Last week, I planned on introducing a new Black History Fun Fact Friday. I also planned on revealing the cover to the poetry contest magazine to my social media (which I will do tomorrow, time permitting). This was a busy week for me (more than usual). This isn’t to say that “busy” is a measure of importance, but last week was a hectic one for both my personal and professional life. But also, it was a good busy (more like a focused busy). I got a lot done and gained some clarity. And although I still have emails, I haven’t responded to and travel to prepare for I am sitting down in the few hours I have here before running errands to talk to you guys and send an important message to my email list.
I find that how we direct our focus determines what will show up based on how we have prioritized. Those things we put first or last will naturally manifest in our life and align based on what we give more or less attention. If I know I have coursework due on Wednesday, for example, but I scroll social media until the final hour of when the work is due, chances are I won’t do well, and it won’t be because I am ignorant or incompetent. It will be because I did not set my coursework as a priority this week and give myself time to think through the assignment. Instead, I scrolled social media, which means I have set it as a priority over my coursework and are thus reaping the consequences of that choice. It doesn’t make it social media’s fault, and it doesn’t make social media an evil entity, but it was not the proper decision on this day.
I use social media because it’s an easy example, but I believe this can apply to anything from business practices to relationships and friendships.
What are you sacrificing?
I realized that whatever we pay attention to means sacrificing something else in its place. If we focus too much time on gossip and negativity, we are sacrificing something else in its place. If we spend too much time on social media, we are sacrificing something else in its place. Sometimes the sacrifice is not all bad; it makes sense depending on what is a priority at the moment. Sacrificing an hour of work to sleep and refresh is not a bad thing because, with rest, we can have better clarity to do the job. Surrendering a TV show to post something of value and substance to social media that will help someone else is not a bad thing. You see, I also learned this week that our priorities might change from day to day. What was most crucial yesterday may not be most important today.
From this point forward, I will be more conscious of what I am sacrificing when I am spending my time doing something because I know that whatever I focus my attention will manifest based on those things of which I have set as a priority.
Instead of saying, “I don’t have time,” I will say, “what am I willing to sacrifice to get this done? What am I willing to give up to do this?”
Something about sorrow sounds spiritual. It sounds like awakenings and revelations. Sounds like pacts and promises. Sounds contradicting too, like hope and despair are twins. We want to shackle ourselves to change. Something about sorrow got us questioning our own mortality. But how permanent is this grief? Where are we two years from now? Is this feeling fleeting? Will we forget our own deaths could be just as close as Kobe’s? Right now is good. It’s all reflection-like. Our throats are full of emotion and saltwater. Only time will tell if this is real or just another ode to the people we worship as Gods. Today, forgiveness is an anthem we sing each morning. Kisses adorn the faces of our loved ones, and the heavens ain’t heard these many prayers since the last celebrity died. And yet I ask myself how permanent is this grief? What have we learned?
There are people we know and love that are close. We can reach out and touch them. Now. Today. Will we? Some of us will Tupac this young man’s legacy while forgetting the promises we made to ourselves to be better people outside of the internet. We will forget those feel-good words we concocted when the world was in mourning. The “every day ain’t promised,” and “hug the ones you love,” we spit into the air as if life has promised our names won’t be the next one carved into the next hashtag. Like our pictures won’t be the ones swarming the internet like the locust currently congregating in East Africa.
Yea, something about sorrow sounds spiritual. Got us thinking about life and truth and family and love. But will this last? How permanent is this grief? That is the question.
Would you know if your friend is feeling down if he/she didn’t post about it? Would you know when his/her birthday was if Facebook didn’t tell you? Would you have the information necessary to congratulate those you love on their achievements, like weddings, and graduations if they didn’t post about it?
How well do we know the people we call friends?
Yesterday was my husband’s birthday and birthdays always have me thinking about relationships and social media. A few years back I had deactivated my Facebook a few days before my birthday. I didn’t feel like being bothered with accolades from people who hadn’t spoken to me since my last birthday. An interesting thing happens when I do this: The people who know me most will call or text me. Then, at the conclusion of the day I’ll post something on social and out of the woods will come those who thought they knew me and yet didn’t know something as basic as the date of my birth.
