Category Archives: author interview

Motivational Speaker and Author Marion Levi Jones


Happy Monday creatives! I hope everyone enjoyed their Easter weekend. Also remember it is National Autism Awareness Month.

I wanted to end April on a positive note with enriching food for thought for those feeling overwhelmed in the struggle that comes from living life experiences. My guest today is motivational author and someone who has been there and survived that- Mr. Marion Levi Jones. Please join me in welcoming Marion to Clara54’s Writer’s Blog.

I’m here to help others who were like me, to encourage, to motivate and lift their spirits to become better than they were when out in the streets. Show them that they’re not alone and here for a purpose greater than themselves. I was lost for over 35 yrs since my dad died but it took me until the age of 50 to hear a click and to get it right. God kept me even in my mess to become who He wanted me to be. Now I’m giving back. Was able to write about my drugging days in my first book Poems From Within Me, A Recovering Addict.

Then how God changed me spiritually in my second book The Full Picture Of Marion Levi Jones. Eleven years clean and just last year became a Deacon in my church. So, if you need someone like me that will tell it like it is, please let me know.

Marion L. Jones  books share his story of how he made it through his trials and tribulations caught up in addiction. He informs his readers how there is always a road leading to a way out.  His first book Poems From Within Me was completed in 2006, a gift he says was given to him by The Almighty.

Contact the author @ Levijones55@yahoo.com

A New Years Interview With Award Winning Artist Henry Jones


Henry Jones standing by sculpture Mother Earth in Scarritt Bennett exhibit

Happy New Year 2017! I have a great bit of artsy conversation to share with y’all, so let’s get this new year party started!

Hi Henry!  I always say that my writings might not make a living but it makes a life and I definitely know that the coins help sustain my efforts. Who were some earlier inspirations that led you to believe that you could actually make a living from your art?

 I love that part about it “…makes a life…” I’ll have used that whole statement. When I think back to inspirations my grandmother, Jessie Overton, is there. There were others but she was the most influential. She was the first artist I knew and loved. Her thing was portraits and painted mainly on commission. Paintings of family members which she did hung in her house. So, her home was I guess the first gallery experience for me too. Her studio space was in her living room in a corner with just enough room for her tripod easel. My job was to hold her stinky oil paints. I watched the colors flow as she painted.

 I was always amazed how slowly and steady she could paint. I used to beg her to let me try. Once she did; I thought I was doing something but she screamed, “No, no, no! You’re not making mash potatoes!” I was smashing her beautiful sable brush fibers against the canvas surface. She held my hand and showed me how to simply let the brush glide along the surface.

She always had music playing too and tell me to listen to the music and float the brush and glide. As we painted together she’d squeeze my hand tighter if I was starting to smash those potatoes! If I was doing it correctly, her grip was gentle. I think of her when I look at brushes or shake someone’s hand firmly.

  Other artists came later when I attended Fisk University. This campus is covered with history. As students we were encouraged to get the “Fisk Experience,” which during my freshman year I was clueless. I was told to go to college to get an education and a degree. What was this Fisk experience stuff? It was about connecting with the university’s rich past. I saw and enjoyed so much art by Black artists both dead and alive.

 On campus I met and spoke with artists such as Earl Hooks, Greg Ridley, LiFran Fort, and Jerry Waters (a new, young artist and professor). They were  dynamic force of the art department. Now, I wasn’t an art major. My major was biology. I was never far from anything art because I drew the structures, animals, tissues, etc. to test myself. I drew to learn. Fisk is a small, private university so I could speak with these artists almost daily. The exhibitions of their work really influenced me. Then, I concluded to be an artist you must be a professor to reach and create art to exhibit.

 Later, after graduate school, I moved to Chicago and met other artists and gallery owners. My two main mentors in the city were Greg Spears (an artist) and Susan Woodson (a WPA scholar). Mrs. Woodson purchased my first painting in Chicago and took me under her wing.  Greg taught me about marketing. He painted tirelessly and sold many prints at festivals. In his home he had one room filled with stacks of prints! There were other people of course, but these two people saw something in me and really encouraged me to keep painting. Mrs. Woodson opened a gallery, Susan Woodson Gallery, and told me to bring some art to it. She carried prints and originals of artists I learned about at Fisk. Then, Susan introduced me to the Chicago Fisk Club which was full of art lovers. You can’t make it as an artist without a supportive community. It’s important to find a “tribe” which connects and helps you. I believe it’s actually part of your identity.

What’s a typical artist work day like for you?

