I Need 24 Hours of Solitude


This was the last photo I took. I was so swamped at Thanksgiving I didn't take a single pic. And I'm not even sure if I got dressed for real. 

I need to be alone. I'm convinced. I need a day to sit with myself and my thoughts and no other obligations so I can get my thoughts out.

My Black Friday plan to work on my thesis because, why not? It was my day off. Instead, I had to host Thanksgiving at my house because my mom wasn't feeling well. Therefore, I spent that Friday trying to recover. I'm so glad my best friend dropped by. She forced me to finish my website. And I must say, I am very proud of myself. I did enough to show the world: Meet Stephanie Jones.

The worst part about not actually writing is that I have all of the ideas in my head. I now know exactly what I want to do. I have a plan I've thought about and talked through that forward where I'm planning to discuss how my students, teaching and my daughters were the catalysts for my creative piece formerly known as Misunderstood. (The name has been changed to Black Girl Magic, for now. This too could change.)

Quick update about my novel, Misunderstood which is now titled, Black Girl Magic. It is officially on submission. Meaning John, my agent, sent my manuscript to publishers and they're reading it as I type (or at least I hope they are). Anyway, so far I've gotten two passes (or no, but they were promising. I may share them next week)  So yea, there's also that. I am patiently waiting or no so patiently waiting, for a publisher to say, we like her book and we want to buy it.

Okay, now back to my thesis, I finally feel like all of the parts are coming together but yet, everything else in my life seems to be pulling me away from what I need to do. And it's not just like frivolous things trying to get my attention, it's my job, my family, life. The funny thing is, I know exactly what I need to do. I can see it as clear as day. And yet, finding even an hour of solitude to knock this thing out has become impossible. You name it, the obstacles are being thrown in my way. As we say in Christianity, the devil is busy. My hubby and I are sharing a car because water was leaking in my car and it ruined the motherboard, and the car was totalled. The list of interruptions and hurdles just seem to go on and on.

Next week, my daughters will be competing at the ESPN Arena in Walt Disney World. But, I have to leave early because of health issues so I may possibly get some time to take my thoughts and pour them onto the page.

Here's what I have so far in my brainstorming:

Talk about my students have influenced me to want to share their stories, or versions of it, with the world.

Discuss how my daughters, who as of yet aren't old enough to read young adult, but time moves fast, need stories to read that reflect them and the people they know. And how I want to teach them that it is never too late. Or you're never too old to chase your dreams. Writing this book, getting an agent and soon (Lord's willing) a book deal is something that I used to dream about as I stared out of my bedroom window in the 2nd-floor apartment of my family's two-family home, on Rose Street in Newark, NJ. Even though I never fell asleep to crickets or dead silence, the backdrop of the sounds of my city pushed me forward.

Lastly, I want to talk about how as an educator I want for my writing to challenge the status quo and become a part of moving the cannon forward. There's enough room for more stories to be added and deemed worthy enough to be taught to a class full of eager minds.

I just need a moment of peace to get the words and ideas from my brain onto my a blank document consuming all of the white space around it. The bottom line is, I know it has to get done. If I want to graduate then it is a must do. But this must do is something I want to do. And I want to do it well. Because I know at this moment, in this time I am at that proverbial fork in the road. A moment in time when I am much older, I'll look back and say, this is where it all began. That was when I began my career as a writer.

So yea, I have to do my best and it has to be my best. And in order to get that, I pray that God grants me some much needed moments of peace.  And the muses send me inspiration that sustains.

Stranded In Newark Airport

Photo: Courtesy of Facebook

There are no words that can describe what happened on Thursday, November 15, 2018. Well, actually there are words. Most of which contain expletives. I cannot believe that less than five inches of snow shut New Jersey down. We get snow every year. We're not new to this. And yet, on Thursday as the snow began to fall around 2 in the afternoon, my husband, brother and myself, headed to Newark International Airport on what is usually a 15- 20-minute drive turned into a four-hour trek, where we never drove our car more than ten miles per hour.

