Life Vignette: Art vs. Dignity

The Spear – Brett Murray

Earlier this week in Johannesburg, South Africa an artist’s freedom of expression has been curtailed because of how he depicted the country’s president.  Artist Brett Murray painted, 70-year-old President Zuma with his genitals exposed.  The painting is called The Spear and was part of Murray’s exhibition called Hail to the Thief II at Goodman Gallery.

The exhibition showcases pieces that are clearly critical of the African National Congress (ANC) which is the party backing President Zuma.  The ANC led the fight against apartheid prior to forming into a formal political party.  To many in South Africa, this makes the current depiction of President Zuma an affront to Black South Africans’ dignity because the artist is a White South African.

On May 22nd, The Spear was defaced by two people that were not working together.  The painting has been taken down because of it and the image of the painting was removed from the Gallery’s website.  Over 2,000 people marched on Tuesday, May 29th to protest the images and the criticism of the ANC president.  Mapule Kgomo said, “I hate whites passionately after that painting,” she added.  “I am so hurt.” (Johannesburg AP 5/29/12)

Mapule Kgomo, a black woman from the outskirts of Johannesburg who wrote the sign, said she drew her conclusion about fellow South Africans who are white after seeing the painting, titled “The Spear,” that a white South African had made of President Jacob Zuma, who is black. “I hate whites passionately after that painting,” she added. “I’m so hurt.”

More Information:[/url]
Copyright ©

Mapule Kgomo, a black woman from the outskirts of Johannesburg who wrote the sign, said she drew her conclusion about fellow South Africans who are white after seeing the painting, titled “The Spear,” that a white South African had made of President Jacob Zuma, who is black. “I hate whites passionately after that painting,” she added. “I’m so hurt.”

More Information:[/url]
Copyright ©

Mapule Kgomo, a black woman from the outskirts of Johannesburg who wrote the sign, said she drew her conclusion about fellow South Africans who are white after seeing the painting, titled “The Spear,” that a white South African had made of President Jacob Zuma, who is black. “I hate whites passionately after that painting,” she added. “I’m so hurt.”

More Information:[/url]
Copyright ©

Voice of America writes: “ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe made it clear to protesters outside the Goodman Gallery, and to the country, that what his party wants, they can often get.

“Your power has removed that painting from the website of City Press and from the gallery,” said Mantashe. “It has forced an apology from both the Goodman Gallery and Brett Murray, it has forced an apology from the City Press. That is your power.”

“I am not a racist,” Murray said in an affidavit filed in the court case, which is still under way. “I do not produce art with an intention to hurt, humiliate or insult.”

More Information:[/url]
Copyright ©

“I am not a racist,” Murray said in an affidavit filed in the court case, which is still under way.  “I do not produce art with an intention to hurt, humiliate or insult.” (Johannesburg AP 5/29/12)

We all know the saying, absolute power corrupts absolutely.  In this case, the power of free speech/expression in a region that is still healing from the deep wounds of apartheid, this painting was not in the best interests of anyone involved.

As creative artists, we all have a duty to ingest the social trends and political rumbles of our times and regurgitate them in meaningful and poignant ways that will incite progressive communication.  While that may be my interpretation of the creative ideal, I think many would agree that a White artist depicting the Black president with his pants down is lacking in good taste and maligns the dignity of the man in question and by association, the ANC.  And, because of the country’s historical racial conflicts, this bashing of President Zuma creates extreme personal identification with him by Black South Africans thereby creating the current public outcry.

Jackson Mthembu, an ANC spokesperson said even though the artwork had been ruined, the ANC wanted the gallery to remove the artwork. “That picture represents an apartheid mentality of domination. It may not be complete anymore but that mentality remains and we must deal with that.”  (Mail & Guardian 5/29/12)

Ultimately, I am a US-born Caribbean-American female.  I totally understand the right to freedom of speech and expression but I also understand weighing the political currents (and undercurrents).  Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it.  Brett Murray, wherever you are, remember the lessons taught to you by your parents about the basics of human interaction…play nice in the sandbox, or else some kid will throw sand in your eyes.

