Re:Definition

I’m taking a departure from talking about literary stuff to talk about expectations in pushing the envelope at the expense of comfort, on a non-literary level. This sprang from my previous post about creatives providing platforms of discourse for uncomfortable and/or unpopular topics, which got me to thinking about today’s professional athletes and their overall reluctance to speak out on such topics.

Much ado has been made about a relative lack of pro athlete presence on current events, such as the shootings of Michael Brown in #Ferguson–at least, on a macro, national media level. LeBron James notwithstanding, the days of pro athletes making a public stand pretty much went the way of the dinosaur. There are no more Muhammad Alis willing to speak truth to power at the risk of everything. That candor is usually saved for retirement (a la Kareem Abdul Jabbar), when a pro athlete is free from the shackles of corporate endorsements and fans who only want them to justify the price of a game ticket or player jersey.

In the wake of the Donald Sterling/Los Angeles Clippers debacle, there were those muttering (or screaming) “Why don’t they (all players, not just the Clippers) DO something?!” I was one of them. Turning uniforms inside out to hide the team logo was not enough; we wanted immediate boycotts, we wanted vociferous protest, we wanted gladiator-style drama. We wanted Spartacus. We wanted blood. Even during the Trayvon Martin slaying, James and Dwayne Wade at least appeared on the cover of magazines in a hoodie, with their similarly attired sons. But that was pretty much it. As fans we see players as entertainment only, their value measured by how well they can shoot/throw/dunk/kick/hit a ball, or run, or swim, or skate, and win championships and medals. We don’t care about what goes on inside their brains.

Maybe we should.

Athletes are hardwired for excellence and competition. They are trained from the moment their talent burgeons to concentrate on those athletic skills, for they will being far more riches and notoriety than that mound of grey matter. Even those who end up playing on the college level are encouraged to do just enough to keep them eligible to play, so that they can go pro sooner rather than later. But they are not one-dimensional characters in a video game; they are real people, with real thoughts and emotions. Monetary considerations aside, perhaps the only reason that pro athletes haven’t spoken out on issues is that no one really asks them, assuming (sometimes rightfully so) that they will decline to speak upon advice from agents and managers, so as not to upset the golden goose of endorsements. And of course, the mere thought of players having functioning intelligence will disturb most fans, because it’s easier to buy that ticket or cable sports package when the players are just seen as throwing/kicking//hitting/dunking machines.

Has anyone ever asked Richard Sherman his thoughts on the Ebola virus crisis? Or Madison Bumgardner about human trafficking? Or Kevin Garnett about the controversial pending merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, and its effect on net neutrality (seriously: I would give a fangirl squeal and pay money for the latter, since KG–as most pro athletes, especially of color–is from the streets, and the streets are where the purest form of anything lives. He would probably break it down in simplisticly deep terms that would render food for thought; the streets ain’t got time for BS.).

Common business leadership advice states that if we treat people as we think they could be, they will rise to that level of confidence and ability. Likewise, if we treat athletes as capable of having independent thoughts and opinions, even when it threatens their comfort, they’ll become more open to giving them.

Thanks for stopping by.

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Disturbing the Comfortable

I am a fan of Bookbub. I have tried a lot of books of which I wouldn’t have otherwise known, and found some gems in the process. One of my main criteria for purchasing a book–free or otherwise–is reading the reviews. While reviews are arbitrary and usually subjective (I used to review books for a living, so I know), I can still get a sense of whether a book is worth me taking the time to get it from the reviews. I especially pay attention to reviews about editorial errors; too many of those and I will pass the book by, even if it sounds interesting.

I recently skimmed the reviews for a fantasy/paranormal book and saw that quite a few reviewers said something on the order of the book plot making them uncomfortable; one reviewer even titled his/her review as “Disturbing”. These comments stemmed from the plot premise of the protagonist–and her ilk–boosting their powers via sexual intercourse. The comments thus ranged from comparisons to human trafficking, to parental perspective (e.g., would I want my daughter doing this?).

This got me to thinking of a character in the Bible (hey–years of Southern Baptist upbringing die hard). Paul, formerly known as Saul before getting a clue on the road to Damascus, was charged by Jesus to “comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable”. Much as Paul did for the Word of God, we as writers–indeed, all creative folks–should have the same charge. Our mission in life is not just to do what we love and get paid (well) for it–though that’s a good start. We need to roll like Paul and shift the paradigm of literature. We shouldn’t be afraid to write/paint/record/dance/design/sew what we like because it’s different, or not being done/trendy, or so far out the box that the concept can’t be seen by the Hubble telescope.