I always start with coffee. This is a must, very essential. My head is always full of ideas. I realized years ago, I can’t realistically do everything. You can’t get anything done by stopping and going here and there. A little here and there adds up to a big nothing! The key, which is what my grandmother taught me while she painted, was to focus. I struggle with this but am better. A lot. My typical day consists of looking for future places to exhibit, following up on interviews of people interested in exhibiting some of my work, surfing social media (a new community to connect with people), painting and organizing. I don’t have set hours because I have a family. I usually work long tiring hours. When they sleep I can paint. I do have deadlines to keep to get art done for people, so I keep a Things to do List to try to stay on track. I feel more like a juggler than an artist. To answer your question moreso, it’s really hard to have a typical day. It doesn’t fit in the whole thing about being creative. But you must CREATE so not to feel discouraged.

Your things to do list is spot on. Plan on doing that for 2017.  We met during the early days of Poets United in Chicago. What were some of the takeaways from being part of the group?

Love. Love for other members and dedication. We were writers and still writing. It’s important to reach out to each other for support, ideas, and feedback. I don’t keep in contact with many members like when I lived in Chicago. Strangely, it is possible with video chat, emails, texts, and other ways. Yet, the Internet can’t do this. If you got a series of rejections and went to a meeting and shared that news, a friend would just come over and give you a long, tight hug. That person understood. How can you do that with electronic means? You can’t. I miss those moments of encouragement the most. Just sitting near another poet as you hear a fellow poet share a new piece. Again. Priceless. This feeds back to finding the tribe and place. With Poets United we were truly united on so many levels.

What words of wisdom do you have for newbies and late bloomers in the literary and visual art world who want to make a career in doing what they love, but are afraid to venture out there?

Stop talking about doing something. Stop worrying about and doubting things. Push away the negative thoughts AND people .Find a way to work. I remember when I didn’t have a book published. I hosted open-mic poetry at Jazz and Java Coffee Shop in the early 90’s. There was a poet who came in to recite and tell us about his book. He had a chapbook which he made. He used an old type writer which he bought from a Goodwill for $5! The old kind with the ink ribbon. Page after page he made his book. His poems were beautiful. He didn’t have a computer but put it in his mind to get his words out there. The cover was simple but he did it. He inspired me to get my first self-published chapbook done, Tell Me No Lies. I had no excuse to not have my book done. I had more technology and resources but this guy was doing more. So, to any newbie, use what you have to do what you can. You will grow. I used to paint on an old wooden chair I found in the alley outside my apartment in Chicago. I fixed and glued the broken leg and used a stick to rest my canvas against the back of the chair. That was my easel. I painted on that chair or the floor. But I worked. Many talk themselves out of even trying out of fear. Imagined fear.

We all can do something if we simply try. We will hustle and bust our butts for a 9-5 and that company’s goals but, when it comes to our own dreams, we can’t find the zeal. Why not? It’s faith. We must believe in ourselves and our dreams. This is where keeping out that negativity out of your mind and soul. Believe. There will stop be doubt but keep moving keep trying because you believe this is what your purpose is on this planet. Paying bills or making debt isn’t a purpose. Create and make the world better is what I’d tell them.

Beautiful! I agree. Can people be okay with viewing their passion as just a hobby? What’s that about? Is it the fear of stepping outside of their comfort zones?

What I’ve noticed and experienced aside from what you said about fear is that people don’t want to call themselves a professional because of responsibility. If you do anything as a hobby, you can do it whenever. You don’t have to be serious.
You don’t have to be concerned with money issues and other things associated with being a professional. When you consider and call yourself a professional this means two things: 1) You’re paid for what you do and 2) you maintain a certain amount of professionalism.
I’ve met artists who are afraid to pursue art as a profession because they believe they may fail. In our capitalistic world, if you have a business and you don’t make money, it’s concluded that you’re a failure. The business of arts and the business of widgets are di$erent. We don’t operate in the same arena.
Artists can fail or feel like a failure equating themselves to non-art business owners.
Is it important to sell your art? In a commercial gallery, that is important but other connections are made. In other institutions, such as universities or museums, the whole money thing is di$erent. But artists must take themselves serious to be taken serious. My art has never been a hobby for me but a calling
which I answered and listened to to do. I keep working. And working to create the best I know how and learn. I don’t smash any more!
Too much, Henry!  Congrats on your latest award. Tell us more about the GANSPA.

The GANSPA (Gifted and NeoSoul & Poetry Award) is the ideal of Renata Brown. The organization’s mission is to support artists year round through its education and mentoring programs as well as spotlight excellence through the Annual Awards Ceremonies. It serves as a fundraiser for Sick Cell Anemia research and education as well. I felt very honored to win. My family and I were able to go to Atlanta for the awards ceremony.

I couldn’t go to that event alone. My wife and children are an extension of my creativity. They’ve helped me in many, many ways. I knew I was receiving the state award but then they announced the national GANSPA Awards for my category. I was stunned. My wife said, “They called your name.” I remember looking around for Henry Jones. It was like a dream.