5/27’s Sunday Lunchable Book Party!

 With beautiful weather, our Sunday Lunchable Book Party at RedBowl in Williamsburg was wonderful!  For a major holiday weekend, we had a very nice turnout including some kiddies to welcome The Magic Seeds.  Food and drink were plentiful and so was the Tsingtao beer! :-))

We chatted about the short story collection, Leaping Out On Faith and the novel Opening Up.  When I described Bronwyn Mitchell, the main character of Opening Up, as a glam trophy wife whose husband comes home with a side dish for them to — ahem — play with.  They laughed and was amazed that I would write something like that.  Hey, sometimes you have to explore, right??

Bronwyn does leave her husband that very night and goes to her pied-a-terre in Brooklyn where she bumps into her ex-fiance who is now married.  Because there are unfinished emotions, Bronwyn and Troy fall right back into their feelings.  This creates major internal conflicts for Bronwyn and she swears off all men and begins the rigorous work of redeeming her soul through meditation, sessions with a life coach and a little help from a spiritual guide.

We played a few games where two lucky people walked away with copies of The Magic Seeds and a cool kids toy to while away coming summer hours.

 We also played the What If… game where we brought in some normal everyday items for people to get inspired and create their own stories.  You know, stuff like asofetida, glow-in-the-dark magic liquid, Gumby, a six-armed bendable happy-face man (with a red dot on his forehead…), a hand-drawn image of Memnon, a bronze medal, a frisbee — you get the picture!  So, our party-goers had to create a story inspired by some, or all, of these items.

Well, the story started off with a little grandchild who needed more self-confidence and somehow asofetida was involved in helping them then Gumby became involved (who happened to be Eddie Murphy) and then — you know, all I know is Tsingtao beer began being poured (or was that before we started the story…)

Well, you should have been there!

Thank you everyone for coming out and I look forward to seeing the rest of you at future lunchable book parties!

Book Thoughts: The Grim

The Grim by Raynetta Stocks is a story of a woman who was pushed to the limits of her abilty to cope.  Jacinda “Jaycee” Baynes’ lover, Tony, made her life a living hell.  But his charisma, machoism and his sheer sex appeal and popularity made him The On; so much so that her friends turned a blind eye to the obvious signs of physical and mental abuse.
The Grim follows Jaycee’s journey from hell and back and it’s a very bumpy ride one that she almost doesn’t survive.  Through the efforts of a great lawyer, Jaycee is sent to a psychiatric facility instead of jail and along the way, Jaycee has cultivated friendships that helped her cope.  Yet, these same friendships almost cost Jaycee her sanity!
A nurturer by nature, Jaycee and her therapist work toward fulfilling the court’s mandate which is Jaycee must recall the events of that eventful night where everything came to a head with Tony.
Something deep within Jaycee created layer upon layer of protectiveness to help her keep sane.  But, were those layers helping her?  This fascinating look at deconstructing a dysfunctional mind wrapped around a tight action-based plot makes reading The Grim a sheer pleasure.
P.S. – Please ignore the cover image where you see the Grim Reaper.  That image is not representative of this  story at all.  It is extremely misleading.  This is a story of self-discovery and ultimately of salvation.
Rating: 4.5 Blogairy Notebooks

Notebook Blogairy is a Beautiful Blogger Nominee!

This is a wonderful surprise (read: shock).  Thank you Scarlett Rains for nominating me!  As I’m sitting here, I’m reflecting upon all of the events that brought this nomination about I’m floored by the small acts of kindness involved.  My fledgling journey to becoming a successful indie author has been buoyed by numerous authors and writers I met online through a variety of websites, blogs, and online writer communities.  You guys at Book Blogs, Cyber Bloggers, Sime~Gen and Zoetrope — YOU ROCK!!
The Beautiful Blogger Award does come with rules and they are:
  1. You have to link to the blog of the person who nominated you (in this case Scarlett Rains!)
    Sisters of the Heart Blog – Scarlett Rains
  2. You link to seven bloggers who you think deserve the award:One-Moment-in-Time

