Sunday, November 21, 2010

Seeking Junior PR|Creative Branding Interns

Boutique PR|Marketing agency seeks split fee + commission interns to assist on preexisting media accounts and to prospect for new business. We are a growing entertainment, health care, and literary agency. Our clients include a range of local, regional and national artists, entrepreneurs and authors.

As an intern you will have hands-on experience crafting press releases, pitching clients to the media, media outreach and proposal writing. We offer great opportunities for learning and experience that will give successful candidates a major advantage in their careers. We expect the best from you.

Among the must-haves: great writing skills, an interest in the design/creative aspects of PR and marketing, an enthusiasm to learn, outstanding organizational skills, a strong knowledge of social media, professional phone skills, a dynamic “people” personality, and--most importantly--the desire to (and an understanding of what it means to) work as part of a small professional team.

Please send your cover letter explaining why you are the best candidate for this position, resume and two PR|marketing writing samples to Junior PR Intern Application. A background or ongoing education in public relations, communications or journalism is required.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Junior Sales Agents


We are looking for several part-time commission sales agents to join our PR/Marketing agency. The compensation is sales-based. The first ten sales will pay $20 each, the next 5 at $25 each, the next five sales at $30 each until the max of $60 per sale.

There is no base pay. Compensation will be commission only.

The agent must have excellent written English, able to follow instructions and  willing to make weekly reports of sales and lead-generation efforts.

The ideal candidate is:

Driven
Hard-working
Diligent
Have a knack for offering superior customer service
Have a strong sales background with a proven track record
Be internet-savvy
Have a reliable internet connection
Be fluent in written and spoken English
Be able to generate own leads

Sales agents will be expected to generate leads and make sales. Earning potential is dependent upon performance.

Please forward cover letter and resume to Junior Sales Agent.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

An Ideal Writing Workshop Member

All art is connected on some level. All humans, too, are connected in minute and major ways if only we pay attention to each other. My initial goal was to unite creative writers in my living room who'd form a loose literary chain gang, with the sole purpose of nurturing and uplifting the person sitting next to them.

I've written on this blog about how I formed Morningside Writers Group, so need to revisit it. This post is to lay bare the disappointment and in other instances, anger, I feel after a workshop participant bails on the group ceremoniously or whimpers out like a deflated balloon. Past members have had to choose between their spouses, family, or friends who didn't believe in and support their creative journey toward personal fulfillment, or prior to the ease and prevalence of POD publishers, navigating the traditional obstacle course of agents, editors, and mainstream book publishers that might result in publishing a short story collection or novel.

Writing workshops are for mature, responsible individuals who need a creative community to lean on, learn from, to co-teach, and be held accountable. Writing workshops aren't for clichéd people who believe they'll find publishing success, dead or alive, at the bottom of a shot glass or beer bottle. Drunken and drugged out artists and writers are wretched stereotypes.

Writing workshops aren't social or civic clubs. Writing is an individual pursuit, even when collaborating with others. In those instances, each team member has to know who they are, what they're writing, and most important - why they're writing. If it's for instant fame and celebrity, that fool will soon be disillusioned. Writing workshops aren't group therapy sessions or places to idle away free time after work or on the weekends. 

Before applying to a writing workshop, not a how-to writing class, a person should have a body of work as would a photographer, painter, or sculptor.

Writers create and recreate worlds on the page and screen, similar to a photographer closing a camera's shutter at the right moment to capture an image that existed then. Writing is a snapshot, a moment when an individual is open to the invisible and seemingly impossible.


An ideal writing workshop member is an avid reader across several genres who specializes in at least one. S/he is an expert or soon becomes on the inner workings and window dressings of literary or commercial fiction, screenwriting, or personal essays. My on-the-job training and process as founder and moderator, while not perfect, has worked for the last seven years. I strive weekly to improve and strengthen the mission statement so that Morningside Writers Group remains relevant for those seriously pursuing publication and production.

I'm hopeful each time I read a promising application, optimistic during the first few weeks of a new member's acceptance and joining, and temporarily saddened when a participant (a) flakes out (b) stops producing quality writing (c) habitually late submitting work for discussion (d) disrespect others in the group or (e) realizes s/he lacks the discipline and drive to publish.

It angers me when a participant in a cowardly move, sends an e-mail resignation rather than have the decency to (a) discuss concerns in person or on the phone or (b) try to negotiate realistic changes if need be. This strikes at my core and goes against the foundation of the workshop. Despite the mistaken notion that a departure isn't personal, it is. I wonder if the person's  telling the truth for their resignation, and if there was anything I could have done to salvage the membership. I know that everyone doesn't feel the same about the workshop as I do, but please have respect for fellow workshop members who've invested countless hours reading, marking-up, and preparing discussion notes for a submission. The defector is bailing on the entire workshop roster, not just me. I'm the glue that holds everything together. I've developed a thicker skin in latter years and am able to rebound faster than some others.

No self-respecting person wants to have coffee, send submissions for feedback, or hangout after such cowardice. Wasn't that the initial reason you applied for and later joined the writing workshop?

A workshop is in service of the majority, not one or two misguided snobs who want the majority to tailor to their whims. I've never done well with cliques, and abhor prejudice and discrimination. My creative DNA is comprised of inclusion, not exclusion based on different writing genres or creative outlets. Why then would I create an elitist workshop, application requirements notwithstanding?

I'm overdue to step off the merry-go-round and devote more time to writing and submitting, and less as a wet-nurse to those that are careless and insensitive. My biggest challenge is that I'm a mentor and rescuer, but I must modify my behavior to ensure I that I, too, achieve my multi-book publishing goals. Family and friends have warned me that I'm a glutton for punishment, taking in doe-eyed strays I'd be better off passing by. I've been told I need to become a bit selfish, and put my creative writing and directing pursuits first, and everyone would follow my lead. I'm not currently built that way. I must find a healthy compromise.

How do you deal with the crazymakers in your creative life? I'd love to hear from you in the comment section below.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Summer and Fall Writing Workshops

Morningside Writers Group offers flexible and affordable 12, 16, or 24 workshop sessions for writers of literary fiction, mass market fiction, speculative/horror/fantasy genre fiction, creative nonfiction/memoir, stage/screen/TV.

Writers interested in our fiction workshop, apply here.

Writers interested in our returning adult/stage II fiction workshop, apply here.

Writers interested in our creative nonfiction/memoir workshop, apply here.

Writers interested in our screenwriting/playwriting/TV pilot workshop, apply here.

The main purpose of the group is to provide necessary feedback to other writers prior to submitting to editors, agents, publishers, and contests. We are most interested in helping each other further writing careers.

Morningside Writers Group is listed among other regional writing groups, writing centers, and workshops that offers alternatives to a full time MFA degree program in the April 2009 Cover Story in the Writer Magazine, The L Magazine, and most recently in Time Out New York.



