Books & Coffee Cityscape Challenge!

Do you love your city? Are there special places where you always hang out, take a stroll or take in some incredible views?

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Are you like me? Don’t really love where you live–kind of got stuck here because of school or circumstance? Well, you’re here now, might as well make the best of it, right?

Spring and summer are my favorite time of year.  It’s the weather. The warmth of the sun beckons me to believe that anything is possible! And now that summer is (almost) here I have more time to focus on writing, that always makes me happy!  So, I’ve decided to kick off the summer with a Books & Coffee photo challenge!  And, as we already learned with our ekphrastic poetry, images conjure words and ideas that can inspire limitless creations, so why not take advantage of the blooms and balmy vistas all around us during this season?

Grab your iPhone or Canon and trek over to your favorite place, or if you don’t have a favorite place, try looking around with fresh eyes. Find a forgotten corner of town and let it inspire you to see it in a new way. Take a photo–of a landmark, an odd-shaped stone, or a four-leaf clover, whatever catches your eye!–then tell us what makes this place special or significance in some way. Some spaces may be significant because of their history–whether personal or political. Some may be significant because of their impact–either personal or political.

As I mentioned, I’m not a big fan of the southern town where I live, but I do love being outside, and I particularly love my backyard! One of my favorite places to be on warm days is on my back porch looking out at the trees and up at the sky, listening to the birds and the wind.

BackyardIt just puts me at ease and clears my mind of the clutter. When I’m in this space it’s like I’m not in Alabama. In fact, where I am doesn’t matter because here I can just be. Nature has a way of being boundless like that, doesn’t it? When you’re surrounded by it, the artificial borders of property and ownership melt away. The wide expanse invites freedom and that’s what this space offers me: freedom.

So, what about you? Where’s your happy space? Where’s your space that inspires?  If you don’t already have one, maybe it’s time to go in search of one! My backyard was an easy find. I think I’ll venture a little further from home and share another inspiring place or space this week…stay tuned!

P.S. Leave a comment about your favorite place and put a link to your blog or social media so we can what it looks like! I’m anxious to see your inspiring places! I know my fellow blogger, Chandra Lynn, will have something to share! What about you?

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Mayhem Monday: Dreams & Determination!

My niece and nephew graduated this weekend and, of course, I’m super proud of them! They each chose a different path, but both tore through the academic wilderness and emerged unscathed–well, they survived anyway. After all, what’s a war without a few batttle scars?

Victory is the child of preparation and determination.

(Sean Hampton, actor)

They were priveleged with great parents who prepared them for their successes, who equipped them with all of the necessary tools–private schools, summer camps, extra curriculars–as well as the intangibles like love and security.  Yet, Tyler and Greg had to find their own way in college. Mom and Dad couldn’t study for them or finish their assignments. Once the foundation was laid, the building was up to them.

The “Different World” can be a scary place when you’re facing it all alone…

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Funny thing is, a different world is where Greg and Tyler are NOW!

Kids often think that preparation is the time at home.  To an extent that’s true, but what my niece and nephew are about to discover is that they’ve actually been in a safe haven all this time. College is just an extention of home. It’s still a place of preparation as professors and administrators dictate courses and curfews (especially when you attend, as they did, a parochial school affiliated with a highly conservative religious organization.)

Oh yes, the real world is still waiting…

But I’m proud of them, nonetheless.  I know they’ll make it.

We’ve done all we can to prepare them–we, the parents, the aunties, the professors, the surrogates.  Now we’ll watch as they spread their wings, and we’ll hope that the determination that brought them this far will carry them the rest of the way!

And for all the other Tylers and Gregs out there, setting out on your own, just know that life is full of surprises. Your future may or may not turn out the way you envisioned it, but you can be sure that success is possible if you stay open to the many ways it may be manifested. For our Mayhem Monday motiviation, check out Laura Berman Fortgang’s TED Talk on “Finding Your Dream Without Looking at Your Resume!” And I wish you all Godspeed!

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Monday Mayhem: Get Motivated!

I am FIRED UP!

The semester is wrapping up and the summer is almost here! But before we get to the graduations, recitals and weddings that this month promises, I want to talk about the kind of heat that comes–not from the sun–but from within…

I’m fired up about the passion that I’ve seen in my students this semester. They are proving that the pen is, indeed, mightier than the sword as they tackle the serious issues that concern them. You may remember that I challenged them to do research projects on topics of their own choosing. My only requirement was that it be a topic for which they are passionate!

I must say, that for the most part these have been the most interesting end-of-the year essays I’ve ever read in a Freshman Composition class! These students took thier jobs seriously and charged ahead into issues they cared about:

  • improving the athletics program at our school
  • questioning the relevance of HBCUs
  • challenging contentions within a religious organization
  • calling for better waste management in the Bahamas
  • and appealing to the officials at Rykers Island to reconsider their use of solitary confinement.

These are just a few of the problems that they tackled and even as they understood the limitations of their power, they also felt the excitement that comes with the possibility that somebody might actually listen to them! Imagine if something they’ve said reaches the ears of someone who can do something?

That is the power of the pen. The power to transform words to life. That’s what motivates me and I’m excited to see the light in their eyes as it seems to have motivated them as well.

There’s another issue that one of my students wrote about and, by coincidence, I discovered this movie short that addresses it.  Watch this powerful performance, then let’s all get FIRED UP! Because words mean nothing if they don’t lead to action.

I’m motivated to do something, how about you?

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Let’s Write!

For the past two days I’ve featured poems from my Creative Writing class inspired by Irene Latham’s Live Your Poem workshop. Today I’d like to invite you to participate in a Live Your Poem activity! It’s simple! Take a look at this image and tell me what word comes to mind.  Don’t say “phone,” but tell me what this image of a phone makes you think about. What do you associate this image with?What memory do you connect it to? What does it represent in your mind?