    Raynetta’s Soapbox

    Shannon Shaw Books

    Catalina Egan


    Northern Stories

    Basement Level Five

  3. You let those seven bloggers know they have been nominated – DONE!!
  4. You have to share seven facts about yourself

That’s it!  So here goes my seven facts…

  1. I’ve always wanted to skydive; just jump right out of a plane and free fall.  I think that would be awesome!
  2. I’m an only child (and no, I’m not spoiled).
  3. Creating order makes me very happy.
  4. Baking is one of my most favorite things to do next to…
  5. Knitting!  Love knitting up cute quick projects like infant sets, hats & scarves.
  6. My personal heaven is hot yoga.  Love the way the heat relaxes me and helps me to get a better stretch.
  7. Giorgio Armani is my dream personal designer!

Thanks again Scarlett for nominating me!  This is the best form of paying it forward that I’ve ever seen!


Positivity Can Be Learned in 21 Days!

Late last night, Maria, one of my good friends, sent a video link sharing a great talk called, The Happy Secret to Better Work.  It sounded so sappy I didn’t look at it then, I waited until I was getting ready for work to listen and had my children listen in as well.

Well, that sappiness I envisioned — no where to be found in Shawn Achor’s 12 minute talk.  First, he speaks so quickly you have to pay attention.  Next, in a span of 30 seconds into the talk, Shawn tells us he broke his sister’s arm in an attempt to save her from an imaginary sniper bullet when she was 5 (and he was 7) and then he quickly relates that she “accidentally” falls/is pushed from the bunk bed and breaks her leg!

Yet, what he does next is what has created the career he currently enjoys and he can’t wait to get up in the mornings because of that little incident with his sister.  The incident that kept her from yelling out in pain and telling their parents what had just happened (remember, her arm is broken too!)

Positivity is the key.  You have to listen Shawn tell it!  It’s is hilariously funny.  A Harvard graduate, Shawn studied happiness (of all things!!).

But, what I will leave you with which is key is the steps that Shawn outlines at the very end of the talk.  There are 5 things that one can do daily that will create lasting positive change.  If these things are done for 21 days straight, they will re-wire one’s brain to hunt for the positives in life.

Being positive, Shawn says, makes you 37% more productive!!!

Here are the 5 things:

  1. Write down 3 new things that you are grateful for EVERY day
  2. Journal about 1 positive thing that happened to you in the last 24 hours
  3. Exercise
  4. Meditate because it helps us to focus and shake off the societal ADHD that we are learning (yep, he said it!!)
  5. Random Act of Kindness – write 1 email EVERY DAY praising a (different) colleague, co-worker, friend, or family member

 That’s it!  Those are the 5 key steps.  Okay.  I’m off to start re-wiring my brain!!

Creating $$ Worth Talking About

Creating a life worth living is important.  Since many of us need material goods in order to have a “good” life, there is always a need to manage one’s material resources, namingly money, well.  As writers, authors, dabblers in the art of words, and freelancers, the money generally comes in a feast or famine manner.  How do we keep a steady stream of money coming in at all times to ensure we can take care of life’s basic necessities?

According to Robert Allen, we need to have multiple streams of income coming in so that we are never dependent upon just one thing.  “Wealth is when small efforts produce big results.  Poverty is when big efforts produce small results” (pg. X).  “How to Earn an Extra Million in Your Lifetime: The real key is to keep socking away the money.  Let the numbers whisper their silent but relentless message.  Consistency.  Day in, day out.  Save. Invest. Save. Invest. Save. Invest.  It might be boring.  It might be dull.  It might be hard to do.  No matter.  Just do it.”

In addition to this basic, yet fundamental advice, Allen encourages the reader to look at network marketing companies as an additional source of income.  Choose a product, or service that resonates with you, check that their payment structure is sound and not based on front-loading products or getting people to come in and that’s where the bulk of the money is (that’s a pyramid scheme!!).  There should be a viable and consumable product that people have to purchase regularly that provides a needed and valued benefit.  This is the crux of this book.