Read it! timeoutnewyork.com

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Writing House Built on Solid Ground

Morningside Writers Group has changed over the years, and so have I as its founder and moderator. The idea was borne out of frustration because I didn't feel comfortable in what I call puppy mill writing classes and workshops. It's similar K-12 education of one teacher and [too] many students. Creative people, in order to be successful, need a smaller moderator to workshop participant ratio. 

Successful athletes and sports teams have specialized coaches for hitting, serving, and fitness. Why then shouldn't writers and other creative artists have an intimate setting to develop and hone their craft? 

That was and continues to be my motivation for Morningside. I complained years ago to my mother about not having a creative community to join, and in her own loving and direct way said, "Stop complaining, create your own." I did that after a few bumps and scrapes, temporary public embarrassments, and home-schooling myself on the better points of establishing mobile creative communities. 

Each year presents a new challenge, whether it's too many women in a particular workshop, or a writer violating the nondisclosure agreement and sharing a participant's work with a non-member. There are no how-to books for an urban workshop because it comes down to individual talent, focus, and goals. If a writer wants to get published, self-published or the traditional route, s/he will do so. 

My biggest complaint past and present is noncommittal writers who have the notion to write, but lack the determination to sit, stand, or lounge daily with their writing pad or laptop. Equally troubling is that some are talented writers, but are too easily distracted by the daily hiccups that happen in life. 

Is it too lofty a request that workshop participants carve out half the time I devote to keeping Morningside operating smoothly, sometimes to the detriment of my own writing? The cliché, "If you build it, they will come," is different for me. I have built a writing workshop on solid ground, but few have the self-discipline to sustain themselves and their writing for more than a few months.  I have built it, and the majority walk through the front door and out of the back door to parts unknown. Some have had undisclosed medical or mental challenges, were married and started a family, and in one bizarre instance a jealous spouse who gave her husband an ultimatum -- It's them or me. Imagine.

I've thought about hanging up my moderator's baseball cap and relocating to upstate New York or out of the country to Salamanca, Spain, bug-eyed, writing successive manuscripts and screenplays, but I can't isolate myself. I was meant to found Morningside Writers Group in New York City, and we've had decent success with a few writers going on to MFA programs, book deals, and publication.

What I now want from all current participants and potential applicants is for them to stand in their full length bathroom or hallway mirror and ask: "Do I have what it takes to participate in a writing workshop weekly, monthly, and yearly?" 

Or thinking back to an old interview with Glenn Ford on the Merv Griffin show when asked for advice for aspiring actors, he said, "Take a writing pad, pen, and a flashlight, lock yourself in a closet for two hours. On that pad write anything and everything you could be if you couldn't be an actor. If at the end of those two hours there's anything on your pad, go do it, because you don't have the dedication it takes to be an actor." 

I'd offer the same advice. What's on your writing pad after two hours locked in a closet? Do you have the discipline and dedication it takes to be a writer?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

PR for Fitness Professionals


New York City is filled with countless personal trainers, yoga instructors, masseurs, and boot-camp instructors in various parks throughout the summer and fall.

How do you cut through the din and establish yourself as a premiere offering and trusted professional? The fitness and healthcare industries have embraced the most popular forms of online media, collateral, and creative marketing.

How do you differentiate who you are and what you offer among the pack of well-intentioned competitors?

The first step would be a consultation with an experienced publicist/marketer, versed in creating and sustaining creative and business careers across various demographics. This consultation would focus on sorting through who you are and what you do, and how best to capitalize for an increased return on investment (ROI).

Subsequent steps would entail building your online and hard copy marketing collateral which includes press photos, creating a logo and business card, promo sheets and rate cards, creating a website, and developing and implementing a strategic PR/Marketing Campaign. We also offer customized Event Planning and promotions.

Contact us for the next logical step in establishing and advancing your career!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

[JOB] Bilingual Spanish PR Agents

Boutique PR|Marketing agency seeks Bilingual Spanish split fee + commission interns to assist on preexisting media accounts and to prospect for new business. We are a growing entertainment, health care, and literary agency. Our clients include a range of local, regional and national artists, entrepreneurs and authors.

As an intern you will have hands-on experience crafting press releases, pitching clients to the media, media outreach and proposal writing.

We offer great opportunities for learning and experience that will give successful candidates a major advantage in their careers. In exchange, we expect the best from you.

Among the must-haves: great writing skills, an interest in the design/creative aspects of PR and marketing, an enthusiasm to learn, outstanding organizational skills, a strong knowledge of social media, professional phone skills, a dynamic “people” personality, and--most importantly--the desire to (and an understanding of what it means to) work as part of a small professional team.


Please send your cover letter explaining why you are the best candidate for this position, resume and two PR|marketing writing samples to Bilingual PR Agent. A background or ongoing education in public relations, communications, or journalism is required.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Anatomy of a Successful Writing Workshop

When I first decided to organize a critique workshop, I didn't know heads or tails about forming a group in the publishing capital of the world. What did I know about interviewing and screening potential workshop members without insights into human nature, psychology, or human resources training?

I'd reached the point in my life when I had transitioned from auditioning, cattle calls, and acting to other. I'd been in collaborative creative environments as an actor, the school band, member of the glee club, and probably thought I'd always rely on others to initiate a project. 

My earliest writing was personal, not meant for public eyes and scrutiny. I read and wanted to work through the Artist's Way, but I was terrified to go to those spiritual and emotional places the author suggested for deeper writing that would unleash a waterfall of creativity and connection or reconnection to the universe and/or a higher power. My foundation was biblical, not touchy feely, writing letters to myself or to those who I felt wronged me and blocked my creative path. The book would require lowering and eventually removing my actor's masks.  

The original goal was to a create a collaborative writing workshop to improve my writing and eventually find an agent and get published. It was easiest to plan a screenwriting and playwriting group back then. Fiction was an unmanageable beast. Writing for the stage or screen was more direct and second nature for me. I thought it was similar to being a carpenter and stage manager.  

I can't recall now how I recruited the various would-be, never would-be, and promising writers. I remember my small living room filled with bodies in folding chairs, squeezed onto the loveseat, snacks on the coffee table, and the mess the participants left in their wake. On second thought, I most likely recruited people from the last few plays and independent films I appeared in or worked on. Most meetings were held in my apartment until folks began complaining about traveling to the Upper West Side. The fair thing to do was alternate among members' homes or office conference rooms, which later proved problematic not only because of the trek to the outer reaches of Brooklyn or Queens, plus all weren't committed and would show up. 

I felt something was missing. But what could it be? Was I getting in over my head? Should there be more structure? Should I separate the genres into different groups? Should there be safe words and boundaries as there are in therapy or in a dimly-lit room of pleasure and pain? I dismissed these questions as soon I registered them. I didn't want to tip the already shaky canoe.

I didn't know how I would proceed, but I did. I knew on some level that I should stick with it one day at a time. Morningside Writers Group felt right in my bones. I named the group because of my proximity to a once-derelict park that was being refurbished. What now seems symbolic didn't occur to me until years later. A novel or any other creative writing is a pile of leaves, branches, dried soil in need of watering, discarded syringes, and pill bottles. The city and park volunteers sorted and cleaned debris and restored Morningside Park. How many manuscripts begin the same way and are helped through a workshop process? 