 At the ceremony I met other artists and learned what they’re doing. I love meeting other artists because I feel less alone. It’s lonely being an artist of any kind. You strive to connect to the internal, overwhelming feeling of human disconnection.  The GANSPA award symbolizes  appreciation for the work you do. Few people know the about of work necessary to create art. So much goes against you. They see the final creation. It’s not easy. But that award says to me, “Thank you for the work you do.” This is encouraging because you constantly push away and battle the demon of doubt.

Thanks for humoring my interview intrusion Henry. I wish you much continued success!

Thank you Clara. I enjoyed this interview.

Hope this talk with Henry Jones got your creative juices flowing. What a great year of opportunity we have to create to the best of who we are!

Henry Jones is an award winning artist & poet. Activist, Author, Editor. Creativity coach Inspiring the world. follow him on twitter @creativeforlife…

Henry’s post award win interview:

 

 

 

 

 

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Congrats, Contests and Casting Call


TS and MD at IndieHappy Friday Wordsmiths! I hope everyone have a great weekend ahead. I’m a bit under the weather of aches and pains that accompanies a visit from Arthur, but that won’t deter me from going out to support my granddaughters dance performance this weekend.

We have a lot of ground to cover today, starting with a hearty congrats to authors Michelle Duster and Trina Sotira of the musewrite community for being honored with a 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Finalist Award.

Their anthology, SHIFTS,  won in the women’s issue category.  Congrats ladies. Enjoy your medals and bask in your achievements.  Readers can find more info about their great achievement and how to grab a copy of their book at www.musewrite.com or by emailing Michelle Duster at musewritecommunity@yahoo.com.

The women’s next anthology is due out March 2017. It will center on thoughts about the first lady, Michelle Obama. My poem, Brown Girl Challenge, also makes a cameo.

Changing gears

It  was such a pleasure and an honor these last weeks to bring you Andre West for my special guest interview. The owner of DreamQuestOne really did the thing! If you haven’t read his informative and inspiring writing insights, please do go back to read part one and part two. And be sure to visit Andre’s website at http://www.dreamquestone.com…

Contests accepting May submissions

My colleague and friend, Evelyn Cogdell sent me this competition. Epiphany, a literary Journal, is calling for poems and short stories. They have a June deadline.They also have a chapbook contest in the works. Check out their website and you’ll find other publications open for submissions.  http://www.everywritersresource.com/literarymagazines/epiphany-a-literary-journal/

I’m thinking about subscribing. Thanks Evelyn!

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Here are more sites that are open for May submissions.

www.dreamquestone.com

writersrelief.com/watersedge-poetry-chapbook-contest/

Short Story award for new writers@ https://mastersreview.com/short-story-award-for-new-writers/

Chicago Casting Call!

Usually, I post about celebrity news, reality television and Chicago happenings over at my celebrity news and views blog, but this is an exception because I’m only posting monthly over there, but that might change in the coming months:)

Here’s the info for all of you wanting to get a chance at being cast for   Reality TV Chicago Ladies

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To learn more about the women who are already cast for the show, formerly called Chicago Girlfriends, go to https://wwwclara54.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/the-ladies-of-chicago-girlfriendschicagos-first-reality-television-show/

Quote for today~

When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.
—Ellen DeGeneres

 

Special Guest Interview With Andre West~Part Two


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Happy Friday Creatives! I hope you all have a great weekend and a happy Mother’s Day.  Thanks to each and every one of my  followers for your continued support at the blogs. Let me state for the record~ “y’all totally rock!” So, let’s not waste any more time chit-chatting.

Welcome to Part II of my two-part interview series with Publisher and CEO, Andre West.

Andre, Please share your vision for Dreamquestone from its inception to now.

First of all, I’ve always dreamt of doing great things in life, Clara. I created, founded and established the Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest. This unique dual poetry and writing competition went ‘live’ online, on March 17, 2005. There were several ideas that went into play upon my choosing the name Dream Quest One. Upon checking for internet domains, I found that I couldn’t use Dream Quest, for it was already taken. Therefore, I choose the next best domain for me, http://www.dreamquestone.com . My mission is to inspire, motivate and encourage anyone having the desire or love for poetry and writing, to continue doing so without fear of failure or success. The Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest is semi-annual. It has closing deadlines in the summer and winter, each year. We are now in our 11th year of this successful mission. Visit the website for details on how to enter at http://www.dreamquestone.com/rules.html . In the near future, I want to offer more valuable content, which is helpful to the constantly changing world of writing and publishing. I have the foresight to see additional contest categories, increasing monetary awards, and no entry fees. Also, I am looking forward to seeing Dare to Dream being published in hard copy print magazine, someday.  In addition to writing, I want to do my part in fighting against social problems such as neglect, child/spousal abuse, poverty, addictions, and education. This is my dream. I want to write a novel or two, which the world will enjoy reading until the end of time. That is also my dream. I want to reach out to millions of people in the process of reaching for my star. To fulfill these dreams is my quest. I remember a song titled, “The Impossible Dream,” lyrics by Joe Darian, from the 1972 musical film, Man of LaMancha. Ms. Crotty, my eighth-grade teacher, had our class learn and sing that song for graduation day. It is a beautiful piece of lyrical art, which will forever be one of my favorites.

