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Writing and Changing… and Changing and Writing

As a writer, sometimes, your goals can evolve based on your needs. While my core goals are still the focus, some of the immediate ones are being met in new and unexpected ways.

Lately, I’ve turned my attention from script writing to journalism and copywriting. Within the past few weeks, I began doing marketing and advertising copy for the blogging service Content Cucumber. So far, the experience has gone pretty well. I actually enjoy the work I’m doing as it allows me to do my favorite thing as a writer – tell a story. Through the agency, I have a steady stream of clients coming weekly. It’s nice to use my writing talents to improve someone’s company outreach rather than create content for click-bait. I might have another gig in the wings (fingers crossed for that one).

I’m still working with CBR for now. I hope to continue my journalistic journey as I pursue more positions. I want to tackle more pressing contemporary issues across various arenas at some point. I’m still waiting to hear about my status with one or two clients, but I know it’ll be awhile given the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Within the next few weeks, I plan to pick up my screenwriting again. I’m still waiting on some feedback from one or two beta readers. Hopefully, by the time November arrives, I’ll be in the process of rewriting for the umpteenth time. While I want to focus on my first two projects, I hope to start revising and rewriting my action-adventure screenplay by the end of the year. Along with screenwriting, I plan on finally writing a personal piece I’ve been thinking for a while.

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On the school front, my classes are barreling towards our first test. I’m still working out the kinks when it comes to teaching online. The effects of COVID-19 has impacted my students as well as fellow faculty in this early stage. Things may return to normal next semester, but given the trouble many college campuses are having, it might be stretch, to say the least.

Watch this space for more on my writing journey.

Writing to Survive in 2020

2020 has been a trying year, to say the least. As a freelancer, growth, and change have become my mantra when it comes to expression. But survival has become my motto as the year has brought continual blows.

As a writer, survival has become a way of life as I chose to take my career into my hand. Unbeknownst to me, 2020 would rain on my parade quite a bit with the catastrophic situation after situation. It put me in an awkward position as I tried forging a freelance career. Surviving came before my craft as I began experiencing difficulties when it came to finding and maintaining freelance work. I began doubting myself and my abilities.

This affected all aspects of my writing. Coming back to do this blog was a challenge in itself as I had gotten stuck in a certain style of writing. This blog was my way of surviving while my contract work started falling (and in some cases, draining me). This place became my haven and purpose when it came to expressing myself. I felt stifled in other areas of my life. But my voice came back as soon as I started writing this blog again.

Another thing that brought me joy is my screenwriting. Despite taking a break at this time, writing my projects has given me a sense of peace (as well as some anxiety). Writing dialogue. Planning out scenes. Developing characters. That’s my thing. It’s my calling, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. As I wait for some feedback, I’ll get back into scriptwriting before NaNoWriMo happens.

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I’m still working on getting more freelance work as some of my clients begin to get back on their feet. Recent social media campaigns are starting to pique people’s interest. I recently started a new writing job with another possible one on the horizon.

On the school front, the Fall semester has been quite a ride so far. Getting used to teaching online and new students have been an undertaking, to say the least. The effects of COVID-19 has impacted my students as well as fellow faculty in this early stage. If recent news and emails are anything to go by, these circumstances may be in place for a while.

As a Black male trying to enter the entertainment industry, many inspirational figures are working in front of and behind-the-scenes of Hollywood. Ava DuVernay. Ryan Coogler. Justin Simien. Geoffrey Fletcher. John Ridley. Spike Lee. John Singleton. Denzel Washington. Angela Bassett. Laurence Fishburne. Halle Berry. Will Smith. Martin Lawrence. Eddie Murphy. Chris Tucker. And these are just a few of many.

For me, Chadwick Boseman fell into that category. Hearing about his secret cancer diagnosis and untimely death helped me to come up with this week’s blog. Boseman was the true definition of a hero and survivor. Besides being an outstanding actor, Chad was an activist and humanitarian who gave his all to everyone and everything. He did everything in his power to provide entertainment for the masses in his final years. He got the chance to play some of history’s most iconic figures — Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and Thurgood Marshall.

But his most impact role has to be T’Challa aka Black Panther. From the moment he appeared in Captain America: Civil War, he made a huge impression leaving audiences (including myself) wanting more. Then, Black Panther premiered in 2018. To say the movie was a moment is an understatement. Chad and that movie were a cultural shift that Hollywood big wigs are still trying to understand and replicate. He was an inspiration to millions especially for young Black boys who had only a few chances to see a Black superhero in full action (shout out to Blade and Spawn). Now, looking back, this amazing human being was creating escapism for the masses while facing the battle of his life.

