Blogtober #12: Bookworming It.

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Welcome to Monday. Since this time of year–for me, anyway–breeds even more reading than usual, I wanted to share my top four favorite books of all time with y’all. (Fun fact: I declared that I would never combine you + all once moving to Texas. So, yeah. Y’all it is. Never say never.)

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. What can I even say about this inspiring book? You know it. You either read it and/or watched the film adaptation in your classroom growing up. You fell in love with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. You were moved by this engrossing tale of lessons and race relations in the Deep South. You loved reading about Scout and Jem and Boo Radley and Dill. You were enraptured by the trial and case of Tom Robinson. This book was everything for me. As a budding writer and just as a person, I’ll never forget how this novel made me feel.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen. Loooooookkkkk. Let me tell you. My 12th grade English teacher was the meanest lady this side of Planet Earth. I wish I were exaggerating. Nevertheless, I will forever thank her for inciting my enduring love for Jane Austen and her writing. Never have I loved fictional characters more (Elizabeth Bennet: personal hero; Mr. Darcy: husband), for one thing, and never have I adored the witty writing style and voice that an author created even more. It felt as if Jane was talking to me privately about these people she knew.

A Good Man is Hard to Find (and other stories), Flannery O’Connor. If Austen significantly influenced my writing style, then Ms. O’Connor majorly informed my desire to end a story with a bang. She knocked my literary socks off when I discovered her in college. Not only were her observations about human nature absolutely unrelenting, but so were the finales of her fascinating stories. (Seriously.) My love of writing short stories was also influenced by her; there’s nothing more enticing than fitting what could be a novel inside a short piece of work, which Flannery did over and over again.

Everything written by Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, and Lois Lowry. You’ve likely heard it before, but most writers begin as voracious, devoted readers. Well, these three authors began the ball rolling for me. Memories of ensconcing myself in library stacks surrounded by their stories of intelligent, verbose heroines, annoying siblings, and the pain and discovery of girlhood are never far from mind. They began the blueprint for me. And yes, I’d read all those books over again now and still relate to them.

I have tons of booky favorites, needless to say, so another post with a new batch of favorites will come. Here’s where I’ll tell you that gone are the days when I had stacks and stacks of actual books that my mother threatened to get rid of if I didn’t arrange them with some semblance of order. These days, I enjoy maintaining a digital bookshelf and read everything on my Kindle app. (I’d love an actual library, but the living arrangements don’t presently have room for that. Maybe in the next place I find with more room.) I also have a Kindle Unlimited membership through Amazon and yes, it is awesome. A friend of mine knew how much I loved the whole library book borrowing system and recommended Kindle Unlimited–and I’m glad she did. With this membership, I can borrow books and discover an array of authors whenver I like. At present, I’m reading Mindy Kaling’s latest six series essay collection, Nothing Like I Imagined (Except for Sometimes), and the convenience of borrowing the titles and simply returning them when I’m done is the best. Gift the membership to yourself and/or to other bookworms in your life here.

Happy Reading and bon Monday.

Blogtober #8: She Writes.

A bit of self-promotion this fine autumn.

Did you know that I’ve written and published three books? Yes, you say, it’s on the Writing tab on your blog, TSP. This is true. But we’re highlighting my work on the main page today. All my books can be purchased on Amazon right here. Note that this Amazon link is also my author page, so all the books are lined up for you in a pretty row.

Raincoat For Your Senses is a compilation of short fiction and poetry. If you’re in the mood for, well, moody poems and somewhat autobiographical short stories from a 20-something writer, then this is for you. This was my first foray into publishing my work so all firstborns are special. Available digitally.

Short stories abound in The Loftiest Thing. Entirely a collection of short fiction, this book remains my ‘lil baby that could. Whereas RFYS was extracting works I’d completed in the past, this book is full of original, real time fiction that I wrote. Stories about sacrifice, love, relationships, and so much more. It awaits your library, both digital or hard copy.

My latest work, Your Elephant, After All, is 100% poetry. I used to consider myself a fictionista primarily, and then a poet when no story ideas were coming to mind. But I am both a fiction writer and a poet, and working on/publishing this book cemented the latter for me. These poems are personal, are about life and love and everything in between, and I wrote it at a time when I was personally drowning. So, working on it became a life jacket. You’ll love it as much as I do, I guarantee. (Available in hard copy only.)