A few things happened on our journey to and while at the airport:

  1. We missed our flight. 
  2. I was able to change my flight to a later flight. 
  3. We made it to the offsite parking spot two hours before our flight was scheduled to take off. 
  4. From the Parking Place, it then took us an hour and fifteen minutes to travel what usually takes seven to eight minutes. 
  5. Once we got through security we had an hour to catch our 9:40 flight. (One which my sister was trying desperately to make. She'd been in the car for five hours trying to get from one side of Newark to the other.)
  6. While standing in line I get a text message from United Airlines, "Your flight has been delayed to 11." Okay, no worries it's 8:45 that's not too bad. 
  7. Thirty minutes later, I get another message, "Your flight has been delayed until 11:30pm." Still not bad. I'm just glad we made it to the airport safe, and in one piece. 
  8. Then, at ten fifteen I got the text message that entirely changed the game and my experience as a person who travels via plane. "Your flight has been cancelled, contact United Airlines..."


You would assume if you're flight is cancelled then they will replace or reschedule you on a makeup flight as soon as it's safe to fly again. Well, let me tell you. This is not how it works at all. As a matter of fact, you have to reschedule your own flight. You have one of three options, call on the phone, do it online or speak to a representative in person.



Here is an image of the line to speak with someone. I was at the end of three-mile line. It was literally three miles long and I waited in that line for two hours and still didn't speak with a single person. Let me take a moment to explain my original plan. I was going to write my blog in the airport while waiting for the plane or I'd work on it while on the plane. Nothing went according to plan.

The wifi in the airport was shotty and well, I never got on the plane on Thursday. I did, however, catch what I thought was a beautiful photo of all of the planes I could not get on.

I wasn't able to do any writing because well, this was now the middle of the day and the hustle and bustle of the airport were too much and the negative energy from all of the angry people who had spent the night in the airport like me was too intense, so I read. Even in that I didn't read very much because I was too stressed out because we didn't have a guaranteed seat on the flight. Oh and wait, I couldn't cancel and just go home. Why?  Because our luggage was going to take off and go to Vegas on the first flight out in the morning. Why not get it you ask, it would've been a two hour wait to retrieve our luggage and in two hours we were trying get on that first flight.



At around 6 am we finally spoke to someone who put our names on the official standby list. So we eargly moved around from gate to gate all around the airport, hoping to get a seat on the plane. We had no luck. The four of us held a permanent spot in place 30 and below on the standby list. After around the fifth flight took off without us. My brother left the flock and did this:

 
We didn't get a flight to Vegas until Friday night around 8:30pm. We were at the airport for 24 hours straight.

Never in my life had I ever experienced anything like that. And we weren't the only ones. Everyone's who had a flight out after 3pm on Thursday was stranded at the airport. Remember that three-mile line? Well, it was nothing less than a miracle that all four of us were able to board the plane to Vegas. We felt like we hit the lottery when they called our names.

Now, in order to talk about my progress this week, I had to share this story. Because before this adventure my days had been consumed with my girls and their cheer schedules and practices. I hadn't had a moment to myself. And even though I knew in Vegas I would be all about my hubby and brother. Celebrating their birthdays I thought at the very least I'd have five hours on a flight and time at the airport to get some work done. Nope. Want to make God laugh. Tell him your plans.

So yeah, I just had to give the backstory. It was one I had to tell and I will never forget. Anyway, before that, I had a pretty good week. My book is out in the world. John submitted it to different publishing companies. I am so nervous. I know I wrote a novel and not a picture book and it may take a while for me to hear anything from them. But not hearing anything is making me so very nervous. And the list of people he submitted to are some serious heavy hitters in the publishing world. I fell all of the nervousness and doubt that I felt when I was querying agents. All I want to do constantly check my email to see what John has to say and what is going on. I understand that this industry is filled with hurry up and wait moments. So I'll wait. I'll focus my energy on getting my MA thesis solid and together. Which as of right now it is all in my head. I do have a more clear vision of what I want and need it to be. I just have yet to put it down on paper for real. As of right now, it is in scattered pieces and notes I've collected as often as possible. My plan is to compile this list of notes into an actual written piece. Since I won't be participating in Black Friday this year, I'll work off all the food I ate for Thanksgiving in front of my laptop and get my first draft of my Author's note/Foreword out. In order for me to do that I will need a clear mind and a couple of night's of sleep in my own bed.


