All posts by Unknown

Presenting My Thesis

Even though I didn't have to post anything else I felt I had to. I needed to close out this chapter in my life reflecting on that day which quite surprisedly, left me feeling emotional. I honestly and truly don't know what came over me. I think listening to Dr Zamora introduce me made everything seem so real. Ever since I started the Masters program I'd attened the synposium for graduating students. Each time I sat in the audience I thought, "I hope my thesis is good enough." Or "Wow every one is so smart."

I knew my day was coming. Eventually, I would stand in front of a group of my peers and my own family and do the same thing. So in that moment as I listened to her speak and I was overcome with all sorts of emotions.   Feelings of fear, pride, accomplishment and some fear. Below you will find the foreword that I read in class.

Foreword

There has been so much talk about the education of the students who attend school in New Jersey's largest city, Newark. Most of this talk is negative. Many people say that the students of Newark aren't that intelligent or the teachers don't really teach therefore the students to go out into the world unprepared for life after high school and beyond. Statements such as these always bothered me. They bothered me for a few reasons. One, because I am product of public school education in Newark, NJ. And secondly, they’re stereotypes which don’t speak to the norm.

I was educated in the Newark Public School system from Pre-K up until the 11th grade, just like my main character, Mya. During my time as student I had great teachers who taught me so much and laid such a great foundation. I was such strong student that I was able to play around my last year and a half of high school and yet, I did not fail any classes and I graduated on time. Most of my lack of effort was due to rebelling against the fact that I was forced to change schools and my teachers didn’t expect much from me. I can only imagine what could've happened had I truly applied myself. So, it truly bothers me on a deeply personal level when the children of Newark get written off and counted out. In all actuality they're still in the game.

These children and young adults come to school and learn in spite of. In spite of the odds that something awful could happen to them on their way to and from school. In spite of the fact that their school buildings are old, run down, dilapidated and more often than not in desperate need of repair. In spite of the fact that their teachers teach their heart and their faces off with less than half of the resources in the classroom as other teachers in other districts less than five miles away. And lastly children in the city of Newark come to school and still learn in spite of what may be going on in their home life, i.e. living in a shelter, no parents, no clean uniforms, no food at home you name it, I've had a student who've dealt with each of this issues if not all.

The manifestations of these situations may not always result in the best type of student garnering the best results on standardized tests. But that doesn't mean you should count them out. However, you only hear about the failing underprepared students when you look at the data. Data which doesn't paint the full picture and story attached to their number. What I learned during my time as a teacher in my hometown, is that there are exceptional students who attend public school in the city of Newark. There are students who given the chance and the opportunity, could run circles around other kids their age. And yet, you don't hear about those kids as often or they're not celebrated outside of each school's own honor roll shout-outs.  For whatever reason, being exceptionally smart or a gifted student isn't a label usually put on kids from Newark.

So, I created Mya to put that label on those kids who I know deserve it and to make it cool. Mya is a little bit of several students I've had during my tenure as an educator. Students who impressed me with their intellect and their ability to continuously rise in the face of adversity. Even though the media may not cover stories about kids like Mya, I knew they were out there. Children from the city of Newark have grown up to become the Mayor, Rhodes Scholar, doctors, lawyers, superintendents, teachers, politicians, movie stars, athletes, ad-executives, play writers, the list goes on and on. Still, it seems you only hear one type of story about kids from cities like Newark. I hate to be the one to say it, but, it is mostly about the success of black and brown children who can dribble a basketball or catch a football-- those are the kids from places like Newark who "make it."

It was because of my students who marched to the beat of their own drum and were obsessed with anime, or love Harry Potter or The Land of Stories that I created Mya Andrews a super smart girl, with laser focused drive who happens to have inherited the gift of sight from her late grandmother. The latter is me paying homage to my own grandmother who was affectionately known by the neighborhood as Nanny. My Nanny spoke to me quite often and told me stories about seeing and knowing things before they happened. A gift I'd always wished I'd inherited. I also created this story because I wanted to write a book I would've loved a young, eager reader. When I was growing up there was no young adult literature category. I went from The Babysitter's Club by Anne M. Martin to Waiting to Exhale by Terri McMillan.