The legacy he has left behind will last for decades to come. For me, there is only one T’Challa. So I say to my fellow South Carolinian Chadwick Boseman — may God bless you in your afterlife journey and that you are gone but never forgotten.

Read my 2018 Paste Magazine piece on Chadwick Boseman and the history-making Black Panther.

Watch this space for more on my writing journey.

Growing and Moving

As an artist, the act of art is all about shifting and growing as one continues to evolve. This year has proven to me that growth and change are necessary when it comes to purpose and dedication.

As a writer, I’ve noticed more and more that my writing needs a purposeful end goal. As evident by some of my recent posts, something has awakened in me when it comes to raising awareness. I feel my job as an artist is to spotlight both the good and bad of the world through storytelling. Writing those pieces on microaggression fulfilled me in a way that I only feel when writing my screenplays. I have to admit only a few news pieces have made me feel that way in recent months. This realization has created somewhat of a crossroads for me.

I highlighted in a past post about the current situation I’m dealing with a current contract job. That job has tested me not only as a writer but as a loyal employee. I took a break to reassess some things, but I feel I may be coming to the end of the road for me. But I’ll reveal my decision at a later date.

I know as an artist my evolution is an ongoing process that will never end. I once heard at a conference that creatives face a career shift every ten years. I’m actually in the midst of mine right now.

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In regards to purpose, I’ve taken a mini-break from my screenwriting as I contemplate the direction of going forward with some of my work. Writing Losing Valarie has been a roller coaster as I constantly go back and forth about the direction of the story. Lately, I’ve been mulling over some ways to make it more current and update given its target audience. With technology playing a big role in the plot, I’ve tossed around some ideas about my teenage characters and its usage.

The hangup for my other series Brothas has been incorporating the parents more into the story while drawing from my real life. As my parents (more specifically my mother) were an integral part of my childhood, I feel incorporating a good moral base and relatable stories are essential.

As I continue to rewrite and restructure both shows, I’m still reaching out for more feedback on my scripts.

Soon, I’ll be hopping back into my unknown pilot. I want to do one or two more pass-throughs before I feel it is ready for feedback. With that said, it really is all about grinding it out to I get it right.

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I’m still working on getting more freelance work as some of my clients begin to get back on their feet.

The final countdown to the start of school has begun. The set-up for my Fall courses is pretty much set as next Monday inches closer and closer. Despite looking forward to teaching on campus, I’m preparing to teach my students online. From my perspective, I feel the school year will be vastly different from last year. COVID-19 has thrown the educational system for a loop just like every other industry.

Watch this space for more on my writing journey.

Focusing and Refocusing

Rewriting brings about something many writers never speak on – focusing or re-focusing your work to deal with issues from the writing process.

Getting a clear focus is something I’ve been contemplating. For Losing Valarie, the revising and editing process has brought forth issues dealing with the continuity and a defined plot. The plot has always been secondary to my characters, but now, I see the two go hand-in-hand to make for the best story. Continuity has become another issue for me as I try to keep my story from verging from its original course. The latest revision requires me to fine-tune some key elements while adding some more contemporary elements for my teenage characters. This comes after getting some much-needed feedback. I’m still seeking more outside advice to make things better.

crop artist with new sketchpad in park
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Along with Losing Valarie, I received some much-needed feedback on Brothas from a fellow writer. It was nice to hear from a mother’s perspective as the show deals with two little boys. My script revisions deal with addressing some areas of continuity and plot. At the core of the series, I deal with a loving family. Making the parents a bigger part of the story is something I’m working on. Again like Losing Valarie, I’m still seeking feedback on the story.

I’m still in the process of working on my unknown pilot. I want to do one or two more pass-throughs before I feel it is ready for feedback. With that said, it really is all about grinding it out to I get it right.

busy young african american man with dreadlocks working on laptop in street cafe
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

I’m still working on getting more freelance work as some of my clients begin to get back on their feet.

With the start of school days away, I’m in the deal of setting up for the Fall semester as plans continue to evolve and change during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite looking forward to teaching on campus, I’m preparing to teach my students online. From my perspective, I feel the school year will be vastly different from last year. I can feel the landscape shifting on so many levels.

Watch this space for more on my writing journey.

The Art of Re-writing

As a screenwriter, many times I’ve been told that the real write begins with the rewriting and revising process.

