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Woman of Color in Wide Open Spaces

“I can’t block out the white noise. I’ll always be restricted by race. Theirs, not mine.”

Wow. What a meaningful read.

Longreads

Minda Honey | Longreads | March 2017 | 12 minutes (2,986 words)

“And sometimes you meet yourself back where you started, but stronger.”
—Yrsa Daley-Ward

I sat alone at a picnic table sipping a hot can of beer in Sequoia National Park under the stingy shade of a nearby tree. I was surrounded by families. White families. Sequoia was the first of four national parks I had planned to visit on my summer road trip from Southern California to a writer’s retreat in Lake Tahoe, and from Lake Tahoe to my hometown, Louisville, Kentucky. I needed to get out and away. I’d just completed two years as a POC in an MFA program. Two years in classrooms at long tables surrounded by faces as white as the paper we printed our work on. I felt like the black text on that paper, forcefully marching across the landscape of my…

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The Vet and The Ring

Veterans Day was Friday, and I realized that I don’t have a lot of friends who are veterans*. Two of my cousins (one deployed now), my grandfather’s of course, one deceased Uncle and my Dad in the Navy, one dear friend who was in the reserves (but I remember the day very well when he got his “all clear”), and a friend’s husband (who is one of my favorite people to read on Facebook). I’m sure I know more who I can’t think of right now.

Then I saw my engagement ring. I never really thought about what kind of ring Dan would get me to propose; I honestly never considered we would get married two years after we met. We lived paycheck to paycheck in The Melody, an old apartment complex across from Warner Bros where they used to house their musicians.

I didn’t know that when we visited his family, he had asked his Mom for this ring.
This ring belonged to my mother in law’s mother, who gave it to her when she knew she was dying.
It was Dan’s grandmother’s ring from her first husband, who died in World War II soon after they were married.
They were very much in love, and Dan loved his grandmother very much. I never got to meet her, but he always said we would get along and drink many beers together.
Her photo is one of the only ones we have framed in our kitchen.
After we sang Happy Birthday to Dan on his 28th birthday, he turned around, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. With a ring I didn’t know he’d gotten, with a sad story I hadn’t yet heard attached to it, with a stone perfectly suited to our tastes.
I feel honored to wear a symbol of love and sacrifice as a symbol of our love and life.
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*I think a veteran technically served active duty, bit anyone willing to enlist is a vet to me.

 

YA Book Review: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

I’m happy to announce that I’m now reviewing books for Dwarf+Giant, A Blog of The Last Bookstore. My focus is on fairy tales, folk tales and mythology – classics and re-tellings. Follow my reading progress on Goodreads.

This review was originally published on October 14, 2016.

Dorothy Must Die isn’t so much a retelling of The Wizard of Oz as a continuation, an elaboration of Oz after Dorothy became a ruthless dictator and turned her companions into henchmen worthy of The Godfather. Amy is the protagonist, swept into a tornado after her alcoholic mother goes to a tornado drinking party and leaves her to fend for herself. Landing her trailer in Oz, she is assumed to be their saviour, her orders being simple: Dorothy Must Die.

I had a hard time getting into Amy, the protagonist. At first I thought it was because we had so little in common (trailer park vs upper middle class, alcoholic mother vs stable nuclear family); then I realized that I felt too close to her experiences being bullied at school. It hurt too much for me to bear with relating to her. In a lot of ways I wish I reacted to bullying more like Amy did.

Once we’re into the Oz part of the story, I flew through Amy’s journey. Struggling with who to believe and having a real stake in who is good vs who is evil is a pretty great hook. No icon of Oz is left standing here, and you get the feeling there is real danger. I didn’t read the summary to the second book, so to me, it was possible that Amy could have been killed before this book was done. That was a pretty great feeling to have as a reader, that anything was really possible and maybe this time, our heroine wouldn’t overcome her training and doubts.

I do wish there was a little more dimension to Dorothy, but I suppose that’s how the original villain (Wicked Witch of the West) is portrayed in the film…and maybe I’ll find the answer I seek in Paige’s prequels.

Webinar: Harvesting Leads using social media

Harvesting Leads

using social media

APRIL 24 (11:30-1pm PST)
with Cindy Marie Jenkins

So you have cool content, but don’t see butts in seats as a result?

We’ll cover: 
—Generating leads for your audience beyond family and friends
—Create a fun calendar to attract new audiences
—How to follow through and invite them to your show

More about Cindy

—————-

$50 for live individual training

REGISTER HERE

More Webinars:

APRIL 17: Twitter & Instagram Tutorial

MAY 1: Pitching to Press with Diana Wyenn

MAY 8: Crowdfunding Prep with Madeline Rosenstein

Music That Saved my Sanity During my Son’s First Year of Life

I don’t often write here about being a parent, but I like sharing how different art forms enhanced the first years of our son’s life. And often saved me.