I submitted a short story for competition many years ago, but I didn’t win. You did something in the rejection form letter that can be a motivating factor for many new creative’s trying to share their works, in hope of making a name for themselves or building a life through their writing. You told me that I was an “excellent” writer and although I didn’t win the contest, you wrote; “Don’t let the sun go down on your dream unless you choose to be a star.”  That quote kept me from throwing myself a ‘pity party’ and kept me determined and persistent in my writing goals. So, thank you Andre West 🙂

How do you manage to take that “woe is me” attitude from people who might lose a writing or poetry competition and turn it into a positive?   And since we’re on the topic, what‘s the best advice you can give to writers entering writing and poetry contests?

You’re welcome, Clara. I know there are many others like me. Having allowed negative thinking, criticism and fear of rejection to hold them back from becoming the poets & writers they truly are. There are writers and writers who need to know that dreams are not just for other people. Dreams are not just for people who have already “made it,” so to speak. Dreams are for you and me! The little people, having the courage to dream out loud, without fear of failure or success. I remember going on job interviews and not getting hired or called back for one reason or another. Sometimes I was told, they will keep my resume or application on file. Every time I didn’t get the interview or job, I became more confident to get even better at my presentation during interviews, and to appreciate my value as a person. I remember my mother telling me that, “Someone needs you in their workforce right now. You have to be persistent and keep striving for excellent until you get hired. Someone will be leaving a job today, someone will be quitting, someone will get fired, someone will expire, someone will be getting a promotion, and someone will retire. I know this isn’t about entering contests. It’s like a parable. I am trying to explain the dynamics of taking a “woe is me” attitude and turning it into a positive. Just always be true to yourself, let your hair down and never give up! Also, as Sinclair Lewis profoundly stated, “It is impossible to discourage the real writers – they don’t give a damn what you say, they’re going to write.”

The best advice I could give writers entering writing and poetry contests is to always be true to yourself. Put your heart, mind, and spirit into the body of your works. It gives life to it and creates an inner voice that may be heard and felt by the reader or audience. Your unique voice is powerful and sets you apart from all others. Many folks might believe that submitting their poems and stories near the contest deadline, will give them a better chance of winning. I suppose that one may think that judges do not read entries until after the deadline. On the contrary, the earlier you submit your poems or stories, the better chance it has to be read and thoroughly digested by the judges. The early entries may be given more benefit of doubt in how poems are interpreted and stories are perceived. Also, simultaneously, you might choose to send the same poems and stories to other competitions. If your entries are short listed or in case you win elsewhere, you may have time to withdraw it from another contest, and receive an entry fee refund. As more entries come in closer to the deadline, stories and poems are read more quickly. This is because most entries are received on the last day. Your story or poem may be hurriedly read, and more harshly criticized for any reason to be rejected.

Making mistakes in formatting your poems and stories according to the contest guidelines can cost you some points. If you are required to leave your name off your entries, use a certain font type, and font size, please do. Center your title, which should not be put in quotation marks, italicized or underlined. Make sure you use line spacing in compliance with contest rules. Don’t forget to use good grammar, spelling and punctuation. When a poem a story is presented in a professional looking manner, it can’t help being noticed and standing out from all others. Although there are more things you can do to improve your chances of winning a writing or poetry contest, those a just a few which may help, dramatically. Clara, you have my utmost gratitude for hosting me on your award-winning blog during National Poetry Month. I thank you for the opportunity to show my love, strengths, vision, and hope through your platform for writers, poets and dreamers like me.

My pleasure, Andre. Thanks for your time. I appreciate it!

Thank you for having me, Clara! You are a beautiful soul.

Here’s the current Summer 2016 competition information.

THE DREAM QUEST ONE POETRY & WRITING CONTEST is open to anyone who loves expressing innermost thoughts and feelings into the beautiful literary art of poetry and/or writing a story that is worth telling everyone! Guidelines: (1) Write a poem, thirty lines or fewer on any subject, form or style. And/or (2) Write short story, five pages maximum length, single or double line spacing, on any subject or theme, fiction, nonfiction, or creative nonfiction. Multiple and simultaneous entries are accepted. (www.dreamquestone.com)

Postmark deadline: August 17, 2016.

