Finding Sanctuary Cover Reveal

Reposted from Field Order Press.com

My debut novel, Finding Sanctuary, started out as a writing assignment for grad school. What later became my first chapter was a hastily written draft that I snatched off the printer minutes before I had to make the commute to DC for class. I didn’t give much thought to my characters or the setting I placed them in, let alone the tone or cadence of my writing. The following week, my professor handed back my writing assignment and asked to see me after class. I just knew she was going to tell me that my assignment was garbage, and that I would have to redo it.

I was wrong.

“Your characters and this scene are so vivid,” my professor said. “I was reading this wanting more.” (You could have bought me for a penny.) “This is your thesis,” she told me. I couldn’t fathom it. I was barely halfway through the master’s program at Johns Hopkins University, and my thesis was the furthest thing from my mind.

I left class that night imagining the possibilities for the characters and world I hastily created. Eventually, Finding Sanctuary sprang to life. It wasn’t instant. It took time to cultivate the essence of the story, but when I finally hit that writing sweet spot, I could see everything — from the beginning to the end of the story and all that was in between — so clearly.

Well, almost everything.

Envisioning what I wanted the cover of Finding Sanctuary to look like was much more difficult than I thought it would be. I bounced around some ideas with CP Patrick and the Field Order Press team, grateful that they gave me the latitude to come up with ideas. “It’s your book baby,” CP Patrick told me in one of our many phone conversations. “Take your time. Have fun with the process. You’ll know your cover when you see it.”

I tossed around a couple of ideas, but I was fixated on having some sort of artistic rendering of the distinctive row homes in South Baltimore, where much of Finding Sanctuary takes place. When we had our first concept call with Molaundo Jones of The Clever Agency, I mentioned a couple of ideas, one of them being a map of historic South Baltimore. I also considered the mid-Atlantic region as the story spans between Virginia and Maryland.

Molaundo was very thorough and patient during our concept call, listening to me as I vacillated between row homes and maps. It took CP nudging me before I even mentioned the third idea I had. Since Finding Sanctuary tells the story of three generations of women, I thought that could be a concept to consider for an alternate cover image, albeit far-fetched.

When Molaundo sent the renderings of the cover concepts we pitched, the concept I thought had the least potential was the one that took my breath away. As CP had told me – I’d know my cover when I saw it. And I did. Silhouettes of the three different generations of women, each a different shade of brown against an endless blue background — that was the cover I wanted for Finding Sanctuary. I couldn’t stop staring at it. These characters that I didn’t give much thought to in the beginning seemed to come to life in the drawing. Especially Ella, the woman holding the baby. The women that I birthed on the page and introduced to Molaundo only by way of synopsis, were exactly as I had envisioned them. Molaundo and his team even nailed it with the positioning of the women on the cover. Where and how the two women stand bears significance readers will understand when they read Finding Sanctuary.

Seeing the cover of Finding Sanctuary was a very surreal, emotional moment that marked an important milestone in this journey. It’s humbling to have a team of talented people who are so invested in my story. I’m ever so grateful to CP Patrick and Molaundo for shepherding me through the cover design process. I couldn’t be more proud of the finished product.

Finding Sanctuary will debut this fall. I hope readers will love the cover and novel as much as I do!

Cicada Files Archives: May 25, 2004

Pure Terror

Tuesday, May 25, 2004 @ 2:05 PM

Today I am in tears.  I have to go to the store to run a few last-minute errands before I leave for Nassau tomorrow, and the cicadas are out in my neighborhood in full force.  I am too afraid to go outside.  There are literally dozens of cicadas flying into and out of the tree in my front yard.  One cicada is perched outside of one of my front windows screeching; another one is clinging to my bedroom window screen.  I am so afraid that if I go outside something’s going to land on me, or in my hair.

I just took a look outside my window again, and they’re still busy flying about.  I shudder to think what I may find if I open my door.  A couple of cicadas landed on my car to pay their respects to their dead comrade who’s still stuck in my windshield wiper.

Everyone keeps talking about the cicadas reaching their peak next week.  I cannot believe that all of this activity is just a prelude to even more heavy cicada traffic.

I just heard another male screeching in the window right where I am now.  Ugh.  I think the cicadas are getting back at me for my anti-cicada journal, and have decided to set up a protest and picket line around my house.  Who’s been leaking my journal to the cicadas?

Cicada Files Archives: May 11, 2004

Gross Encounters of the X Kind

Tuesday, May 11, 2004 @ 9 PM

I had my first encounter with a member of the Brood X Cicada family.  I live on the outskirts of the Patapsco State Park, so I’m sure that the cicadas in my area will be rolling like P.Diddy’s entourage in a few weeks.  However, it’s still pretty early in the Brood X season, so I didn’t expect to see a cicada this soon.