When you become a wife and a mother, people tend to think you're done achieving. That's it. You've accomplished all you're going to accomplish once the title mother is attached to your name. I don't subscribe to that notion. My parents never instilled this in me, my mother and father always told me I could be and do whatever I wanted without any sort of limitations. Even though my own mom was a stay at home mother, I never knew this was the norm until I became a wife and a mother. People would start to say to me, "Oh you're going back to school, what about your kids? You spend how many hours writing after you come home from work, what about your husband?"

By no stretch of the imagination was this an easy task or feat. It is hard to continue to pursue your personal goals once you become a wife and a mom. But I must say, my village runs deep. My husband has been nothing but supportive of me and my dreams since we got together. I told him I hated working retail jobs and I wanted to finish school and become a teacher, he said, "Go ahead, I got you."

Once I became a teacher I said I wanted to go to grad school and try my hand at writing again. He said, "You should do it. Don't worry I got you." And I know it's been hard. I know we make this look easy but it has been a challenge and yet, every step of the way he's been by my side telling to stop complaining and anything worth having is worth working hard for. And he was right. Now that things are about to unfold in a way I never even imagined I'm glad I kept going. And I thank God for my husband, my parents and my siblings who step in whenever I need them without question. They help us with pick ups, drop offs, and cheer practice so I can go write, go to class or work understand that Jay has to go to work and earn.  My Uncle Gary who keeps my grandmother alive by telling me that she would be proud of me. He is also the one who is ready to get on the horn with whomever to make sure his niece is getting her just due. With the help of my supportive and loving village, I am able to show my girls that their dreams don't have an expiration date. That if you're willing to put in the hard work, sacrifice and commitment you can achieve anything. This process has humbled me and made me realize how fortunate I truly am. I hope this teaches my girls that life is about having the will to keep going no matter what. I want my girls, Mia and Laila to know-- your dreams can come true if you're willing to turn off the noise and put in the work.

For this reason I made my main character Mya determined and driven. Something I wish I had been when I was 16. Mya is not easily distracted, she knows what she wants and she will not be deterred. It took me a little longer to get this level of persistence, but I've gone to school with folks and I've had students who've always had laser focus on their goals. And one of those people happen to be my one of my very best friends and the namesake of Mya's best friend, Tamika Peters. So I know those types of kids are out there.

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. It was a dream that I'd given up on after I'd prematurely sent in a book I'd written to a publisher and they'd rejected me. They really should've. Once I was rejected I put that dream on hold. I chalked it up to something I would never be able to do and I moved on. It wasn't until I fell in love with reading again, then my passion and love for teaching reminded me how much I love to write.

I want for my writing to challenge the status quo of young adult literature. Creating stories that represent the voices of the under-represented and hopefully, my books can 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. Wouldn't it be nice if a girl from Newark, NJ one day writes a book that accomplishes this.

I could go on and on but I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the people who helped me get here. Even if BLACK GIRL MAGIC doesn't get published ( I totally think it will, I'm claiming it) but let's say it doesn't, just to get this far and be standing here I have to thank those who have held me up along the way. Consider this my version of an extremely premature acceptance speech. Here goes, first I have to say thank you to Dr. Zamora, from the very first email she sent informing me about this Writing Studies program I knew I was going to love having her as a professor. First off because her name is Mia. The same name as my oldest daughter. But from the very first class and our weekly interactions I learned that she was a champion for her students. Something I had never experienced on a collegiate level, in fact I thought relationships with college professors only existed in fictitious places like Hillman College (A Different World). But no that was Dr. Zamora in the flesh. A who's intellect and intimidated by her ability to converse with us in a manner that showed her extensive amount schooling complimented by her ability to carry a casual conversation. Thank you for allowing me to spread my wings and soar in following my creative inspiration on my road to completion of this program.