Prizes: Writing First Prize is $500; Second: $250; Third: $100. Poetry First Prize: $250; Second: $125; Third: $50. All contest winners works will be published online in the Dare to Dream pages, on October 9, 2016. Entry fees: $10 per story, $5 per poem. To send entries by mail: Include title of poem(s) or story(ies), name, address, phone#, email, brief biographical info. (Tell us a little about yourself) on the coversheet; add a self-addressed stamped envelope for entry confirmation. Fees payable to: “DREAMQUESTONE.COM”- Mail to: Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest, P.O. Box 3141, Chicago, IL 60654. Visit http://www.dreamquestone.com for details on how to enter!

Andre_West-DreamQuestOne

Brief bio: Andre L. West is creator, founder, and editor at the Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest. He is a poet, a writer, and a dreamer from Chicago, IL. Andre’s mission through Dream Quest One, is to inspire, motivate, and encourage anyone having the desire or love for poetry and writing, to continue doing so without fear of failure or success.

 

 

Special Guest Interview With CEO And Publisher of Dream Quest One ~Andre West


DreamQuestOne120x120Maya 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.’

I really got serious with my writing in 2000, whereas, before, I’d write stuff and put it away in my file cabinets. Submitting my poems and short-stories in competition, in hopes that one of my babies just might get published, was a bit intimidating. I felt awful whenever my work came back solidified in a cold detached form letter.  One day, I opened another rejection to another submission, only this one differed from the usual cold form letters, in that small side-notes of encouragement were written along the edges of the paper.

The editor had taken time to encourage me to keep writing, telling me that I was an “excellent” writer!  Since, then, I’ve written numerous articles, stories and poems and even managed to write and publish a book or two. My writing definitely improved.  And I never forgot that rejection letter.

How fitting that on the last week of National Poetry Month,  Clara54 gets to interview the person whose kind words kept me from throwing myself a ‘pity-party’ and motivated me to keep writing… Please join me in welcoming CEO and Publisher  of DreamQuestOne, Mr. Andre West to the blog:

Welcome, Andre! We haven’t met personally, but I feel like I know you through  your creative ‘rejection’ of my short story and now, our  LinkedIn connection.

Can you share a bit of background with my readers?

Clara, first and foremost, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a gracious host and for interviewing me to be featured in your prestigious Clara54 Writer’s Blog. I truly admire and respect your undaunted encouragement, warm-hearted inspiration and endearing support for the fine arts and writing community.

I appreciate that, Andre. Thank you.

About me, hmmmm? Well, uhhhh, mmmm, okay! In my early childhood, besides playing with Lincoln Logs and Army Men toys, I remember reading books and learning Mother Goose nursery rhymes. Particularly, I really loved the times when my mother would read bedtime stories to me. So about the age of five or six years old, I began reading books on my own. This is when my mother would let me read bedtime stories to her. She enjoyed my reading so much that I would read her to sleep. Of course, it was supposed to be the other way around. Heh heh! Enthusiastically, and with childlike confidence, I wanted to read stories and nursery rhymes to my dear mother, in order to show her that “I can read.” In doing so, it made me feel great to start and finish reading a complete book. As a child, my favorite book to read was “The Bike Lesson” by Stan and Jan Berenstain. I guess you could say that I was hooked on phonics at an early age. I still have my old favorite book to this today!

I’ve learned that a picture is worth a thousand words. Noticing that many children’s books contained illustrations, I saw that those pictures only reinforced what I had already read. My imagination teleported me to far off places in the universe, where I may visit kingdoms by reading just words alone. Therefore, in my youthful mind, pictures had become redundant. Not that there was anything wrong with a colorful illustration, but pictures seem to replace words I could be reading. I then asked my mother to get me books without pictures. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a word is worth a thousand and one pictures, I imagine. Mother brought me all sorts of new and exciting tales to read.

My imagination began to grow and develop as my mind opened to new concepts. I lived with my family at a government housing project in the row houses called the “The Village” at the A.B.L.A. Homes, in Chicago, Illinois. Located on the near West Side, I lived right across the street from Fosco Park. Donnie, my big brother and I use to play in the dirty field, ride bikes, skateboard, roller-skate, fly kites, and even ice-skate during the winter months at Fosco Park. We always had what we needed, so being poor didn’t bother us that much. We hardly even thought about it sometimes, but we knew the deal. Occasionally, we use to eat maple syrup and bread sandwiches back then. Hey, it kept us alive. I’d still eat one today, but I prefer wheat bread.

As the years went by, I was considered a “gifted” child at Medill Elementary School. I really didn’t know what “gifted” meant, since I didn’t receive too many gifts back then. All I remember, is that a few other students and I had to take more advanced classes than homeroom peers. I went to different instructors for reading, music and art classes. At this time, my reading comprehension, vocabulary, and verbal skills were considered above average. I didn’t understand what that really meant. All I wanted to do was have fun and play with my friends. Although it was nice taking a break from the monotony of being in the same classroom setting all day.

