On this episode, fellow authors Naionna Laurice and Erick A Myrthil discuss their individual works and the 3rd Rochester Black Authors Expo. Naionna also reads three of her poems.
Black Girl With Glasses Featuring Naionna Laurice and Erick Myrthil Transcription
Transcribed by Noelle Ware
Meeka: Good Evening everyone! This is Meeka and you are listening to Black Girl With Glasses on SoundCloud!
[Intro music plays]
Meeka: Tonight, we have not one, but TWO guests on the show. Both will be featuring their work at the third annual Rochester Black Authors Expo, So please give a warm welcome to Naionna Laurice and Erick Myrthil!
Meeka: Hey! How are you two doing, how has your week been?
Naionna: Pretty good.
Erick: It’s going alright.
Naionna: I mean you can’t complain, we have some big things going up, so I’m excited!
Erick: Yeah, yeah. It’s been an exciting seven days!
Meeka: Right, so we do have a big day ahead of us with the Expo coming up, so there’s a lot of work going on and a lot of last minute stuff that’s going on right now. So how far are you as far as getting prepared and being prepared?
Erick: So far, with the book I was going to present? I’m not presenting it anymore. But, I’m going to be giving information about it and it will be released after the Expo. Then I’ll be releasing it sometime this fall with The Boogieman and the Orange Bottle so it will be a double novel. Then by the next Expo, I’ll have the audiobooks for both of those. So, I’ll be releasing both books with both audiobooks.
Meeka: Okay, so you’re pretty much doing everything ahead of time so you’ll be ready for next year.
Erick: Yeah, because I fell short this year having to take that knee to get my health together.
Meeka: Good luck with that! So, what about you Naionna? I know that we were talking about you and about your book and hoping that the order gets in on time?
Naionna: Yeah, I actually had the placement ordered tonight to make sure that my books are actually here by the fourth. And I was making some last-minute touch-ups, I had done my book release party back in February and the first time around, I had some rough times with the printer. So, I went with a local printer this time around and I edited some things. It’s actually not a novel, mine’s actually a poetry book. I didn’t go by my first name, which is Naionna, I went by the name VeNus.
Naionna: I wrote for women in particular and I wrote a lot of poems that were more-so based on women’s experiences. So, I took a lot of stuff that I got inside of it from different women and wrote it down and took notes and meditated on it and thought, “If I was in their position, how would I react?” And I turned it into a bunch of poems. That’s actually how I came up with the concept for this book. I wasn’t speaking just for myself, so I didn’t want to write the book just based on one vision and one mindsight. So, I’m kind of excited, it’s my first time putting myself out there. Everybody will see this books for the first time so it’s kind of nerve-wrecking, but I’m kind of just pumped for the turn out and getting to mingle and meet everybody [laugh].
Meeka: Alright, so I was wondering, how did you two decide to become authors? Who and what encouraged you to tell your stories to the community and to the world?
Erick: I’ve had a story for…that’s 13 years now? The story for TEAMS actually started in 2004? It was a building story up until 2012. The event that happened in 2012 told me, “Stop here and you can write about it.” So, it’s basically me documenting everything that happened from 2004 to 2012. And the way I wrote it was that it starts that day in 2012 and then I jump back to 2004 and write back up to that day in 2012.
Meeka: How about you Nai…? I’m sorry!
Naionna: It’s Naionna, I know my name is so hard to pronounce, it’s okay! Actually, I didn’t decide to write the book until about a year and a half ago, almost two years. I have been writing since I was maybe 12, I started writing poetry back in Elementary and then going to High School it was just a little hobby. And then about, I want to say late 2013, my grandmother used to tell me, “If you want your allowance money, you know your monthly check? You got to write a poem for me!” And I used to think it was a joke, but she was serious. So, I started getting some practice in by writing a poem to get some allowance money. And this was back when I was in college, so she used to help me out a lot. So, I could turn my work into a book and I was kind of shocked like, “Oh I wrote a book, but I probably won’t publish it.” When I started getting people to read my work on Instagram, that’s what gave me the push to actually publish the book. And I started to realize that people actually like this shit that I’m talking about, so maybe it’s worth putting out there. So, I actually started connecting with a few poets in Rochester and getting a little experience and doing some spoken word shows and I came up with All Hail! [laugh]
Meeka: Nice, nice! So, now tell your folks what your individual pieces are and your novels and y0our books of poetry.
Erick: Okay, mine is a personal narrative. It’s 26-year-old me talking to young me, getting him ready. Basically, I’m talking to younger me, telling him, “This is going to happen, it’s going to go this way, but don’t worry, it’ll get better.” Then the next year comes and, “This is going to happen on top of what happened this year, but don’t worry, it gets better.” Then I go into a slump for, I want to say a three to four-year period, and I’m actually talking to myself in a different kind of voice now. Saying, “Oh my God, you’re in this, it doesn’t look good, but don’t give up, it gets better.” Then the event that happened in 2012, it should have been what pushed me over, but I found a new calling and I found myself again. What happened in 2012 actually pulled me up and out of what I was in.
