I hope you are all doing well amidst this Coronavirus mess and that you are safe. I had an emergency to take care of this morning that did not allow me to access my computer and my phone died, but for those of you wondering, yes! LitMag 2020 still releases today!
LitMag is the Literary Magazine for poets I established to feature, promote, and highlight the winners and contributors of “Yecheilyah’s Annual Poetry Contests.” It grew out of a desire to give the poets another platform to use to showcase their work outside of this blog and social media. The mag is still in its early stages of development but who knows what it can become.
LitMag 2020 is Volume 2, it is out in digital and print and available on the site (link below). This year we are featuring winners and contributors from our 2019 contest. Inside: Poems from Chanelle Barnes (she’s on the cover!) BuddahDesmond, Dondi Springer, Kiyana Blount, Jahkazia Richardson, Zerahyah Ysrayl, Karen Abah SoFloetic Jones, Ivy Mae Tolentino, and Michelle Stevens. Special thanks to Lisa W. Tetting and Tehilayah Ysrayl for their assistance with last year’s contest.
The Stella Trilogy put me on in more ways than one. It was the first time I got reviews on amazon for my books (I knew nothing about amazon when I started) and the Stella Trilogy book signing made me enough money to pay my bills and then some. It was the first time I saw real money from my writing and it was all from selling paperbacks (I always sell more paperbacks than ebooks. Unconventional for some, but this is how it has been for me). I also won my first award, an appreciation award given to me by my readers.
The Stella Trilogy changed lives.
The Stella Trilogy changed minds.
The Stella Trilogy is how I widened my readership.
The Stella Trilogy helped me to level up and step outside of the box.
The Stella Trilogy was groundbreaking for me and it is precisely for this reason that I am pulling her from Amazon and my website… for further editing.
The books are undergoing makeovers, a fresh edit, and new covers. For those of you who’ve read it, you know the books are short and as my #1 priority outside of the coming poetry book and Lit Mag Magazine; I hope to have them back up by the end of this year. I am not slacking on this. Stella made a big impact, and she needs to be back up soon.
The year is 1864 in Louisiana and the story slips back in time introducing Grandma Stella’s Great grandmother, Stella Mae, age nineteen years. Stella Mae begins her story with a memory of how as a child she was forced to use the facilities designated for “niggras only.” Young Stella Mae tries to reason out why her Mama can’t walk into the front door of the general store and why they can’t use the restroom everyone else uses. Even at a young age, Stella Mae could sense the inequality in her existence. – Colleen Chesebro
I have come a long way since 2015 when the first Stella book released. As a historical series it’s important to me that the book is as superior as I can afford to make it. Now that I have my foot into the schools, I hope to one day have the series taught as part of the curriculum. I have so much hope for these books and so many visions for what they can become.
The sky is not the limit. There are no limits.
I was different. It might give you a slow start but being different is gonna carry you a long way.” – Master P
I am not a fan of most rap music and never was. I like a few old school tracks from Talib Kweli and Common, but I’ve never really been into rap marketed to my age group (although I danced to it in my teens at parties lol). I was always an R&B type of person. I still remember the days my sisters and cousins used to record music videos on VHS and fall asleep watching them. We also recorded songs from the radio on cassette tapes so we can listen to it repeatedly. Despite not being a fan of the music, I admire Percy Miller aka Master P more than any other rapper. I admire him because I think people underestimate him which is precisely why I think he does so well in his business endeavors. I admire him for his commitment to being Independent and using his faith as a catalyst to propel him forward.
Indie Authors, Don’t Be Afraid to Revise Your Backlist
With great authority comes greater responsibility. As we grow and mature in our understanding of this publishing thing, more will be required of us. I know that a poorly edited book could damage my reputation not only as a writer with influence for excellence but also as a teacher and as a lecturer.
I published the first book I ever sold in 2010 and I knew nothing. The book was not edited and had never been available on Amazon. This taught me two lessons:
Begin where you are. Take the first step “even if you can’t see the whole staircase” (MLK).