So from first grade through junior high school, I remember attending Junior Great Books reading classes. We read stories such as “The Velveteen Rabbit,” “The Ugly Duckling,” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Then we discussed what happened in those stories, as a group. It helped develop the essential skills of reading carefully, thinking critically, listening intently, and speaking and writing persuasively. I enjoyed participating in those group discussions and did very well in English grammar. We wrote essay compositions and poems for classroom exercises and homework. I never stopped reading books. My teachers would always praise my ability to produce interesting creative writing. I felt great while writing, whether it was a short story or a poem, transforming thoughts and feelings into words, conveying messages to readers, or producing a desired outcome or effect. I love writing. It’s that simple.

At school, I remember having my essays, stories and poems posted in classrooms and hallways. I continued writing but there was something else about me. I always wanted to fit in with the popular students. And being smart was not very popular in these circles. Also, there were some negative influences from family members, and so-called friends that steered me to mischief at times. So I became shy and timid about showing my gifts and talents in writing to those around me. I tried to please everyone as I grew up. In doing so, I was never fully able to express myself or “be myself,” so to speak. I usually wrote a story or a poem or two, as required from my teachers. Once in 5th grade, I kept a composition book filled with essays that I wrote throughout the school year. There was a time when I went home with a note from my teacher to my mother. She told my mother that she didn’t believe I had written a certain composition and ‘please don’t do your child’s homework for him.’ Well, my mother didn’t help me. I wrote the story while sitting alone in my room. The night before turning in my homework, my mother couldn’t believe I had created such a great story. Nonetheless, I wrote it. Unfortunately, at the end of the school year, my composition book thrown into the trash. I really regret throwing those stories away. My mother said she wanted to keep that book, too. Usually, I write a story or poem when inspired or motivated by a profound person, a memorable place, a wonderful thing, or an outstanding event in my life.

Mrs. Smiley, a strict and disciplined school librarian, at Gallistel Language Academy, once pulled me aside. She said, “Andre, you really have a talent for creative writing. Keep it up. I want you to remember that.” She even wrote her wonderful praise to me in my elementary school graduation autograph book. At the time, writing a book became somewhat of a dream that might be possible. But I never went deeper into the thought of it.

Why do you write?

There was always the fear of rejection that haunted me for many years. I always sought approval from others for fear of being criticized. I was also afraid of failing and succeeding. Thinking disaster would come to bring me down and out, of my introverted comfort zone. I was scared too, of taking risks, making mistakes, letting go, and living life as I believed in my heart. Sometimes family members mean well, but they may also discourage one from pursuing her or his ‘calling’ in life. They may sound like Glum from Gulliver’s Travels saying, “You’ll never make it”. They are called, “dream-killers.” All the wasted time I spent trying to be whatever someone else wanted me to be, has passed. I got tired of being afraid to venture off into the unknown. In spite of any opposition from others or within, I choose to write because I feel more alive while writing. I’m able to express myself freely and creatively through the art and craft. In my heart, I’ve always been and always will be a writer, a poet and a dreamer, but not in that exact order. I’ve always loved poetry and writing even through high school and college. I wrote more stories while taking English courses. Upon receiving an A.A. degree in Liberal Arts Education and Business Administration, I continued pursuing a degree in Finance. To support myself I have been a landscaper, a front-end maintenance worker for a major supermarket chain, a postal mail-carrier, and a computer information systems expert. “In whatever job I choose to do, I like to do it right or I won’t do it all.”

What does Poetry mean to you?

During high school, I occasionally wrote poems and stories about my life and the things that I have done. In the year 1986, there was a local writer’s newsletter, which sponsored a poetry contest. Inspired by a girl, whom I liked very much during my sophomore year of high school, I entered the following poem.

“Imagine This”

Sweetness is for her, body’s motion on a staircase

About seven feet down the lane, staring upon that lovely face

Looking upward as a matter of fact

Walking forward to be exact

 

Gracious is her style, thus owning one principle

Glorious is she, who audaciously attracted me

A host to her mind, the waiter for her heart

Frequency of the wave, the commencement of a start

Imagine this,

Knowledge of love, it has no definite flaws

Throughout friendship we understand

there’s certain common laws

Thresholds of peace, insinuations I may

Intimations I may. Instilled visions of rhymes

Instituting our day

Imagination,

is a powerful tool. Don’t interpret me wrong

I’m nobody’s fool

There is just so much that you must see

Imagine this, you and me

Though this is the beginning and not the end

Imagine this,

my marvelous friend.