Naionna: So, this is all based on your life.
Erick: Yeah, it’s a memoir, basically. And it’s just me guiding young me out of adolescence basically, yeah.
Meeka: Now, what about you Naionna? Is it a collection of poems based on what you’ve been going through?
Naionna: It is a collection of poems not just based on what I’ve gone through. A lot of other women will be able to relate to it, some guys might read some of the poems and just get some inside on how the New Age Woman, as which I call it, how they think and how they go about making tough decisions in relationships and in their job and in their personal life, whatever it may be. I just wrote from, you know, the women I grew up around and women that affected me. I wrote from our perspective and I wrote on, you know, what we feel and what we’ve gone through. Some of it is fun, some of it is emotional, some of it is sexual.
Naionna: I give a little bit of everything, I didn’t want the book to be one-sided all the way through. So, it is a collection of poems just for you to get an eye-opener on what I write about. It’s not just one topic, it’s not just one feel, so I kind of threw it out there and said, “Well I’m going to do a collection of poems I wrote over the years, some newer, some older.” And see what they think. And I think it’s a great book, I think a lot of people could learn something from it so I’m just excited for the reviews, to her some prospects and interests.
Meeka: So, now Erick, you talked a bit about your writing process on the Bonfire Talks, which is a radio show on WAYO 104.3 FM here in Rochester, New York. For folks who don’t know, it’s a local radio station here in Rochester. So, you talk about how the lack of sleep played a part in your writing. Do you do the majority of your writing at night?
Erick: Yes, very much so, when nothing but my thoughts are in my head. I like to write in a dark room, preferably with music on or the TV playing low. And with that, I find that my most creative is at that moment.
Meeka: And what about you, Naionna? What is your writing process?
Naionna: It comes sporadically. Sometimes I could be in the middle of a drive to work, sometimes it could just be late at night when I get off of an evening shift and I’m in bed and, you know, one of those restless nights where I could just jot things down. But I’ve had times where I’ve had to pull over and park and type a poem on my phone if it comes to me, so it’s random. But I try to spend most of my time writing right before bed, just to get last minute thoughts down. It may not make sense to me at the moment, but then I have it tomorrow morning. I can look at it with fresh eyes and it may come out to be something spectacular. It depends, but a lot of times, it’s just sporadic. I never know when I’m going to spark my interest on a certain poem or a certain topic and I just can’t force myself to write.
Naionna: A lot of people get that time where they say, “I’m going to designate three hours and I’m going to write today.” It doesn’t usually work that way for me. Sometimes it takes a time. I can sit down and say, “Okay, I’m going to try to write a poem.” And then once I get into it, I lose everything. And then I’ll say, “Well okay, maybe I’ll start back tomorrow.” Some things work better for others, but now with the way that I write and how my mood shifts so much, I never know when I’m going to take time to jot things down. Sometimes I won’t even write for two or three weeks at a time. I mean, I guess it just depends on the person, but with me, I’m just random [laugh].
Meeka: Alright, so, I was wondering have y’all ever performed any of your writing or showed them to other people. If so, what was the feedback?
Erick: Okay, when I was writing TEAMS, I actually opened it up to six people. All featured in it, but later on I had to change their names, but they said, “Wow, we didn’t know you were that in touch and you’re really putting yourself out there.” And it was after I read it back when I was revising it for the first time. And I said, “Wow I really strip myself naked and I tell all.” And it’s not even a matter of I’m putting all my business out there, that person doesn’t exist anymore. But, I didn’t even realize I was that much in touch with everything I was going through while I was going through it until I wrote it down. And it give me some kind of closure actually in that area of my life.
Meeka: What about you, Naionna? When your grandmother read your poems or other people have read your work for the first time, how did they react to it?
Naionna: I think my grandmother always says nice things because she’s my grandmother and she thinks she’s supposed to. My mother is actually the woman who I go and show her everything and I have her read through everything as soon as I’m done. She’ll make punctuation errors, she’ll tell me, “Maybe you should change this to that.” And she’s my go-to when it comes to my writing. She pretty much kind of helps me make sense of everything. So, when she reads it, her reaction sometimes surprises me. She’s actually kind of shocked that I’ve written some of the things that I say. And a lot of the times, she makes me a better writer. I’ve done spoken word showings, I think I’ve done four in total. And there’s a few I just read off to people when they ask.
Naionna: I know a lot of the time when I do the spoken word and I get put on the spot in the beginning, I’m nervous, but going into it I transform into that other person and I can read and I can perform these poems well. It draws the audience in and sometimes I get some jaw-droppers and some people are a little blown own off by some of the things that I say. It’s always fun to see the reactions of the crowd. It’s always fun to mess with them and include them in on it and sometimes even just, you know, getting off the stage and getting into the part of performing, walking around.
Naionna: Whatever I can do to make everybody focus on me and what I’m saying, to get them more entertained and more involved, I do it. I just go all out into it! So, starting off the back and first performing, it was a little rough. It was a kind of not my thing, I never thought I’d like my voice, I think about a year is around when I started getting comfortable with it. I kind of want to do more, maybe competitions in the future [laugh].