Rewriting can sometimes be daunting for me as I begin the process of reworking and revising these works I’ve spent years on. For Losing Valarie, the revising and editing process has been going on for years as I constantly come back to it to see if there are any new approaches or ideas I can apply. Going from an hour-long live-action drama to a half-hour animated dramedy has been a gift and a curse for me. In this latest revision, I have been trying to interject some more humor while ramping up the intensity given these are teenage characters. I have re-written and re-written this work so many times at this point I need to start reaching out to outside sources for some real feedback.

crop artist with new sketchpad in park

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Much like Losing Valarie, Brothas has been a labor of love for years as I try to translate scenarios from my own experience into a more streamlined kid-friendly series. I have continued to be insular with my work as I fine-tune my work. Again like Losing Valarie, I am at the point where I want some outsiders to see my work.

While those two may be ready for others to read, I’m still working on my unknown pilot. I want to do one or two more pass-throughs before I feel it is ready. With so much, it really is all about grinding it out to I get it right.

busy young african american man with dreadlocks working on laptop in street cafe

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Aside from forging my own path, screenwriting competitions are still in my front view. Even though, there is some trepidation as many require an entry fee. I have to decide whether I need to pay my bills or enter this contest. Hopefully, these next round of entries will yield some results.

I’m still working on getting more freelance work as some of my clients begin to get back on their feet.

While I continue to focus on writing, I’ll be concentrating on my professor’s job as I prepare for next Fall semester as we deal with this ongoing pandemic. I prepare to teach my students online instead of in the classroom.

Watch this space for more on my writing journey.

Pushing the Narrative

As the world faces some difficult choices in an age of social and societal changes, writing is now more important than ever 

As I mentioned last week, I now have an outlet to make my creative dreams come true as a content creator through Patreon. I’ve been stockpiling scripts for some years now I plan to finally do something with them. Making animated content for the marginalized and underserved is all about the long game for me. I love to experiment with genres such as children’s programming, action-adventure, slice-of-life, and teen dramedy, just to name a few. As a Black screenwriter, I want people across multiple generations to be able to enjoy the medium for decades to come.

crop artist with new sketchpad in park

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

As seen on my website, my two main projects – Brothas and Losing Valarie – have been in the works for years. They both came from a need that wasn’t being met. The teen dramedy Losing Valarie has festered in my mind for years under different names and concepts before becoming an Election-meets-Mean Girls-meets-Scandal hybrid – with a Black female lead, of course. Brothas was born from the void left by shows like The Backyardigans and Little Bill. As a children’s show, the series is inspired by my own life as it follows two Black brothers and their family living an average life filled with imaginative adventures.

I still have one or two more projects I want to write pilots for by the end of the year. One revisits a Disney-esque story from my undergrad studies while the other is an action-adventure series centered on two brothers (see a theme here) as they take up crimefighting to find their missing parents. Along with animation, there’s also a live-action musical series I have played around in my head (it may stay live-action or turn into adult animation?). Only time will tell with that one.

busy young african american man with dreadlocks working on laptop in street cafe

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Aside from forging my own path, I’m still entering screenwriting competitions as a way to get my work out there. I’ve worked on my spec script a little more to help smooth out dialogue issues and timing. Hopefully, these next round of entries will yield some results.

While I continue to focus on writing, I make some necessary adjustments to my course for this coming Fall semester. Within the next week or so, I’ll be concentrating on creating the best course for my students as we deal with this ongoing pandemic.

Watch this space for more on my writing journey.

Using My Words for Change

I’m a firm believer in being the change you want to see. You can’t complain if you don’t have a solution to the problem, and for me, my solution is using my words.

When I say “using my words,” I mean putting pen to pad (or in most cases, fingers to keyboard) to create the change I want to see. For many years, I have written about the lack of representation on film and television (especially in animation). As I mentioned in a previous post, I am moving forward to forge my own path as a content creator. I have scripts, designs, story bibles, and so much more ready to go, and I’m tired of waiting. So I decided to create a Patreon page to help me fund my work. I want to be able to recruit other creators of color (especially Black ones) to help make animated content for the marginalized and underserved. In order to do that, I need funds to help me fund my projects and pay people properly, and that’s where Patreon comes into play. 

With the masses clamoring for film and television that represents them, I think about the little boy in South Carolina who only saw sprinkles of himself here and there when it came to animated shows. I’ve had certain ideas floating around my head for years with some of those can be seen on this website (check my “Multimedia Art” menu for more). I want to do comedies, dramas, action-adventure, mystery, sci-fi and so much more. I feel animation is the best medium for that with Hollywood turning to it in the face of COVID-19. For me, this is the perfect time to strike.