But if this sounds like the more advanced version of increasing one’s wealth, then start off with Kathy Kristof’s Complete Book of Dollars and Sense.  It’s an oldie, but a goodie.  This book provides the groundwork for basic calculating of your life’s expenses, it teaches you about banking basics, seeking credit, buying vs. leasing a car, dreaming about all the things you want then planning for them!

For a modern, up-to-date version of this basic financial primer geared to women, try Suze Orman’s new, The Money Class.  You can also visit Suze’s website and get free resources that will help you begin sorting out your finances.

What if you’re beyond the basics and are ready for the stock market.  You have 3-6 months of living expenses socked away and have an extra $1-5K to spare/spend.  This is the opportune moment for you to get in on the stock market.  For savvy investors, recession means fire sale on stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other financial instruments.  This is the time to buy large cap and mid cap company stock at a fraction of their cost.  It’s not as fab now as it was last year, but many of these stocks are not at their historical highs.  Do your research on choosing the best stocks by reading Jason Kelly’s The Neatest Little Guide to Stock Market Investing.  Rated at 4.5 stars with 84 customer reviews this is a little gem filled with practical formulas that are easy to master, wisdom from today’s stock market geniuses including Warren Buffet and Peter Lynch, William O’Neil and several others.

For those of you who are beyond this, let’s go to the man many of us have heard of Richard Kiyosaki famous for Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money — That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!  Whether you love him, or hate him, he has a lot of information that would be of value to at least take in and evaluate to see if they have a place in your life.  One major thing that is very controversial is Kiyosaki does not feel that a family buying a home for its own use is an “asset”.  For him, it is a major liability.  If that property is not producing income, it is a liability PERIOD.

To get away from this trap, the family home should include some aspect of rental, or income coming in through the use of the grounds around the property (garage, land, basement for rental, attic, something!).  Any and all property should pay for itself on a month-to-month basis.  Also, borrowing money (or leveraging other people’s money) is not a bad thing if it helps to put true assets in your life.  Thus, buying a fancy car is a LIABILITY unless that car is paid for by the net profit through selling one of your assets, or the money thrown off of your assets that is free and clear after all expenses.  Very controversial stuff, but interesting if you look at it without society’s normal lenses.

Why the gung-ho, “going in” on finances?  No particular reason other than sometimes we writers have to put our feet on the ground (just for a few minutes!!) and secure those we love around us.  This does not exclude the basics — getting life insurance to cover our family’s need in case we expire earlier than we anticipate, health insurance/benefits for the family, 401K (403B, etc.) to cover retirement, college savings plan(s) started EARLY (like when your child is a toddler is ideal).  The earlier you start, the easier it is because now you can save less since you have more TIME to compound what you are putting in each month or year.  The real power is compound interest over time.  That’s where millionaires are made.

So if you learn nothing from this piece except this last thing that’s the most important.  Teach your children (and yourselves!) to save REGULARLY no matter how little as soon as possible.  If you start saving in your teens, by the time you’re in your 30’s your retirement is a breeze.  You have almost 1/2 of what you need already.

Remember, finances are not scary.  What really scary is not finding out about how money really works.  And if you feel you’re really in trouble and your debt is so unmanageable, try finding out about Debtors Anonymous, an organization that helps teach regular people how to manage their money and it’s totally cost-free (that’s right – FREE!).  Find out about them here.

In the meantime, keep writing because you are creating literary assets that can bring in untold wealth for generations to come like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, J. D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts) — need I go on??

Book Thoughts: Promises of the Heart

Amelia Fitzailwyn is a precocious and incorrigible imp.  We meet Amelia when she’s 7 years old in Promises of the Heart by Scarlett Rains.  This 18th century tale meanders through time and stories at the usual pace of these stories — slowly, artfully and colorfully!  Amelia loves nature’s creatures and enjoys bringing them inside to the complete annoyance of most of the females surrounding her.  (Yet, it makes for such funny moments when her little ‘friends’ are found…)

The tale unfolds bit by bit introducing rich characters that are vivid and noble.  But in true form, Rains’ characters are also completely over the top!  They feel life’s little slights so keenly that it makes them richly flamboyant.  We first see this in Amelia’s parents who after years of marriage love each other desperately.  Tragedy strikes and Amelia is left bereft of them and the story begins in earnest.