Meeka: It’s interesting that you mentioned that you were doing a lot of spoken word. Where have you performed, have you performed here in Rochester?
Meeka: So, where did you exactly perform and how long have you been doing that?
Naionna: I did Plush Nightclub when they used to have open mic nights a couple years ago.
Erick: A year ago [laugh].
Naionna: Yeah, I did the Loving Cup about a couple months ago. Of course I did put spoken word at my book release party bac in February. I did a couple at Boulder, in Javas, a long time ago. Not even a year ago, a couple months back. I just had to go around the city. Whenever I see a spoken word flyer, if I can make it, I definitely show up. There’s even private events that I’ve done, so that’s actually been a lot of fun. I’ve wrote poems specifically for people who wanted something for their partner and their poem performed. So, it’s been fun! It’s been a whirlwind of experiences, so I wasn’t prepared for it for my work. But I definitely want to do more so I can just get more comfortable and confident with it.
Meeka: Now as far as you, Erick, have you done any type of open mics or spoken word pertaining to your memoir? And if so, where have you gone? I know you have been advertising going on a series of radio shows to talk about your work, but I was wondering whether or not you had actually performed it for an audience or read it.
Erick: Actually, when I first got it written- because I finished it in three and a half months back in 2015. It’s been sitting in my phone ever since. I actually read a couple of chapters at- there was a book signing for someone local, I actually read at his- I don’t even think he’s here anymore, he moved to New York City, I believe. And one of the people there was actually impressed with it. And he’s the one who got me into that path of presenting at last year’s Expo, going to find someone to publish it. And that’s why I linked up with Sabrina at Push Publishing and we started to pull it from what it is and just tried to get it together to where it can be released. But as far as presenting it as a finished body of work, no I haven’t yet, but that’s all coming, probably this fall.
Meeka: So, can you talk a little bit about- I know you were talking about TEAMS, but you also wanted to talk about your other book. Could you tell the audience about that one and what the process was? How did you come up with the title and things of that nature?
Erick: Oh, okay. The Boogieman and the Orange Bottle is going to deal with prescription drug dependency, prescription drug abuse, prescription drug use, the pharmaceutical industry, doctors, people who are unwillingly becoming dependent on them, which was my situation. I got the concept from the beginning of this year when I decided to get off of prescription sleeping pills. And it became The Boogieman and the Orange Bottle when I seen the struggle it was and the hold it had on me. All the withdrawal side-effects, the vomiting, the negative thoughts- and when I tell you I’m an upbeat person, the thoughts in my head were just something that a straight-minded me would not have allowed.
Erick: It really was a battle and somewhere on the front page I’m going to put The Boogieman and the Orange Bottle: A Love Story As Told By TEAMS, that’s going to be the actual title. On the back, I’m just going to have simply, “You’ve seen me go through hell, now watch me walk up out of it.” That’s actually going to be the last page of the book, that’s the back of it.
Meeka: So you’re definitely going to print an excerpt for The Boogieman and the Bottle into the book your publishing now, TEAMS?
Meeka: Okay! That’s a dope idea, to tell you the truth. I know that lot of authors are now doing that.
Naionna: Mmhm, like a sneak peek.
Meeka: Yeah, it’s like a sneak peek. A lot of major novels are doing that. I know that Twilight did it. Uh, I forgot what the other one was…
Erick: Goosebumps used to do it, if I’m not mistaken.
Meeka: Who’s this?
Erick: The Goosebumps series? I believe they did it.
Meeka: Yeah, so I feel like that’s a good move. Especially since it gets people anticipated for the novel that you have. It’s going to get people pumped up for your novel and wanting to know about you as an author and writer. So I was wondering, speaking of that, there are many famous authors that say to be a good writer, you also have to read. So who are your literary influences and why?
Erick: Alex Haley, Carter G. Woodson, uh, who’s the one that wrote They Came Before Columbus? That’s the one I’m reading right now. I can’t remember his name, but I’m actually kind of fascinated by him. I read all three of Daymond John’s books, the FUBU founder? And that’s actually what made me start my own company. I read a lot of Build Your Brand books. So, I’ve read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I’ve read the Seven Steps of Highly Successful People, I actually read Nigger by Dick Gregory. And that was fascinating, the fact that until he said he was 14 years old, he thought his first name was “Nigger.”
Meeka: Oh wow…
Erick: Yeah, and that was a great read, I actually enjoyed reading that one. I’m going to read it again sometime this year, I’m going to take it back on my feet. What else did I read recently? I’ve said I’ve read the Miseducation of the Negro, right?
Meeka: I don’t believe you did.
Erick: Okay, yeah, I read the Miseducation of the Negro, I think that’s the last book I read last year by Carter G. Woodson? And I’m actually going to try to buy his series, it’s six books. I like his narrative on how he explains how Blacks have been undereducated in the structure and the way they broke us down, so I want to read that whole series and get more from it.