To Hope, Katherine, Kelly, thank you for your input, support and feedback during this process. I have learned so much from each and every one of you. You all are intellectual forces who I know will go on to do something great. I have grown as student for being a part of this journey with you.
 

Finding My Peace


Getting time to get solitude has been nothing less than challenging, but I'm finding the time to make it work in between everything else I have to do. We are a busy family with busy schedules but somehow I make it work. I will find a way to get my work done just as long as I can put a smile on family's face and show them I'm here for them. So I've decided just to take my stolen moments and get out as much as I can until I get interrupted.

An update on my manuscript, John told me on Friday that an editor from a publishing company ( I can't publically say the names now) is going to take Black Girl Magic into an acquisition meeting next week.  An acquisitions meeting is where editors work as a part of a publishing team to acquire manuscripts. During this meeting, the editor who liked my book will pitch it the other editors hoping they too want to acquire my work which in turn will lead to an offer from them to me.

I'm trying not to think about this. As this is all very exciting. John reached out to the other publishing companies and told them that there's a publishing company that will be taking Black Girl Magic to acquisitions. Now, I'm just waiting to hear back.

My plan was to work on my newest novel during this waiting period. But since this is my last semester of grad school and I have a ton of work to do. I figured I would just get all of that out of the way before I totally immerse myself into a new project. For now, that is my plan and I've been sticking to it.


Foreword

There has been so much talk about the education of the students who attend school in New Jersey's largest city, Newark. Most of the talk is negative. Many people say that the students aren't that intelligent or the teachers don't really teach the students to go out into the world ready for life after high school and beyond. Statements such as these always bothered me. They bothered me for a few reasons. One, because I am a product of public school education in Newark, NJ. From Pre-K up until the 11th grade, just like my main character, Mya.

I was educated in the Newark Public School system. During my time as a student I had great teachers who taught me so much and laid such a great foundation that I played around my last year and a half of high school and yet, I still passed and graduated. Most of my lack of effort was due to rebelling against the fact that I was forced to change schools. I can only imagine what could've happened had I truly applied myself. So, it truly bothers me on a deeply personal level when the children of Newark get written off and counted out. In all actuality, they're still in the game.

These children and young adults come to school and learn in spite of. In spite of the odds that something awful could happen to them on their way to and from school. In spite of the fact that their school buildings are old, run down, dilapidated and more often than not in desperate need of repair. In spite of the fact that their teachers teach their heart and their faces off with less than half of the resources in the classroom as other teachers in other districts less than five miles away. And lastly children in the city of Newark come to school and still learn in spite of what may be going on in their home life, i.e. living in a shelter, no parents, no clean uniforms, no food at home you name it, I've had a student who've dealt with each of this issues if not all.

The manifestations of these situations may not always result in the best type of student garnering the best results on standardized tests. But that doesn't mean you should count them out. However, you only hear about the failing underprepared students when you look at the data. Data which doesn't paint the full picture and story attached to their number. What I learned during my time as a teacher in my hometown, is that there are exceptional students who attend public school in the city of Newark. There are students who given the chance and the opportunity, could run circles around other kids their age. And yet, you don't hear about those kids as often or they're not celebrated outside of each school's own honor roll shout-outs.  For whatever reason, being exceptionally smart or a gifted student isn't a label usually put on kids from Newark.

So, I created Mya to put that label on those kids who I know deserve it and to make it cool. Mya is a little bit of several students I've had during my tenure as an educator. Students who impressed me with their intellect and their ability to continuously rise in the face of adversity. Even though the media may not cover stories about kids like Mya, I knew they were out there. Children from the city of Newark have grown up to become the Mayor, Rhodes Scholar, doctors, lawyers, superintendents, teachers, politicians, movie stars, athletes, ad-executives, play writers, the list goes on and on. Still, it seems you only hear one type of story about kids from cities like Newark. I hate to be the one to say it, but, it is mostly about the success of black and brown children who can dribble a basketball or catch a football-- those are the kids from places like Newark who "make it."