The first year was bumpy and emotionally taxing, yet I pushed through the bad behavior, withdrawals, and need for organization and bylaws. Oftentimes I thought about walking away and strengthening my writing in solitude. Over successive months and years, I enrolled in several writing workshops, but none worked for me. I felt that I was on a factory conveyor belt. I kept coming back to my idea my idea of creating an intimate writing salon closer to my Southwestern sensibilities. 

To overcome the early false starts, I had to return to my stage acting core accustomed to research and script analysis. I looked for articles and books on critiquing, editing, copyediting, writing groups, and creative communities. The two books that stood out were Immediate Fiction and Writing Alone and With Others, and a series of technical, business, and creative PDFs.  

All research and theory don't make for an enduring and successful writing workshop. I'd have to put my findings into action with a new group of strangers who might not share my beliefs and publication goals. After I regrouped, the meetings were better because I knew things about myself, writing, and the applicants that I hadn't before. 

I set a bar of excellence that I'd have to achieve along with the others. I read everything I could get my hands on, subscribing to several mail-order bookclubs, literary, and writing magazines. I had to become a home-schooled literature professor in a matter of months, versed in popular and obscure fiction, scripts, and memoirs. I had to distinguish between mediocre, good, and excellent writing. I had to guide others toward more polished drafts. 
The writers would have to have a common set of protocol when evaluating manuscripts and offering constructive feedback. The writers would have to share a vocabulary and representation and publication goals.  

I had a huge learning curve because I took people and the application process too seriously. I had to become less of a father and scout leader, and more of a moderator and business owner. I had to overcome my fear of failure and plod through to the end of each new workshop until I found my footing. It was difficult to say no to unqualified candidates, and tougher still to read angry e-mails and forum postings afterward.

I'm a better moderator now because I developed a thick skin and focus on who and what matters, and ignore the petty stuff that only results in headaches and heartburn. If someone complains about not being accepted, I don't internalize and dwell on the attack. I've created multi-genre professional workshops and writing classes that have recurring yearly participants. Morningside isn't for everyone, and I've learned to live with that. It can't be all things to all people, and it shouldn't be.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Seeking Business Development Manager & Marketing Team

Corporate Legal and Entertainment Management company seeks virtual and local marketing team.

Seeking experienced commissioned Business Development Manager, preferably with a legal background, but will consider all applicants, two commissioned Junior Business Development Managers, and two commissioned Marketing Interns

Job duties will include:
  • Generating and closing legal and entertainment management sales leads.
  • Developing business relationships law schools and firms.
  • Recruiting personnel, training materials and HR follow up and file maintenance.
  • Developing proposals, marketing materials, and affiliate B to B marketing.
Interested applications please forward a cover letter and resume to OGC Application

Thanks in advance for your interest!
 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Finding My Voice

I once dreamed of the bright lights of Broadway because I felt at home on stage in someone else's life during rehearsals and the duration of the play. It seems I've always been on a stage or raised dais of some sort as an actor, speech tournament, at church, or standing up for my younger brothers and cousins. In all these past roles, it could have been easy to have gotten lost, overwhelmed, or angry. 

Acting was an escape, and sometimes shedding the character I'd spent so much time creating was akin to losing a part of my soul. Inhabiting a life with a different set of challenges was enticing whether I was a homeless vagabond for Thanksgiving in a junior high school production, or a teen street hustler in an off-Broadway theatre on Restaurant Row.

An actor's training is invaluable, and I recommend at least one intensive acting workshop if only to test emotional and spiritual boundaries. I could be young or old, American or foreign-born with the proper dialect training and rehearsals. There's no such protective and nurturing cocoon in real life outside a familial home. It's usually trial and error, emphasis on the errors. There are no do-overs.

I didn't know I was a good actor, or I should say accept I was a good actor until others begin complimenting. I knew the ghouls and demons that haunted and taunted me at home or on the school playground, and used them as fuel as an actor. I was strong on stage and later film, whereas such bravery didn't come as easily outside the rehearsal space or performances. 

I sought shelter in other worlds that were less painful than my own. My directors and fellow cast members didn't judge me as did my family, classmates, or churchgoers. They didn't need to really, I was doing a great job ostracizing myself in the full length bathroom mirror. The make-believe shielded and comforted not unlike Granny's hugs and kisses on my forehead before walking to school. 

Initially it was difficult to separate myself from the characters I played on stage and go to the next class when the school bell sounded or return home and deal with my parents who either refused to or didn't understand and accept that I was different. I wouldn't grow up to play sports, walk on the moon, or cure a disease.

Acting took on a new meaning in my second high school. It was at my predominantly white, racially-mixed school that acting and actors looked and behaved unlike before. Perhaps it was the big fish from a previous small pond floundering in a large sea of high school angst, new racial tensions, prejudices, and competition. Mr. Hudson and Dr. Owens weren't there to guide me and give historical and cultural context to my characters. They were replaced by a musical theatre maven coach who begrudgingly complimented me and never cast me or the other three black students in advanced theatre class in a lead role.  

It was in high school that I got a crash course in the underside of Hollywood that I now know changed the prism through which I saw auditioning and acting. Acting was no longer pure or raw for me on too many levels. It was and remains far more complex than any character I've created. I think the best actors suffer from a form of acting schizophrenia. How else could we do what we do?  

Years later after I endured one too many sexual advances or accidental touches, I walked away from acting, not because I no longer had talent or wanted to perform, it all became too much for me. I know others who've done the same and have become successful in other aspects within the industry or hover nearby. Once bitten by the acting bug, it's not easy to leave wholeheartedly. Performance training and acting have come in handy in the past when I taught MS Office Suite in corporate America, worked on a help desk, taught Pre-GED/GED in an inner city educational nonprofit, or the bane of most New York and LA city actors, hotels and restaurants.

I no longer regret having left the New York cattle call grind because it was part of my journey. I don't rule out returning to the stage or film as an actor, playwright, screenwriter, director or producer. Maybe an admixture of all as a number of others have done and continue to do. 

I've arrived at this point in my life as founder and creative director of Morningside Writers Group and founder and account generator (among my many hats) of Keneritz Media because it's my natural progression. What better place to be than a writing community to help shape the next crop of plays, screenplays, short stories and novels that might be adapted to film and collaborate with production companies and producers? What better place to be than surrounded by talented singer-songwriters, artists, and small businesses that need a Pied Piper to lead them to their next logical step? 

This is my voice. I am many faces and things to different people, and if not for my schizophrenic acting training, I'd be one-dimensional and unable to handle and nurture the revolving door of writers and artists that have and will cycle through both of my creative enterprises.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Summer 2010 Writing Workshops

Morningside Writers Group offers flexible and affordable 12 or 24 workshop sessions for writers of literary fiction, mass market fiction, speculative/horror/fantasy genre fiction, creative nonfiction/memoir, stage/screen/TV.