Meeka: Right, so what about you, Naionna? Who are your literary influences or influences in general and why that is?
Naionna: I would have to say, starting off, I’ve been reading Nikki Giovanni for a long time. I’ve read a lot of her books and one in particular that I continuously read is Black Feeling, Black Talk, Black Judgment. And I’ve also read- you know everybody reads Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and there’s a newer poet Chidozie who wrote a book called What She Feels, he goes by the Poetic Style on Instagram. That’s actually a very popular book, I’ve been reading that one a lot lately. It’s so easy for me to pick up a book and read it in two hours, sometimes even less. I fly through pages drastically. So, currently what I’ve been doing is checking out a lot of Instagram poets and checking out their work. I’ve seen so many dope people get discovered through Instagram Poetry and posting little snips of their poems and I’ve actually been practicing dong that and networking with a lot of others to just put my stuff on blast and share others’ work.
Naionna: I mean, getting familiar with the poetry community outside of Rochester just on social media and that has been my thing lately, just connecting with amazing writers that I wouldn’t have discovered if it wasn’t for Instagram. I’m always going to read Nikki Giovanni, and I’m always going to read Langston Hughes and I’m always going to read people like that. I read a lot of urban books here and there, just random things, whatever. I read things about money management, marketing techniques.
Naionna: I’m a weirdo [laugh] when it comes to my interests. But when it’s based on my book All Hail, when I was trying to get my help, I stood by Nikki Giovanni and that helped me get through and put my work together. I studied some of her formatting and stuff like that and I think she’s my top favorite. [laugh] Yeah between her and Langston Hughes and actually, oh my God, Tupac! Oh my God! Yes, Tupac!
Erick: Tupac for poetry?
Naionna: Yes! So, I read that about four or five times and loved it every single time. It’s just one of those things, I can read novels and I can read a lot of things, but poetry has my heart. I will read poetry books all day from anybody, I don’t care! [laugh]
Meeka: Right, and it’s really interesting that you talk about Instagram because I didn’t know that they had poetry on Instagram. So, I think a lot of people when they talk about discovering artists and things like that, the first thing that pops into my mind is YouTube or Facebook or Tumblr, rather.
Erick: Social media in general [laughs].
Meeka: Yeah, media in general, but Instagram because you don’t have a lot of time to talk. You know, you only get a few seconds to speak, so I was wondering how do you actually go through that process of recording your work on Instagram and how do other people do it?
Naionna: I know a few poets that set cameras and pre-record and edit it down through different apps or a YouTube person will edit it and they’ll just share the link on Instagram in the bios or they can post the video actually if they save it to the phone. Instagram gives you 12 minutes now for videos, so sometimes they can get a minute worth of their poem on their Instagram page. It’s a lot of different apps they’re using currently for that and some are more complicated than others.
Naionna: Me, so far, I haven’t done any video poems that I wanted to share. I haven’t tried my editing skills yet, I’m not the perfect person for that, I may have to pay somebody to do that in the future. But I have practiced recording Instagram videos just so I can see my progress from now and later on in the future, and that’s really how people are doing it. They’re recording it with their own personal cameras or even on their iPhone or iPads and they’re using these apps to break down and edit them and add whatever they want to it and slideshows. They’ll put them on Instagram and upload them through the apps.
Naionna: Now that they have the slideshow technique, they can do more than one video, or more than one quote for their poem. Right now, I only use Pic Stitch and a lot of photo apps like that to put my quotes and my poems together and I put them on my All Hail VeNus Instagram page to share and people can read them. That has gotten me a lot of exposure, I’ve received a lot of emails and stuff like that from people who actually read my work, and it’s fun when you get people with fresh eyes, other poets from across the world to look at your work and comment on it and give you feedback and whatever!
Naionna: It’s a great experience. I’m not comfortable completely in front of the camera to put myself completely out there like that when I record, but me putting in quotes and stuff like that on Pic Stitch, that’s what I’m doing right now and it’s working for me, so I think I’ll continue with that.
Meeka: That’s cool, because I feel like I’ve said before, I’ve never heard of that at all. I’ve heard of people putting their music on their and using other forms of media, but all the apps your talking about as far as Pic Stitch and stuff, I’ve never heard of that and it’s very fascinating! To tell you the truth, I’m also very weird around the camera when it comes to me speaking. I don’t know if this is a problem for you or if this is true for you, but I know that when I’m reading on stage I’m perfectly fine.
Meeka: But when I’m on video, I don’t have an audience to interact with so I get nervous as far as stuttering, is that the same for you?
Erick: Oh, I-
Naionna: I stutter a lot! [laughs] No you’re fine! I was just thinking because when you said that I was thinking- you took me to a flashback like oh my God! Yes, on stage it’s like whatever you’re natural and everything is closed, but then when you get in front of the camera it’s like this is going to be recorded! They can watch this and play this back a thousand times if they want to, and I think the nerves settle in and you start overthinking what’s you’re doing in front of the camera.