Shortly before the tragedy, Amelia’s parents acquire a governess, Rachel; a Baroness in her own right.  We then begin our journey of finding out Rachel’s story and how it intertwines with Amelia’s.  You see, everything revolves around Amelia!  Amelia’s appointed ward has required that Amelia leave her home and travel across the country to his estate to live henceforth.  With abandonment and trust issues now firmly in place, Amelia is terrified and Rachel is barely able to comfort her.

However, the long trip ends successfully and Amelia learns she is to live with a trusted friend of the family along with his young sons who become Amelia’s best friends.

There is so much more mystery and intrigue that happens in between these large events pointed out here but to tell them would ruin the surprise and enjoyment of this story.  Promises of the Heart is the perfect story if you want to read about love, the elite and their machinations to enjoy life and get ahead in this much less technological time period.

Promises of the Heart is a lovely first book in the Heart series.  Fans of historical fiction &/or historical romance would do well to read it.

3.5 Blogairy Notebooks

Writers: Are we presenting ourselves as a single story?

Chimamanda Adichie is a 2003 O. Henry Prize winner, has co-authored books with Jumpha Lahiri and Chinua Achebe.  Ms. Adichie has been praised by The New Yorker, Publisher’s Weekly, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post — and most of us have never heard of this writer.

She’s written:

But what’s truly amazing is her 2009 TEDGlobal Talk about The Danger of a Single Story.  In this talk, she looks deeply into the topic of how a people are easily defined by one-dimensional reporting by major media outlets.  This creates a singular view of that people, or that topic for the viewers which, Ms. Adichie feels creates a lack of humanism and respect for that people, or topic.

For example, Ms. Adichie grew up middle-class in Nigeria with servants in their home.  Her father was a professor and her mother an administrator.  She continued her studies in the US and traveled abroad frequently.  Not the typical story one associates with an African person, right?

When her novel came out, she was criticized that it was not ‘authentically African’.  Even she did not know what that meant.  How could it not?  She is authentically African.

All of this lead me to thinking about the single story many writers have about themselves.

 We believe that we don’t have ‘high concept’ stories within us.  We believe that publishers ‘don’t understand us’.  We believe that when we pass on then our works will become popular.  We believe that we have to self-publish in order to be finally heard.  We believe a lot of things that for each individual author/writer is their single story about themselves.

Taking from Ms. Adichie’s talk, we have to have many stories about ourselves as writers, as parents, as friends, as lovers, as teachers, as mentors, as dog-walkers, as teenagers, as zookeepers — you get the point.  We have to see ourselves as well-rounded individuals with more to offer and to give.  With a larger view of ourselves in our own minds, we will then re-structure our own writings and that may possibly resonate more perfectly with those who we are writing for.

Channeling a new and different experience is another way for us writers to expand our viewpoints and awarenesses.  Maybe trying a new genre, or a different POV after re-imaging ourselves as fully rounded individuals will also make a difference.

Amy Tan, writer of The Joy Luck Club, spoke about the perception that writers may have the Van Gogh Syndrome where they are psychotic or may have temporal lobe seizures that fuel their creativity in her TEDTalk.  While absolutely hilarious to me, after thinking some more about it, I began to wonder if you do have to have a bit of insanity roiling around in order to write (no, seriously!).

Take a moment today and think of 5 stories outside of writing that express who you are and make a little scrapbook art project about it.  Find pictures that represent these other areas of who you are and then add images of you being a writer in the center.  This sum total of your parts is you and you need all of your parts to be successful.  I think that’s ultimately what Ms. Adichie’s theme was in her talk about the single story.

