Self-Discovery of Me…

The first day of spring is the world’s New Year’s day. Spring is a time of rebirth and new beginnings and for me I am fully embracing that. I am fully embracing me.

The journey to discovering who I am and what my passions are has been interesting thus far. I have met so many amazing individuals, myself included. Before I began paying close attention to this journey, I was a stranger to myself. Working, raising a family, doing everything I was programmed to do. But I was unhappy. I was unfulfilled and I was very unsatisfied. Nothing is more dangerous than an unsatisfied woman.

So far on this journey, I have discovered (and accepted) the fact that I am an emotional individual. My emotions fuel the poetry I write. Emotion is passion. How I display that passion is a story in itself. Many have asked me about the poems I chose to include in my collection, Entangled Hearts.

Each poem spoke a message I wanted to share with you, my readers. We have all experienced love in some form. Good, bad or indifferent, love has left an imprint on each of us. But some imprints left a residue that made me feel alone and isolated, so I wrote about it to reach out to others who may have or yet to have experienced the same.

Entangled Hearts is a collective love letter to myself, to past loves, to future loves and to lovers in general. Sometimes love hurts but other times it doesn’t and that is what entangles all of our hearts…

Reflect On The Past. Plan For The Future…

As National Women’s History Month winds down and the fervor of National Poetry Month begins I can only but reflect on how I fit in at this point of my life. I am a woman. I am a poet. My passion lies in sharing, educating and helping in any way I can.

In reflecting on my own past I realize I can only help others insofar as I have helped myself. That is where my experience and education springs from. Learning from my own past mistakes and then sharing those lessons.

Lesson 1. Speak up. Anything you want to learn you must first be brave enough to speak up. “How do you (insert topic here)?” The worst anyone can say is I don’t know. Your next move is to google it or head to your local library. As a poet, sometimes I am afraid to ask questions because I don’t like hearing no. No hasn’t killed me yet so I continuously push against my fear. I don’t always win, but I don’t stop either.

Lesson 2. Yes. You. Can. Whatever it is you strive to do, you can do. No explanations.

Lesson 3. Ask. For help, for reviews, for sales. Closed mouths don’t get fed. On that note, I am in need of honest feedback on my collection of poetry, Entangled Hearts. In exchange for said feedback I will be giving away free kindle copies of Entangled Hearts to the first ten people to comment below with their email addresses.

Last but not least…

Lesson 4. Inform. Let others know how they can be of service to you so you can be of better service to others! I am preparing to release my second collection of poetry, Reflections: Past, Present, Future and I need a few beta readers as well. Leave your name and email address below with beta next to it so I’ll know you’re interested in being a beta reader. Thanks in advance!

Why Yet

Yolanda Keen, The Reading Machine

Hi! My name is Yolanda Keen and I am five years old. I love to sing and play with my dolls. I have a younger brother named Calvin and he cries, a lot! He is three years old. He still acts like a baby sometimes. I don’t because I am a big girl and I can do big girl things like read books and tie my shoes. My mom taught me to do all of the big girl stuff the same as Pinky Dinky Doo.

My mom takes good care of me and my brother. My dad does too but he doesn’t take care of us the way mom does. She makes us grilled cheese sandwiches and colors with us sometimes. She yells a lot, when Calvin and I fight but she hugs us too, especially when we play nice together. She makes us eat our vegetables (yuck!), brush our teeth and read lots of books!

I didn’t like reading at first. I used to cry like Calvin when my mom would make me read, but she would always say that we must read. As a little girl, her grandmother wasn’t allowed to read because her skin was a different color than the people who owned all of the books. I’m not sure what that means but it made mom sad. She told me and Calvin to always respect the ability to read books because now we can learn about anything we want to know.

Now in school I am the best reader in my class. I finished the 100-book challenge and mom still makes me read every day. Now I have read almost 170 books and school isn’t out yet! Ms. Joy, the librarian at my neighborhood library, gave me entry forms for a reading contest so I can win movie tickets for Sherlock Gnomes. I really want to win so I can go to the movies with my friends! While reading I found new books like Mobi Shinobi, Pete the Cat, and Penny and Her Marble. Now, I am a reading machine!

I still like when mom reads to me before bed. She makes the funniest voices and scrunched her face when the bad guys do something bad. My all-time favorite is when she reads The Gruffalo. “Oh help! Oh no, it’s the GRUFFALO!” I gotta go, it’s my snack time! See ya later, alligator! Yolanda giggled as she walked to the kitchen for her afternoon snack.

National Women’s History Month

March 1st. The beginning of our month long celebration of women. I could rattle off a list of names from the history books but we, as women, should be bold and brass enough to celebrate ourselves as well. I am all about giving kudos to those who paved the path I now tread but I want to begin this month respecting my beginnings.

This month I want to honor the fabulous women who have helped shape my life with the very essence of theirs, starting with my mother. The most influential woman in my direct life. Words cannot express how thankful I am to have you in my life.

My mother raised five children, on her own, in the heart of a tough North Philadelphia neighborhood. Throughout the 80s and 90s she ran her home with a precision that would be considered extreme by today’s moralless standards. She understood how dangerous the streets could be having come of age in the gang-run streets of Philadelphia in the mid- to late 60s.

During a time when women and children were to be seen and not heard, my mother was outspoken, speaking up and standing up for what she believed in. Many times incurring the ire of my grandmother. Being raised in the South during the aftermath of the Great Depression, my grandmother’s reaction was to be expected.

Not one to give in to someone else’s idea of how she should live her life, my mother made ends meet selling dinners from our home until the last of us was school aged. Instilling in us early on the importance of going to school everyday sparked my love of learning.

