Song of the South (I Am and Am Not)

15078567_10155146149822971_8765461081427573026_n.jpgI am a song of the south, I am
I am Georgia.

You can call me G.R.I.T.
And I will not sneer, for grit is in my blood,
and on my plate.

I am made up of these parts:

Let’s start with the leaves,
always the leaves, the maple, the oak, the
cologne of the pine, the delicate pink-white of the dogwood,
the crunching the crackle the whisper of burning leaves
(my Papa burned leaves in a huge metal can
the smell will stay with me the rest of my life)

I am a song of the south, I am
I am Georgia.
I the peach, juicy and heavy with nectar,
I am roasted parched peanuts at the flea market some morning,
heady with dew, a light fall breeze
Vidalias sweeter than apples,
Co-cola in a glass bottle, crusted with ice
I am humidity
I am rock, honey, wood, bone.

(Let us not forget the buried dead, the mountains and the creeks that house their bones; they were here before)

I am a Song of the South.
I am Georgia.
The clay of our earth so orange, it permeates, it stains
It rusts, our history
You can never wash it off, it is you, it us all of us.

I am the mountains, the sea, the cobblestone street,
I am Sunday School with butter cookies and divinity,
and soft-haired ladies with softer voices.

but softness does not disguise the pain, the violence,
lest we not forget, that war was fought and lost and we were on the wrong side, the wrong wrong wrong side

152 years is not so terribly long, but is incredibly long
to still be lost

I am a Song of the South, I am.
I am Georgia.
Here is what I am not:

I am not your flag.
I am not bars, or stars, or X’s or O’s –
I am not afraid of where angels tread.

To admit privilege does not wound me,
it frees me.
I am not married to the past.
I do not value history over pain.
I am not your hoods, your crosses,
your monuments of losses.
I am not just one color, one creed, one twang.
I do not seek to raise the dead,
and bend them to my will.
I am not a torch.

I am not a gun.

I am a butterfly, orange against the dusk.
I am the mountain tree, bending to the sun.
I am the firefly, lighting against the dark.
I am the peach, giving way to sweet.

I am the song of the south, I am.

You want to know that song
(but bless your heart)
You have forgotten the words
and cannot sing.

14222305_10154952562487971_4693823446784938105_nCopyright 2017 Lillah Lawson

#PimpMyBio for #PitchWars 2017

This is my first time participating in #pitchwars. I’ve done #pitmad, though, and I always, ALWAYS do #NaNoWriMo. I always say to myself, “You are too busy – do not add another contest, bloghop or open-entry period into the fray!” And then I’m up to my elbows in queries and synopses and forgetting to wear matching socks and leaving the oven on and have spilled coffee down my shirt and I wonder how I got here.

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HAY!

I have already submitted to #pitchwars, so I’m just (im)patiently waiting to hear if I’m going to get a shiny new mentor to guide me through the realm of the amateur and into the white-light of professional writer-dom. Nah, I’m not at all nervous, anxiously awaiting my fate, or anything like that. I’m chill af.

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And now it’s time to #pimpmybio!

I’m a thirtysomething quirky nerd who lives in the boonies of north Georgia, where I was born and raised. Talk about your culture shock: when I was 21 I moved to New Zealand on a bit of a whim and ended up going to University there and living in the land of the long white cloud for 5 years. Needless to say, I’m a little bit country and a little bit antipodean rock and roll.

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Not saying I’m HER or anything but that resting bitch face looks awfully familiar. I’m just missing one Eric Northman.