Onward

Maybe the hardest part of this process is behind me. Maybe. Or it could be that I'm just over this one very big hurdle. Either way. I'm one step closer to the finish line. And it just so happens that I have two different end goal. The first one is to finish out this semester and earn my Masters degree. The second is to sell my book to a publishing company. It would be really cool if by graduation in May my novel, Misunderstood has already been sold to a publishing company and the announcement has been made in the Rights Report (a place where publishing companies announce newly acquired book deals weekly.) Talk about a full circle moment. I'm going to put it all the way out there in the universe my making this declaration. By the time I walk across the stage in May to earn my diploma, I will have sold my book-- which was started during my time as a graduate student.

Okay, so this week was pretty stressful but I made it though. After reading through 328 double-spaced pages of my novel. I was able to make up the text and make corrections in the margins for revisions. After I did things the old school way, I pulled out my laptop and changed the manuscript for the third time some I signed with my agent. I sent off my revisions to John on Tuesday night, I was totally supposed to be planning my E-lit project and I kinda was in my mind I have the entire thing mapped out. And that is half the battle.

Then on Wednesday afternoon, he'd sent me back some thoughts of some more tweaks to make. I moved around a chapter and changed some word choices last night and I sent it back to him. Now I'm waiting to hear back from him. I seriously keep checking my emails every thirty seconds. The good thing about the wait is that it gave me a moment to start working on my reflection in regards to the novel. Something I hope will become an afterword or a foreword for my book.


Here's what I able to write thus far: 


Stories have always lived inside of me. I've always had quite the imagination where I could come up with a story true or not right off the top of my head. There were times when I picked up and put down my pen never really thinking I had a place in the world amongst writers who I love. So I stopped writing. My career as an educator and my love of reading led me to pick up my pen once more. It was in my search for books to read to my daughters to novels to recommend to my students that I noticed a void. I read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas then I went on a frenzy where I searched for more books like it. I loved it every child I told about the book loved it as well. In my search, I found more novels written by authors, Nic Stone, Tami Charles, Tiffany D. Jackson, and Dhonielle Clayton. A world of authors who looked like me and wrote stories I would've killed to get my hands on as a young adult now exists in the world.

Barely Holding On

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It's safe to say I don't know what I'm doing. Well maybe I do know, but I'm overwhelmed. I can't seem to find the time to get it all done. I thought I was ahead of the game when I submitted my work to my agent ( I am very aware of every time I say this. I feel like I sound self- important. However, I do have an agent.) Anyway, I sent my work to my agent and I thought, "Whew, glad that's off my plate."


via GIPHY
Now, didn't think that I was done with my revisions. However, I also didn't think he'd read and respond and critique my new work within a week. He gave me more notes and now I have to go back through my manuscript from the beginning and read it like a reader and a copy editor simultaneously. The problem is where do I get more hours in a day. I haven't had a moment to breathe, let alone think about all that I have to do. My youngest daughter was sick that threw me off my game. Add that to their grueling cheer schedule of practice 6 days a week. (I cannot wait for December. Once the National competition is over we are taking a break.)

Then there's work. Teaching 12th grade and 9th grade is hell. I can't tell you the last time I've done thoughtful lesson plans. I do my plans but it's when I get to work, right before class starts. Don't tell my principal. I want to use my time at work to work on my MA thesis like a normal teacher but I haven't been afforded that chance because I'm actually doing work at work.

So yea, to say I'm swamped and overworked is an understatement. Truthfully I need a day to sleep. I'm totally running on E and every single morning I turn my alarm clock off at 5a.m., give myself fifty minutes of ten more minutes until I roll out of bed at 6. Which, wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have to drag two little girls out of bed who move like snails maybe even slower because they don't want to go to school. This causes me to start my day behind the eight-ball. And I've been barely making it to work on time. Today I totally didn't make it on time as I was thirty minutes late. I've got to do better.

Needless to say, I have all of my ideas in my head. I even know what I want to do for my E-lit class to make it relate to my MA thesis. My goal is to do a piece that shows the worlds of Newark and Millburn from Mya's (my main character) perspective. I did begin what I think is a first draft of what I hope will turn into my afterword or author's note at the end of Misunderstood. I was inspired enough by Toni Morrison to know that I will not be the next Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou or Alice Walker for that matter and that's okay. A lot of my hesitation and reluctance to write has been because I've tried to be them or write like them and have a story just as important to tell. I can only tell my stories as only they could tell theirs but it is nice to peek in and get inspired. Right about now I can use a little bit of motivation and inspiration.