After you have taken the first step and put yourself out there, make changes as you see them. If your first book was poorly edited, take it down and get it edited. You didn’t know better at first and that’s okay. But then, once you know better, do better. Do the best you can, until you know better, to quote Maya Angelou. “Then when you know better, do better.”
Do not think for a second that we are not responsible for the knowledge we have. Do not think we are not responsible for changing our behavior as we learn and grow. The quality of the books we put out shows readers what we think of ourselves and also what we think of them. Quality must always supersede quantity. I temporarily removed these books because the quality of the work I put out is more important to me than feeding my own ego of having “published x amount of books.”
It was exciting at first to publish book after book. Like anything we do for the first time it was fresh. As I have grown and as I grow, I value more where these books are going and how they are influencing the world much more than how many of them there are.
Now, for my Stella fans:
I am not changing the core of the story. I am editing the books for better readability and understanding. I am also changing the covers so all the books in the series look the same.
Stella is a work of Historical Fiction and is distinctive in its focus on one woman’s road to self-discovery, against the backdrop of the African American fight for justice, racial equality, and freedom.
The 3-Part series focuses on the history of one family in their struggle for racial identity. Discover in this Trilogy how three individuals living in separate time periods strive to overcome the same struggle, carefully knit together by one blood.
Between Slavery and Freedom (1)
We deal with enslavement and freedom both physically and psychologically.
Beyond the Colored Line (2)
We deal with passing, self-love, and racial identity. If you were a Black woman living in the Jim Crow era and light enough to pass for white, would you?
The Road to Freedom (3)
We deal with the Civil Rights Movement, Freedom Rides, and the impact our choices make on the next generation.
My Soul is a Witness is a title inspired by the Negro Spiritual song, “Witness,” but I did not choose such a title because I think of myself and my people as “Negroes.” I chose such a title because of the powerful messages and influence these songs had on our people as they transitioned from enslavement to freedom. Powerful messages I hope to also convey through my poetry.
There is a great spiritual awakening happening among Black people today as we strive to unlearn the lies they taught us for over 400 years. Whether that is starting and running our own businesses, embracing our natural hair or re-educating our young people on the parts of our history left out of the history books.
And to what am I a witness?
I am a witness to the trials and struggles my people have endured and I am a witness to our power to overcome those struggles. I am a witness also to my own sufferings which I am sure have been experienced by others. In this way, I am a witness to the fight that we all have. And why the fight? It is easy to present an image of healing and wholeness, but I believe it is much more fruitful if people knew of the struggles that got us where we are today.
From a historical perspective, I have not experienced the Middle Passage or enslavement or Jim Crow, but as a descendent of people who did, I am connected to those experiences just as if I had been there with them. In the Black community, we do not say, “when they fought for freedom,” we say, “when we fought for freedom.” The same can be true of the struggles of our own personal lives. If someone says they have been homeless before, I can relate because I have been homeless before too. I am a witness to what that’s like. If someone says they have a family member who is an addict, I can relate. I also have family members who are addicts. The anguish that causes in a family and what it does to that person and their loved ones are not lost to me. I can relate to that. I am a witness to that experience.
I believe epigenetic trauma is real. Epigenetics is the idea that trauma can leave a chemical mark on a person’s genes, which then is passed down to subsequent generations. (C. Benedict, New York Times) This means that a child or grandchild can experience side-effects from the traumatic experience of his/her elders. Since the concept of epigenetics, more and more studies hint to the inheritability of trauma where our own day-to-day health (and perhaps our children too) may have something to do with our inheritance of our parents and grandparents suffering.
One personal example is my own mother’s struggle with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder). Her grandson, my nephew, suffers from asthma badly, though both his parents do not have asthma. Could he have inherited my mother’s affliction to a degree?