Things about me you might find interesting:

  • All my animals are named after literary characters
  • I have thirty five pairs of Converse shoes, and no, I don’t need help for my hoarding problem, thank you
  • I am descended from Eleanor of Aquitaine
  • But I’m also descended from some guy named Etheldred who discovered gold and then gambled it all away in like a year, so
  • I have a David Bowie tattoo
  • I have synesthesia  
  • I still wear Love’s Baby Soft

 

And onto the writing:

I’ve written two novels, both of which are available via Amazon. Check ’em out! In addition to fiction, I write poetry and non-fiction, and I’ve also been known to fire off a few salty emails to lucky recipients from time to time. I’ve been writing since I was literally 8 years old, when I won a competition at school. I wrote about a Princess who didn’t need no damn Prince Charming, and saves herself. It was published in the local newspaper and I thought my short-lived fame tasted better than double-stuff Oreos. I’ve been chasing the dream ever since. I’ve been writing professionally (as in boring things like marketing copy, transcription and SEO posts) on and off for about ten years. My day-job is at a nutritional supplement company, which is actually more interesting than it sounds.

In addition to writing, I love cycling, genealogy, playing bass, baking, hiking, and sewing pillows. No, really. I watch way too much Golden Girls, I’m always trying to find different ways to make nachos, and I’m obsessed with dead rock stars. I have an eight-year old brilliant kid and my partner is a talented musician.

I gotta be honest – my fiction is ALL over the place. I write women’s fiction, historical fiction, the odd bit of fantasy, some comedy, and even a little bit of erotica from time to time. I have this big ol’ chip on my shoulder when it comes to authority (blame it on being the only-child of two Tauruses) and I really just loathe rules. I love so many genres, so I write in all of them. Historical fiction is what really gets my gears pumping, because all that glorious, glorious research! Immersing yourself in another time and space is so rewarding; finding the lessons that the past seeks to teach you. Which brings me to the.book.

And now onto what you’ve all been waiting for, the novel I submitted to #pitchwars:

Monarchs Under the Sassafras Tree is set in the late 1920s/early 1930s, just at the start of the Great Depression, in Georgia. The story follows a simple cotton farmer named O.T. Lawrence, who just before Black Tuesday, loses everything he holds dear. Crazed and sinking into the bottle, he embarks on an odd journey – to find a young woman he hasn’t seen since he was 16 years old, the mysterious Sivvy Hargrove, who has been tucked away in the Milledgeville Asylum for over a decade.

I did extensive research for this novel, visiting the asylum on more than one occasion (an ancestor of mine was a patient there for two decades), as well as heavy research into the time period, politics and cultural atmosphere of the time.

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The novel is hist fic, more specifically, southern gothic. The asylum in Milledgeville is the quintessential southern gothic locale, after all (and the major inspiration for Flannery O’Connor!). It also explores themes central to the time period – racism, sexism and abuse, poverty, class warfare, and stigma against mental illness. It isn’t heavy-handed in its politics, but it does touch upon these issues. I’ve set out to write memorable characters, featuring especially strong women, and a couple of whom are laugh-out-loud funny.

This book has been a journey, a real work of heart. I interviewed my grandparents for this novel. I traveled to the mountains. I read all the Erskine Caldwell I could get my hands on. I just love every aspect of it. I’m so proud the story came through me.

And there you have it, folks. That’s me in a nutshell. Oh, and if you’d like to take a journey through my deranged brain, feel free to follow me on Twitter (@LillahLawson), Facebook (facebook.com/LillahLawson) or right here on this blog, which I update SUPER regularly (sike).

Kia Ora, till next time,
Lillah

Summer of Love (Personal Issues)

For the past few weeks, I’ve been querying my book. For me, querying usually follows four phases:

Phase 1: OMG my book is finished! I wrote a BOOK! And now I’m going to put it OUT THERE! Everything is going to be amazing. I shall get an awesome book deal and become established author and finally my dreams will be realized! I love everyone! Query all the agents!

Phase 2: My eyes are crossing from this long-ass list of agents, all of whom have totally different and very specific criteria, but I’ll just finish this list and then I’ll go to sleep. I deserve it. It will pay off. Query all the agents!

Phase 3: So I have ten rejection letters. At least they are all polite. Most aren’t even form letters. That’s progress, right? Don’t give up! Query all the agents!

Phase 4: * maniacal laughter * there are no more agents in the universe, I’ve queried them all. What even are words. What even is my book. Eat all the chocolate.