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While I seek independence for my creativity, I am looking for other opportunities as a writer to highlight my talents. I am tweaking the spec script I wrote a month ago in preparation for an upcoming writing fellowship as well as some other writing competitions. Letting it rest for a while has really given me some clarity into what works and what doesn’t. Giving my work some time to breathe usually helps me and it in the long run. Every script helps me to hone my craft as a writer just like this blog.

My personal writing is still coming together while my professional writing is starting to pick up again. The pandemic put a stop to my freelance work for a while, but I’m now getting some offers. I have some clients starting to reach out again. Some new opportunities didn’t pan out, but I’m still grinding to expand my client base.

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While I continue to focus on writing, I am getting ready for the next school year as I prepare to teach two classes in August. COVID-19 had caused some necessary adjustments to make the campus safe for students, faculty, and staff. So my syllabus and coursework will have to reflect that. Within the next week or so, I will concentrate on creating the best course for the Fall semester.

Watch this space for more on my writing journey.

Writing Against the Microaggressions

As a Black creative (or Black person in general), I have dealt with my fair of doubt not only from myself but from others who may or may not know how their words and thinking have affected my creativity.

Over the years, I have taken certain slings and arrows for wanting to be an artist. I remember being in high school and speaking with my art teacher about wanting to be a cartoonist. I was told that there was no money in it, and I needed to think about something more practical. That moment whether I realized it or not affected my self-esteem as a creative.

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Fast forward to my college years where the matter came up again. Going to art school for undergraduate and graduate was a gift and a curse for me. While I found the work and comradery prepared me for the industry, some of the faculty weren’t exactly the biggest cheerleaders (but I love constructive criticism). The one thing that always stuck out was the underlying but subtle racism that went unchecked.

The worst of this subtle (really not so subtle) racism happened as I pursued my Master’s degree.  I remember switching from animation to writing after feeling that some faculty were pushing me out from that major due to the look more than the quality of my work. While I admit I was a little rusty in my animation skills, I did feel a little animosity from some faculty (many I had cross paths with in my undergrad studies). I remember being asked my reasoning for pursuing my Master’s and being told I should be going to graduate school for the right reasons. I wonder if I were another persuasion would I have been told that. On top of the fact that I was one of four or five Black males in the program at the time.

It seemed the microaggressions got a little worse when I became a Writing major as the only Black male in the program. While I cherished and loved the chair of my department, the two white male professors were very so-so to me. One suffered from white guilt and was always trying to equate his experience with those of Black (eye roll). With this particular professor, I found myself more than once as the subject of his microaggressions. I was once told that I needed to choose between screenwriting and fiction writing after I turned in a hybrid-like work. He seemed more insulted that I tried expressing myself as a writer rather than fitting in a box. There were two or three more occasions where I had to almost defend myself as a screenwriter. He even kept the same energy when it came to my graduate review and thesis defense. 

The other professor I only had one class with, but every time I spoke with or saw him the energy was friendly yet weird. Whenever we did talk, it was not really substantive but leaned more towards sarcastic, witty remarks. Everything seemed okay with him until my graduate review where he commented that one of my pieces felt more vindictive than telling an actual story. But that piece, in particular, was based on my experience working in food services. And of course, “white guilt” (who mentioned that was one of my strong pieces) chimed in and agreed with him. I love it when people who haven’t lived your life question your experience and culture.

man wearing black crew neck t shirt using black headphones reading book while sitting

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It really hasn’t stopped as I’ve become a freelancer (or working a regular 9-to-5 job), but that’s another story for another day.  

But while the world is filled with chaos, I will get back on my writing grind in the next week as I prepare to enter some more screenwriting competition. I also have some surprises coming at the end of the week as it pertains to my creative life.

Watch this space for more on my writing journey.

 

 

Consuming the Culture

Last week was a little heavy os I decided this week I wanted to highlight the many exciting and poignant (and sometimes, tragic) content based on the Black experience.

This post was inspired by Facebook user Crystal Marie

For those who love big-screen visuals and great storytelling that touch on real-life issues, here’s a list of films to watch:

Destin Daniel Cretton’s Just Mercy (starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx) – inspired by Bryan Stevenson’s memoir

Ava DuVernay’s Selma (starring David Oyelowo) – based on Dr. Martin Luther King’s trek from Selma to Montgomery

Ava DuVernay-produced documentary 13th – an examination of mass incarceration of Black Americans in the U.S.  