On Tuesday evening, I stopped at a gas station on Security Boulevard to buy gas.  (I had to take out a second mortgage on the house just to fill up my gas tank…but that’s a whole ‘nother saga).  As I was walking towards the pump, it happened.  This huge bug landed on my right shoulder!  It looked to be about the size of a 4-year-old child…I kid you not!  Okay, so it wasn’t 3-feet tall, but it was way too big to be flying around!  I don’t know if the thing was lost and needed directions to the park, or if God was exercising his sense of humor, but it picked the WRONG shoulder to land on.

For a minute there, I tried to lay aside my fear of insects, and tried to play it cool.  I thought if I could simply brush it off my shoulder, I’d be okay.  My first instinct was to scream, but I was trying to handle it rationally.  So I started flicking at the thing, and then I proceeded to stomp my foot; the bug didn’t move.  I yelled at the bug; it didn’t move.  After exhausting all possible options, I had no choice.  I had to scream.  And you know what?  The bug still didn’t move.  It took a little twisting and turning, and a lot of screaming for the bug to eventually fall to the ground.

A couple of other customers at the gas station asked me if I was okay.  I think one lady was laughing at me as she was pulling off.  But trust me, that sister will have her day.  I was so freaked out by this bug landing on me, that I quickly put the cap back on the tank, hopped in the car and sped off.

As a result of my experience, I’ve come up with a few tips to help people cope with the Brood X Cicadas:

  1. Don’t buy gas from the Shell station on Security Boulevard. This is a cicada-friendly establishment.
  2. Don’t waste your energy trying to yell at, or reason with a cicada. Cicadas don’t understand English.
  3. Don’t move near a state park. Parks tend to have a lot of trees, and cicadas like trees. Hence, where there are trees, there will be lots of cicadas and mass pandemonium.
  4. If a cicada lands on your shoulder, you can easily get it off by turning in a circle twice counter-clockwise while screaming loudly. This will effectively make the cicada dizzy and will scare it (along with anyone within 30 feet of you).

In the coming weeks, as the cicadas sneak out of the Patapsco State Park and start roaming through my neighborhood, I’m sure I’ll come up more reasonable and rational tips to pass along.

Cicada Non Grata

 

I don’t know who told the Brood X Cicadas that they could just show up unannounced four years early. But whoever it is, they will have hell to pay. It’s 2017, and those beady-eyed flying terrors of destruction were not due back here for another four years. I needed those four years to come up with an escape plan.

Anyone who knows me know that I am not a cicada fan. And anyone who knows me well knows that I had a little blog called The Cicada Files back during the last Brood X invasion.

As I will be spending a lot of time indoors over the next several weeks, I’ll be sharing posts from The Cicada Files archives here.

Damn you, Cicadas.

“The Four Jesuses” Debuting at the DC Black Theatre Festival!

I am happy, proud and excited to announce that my new play, “The Four Jesuses”, will be debuting at the 2015 DC Black Theatre Festival on Sunday, June 21st! “The Four Jesuses” is a part of the DCBTF’s New Works Reading Series. Stay tuned for more details…

The Four Jesuses flier
“The Four Jesuses”, a two-act play, will be debuting at the 2015 DC Black Theatre Festival

Writing Outside the Fence Seeks Volunteer Instructors for Fall & Winter Workshops!

Writing Outside the Fence seeks qualified, committed volunteer teachers for Fall 2014 and Winter 2015 workshops. The program offers creative writing workshops for ex-offenders and the extended community through the Reentry Center in Baltimore. We launched in May 2006 and were the cover story in the June 6, 2007 issue of City Paper. In addition, the winners of our Inmate/Ex-Offender Writing Contest were featured in the March 2009 issue of Urbanite. In June 2009 two of our writers were featured on WYPR in Tom Hall’s segment of Maryland Morning. We’ve held readings at  the Enoch Pratt Library the last several summers. A podcast of our 2012 reading is available on the library website.

The program is currently looking for volunteers to commit to a month of weekly meetings — four consecutive meetings total per teacher — for late summer into fall of 2014. The workshop meets Tuesdays, 5-7 PM at the Reentry Center at 2401 Liberty Heights Ave. on the upper level of the Mondawmin Mall in Northwest Baltimore.

Past instructors have been poets and journalists, playwrights and screenwriters, fiction and creative nonfiction writers. They have included instructors from BCCC, Coppin State, Goucher, Johns Hopkins, Loyola, MICA, the University of Baltimore, and elsewhere. No two have run their workshops quite the same way; all have found it rewarding.

If you are interested in volunteering for this worthwhile effort, contact WritingOutside [at] aol [dot] com.