Because I am lightning-fast at everything I do and have ZERO chill, usually it only takes two weeks (if that) to go through all four phases and then its time for a break before I start over. I am nothing if not diligent (read: overzealous).

Pitching has been easier for me this time, though, because I knew what to expect going in. I’ve done this before, have walked the tightrope of rejection and come out on the other side, relatively sane. Pitching is a marathon, not a sprint. So they tell me.

Pitching time comes at a good time for me. Most normal people have their “revamp” phase sometime around the new year, or maybe the Spring, but since I’m a weirdo I always pick the beginning of summer to suddenly decide to change my life. It is usually around the time my kid gets out of school that I’m latching on to some new interest or deciding to embark on some crazy lifestyle change (what, you say this has to do with the passage of time, watching my kid grow up and feeling the hand of mortality curl itself around my neck? No, it can’t be!). This year is no different. This summer is the summer of pitch, but it has also become the summer of bass.

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I have tried to become a bassist like three times now. I had an acoustic bass a few years back that was gorgeous and had the most beautiful tone, and I even took lessons and they all fell out of my ears in a puddle, so I gave up. I’ve bought books, I’ve taken online courses and they were all a giant fail. But somehow, a month or so ago, I just picked the thing up, pulled up a song I was obsessed with, looked up the tablature. And I learned it. In a day. OK, so it was an easy-ish song, and I played it over and over for hours until I got it, but I learned it. And that was that. I now know a dozen songs and am working on like eight more. I’m going about it totally backwards; no lessons, no real technique, just playing by ear and from tablature, trial-and-error until it sounds right. I have to practice each song every day or I’ll forget it. I’m doing this all wrong. And I love it!

It could not have come at a better time. Things are so bleak in the outside world right now. So muddled and confused. The news comes at us so fast, right at our faces, like the crack of a whip, and it starts to sting after a while. There’s just so much to digest at once. And me, a social-media butterfly since wayyyyyyy back, well, I was starting to crumble under the pressure. I started to notice how people handle these current events, how we talk about them, how we present them through our various feeds and timelines. And it was stressing me out. We care more about breaking the news than discussing it. More about proving our worth than doing worthy things. The pretense of concern over the action. I am, just like so many others, addicted to the cult of personality, to the 24-hour news cycle, the Twitter “breaking news”, the blending of celebrity and politics like a delicious froyo topped with too many conflicting-but-somehow-delicious toppings.

All those talking points, all those “breaking” stories, but nobody really talking or hearing each other or finding solutions, just endless thinkpiece-ing on a loop. Including my own. It started to ache a little, in my bones.

Social media, for some, is a comfort, a system of support, where you can find a hive of helpful bees eager to buzz you back to a good place. I’ve had that in the past, but it doesn’t feel that way anymore. I’ve never been the type to share the intimate details of my life on social media, anyway (even in my most frenzied, frequent posts, you’ll find me ruminating on current events or music less than telling private details). When I was younger, I tried it, but it always made me feel vaguely nauseated. I have never been one to air my laundry or appeal to the “hivemind” for advice, at least not in public. A private group, maybe. And that isn’t to say that people who *do* that are inherently bad or somehow less better at coping than me. It’s just not my thing. It makes me feel exposed, like I’m pandering for attention, and despite being a weird ass extrovert with a penchant for words, I’m also a socially awkward, sensitive person who doesn’t feel comfortable putting it all “out there”. There’s a reason I’ve never run for office, even though I’m one of the most political people I know.

I took a Facebook “break” of sorts (meaning I’m still on there and share pictures and the occasional article, but the endless posting of news stories and liveblogging current events as they happen had to stop for a while) because it was just bringing me down. I could feel the ennui happening, the dread – not just in me, but in everyone around me. It felt like an echo chamber, like nothing was being said, just an endless regurgitation and it was contributing to my already ugly mental state.