Book Thoughts: Ethos: Morning Star

Ethos: Morning Star is a long work that takes you on a journey you’ll not soon forget.  With believable characters, Ms. Finkbeiner weaves an intricate and complex story that intertwines the fate of two worlds in a web of mythology, science and love.

Brianna Armstrong and Kalen are the main characters and they have such an intense rapport from the beginning of their acquaintance that it’s almost painful to read about their bond.  Initially, Brianna’s insecurity about whether her feeling are reciprocated make her appear weak and whinny creating a difficulty to want to root for her.  However, as her relationship with Kalen becomes clarified (they are to be just friends due to the importance of the situation they’re in), Brianna’s angst is bearable and the reader and Brianna can now focus on the story at hand — saving two worlds from a powerful evil that threatens to annihilate everything and everyone in two realms.

Magic and sorcery are creatively and sparingly utilized so that obstacles are not easily overcome.  There is real struggle, deceit and puzzling prophecies involved making it difficult to predict how things will eventually turn out.  This makes Ethos a really fun read as the path to resolution is not clearly laid out.

In Ethos: Morning Star, Finkbeiner has written a work that can well become a sci-fi/fantasy classic.

P.S. – Did I mention that Ms. Finkbeiner is a graphic artist as well??  These images for the book are of her creation.

3.7 Blogairy Notebooks

The Writing Life & Kool-Aid

When I was 12, I came to my parent all geeky and worked up about a realization I had finally come to.  I had my paper in front of me; I had neatly cut it out of my notebook and was going to present it as proof of what I was going to announce.  I got to their room and cleared my throat feeling nervous but tingly and excited.  When I got their attention I said it, “I know what I want to be when I grow up!”

They grunted and said, “Again?”

“No! No, this time I really know what I want to do.  Those other things were childish dreams,” young-me said with serene wisdom.

“Okay, what do you want to be?”

“A writer!  See?  I wrote a story!  Look!!”  I shoved the papers at my parent and they glanced at it with a half-smile and a whimsical expression spreading across their face.  I noticed they took a moment to compose their thoughts before saying, “This is really good but you need to be practical, Rochelle.  What are you going to do?  Eat the paper you write on?  You need to get a job like a secretary, teacher, or even a nurse.  This way you will always be able to support your family.  Then, you can do this writing on the side in your free time…”

At that moment, my young spirit was crushed.  I felt like everything I wanted, everything I had begun imagining my adult life could be was a lie.  My parent had to be right.  They were my parent; they would never tell me an untruth.  Right??

Fast forward a few dozen years or so years and the little girl is not so little anymore.  She’s reading and reviewing stories with and for fellow writers on Zoetrope.  She’s working on story arcs, plot and theme with Sime~Gen.  She’s attended WD Writer’s Conferences.  She’s worked at local papers as a beat reporter and through that snagged a year-long stint at The New York Times as a legman.  That young girl did A LOT of writing.  Then she freelanced and did PR pieces for businesses, individuals, nonprofits as well as project work.  A good portion of it was paid work, some were freebies to help get new clients.  The now grown-up little girl realized that writing could be a form of income as well as a source of satisfaction.

In the last few weeks since the creation of this blog and the publishing of Leaping Out On Faith (which has a brand new awesome cover — thanks Aarluuk!!) and Opening Up, have been the most fulfilling and rewarding few weeks.  Yet, things in my career were not moving as well.  Is that just the ‘natural’ correlation that happens to writers and other creative people?  When one thing is going along with no hitches, the things that were solid and steady begin to hiccup and falter??  Would love your thoughts.

How have you — other writers and creative people — found that balance point in your creative expression and lives so that you don’t feel like you’ve drunk the Kool-Aid? 

While taking care of one’s family and responsibilities is not an issue for me (never was).  I just wondered what things do you guys do to keep yourselves focused on your creative life even as you do what’s best for your families?


Let me know.  Comment here or shoot me an email at noveldreams2007[at]gmail[dot]com.  I’ll present the people with the best answers for creative & work/life balance a tres cool award pictured below…