And Vice Versa: Storytelling Fears

When I write I become more self-conscious than if I’m walking out of the bathroom with a booger still in my nose. I’ve learned to quell this feeling, but there are two reasons why my writing progress would come to a screeching halt.

Since I’ve began this writing journey for keeps at age fifteen and started sharing my work I’ve noticed patterns. I can write fairly well (and I’ll be sure to show that soon) but I tend to lack clarity in my storytelling and I find myself having to explain in a rather long-winded way what things mean. My friend also read the book Wither by Lauren DeStefano where she thought the idea of the story was interesting but was poorly executed. I was relating to this even though I’d never read the book.

It can happen in reverse, with the writing being great but the story is boring or just cliche or even in bad taste. And then of course is the ultimate fail of having both problems which goes without saying isn’t worth anyone’s time or money. We need to determine what makes a good book good.

I think the writing craft is more objective and is therefore easy to see why this is so important. No one can bother to read a book that can’t grasp basic grammar or rhythm or has spelling errors in it. Styles of writing constantly change. In earlier times you could write as much description as it took to make you immersed in that world or setting. The language reflected the time and the longer and more drawn out the better. Now our attention spans are so short you have to come up with these things called ‘hooks’ and if you don’t catch a readers attention by the very first sentence you can’t bait them back. It’s a conditioning of a world that may be moving too fast.

There are numerous rules to follow too. No prologues or flashbacks. Only the most stellar yet brief descriptions. Organic dialogue that isn’t choppy. No info dumping… :/ And we wonder why it’s so hard to get published today. Not to mention that nearly all of these rules are broken by many new and seasoned authors ranging from Amazon bestsellers to the local thrift store toss-ups. They are still published. Someone out there took a chance on them or thought they were good enough for the public eye and a small paperback.

I’ve realized that if you have a unique perspective, appeal to a wide audience or offer something that’s always in demand you can get away with many things. Yet many of the rules or writing are in place for a reason. Spelling, grammar, pacing, and plotting are the foundation of good writing and unless you have a really good excuse (take Sapphire’s novel Push, where the main character is illiterate and the story is being told from her perspective) you shouldn’t shake these foundations.

A story is subjective. Even with the building blocks of writing firmly beneath you a person can read the first two chapters of your book and put it down. They may never pick it back up again either. We’re assuming this person knew what they liked though, and understood that they went to a certain section of the library or bookstore for something they could enjoy. So why didn’t they pick up the story or keep reading it?

Every genre has a standard. Fantasies are expected to be long and extravagant, thrillers are loaded with suspense right on the first page. Historical fiction better have its facts straight. You get me, I’m sure. Standards are there, but so are surprises. When someone has a book about a dystopian future on another planet since Earth is destroyed or a thriller where the killer is the detective playing up the role, we get excited.

Then you realize that the dystopian novel is essentially the Hunger Games on Jupiter, or the thriller is more horror than suspenseful. Maybe the plot meanders into nowhere or the main character is totally unlikeable (even a villainous character can have something to relate to the reader). Storytelling flaws, unlike writing flaws, are not easy to fix and are extremely dependent on the genre, tone and the author’s own personal meaning and style.

Needless to say, bad writing and storytelling scare me. But I’m not afraid of constructive criticism and I feel that is the backbone of what makes writers and artists good. What are your thoughts? Are these fears justified or should we fear nothing at all and dive in?



Love, love love this! Makes me want to dive in and create some Natural Hair Art of my own.


Katie Bradley creates touching watercolor and ink art mostly based around children and natural hair. Her story is what drew me to her more than anything. She is a Caucasian woman who has a passion for adoption, Africa, and art for children of a diverse ethnic background. I am intrigued by people who center their worlds around selfless acts and philanthropy.

What Katie says about her children, art and black hair:

“My inspiration comes from my kids – my first watercolors ever were painted for my son’s nursery 5.5 years ago. Now we are adopting a little girl from Ethiopia, and so I began learning how to care for and style African hair – we want our daughter to feel good about her natural curls! Braiding my friend’s daughter’s hair for the first time inspired my “Hair Time” series, and it just kind of went from there. I look forward to Hair…

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First Attempt At Crafting Life

First Attempt At Crafting Life

I’ve recently become obsessed with learning about artist’s books and how to make them and was eager to get my hands dirty. Buying several book how-tos I was aware of my limits in the craft department. I’ve always been a Words and Imagery girl.

Yet I’m also an avid reader and when I learned in college that you can turn books into art I was full of excitement. The idea of turning what seems to be a dying breed into something fresh and creative floored me. So I started small, as small as possible.

It was not easy at all. Maybe I’m just slow when it comes to following directions, but I had started one and had to make another one because of technical issues (i.e., not being a natural seamstress), and what you see here took a good six hours when it probably should’ve taken two.

Either way, I’m through the moon at how it looks and that it’s somewhat functional. More to come, slow and steady.

NOTE: Going to be changing the layout/background of my blog soon and also going to have a separate blog for portfolio only.


It’s Not Really History


For the simple fact that it only happened half a century ago. In that time we witnessed changes for African-Americans like myself. nothing was overnight, but there was a catalyst. It was the most undesirable and despicable trigger we could’ve ever imagined for the Civil Rights Movement-the murder of a fourteen-year-old boy from Chicago. Emmett Till.