Writers interested in our fiction workshop, apply here.

Writers interested in our returning adult/stage II fiction workshop, apply here.

Writers interested in our creative nonfiction/memoir workshop, apply here.

Writers interested in our screenwriting/playwriting/TV pilot workshop, apply here.

The main purpose of the group is to provide necessary feedback to other writers prior to submitting to editors, agents, publishers, and contests. We are most interested in helping each other further writing careers.

Morningside Writers Group is listed among other regional writing groups, writing centers, and workshops that offers alternatives to a full time MFA degree program in the April 2009 Cover Story in the Writer Magazine, The L Magazine, and most recently in Time Out New York.



Saturday, May 15, 2010

New York Virtual Law Firm Hiring

New NYC-based virtual law firm is seeking a Business Development Start Up team for an initial one-week commitment and ongoing maintenance and consultation. 

Seeking experienced recruitment/HR personnel, virtual and on-site administrative assistants, programmers/coders, technical support, graphic and web designers, commissioned sales representatives, and legal PR and marketing staff

Job duties will include:
Graphic, logo, and website design.
Basic web application/forms coding.
Recruiting personnel, training materials and HR follow up and file maintenance.
Developing proposals, marketing materials, and affiliate B to B marketing.

Stipend available, approved business-related expenses with receipts will be reimbursed, and residualized commissions. 

Interested applications please forward a cover letter and resume to OGC Application. Graphic and web designers please include link to online portfolio. PR/Marketing applicants please include two previous writing samples (Ex: press release, social media case study, proposal, grant, or sponsorship/endorsement letter). 

Thanks in advance for your interest!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Call for UWS Artists & Writers

Brooklyn simply can't corner the Arts market in NYC without a fight. At least that is how some of us west of the Park feel. That being said, it's time that we establish a footing in this neighborhood.

Our objective is this: we seek to foster and sustain an interest in Writing and the Arts by developing a consortium of like minds and ultimately building a community we can be proud of.

Ideally we'd like to meet monthly to discuss initiatives to share/promote our work, extend our reach and uphold artistic relevance around these parts.

Sound like a plan? If you are a writer or artist that lives on the Upper West Side, and if you find this type of syndicate interesting, please contact us so we can begin a dialogue. Don't forget to include a little note about yourself and what you do.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

You Might Have A Stalker If . . .

All the years I've moderated and participated in Morningside Writers Group didn't prepare me for a would-be workshop member stalker. I know that nerves are usually part of the screening process, but never in my writer's imagination would I have scripted what happened.

I interviewed an applicant for the fiction group earlier this year. It was an easy conversation. We sat for about an hour and half because I wasn’t pressed for time as I am on most days.

I’d arrived earlier to stake out a chair – it’s Starbucks, so you know it’s usually crowded.

I placed my jacket on the high chair next to me at the window bar to hold the seat for her.

She arrived and asked if it was okay to place her jacket atop mine. Innocent enough, I thought, and we proceeded to meet and greet, talk about Morningside.

This is where it gets murky.

At some point during our interview or immediately thereafter as she stood to put on her jacket – her hand accidentally (yes, I said accidentally) falls, slips into my pocket and out with my keys into her pocket or purse unknown to me.

Confusion ensues after the fact. How in the hell did she NOT realize that she’d accidentally slipped her hand into my pocket and had my keys in her fingers?

Off she went in one direction, and I to the new grocery store next door to Starbucks uptown, and then on to C-Town.

It wasn’t until I was standing on the front stoop, hand in pocket, three full grocery bags at my feet did I realize I didn’t have my keys where I remember they were when I locked my apartment door on the way to meet her.

I turned my pockets, jacket, backpack, anything within sight upside down and inside out. No keys.

I looked around for the crew of Punk’d. Nope. Didn’t see Ashton or Demi nearby, and then I panic. ( I still don’t know that she has my keys on her person and on the way home.)

I called my roommate. Refused to return my mother’s call from earlier. I am a big boy. This is silly. My keys, well, they fell into my backpack, somehow, right?

Off I go back to Starbucks and one of the two grocery stores. Scavenger hunt revealed nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Crazy thought. What if somehow (the applicant) picked up my keys from the inside of my jacket when she pulled her waist coat from mine? I called, left voice mail sounding every bit uncertain and embarrassed. It felt accusatory.

I call mom by this point. I’m certain someone’s followed me, knows where I live, and will rob me.

The applicant returns my call. She was apologetic and offered to meet me in the city to hand over the keys. I was just happy that they weren’t lost.

Harp music …..

Roommate drives me to Time Warner Center to meet her and pick up the keys. She’s profusely apologetic, again. She has to make it up to me. I must let her make it up to me. I refused. It’s an honest mistake (right, I ask myself).

She doesn’t relent. No, you must let me make it up to you. Okay, I say. Maybe just coffee or a small token … (back inside my head) You really don’t have to. She doesn’t back down until I agree to dinner. I joked, well, my birthday is next month.

On the down the escalator she says, "At least you’ll remember me now."

Cue theme from Fatal Attraction.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Joy of Teaching

I never imagined I would be an Adult Continuing Education and GED instructor when I was child in Houston. I had no desire to teach. My mind and heart were fixed on the bright lights of Broadway, and I thought I'd eventually relocate to Los Angeles and work in television and film. If anything, I would have probably taught acting workshops and once I felt qualified, I would directed and taught other directors. 

I think the best teachers are actors and directors, for no other reason could we lead and inspire various personalities, skill sets, and appease parents. Apart from helping classmates in school, younger siblings, and later their children with multiplication tables and personal essays, I didn't think of myself as a teacher. That changed when I relocated to New York and was between jobs as most actors and freelancers tend to be. I responded to an online ad for GED instructors in Spanish Harlem, and didn't know the first thing about formal instruction.

The job description called for a focused, dedicated, and energetic education professional. The only thing that wasn't on my resume was certified teaching gigs. I was accustomed to casting calls, cold readings, and convincing someone that I was right for the part. How different could this potential job be once I learned my role teaching inner city teens and adults?  

I was to prepare a fifteen-minute lesson, and if the students didn't like me, I'd be on my way. My former boss stood nervously in the door as I passed out handouts, loosened my tie, and set about my mock training and part two of the job interview. What felt like an hour, was in reality twenty minutes. We locked eyes and she gave the hand signal to continue because I had a captive audience. 

In a matter of a week I was to become an instructor, sensitive to high school dropouts and adults who had long since abandoned their education to marry, raise a family, and coincidentally put their children through school. 

Walking across town once a week with my three-ring binder in my backpack, I never knew what to expect, and which students would attend having understood and completed their assignments. Some students complained that the work was too difficult, while others didn't have resources to buy classroom supplies and were embarrassed to say so. 

I was getting an informal education not afforded me in the Houston suburbs. There were days I felt square and out completely out of touch, but I forged ahead with Shakespeare, Alice Munro, Chinua Achebe, The Elements of Style, and The Elements of Grammar. I was determined to expose my students, level the playing field, somehow. 