There is a reason that Gillian Flynn is blowing up the New York Times Bestseller List with her latest novel, Gone Girl, even before the movie was cast with Ben Affleck. She did the same with her previous novel, Dark Places. There is a reason, beyond his excellent writing style, why Junot Díaz won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for his novel The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. There is a reason why Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun, is a literary force, in the vein of Wole Soyinka, Buchi Emecheta, and Chinua Achebe–long before she was introduced to the masses by a sampling  of her TED Talk, “We Should All Be Feminists” .

Each of the aforementioned authors discussed social and political issues that were preferably not discussed at all: domestic violence; fratricide and matricide; dictatorships; civil wars; new nation creation and dismantling; political corruption; feminism; the politics of skin color; immigration (both documented and undocumented) and the lengths to which it will be obtained, including paid marriages. They dared to shine a light on the underbelly of the human condition and show the maggots thriving beneath…and we, as a society, are better for it.

To that end, we as creatives should all strive to provide more than just entertainment. Nor should we try to shock, for shock’s sake. Instead, we should try to create platforms that further foster discussion, since discussion leads to understanding, and understanding leads to change. Sounds very Yoda-like, but was Yoda ever wrong? 🙂

Thanks for stopping by.

The Social Media Shuffle

I recently consulted a social media expert (who happens to be a member of my sorority, and who also provides social media services to the sorority at the national level) to figure out how to best maximize my exposure. Since this is my first book, and I am a self-published author, I have to work twice as hard in order to gain half the exposure of a traditionally published author.  She reviewed my latest newsletter and recommended that I really work social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, etc) to get my name out there.

Well…that sucks. :/

Not because I don’t realize the necessity of this, given the technological strides we’ve made in our society, but because social media management is a full-time job, and it’s hard to do that AND create a product that requires promotion on social media.  Plus, let’s keep it real: I am of a certain age, and have the most basic understanding of social media versus someone who was born with a smartphone in their hand, and with a Tumblr account. I know how to Twit (yes, I said “twit”, as I prefer it to “Tweet”), post on FB, LinkedIn, and Google Plus; I have a Tumblr account that I rarely check. But that’s about it. For all those multi-layered nuances that so many social media experts send newsletters about, well…I’m not on that level, and can’t afford to hire someone on that level right now.

(sidebar: if there are any college students who want to manage my social media for free, holler. Serious inquiries only.).

The good news is, a lot of the products I use are integrated with each other so that I only have to post to one place/site, and it shows up on other sites (Bless you, WordPress!). Still, the social media sorority sister suggested that I actually post unique content to the aforementioned sites, as a way of providing a more intimate feel with my audience.

Prince WTF look lip curl

Lookie here, I pour out my angst, euphoria, on my blog; I have to do it elsewhere too? This is too much for my little life. But alas, if I want to be marketable, it’s a sacrifice I’ll have to make…kicking, screaming,and Twitting all the way.

Oh, and I now have an official Amazon.com Author Page. Check it out!

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Guilty Pleasures: I’m Live-Tweeting #Shondaland Thursdays!

Antibiotics + intermittent drowsiness + procrastination = more procrastination! 😀

Since I’m not making the progress that I’d like on my next books, I’m just going to revel in the premieres of Shondaland‘s new Thursday night lineup. And I’ll be live-tweeting about it!

One of my guilty pleasures is the show Scandal, by the indomitable Shonda Rhimes. While Season 3 left me mostly underwhelmed (I only watched to see the incomparable Joe Morton as Daddy Pope; Khandi Alexander as Mama Pope; Bellamy Young when she was “Moonshine Mellie”; and Secret Service Tom), I’m hoping that Season 4 will bring back the reasons why I got into the show in the first place (R.I.P. His Ginghamness, Harrison).

I am also hyped to see the new show, How To Get Away With Murder, with the wonderfulness that is Viola Davis (and I am SO happy not to see her play a maid or a sidekick, I don’t know what to do. WINNING!). This show also stars Alfred Enoch (who played Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter movies–and he has grown up quite nicely! My,my. 😀 ) and Matt McGorry (who played the Corrections Officer/inmate babydaddy with the prosthetic leg on Orange is the New Black).

Grey’s Anatomy, which I sincerely hope is in its last season, also has a season premiere tonight. Christina Yang was my favorite character (it used to be Miranda Bailey, but her character has become so neutered, I had to move on), and she’s gone now. I do admit to a bit of curiosity as to how ridiculous the plot lines will get (a secret love child by former Chief of Surgery Richard Webber and the late Ellis Grey? Really? *side eye*). However, I hope that the show gets put out to pasture by the last episode.