I must’ve read the story a dozen times, assessing the situation and times. The conflicting evidence of whether or not Till whistled at a white woman. The subsequent murder and trial. The verdict. The outrage. I must make note of why I decided to illustrate this event, and why I’m bringing it up. Recently, rapper Lil’ Wayne came out with a song called ‘Karate Chop’ that had an obscene lyric in reference to Till, and Till’s family was nonetheless disgusted. They tried to reach the rapper with a two-page letter but even now (nearly three weeks after the song was leaked), he hasn’t responded. The record company pulled the song and apologized as is to be expected. But not him. Why?


I suppose he doesn’t have to apologize but the very least he could do is explain his reasoning behind the lyric. Artists have a responsibility. We are able to reach out and potentially influence others through various mediums and we can see a reflection of what we do in our culture. What does it say about our culture and in particular black culture when we bastardize our own history? In the wake of ‘Black History Month’ we so swiftly gloss over the past of our ancestors and come the 28th or 29th it’s back to being a memory. This is just Black History, it’s American History. The gesture of reducing our or any other group of people’s past to a month is met with contempt on my end.


As for creating these illustrations, it was something I hesitated to do. What only took fifteen hours altogether to finish spanned roughly two weeks. In that time I struggled with deciding whether or not I should show such graphic images and looking at the pictures of his body was unbearable. I ultimately decided to do so for two reasons.

For one, nothing that you see is an exaggeration. Every state of this boy’s death was his reality. Violence isn’t bashful or apologetic, and it can never be fully censored. The men who took Till’s life didn’t have the capacity to harbor these emotions. I wanted to bring awareness to the horrors that black people faced living in the Deep South in the post-Civil Rights era. So few people know his story.


The second reason is because of Till’s mother, Mamie. In the aftermath of her son’s death she allow the world to see the brutality of racism rampant. She saw his disfigured face up close, and had to live with that sight embedded into her memory. She became a leading force behind the Civil Rights Movement which was sparked by her son’s murder. If she could take all of that and still have any drop of motivation left in her to keep going, then why not me? Why not a poet or a singer, history teacher or professor? Anybody can if she can.


I don’t intend to stir the pot. I don’t intend to depress. I surely am not doing this to offend or upset the family. I am hopeful that people will learn the story and will be informed. It’s not really history because hatred and violence go on and on everywhere, and it’s not always enough to turn off the news or avoid the paper to ignore it. Sometimes all it takes is a song or an image.


“The Untold Story of EMMETT LUIS TILL (Documentary 2005) by Keith Beauchamp.” YouTube. YouTube, 19 Nov. 2012. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
Williams, Brennan. “Emmett Till’s Family Responds To Lil Wayne Lyric In New Open Letter.” The Huffington Post., 21 Feb. 2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.


My Patient Tree


I am in a constant state of waiting. Biding time, hoping for the best. Wishing things to change. Patience, it is a virtue that must have room to grow. Do I give it the time it needs to cultivate or do I pull it in the early stages? It depends, but it never should. Until the time is right waiting is what I do.

There isn’t always a way to know when the time is up for waiting, and when the loud, overbearing cousin Persistence stops by and accelerates Patience things can swing either favorably or against everything. There are days when Patience is overwhelmed by Frustration or completely destroyed by Anger. Then there are days where all other relatives of Emotion must sit and watch Patience shine. It’s very hard to hold onto this need to wait, especially when we are so inclined to take matters into our own hands.

Most people pray to close this gap, others meditate, a handful fill their hands with time killers such as books or handheld games, and the result is again, a matter of hope. Hoping that the outcome is what they desire and arrives in a timely manner. Hope can be easily dashed, and the vacant hole left behind can only be filled with Desperation…

Or Acceptance.

Acceptance is the well-behaved child. The one who does what their told and is then rewarded, not the other way around. It can be heartbreaking to know that Acceptance is nothing like you expected or wanted-maybe it’s even worse than you could’ve imagined. But what does shunning the end result do for you, me or anyone else? A rift as wide as a tree trunk forms, and Hate, the most venomous relative or Emotion, takes over.

In the short span of 8 months or so I’ve learned the importance of Patience and Acceptance, and have become more prepared for things yet to come both good and bad. Our capacities do have limits, and even as I grow older I still have mine. As long as we learn to Accept we can grow, and maybe a new and different tree can form.

Because I Can

Completed Vanderpoel Study

Studying a master of the human form, I imitate one of Vanderpoel’s drawings while in my own mind, finishing what he started. The original drawing is on the link below.

People will tell you that you can’t do things all the time, and I’ve heard this all of my life. Eventually one of two things will happen- you believe them to be true or you prove them wrong. As someone who aspires for great things and to do good I feel that my drawings are a reflection of that-trying to be perfect but ultimately falling short of the goal. Even so, each step brings change. Every mistake recognized is one less flaw.

For as long as I can I’d like to share my drawings and progression into that tried and true, respected area of art called realism and make it known that yes, I can do this. What about you? What have people told you you couldn’t do?