Of course, it backfired, because when I stopped posting about politics on Facebook I started tweeting twice as many things on Twitter. But for some odd reason – and I think I’m in the minority here – Twitter doesn’t stress me out as much as Facebook.

A few days ago, I found myself on the verge of an anxiety attack like I’d never had before. I’ve always had it, coped with it my whole life, and it comes and goes at different levels of intensity, different symptoms at different times. The triggers vary, it all varies. I had a good run of at least six months with almost NO anxiety, and I was gobsmacked. It just…left. Okay, to be fair, it was replaced by some pretty grim, gray depression that made me feel like I was living in a perpetual state of monotone, but compared to the vein-burning frenzy of anxiety, I was cool with it, for the most part. Then the anxiety came back last week. No warning, no real trigger, it was suddenly just there. Life came barreling around the corner and slam! it hit me full in the face. Literally. I found myself at work with shaking hands and the sensation of grape slushy running through my veins, big, fat itchy red hives breaking out under both of my eyes. I had to sit down for a moment and remind myself to breathe, because tunnel vision was coming on and I thought I would faint.

I found myself wishing, for the first time, that I was the type of person who felt comfortable just dishing on Facebook about my struggles. Just put it all out there, the pain, the fear, the nerves, and see what happens. See if it helped, to just say it. Would it all go away? Would I feel immediately lighter? Would I have to stop being comfortable in order to feel better?

But then I thought about it some more, and I decided not. We live in a world where we share it all, and I’m okay with that – I share what I want, when I want, and dog knows I’ve been on a social-media soapbox since Al Gore invented the internet back in the days of JNCOs. Nobody can say I haven’t used the platform. But I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable talking about “My Shit” (and yes, that’s what I call it) out loud and proud for the masses. It might give a bit of comfort, but it’s cold comfort to me, because it doesn’t last. The attention of social media, is, to me, a quick fix, but it doesn’t treat the real issues deep down. A quick scroll and a “like” or a heart emoji and then they’re onto the next thing, and you’re still sitting there, waiting.

Then you’ve got the well-meaning but often patronizing and/or tone deaf advice from people who just want to tell you what to do, without any awareness of whether or not you can actually accomplish their suggestions. The “bootstraps” people. The folks with good intentions who wonder if you’ve ever thought about essential oils? Or had you considered just buying a new car if yours is giving you trouble? Feeling bad? Why not just try yoga? Can’t you open a savings account? Depressed? Anxious? It’s all in your head, just get over it! A brisk nature walk will soothe your ills!

Actually, it does, for me. But I’m not that asshole who will EVER tell you to take a fucking walk to cure your depression. Take a walk because walks are nice and you deserve to brush your fingers against the mottled bark of a tree and smell wet leaves and see sunshine and breathe crisp air. Because those are nice things and you deserve them. I will not try to fix your problems because that’s presuming I am qualified (and I’m definitely not), plus you didn’t ask to be fixed. Fixxers can eat a butt.

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I’m working towards talking about my anxiety and depression, because I think it helps, but more in spaces that I feel are wholly mine, on my terms; like in my writing, whether its books or this blog, in spaces with friends who I know won’t judge me or belittle my experiences (because those of us who don’t talk often about our struggles are usually the first to be dismissed when we get up the courage to – and that’s an unfortunate truth), and by taking part in things that give me joy. Creative outlets. Artistic expression. Becoming lost in another world with a book. Plucking strings to play shitty bass. Watching the Golden Girls while eating M&Ms by the fistful (don’t judge me).

It may be the summer that it all comes crashing down, this house of cards we’re living in. But it’s also the summer Love. Loving what you do. Loving yourself. The summer of bass. The summer of pitching. As many songs and books as I can fit in my brain. The summer of doing things to cultivate a better, more well-rounded self. Sometimes I roll my eyes at terms like “self-care”, even while realizing the need for it, but I think that’s what it is. To take time for you, amid the chaos, is kind of a revolution in itself. That old adage, “you can’t fill from an empty cup”, I guess, rings true.