Thus, I do not find it far-fetched that Blacks/African Americans could still struggle from the mental and spiritual grief that plagued our forefathers long ago. We are witnesses to this pain on a deeply personal level which makes the Negro Spiritual deeply personal to us. While our ancestors were escaping physical enslavement, I believe we are escaping mental enslavement today.
As it applies to all people from the perspective of suffering and struggle, we all have a fight we are engaged in and when we overcome this fight, we become witnesses to that experience and can help others to overcome those same tribulations.
If trauma can be passed down, then so can healing. My soul is a witness.
Have you read I am Soul yet? Grab it here. My Soul is a Witness is coming this fall.
Chanelle’s passion for writing poetry stemmed from an early obsession with song lyrics, reading and discovering the benefits of journaling. Inspired by poet/songwriters such as Jim Morrison, Jewel and Ani DiFranco, she began to find her voice, which has evolved immensely throughout her life experiences.
Over the years, she has shared her work via several blog names and has experimented with the art of spoken word. At times, she’s veered away from writing a bit to work on other creative endeavors but poetry has always been a staple and a place of healing.
More recently, she has moved her focus and research towards storytelling and activism through elements of performance and slam poetry. With this new venture, she hopes that others can relate to her stories and be inspired to start writing and sharing their own.
Your piece “Straight Lines,” won this year’s contest and your second submission “My Body Isn’t a Temple,” is an honorable mention. Please, what inspired these poems?
Straight Lines – This piece was a work in process for quite some time. As I struggled through some self esteem issues I began to delve into a different style of writing and healing. This was one of the first poems that surfaced. Soon after, it was performed at a poetry reading and has since been one of my favorites and most meaningful to date. As with all of my writings, I hope that others can relate and find the courage to overcome their insecurities as I did. (even though it is still a work in process)
We are all a work in process chile. I know I am lol. Tell us about “My Body Isn’t a Temple.” I know the title got some people like what? Ya’ll gotta read the poem though! It’s not what you think.
This piece was inspired by the Me-Too movement. So many people stood up to share their stories and I was finally able to voice mine. It was important for me to aid in bringing forth awareness towards such an important issue. I believe survivors and I am proud of them.
As the grand-prize winner you get a full interview so go ahead and get comfortable. Can I get you anything? Coffee? Tea? Water…wine?
If it’s that kind of party, some wine sounds perfect!
Yass! Here you go!
Okay. Let’s start from the top. What is your name and where are you from?
Chanelle Barnes -Fort Wayne, Indiana
What would your perfect writing / reading room look like?
Somewhere cozy with a fireplace, plants, sunshine (but no too much), lots of pillows, a record player and inspirational artwork. There would be large dormer window with a seat that overlooks an abundant forest.
Nice! That sounds really comfortable. What is the most annoying habit that you have?
I have a habit of being self-conscious and at times, too modest.
What job do you think you’d be really good at?
I think I would be a good travel blogger! Or… perhaps a wedding planner.
I can actually picture you doing both those things. Any siblings Chanelle?
I have two younger siblings, a brother and a sister. They are amazing.
Awwue. Tell me, what skills would you like to master?
Acro Yoga & Ballroom Dancing! I would also love to hone in on public speaking. No matter how many readings I do, I’m still terrified!
What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
I’ve always wanted to go to Australia, but I have also been wanting to go to a Wellness Retreat somewhere exotic! I also want to take a train ride across the states sometime.
I feel you on the public speaking! Chanelle, what is love?
Love is being your true self. Love is comfort. Love is not giving up but also, love is blind.
If you had unlimited funds to build a house that you would live in for the rest of your life, what would the finished house be like?
My finished house would include a balcony, porch swings, fireplace, a scenic view (preferably with water), a winding staircase, a greenhouse, a large art room, a guest suite for my friends to visit whenever they’d like, a claw foot bathtub, secret passages, lots of plants, pets, a room with a glass ceiling and a telescope to view the stars and an abundance of color.
Let’s talk about writing a bit. Why is writing important to you?