And yet it was because of my students who marched to the beat of their own drum and were obsessed with anime, or they love Harry Potter or The Land of Stories that I created Mya Andrews a super smart girl, with laser focused drive who happens to have inherited the gift of sight from her late grandmother. The latter is me paying homage to my own grandmother who was affectionately known by the neighborhood as Nanny. She was adopted and never knew her birth parents and yet she spoke to me quite often and told me stories about seeing and knowing things before they happened. A gift I'd always wished I'd inherited. I also created this story because I wanted to write a book I would've loved a young, eager reader. When I was growing up there was no young adult literature category. I went from The Babysitter's Club by Anne M. Martin to Waiting to Exhale by Terri McMillan.

When you become a wife and a mother, people tend to think you're done achieving. That's it. You've accomplished all you're going to accomplish once the title mother is attached to your name. I don't subscribe to that notion. My parents never instilled this in me, my mother and father always told me I could be and do whatever I wanted without any sort of limitations. Even though my own mom was a stay at home mother, I never knew this was the norm until I became a wife and a mother. People would start to say to me, "Oh you're going back to school, what about your kids? You spend how many hours writing after you come home from work, what about your husband?"

By no stretch of the imagination was this an easy task or feat. It is hard to continue to pursue your personal goals once you become a wife and a mom. But I must say, my village runs deep. My husband has been nothing but supportive of me and my dreams since we got together. I told him I hated working retail jobs and I wanted to finish school and become a teacher, he said, "Go ahead, I got you."

Once I became a teacher I said I wanted to go to grad school and try my hand at writing again. He said, "You should do it. Don't worry I got you." And I know it's been hard. I know we make this look easy but it has been a challenge and yet, every step of the way he's been by my side telling to stop complaining and anything worth having is worth working hard for. And he was right. Now that things are about to unfold in a way I never even imagined I'm glad I kept going. And I thank God for my husband, my parents and my siblings who step in whenever I need them without question. They help us with pickups, drop offs, and cheer practice so I can go write, go to class or work understand that Jay has to go to work and earn.

With the help of my supportive and loving village that also includes my Uncle Gary who is ready to get on the horn with whomever to make sure his niece is getting her just due. I am able to show my girls that their dreams don't have an expiration date. That if you're willing to put in the hard work, sacrifice and commitment you can achieve anything. This process has humbled me and made me realize how fortunate I truly am. I hope this teaches my girls that life is about having the will to keep going no matter what. I want my girls, Mia and Laila to know-- your dreams can come true if you're willing to turn off the noise and put in the work.

For this reason, I made my main character Mya determined and driven. Something I wish I had been when I was 16. Mya is not easily distracted, she knows what she wants and she will not be deterred. It took me a little longer to get this level of persistence, but I've gone to school with folks and I've had students who've always had laser focus on their goals. And one of those people happens to be my one of my very best friends and the namesake of Mya's best friend, Tamika Peters. So I know those types of kids are out there.

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. It was a dream that I'd given up on after I'd prematurely sent in a book I'd written to a publisher and they'd rejected me. They really should've. Once I was rejected I put that dream on hold. I chalked it up to something I would never be able to do and I moved on. It wasn't until I fell in love with reading again, then my passion and love for teaching reminded me how much I love to write.

I want for my writing to challenge the status quo of young adult literature. Creating stories that represent the voices of the under-represented and hopefully, my books can 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. Wouldn't it be nice if a girl from Newark, NJ one day writes a book that accomplishes this?

I could go on and on but I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the people who helped me get here. Even if BLACK GIRL MAGIC doesn't get published ( I totally think it will, I'm claiming it) but let's say it doesn't, just to get this far and be standing here I have to thank those who have held me up along the way. Consider this my version. Dr Zamora, from the very first email she sent informing me about this Writing Studies program I knew I was going to love having her as a professor. First off because her name is Mia. The same name as my oldest daughter. But from the very first class and our weekly interactions, I learned that she was a champion for her students. Something I had never experienced on a college level, in fact, I thought relationships with college professors only existed in fictitious places like Hillman College (A Different World). But no that was Dr Zamora in the flesh. A who's intellect and intimidated by her ability to converse with us in a manner that showed her extensive amount of schooling complimented by her ability to carry a casual conversation. Thank you for allowing me to spread my wings and soar in following my creative inspiration on my road to completion of this program.