A few of my fondest memories. Being called Mister, which of course reminded me of Sidney Poitier. My female students, no big stretch there, embraced learning and oftentimes challenged the male students. The time some of my former students offered to walk me home after a disruptive student threatened to beat me up because he didn't understand an assignment, and felt by pommeling me into a pulp, would make it and me go away.

I miss my students and that first storefront GED workshop. I then moved on to two community centers and two nights a week when my former boss relocated to new educational nonprofits. I miss creating weekly lesson plans, the smell of the dry erase markers, and seeing the look on a student's face when the light bulb pops on. Teaching a class is different than being a writing workshop moderator, but I use a similar toolkit.

All isn't lost. I recently began teaching Stage II Fiction Workshop for writers ages thirty-nine to sixty. I look forward to hitting my stride again, but with fewer students who happen to have formal education.  

Who are your favorite teachers? What did they do to inspire you? What are your best school memories? 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Lambs to the Slaughter

I've known several willing, beguiled, and accidental lambs to the slaughter, but none have unnerved me more than one of my closest friends over the last few years. Once thought to be solely naive, and would eventually snap out of it, he hasn't in the five years I've known him. I'm not his keeper. He's not my responsibility, but it's troubling to see him stand in line, bleat, and place his exposed neck beneath the butcher's axe weekly or even daily. 

I think his sacrificial tendencies have their roots in his religious upbringing. He was raised to fear God, sacrifice for his fellow man, woman, or child, and do his best to follow biblical teachings. I'm all for helping, temporarily, those who can't manage their affairs, but I draw the line at being a glutton for misplaced religious ideals and beliefs. It's not poking fun at another person's core, but an examination of how people can be lead astray for something unseen and higher. It's as if those who've come before us failed, and want to live vicariously through their books and teachings, hoping that the next generation will get it right. 

I've sat or stood, mouth agape at many of the precarious situations where he'd willingly walk into the butcher's shop, perhaps thinking that time would yield different results. I used to think his blind faith was enviable, something lacking in me, something that I should strive for in my own life. My chemistry is different. I don't have the innate ability to repeatedly put myself in danger. In recent times, it has become so bad that I play peekaboo. I can't bear to look but for a few seconds and then must turn away. I lower my head into my hands, again, perhaps in silent prayer. Dear God, Almighty,what is this,Your child, doing? 

Each time, and there have been numerous, that he's been tricked, he rebukes the charlatan to all high heaven. God will rain down retribution simply because someone yet again took full advantage of his lack of common sense, social skills, or deep-seeded religious beliefs. Oftentimes it has been and continues to be a wicked combination of the three. I marvel at his predicaments, other times I feel sorry. Can someone truly be that gullible and hard-headed as not to have figured out in adulthood that there are real bogeymen? 

In an unconcerned manner-unaware of the impending catastrophe. This is the online definition for lambs to the slaughter. To further expound on this: to live as if you've no cares in the world, and that your family, friends, or spouse will grant you infinite do-overs despite the near-countless times you've been warned about the same foolhardy lapses in judgment and mistakes. How can you not be aware of an impending disaster if you've done that same thing or followed a similar pattern before? Are you hoping for different results with a different person? Does the hair on your arms or back of your neck not rise, alerting you to danger like Spiderman? 

It's exhausting being friends with willing sacrificial lambs. I've learned recently not to scold, but remain stoic, sympathetic half-smile about my face, trying not to project across my forehead in circulating Broadway lights: No, not again. You didn't walk into the the lion's den baring gifts? You knew you'd be eaten or at least maimed? Wait for it. Braying. Rebuking. Flailing of arms. Swearing that he won't be taken advantage of, again. Wait. Flawed innocence  of a child sets in, and the immediate surroundings fall silent. Each time this ritual takes place, my heart breaks less. Not out of indifference, but I can't traverse that weathered road often.  

I feel guilty sometimes, but hope and pray that my friend and others like him will wake up one day and poof ... will be sharp and savvy, unable to be taken so easily. I don't know how much longer I'll be able to witness from arm's length the multitude of mishaps and avoidable snares my dear friend steps into regularly. 

"Vanna, I'd like to solve the puzzle, please!"

Monday, April 05, 2010

Seeking P/T Male Admin Assistant

Home-based male business owner seeks male assistant solely because I work from home and know it might be off-putting for a female assistant to work in such close proximity, otherwise I'd be open to either a female or male.

The ideal assistant is organized, thorough, versed in MS Office (Word, Excel, Power Point, and Access), types at least 40 wpm, speaks clear and fluent English with no accent. Bonus if assistant is in fact bilingual (English/Spanish) as some tasks might include Spanish-language negotiations.

The initial weekly hours might fluctuate (ten to fifteen hours over three weekdays), but will stabilize within the next six to nine weeks as business continues to grow and assistant shows his mettle.

I'm looking for an admin assistant interested in publishing, media, entertainment, and talent booking, with an aptitude for numbers. Some tasks will include drafting business correspondence, proofreading, copywriting, making cold calls, and eventually booking singers, bands, and event planning.

Potential assistant should have wireless enabled laptop to work from living room or kitchen table. Home-cooked lunch can be provided some days. Please send cover letter, résumé, and two writing samples (business and creative) with the Subject: Administrative Assistant here.

Thanks in advance.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Landlords from Hades

I've lived in my apartment and perhaps New York City far longer than I thought  would when I relocated to the East Coast years ago. When I packed my dreams, fears, insecurities, and Texas mementos into several suitcases and two footlockers, I wanted to flee from Houston. The only plan I had was to land on my feet and figure things out as a I went along. An actor skilled in improvisation, and a bit of a showman, my primary concern was the cold weather. 

As a young child and teen, we moved many times in a few years, less than other classmates, but still disorienting all the same. I think the anxiety set in back then and has remained one of my preoccupations. I don't like moving because of minor issues as my mother seemed to do. I've a faint memory of returning from school one evening to an announcement and cardboard boxes that we were moving to a new apartment complex.

My mother was my first landlord from hell when she kicked my younger brother and I out, I was barefoot, dazed, and just knew that I was the victim of a sick joke or test of loyalty. I remember standing in the parking lot outside that apartment trying to process what had happened. 

I spoke up. That's what happened. My younger brother had did something that she didn't like. Into our bedroom she brayed, not quite foaming at the mouth, leather belt in flight as he cowered on my bed filled with wire hangers. Whatever he'd said or done to her, his being potentially paralyzed by hanger wasn't worth her rage. I might have raised my voice. I had to, or else she wouldn't have heard me. She had to whip him, and might have caused irreversible damage . . .

There we stood in the Houston night, looking at each other, and intermittently at mother's bedroom window at my underage pregnant cousin our mother felt obligated to mother because she'd always wanted a daughter. It might have been a few seconds or minutes, but they both stood staring out at us. 