When it comes to lists of “Things You Definitely Will/Won’t Need” for a baby, I don’t think I ever read one about music. There are tons of articles about how music helps a baby’s developing brain, but very little guidance on what specific music can teach your child about life. I don’t mean deep-seated meaning of life songs, I’m talking about a way to connect what you’re doing with why you’re doing it. You know, for that little human being who knows absolutely zero about the world and has to catch up fast.

Thus I give you, in roughly chronological order, the albums that saved us from multiple meltdowns and helped our child through the many mysteries and transitions of his first year.

  1. Baby in Tune: Good Morning My Love

This is the album that started it all. When my son was about two months old, I went to a class called “Bonding with your Baby.” To be honest, the deal-breaker for me was that we got a free CD along with the $25 class fee. Vered was a visiting musician from New York and although her presentation was a little awkward, her songs continue to rule our daily routines. We always used to sing “Good Morning my Love” before getting out of bed; “Bathtime” quickly became a staple; “Sleep My Baby” was a magic elixir during those hard first nights, and continues to be one of his favorite Get-the-f*ck-to-sleep tunes. I even bought my nephew the album and he’ll play it to self soothe during a meltdown.

2. O Baby Mine: Sing a Song of Shakespeare

You don’t need to know Shakespeare at all to enjoy these songs. They range from stories about The Bard himself (“Shakespeare Said it First”) to summaries of plays (“Do You Think You Had a Twin?”). The title song (“O Baby Mine”) is a lullaby sung by both deep and high voice, so either parent can easily take it. “There Are Bees” makes for a beautiful celebration of enjoying life and getting into the outside world around us. Lately I’ll sing it when we go on our nature walks to set the mood.

3. They Might Be Giants: Here Comes Science

It’s likely that you’ve at least heard “Istanbul not Constantinople,” made famous by the video on Tiny Toons. Here Comes Science makes hard concepts easily digestible for both parents and kids. I could never remember the order of the planets to save my life. That is, until I heard the song “How Many Planets” from this album. My absolute favorite line has to be from “Science is Real” though:

I like the stories

About angels, unicorns and elves….

But when I’m seeking knowledge

Either simple or abstract

The facts are with science

Electric cars, CAD (Computer Assisted Design), testing a hypothesis and paleontology are just some of the topics they cover. We’ve tied these songs to trips to science museums, planet books, and I even sang “The Bloodmobile” at his first year appointment when blood had to be drawn for the first time. It definitely calmed him down and gave me a really specific way to describe to him why this had to happen. Even if he didn’t comprehend the connection between the lyrics and the blood technician’s actions, he heard a familiar melody and trusted it. I remember him releasing a lot of tension and relaxing against me once I sang that song.

4. Lori Henriques: How Great Can This Day Be & The World is a Curious Place to Live

Lyrics range from upbeat (“How great can this day be/I’m alive and I am free”) to hilarious/useful (“Chew chew chew chew your food/You’ve got to chew chew chew with attitude”) to sublimely sad (“Dinosaur…you used to be here but you’re not anymore”) and also educational. Our Good Morning playlist begins with “How Great Can This Day Be” and I am not exaggerating when I say that it helped me survive some very difficult months in my first year of mothering.

Individual Songs also play their roles. These two together work wonders:

“It’s Time to Say Goodbye” is apparently a staple for children’s music classes. I heard it once and started using it to signal that it’s time to go, and my son’s transitions improved significantly. To this day, If he cries about leaving a place he loved, I just sing this and he calms down. I stopped saying “It’s time to go” and lead with “It’s time to say goodbye,” then begin the song. Now he even takes the initiative to put down his toy, raise his arms for me to hold him and wave goodbye as we exit.

Once that song is over, I go into “If I Had the Wings of an Eagle” by Ziggy Marley, which is pretty soothing and also about flying away to be at peace. (Only while researching it for this post did I learn it comes from a psalm and he replaced “dove” with “eagle”). It didn’t take long for our son to start spreading his wings to fly as we walked to the car. Belting him into his seat got a lot easier once this became a regular part of our routine.

The world is pretty scary for a new person, especially if everyone else understands the rules and you don’t. I like to give him clues and know what to expect by essentially — and consistently — singing him through life.

The Road to Show Boat is Paved with…Intentions….

fairyprincessdiaries

The Fairy Princess did some “Activist-ing’, she did.

Normally, she writes about productions and they are generally in a different town or somewhere where to get involved in the physical aspects of protesting, she would have to jump a plane.

Sadly though, right here in New York City, the National Asian Artists Project, has decided to do an All Asian American production of Show Boat.

Yes, this Show Boat.

At this point, everyone knows which Show Boat we are talking about – the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein classic,  Show Boat, which deals with the divide between the Caucasian and African Americans Post- Civil War in the Deep South.

Duh_duh_duh

Show Boat is a show that, in TFP’s opinion, is not one that can be done by APIs with any sense of dignity or sense of history, or, well…sense.

In fact, if one is to do this show without…

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Audience Building: Part Three – How to Find and Build New Audiences

This post was originally published in Ms in the Biz on October 23, 2014


SocratesThis is the third in a series of
Audience Building articles, where I go into depth on the sticking points, the places where I see people take short cuts but are actually quite vital.