Naionna: Your mind goes way left and you’re like “Okay, bring it back, bring it together.” And then when you rewatch yourself there’s little things like “Oh, I don’t like what I did and I don’t like what I said here and I don’t like my voice.” And the comfort level decreases and I’m like I don’t even know if I want to share this video anymore! [Laughs]
Erick: I know for me, at least, I can talk in front of 100,000 people and it won’t bother me. It’s the small crowds, the ones that can talk back and I can hear them and know who’s talking to me? That’s like I’m on TV And I’m being recorded and I don’t know what to do with my hands.
Naionna: [Laughs] I hear that a lot!
Erick: I’m serious, it’s like I’ll put them in front of me, but sometimes during the interview they’ll start rising, and I won’t do it, it’ll just do it on its own! And I’ve learned, now that I’ve been on TV twice doing work for the Expo, I put them under the desk and that’s working. I know for previous times on TV or interviews on shows and stuff, I actually interviewed with a TV station about a year and a half ago and on camera, my hands just started rising.
Naionna: So, is it like your hands rise or you’re just talking with your hands?
Erick: No, I really don’t know what to do with them! So, I just learned to keep them under the desk so they don’t go anywhere.
Naionna: [Laughs] Oh, okay!
Meeka: It’s really weird- it’s not weird at all, I also talk with my hands. In fact, I find myself being more comfortable if I’m animated when I’m talking because if not, I feel out of sorts, you know what I mean? And I’m the type of person that can’t stand still or stay still at all. So, when I’m not moving my hands or moving some part of my body, I feel very stifled. You know, like something’s wrong. I feel like if that’s what you like to do and that’s part of who you are as far as speaking with your hands and stuff, by all means do that!
Meeka: Especially- we were at the Expo meeting, what was it last night? And they talked about if that’s part of your personality and that’s part of what you’re doing as a writer if you speak with your hands- and the folks who were saying this, they were actually talking about your overall image. Yes, that’s what it is, your overall image. Everything from the table to your own body. So if that’s something you want to do and that’s part of who you are as a writer and who you are as a person, by all means go ahead and do that. Don’t sit on your hands or anything unless you’re talking about slapping somebody or something, you know what I mean?
Meeka: It’s really fascinating how when it comes to video, it’s something completely different because we’re looking at ourselves. We’re looking at ourselves and we’re very self-conscious and we’re our own worst critic. So, other people looking at us is completely different, especially if we’re in our element and performing, so I find that to be very fascinating.
Naionna: Yeah, definitely, definitely.
Meeka: So, it is 7:30, 30 minutes past the hour, so it’s time for our music break. Here’s Cynical Plans by the Passion Hifi.
[Music break from the Passion Hifi, a group that produces hip-hop beats and instrumentals]
Meeka: And we’re back! You’re listening to Black Girl With Glasses on SoundCloud. I’m here with author Naionna Laurice, Erick Myrthil had to step out. So now that we talked about your writing career, your influences, let’s change the subject to speak on and talk about the Rochester Black Authors Expo, which is on May 6, which is coming up in about 3 days I believe. So how did you prepare for the event?
Naionna: [Sigh] It took a lot. I actually just went and got some shirts made, some business cards made, some bookmarks made, a couple of things just to have on my table to support the book and the brand. My logo says All Hail VeNus, so I wanted to make sure that I had those things bookmarked on the things on my table so it would reflect everything that has to do with All Hail, my poetry book, so just a couple of things like that. I got the t-shirts done earlier this week, I actually just picked up my bookmarks and my business cards today, those came out really really well, so I am happy about that.
Naionna: I’m still waiting on my books, so it makes me a little bit nervous, but if my books are there I’ll be happy. If they’re here on time, I’ll be happy! That’s really been my main focus, it just depends on printing and everything, but I will say I probably could have done things a little bit sooner, but it’s a lot. But I’m working on it, I’m getting prepared, I’m excited, I’m promoting, I’m tagging, whatever I can do to get the word out.
Meeka: So I was wondering, because that’s a lot of material that you have for your table. So in general, how long did it take you to prepare for that and how much did it cost you overall?
Naionna: The t-shirts really were the easiest thing to do I bought the t-shirts from Joanne Fabrics and I went ahead and took them right to the guy who was going to put my logo on them. The logo was made a year prior, so that wasn’t something that I had to worry about, I just had to worry about getting them on the t-shirts. I used Microsoft Word and I used someone that is really great with logo designing to help with the business cards and printing them out right at Staples. Depending on how much the t-shirts and how much you sell them for, it depends on each person, but I sell me t-shirts for $20. So, averaging, it cost me about 13 bucks just to get the shirts printed and the costs of the shirts in total, so I make a little profit. Then the cost for the bookmarks and business cards was a little pricey.
Naionna: I spent altogether a little over 200 bucks for both, and for books I spent a little over $400. So, I mean it is pricey, doing it all at one time was a little overwhelming. But trying to spread it out, like doing things maybe a couple months ahead of time or say, “I’m going to get these done, get my bookmarks done earlier.” It wouldn’t have been such a hassle, but I felt that I was more pressured by rushing to get it all done by balancing this by getting prepared for the Black Author Expo and dealing with daily life. So, it was tough, I Can say that, but I’m still working on it!