By © 1986 Andre La Mar West

To my surprise, I won an honorable mention and received a big red dictionary. Clara, that contest really gave me a healthy dose of inspiration and confidence to continue writing poetry. I began reading and sharing poems with students at school. When a poem makes your feel as if your head is spinning and you are falling off planet Earth: that is poetry to me. When I can read or write a poem that makes me think and feel like I’ve been turned right side up, to me: to me that is poetry. If it moves me to feel pure emotions such as; joy, anger, empathy, sadness, love, hate, pain, ecstasy, fear, or enlightened, because its composition is a true self-expression: that is what poetry means to me.

Andre_West-DreamQuestOne

Are you all enjoying this interview as much as I am?!  Want more ? Great, because we’re not finished… Part two of my interview with Andre West continues next week! I wanted to give you all of Andre’s powerful writings, publishing and living life as an artist insights!

You don’t  want to miss part two of this interview. Andre shares his vision for Dreamquestone and gives us his take on winning poetry and writing contests. In the meantime, you can access Andre’s site to get the 411 on upcoming submissions – http://www.dreamquestone.com/rules.html

Happy writing!

Five Profit Making Techniques For Your First Book


thbookssHappy Easter, Authors!  It’s so exciting for a writer to finally finish a first book and put it out there for readership, rave reviews and purchase. I mean, I would love to see Unleash Your Pearls in the hands of women and men alike, getting all inspired and feeling the “ish” of just how deserving of God’s blessings they are.  Wouldn’t that be something?! Well, rest easy for now, my lucky readers, we’re still at the publishers, but  once we launch, you will get the memo:)

First time authors put in their dues, with the nail-biting that’s a nimble away from becoming a habit, the nighttime nightmares, sweating tears and negative fears, non-withstanding; it is the desire of first time authors to give readers the best extension of themselves through their art. Oftentimes, these authors find themselves in a quandary because at the end of the day, they know their validation and financial sustainability as authors come from their book sales.

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Nowadays, more books are being published by first time authors than ever before and most authors realize that unless you are a celebrity or a bestselling Terry McMillan, the first  months of your book being out there, more than likely will result in few sales. This can be a daunting experience. As writers we have to get pro-creative to cultivate a satisfying book profit outcome. I don’t know about other authors on the scene with their first books, but I’m looking to land the bestseller list for my pearl and so can you.

Here are five profit-making techniques for your first book~

  1. Book Blurb… If you know you have a great book to offer readers. You have to start grinding and get your book into the hands of the people. Use your blog to promote your book by offering brief excerpts from time to time. This technique is one used by many authors to bring awareness to their upcoming book launch. It stimulates the reader’s interest in your book, without making them feel pressured to buy and if your book just happens to be bestseller worthy, like my (Unleash your pearls), for example, then, all the better:)
  2. Offer a free copy of your book to another blogger in exchange for an honest review on Amazon.com or on their blog…I’ve done this for many  bloggers turned authors. As an Amazon book reviewer, I know this works! Not only have authors benefited from my reviews, they have seen an increase in book readership, as a result.  Of the many reviews I’ve done over the years, only one author asked that I change the ratings authors depend on  4 or5 star ratings for their books to make a profit and I do understand this, but, I am honest in my reviews and therefore, my review are not coerced. I do book review at my writer’s blog still, when time permits.
  3.  Use your social media to announce your book’s launch, links of purchase and any other information complimentary to purchase, for example, where reader can pre-order a copy before it launches.
  4. Connect with colleagues on Linkedin… Of course, use all of your social media resources to talk about your book, but I love the connections I’ve made with like-minded professionals on Linkedin because I’ve gotten asked to participate in business ventures, joined esteemed group in my genres, appeared on blog-talk radio to promote my work and had work accepted that will bring awareness to my business brand from which my book is based. The stellar folks you meet on Linkedin can be your book’s game-changer!  You can’t always receive and not be willing to give in return and that’s why I  appreciate LinkedIn connections~ Good business practice.
  5. Finally, as a new author, you just have to make your name known, by any lawful means necessary. Get out there and tell people who you are and what your book can do for them before it launches. Be pro-creatively active, y’all and take your book to colleagues, connections, readers, reviewers and critics alike. Bring the food to the influence table! Get to know your local librarian or bookstore owner, talk about your book and set up a reading.Be that ‘expert’ panelist or guest blogger on popular brand websites or blog talk radio spots. Join a twitter chat or host a webinar.

Whether your brand teaches, entertains, motivates , inspires or encourages another to aspire to be the best person s/he can be, in order to make your book a success, you can do what needs to be done to get your book in the hands of readers. There are many creative avenues from which to sell your great book and introduce your expertise and brand to the world. Get on the good foot, new authors, time’s-a-wasting because people all over the world are waiting to read your awesome book!