This afternoon my kid was dancing in weird circles around the room and making some unidentifiable guttural noise. His friend asked him, “What are you doing?” and my mini-me replied in a gleeful tone, “I dunno. I’m just dancing. I have personal issues!” Then he proudly shook his butt.

So that’s what I’m up to. You can find me plucking the bass or ripping out my hair while pitching this damned book that I never want to look at again.

Ah yes, and it is also the summer of hard cider. I found this great one from the blue ridge mountains that tastes like fresh apples. * Raises glass * To summer, both the fun and frustrating, and to our personal issues!

Poncy Poetry Thursday: Homage to a Tumor

Well, I’m all out of excuses. It’s been such a ridiculously, inexcusably long time since I updated my blog. But, alas, for the two of you that actually keep up with this thing, I did warn you.

I’ve been quite busy with my latest piece of writing, a novel that I’ll just call Monarchs for short. I wrapped up writing around February, then spent the entirety of March editing it into oblivion. I revised and re-wrote and finished the second draft a few weeks ago. Now it’s in the hands of test readers, and I’ve already started sending out a handful of pitches. The book takes place in the late 1920s/early 1930s, and focuses on two people: O.T. Lawrence, a poor cotton farmer whose sparse but idyllic family life is suddenly, tragically cut short; and Sivvy Hargrove, a touring tent revival singer who ends up in the Milledgeville Asylum with no hope of being released. That’s all I have to say about them right now. *winky face emoji*

A couple of people have asked when it’ll be “out”, and the short answer is I don’t know. This one is different. With Aroha, I decided to self-publish after a very small window of pitching (nine months or so) and Ka Kite was always intended to be self-published, as it’s a sequel to the former. Monarchs, however, I intend to pitch and try to publish the traditional route. I’ve had offers from a couple of vanity presses, but I’ve never understood those. Educate me if I’m ignorant on this, but it seems to me that if you’re going to sink your own money into the publishing of a novel, that’s essentially self-publishing. So you might as well do it yourself, and omit the costly middle man. But that’s just me.

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So yeah, “Monarchs” is floating through the wires of the interwebs, hoping to find its home with a literary agent who has a taste for a southern gothic/historical fiction hybrid. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

As for this post, I’d considered writing a think-piece of sorts about the state of things at the moment, my frustrations with the current political climate, and my thoughts on poverty and health. I have a lot to say on the subject, a lot of what I hope is wisdom and insight. I started and stopped a couple of times, but ultimately I abandoned the idea (and not just because Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was on and that’s my favorite book/movie of the series). Do we really need another think-piece? Probably not. We’re all distraught, we’re all stressed, we’re all thinking enough for the lot of us. What can I say that hasn’t been thought, felt, said already?

So let there be poetry.

I recently stumbled upon a treasure trove of old, angsty poetry from many years ago. This was one of the more recent of that lot, but it’s still a good eight years old. I always liked it, though please know that I never take myself too seriously when it comes to my prose. It’s as self-deprecating as I am.

As you might guess, it’s an ode to a shitty former lover. As you do.

 

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The Highway

It has been many months since I updated this blog. I’ve been editing my latest book Monarchs… and it has taken up most of my time. I keep saying I’m going to write a little something, maybe share a poem or throw together a timely essay, but life gets in the way. And also, darkness. My brain is flitting back and forth between some very interesting colors, most of them residing between shades of gray and charcoal. Sometimes when its like that, I don’t feel like writing. Sometimes I write in a frenzy. It is what it is.

I’ve been brooding a lot lately on artists that leave us too soon, namely musicians. The darkness of rock n’ roll, toxic masculinity, and those among us who seem the hardest but are actually the most vulnerable. I’ve got an idea rolling around in my head…I’m not sure yet if “.deadrockstars.” is a short story, a novel, or something else. I’ve been immersing myself in artists whose talent was immeasurable but who didn’t always see their own worth, and left us frustratingly early. Scott Weiland, Peter Steele, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse.

I never, ever, not in a million years, thought Chris Cornell would be among them. But now he is.