To heal, inspire and release.
Having dealt with trauma at an early age (and being very shy/ introverted) I found writing to be the only way that I could sort out my thoughts and feelings in a way that made sense. Through journaling, poetry and music I felt I wasn’t alone. It wasn’t until much later, did I decide to share my writings publicly. It was at this point, that I realized I could not only express myself in this art form, but also inspire others to write and heal as I did.
Who’s your favorite writer?
Right now, I am really feeling the spoken word artist Kyle Tran Myhre (Guante). He has been a huge inspiration as I move more towards spoken word and event planning. I also have been relating to and enjoying work by Rudy Francisco and Ruby Dhal.
Love Rudy. Just finished his Helium Audiobook. Good stuff.
You said you are moving toward Spoken Word. How would you describe the difference between spoken word poetry and written poetry? How are they similar and how do they differ?
To me, I feel that a spoken word piece is better portrayed when performing and it is written as such. I also feel they tend to be a little more raw. There is more that can be expressed when using tone and body language. With written poetry, it is up to the reader’s imagination to determine the tone and flow which is also satisfying. My spoken word pieces are typically stories and my written poetry is more based on feeling and emotion. I hope that makes sense!
It does! What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer? The most exciting thing?
The most difficult is being vulnerable.
The most exciting is painting a picture with words and words alone.
It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there to the world, but it’s also one of the most exciting!It’s kind of like inviting others into your soul and like any art form, putting yourself out there for criticism or judgement. It’s a risk worth taking though.
I like to compare poetry with music. You know when you hear a song and it makes you feel a certain way? When you hear lyrics and you can relate or they speak to you even though you really don’t know what the songwriter was thinking when they wrote it? It’s like that. Creating an image or story for the reader or listener to take with them. It’s all about twisting words into a feeling. In the words of Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It’s so true!
That’s one of my favorite quotes! Speaking of music, we love music on The PBS Blog. What kind of music do you like and what songs have you completely memorized?
I love all kinds of music! Mostly, I listen to music with lyrics that make me feel something or beats that make me want to dance or relax.There are many, but the first one that comes to mind is Carnival by Natalie Merchant.
Chanelle, what takes up too much of your time?
Working two jobs and taking care of my home. I wish I had more time to work on writing and other creative endeavors.
I feel you. What do you wish you knew more about?
The human mind.
What about the human mind do you find most interesting?
I’ve delved in quite a bit when I was studying for my psychology degree and I think that’s what jump-started the desire to learn more. What I’ve been most interested in is social psychology, dream analysis and mental health. The mind is like an ocean and there are so many parts left to discover!
What’s your favorite drink?
Okay Chanelle. You know I gotta mess with you. Tea is supposed to be hot lol so what’s your second favorite drink?
Haha, okay that’s fair. Let’s see… I would say my second favorite would have to be this glass of wine I’m having.
Heey. Here, let me refill that for you.
While you sip, favorite color?
If you could live in a movie, which would it be?
Across the Universe -I think I lived through the 70’s in a past life.
Chanelle, I am all about self-care and self-love. What do you love about yourself?
Resilience. My ability to rise up against anything that gets thrown my way. This life isn’t easy, but I have my strength and experiences to guide me.
Love it. Speaking of self-love, what is love?
Love is being your true self. Love is comfort. Love is not giving up but also, love is blind.
Most people think of love only in terms of “romantic” relationships and when I ask what it is, most people give me a definition based solely on that so I love that you defined it outside of that box.
I do have to ask though, you said love is blind, what does that mean?
To me, it means accepting flaws and feeling a deeper connection within the soul. In other words, it is felt, not seen.
What is truth?
An unbiased sense of self, void of outside influences.
Thank you Chanelle!
Be Sure to Follow Chanelle Barnes below and look out for both her pieces, “Straight Lines” and “My Body Isn’t a Temple” in the 2nd Edition Lit Mag Literary Magazine, 2020.