I had one person I considered a sister call me three days after my thirtieth birthday. There’s no harm in this. I’m not that sensitive. People don’t have to stop their lives for me. Reach out when you can. What I found odd is not that she called three days later. What was odd is that she thought she had called on my actual birthday. I found this odd because I thought we were closer than that. I had known the woman over ten years. We had lived with one another at some point, interacted with one another’s children, dined together, laughed, and had deep conversations. This wasn’t just any sister, this was someone I thought knew me well. Well enough to know my birthday is not May 29th. It doesn’t surprise me that today, we are no longer in touch.
But don’t get distracted. This is not about birthdays.
This is about the work we put or do not put into relationships now that Social Media automates our lives. Now that there is “an app for that” some of us have become lazy in our interactions with one another.
I had the pleasure of visiting Griffin High School last weekend. I spoke to four classes of tenth and eleventh graders about writing, publishing, and my journey as an author. I love young people. I love their innocence and straightforwardness. I love their non-sugarcoating questions. Many of them asked me if I “made a lot of money,” and “how do I deal with criticism?” It swelled my heart to have the pleasure of being there with them. One student asked me if I thought the ebooks would overtake paperbacks. I told him that while digital has enhanced writing in many ways, I think the paperback is here to stay.
Digital books are convenient when I am eagerly expecting reading a book and I don’t want to wait for the paperback to come in the mail. It’s fast and quickly satisfying. Buying a paperback book costs more and takes patience but when it comes there is something immensely gratifying about holding the book in my hands and turning the pages. A feeling I do not get when I read digitally. When I can look in someone’s eyes and talk with them as I did last week, answer their questions, hear their concerns, sign their books organically, hug them and take pictures with them, nothing online can compare to that experience. That human experience.
Let’s say digital books represent social media and paperbacks represent real life. While it may be easier to wait for a notification to tell you that your loved ones are “feeling sad” it is much more productive to hear their voice on the other end of the phone or to give them an inspiring word through text. It is even more fruitful to see them face-to-face, to hear their voices, and look into their eyes. Some things you will never know about a person from their social media pages. If they are like me, quiet, reserved and private, you will only get the basics. Facebook may tell you when it’s my birthday or notify you when I am traveling or checking into a restaurant but for those personal, heartfelt thoughts? There’s no app for that.
Nourish your offline relationships. To nourish someone is to feed them deeply with something good for them. It means to give them something that will encourage them to live well. When you do this, you do not make assumptions about anything you see in the virtual reality. You are not easily offended because someone “didn’t tell you” they were traveling or gathering or graduating. You already know these things because you have built a real-life relationship with the people you love and that bond is stronger than any post, tag, or “Friendversary” that pops up in your Facebook memories.
Welcome to the blog Buddah and congratulations!Your poem, “Claiming Victory” was so uplifting it won you the #2 spot. Please tell us, what inspired this piece?
This poem was inspired by the challenges many of us face in believing in ourselves and doing what’s necessary to fulfill our purpose and achieve our dreams. Too often we think we’re not good enough. Too often we think we don’t have what it takes to make it. Too often we allow the noise, conditioning, and all the junk we’ve been fed by external forces to negatively impact our outlook and our ability to act. When we’re able to change our mindset, own all of who we are, and shed all of which hasn’t served us, we’re unstoppable. That’s when we can embrace abundance. And claim our victory!
“People get caught up on the highs, peaks, and successes They don’t see what went down in the valleys What it took to get up, get out, and rise again It’s what we’ve been through— the periods between life’s highs and lows— that make us so resilient We can’t concede We have to keep on”
-Excerpt from “Claiming Victory.”
As one of the top winners you get a full interview so go ahead and get comfortable. Can I get you anything? Coffee? Tea? Water…wine?
Thank you. May I have water please?
Now, let’s start from the top. Why don’t you go ahead and tell us your name and where you’re from.
My name is Buddah Desmond (aka BDez). I was born in Washington, DC. Was raised in P.G. County MD (primarily in Forestville, MD and Greenbelt, MD). I currently reside in Alexandria, VA.
That’s very specific Buddah lol.
LOL, yes. I know. I can’t help it. Just call me Mr. Specificity. LOL
Soo Mr. Specificity, are you employed outside of writing?