All that being said: I usually post on my personal Facebook page, along with my fellow Gladiators, about Scandal. Tonight, though, I”m going to live-tweet for ALL THREE SHOWS. The snark, the shade, the WTF and OMG moments…I’ll be giving it to you in 140 characters or less. 😀

If you haven’t done so already (and what are you waiting for?), follow me on Twitter at @Tiffscribes, and join the #Shondaland party on Thursdays. It’s going to be fun!

As always, thanks for stopping by.

On the Runs (Where I’ve Been)

The past week and some change have been very challenging for me, medical-wise. What started as a routine screening procedure turned into a catalyst for a domino effect of illness that I am still working through. The illnesses are minor, thank God, but when piled up together, they loom large.  As a result of the antibiotics I’ve been taking (hence the title of this blog  post–they have necessitated my own Game of Thrones LOL), I’ve been sleeping a lot. I’ve also taken a social media break (the illness, plus the rash of craziness going on in the world, plus a very opinionated timeline deemed this necessary). This is the first time in a long time that I’ve been awake enough to blog, let alone write sufficiently.

Of course, I feel the November publication date of Sebastian’s novel swooping down upon me, and many miles to go before I sleep (again). My body obviously told me to stop burning candles at both ends, in the middle, around the side, and up the back (word to Fred Sanford), but still…I’m not used to not doing anything but resting. And while my improving health is testament that it was the right thing to do, I’m still a bit anxious at all that has fallen by the wayside while I was in the initial stages of recovery mode.

This phenomenon is not uncommon to entrepreneurs, creatives, and combinations thereof. We are our business, whatever that business may be. We believe in ourselves so much, and so fiercely (because a lot of times, others do not, so what choice do we have?), that we push ourselves to bring our talent to the masses–and get paid from it somehow. That requires a lot of late nights and early mornings (word to Marsha Ambrosius), but the downside of that is not taking care of ourselves properly sometimes. You’d best believe that if you don’t make a concerted effort to take care of you, the Universe/God/your preferred deities will conspire to make it happen. So do yourself a favor: eat right, exercise, meditate, get the proper medical checkups and treatments. Your gift and craft will thank you.

On a positive note: made a lot of progress today on Sebastian’s novel, and basketball season starts in October. 😀

Thanks for stopping by.

Keeping the Glow Alive

One of the hardest things for an author to sustain is book buzz. I’m talking about after all of the pre-release and release sizzle has died down, and the slight bump in interest that occurs after delivery of a monthly newsletter or other reader-oriented correspondence.

Ironically, my core demographic (35+ years of age) is one that is no stranger to patience. Most of us grew up in a time before email or smartphones, when computers ran on BASIC code (shoutouts to the original Apple and the Radio Shack Tandy 1000 computers), and meals (or even leftovers) were heated in an oven–you know, that big, cavernous part in the front and center of a stove. The closest things we had to quickie meals were cake mix, TV dinners, and JiffyPop popcorn (which was cooked on top of the stove). Microwaves didn’t become popular until many of us were in middle school; some branches of my family didn’t get one until my junior year of high school. Knowledge was garnered from books, not Google or Wikipedia, and we had to physically go to the library (shoutout to the Dewey Decimal System), for those of us not fortunate to have a set of the faux leather-bound Encyclopedia Brittanica in the home.

Plainly put, we mastered the art of patience. We didn’t have a choice. Ad a result, most of the general marketing tactics used to generate and boost sales don’t really work. Most can resist the urgency to BUY NOWNOWNOW, especially when there are more pressing concerns and expenses. We know the difference between a want and a need, and adjust our resources and expectations accordingly.

I’m alternately frustrated and amused, and I am in this gray zone right now. How do I keep the interest in my book(s) alive (present and future)? How do I market to a demographic that has been there, done that, and heard maybe not all, but a lot? A lot of my readers are parents; as such, they are used to hyperbole and (attempted) manipulation–both by their offspring, and by the environments in which their offspring navigate on a daily basis. This results in a BS detector that is finely tuned, at best, and functional at worst. Getting past such internal gatekeeping is like Jason trying to get past the Minotaur: difficult, though not impossible.

There are countless books, websites, newsletters, etc with marketing advice, gimmicks, etc. Unfortunately for me, they address broadstroke demographicd and generalized techniques. General ain’t gonna work on my core demographic. 🙂 I have to figure out something fresh that appeals to their sensibility without trying to come off like a used car salesman. If I could afford a marketing guru, I would probably hire one–but that’s a few books away, yet. Until them, I will continue to marinate upon it.

Thanks for stopping by.