That’s all she wrote for now. I’m working on some things, so I hope to expand this bookshelf. Until then, support your neighborhood authors and writers and artists, if you can.

here…

Here are some of the albums/songs/ I currently have on repeat:

snoh

Snoh Aalegra, Ugh those feels again. I’m sure the name of the album provides a clue about why it speaks to me so powerfully. But, yes, Snoh’s masterful second album is constantly playing in my car and in my ear. Her smooth, evocative voice, the effortless melodies and arrangements, and already loving her song Time from her first album have resulted in a complete stanning and fandom. Favorite songs on the album are: Whoa, Find Someone Like You, Be Careful, and Charleville 9200, Pt. II.

Dua Lipa, Don’t Start Now. I deeply love this single. It reminds me of the past without making me want to punch the past. I think it encapsulates all the silliness that comes from folks who realize you meant something to them way after you let them go, way after you needed to them to have this realization. Yes, Dua, yessssssssssss.

Here is the book I currently have on repeat, as in I’ve been reading it for the past two months, page by page, paragraph by paragraph, savoring it, unwilling to let it end:

bookta

This book takes my breath away on every single page. I won’t even summarize it for you. I actually cannot summarize it, because whatever words I find will fall short.

A few here’s to share with you. Bon weekend and here’s to upwarding and onwarding…

Your Elephant, After All.

Dearest reader, last Friday, I published my third book. I seem to favor anthologies and this publication is no different: Your Elephant, After All is my third collection, and this time, it’s poetry. I am exceedingly proud of this book, especially because it was born during a difficult time.

book

As you know, life hasn’t been the easiest for me lately. There have been more downs than ups, but thankfully and prayerfully, I continue to push ahead. Two weeks ago, I was wide awake in the early hours of the day (the requisite 3AM), my mind racing, and decided to find something to read. Somehow, I ended up on the Notes app on my phone and somehow, I ended up reading some of my own poetry. Of course, I had nursed plans for a third book of poetry months and months ago, having created the draft and formatting of the pieces in both written and electronic form. But, owing to my creative ADD, my attention soon went elsewhere.  Enter two weeks ago, 3AM, and a resurrected desire to come back to my temporarily abandoned project.
From then on, I started working on the book almost every evening. The title changed. I edited some, if not all, of the poems. draftThe original idea of 22 poems turned into about 38 pieces. I decided that this would be my first book with photographs. Needless to say, if you’re passionate about anything, the process can be enthralling. As an artist, the creating part is nothing short of breathtaking. And honestly, it helped to take my mind off, well, my mind. Even if that meant just a few hours a day of purposeful activity, the refocused energy was welcomed. After a pretty rapid cycle of work, I was finished last mid-week. By Friday, the book was live on Amazon. Some other details about YEAA:
  1. The title came from one of my favorite poems I’ve ever written and it fit perfectly for the theme of the book. To me, elephants (my longtime favorite animal) represent majesty, melancholy, supremacy, sadness. Basically the two-sided coin of life. And these poems run the gamut of all of those things and more.
  2. This was my first time publishing with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Before KDP, I used CreateSpace, also owned by Amazon; the two have now combined together. It was a fairly easy process. From cover creation (I used my own artwork, but KDP offers plenty of cover choices to pick from) to establishing the price of the book, the process was smooth. General frustrations came from ensuring that pagination and margins and all that were right, but that’s part of creating something visually appealing, so in the end, it was fine.
  3. YEAA is available in paperback only. Note that my first two books were made available in both hard copy and digital, and I’m aware of what’s more popular and convenient. Nevertheless, I really wanted to explore removing the digital book feature as an option and sticking with hard copy only. Being a reader myself that 99% of the time goes with digital, I also still love physical books. Their feel, their gloss, their look. So I went against my own comfort level and decided to try something different with this collection.

I’m really proud of this newest creation. Not only am I expanding my profile as an author, I was inspired to continue to focus on my work and plan for my next offering. It was also refreshing to just be knee deep in words and formatting and pagination and creating–and away from days of being mired in my own endless thoughts. So here’s to insomnia, I think, which started it all.

Lastly, to you, dear reader and supporter of this tiny corner in the blogverse: thank you. Whether or not you buy my book, you’re always here. I’ll take that.

Five Top Fives.