This is how to find and build new audiences, not just promoting without annoying your family and friends. Everyone has to actively attract and sustain new people in order to grow their audience.

I practically plastered last month’s article with the cautionary tale of making your first (and subsequent) contact with potential audience conversational, not promotional, so this month I will spend some time explaining the difference. For if you skip this part of your audience building endeavors, you may as well not start. An example:

I once received a tweet that at first glance was an example of excellent targeting; a musical troupe invited me to their Hollywood Fringe Festival show for families. I was impressed that they had found me (I had only recently started looking for shows my son can attend), and the invite tweet was pretty straightforward. However, that festival has its own hashtag (#hff14) and when I clicked on it, the account had sent the same exact tweet to basically everyone who used the hashtag, only a fraction of whom were interested in family-friendly programming. So what at first appeared to be a successful example of audience development turned out to be nothing short of spam. I didn’t see their show, and actually blocked their account. Life is too short for spamming twitter accounts (or auto-posts from Facebook, but that’s another article).

They were spamming in an old-fashioned sense of the word (same text to multiple people with no prior relationship), but clear promotion is just as easy to spot on a network created to be social. Twitter works for audience development when it’s conversational. News outlets can get away with simply blasting headlines, and any twitter account certainly wants to share its own news and links as well as others. When handling the first contact for a potential audience member you’ve found, however, you must start with a light touch. Start by showing interest in them, not drawing attention to you. The good news is that you accomplish this every day. Sometimes in 140 characters, even if you don’t realize it: You talk to people. You talk to people with no agenda of your own except to have a nice, engaging, sometimes enlightening or entertaining conversation (I hope). It works in a similar way on twitter.

For the sake of continuity in this series, I will use twitter as an example. Most of these techniques can easily translate to other platforms, though you should always understand why you are on a platform and whether your target audience actually uses it (discussed in Part 1).

Once you find the people that are part of your target (potential) audience, how to initiate contact? It should be something along these lines:

  • A response to something they tweet
  • A share of one of their blogs, or website, with a reason why you like it or think it’s worthwhile (and tag the author)
  • A re-tweet with a reason why you like their tweet or think it’s worthwhile
  • A hello and introduction to another twitter account with same interests or mission
  • Simply a hello with a short note why you’re following them (but do not send the same or similar tweet to multiple people at the same time. It looks shabby, as described above.)

At the same time that you’re seeking out and engaging in conversation with these folks, be sure your own timeline reflects the mutual interest. Following on the fairy tale theme of Part 2, while you retweet links from fairy tale bloggers and begin to interact with them, you should also tweet on the topic. Easy ways to do this are to discuss Once Upon a Time, or the web series The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy, or the book/Broadway musical Peter and the Starcatcher, or Neil Gaiman’s new illustrated Hansel and Gretel. There is no lack of cool things to share on the topic of fairy tales nowadays, and if you are truly passionate about the subject of your work, you should have no trouble finding fun ways to engage people. Begin with what drew you to your passion in the first place.

Just be yourself. Share links that associate you with how you want to be known. If you can engage people enough to share, they will help you build your audience as your process moves along.

Michael Stephens of the Vsauce You Tube channel articulated why people share (emphasis mine).

“Everyone wants to express themselves….but they also do it with knowledge: the things theyknow about the stuff they like. I’ve noticed that the most operative motive behind someone sharing one of my videos, promoting me by word of mouth, isn’t so much about me, as it is about them. Hey! Look what I found. I like this. I am like this. Whenever you share anything, a few of the attributes of that thing reflect back onto you. So I find that the best ways to gain attentive listeners is not to be who your audience wants you to be, but instead make, and say, and do things, that allow your audience to be who they want to be.”

(Remember that these can also be Facebook shares, Pins, etc – the important detail is be sure your target is notified of your action. )

Some examples of how not to begin contact:

  • Asking them to donate to your crowdfunding campaign
  • Asking them to read your link (unless directly related to a question they asked)
  • Telling them about your work, product, show, etc
  • Asking for a Retweet (some celebrities do this but most have personal policies regarding the practice.)

See a pattern? Begin the conversation with someone new as if you have no agenda. You are simply people who have mutual interests and may want to discuss them with each other. After you have a relationship established (and this is more than just one genuine tweet or back and forth, it is weeks and sometimes months), you can lead them to your work. The best case scenario is that your conversation interests them enough to check your twitter profile which, as discussed in our first article, has the link to your work in its bio. Then they follow you, read your tweets in their timeline and become interested in your work on their own, via your own personality and discreet tweets to your own links.

That is your first point of contact with all potential audience members (yes, every single one individually. Welcome to the new age of audience building. It requires patience, time and a genuine passion for what you do). You can even learn quite a bit about your audience while you engage with them – which brings us to Step 4, and what you can find here next month.

I practice what I preach pretty regularly @cindymariej . Check me out there and ask questions!

Dr. Jen Gunter

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(not) Mixed (up)

A Biracial Swirl in a Black and White World

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