I write. I teach. I mom.

Yup, that’s pretty much what I do. I’m not new to blogging, but I am in the newest phase of my writing journey. During those moments when I daydreamed about being a writer, I never thought that I’d try writing children’s literature. To be fair, this writing daydream changed a few times.

Version 1: I’ll write a bestseller and become a household name for my wonderfulness.

Version 2: I’ll write something super deep and it’ll be in college campuses across the United States.

Version 3: Maybe I’ll just try to get a book of poetry together.

Version 4: Hey, I love reading to my kids. Who doesn’t love picture books?

Clearly, we’re going with Version 4.The question still stands: Who doesn’t love picture books?

So, thank you in advance for continuing my journey with me. I’m sure we will have a few laughs along the way. There will likely be frustrations, but there will always be hope. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with that.

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“But what if the other kids bully me?”

This is the reasoning my 5yo gave me as to why he doesn’t want to tell the kids at his new school that he is Muslim. I’m torn between a wth and an ugly cry. I was prepared for his other questions:

  • Will I make friends?
  • What if I don’t make friends?
  • What if I can’t make the other kids like me?

I was equipped with my standard answers. You can’t control how people treat you. You can only control how you treat people. You try to be the best you that you can be. Know who will always be your friends (Mommy, Daddy, your brother ).

I was bullied in school. I’ve always struggled with my weight. (We have a love/hate relationship, but this post ain’t about us right now.) But that didn’t come until like 3rd grade or so, and it was minor compared to what kids go through today. I, however, do not recall being worried about being bullied because of my religion at the age of 5.

What is happening? Why is this the new normal?

The other storyteller

You may recall me saying that my kids prefer my husband’s stories since they’re predominantly action-driven. Well, it looks like I’ve been one-upped again, this time by my mother-in-law.

I was in the middle of reading a story when my 5yo interrupted,”Where’s grandmother?”

“Ummm…in the kitchen doing grandmotherly things.”

“Grandmother was telling me stories of Mama Frizz last night. Do you know any?”

“Nope, so I’ll see if Grandmother is available.”

Of course she made herself available. That’s what grandmothers do. She set the mood and told stories of Mama Frizz. She told stories of being in the country as a little, city girl.

She gave him a bit of family history for story time. It was wonderful. As she left the room, she said something that I couldn’t help agree with.

She said, “For stories, I think that sometimes the real thing is best.”

 

A little Aesop, a Bit of Thunder & Self-Actualization of my Writer Self

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before: my mom was all about representation when I was younger. Sure I lived in a predominantly Black neighborhood and attended a predominantly Black church, but school was on the other end of the spectrum.

I was in one of those gifted and talented programs, and there were only a handful of people of color in it at any given time. Clearly I learned a great deal, but there were also a few experiences that clearly stand out from the rest.

  1. My third grade math teacher was a Black woman. I don’t remember her last name, but I remember her first name was Bathsheba. She probably didn’t know it, but she made my day–Every. Single. Day. Her being brown made me feel less awkward, less alone. Seeing her made me feel like maybe I could grow up and feel like I could have an important job too. Maybe I could even be teacher.
  2. In my elementary years, I was also introduced to the first Black characters in a school-assigned book. My English teacher was white, and I couldn’t tell you her name now if my life depended on it. But I am thankful for her. Having followed the traditional route of reading what most kids read, what you naturally assume are books featuring non POC–Where the Red Fern Grows, James and the Giant Peach, Charlotte’s Web, Bridge to Terabithia, etc., imagine my surprise when we started reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Brown characters! Brown characters all around! I guess this class was also when I had my first of what we would now call “woke” experience. I was surrounded by white people and was reading about ill-intentioned white people. It was a new layer to the feeling of difference. But, I was reading about brown people. It was also the first book I remember making me cry. It was also important because it was the first POC book that I remember beyond Aesop’s fables. Yes, it was also dated, but it made me feel relevant.
  3. The first two events sparked something another first-the first time I changed my mind about what I could be when I grew up. Maybe I could write too. I vaguely remember that we had a reaction assignment. I remember writing about slaves. My Uncle read it before I turned it in, and I remember him asking if I’d really written it because it was really good. My teacher also thought it was good. Maybe that’s when I first became a writer. It just took me until my 30s to remember my purpose and step back into it.

That weird space between goals and dreams

As a writer, I feel like this is my permanent home. I’m constantly somewhere between goal-chasing and dreaming. I haven’t really given this limbo-like space much thought, so maybe I’ll have a bit more clarity by the time I’m done this post.