To Hope, Katherine, Kelly, thank you for your input, support and feedback during this process. I have learned so much from each and every one of you. You all are intellectual forces who I know will go on to do something great. I have grown as a student for being a part of this journey with you.

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."


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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.

Finally, Some Room To Breathe

I cannot tell you how relieved I was when I was able to hit the send button on the email to my agent, John. Glad that was off my plate. Finally, I've got time to play with filters on Snapchat.


Okay so, here's a story about what happens when you don't listen to everything you've been taught since the age of five. Haste makes waste. Now, unfortunately, in my haste, I deleted the revised version of my manuscript and sent the wrong document to my agent. Luckily, I backed up my work because I originally deleted what I thought was "old version" of my novel. All I can say is my Dropbox saved me.

Now that that's off of my plate what's next?

Well, my Afterword or my Foreword is next. I'm ready to start brainstorming and actually putting my ideas on paper. I'm ready to do some self-reflecting and pour onto the pages why I wrote this book. Why does the story of my fictional character Mya Andrews matter to be and in the grand scheme of young adult literature?

This is a weighty question. One that I am afraid to tackle. Not because I think I can't answer it, but because of all of the ways I know I can. That question is very much an open-ended one which can lead me in several directions. I know the academic manner in which I feel I should tackle it. And that will be included because it is important. It will demonstrate what I've been in doing in grad school. Or at the very least, make me sound way smarter than I really am. Yet, it is in the emotional scope that I wish to travel as I navigate the pages and get to the source of my reason for why? Why have I worked so tirelessly for more than two years to bring this story to life?

Why should it exist on the shelves with other books and not simply reside in my portfolio as a student? Should it exist at all?

These are the questions I plan to explore. Toni Morrison's Afterword for The Bluest Eye was so inspiring. And she's so intelligent and her work is and will always be so important to the literary canon I feel like an imposter for even trying to step in that lane. Then I realized that that's the beauty of telling stories. There is enough room for them all and there is no one way to experience America as a female and as a person of color-- of course. But it can be intimidating when you think about what your work will say about you and the people you're trying to represent. How will the world appreciate them?

It used to be my dream to make Oprah's book club of the month selection and to be on the New York Times bestsellers list. Now, I just dream to be published and hold the book in my hand. I don't know why my dream has diminished or, do I just appreciate and realize that there are levels to this and I must celebrate and not rush past the small steps to get to the big ones.

The road is still long ahead of me and I'm certain I've got more revisions to go from here. No matter what I am going to brace myself and prepare for the process while trying to stop and smell the milestone roses along the way.

For now, I just have to remind myself of the following:



And what better way to do it than with my customized bitmoji

Feeling the Pressure

This week was hard. Even though I had a plan and I thought having an extra day off would help give me the writing boost I needed, I was sadly mistaken. No matter how hard I try to stay ahead of the game, I still feel like I'm playing catch up or I can't stay ahead.

The hardest part for me is that I know exactly what I want to do. But for some reason, I can't execute it in the manner that I envision. There are so many obstacles that arise. And while calling them obstacles, its more like life obligations. You know, if I had a maid, a chef, and personal Uber driver, then I think I'd be able to finish these revisions. The reality is, I don't have any of those things, so I have to figure out for myself. It is a constant battle between fatigue and inspiration that is wearing me down. I also get caught up in the things that I have to do around the house. Not to mention the motherly duties that I have to do like homework, taking children to and from practices that all of my time gets eaten up. I think the hardest part has been for me to disconnect from my world and write new material. I keep second guessing myself and having writer's block.

In order for me to write new material, I have to be able to lose myself in the story. And as of right now I haven't been able to do it. Even though on Sunday and Monday I sat down in my office and tried. I was able to write some, but I didn't even finish the chapter. And I still have another new chapter to add. My deadline of Oct. 15th is slowly creeping up and I am not at all ready or excited about the new material I wrote. As a result, I put my work down and picked up the words of Toni Morrison.