Meeka: So how did you even find out about the Expo?
Naionna: I met Corey Lanksky through Facebook actually. Someone tagged me in his post asking if anybody wanted to be represented at the Black Author Expo. And I was kind of nervous starting off, I didn’t have my books printed yet, I was still going through final touches with the book, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to put myself out on such a serious platform with my first book. And since it’s going to be everybody’s first time reading the book, purchasing the book and everything, I am a little nervous.
Naionna: But I met up with him, he gave me some really great advice about marketing and promotion and just getting the inside on what the Black Author Expo was about. I got so, so excited just to see where he came from, his story, his book, and just hearing about some of the other great authors, I felt like it was a great opportunity to branch out to, to learn something, to network with other people. So, I just took a chance on it, and I don’t regret it. You know, I’m excited to take new steps and new ventures and I’m just all for it at this point.
Meeka: So, in the first part of the interview you were talking about how you were on Instagram and connecting with other poets and things of that nature. So, you have a little bit of experience but, if I’m not mistaken, this is your first Expo. So, has it sunken in that you as a local poet and author will be sharing your work with the general public at an Expo?
Naionna: I think it sinks in when the book is in my hand. When I did the first write up, I was like “Oh I wrote a book, so when I get the print and I see it all come together it’s going to be like: Oh crap! I actually have to sell these things!” So, that’s like- I’m waiting for that moment. Now I’m just praying and hoping that everything works out, that I love the outcome, that I love the edit, that I love everything, and it’s my first time releasing in print, so I’m just a little bit of nerves.
Naionna: It’s hit home that I actually wrote the book and that I actually came up with this vision and it came to life. And I thought that, “Oh well even if you’re not 100% prepared for the Expo, you did this, be proud of yourself. And Still you could share these books with people, there’s next year, whatever.” But, you know I’m happy. I’m just a little nervous, if anything.
Meeka: So, outside of the Expo, what steps are you taking to promote your brand?
Naionna: I actually just started meeting up with a videographer to do small clips and stuff for my website to help promote the book, whether their video skits and all. I’ve mentioned before that I wasn’t 100% comfortable with my voice, so I’m just branching out and I’ve been a little bit of spoken word wherever I can: Cafes and events, whatever I can get into if I have the time off. I’ll go and do some spoken word poetry. I also use social media to make Pic Stitch my poems together, I use hashtags and whatever.
Naionna: I forgot to mention that hashtags have been my key factor into getting people to notice my poetry and I didn’t really know about that until someone had to tell me. Like, “You know you got to hashtag whatever it is you’re promoting and use as many as you can.” I think you get up to 30 hashtags per caption. It draws people who look up those hashtags in to see your work even if they’re not your friend. So that has helped me gain a lot of attention through my work using Instagram and hashtags and those Pic Stitch quotes for my poetry, that has helped me a lot. And I also have my website All Hail VeNus, which I’m supposed to be updating really soon and I’ll have a little blog on there, hopefully, that I’ll be starting.
Naionna: So, it’s a few things that I’m working on, but promo and consistency have got to be key if you’re going to be doing anything, especially if comes to writing a book, you know you’ve got to be persistent and believe in yourself, that’s what I’m trying to do. Try to stay motivated, try to stay positive and get the work done.
Meeka: That’s a lot. It looks like you’re doing a lot and you’re working a 9-5 as well. This may seem like a weird question, but what do you do to practice self-care? The reason why I ask is because, as a creative, you’re putting a lot of yourself out there, you’re putting all of yourself out there into your work. Sometimes it does take a toll on your spirit when you’re not taking care of yourself and it can be draining. So, what do you do to take care of yourself?
Naionna: It definitely is a draining process. I have to get myself balance and I have to get myself a schedule and deadlines. I have to write these things down and say, “Okay, this is something that I want to do.” And, you know, set up a deadline or a time frame of when I can get it done. You know, sometimes with my work schedule, things are not likely to happen always when I want them to, so writing it down and getting a clear vision of it so I know how to make certain decisions financially, you know making a video or putting out a poem may be cheaper than other things so I take my time. But when I’m not exactly working on my book or my poetry, just spending a day at home, winding down, clearing my head, turning off my phone and things I have to do in order to keep my brain from being overwhelmed.
Naionna: Sometimes just a small trip, sometimes you need to get away for a few days or whatever. But some things like that, just taking time for myself to mentally shut myself out from everything else in my life. Maybe a day, just to bring at all back together so I can refocus the day after kind of helps. So, when I take time away from work and time away from family just to focus on relaxing for me, even a bubble bath, that keeps me grounded.
Naionna: And that list, getting some structure on what it is I want to do and how I’m going to go about it, creating a plan and sticking to that plan has helped me a lot. It’s when I divert or go off or slack off is when things spiral out of control. So as long as I balance out my job and take time for myself, I also keep that plan and place, I’m pretty well grounded. It doesn’t always happen as smooth as I’d like it to, but some days are better than others and I think that’s with anybody.