Perhaps what fills this space is waiting–waiting to hear from critique partners, my agent, an editor, a publisher, my agent again, etc. For someone whose mind is constantly going a mile a minute and who is so impatient she yells at the microwave to “Friggin get a move on!”, to say that this is a learning experience and a test in patience is certainly an understatement.

What do I do as I strive to reach my dreams of being a full-time writer a reality? I wait. Honestly, I write more. I whine to my husband. I strategize my next move. I feel like this is an impossible goal, and then I tell myself to knock if off and keep pushing.

Maybe those strange little dudes were on o something with that whole “whistle while you work” thing. Maybe small distractions that you can do while you work at a larger task are ideal. Whatever the case may be, I know I have to keep at it.

 

Say it: I’m a writer!

I was one of those people who wouldn’t come out and say I wanted to be or was a writer when I first started. I know I”m not the only one who does this. Why is that? We live in a society that thrives off of titles and recognition. We celebrate our differences (well…sometimes), so why is it so hard to yell it to the world?

I’M A WRITER!

Is it because we expect some snarky remark like the following:

  • Well, who isn’t?
  • Aren’t we all?
  • How’s that going to pay the bills?
  • Well, where’s your book?

Well, writer friend, let me tell you something: You are a writer. If you write, have writing goals, are working on your craft, etc. you are a writer. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different!

Seriously, it takes a lot of heart to become a writer. This journey does not come pre-paved or even cobbled. Many of us wander around getting, our feet and legs getting cut with rocks and sticks as we move forward in faith. Yes! We have faith in our writing, even if it may waiver from day-to-day. What we must keep on a daily basis is faith in ourselves. My journey may not be the same as yours, and your journey may not be the same as the next person’s. It doesn’t matter. Own your journey and enjoy it.

Why Cree had to win the day

I took an unexpected detour on my writing journey and did a bit of editing. How did that happen? An old college friend who knew of my published picture book quest reached out to me. When she told me of what she and a colleague wanted to do, I couldn’t say no. They didn’t just want to write a picture book, they wanted to birth a unique character to add to children’s bookshelves. That’s just what they did.

Ti and Lora created a perfectly imperfect African-American girl character. Think on that. Two African-American women from Philly saw a void and filled it. It’s as simple as that. See a need. Fill a need. While self-publishing can come with its difficulties, they persisted. Their community of friends, family, and loved ones helped their dream become a reality. Not only did Cree win the day, Lora and Ti did as well.

Cree Wins the Day isn’t just a story for girls. I have two boys, and the closest rival to this book in our home right now is Pete the Cat. What makes Cree so appealing to them? My 5yo likes that Cree wets the bed. My 2yo likes Cree going to school. (Those are all the spoilers you get. Go buy the book  from Amazon if you want to know more.)

Cree embraces what makes her different. Cree’s abilities, that sometimes make her days  a little crummy, show readers that our day-to-day lives may not be perfect or go as expected and that’s okay. We should always love ourselves and know who helps us to have a healthy mental space. That’s a lesson anyone can get behind.

 

cree

 

Pre-k graduation & other tragedies

Yes, I was on the fence about my kids’ pre-k graduation at first. Then I was super excited about it and disgruntled because we were running late. As luck would have it, so were they. We ended up being like 15 minutes early while also being 15 minutes late. Feel free to let that sink in for a minute.

The graduation celebration basically had two parts. The first part was the kids doing Quran recitations and sharing other tidbits that they’d learned throughout the year (or in my kids’ case, the past couple of months). The second part was more for the parents and gave basic information about the school’s first year of existence. I guess you could say that the celebration was for the kids and the school as a whole. I commend the principal and the board. I mean, I imagine that it’s no small task to start a school!

Anyway, my 2yo was being a typical 2yo and wanted nothing to do with the entire thing. He drank water, kept the teachers running after him, and then came and sat on my lap during the performances. It’s not like he didn’t know the routine. He did it from my lap and cheered his brother on.

My 5yo was awesome. He was most active during the songs, and that’s what I expected. He shook and sang for al it was worth. It was great.

I’m pretty sure they called my 2yo as one of the first ones to get his certificate just to get him out of the way, and I totally understand that. He actually went back and sat with the other kids after he got his graduation cap and goody (goodie?) bags. I couldn’t help but smile when my 5yo proudly got his certificate. He has had an eventful year (in and out of pre-k, a couple of floods, moving, etc.).

The tragedy?Maybe 10 minutes into the parent part, the principal tapped me on the shoulder saying my 5yo had got hurt. Apparently he had been playing on a scooter, and the scooter proved to be the victor. He was upset, crying, and bleeding. I gave him kisses and told him I was proud of him for being so brave. The teachers, volunteers, and assorted sisters of the community all helped. They were great.