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Chris Cornell died last night. And so I’m coming out of writing hiatus to talk about him for a bit. Because I can’t not talk about Chris Cornell.

I’m a kid who hit adolescence in the early-mid ’90s, so when you talk about Chris Cornell, my eyes light up. Was there ever a time when he wasn’t the fucking greatest? No, there wasn’t. That voice. He was the undisputed king, the best voice of his generation, hands down. If anybody comes at me with “he oversang”, I will fight them.

I’m going to attach several YouTube videos to this post, and I’m not sorry. The dude was in three bands, all of which were spectacular, released five solo albums and did countless collabs and covers. How could I choose just one to define him? I can’t, so I’m not even going to try. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll be seeking solace in those YouTube videos, clinging to memories and nostalgia to get you through the pain of losing yet another one of our rock-god heroes. I’ll no-doubt leave out a bunch of good stuff, but you know how to find ’em.

Everybody knows Temple of the Dog, or if they don’t, they lived under a rock in the 90s. But even more than that collaboration, I always loved the song he did as AliceMudGarden (with Alice in Chains and Mudhoney), “Right Turn”:


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“Good Trouble”

I posted this on my personal Facebook page, but I wanted to share it professionally as well, because I think it’s a beautiful piece of writing, and what little hope I can find I want to spread far and wide.

This man is one of my all-time heroes. I look to him for inspiration and comfort often. I’m infinitely proud that he represents my state. And I was lucky enough to meet him a few months ago.

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John Lewis

Last night I rode my bike indoors but I wasn’t feeling it, because it was raining and I had a migraine and felt very deflated over the state of things. Geek that I am, I decided to read and ride at the same time.

I read this passage, and it struck me so hard. It brought tears to my eyes. Not only as an activist; not only as a writer (I wish I could write that kind of prose so vividly); but as a human. Just like that, my perception changed. Why hadn’t I been looking at it like this the whole time?

I want to share it with you, because we all need to hear it. Especially those of us who are activists, those of us who are tired, and those of us who despair. Especially right now:

“A]bout fifteen of us children were outside my aunt Seneva’s house, playing in her dirt yard. The sky began clouding over, the wind started picking up, lightning flashed far off in the distance, and suddenly I wasn’t thinking about playing anymore; I was terrified…

Aunt Seneva was the only adult around, and as the sky blackened and the wind grew stronger, she herded us all inside.

Her house was not the biggest place around, and it seemed even smaller with so many children squeezed inside. Small and surprisingly quiet. All of the shouting and laughter that had been going on earlier, outside, had stopped. The wind was howling now, and the house was starting to shake. We were scared. Even Aunt Seneva was scared.

And then it got worse. Now the house was beginning to sway. The wood plank flooring beneath us began to bend. And then, a corner of the room started lifting up.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. None of us could. This storm was actually pulling the house toward the sky. With us inside it.

That was when Aunt Seneva told us to clasp hands. Line up and hold hands, she said, and we did as we were told. Then she had us walk as a group toward the corner of the room that was rising. From the kitchen to the front of the house we walked, the wind screaming outside, sheets of rain beating on the tin roof. Then we walked back in the other direction, as another end of the house began to lift.

And so it went, back and forth, fifteen children walking with the wind, holding that trembling house down with the weight of our small bodies.

More than half a century has passed since that day, and it has struck me more than once over those many years that our society is not unlike the children in that house, rocked again and again by the winds of one storm or another, the walls around us seeming at times as if they might fly apart.

It seemed that way in the 1960s, at the height of the civil rights movement, when America itself felt as if it might burst at the seams—so much tension, so many storms. But the people of conscience never left the house. They never ran away. They stayed, they came together and they did the best they could, clasping hands and moving toward the corner of the house that was the weakest.

And then another corner would lift, and we would go there.

And eventually, inevitably, the storm would settle, and the house would still stand.

But we knew another storm would come, and we would have to do it all over again.

And we did.

