble on a whim. When I get tired of my home office, I go somewhere else to work. I will even go sit at the kitchen table. Even something as simple as that can spark creativity.
Changing where you write is a healthy way of boosting your creative morale when you feel low, and this is not just my opinion.
“A walk in the fresh air and sunshine will release those beautiful endorphins, which boost happiness, and studies have shown that moving your body can even alleviate symptoms of depression. What’s more, physical activity outdoors and “exposure to nature” are known to have positive effects on your mental health.”
Ernest Hemingway drew inspiration for much of his work from his time in Spain and France.
Aldous Huxley, the author of Brave New World, moved from the U.K. to the U.S. in his 40s to branch out into screenwriting.
Mark Twain, who sailed around the coast of the Mediterranean in 1869, wrote in his travelogue Innocents Abroad that travel is “fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
And Alex Haley’s research for Roots took him across the Atlantic. (The book took twelve years to write, but that’s part of tip #2. We’ll dive into not stressing out about the time it’s taking you to finish your book.)
If you are in a creative funk, consider changing your environment. Traveling is an excellent way to do that. Although I didn’t bring my laptop (or a pen and pad), I still wrote on my phone’s notepad. I now have two new poems and a funny short about a conversation between my stomach, brain, and heart I wrote in my hotel room. It starts with my stomach asking why I ate cold pizza and my brain and heart arguing over whether I was drunk or not.
It is as hilarious as it sounds.
I am already planning my next trip out of the country this time. I am excited at all the creative revelations I’ll gain from it.
He looked like a lifetime supply of confidence black-gold wrapped in a Hershey’s kiss like his soul had stretched up to the sun this melanin-plated skin When he shined, we were all shade Sweat looked like honey dripping from his brow forming sweet golden pools Look too closely, and he starts to look like a lightening his eyes two backpacks full of moon and we scatter like children looking for jars big enough to capture the illumination of his essence made up not of blood and bone but stars He looked like a lifetime supply of monuments a dark sun-kissed body full to the brim with uncompromising confidence.
The inspiration for this poem is from a poetry prompt I saw on IG on the topic of “He Looked Like a Lifetime Supply.”
I did not plan on doing an IAB today, but a question on Twitter sparked a thought.
We talk about Self-Publishing, but what is it?
That sounds like a simple question, but you’d be surprised how many writers with questions about Self-Publishing don’t really know what it is.
Let’s start with what Self-Publishing is not:
Vanity Publishing is not the same as Self-Publishing, and it is not the same as Traditional Publishing. When you pay a publishing company to publish your books, this is Vanity Publishing. Although not popular, I will not speak badly about VPs as this is an option for some authors. To each his own.
My only job is to help you understand what Self-Publishing is and what it is not. And at any time you pay a fee to a company to get your book published, this is not Self-Publishing.
Also, if you are signed with a publishing company, this is not Self-Publishing.
Read your contracts thoroughly.
Self-Publishing is also not a “backup plan.” It is not something you do because you think it’s easier or faster. While an author can get their book published faster with Self-Publishing, this does not mean the author should aim to do so. If you rush your book, it will look like it.
Self-Publishing is when you are your own publisher—the end.
Now, what does that mean exactly?
Traditionally, a team of people works to get the manuscript ready for publishing, whether with a major publisher, small press, or vanity. They cover everything from editing to cover art and get paid in royalties.
This is what separates Trad from Vanity. Traditionally, publishers do not charge fees to publish. They get paid from the royalties of the book.However, there has been a lot of controversy about that, but we do not have time to discuss it. Let’s just say it is why many choose to go the Independent route.
Just like it’s the traditional publisher’s job to get the manuscript of their authors ready for publishing, it is your job as your own publisher to get your manuscript ready for publishing.
This might mean hiring someone to assist you with the process, such as a self-pub assistant or coach, outsourcing for editing, cover art, and formatting.
With Self-Publishing comes total creative control. This can be both liberating and daunting. Essentially, Indie Publishing is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, you are in control of the look and feel of everything about your book. This can be a lot of fun.
But creative control does not mean doing everything yourself. You still need help. And because you are the publisher, you are responsible for hiring this help.
At the risk of sounding redundant, I will leave it here.
Self-Publishing in its most basic form is that you are your own publisher. You are not signed onto a publishing company or paying a publishing company to publish you. You hire your own people, outsource for what you need, and publish in your own name.