Time passed, and she allowed me back inside long enough to put on shoes, dump our clothes inside a large black garbage bag, and phone someone to pick us up. Successive calls to relatives, "That's your momma, and I ain't getting into that. She's crazy." Click. Dial tone. It wasn't until I phoned her then best friend that was someone willing to drive the ten miles between granny's neighborhood and our home to transport us safely. I remember the expression on her face when the car eased to a stop in the parking lot. It was as if she thought, "Damn, they got away!" I didn't know how to process my mother's reaction. I later realized she needed to be needed, feel validated as a person and our mother, but didn't have the vocabulary for it. 

Codependent parents aren't the same as some landlords. Landlords need tenants to rent or purchase apartments, condominiums, or split-level townhouses. My first nasty piece of work was in New Jersey. I lived in a below-street-level studio as big as a broom closet. My inaugural winter was brutal. I had to sleep with the oven on and opened, underneath an electric blanket, with a portable electric heater nearby. Had the pilot light gone out overnight, I could've died from gas inhalation. 

Leapfrog through time. After several unsuccessful attempts of polite asking, and a housing inspector that visited on a warm and sunny winter day when the indoor temperature registered the minimum legal, I withheld rent and was later summoned to court wherein I was ordered to pay by a specified day or face eviction. No way. I wasn't going to pay a lump sum while I could see my frosted breath before me at night in the bathroom. I'd long-since stopped using the oven as a heat source.  

Pressed for time, I called in sick, ignored my mother's pleas to return to Houston, and set about looking for a new apartment. I was successful thanks to the aforementioned improvisational acting skills. White lies notwithstanding, I was happy I'd found a place before my lump sum payment due date. Two local Jersey friends and I moved the contents of my studio in Pathmark grocery carts.

There wasn't a moment to spare. We made one final trip to double-check, by which time the constable had padlocked and brandished the front door with a yellow eviction notice. 

My second apartment was all but uneventful save for the noisy next door neighbor who blasted his Spanish music well into the night, and on occasion would trip the circuit breaker located inside my kitchen. He'd bang on the door or our adjoining wall in the ground floor apartment. "My friend, my friend, I gottee no lights!"  

My nominee and winner of Landlord from Hell is the ghoul I've rented from since time immemorial. If it were a musical, they'd be the slimy couple from Les Miserables, and heaven knows they've made my life throughout the years, hell. Exhibit A: the building was without gas for several months and they were too lazy and cheap to do anything about it. I reported them to the NY housing police after wrestling with the decision, unsure of the consequences. I was within my rights to report the lack of a building necessity, but I should've filed the report anonymously. They three-way called me and proceeded to call me everything but a child of God. How dare I tattle on them! 

This man told me a few weeks ago that I was the worst tenant: unapproachable, unfriendly, loud, and a few other vile things. Apparently I'm the building pariah that no one wants around, and it's only because of my former female roommate who flashed her breasts and sat provocatively with her legs slightly apart that we were given the apartment. I knew he didn't like me, and she made no secret of it. I had the credit rating, money in the bank, and a fulltime job at a reputable company. I was an ideal tenant in theory for a landlord with a vacancy. I fell short with the failed lounge singer because I didn't have breasts. I've accumulated a list of cosmetic and necessary repairs over the years that he refuses, conveniently forgets, and recently learned two new words: capital improvement.

I hate being at the mercy of others, but know that it might happen again. I need to learn better coping skills to deal with the power hungry, unsavory characters, and the temporarily blinded and insane.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stage II Fiction Group: 40-60 y.o. writers

Morningside Writers Group announces a new workshop for writers age forty to sixty, set to begin early to mid April, and will meet on Wednesday evenings, 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm in Midtown Manhattan, for 24 sessions.

We're seeking workshop-experienced and/or published writers. The group is a supportive network|critique workshop|sounding board.

We’re a diverse group and welcome people from all walks of life. Join us!

The main purpose of the group is to provide necessary feedback to other writers prior to submitting to editors, agents, publishers, and contests. We are most interested in helping each other further our writing careers. To learn more about us, please visit: http://www.morningsidewriters.com

Interested writers visit the application link here: http://morningsidewriters.com/fiction/fiction_application.html

Morningside Writers Group is listed among other regional writing groups, writing centers, and workshops that offers alternatives to a full time MFA degree program in the April 2009 Cover Story in the Writer Magazine, The L Magazine, and most recently in Time Out New York.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Black History Month Celebration

What does Black History Month really mean for African Americans and other global African descendants who make their way to the United States? February is the shortest month of the year, so the good folks who were compelled to mark our history didn't do us a favor. Was it so difficult to choose a month with thirty-one days when weighing centuries of murder, rape, lynching, and suicides at sea? Perhaps those additional three days would have been too much to bear for the undoubted republicans who signed the legislation.

My personal, familial, and cultural identities are tied to my blackness. I can't and wouldn't deny who I am, but millions of others habitually attempt to do so. My childhood was predominantly African American until junior high when I met and befriended Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.

I've always been fascinated by genealogy and family lore, but to date I've yet t follow through. My thinking was that I would get around to interviewing my granny on camera or digital voice recorder. She would tell me what it was like to be a black child in the 1920's and 1930's, in Texas. I missed the opportunity to do so three years after her death. I still wonder what her life was like those many years ago, and further what our ancestors' lives were given that she was born in 1917. 

I'm not naive enough to think our family doesn't have slavery among the ranks, but were always free do what they wanted within the confines of the racist south. There was no escaping who and what we were - Southern Blacks, not that anyone tried to assimilate or pass for white. 

Slavery and its unwitting offspring, racism are seven-headed hydras, and twenty-eight days once a year will never be enough to make right what was and still remains an injustice. 

The argument could extend beyond African slaves who were treated as cargo on The Middle Passage, to others races throughout history that were at one time another a servant to a conquering nation. 

One blog post isn't sufficient to discuss this topic, but I want to add my five cents. I personally feel cheated by Black History Month that takes place in February. 

It wasn't until I'd transferred high schools that I made a point of educating others on the atrocities, setbacks, breakthroughs, and triumphs of African Americans. I can't remember how I managed to do morning Black History Month announcements. It wasn't every year. I think it was only during my senior high. I still recall the white student who sat alongside me, noncommittal expression about his face. He was being obnoxious but tried to wrap it in genuine concern and or curiosity moments before I took hold of the microphone. I remember BLURTING BLACK into the mic one morning, perhaps verbally raising my Black Pride Fist at him and all the non-black students and faculty listening. 

It comes down to individual beliefs, acknowledgment of the history, and a concerted effort never to forget. 

Monday, February 15, 2010

Killer Cats at Caroline's

A few years before I relocated to New York City, I met a photographer in Houston at my high school's fiftieth year anniversary. She was smitten with me, but the only thing that registered was New York. I'd previously thought I'd relocate to Los Angeles and work on television dramas, sitcoms, and eventually movies, but shifted my focus to Broadway's bright lights. 
 
When she offered, "If you're ever in New York, I'd love to photographed," I readily took her card, shook her hand, gave her my requisite theatrical grin. I'd later figure out how I'd make it to NYC, but for moment I had a contact that I could call upon. 