Did you find this post helpful?  Do you know of other savvy ways new authors can ensure their book sale? Please share in the comments. We’d appreciate your resourceful tips.

I want to give a special thanks to all of my new and seasoned followers for being a part of Clara54 Writers Blog. Y’all bring the Sunshine! I’m taking a brief spring break and will see all of you in a few weeks. In the meantime, keep on grinding and make those book sales, people. 🙂

Women Artists Who Dared to Create From A Room Of Their Own


I want to  dedicate this post to all women, irregardless of whether they’ve been written up in the pages of history books. Women, by their mere existence, create history that is unforeseen and untold every single day that they live and breathe~ so for all women, let me say, Happy Women’s History Month!

The novelist,George_Charles_Beresford_-_Virginia_Woolf_in_1902 Virginia Woolf wrote in her famous essay, A Room  of One’s Own, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Viewed in a broader sense, the essay could reference any author’s need for poetic license and the personal liberty to create their art.

The artists I’ve chosen to honor for Women’s History Month, in essence, created from a room of their own. The “room” for the most part were of their own choosing, but sadly, one  young girl had no say in the literal sense.  Nonetheless, these women (and many more) craved out an impressive body of creative works that became a historical legacy.

1f30f05d-b3d0-4f97-a720-e238d5d018f7-originalMaya Angelou had me at I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. She was brutally raped as a little girl and only shared this secret with her brother, Bailey. When her uncles found out, the molester was killed. Maya did not speak for 5 years, blaming herself for the molester’s murder.

7f3df4e8-d3f7-31df-921d-cc3810d0eed7ANNA 13-year-old Jewish victim of the Holocaust… Anne Frank went into hiding from the Germans with her family and another family for two years in a small annex above the office where her father once worked. It’s reported that Anne, her mom and sister died in the concentration camps and only her father would survive to publish her diary, written while in hiding. 

Anne wrote in her diary that she wished her writings to live on in life. How prophetic her words were.

k2-_5b518c7b-c8ff-4653-9263-14c828b2365a.v2.jpg-14c1e4e6ef225f4d3e85fd206095436e0ca8323a-optim-450x450

thnikkiNikki Giovanni has often been called a “Revolutionary” poet. All I know is her writing are often based on fact and it is those poems that touches the sensibilities of a nation of readers, including myself. A prolific writer, activist and highly guarded educator, Ms. Giovanni is currently a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech.

My very favorite of her many works includes: Those Who Ride The Night Winds, poems about the mass murders of young black boys in Atlanta totaling more than 29 young children killed. Ms. Giovanni poems, in my opinion, are a loving eulogy to the memory of those children.  thIf you haven’t read any of Nikki Giovanni’s work, you are missing out on one of our greatest literary contributors.

220px-Pearl_Buck I read Pearl S. Buck’s, The Good Earth in High School. The book introduced me to another culture and people with a different way of living. Although American, Ms. Buck lived in China for a while and associated with Chinese culture and tradition. I was impressed by the humanity of The Good Earth as it relates to a country’s change affecting regular people.

51zRzieodBL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_Ms. Buck died in 1973, but her Pulitzer prize novel lives on. 

In another life, I opt to come back as Lorraine Hansberry! Not only was she the first African-American woman playwright, she was the first woman of color to have a play produced on Broadway! A Raisin in the Sun was inspired by Poet Langston Hughes poem, Harlem that asks, ” What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the Sun?”

Ms. Hansberry’s play would later inspire Nina Simone’s song, “To Be Young, Gifted and Black!” You know what they say, “The Play’s The Thing.” Lorraine Hansberry was the “ish” and sadly, gone too soon… The playwright died of pancreatic cancer in 1965. Sheer Brilliance!

Here’s a special clip for y’all 🙂

And:

thtoni Toni Morrison’s-The Bluest Eye,Tar Baby, Song of Solomon, Beloved and Sula.

thzora Zora Neale Hurston’s  “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Their_Eyes_Were_Watching_God_us

thalice When Alice Walker was a little girl, she was playing in the backyard with her brothers, one of whom accidentally hit her in the eye with one of the pellets from his BB gun ( I remember those. My brothers got them for Christmas) . That accident never stopped Alice from living her dreams. One of the biggest dream in history was:

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I’ve had several books from these historical women on my bookshelf,  in what I can only describe as a stationary library for many years and felt that I could never part with any of these great works, but, alas, I have and I don’t regret passing them along (donations) to new readers and creatives and curious children who just might dare to dream 🙂

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. I know that the works of these and other women history making artists are sitting on your bookshelf, vying for a little Women History Month love shout… Please share a few of your fave with us.

Writer’s quote for today:

“Only I hold the pen that will write the story of my life.” Tia Kelly