Faves, like to hear it, here it go (in no particular order): lizlemon

Top Five Singers/Musicians/Artists I’ve Loved For All Time

  1. Michael Jackson
  2. Whitney Houston
  3. Stevie Wonder
  4. Diana Ross
  5. James Taylor

Top Five Actresses I Love and Adore and Just Love and Adore

  1. Cate Blanchett
  2. Viola Davis
  3. Diane Lane
  4. Tracee Ellis Ross (purely coincidental that my mom her mom is #4 above)
  5. Natalie Portman

Top Five Actors I Stan For Always and Forever 

  1. Brad Pitt
  2. Idris Elba (far too many posts to link him; search away, my love)
  3. Denzel Washington
  4. Tom Cruise
  5. Paul Newman/Robert Redford (they are one entity; don’t come for me)

Top Five of My Favorite Films Of All Time

  1. The Princess Bride
  2. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
  3. The Philadelphia Story
  4. The Sting
  5. Inception (yeah, it’s that good)

Top Five of My Favorite Authors

  1. Alice Walker
  2. Flannery O’ Connor
  3. Harper Lee
  4. Lois Lowry
  5. This Square Peg (look: you gotta love yourself)

 

This was by no means an exhaustive list, so we shall do it again with a brand new list. Happy Wednesday, dear reader.

it chose me.

It was inevitable that fiction would choose me, that my world would become consumed by it. From the fairy tales my mother brought before me, to the fascinating living stories around me, to the nursery rhymes that incited such vivid images in my mind, to the billowing curtain in my childhood bedroom that, to me, offered pretty terrifying possibilities on the other side, my imagination was its own character from the very beginning. When I would hide in the library during recess (we’ll talk about that in another post; praise kind librarians), I would read. And read. And read. All fiction, all topics, all possibilities. A fiction writer was being born. By the age of eight, that writer came alive.

After messing with my dear father a bit about majoring in psychology while filling out my college application (“I want to be a shrink, Daddy.” “No; choose something else.”), I chose English as my major. It was always going to be English; I knew that when I was sixteen years old. Soon thereafter, I chose the concentration for my major: Fiction. For four years, I was ensconced in literature, stories, novels. It was like being in the stacks all over again.

I write poetry, these lovely blog posts, articles, the occasional play, a few songs…

But first and foremost, utterly and completely: I will always be a fiction writer.

fictionquote

What do you love to do that chose you? I’m curious to know…

Adjoa on a Monday.

Ever since my early twenties, coffee shops have been my true love. Many a coffee shop had me inside of it; ordering a cup, listening to the beans whir in the grinder; hearing the quiet hum of conversation as patrons did everything from chat with each other to type away at their laptops for whatever projects they were working on. (I almost always think the laptop-bearers are burgeoning novelists.) When I worked at my dearly departed Borders Books (see memories here and here), one of the areas I was assigned to, other than at the register or the info desk or shelving books, was the cafe. There, I learned to make a variety of espresso-based drinks, recipes that I still remember all these years later. It was, in a way, my first foray in working in a coffee shop. And I loved it something awful.

Naturally, I’ve always wanted my own shop. So in my mind, my shop would be called Adjoa on a Monday. Adjoa is my Ghanaian day name for ladies born on a Monday. The decor would unsurprisingly be rustic-y with a French touch; the French part is me, as you know, but I’ve also grown to love the rustic idea for a while now. Funny, huh? This Square Peg, who favored not-busy, not-busy, super modern spaces now longing for burnished wood finishes and Mason jar centerpieces? Girl, people be changing…

*All images derived from my boo Pinterest.

Anyway, further details about AOAM:

  • Free WiFi. I love the idea of people inhabiting that space and working on whatever their working on.
  • Open mic nights. At Borders, I freely took advantage of sharing my poetry with audiences. That college student had plenty of spurned-love poems to share, thank you very much.
  • Themed evenings every now and again. Paris jazz spot Tuesday. Speakeasy Fridays. Etc.
  • An assortment of staffers of different ages and backgrounds. This one is important to me. When I worked at Borders, a true pleasure was working with everyone from fellow college kids to part-time History professors and everyone in between. It was amazing.
  • A mini-bookshelf/donate-a-book area. Because you know books have to be involved.

More ideas abound. Will it happen one day? Will I venture out and start my own business and finally see this coffee shop of mine with my own two eyes? *Kanye shrug* I’ve never been ashamed or shy to dream out loud. Perhaps that’s the first step?

What thing/idea/venture/adventure have you nursed for ages? I’d love to peek…share it in the comments below.

And now…

friday

ain’t nothing changed.

As much as I’m thankful and grateful for the journey of changes in this life of mine (it took a long time to fall in love with myself, for example; self-worth/self-respect/self-esteem came late for me, but those things came right when they needed to 👐🏾), some things remain exactly the same for your Square Peg. And I don’t have a problem with that.