I scheduled an audition at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and she volunteered to let me crash at her apartment on West 72nd Street, a few feet away from the entrance of Central Park.  

Prior to the night in question, I'd been allergic to bobtail cats, and to my surprise she had two robust and or overweight cats reminiscent of feline linebackers. The building exterior was swanky, but the one-bedroom apartment was cramped. 
 
The audition is a blur now, but I still remember the minuscule, almost not there kitchenette, the bump-my-knees into one too many pieces of furniture in the living room, the clawfoot bathtub, and the exposed wooden four poster bed. These many years later, I probably wouldn't recognize her if I saw her on the street. She had red hair back then. She was accommodating in a familiar southwestern, hospitable way. I had full reign of the apartment, or so I thought (more on this later). She packed a bag and stayed with an upstairs neighbor.

My first trip New York was one week, but one of the nights that will forever be etched in my memory is when her two psycho cats, perhaps unsure of who I was, or fed up with my presence in their mother's absence, began a slow and methodical stalking of me as I rearranged my clothes in my suitcase.

Before I realized it, both cats had crept into the bedroom, a la National Geographic stalking their prey. Was there power in numbers? The primal, coordinated attack underscored by in stereo growls, hissing, and yowls was proof positive. A simple flick of my hand, "Shoo cat. Get on outta here and leave me alone," wouldn't work on this night. I had invaded their territory, and the spoiled felines weren't having me.

At this point, the yowls intensify. Sitting atop the log legs, glowing eyes locked on me, my heart began to race. I ran through several scenarios in my mind-all should result in their remaining alive even though I contemplated knocking them both off their perches with my deodorant, shampoo, or tube of toothpaste. They were house cats. Shouldn't they back down, scurry away, leave me in peace? 

Not these two cats. They stood their ground, and my fear intensified. I was actor after all, and my face was my calling card. I wasn't going to risk a kamikaze cat attack to my arms and face while trying to defend myself, and not injure my host's pets. 

I remember abandoning whatever was I was doing, and hightailing it into the bathroom and closed the door in the nick of time before a paw with sharp, exposed claw swiped underneath the door. It was on now!

Safe inside the locked bathroom, I felt like a fool. Safe, but foolish. How in the hell did I allow two cats to get the better of me? Those beasts wouldn't let up. They paced back and forth just outside the door, voicing their displeasure with my presence. I didn't care if they shredded my clothes, as long as my skin remained intact. 

I can see the bright white lights in Caroline's bathroom now. I can see one too many bottles of cosmetics, bags of cotton balls, or her female products littering the countertop and shelves as I stand with my back at the door, again trying to figure out what to do. 

There would be no letting up that night. I wouldn't be returning to the bedroom for a solid night's rest. I settled into my temporary home until she'd return the next morning. I spied some of her plush, over-sized bath sheets, and her very comfortable five-star hotel robe. I unfolded two or three of the bath sheets, slipped on her robe, stepped into the bathtub and fell asleep to the feline sentries' dismay.

It was as if nothing happened the next morning when she arrived, called out to them, and poured their morning food into their bowls. I had to be safe with her in the apartment. When I made my way to the living room looking worse for wear, she promptly laughed at me, disbelieving my previous night of torture. Those cats were possessed, and I was to have been their sacrifice to whatever dark force they worshiped.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Seeking Workshop Venues in Manhattan

Morningside Writers Group is seeking additional weeknight and weekend afternoon workshop meeting venues in Manhattan for two-hour sessions.

We are looking for a private and quiet space that would accommodate six to eight workshop participants and access to restrooms. Bonus if the space has a chalkboard, water cooler, and vending machines, but not mandatory.

We are ideally looking for a recreation or community center classroom, small business conference room, or an empty space in a senior citizens residence. We are open to a workshop barter or negotiating an affordable rate in exchange for genre workshops in Fiction, Memoir, Screenwriting, or Playwriting.

Please contact us by e-mail with location, rates, and availabilty with Workshop Venue in the subject. Our target start date is May 1, 2010. Thanks in advance!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Seeking Writing Workshop Intern

Morningside Writers Group seeks a P/T on-site assistant for administrative, workshop, website tasks, and branding for a period of at least six months. We are seeking an Uptown-only administrative assistant for easy access to on-site meetings, trips to copy center, Staples, etc. Please do not apply if you do not live between Columbus Circle and Washington Heights.

The ideal applicant has a minimum of 7 hours, maximum of 10, weekly to help the founder/moderator in person on the Upper West Side, electronically, and over the phone. Tasks may include group scheduling, bookkeeping, Xeroxing, writing and responding to e-mail inquiries, soliciting/interacting with monthly columnists, and administrative needs as they arise.

We could offer writing mentoring or editing if the potential candidate is an aspiring writer (fiction, memoir, screenwriting, or spec fiction/sci-fi) but the administrative, marketing, and branding tasks are essential above all else.

Please send a cover letter, résumé, and why you'd be interested in working as an assistant to MWG Assistant. There's an opportunity to earn a stipend for ad sales and placement.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Number One Tennis Fan

I became an avid tennis fan a few years ago after having had no interest in the game. Tennis, similar to golf for me was for others, not for my inner city upbringing. I didn't see a tennis racquet or court until I transferred high schools during my sophomore year to a predominantly white school, in the tony neighborhood of River Oaks. The other side of town that I was bussed to during the early morning hours under the cover of darkness.

I wasn't exposed to elite sports, and truthfully wasn't athletic beyond junior high track and field, and my first year of high school in the marching band. I didn't think I'd become a near-raving lunatic for women's tennis as an adult as I sat on the manicured lawn of Lamar Senior High School eating lunch, several blocks from the River Oaks Country Club. Men's tennis is a snooze for me. The women bare their emotions, are prone to drama, medical timeouts, and downright soap opera villainness cheating and scheming.

The white students in my adopted high school were the ones with tennis racquets, attire, and aspirations, although none went on to collegiate or professional sports. My only ties to the game was during Black History Month in February in the faces and lives of Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson, both of whom seem mythical, out of reach, and enshrouded in special access.

I don't remember my first Venus, Serena, or James Blake match, and it doesn't matter now. I admire tennis players because they are pitted against each other like a heavyweight boxer. Singles players have to rely on their own wit, not fellow team members. When I watch one of the African American players, I feel the pressure they might feel in this still lily-white sport. What must it feel like as a minority in those stadiums as all eyes are trained on your every move, perhaps waiting for an error to cheer?

I'm probably too emotional when I watch. Ask my upstairs neighbor who pounded her foot on the floor during the epic Wimbledon Ladies' Final between Venus and Lindsay Davenport, with Venus outlasting Lindsay in the third set tiebreaker 9-7. I felt she was playing to win, but also had the weight of Black America on her shoulders. Perhaps not.