Be sure to follow @literarykornerpublishing on Instagram and Facebook for notification of the release of the 2020 Edition Lit Mag Literary Magazine for Poets where you will get to read our winning poets pieces in full AND the poems of everyone who entered this year’s contest! Be sure to also subscribe to this blog.
I spent most of September reflecting on my writing and spending time with family. I’ve got tons of unfinished manuscripts in need of work and truth is they are hard to finish. I do not mean hard as in difficult to write. I mean hard as in finding the joy in publishing them.
I have felt bored with the monotony of publishing books. The support doesn’t feel the same. The blog doesn’t feel the same and now, even Self-Publishing doesn’t feel the same.
I am always writing, and I love publishing but I’m no Terry McMillan with millions of readers lined up to read my next book or any other author with multi-city tours lined up to guarantee that the next release will provide a change in routine. I do not mean this to sound pessimistic.
I am not giving up on publishing but those of you who have been Self-Publishing for a while may understand. No real change can get tiring. I have felt like King Solomon when he said, “the making of many books has no end and much study wearies the flesh.” (Ecc 12:12)
I feel myself transitioning to a level I do not as of yet fully understand.
Last week, the revelation came and while I know it’s not the only revelation on its way to me, it’s one I think important enough to share.
Growth is uncomfortable.
This is an exciting phase and every day I am reminded of its promise. Just recently a media specialist contacted me for something I cannot speak on at the moment. These kinds of moments provide me with the proof that I am not going crazy and that perhaps my name is being uttered in rooms I have not walked into yet.
Growth is like strength. It doesn’t feel you are being strengthened when you are in process. It doesn’t feel like growth when it’s happening. It feels uncomfortable and uncertain. I can feel myself changing in a way I never have before. I can almost reach out and touch it.
The next time you feel uneasy and uncomfortable, consider that perhaps, you are growing. Evolving. Blooming.
A little discomfort helps us to grow. The feeling is not fun, but it’s a big part of improving our personal development.
“Routines may make you feel at ease and in control, but what a constant routine really does is dull your sensitivities. Think about the times in your life when you’ve driven the same route repeatedly: after a certain number of trips, you start tuning out most of it. Have you ever had a trip to the office where you barely remember what happened after you got in the car? If you don’t get out of your comfort zone, you might find yourself tuning out much of your life on a daily basis. (Sujan Patel Former Contributor Entrepreneurs, Growth Marketer & Co-founder of Web Profits)
To keep from tuning out, I had to stop and think real hard about why I was feeling such discomfort and then I had to accept it, even as I watch people become distant and even as I strive to overcome my own limited thinking.
Brain research shows that putting yourself in new and unfamiliar situations triggers a part of the brain that releases dopamine, the “happy,” chemical. That part of the brain is also said to only be activated when we experience new things.
I don’t want you to think this post is about quitting. This isn’t about quitting. This is about allowing ourselves to grow/level up.
It is tempting to want to revert into that state of normalcy, to remain as we are. It’s easy to go through life unchanged out of fear that this new version of us won’t be accepted or that someone may accuse us of no longer possessing the same moral integrity as before. And how can we not think this way? We’ve been well-trained to think newness and change are inherently bad.
This is not the truth. Not all change is bad and since all change teaches us something, perhaps even change we perceive as bad is not so.
In the words of Maya Angelou, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
Few people enjoy the feeling of being uncomfortable and as we are now a few months away from 2020, time will not wait for us to catch on. My challenge for this month and the rest of this year is to get past that initial feeling of wanting to return to the norm, so I can grow and benefit from that discomfort.
There is much more to be added to this list but these five are good points. Black History Fun Fact Friday returns to the blog this week. We will be revisiting some basics. Specifically, the End of Chattel Slavery and Reconstruction.
“In August 1619, the first ship with “20 and odd” enslaved Africans arrived on the shores of Virginia. Four hundred years later, we look back at this moment as the start of an enduring relationship between the founding of the United States and the unconscionable exploitation of the enslaved.