  1. sideeyeI still side eye strangers. It’s nice to meet new people. It is. But that nine year-old who barely trusted folks who weren’t mother or father hasn’t completely disappeared. Look: stranger danger is a thing. If we’ve never, ever met, there’s a chance that I’m checking all the exits in case you decide to flip out and/or request something I’d rather not give you, like limbs or kidneys. It is what it is.
  2. I still watch YouTube videos on how to style/wash/manage my natural hair. I returned to natural six years ago. *shrug* One never stops learning. And one forgets. And one finds a bizarre comfort in watching other people wash hair3their hair. And once needs reminders that detangling is a necessity. I mean just because you graduated from school doesn’t mean you don’t still (mind the double negative there) text your old Math teacher to ask her how to calculate percentages, right? Right? Hello? Anyone?
  3. I still use my library card. I haven’t in a while, need a new one for a new state, but I’m a library card believer. Here’s a story for why I consider it a privilege and not a right: my mother had me banned from checking out books from my local librarylibrary when I was about 13 years old. You see, I was a chronic later book returner. Like chronic. I also had this terrible habit of not remembering where I left my books. (Honestly, my mother’s wish that I have a daughter just like me when I was a teenager was appropriate.) As a result, my Mom was usually left with paying my fines. So, one fine day, Mom went to my favorite library and informed the librarians that I was disallowed from using my card until I turned 18. Yes. 18. So. Gangsta. I was heartbroken, wanted to scream and rage at her (but didn’t because I wanted to also live), etc. But it happened. And on my 18th day of birth, I went right to that library and re-applied for a new card. And promptly incurred more fines. But I was a working woman by then, so who was ‘gon check me, boo? (She was. I became much more careful. *nervous laughter*)
  4. dogsI still have my checkbook. Nope, you’re not in Jurassic Park. There aren’t dinosaurs drifting around you. I haven’t written an actual check in many moons, but there are still some companies that ask for your full checking account number with the twenty-five zeroes. Since that number remains unknown to me by memory, I make sure that my check book is somewhere nearby.
  5. I still wear slips. I am the daughter of an African woman. If I stopped wearing them, even despite the distance and states between us, she would know. Of course, honestly, I don’t wear them as much as I did back in the day. If a skirt or dress has lining in it, I opt to not add more fabric to it. But if I wear something thin or could potentially have a moment a la marilynMarilyn Monroe, I will so throw on a half slip. Sure, I’ve had moments recently where I realized, with cold dread, that the thing was slowly descending towards my ankles…but you know what? Panic is good for the soul. Keeps you alive. Not really. I digress. On the off chance that what I’m wearing may expose, uh, exposure, slips are still my go-to.
  6. I’m still salty about the ending of Lost. There’s nothing more to say.
  7. I still believe in the power of good penmanship. Not only do I believe in it, but I openly admire it when I see it. I know no one writes anything down anymore, so yeah, but on the off-chance that I see someone put paper to pen…and do it so well…and use flowy cursive or straight lines…happy sigh. Look, my sixth-grade teacher nearly hit me for not being able to get that cursive ‘r’ just right. Apropos of nothing. But back then, it was important to write well. It just was. Time and technology happen, so this isn’t a diatribe against that (I am typing all of this), but it’s a lost art that I enjoy seeing and doing.
  8. I still can’t end a list with an odd number. If loving even numerals is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Some things never change.

Are you lover of change? Or no? Or both? Or…just tell me.

Bon weekend…

 

Blogvember #22: Choices.(Mission Possible)

This was the photo I used for the back of my recent work of fiction, The Loftiest Thing. I love this photo. For one thing, the trees in the background absolutely fit the title’s theme, which was also one of the stories in the book. Secondly, I think my photographer (who also happens to be a good, longtime friend) captured the joy I felt at having accomplished this latest creative project. The natural lighting, the setting: parfait. 

My third book is on the horizon. Can we pause to celebrate this?


A part of me wants to keep that photo for the back cover. The other part of me wants to change it up. Just because change is always refreshing, and I think this third book represents some of the changes I’ve made with how I want to present my art. Below are the three photos I’m considering. 


Your mission, if you choose to accept it (and why wouldn’t you? You love me, right?): what say you? Pick the photo you like the most and tell me your option in the comments. I’m partial to all three of them, so I’m no help. The most-picked will win and I’ll make it my back photo. 

Happy choosing on my behalf…

breathe deeply.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest.

Why I walk through the stacks and inhale. 

Why I meander through libraries and bookstores, often with no intention of reading or buying, just trailing my fingers down endless rows of spines and consuming the sweet aroma of books. 

Why books can be desserts, too.

(I dedicate this post to my beloved Ms. Lindquist, who let me escape the battleground of recess (when you’re shy and slow and new to the area, recess becomes a battleground) by letting me make a home in the library while the other kids played. In there, I discovered stories about girls like me, about faraway places, about adventures and pesky little sisters, and everything in between. Ms. L., You opened up my world.)