Yes, I am a User Experience (UX) professional with over 13 years of experience crafting timely, intuitive, and forward-thinking solutions to improve the overall usability / UX of websites, apps, and services for non-profit, commercial, and government clients. My specialties include user research and analysis, user-centered design, user experience design, usability testing, content strategy, and information architecture. I’m also a health and wellness coach. Finished my masters in Nutrition and Integrative Health earlier this year. I’m in the process of completing my hours and studying to become a certified Nutritionist, and in the very early stages of starting my health and wellness coaching practice.
Wow. Congratulations on all your endeavors! With all this, what was your childhood dream?
My childhood dream (and still my dream today) was to be a Renaissance man… To be able to pull from my many talents, do work that matters, and to make a difference. I’m striving to achieve this mission still to this day.
What’s your favorite TV Show? Movie?
A number of favorites here, but one show that continues to be at the top of my list is Queen Sugar. The writing, acting, cinematography, the landscape, and the issues that are addressed with each episode—it’s phenomenal. I love everything that Ava DuVernay has done. She’s a gem. A national treasure. The epitome of Black Girl Magic! In terms of film, Black Panther has been sitting at the top of my movie list since it’s opening weekend. What an inspiring, impactful, and empowering film. A classic. Ryan Coogler did that!
He did indeed. We love music on The PBS Blog. What kind of music do you like?
Music is my first love. I come from a family that deeply loves, appreciates, and respects music. A number of us, myself included, are musically inclined. I have an eclectic taste in music. I love Jazz, R&B/Soul, Hip-Hop, Gospel, Classical, Reggae, Dancehall, Afrobeat, Latin, Country, and Rock… Music is an undeniably powerful and universal art form. Life wouldn’t be the same without it.
We agree there. Speaking of the Universe, with a name like Buddah I have to ask, religious or nah?
No, I’m not religious. I’m more of a spiritual being. I believe in the Most High… The Divine Creator of our universe that ties us all together. I’ve always been fascinated by religion though, and learning about how people worship, where they worship, their sacred texts, and the similarities / differences between the guiding principles we abide by.
Let’s talk about writing a bit. Favorite writer. Go.
These questions are always tough because it’s a rarity that I can ever narrow down to just one favorite of anything. LOL!
I knew I’d get you eventually.
Okay. I’m done. Carry on.
I have so many favorite writers. Maya Angelou. Langston Hughes. Nikki Giovanni. Sonia Sanchez. Saul Williams. James Baldwin. Toni Morrison. Alice Walker. Terry McMillan. Yrsa Daley-Ward. Nayyirah Waheed. Lucille Clifton. June Jordan. Janet Mock. Ntozake Shange. Devon Franklin. Octavia Butler. Amiri Baraka. Haki Madhubuti. Zora Neale Hurston. I could keep going, but I’ll stop there.
What genre do you write in, why?
My primary genre is poetry. I also write prose, essays, short stories, song lyrics, and blogposts. There’s a universality and musicality to the language of poetry. I couldn’t deny it when I first started reading it. And definitely couldn’t deny it when I started writing it. I think Amiri Baraka said it best, “Poetry is music, and nothing but music. Words with musical emphasis.”
I absolutely agree. It’s like poetry has this ability to bring out the depth in us in ways nothing else can.
YES! Poetry gives us the freedom to get soul-deep to tell our stories in such extraordinary ways.
Soul-deep. I like that. Yess.
The beauty is that we can each write a poem in any form about the same topic, emotion, or experience, and it can be embraced and interpreted quite differently by readers. What we as writers get out of it may be worlds away from what our readers get out of it. And that’s amazing. Truly amazing. Poetry has the power to change minds, and change lives.
When did you publish your first book? What was that like?
I self-published my first volume of poetry, Prevail: Poems on Life, Love, and Politics, in June 2012 through iUniverse. The experience was exhilarating, rewarding, frustrating, so many things. When I made the decision to publish my manuscript, I had a “no turning back” attitude. I was at a point in my life where it was imperative to go all in for the things I wanted. I couldn’t be mad at anyone but myself if I didn’t put in the effort or work to make my dreams come true. And I’m grateful I did. Publishing Prevail afforded many opportunities for growth and development, reading and speaking at a number of events, and connecting with other writers, creatives, and readers alike. Not to mention, many learning lessons about building a platform, social media, and book marketing and promotion.