Meeka: So I was wondering if you could read a couple of your poems.
Naionna: Sure, sure! I can, actually I can do a poem or two. So, I’ll go ahead and do my favorite poem that I wrote on my way to work- I typed this up on my phone. This is just something that I wanted to use that I felt like a lot of women could relate to. It was very personal, very touchy to me, so I wrote this particularly for women like myself.
[Naionna reads an excerpt from her book, AllHail.]
Naionna: I loved today like I didn’t love yesterday
I loved today like I’ve never loved before
I loved with morals
I loved with strength
I did not hesitate
I didn’t send a text for reassurance or approval from girl friends with just as much eternal damage as me, if not more
I fucking loved!
I don’t know if it was the continuous failed sexlationships, fake turned relationships
That made me come to realization
Realizing what I needed and no longer needed
No longer needing to waste my time.
Fresh as a curious virgin…
Even though we know that’s furthest from the truth….
I’m tryna tell ya’ll I loved
I woke up with a new attitude!
New hair do !
Cotton panties with the bra to match too…
you know how you do,
When it feels so right
So looking just as good as you feeling
Down to the undies
Made a difference in your day
I screamed with happiness !
I glowed with confidence !
All because I finally figured out how to love
Accepting flaws and all,
Perfecting my imperfections,
Using my brain before my body,
Meeka: I love that. That’s a really good poem! It just like… When I hear it, it’s as if I feel like you exude confidence and you finally realized that it’s okay to love yourself and you love everything from your undergarments-
Meeka: To your entire spirit. And so I think a lot of Black women need to hear that type of message because we are always told that we are not good enough. You are not enough if you’re a woman with dark skin. You’re not only not good enough, you’re not pretty enough either. You’re just not enough. So that type of poem, your poem, will resonate with a lot of women, especially if they’re anting to experience self-esteem.
Naionna: And I feel like I’m not the only person that sometimes nitpicks things about themselves. And I know we have close friends and family that may suffer from depression and sometimes are insecure. I’ve been through it time and time again, so I wrote this also like a healing, as a breakthrough from everything you’ve ever brought about yourself. I wanted people to look at themselves in a completely different light. And say, you know, “I may be this, I may be that, I may be dark, I may have pimples on my face,” or whatever.
Naionna: But just to love yourself and accept who you are no matter what it is about you, it’s got to resonate some kind of power inside. I felt like at that moment, I was like, “Oh pull over! You realize it, you get it now! Pull over and write this down. And I had no idea that the poem was going to be so in depth and so emotional. I had to tell myself every time, “When you read it, don’t get worked up! Don’t bring yourself back to that place.” But it is a very personal poem and it is very relatable, so I was like, “I got to share this one.” [Laughs] Yeah but I have a few that are, you know, not always as emotional. Some are a little crazy.
Meeka: Do you have a crazy one?
Naionna: Yeah, I think I have something that I- I have a few poems. Some are sexual and depending on the audience, I don’t always go there. But I do have a few. Ill actually do two more, I’ll do a smaller one and then I’ll do another one. This one actually is kind of… It has a lot of metaphors, but it’s a really short poem. And I actually wrote this one a year and a half ago. It goes like this:
[Naionna reads another excerpt from her poetry book]
Can I stroke your ego for a moment?
Feeding you compliments as if supplements of love and promises were on a spoon..
Closer to you
Wrapping my emotions around your neck Choking you with my excitement
Letting my words flow to your heart.
You swallowed thoughts of our future together
Ingesting the stimulation of our conversation
I could tell you were hungry for the shit I was professing…
Engrossed in my refreshments
To be Mind Fucked by the BEST
You now gain relevance…
Naionna: Now I have different, I don’t know, moods. I feel like they’re never going to flow one way or another. You never going to read the book and it’s going to be one tone, I’m always going to be a rollercoaster ride of emotions and I wanted the book to represent that because no woman is going to be one way all of the time. We switch it up, we are emotional creatures, so I wanted the book to represent every kind of emotion and just go in for the gutter. Some of it is more deep, some of it is more subtle, some of it you just got to read again. So you just- no, no, no. So yeah, I’ll do just one more. I’ll do one more. I think I might have shared this one before. Okay, here we go.
[Naionna reads another excerpt from her poetry book, AllHail]
The streetlight cascading over ya brown sugah cinnamon swirl,
sweeter than I thought you’d be.
Relaxed, deep breaths satisfy the cool side of my pillow
Tenderness soaks my sheets
Delightfully enough to devour ..
If only for an hour
I wouldn’t mind another taste…
Deja’ Vu gets me..
I’ve been here before
With caramel mochas and vanilla chai’s
A few decadent treats to satisfy my high..
Undoubtedly no one could handle my honey pie
So I’d clean up the mess
Left between my thighs
And gon’ about my way ..
Cuz time nor man could replace
The imprint you left on me.