Tennis is closest to writing for me because both pit the athlete and writer against himself and the opponent across the net or receiving editor and eventual audience. I'm not as fanatical as "La Agrado" in All About My Mother or Robert DeNiro in The Fan, but I've had my moments of outrage and disappointment when James, Donald Young, Venus, Serena, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, or Gaël Monfils gave away an easy win to a lesser opponent. Those types of matches were like watching a traffic accident. You know you should look away or keep on driving, but you stare, hopeful, that the victim will rebound and everything will return to normal.

One of my fondest memories was a live blogging event moderated by Sheila of Black Tennis Pros. I'd like to think I've settled into my tennis skin and knowledge as an armchair coach, and will no longer respond like a raving loon when the regular season starts, but that will depend on whose playing on any given day. Join me for the Australian Open beginning on January 18th.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Surrender The Fear

I've had to remind myself to surrender the fear on a number of occasions that manifested when interviewing a new writing workshop applicant, meeting a potential PR or booking client, reading about a new topic, working alone at home, or dealing with the intermittent spiritual presence(s) in my apartment.

I believe that as I've aged, I've become more susceptible to fearful longings, perhaps brought on by the overload of information at my fingertips through various mediums. My days of youthful naïveté are just out of reach. When I was performing on stage, emceeing school and sorority pageants, or playing clarinet in my high school marching band, I had no fear. I've misplaced or forgotten the abandon or bravado I had as a teen performing God's Trombones by James Weldon Johnson in junior high and later at church, replete with choir robe.

What of my relocation to the East Coast from Texas? I had little, if any fear traveling to place I'd only visited twice, no relatives or friends in sight as a backup plan. I set my mind on New York City, and was determined to make it on a soap opera and Broadway, before relocating again to California where I'd have a career as a film actor, and later director with my wife and 2.5 kids.

At some point in that chapter of my life, I settled for a real job, tired of the long audition and callback lines, tired of the unscrupulous and oversexed casting agents and directors preying on who they thought was innocent fresh meat to be used and discarded at will. No, I wouldn't stand for it back then, and don't regret my early retirement from acting given the still dearth of acting and directing opportunities for minorities in Hollywood and New York.

I dimmed the rotating marquee Broadway lights in favor of a 401k plan, medical benefits, vacation and sick days because I now know that I was afraid of failure and having to return to Houston with my head between my legs. No, corporate America would afford me the comfort/illusion I needed to remain afloat in NYC while performing off and off-off Broadway, in student and no-budget films. 

The best acting and actors are raw and exposed on stage and screen, but that level of technique and training brings with it an unexpected vulnerability. When you're this open to the world, nothing gets filtered. It is in this mindset I might behave like Sally Field during her Oscar acceptance speech, "You like me, you really, really like me," when meeting with writing workshop applicants. Who doesn't want to be liked? Human Need 101.

What fear could there be in meeting writing workshop applicants, PR or booking clients? The same fear that grips performers before taking a stage. It's all about selling yourself and your services to an audience of one. I wonder if the person on the opposite side of the table is paying attention, and is genuinely interested in what I'm saying.

The global twenty-four news cycle is exhausting at best. There's always something happening or seems to be in some familiar or distant part of the world that might affect me or someone I know. The obvious remedy was to restrict my news intake not in a Pollyanna way, but limit when and what types of news programs I watched. This has been working out so far, but every now and then a sensational headline pulls me, and ¡BAM! I'm caught up again in some police chase through a housing project in the Bronx or Brooklyn. 

Working from home is a mixed blessing. I have the solitude I need to write, edit, market and promote my wares and services, and the freedom to post blogs and interact with others online through the various mediums. The inherent fear in working from home is accountability that typically takes place when working in an office with an overlord hovering nearby or monitoring every keystroke. The natural question is whether I'm making the best use of my time and available technology to make daily personal and professional progress, or am I slacking off on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media and calling it work? This solution is similar to the one posted above: sensible social media diet for one. Gone is the anxiety that I must update the world on my every thought, mood, and Southern meal. A sensible diet calls for doing what feels natural, and once I've had my fill for the day, I push the keyboard away. 

Most frightening of all are dark shadows and people unseen, but sensed and felt. I'm fascinated by Psychic Kids on A&E, but wouldn't want that gift. Anyone unfamiliar with Gustavo, read about him in an earlier post here. Every now and then there's a shadow here and there while I'm working from home and I dismiss it to tired eyes and an active imagination. I wonder if my assistant pastor roommate who lays hands on the sick and possessed has dropped breadcrumbs for an evil spirit he believes he has expelled from one of his parishioners. I can't shake the feeling that sometimes I'm being watched, and not by Gustavo. I close my eyes and pray for strength. I recite scripture. I light candles. I'm out of sage incense. In a recent Today's Word with Joel & Victoria e-mail entitled "Power Over Fear", he had this to say,"fear is a spirit. It plays on our emotions and holds us back. Fear is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real." I will keep this in mind from now on, for it is in the mind that fear takes root and spreads throughout the body and causes illness.

How do you deal with your fears? Please leave your comments below.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Harlem Writer v. 5.0

It is that time of year to make New Year's Resolutions, reflect on the previous year hopefully with little or no regrets, and concentrate on who and what lies sometimes at the end of our fingertips or in the adjacent cubicle.
 
I'm not immune to a bit of navel gazing, self-recrimination, and self-pitying, but what matters is how long I allow myself to remain in any of the aforementioned altered states. Navel gazing is all about staring in the mirror, amazed at who I was and what I accomplished. If this goes on for too long, days or weeks will pass me by. No, it's better to tabulate the hits and misses, and step away from the bathroom or full length mirror because someone else probably wants to adore their reflection. The opposite for navel gazing is self-recrimination.

How many times have I berated myself for simple, silly, forgivable transgressions when all I have to do is remember to ask God for forgiveness and move on? I'd rather not say, but as with the theme of this blog, I'm looking ahead, not behind in order to improve my internal operating systems. I've been taught and read that worrying is a sin. Heaven knows that list is already overpopulated, so one less will lighten the load.

Self-pitying is self-recrimination's darker twin. I've recently began watching Intervention on A&E, and my heart goes out to those bold or foolish enough to have a camera crew follow them around as they live through their addiction(s). A recent episode struck a nerve. A young mother couldn't get over herself and her addiction because she was too busy feeling sorry for herself rather than focusing on recovery. My addictions aren't narcotics, prescription drugs, or alcohol, but for about ten minutes I identified with the snotting and crying woman sitting in the parking lot, confused about her next step.

Granny would always say to us, "Trouble is easy to get into, but hard to get out of." I took from this episode: to be careful who and what I ask for in 2010; to look both ways before crossing the street, and to slow down. Life is always better after a power nap or a full night's rest. If it's meant to be, it will happen.

I've resolved to dance with abandon, creative writing at least two hours a hour a day before bed or while the chickens are still asleep, and guide my PR clients to the best of my and my team's abilities, imagination, and vision. I've resolved not to personalize random blog or forum comments, or mumbled insults on the subways or buses. I've resolved to live each day as if it were my last. Tomorrow isn't promised, so it's best to live today.