What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer? The most exciting thing?
That’s a great question. Hmmm… The most difficult thing would be pushing through writer’s block. Or periods when you really want to write, but the muse, inspiration, or motivation is sorely lacking. The most exciting thing is the freedom of expression. Being able to create you own world or worlds. New possibilities. And the blessings of your work opening minds, speaking for those whose voices aren’t being heard, and making deep, meaningful connections with a larger audience.
Nice. Buddah, what is humility?
Humility is quiet confidence. It’s being comfortable in who you are, your abilities, and what you bring to the table without being rude, brash, egotistical, or narcissistic. It’s also about being open to change and possibilities. And knowing that your way, whatever it may be, is not the only way.
What is love?
Love is one of the greatest emotions. It’s more than just deep feelings for something or someone. It’s in the actions. It’s all in what you do (or don’t do). Love can be life changing. Life-saving even. It’s unconditional. As I wrote in a recent piece, “I am nothing without love. I am everything with love.”
Beautiful. Thank you Buddah for spending this time with us. We certainly enjoyed you.
Be Sure to Follow Buddah Desmond below and look out for his piece, “Claiming Victory” in the 2nd Edition Lit Mag Literary Magazine, 2020.
I posted this message to my IG this morning and I thought I would post it here as well. I have added more bullet points after realizing how much this also applies to Indie Authors and our writing careers as well as real life advice.
Don’t go broke to sit at someone else’s table. Make sure that what you put your money into is worth the investment and not something you are doing to be seen. If you’ve ever observed me in person, you’ll notice I am quiet and laid back. I am not there to see what I can get. I am there to listen, to learn, and to connect so that when I go home, I can implement and apply. The other obvious meaning is, make sure your immediate needs are met before you play. Are your bills paid? Is your family fed? What can you realistically afford? I know social media has made entrepreneurship look glamorous but in real life people have day jobs and responsibilities. People are not winning everyday. Don’t be out here trying to prove a point. Take care of the most important things first.
“Don’t overpay to play,” also means to me not to overcompensate in the efforts to prove to people who you are. Sometimes I do this. I have a good heart. This is what I know about myself to be true and there’s nothing worse than people not seeing that. What I’ve realized, though, is that I can’t control how other people see me and I can’t “overpay to play” with them. People will see different versions of you depending on who they are, how they feel about themselves, and their philosophy in life. If you try too hard to prove you are a good person it will only come across as fake. Just be who you are, do what you do, and let the chips fall where they may. I also think it’s just as important to realize that we all have traits about us that are not positive. This is important. A person who understands both his strengths and weaknesses is a strong person. A person who can identify his weaknesses without pointing out the weaknesses of others is a stronger person. Realize that you are not 100% together and that people don’t have to like you.
New Indie Authors, don’t overpay someone to publish your book just because you’re desperate to see it in print. Overpaying could mean a different price depending on each individual’s budget but anything over the $5,000 point is steep. Don’t overpay to play author. While I am not a Traditional Publisher, the traditional publishing route is still a good option if you want the traditional publicity. While many Self-Publishers have gone on to have movies made from their books and have made millions from their books, there are many aspiring authors who are looking to be published traditionally but are not patient enough to go through the process. As a result, they overpay small Indie Publishers to do for them what they could have probably done for themselves. For example, don’t fall for someone promising to make you an Amazon Best Seller. To non-writers, family, and friends it may seem like a big deal and while commendable (I would never downplay anyone’s hard work), it’s not exactly the same as being a New York Times Bestseller. Amazon’s rankings are controlled by algorithms. In other words, computers. Any spike in sells (even if it’s just 5 books sold) can shoot a book ranking up. Sometimes all it takes to be an Amazon Best Seller is to sell 10 copies of your book on the same day. It’s not the same as outselling all the other books in your genre. I’m sorry but it’s the truth and this deception is not only bringing down the value of being a true Best Seller, but is starting to become a red flag to those who actually know how the system works. I applaud anyone who has become a #1 Amazon Best Seller but I caution you not to pay for it. You can become an Amazon Best Seller on your own. It’s not worth $5,000.
