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.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Diversity Jobs: Media Relations Specialist

Grassroots media company is seeking Junior Media Relations Specialists with solid African American, Asian, Hispanic, and LGBTQ print/online/radio media contacts.

Experienced and successful pitching and placements are essential for this freelance (1099) role.

Local NY/NY/CT candidates are ideal, but will consider virtual Media Relations Specialists.

We are seeking individuals who want longevity and have clearly defined their short and long term goals. Ideal candidate is outgoing, personable, and easily navigates between various media platforms and communities.

Applicant should be responsible and thorough; possess a strong work ethic and strong organizational and administrative skills.
Previous office experience is preferred.
Must be able to multi-task and prioritize.
Should be self-motivated and comfortable working in an unstructured environment.

 Please send cover letter, résumé, 2-3 recent press releases, 2 successful pitch letters, and community specialty to JR Media Relations gig.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Writers Sip. Writers Stretch. Writers Write.

Begin your New Year on the right foot with one of our professional writing workshops. Realize your hidden writing and publication goals in 2010.
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 speculative/horror/fantasy 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!