And we still do, all of us. You and I.

Children holding hands, walking with the wind…”

-John Lewis
Walking with the Wind

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A blurry but treasured photo of Congressman Lewis with my son (“how you doin’, young man?”). He gets it; the youth will carry on the work. We have to engage and encourage them.

Supporting Your Local Artist – a Checklist

Happy 2017! One of my “goals” (not resolutions) this new year is to support the artistic and business endeavors of my friends/family as best I can. It is not always easy when one is on a budget, but as a person who has seen first-hand how hard it is to promote and sell yourself, I want to try harder to lend my support to my fellow creators.

Now is the BEST time to venture out of your comfort zone and really get to know the people around you who are creating and making things happen. Shopping local has wonderful implications for not only the person doing the creating, but the place in which they live and those they are involved with. We live and die by word of mouth. The more one can network and get their stuff out there and seen/heard, the more likely it is they can actually one day make a living doing what they love to do. Being part of an artistic community is so rewarding. Rubbing shoulders with other creative  individuals can really help your wellbeing, and you might just brush up on your own skills!

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Living in the college town I live in, there is no shortage of artists. The place is teeming with musicians, fashion designers, photographers, writers, dancers, singers, tattoo artists, painters, and every other manner of crafty person you can think of. I’m lucky to know some really amazing, talented folks. The only downside I sometimes see is how one-sided promotion can be.  I try my best not to do this, but even I am guilty of it from time to time. We get so caught up in our own endeavors that it’s easy to forget that networking is a two way street. I want to do better this year!

In that spirit, here is my guideline for supporting fellow artists in the New Year:

  • Attend as many shows, benefits and performances as I can. It will not always be possible to go to them all, and that’s okay. In the instance that I can’t go, take the time to thank the artist for the invite and explain that I can’t make it. This common courtesy will at least let them know they’re seen.
  • Read books by local authors. Seek out authors from the area.  Give them feedback. When reading works by authors I know personally: Share their promotions. Offer them support, let them know that I’m proud of their achievements. Review their work on Goodreads, Amazon, etc. 
  • Continue to promote my own work being carried by a local bookshop. Encourage people to buy it there. This helps promote their business as well as mine. 
  • Avoid any/all kinds of snobbery towards different mediums. Some will go the traditional route with an agent/publisher, some will self publish, some will publish all of their stuff on a blog. Any and all methods of art are valid. Snob-free zone. 
  • The same goes for music, art, etc. However they want to put it out there.
  • Don’t forget about open mic nights, poetry readings, etc. There are so many untapped artists out there just waiting to be discovered. 
  • Don’t just go to shows for your musician friends. If you can, buy a cd or a t-shirt. Invite your friends to go. Share their stuff on Spotify, Youtube, etc. 
  • When you can afford to, buy a painting. A piece of clothing. A gift basket. A box of handmade soap. Visit your friend’s Etsy shops and Ebay stores and check out their goods.
  • Enter giveaways – even if you don’t win, other people will see that you entered and it will help promote your friend. 
  • “Like” your friend’s fan pages, business pages, etc on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever medium they choose. It should be a two way street – why should they follow you if you don’t follow them? That being said – you are not obligated to endlessly support artists who do not support in kind.
  • Get involved with fundraisers, art fairs, auctions, group efforts. Not only will it put you out there, but it will be fun!
  • If you “know a guy” who might be a good fit for an opportunity, give them a shout! Connect people who can help each other. 
  • Collaborate! Seek out fellow artists to work with. Keep doing drum circles and jam sessions at your house. Write things with people. Join forces. Art is powerful, especially in numbers.
  • Be Encouraging! Always. Be interested in what people are painting, writing, tinkering with. Never make someone feel that their passion is boring or irrelevant. 
  • Sew. Draw. Build. Write. Knit. Cook. Snap photos. CREATE. Even if it’s “bad”, dabble in every medium that gives you joy.
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I used to have this t-shirt. So classy.

Now go forth and consume (and make!) some art!