Raoul Peck-directed documentary I Am Not Your Negro – based on the words and thoughts of writer James Baldwin

Denzel Washington’s The Great Debaters – based on the Wiley College debate team’s victory over USC

Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures – based on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly

Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing – a hot Summer day in New York culminates in a tragic end fueled by racial tensions

Spike Lee’s Malcolm X (starring Denzel Washington) – based on The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station (starring Michael B. Jordan) – based on the tragic shooting of Oscar Grant

Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight – based on a play by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney

Dee Rees’ Pariah – a young Black woman comes to grip with her sexuality

Stefan Bristol’s See You Yesterday – a young girl travels back in time to save her slain brother

GeorgeTillman Jr’s The Hate You (starring Amandla Stenberg) – based on the book of the same name by Angie Thomas

Jordan Peele’s Get Out (starring Daniel Kaluuya) – a psychological examination of racism in the U.S.

Disney’s Zootopia – an animated examination of classism and racism through the world of animals

 

For those looking for great visual and realistic storytelling on a weekly basis, here’s a list of television series to watch:

Ava DuVernay-produced miniseries When They See Us – based on the 1989 Central Park jogger case

The landmark miniseries Roots (1977 and 2016 versions) – the original is a classic while the new version taps into today’s issues

Cheo Hodari Coker-based Netflix series Luke Cage – based on the Marvel Comics series of the same name

Salim Akil-developed CW series Black Lightning – based on the DC Comics series of the same name

Milestone Media-created Warner Bros. animated series Static Shock – based on the Milestone Media/DC Comics series Static

April Blair-created CW series All American – inspired by the life of former professional football player Spencer Paysinger

Issa Rae-created HBO series Insecure – a comedic yet realistic portrayal of the Black female experience in the U.S.

Donald Glover-created FX series Atlanta – inspired by the career and life of multi-tainer Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino)

ABC sitcom Black-ish – an exploration of the middle-class Black family experience in suburban America

 

For those look for Black authors and writers to read during these times, here’s a list of books and essays to read:

15 Essential Books By Black Authors – Black Writers to Read Now

25 Amazing Books by African-American Writers You Need to Read | Mental Floss

25 Books by Black Authors – Black Writers You Need to Know

Essays and works of journalism by Black authors on racism to read – Business Insider

For any Black writers (especially male), here is a great visual article on Black male writers of our times by The New York Times.

 

Hopefully, these examples of meaningful content by Black creators can help towards creating more understanding of what Black America has gone through since the days of slavery.

Watch this space as I return to document my writing journey.

Writing in the Age of #BlackLivesMatter

As the world continues to deal with much chaos, I’ll be speaking on writing in a time of social and civil unrest. 

I’ve spent the past week contemplating my role as a writer with some much racial and civil unrest going on. Seeing people who look like me being gunned down has made me question quite a lot in my life. More and more I see my writing as a tool for change when it comes to making the U.S. see what’s going on with black and brown people. While I try to create pieces that are uplifting and stereotype-shifting, I also have to use my voice to highlight the harsh realities many Black people have experienced not only in the U.S. but worldwide. This movement (not moment) has caused me to push even harder to get my work out there for people to see. 

photo of man writing on notebook

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Seeing all this death and upheaval has opened the world’s eyes to the double standards that many face daily due to the color of their skin. There’s one set for minorities (specifically Blacks) that places them on par with a caged animal (see the Declaration of Independence) were things our white counterparts can do is looked at with suspicion and fear when others do it. For whites (who may or may not acknowledge their privilege), no one bats an eye when they do normal everyday things (i.e. barbequing, sleeping, jogging, bird-watching, etc.).

But the biggest double standard comes from our treatment by police. While George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are not the first to be gunned down for no reason, the tension between the Black community and the police has been brewing since the days of slavery (when they hunted down rnaway slaves). With each killing and acquittal, the tension grew more and more until people had enough (and the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t help matters either). It seems as soon as everyone was released from quarantine, all hell broke loose where polie brutality against the average Black men and women became normalized again in the U.S. I’m tired. You’re tired. We’re all tired. 

I think more and more social commentary will have to become a part of my work as more and more people start raising their voices. These exact events are why I always center my work around Black people and presenting a different view from the stereotypical fare. There’s a fire in me now that will not be extinguished. I must push on for the future generation coming up.

photo of man wearing black crew neck t shirt

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With that said, I know it can make you feel helpless and hopeless. And if protesting isn’t your calling, here is a way for you to help in creating social change. Click the link to donate any way you see fit to Black Lives Matter.

Say their names. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Tony McDade.

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