This advice reminds me of the importance of boundaries, limits to where I’ll go. There must be a line that reminds you of your integrity, where you are not willing to go, no matter the circumstances or the price tag because your moral compass will not allow you to. “Don’t overpay to play,” also means to me, “remember your worth.” If you don’t have this mental limit in your mind you will sell out in whatever way it means to sell out. Boundaries go far beyond personal limitations but extend to our livelihoods as well.
Today, I’d like to welcome Khaya Ronkainen. Welcome to The PBS Blog! Let’s get started.
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Khaya Ronkainen. I was born and bred in South Africa, and I now call Finland my second home.
South Africa in the houusee. What was your childhood dream?
To become a teacher. I have huge respect for teachers. I talk this, and also the reasons why I never took up the occupation after all, in the “About” page of my site.
Nice. We’ll be sure to link that below. In your own words, what is humility?
Humility is not a low opinion of one’s self but an awareness that there’s always room for improvement, even if one is confident in their abilities and skills/talents.
Absolutely agree. Who’s your favorite Historical figure?
Nelson Mandela, because he gave me a voice. Most people are aware of apartheid system and its laws that prohibited many things in South Africa. For those who do not know what apartheid is, I suggest a read that sheds some light on the nature of racial injustices at the time, Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, a South African author. I read somewhere that if one wants to understand a country, they must read its authors. So I hope you’re inspired to pick up the book if you’ve never read it.
Awesome. What is the most thought provoking book you’ve ever read?
Animal Farm by George Orwell. It’s the first influential book I read that showed me the power of a written word, and opened up a whole new world. I have to thank my English teacher, Mrs. Roos, during my high school years. She knew how to activate young minds and keep them engaged through literature.
Loved Orwell’s 1984. What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer?
It’s often difficult for me to describe what I do to people who don’t write or create in any other form. Because what I do, writing, largely depends on an exaggerated inspiration or the elusive muse that holds me hostage, but with no promise of real money.
The most exciting thing?
Dreaming stories into being, that is, the gift of imagination.
You said, there’s no promise of real money in writing. With Indie Publishing being as successful as it is these days, do you think that’s changing? In what way can we improve how writers are paid?
Certainly, there’s no denying the success and benefits of indie publishing; total creative control, higher royalties, supportive indie communities, and so on. More importantly, indie books are doing well as traditionally published books, when it comes to e-publishing, in some genres.
When I talk about no promise of real money, I’m not speaking for all writers but my own writing, which is mostly poetry. Let’s face it, poetry is a difficult genre to sell. My observation is that people love poetry or at least, the idea of poetry, but are not so eager to buy poetry books.
We also know that no one goes into poetry for money. Poets still have to hustle and take regular jobs in order to earn a living. So, perhaps, I’ll rephrase your question, “In what way can we improve how writers are paid?” with “How can we support poets, as readers, and stop undervaluing their work by expecting to get it for free?
As you can see, I’m passionate about this topic. But I’ll stop here.
No, keep going! I love the passion and you are absolutely right. While no one should “poet” for money, no one should do anything else for money! You shouldn’t embrace any path for money specifically and yet we must eat. Looking at it this way, why is poetry or writing…why is Art in general, not expected to be profitable? Something to think about.
I suppose I don’t have to ask what genre you write in…
Poetry, because I like its brevity and the immediacy it creates. Fiction (semi-autobiographical works) because I like to blur the line between fact and fiction. I’m also a horror genre “visiting writer.” As a matter of fact, I’ve recently published my second poetry chapbook, a small collection of dark poetry.
Outside of writing, what are some of your passions?
Nature is my playground and a playmate, my husband. Seriously, I do all sorts of outdoor activities, and I draw huge inspiration from nature.
I can see that about you! Beautiful. What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
Taking a sabbatical in order to go backpacking through Asia.
Thank you Khaya for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
Khaya Ronkainen is an independent author, writer, poet, public speaker and many other things. She currently lives in Finland with her husband.
Her work often examines duality of an immigrant life, cultural identity, relations among immigrants, and nature. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Seasons Defined and From the Depths of Darkness, both available at Amazon Kindle.
She is currently at work on her debut novel about growing up in South Africa during apartheid era. Learn more about the writer and her work or connect via her blog at www.khayaronkainen.fi.