Nor impact my womb and build more to me.
Time heals all wounds
But that baby wasn’t born to be
Beautiful like her mother,
Cuz her father ran away with the fantasies of a family.
And all I was left with was the memories..
The candle light burning daggers thru me..
Heating up the past, as I throw back this Hennessy..
I wish I was built for this
Love lasts, and forever shit ..
But with love I came last …
and a future with you wasn’t present tense..
Meeka: Oh, wow…
Naionna: And that’s a tough one, sometimes, to read out loud. Because that’s a true story. It’s so hard, like you lay down with someone and you get an emotional connection with them and you hope for that future and you hope for that family. Sometimes, you know, that whole vision can get snatched from you in the blink of a moment and it takes a lot to grow out of that pain. So, when I wrote this, this is actually really personal. This is something that I had gone through and there are so many women who have gone through similar situations.
Naionna: And one lady came to me and wrote me on Facebook I think the day after my release party in February. She was like, “That poem you did? It really touched me.” And I was like, “Okay,” you know. She was like, “A lot of people don’t know, but I went through and suffered a miscarriage that same week.” And she came out to that release party not knowing what I was going to speak about and I wrote that poem, and it touched her. It’s stuff like that that makes you want to keep writing and putting yourself out there because you never know who it’s going to hit home to or who it’s going to reflect on. And the fact that she loved that poem and she went home and it was on her mind, and she reached out to me on Facebook, I was like, “Oh my God, I got a mission, yo!”
Naionna: I’m like, I can’t believe that somebody actually took what I said and it touched them in that way where they had to reach back out. They had to let me know and I don’t get feedback like that all the time, so when it happens I’m really excited. You know, when you start hearing feedback from your work and people like and people love and want to hear more of it, it motivates you. And she motivated me a lot after that conversation. I just- I wrote like three or four poems after we got off the phone.
Meeka: Wow! So, thank you so much for reading those, those are very beautiful poems and they are very real. I love the realism in those because you come from a very personal place and a lot of people resonate with that and that’s good poetry. That’s good writing in general.
Naionna: Oh, thank you!
Meeka: Yeah to me. Because when people resonate with what you’re saying and see themselves in your words? To me, that is good poetry. So, you’re awesome!
Naionna: Oh, thank you. It took time, I mean writing 6 or 7 years and not sharing any of it and putting myself out there in 2 years, it took a lot. I’m gaining my confidence slowly, I feel like overtime, you get more confident and it’ll show and people will see it in your work, but to hear that you enjoyed it makes me feel a lot better about putting the book out there! [laugh] Putting it out there and getting prepared for this Black Author Expo, I’m nervous, but I’m pumped, excited, so let’s go!
Meeka: So, I have one more question and then we are done for tonight, but what words of wisdom do you have for aspiring authors and poets?
Naionna: For aspiring authors and poets, for people who write, period… First, know what you want to write about. Know who your target audience is. Whatever your passion is, I say figure out what your passion is and then put it on paper. A lot of times, people try to make their writing similar to someone else’s. They’re too focused on what everybody else is doing that they’re not comfortable with what they’re putting down on paper. So one, figure out what your passion is and put your all into it and have someone go back in and redo your work.
Naionna: You know, read it over a couple of times, have them read it aloud to you, so then you can see how they might hear it versus how you might hear it. And that helps a lot, especially when it comes to editing and putting books out there or performing your poetry. You definitely want to try to put your work out there and let someone else hear it beforehand. It may seem all good to you and you know your work, you know how you want it to sound. So, when you’re reading it to yourself, everything is flowing, but then you might read it out to someone else, they may miss something or maybe may not understand it.
Naionna: So, know your passion, know your writing, and have someone look at it, have someone read it, and just be dedicated to it. If you have a good time writing and you feel like you got a niche, definitely stick to it because when you write something down and throw it away, you never know who it could touch or who it could reach out to. So, I would definitely say if you’re passionate about it, keep going for it. Even if it’s just a little blog or Facebook post, write! Put it out there, I mean you never know.
Naionna: I did it, I took a chance, and I’m excited and I don’t regret any of it, especially the process. It’s learning experience, I’ve enjoyed it and the fact that I self-published on my own, that says a lot, especially to me. So, I would just let anybody know if you’re worried about writing and it’s something you want to do, it’s not hard, it’s not something that takes brain surgery to figure out, you got it! So, stay passionate, stay persistent and write! Write! Never stop writing.
Meeka: Well, on that note, that’s all the time we have. Thank you, Erick and Naionna, for joining me tonight. You can follow both of them on Facebook if you want to know more about them and their work. You can also meet them at the 3rd Annual Rochester Black Author Expo on May 6th at the Wilson Foundation Academy located at 200 Genesee Street. It’s from 11 am to 5 pm, family friendly, and free to the public. And lastly, follow Black Girl with Glasses here on SoundCloud, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress. The deaf and hard of hearing can read the by clicking on the WordPress link in the description. Until next time—love, peace and fake chicken grease!
Naionna: Thank you!