Writing Outside the Fence Seeks Qualified Volunteer Teachers

Writing Outside the Fence seeks qualified, committed volunteer teachers. The program offers creative writing workshops for ex-offenders and the extended community through the Reentry Center in Baltimore. We launched in May 2006 and were the cover story in the June 6, 2007 issue of City Paper. In addition, the winners of our Inmate/Ex-Offender Writing Contest were featured in the March 2009 issue of Urbanite. In June 2009 two of our writers were featured on WYPR in Tom Hall’s segment of Maryland Morning. We’ve held readings at Enoch Pratt the last several summers. A podcast of our 2012 reading is available on the library website.

The program is currently looking for volunteers to commit to a month of weekly meetings — four consecutive meetings total per teacher — for late summer into fall of 2014. The workshop meets Tuesdays, 5-7 PM at the Reentry Center at 2401 Liberty Heights Ave. on the upper level of the Mondawmin Mall in Northwest Baltimore.Past instructors have been poets and journalists, playwrights and screenwriters, fiction and creative nonfiction writers. They have included instructors from BCCC, Coppin State, Goucher, Johns Hopkins, Loyola, MICA, the University of Baltimore, and elsewhere. No two have run their workshops quite the same way; all have found it rewarding.

If you are interested in volunteering for this worthwhile effort, contact WritingOutside [at] aol [dot] com.

Join Me on Tuesdays for Writing Outside the Fence

I know it’s been a while since I’ve last posted, but life happens.

Today, I started another volunteer teaching stint at the Writing Outside the Fence workshop at the Re-Entry Center in Mondawmin Mall. I’ll be there for the next three Tuesdays from 5-7 p.m., leading workshops on writing dialogue, free writing, among other things. The workshop is free and open to the public.

To learn more about the program and its community of fabulous and amazing writers, check out this feature article that ran on Examiner.com or this podcast from the Enoch Pratt Free Library:

Writing Outside the Fence Reading at the Pratt

If you are a writer in the Baltimore area, and are interested in sharing your love of writing, we’d love to have you join our dynamic team of volunteer instructors. Hit me up in the Comments section below.

16th Annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference

Source: en.citizendium.org

This one‘s for you writers in the DMV…

Mark your calendars for 16th Annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference set take place on Saturday, February 23, 2013 at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, MD. The 2013 conference will feature sessions and workshops on internet tools for writers, editing, pitching, publishing, marketing along with workshops on genre writing (fiction, poetry, essay, non-fiction, etc.).

For those who wish to have their manuscripts reviewed, one-on-one sessions with published authors will be available.

The 2012 Bay to Ocean Writers Conference drew over 200 writers from five states and the District of Columbia. This event is sure to be a sellout, as it has been for the past six years. Registration is $99 for adutls and $55 for students (with valid ID). Register now at the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference website: http://www.baytoocean.com.

For more information, email btowriters@gmail.com.

Follow @baytoocean on Twitter.

Source: Bay to Ocean Writers Conference press release

Thank You, Urbanite

Last week I was among the countless people who were shocked and saddened to read David Zurawik’s article in the Baltimore Sun about the end of Urbanite magazine. If you’ve lived in Charm City long enough, you’ve definitely seen Urbanite magazine’s imprint around town. Whether you picked up a copy in your favorite eatery or watering hole, or if you curled up with the latest copy during an extended visit to Panera Bread or Starbucks. Urbanite is broad, ambitious and it symbolizes what is right and what is possible in Baltimore. Each month’s issue focused on a theme that celebrated and explored the potential for change in Baltimore.

I’ve been an avid reader of Urbanite since it first hit the stands almost 10 years ago. I have a stash of dog-eared Urbanite issues in my I-cannot-part-with-this-just-yet pile of magazines. Urbanite is Baltimore, and Baltimore is Urbanite. It wasn’t slick and pretentious, but rather gritty and real. Its vibrancy reflected that of its readership, and that’s what made Urbanite more accessible than other local publications. I could open an issue and see familiar names –those of fellow writers, faculty and classmates from Hopkins — in the bylines.

I took the plunge in 2008 and submitted a piece to Urbanite’s “What You’re Writing” feature (using my maiden name). You can read it below. (According to Zurawik’s article, Urbanite’s website will be shut down any day now, so I wanted to capture it for posterity.)

Sun columnist Lionel Foster wrote fitting tribute to Urbanite magazine and its staff in the paper last Friday. Reading his piece reminded me of how deep the connection was between the magazine and the city, and how much of a void that will be left in its wake.

Urbanite publisher Tracy Ward told the Sun that the possibility that Urbanite might return one day does exist. Perhaps we should not say goodbye just yet, so I think it’s more fitting to say thank you, Urbanite.

And without further adieu my piece “Saying Yes” as it appeared in the August 2008 issue of Urbanite magazine…

Continue reading “Thank You, Urbanite”