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Put your word (or words) in the comment box and over the next few days let’s see if we (or I) can put the words together to make a poem! I’ll post the finished product of our “collaborative” poem and you can tell me if we/I capture the essence of the image (yikes!) No pressure…

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Keys

Here’s another installment in the Irene Latham iconic images poetry! Tyhara Tyrell is another one of my lovely and talented students who chose this striking image and wondered about the significance and symbolism of keys.

What do your keys unlock?
do they unlock anything at all?
or do you simply like their antique jingle?
why do you have so many?
must you compartmentalize all aspects of your life

into separate boxes…?

are they tangible expressions of the secrets that you keep?
are they there to comfort your fingers when you feel lost?
do they reassure you of yourself

to know you hold the key,
the answers,
the truth,
knowing that they are yours
to share,
to never be used if so you choose,
to never be touched

by any other fingers other than your own.
They are yours.
your secrets,
and you don’t owe us any answers.
You don’t owe us any keys.

-Tyhara Tyrell

Check out my other creative student, Darlyze’s, poem “Woman Enough” and other creative works here on Books & Coffee!

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Woman Enough

Well, Poetry month has passed now; I had wanted to post my students’ poetry while it was still APRIL! But I had to BEG to get this ONE! Nonetheless, it is a good one, by Darlyze Calixte, a talented young lady whose not even an English major (Chemistry, go figure)! Anyway, better late than never, right?

So, you may remember my earlier post in which poet, Irene Latham shared some lovely postcards with us and asked us to craft poems from the inspirational images. This is the image that inspired Darlyze to write “Woman Enough”

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He was a man who had just buried years of self loathing into the womb of a woman more handsome than he was.

Each inhale of the black gummy herb, burnt as an offering to the body to bribe it to forget what had led him there in the first place.

Each breath of it brings him no closer so he paints a new memory of her instead.

In his Art, her hair lovingly kisses her back, her  hips provide handles for grip, her bosom is a soft pillow for his head.

Cupid bow lips, porcelain skin unmarred by reality.

With every delicate stroke..hmm, every different stroke…a new “her” was created.

In his painting, she sat like a delicate and limp flower, waiting to be plucked but reality had painted the woman handsome. A cactus. Strong, sturdy, thorny.

And yet,

Just woman enough for him to bury his insecurities in.

Click here for more from my Creative Writing students. For more poetry check out CRACK! and if you like short fiction check out The Looking Glass. Check back soon as I plan to round up more creative works from my students and me!

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Revamp Monday: God is in the Gym!

Every year Writer’s Digest comes out with their “101 Best Websites for Writers” and I LOVE flipping through the pages of those issues then surfing the web for the latest sites and resources. There’s just so much fantastic stuff out there for writers! There’s the traditional stuff like critique or discussion forums and “everything agents,” job listings and writers’ conferences.  But then there’s the non-traditional, inspirational, stuff, like the creativity portal which offers a slew of brain teasers and visual prompts to spark the imagination, or coffitivity.com, a site that provides the background noise you would hear in a coffee shop–you know, in case you can’t get to an actual coffee shop to do your work!

My point is that Writer’s Digest has the same idea that I do.  We recognize that writers need all kinds of resources. Yes, we need to talk about writing, but we also need inspiration that will motivate us to write! That’s what Mayhem Mondays are all about! I’m trying to get us motivated to do the work that we were meant to do!  That’s also why I’m glad to have Tanzy back again to inspire us to keep pushing–whether it’s pencils or power squats!

GOD IS IN THE GYM

 In my experience, I’ve found that physical activity has the ability to mimic many of my personal spiritual experiences. My intangible journey of faith suddenly takes on shape, form and weight, when I’m in the gym.

The heaviness of the bars I press, remind me of the heaviness I feel at times when raising my arms to praise God. Struggling against the burden of complacency to honor Him through worship.

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Running miles, up and down hills on the treadmill as my heart aches in my chest. Step after step in agonizing fatigue, mirroring the deliverance I’ve been desperately pursuing. Pleading for the finish line to come into view.

The rope I grasp to pull my body vertically against gravity, is not unfamiliar to the ditch of depression I’ve tried to pull myself out of, time and time again. Muscles of hope burning as I grip tighter and pray harder that I can make it out this time.

The delicate yoga poses I hold are identical to the moments that I am expected to be still, and know that HE IS GOD.  Breathing deep and slow, as I patiently wait for God to instruct me to change position.  But until then I am forced to make still my anxious thoughts and trust in my creator.

For me, physical movement is capable of materializing my walk with Christ. God is indeed present with me in the gym.

Speaking to me on the bike trail.

Whispering to me with each lap in the pool.

Lifting with me rep after rep.

He helps me as I battle against the voice that says, “You can’t do this”. The spirit reminds me, “I can do all things”. In my world, he resides not only in the church, but also in the gym and Exercise is my reasonable act of worship. It’s my way of giving God praise for the gift of my body. It’s His way of  teaching me that I can overcome any challenge he calls me to face.

Physical fitness is the language God uses to save my soul.  A strong body is simply a side effect.

Tanzy Chandler

Founder of REVAMP FITNESS

Thanks, Tanzy!

Tanzy Chandler joins us on the first Monday of every month. Check out her article “Demote the Scale” and her YouTube channel! Also, for more Mayhem Monday Madness, check back every Monday and throughout the week for writing and word play.  Also, check out my  recipes  (I have a new kale salad that’s yum!) and energizers, ’cause you can’t write–or exercise–on an empty stomach!

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