In a sweeping project published by the New York Times Magazine this month exploring the legacy of slavery, Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote, “[The enslaved] and their descendants transformed the lands to which they’d been brought into some of the most successful colonies in the British Empire. … But it would be historically inaccurate to reduce the contributions of black people to the vast material wealth created by our bondage. Black Americans have also been, and continue to be, foundational to the idea of American freedom.”
Wow. It’s been sooo long since we’ve had a No Whining Wednesday episode! I have officially fallen off. But, I’m back. If you are new to this blog be sure to click here to learn more about what NWW is all about.
I don’t open up much on social media. Not that I am hiding anything. It is just that social media, with a few exceptions, is not real. It is virtual reality. A place people go to hide their flaws, criticize others, and pretend that their lives are great. This is annoying and I find myself not wanting to be involved except in sharing my writing. I log in, post up and log off. Sometimes (every other month), I deactivate my Facebook account completely. Social media is good for business but it is an energy exchange like everything else. I have to cut it off like I cut off toxic energy. I have limited my use to business-related posts only with some motivation thrown in there. Today, I will make an exception and let you in, briefly, on what has been going on with me. I call this, “It is Easier to Walk When It’s Not Raining.”
For a few months, I have not been feeling well. I do not mean physically. I mean emotionally. I have felt unmotivated and uninspired. I had no real reason to feel this way. No one spoke badly of me (not to my face anyway lbs) and I have had no shortage of work. Instead, more opportunities came my way, but it seemed the more events I attended and the more work I did, the less excited I felt. I did not feel unexcited completely. I was and am thankful for the opportunities that come to me. I was just not over the top and I know I should have been. I know I should be. So, what gives?
Part of this reason is the lack of support I have received. This is only a small part (I know it is much deeper than this), but it is a part. As I reflected on myself and my work, it seemed the more work I did, the less support I received. Despite these feelings, I continued to book work, plan for school and post up about my events. I continued to send emails and update my socials. I continued to do this not to deny my feelings. Nothing goes away just because you ignore it. We must address things. We must address feelings. Energy/Spirits/Vibes must be rebuked, removed, accessed. I continued because when the sun is shining (metaphorically and literally), and the birds are chirping and the sidewalk is clear of obstacles it is much easier to walk. You can circle the block while humming your favorite tune and walk at your own pace. But when it rains, everything changes.
Walking in the rain is easier if you are prepared. If you have an umbrella or raincoat, boots, and good windshield wipers. But your vision is still blurry compared to when it is not raining and you will still have to walk or drive slower than usual. There is also the fear of being struck by lightning, trees crashing into homes and cars, and other factors we must consider during a serious storm.
When we are going through our most difficult times, we want to stop. I have wanted to stop tons of times these past few months. But we shouldn’t stop because these are the most important times. These times, when things are not going well and we feel down, are the times when we are being strengthened. These are the times when we grow the most. Anyone can drive or walk when it’s nice outside and nothing is wrong but not everyone can navigate a storm.
(Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying you have to be “fake positive,” when you are not feeling it. I am more so talking about not giving up when you come in contact with a bad storm in your life).
If you notice something beautiful happens after a good rain. Everything blossoms. The grass is greener, the leaves on the trees are fuller, and if you planted something, watch out! That something will grow tremendously. Therefore, instead of stopping when things are bad we should just keep going. We are not falling apart. As painful as it is, we are growing.We are being prepared, positioned, aligned.
If you have ever felt how I have felt, please do not stop. Just keep at it. Keep doing what you are doing. Be patient with yourself and have faith that your purpose will be revealed in time. It is always easier to walk when it’s not raining. As the saying goes, “everyone solid until put in hot water,” (Unknown).
It is the storms that ultimately reveal our strengths. From our level of preparation to our discipline and resolve. It is the storms that cultivate something in us and that prepares us for the next level.