I took the time to study and reflect upon the Afterword written by Toni Morrison for The Bluest Eye. Reading her words and the process in which this literary classic was born made take a deeper look into the meaning of my work. Now, Misunderstood is nothing like The Bluest Eye in terms of the storylines but so much of what she said resonated with me. Her analysis of the conception of her piece gave me an insight into her writing process. When I read Morrison in school it was after she'd written the 1993 Afterword. And I remember looking at that part in class but then I just read as her explaining why she wrote the book. However, I now see it as a reasoning almost like a literary analysis of what she was trying to accomplish as the writer of this book. As I read through her words things started to click and make sense to me as far as my work is concerned. Reading about specific literary moves she decided to make gave me another way to think about what I need to do and should do in my revisions.

It was beneficial to me to step out of my own head and get into another's writers psyche to learn how they approached writing literature. And The Bluest Eye is one of my favorite works that has been added to the cannon in recent history. So to get insight into the mind of Ms. Morrison really allowed me to consider my approach to my own writing-- which I am not suggesting will be added to the cannon. Yet, I do want to approach the writing from a literary perspective where I am making intentional authorly moves to propel the plot forward with good storytelling.

So for this coming week, I am hoping that I find the peace and the time I need to get over this hump because I still have more work to do. I just can't continue to allow deadlines to pile up and without things being moved off of my plate. My plan is to write after work on Friday and all day on Sunday. Saturday will be really emotional as I have to attend the funeral of one of my husband's closest friends. He died tragically and suddenly last weekend so this will be a tough one. I will have to allow myself that day and then try and get back into the work.

Falling Into Place

Finally, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Granted the tunnel is really far away. But, I can see the light.


These past two weeks I feel like I've made some progress. I started with my list. I needed to organize my thoughts and lay everything out so that I know what I've done and what I need to do. My work, school, and home life balance have been all out of whack. But somehow, I managed to find some time to stick with a revision schedule and do the work I need to do to submit my revisions to my agent, John.

I've completed two out of four of the things on my list. And that's an accomplishment. I was able through all of the chapters and move up the chapters where my main character Mya meets her Millburn friends. Which forced me to read through a lot of my early chapters and find the moments where the pace of the story can be quickened.

In reading through the story for what feels like the twentieth time I am still seeing places where I can make things better. Going back and reading the story with a different lens afforded me the ability to look at the text with a different perspective. I was able to take into consideration different things like themes, continuity with plot and characters. I also took a closer look at my peripheral characters to make sure they were holding their weight in the story. I made some tough choices and cut out a  supporting character by pushing her more toward the background. I also had to weave in some moments of foreshadowing and connect some plot lines that seemed to appear out of nowhere. This is different than just writing the story out for the first time. This feels more purposeful. I have to be more disciplined as a writer. Not only am I looking at the text as the author of the piece I also have to live inside it as a reader. Asking myself the questions as if I were encountering the work for the first time. This helps me to cut add, and connect the dots that don't seem to make sense.

My characters have lived inside of my head for so long that they've become a part of me. I know them. But I have to make sure that with these revisions people that will read this work will know them too. I want them to feel for them, laugh with them and yell at them if necessary. In order to accomplish this, I have to make sure that word choice tells the story in such a way that it's not only entertaining but meaningful as well with three dimensional non-sterotypical characters.


I also started thinking about writing a forward or my author's note. I'm thinking a lot about the message I want to share or put out into the world. Questions such as:

Why did I write this book?

What am I trying to say to the world?

How is the city of Newark being represented? 

What is the big picture?

Answering those questions will allow me to think about the compendium. Luckily, I have a solid idea of my next steps. Which as of right now involve writing the two new scenes. I'm praying I can get it done this weekend because I'm off on Monday. Once I get this off my plate I can fully focus on digging into what I like to think of as the heart of this work.