So yeah, that totally sucked. But, a little cuddling, ice, and biryani when we got home and all was well. An assortment of text messages from the sisters of the community didn’t hurt either.

All in all, it was an exciting day. But hey, I’d expect nothing less from my family. Oh yeah, I did say tragedies, huh? I guess the other tragedy would be realizing my babies aren’t babies anymore.

Writer’s Life: Waiting, more waiting, and then anxiously waiting.

Hey, I’m all about honesty. If you’ve read even one of my blog posts before, you should be well aware of that. So, now I want to have another one of our good old sit-downs where we take a moment and I hit you with a truth bomb.

I am no less anxious now than I was when I didn’t have an agent. I still check my emails an unnatural amount of times during the day.

I know that may seem a little hard to believe, but it’s 100% true. How can this be? It’s simple. Having an agent has opened the doors for my work to be seen by editors and publishing houses that I typically would not have access to. (Yay!) Having an agent gives me some muscle, if you will, a support system, and a sounding board.

Having an agent has not given me access to a magical fast lane in which my work ascends to the top of an editor’s email queue and said editor then falls over herself at the chance to bask in the glow of my manuscript.

Nope! I still anxiously await to get good news. Even the good news that I wait for has changed. While I would love to only get showered with contracts, it is also a treasure when an editor takes some time out to offer notes on a manuscript and/or even agrees to review it if I’m interested in making some changes.

Waiting is hard at any stage of the writing journey. If it helps, know that you’re not waiting alone. And while you are waiting, use your time wisely. Hone your craft. Experiment with your writing. Do a bit of reading. Take a class. Take a minute away from writing and live. (Yes, imagine the fresh influence on your writing when you’ve had an awesome experience.)

What’s really helped me? I’ve buddied up with other writers who are pretty much on the same leg of this journey, and help encourage each other. We vent to each other. We support each other. We pretty much remind each other that we’re not alone. In all honesty, they are my anxiety cushion so that when I reach out to my agent, I seem like I have it halfway together.

Find a buddy, and buckle up. The path to publication is an unpredictable ride.

On writing when inspired

I know that everything ain’t for everybody. I also know that we writers have our own methods that we use when working in or craft. Still, I am often left somewhat perplexed when people say they only write when they inspired.

First off, I imagine them staring out the windows of log cabins, waiting for nature to show some sort of sign before they put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. I see their faces light up as a majestic bird swoops down from the sky and hovers effortlessly right in front of a window while an assortment of animals exits the woods, congregating to awe at its beauty as well. Aha! Inspiration has hit, and the writers’ minds are now flooded with ideas that will certainly bloom into masterpieces. The heavens have provided divine guidance, after all.

I know that’s a bit much, but that’s how my mind works. Personally, I think that my writing depends more on my motivation than inspiration. To me, they’re totally different.When I’m motivated to write, I have clear-cut goals I’m trying to reach. I’m trying to be on somebody’s bookshelf. I need to write to do that. Uh-oh, an unexpected expense popped up. I need to rekindle the flames of one of my freelance writing gigs. See, that’s concrete. If inspiration happens to kick in at some point, that’s fine, well, and dandy.

I honestly can’t trust myself to solely rely on divine inspiration to write. I would be sitting around like “Oh wait. Was that it? Was that a sign? Hmm…maybe tomorrow the sign will be clearer.” I’d get nowhere.

This morning, I’m neither motivated nor inspired to cook breakfast. Hopefully, my husband feels one of them. I mean, seriously….Who can write on an empty stomach?

Slightly below halfway decent mom status

“Seriously?!” I actually lost count of how many times I said it between last night and this morning. Upon telling my 5yo he had to go to bed because he had school the next day, he cried ferociously, asking “Why does it keep happening?!”
(I’ll admit that I did laugh at that when I was out of earshot.)

Just to keep things interesting, someone unleashed a stomach bug later in the evening that chose its victims as random. They shall remain anonymous to protect their privacy, lol.

My 2yo son was an absolute gem this morning! He ate his breakfast yogurt, brushed his teeth, and got dressed without any fuss. All he asked was that I turn on “Kate and Mim Mim” in the background. Thanks Netflix!

After pleading that they move at any speed faster than the one he was moving in, my 5yo finally got it together. We left 5 minutes later than what I’d wanted, but the goal was in sight. I unlocked the car, and my 5yo climbed in. My 2yo ran in circles around the car laughing and screaming “NO SCHOOL FOR ME!” I’m not sure how long I chased this child around a delightfully dull parking lot in the overcast morning, but I”m sure his arms must have been tired from him pumping them in the air in glee.

If this is Monday, what on Earth will the rest of my week be like? I’m pretty sure that I”m definitely slightly below halfway decent mom status today, and it’s still early.