Thank you mom for being the phenomenal woman you are. You are more than just a woman. More than just my mom. You are an inspiration to many through your perseverance.

Which woman inspired you to become who you are today? Leave a thank you for them in the comments.

Life’s Gifts

I am a volunteer tax preparer for a non profit organization during tax season. This is my second season doing this. I absolutely love it. I help people, I learn new things and I experience a part of Philadelphia that I would not have ever experienced otherwise. Suburban Station. Milkhouse Grilled Cheese & Milkshakes. A Lebron James look alike. A Mike Epps look alike. Despair, hope, grief, sadness, joy and excitement.

I recognize it’s the small things in life that give the greatest joy. Today a woman confided in me that she has stage 4 colon cancer. Her hair was up in an opened top head wrap and the style was beautiful. When she handed me her driver’s license as I began to prepare her income tax return she said with sadness in her voice, “That’s when I had beautiful, long hair.”

I looked at her and said, “You’re still beautiful and don’t you let anyone tell you different.” Her eyes watered as she told me how she no longer feels beautiful. I understood her feelings completely. A few months ago I had three wisdom teeth and two molars extracted. No big whoop except two of the molars were on the same side as one of the wisdom teeth leaving a gap in the back of my mouth. For two weeks I cried everytime I looked in the mirror. I felt ugly without all of my teeth. I didn’t want to smile. I didn’t want to look at myself. I saw the same feelings in this woman’s eyes. So I shared my experience with her and reminded her that she is still beautiful.

She was very grateful for the encouragement. Once her tax return was completed she gave my colleague and I the biggest hugs and it felt good to help her smile.

See, so many people are stuck on the island of ME that they don’t acknowledge others until they need something and that’s the real tragedy of life. Because they miss out on experiencing the joy of being genuine to someone else, of being genuine for themselves. I had nothing to gain by sharing my story. Empathy costs us nothing but gives much.

I hope I see her fully recovered this time next year so I can give her another hug because by encouraging her, I encouraged myself. Thank you.

Checking Off Goals…

Hello. I haven’t posted sinced NaNoWriMo last year and for good reason. Exhaustion. I needed to decompress from the stress of typing all the words so I can continue to write all the words. Before I go any further, happy new year to you all and I hope you are making everyday count for you. This post is to share what I’ve been up to…

When the New Year comes in we are all flooded with the same “New Year, New You” ads to guilt you into signing up for health clubs, insurance clubs, etc… Me personally, I stopped writing resolutions years ago. They’re usually forgotten by Valentine’s Day anyway. Instead, I think of a few goals I want to accomplish during the new year to improve myself. This year, among my usual take better care of my health goals, I vowed to tackle 2 things I am afraid of and something I have been procrastinating with. I was afraid to knit a pair of socks, afraid to re-enter the realm of spoken word and procrastinating with ending a toxic relationship.

Heh, heh, heh… Growth doesn’t happen overnight. It takes consistent effort. I completed my first pair of knitted socks in January and on February 3rd I recited one of my poems during a podcast interview with Sabreen on Soundcloud, Author Event.

Then on February 9th I attended an open mic night where I performed for the first time in a few years. Along with facing those fears I am pursuing what makes me happy – helping, supporting and promoting others.

With the same heated fervor of the Black Panther release, I strive to reach those who need encouragement through my poetic words. My first collection, Entangled Hearts, is available on amazon.com. My second collection, Reflections, is due to be released later this year. Order your copy of Entangled Hearts and remember to challenge yourself to face your fears. Check them off of your list one by one!

5 Ways to Manage NaNoWriMo Stress

Well, NaNoWriMo2017 is well underway and I have been extra busy, hence why this is my first post this month. This is my second attempt at the 50,000 word goal in 30 days. My first attempt in 2015 ended with 22,877 words and a feeling of disappointment on December 1st. But this year I vowed to try it again and this time I was determined to surpass my first word count and complete the 50,000 word mark. So far, so good. I have surpassed my 2015 word count (current count: 27,714). But my momentum is shrinking with the holidays approaching and family obligations weighing down on me. There are a few things I have been doing to counteract the mounting stress:

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1) I have read books that are in a different genre than what I am writing. Enjoying a good book can spark ideas for your story line.

2) I write in my journal. I have found this to be extremely helpful. By writing about what is going on in my daily life, goals that I have and tasks that I want to accomplish has freed up some of my mental clutter and whole scenes for my characters have come about, increasing my word count.

3) I attended a poetry reading to get away. Once you start to feel stuck in your writing it is good to be able to get away and focus on something else, enjoy other’s creativity.

4) Soak in a hot bubble bath. Sometimes this can be a cure-all for everything stress related. The hot water relaxes your body while the scent of the bubbles relaxes your mind, allowing you to relax and then the words will come to you.

5) Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. A tired mind cannot write all the words and the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write all of the words in 30 days or less. Get rest even if you have to sneak in a couple of 15 minute cat naps during the day. Get your sleep on so your mind can recharge and process the words you have already written.

NaNoWriMo is fun and we all have to remember this is not life or death but a month-long word sprint. I have discovered new writers whose work I love because they participated in NaNoWriMo. I am discovering that this draft doesn’t have to be perfect – that in fact i can guarantee it won’t be perfect because it is a draft. Meant to be reread and corrected. In the event I discover that maybe novel-writing is not for me that doesn’t mean I can’t write. It means I may be more suited to shorter, more concise stories. I still love the written word and using those words to express myself. Remember why you signed up for this challenge and use that to help guide you in your story.My life, My Words, My Way(1)