Following the Plan & A Schedule



Finally, I have entered the final phase. Notice how I'm smiling in my test headshots.

But before I look to close this chapter of my life and move forward, I have to go back to where I started to appreciate the road that lies ahead...


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When I first started grad school I was so nervous.  I had no idea what an MA in Writing Studies would mean. What was I going to be able to do with this degree? Worst case scenario, I'd be able to teach college courses. Best case scenario, I'd be able to write my book. Which honestly, was the secret reason I wanted to go to graduate school but I knew that my family probably wouldn't think that was a good enough reason to put myself in thousands of dollars of debt. But I was determined, even without the possibility of getting a MFA in writing I would complete a book.

Step One, I registered for a Writing Children & Young Adult literature class. I loved that class. And in that class, I knew I wanted to write my book and it would get done. I had a great idea about a super smart girl from Newark that creates a time machine. Think modern day Quantum Leap.



In that class I wrote.  It was hot garbage. I'm sure of it and Dr. Inskeep was way too kind in her comments and feedback. Needless to say, I wrote about 50 pages of words and I haven't looked at it again since the end of that semester.

After a full year into my graduate program, I was learning so much about writing in digital spaces and different theories of writing and writing practice. All super important and really academic stuff. I absolutely felt more intelligent but by this point, my creative juices had come to a halt. And then, Dr. Zamora offered a writing boot camp class during the summer. I jumped at the opportunity and in this class, I found my inspiration and conceived my master plan.

In the summer of 2017, I wrote a book. I wrote the first draft of my book titled, Misunderstood from start to finish. But that was just the beginning. I didn't want to stop there, I wanted to get my book published so I started researching and scouring Twitter to find out how to take my manuscript and turn it into a book. After I gathered enough info, I did what all teachers do, I made myself a visual reminder in the way of over-sized post list, known in the teacher world as an anchor chart.

Step One: Get an Agent

With the amount of student debt, I'll have when I'm done with grad school there was no way I was going to self-publish.


After almost a year-long process and about forty rejection letters from agents, which in all honesty is not a long time or a lot of rejections I started to see the forest through the trees.

I got an email from an agent named John Cusick who I'd met at a conference. He told me while he loved so much about my book and he thought I was a great (he might've said good, but revision is history) writer he couldn't extend me an offer of representation at that time. I was crushed, ready to quit my dream of writing and scratch my manuscript altogether when I re-read the last line of John's email. He alluded to the fact that if I worked on the manuscript some more and fixed some things, he'd be willing to take another look. Well, that was just the slither of hope I needed. I jumped up from my laptop and created my next anchor chart.

I was on my way. I spent the entire month revising and tweaking the manuscript pouring over it with what I hoped was a new perspective. I worked a summer job which allowed me the time to work on my revisions. I'm so grateful for that time. Then on August 8th, I resubmitted my manuscript to John Cusick. Eight days later he replied and said he wanted to speak with me. I'd made it to the next step. I was about to get "the call." In the publishing world, "the call" from an agent means they are interested in your work. And it could essentially go two ways. The agent could extend you an offer of representation or they could say I love this are you willing to make a few more revisions. Either way, it is a big deal. And as a writer, this tells you that you're onto something. In my case, my call ended with an offer. And on September Slowly but surely things are getting checked off of my list. On September 4th this was shared with the world:



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And now my list looks like this...



That was until I got an email from my agent which contained my editorial notes. I'm not done yet, I've got work to do. I have to keep in mind that my true end goal is getting published. I want a book in hand. And in order to get there, I have to keep a tight schedule. So far, this is what I came up with:

So far, I haven't been able to write at my alloted times. And even though I had a laundry list of things to do after I left class last week, I was only able to do one of them which was to go through John's track changes in my documents and then I will change that. 

I know this has been a super long post but I felt that I needed to get some things out. And this process of writing this blog has actually helped me think about and remember why I'm doing this work in the first place. Which is one of the questions I was supposed to explore but I am too busy tyring to stick to my plan which as of right now, is kicking my butt. I said all of this to say, I did not finish this week's homework.