Bringing it Back to Basics (November Newsletter 2017)

Please note that this is an excerpt from my full Whitney French Writes newsletter. You can read the full newsletter HERE or subscribe to my monthly newsletter HERE to receive these messages directly in your inbox.

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Back to the Basics

Last month I mentioned that October is an especially tricky month for me. Coming out of the October fog and emerging in November, I am coming to terms with the recent WFW business-versary. It has been an intense and fulfilling journey watching Whitney French Writes grow. And like most business-versary, I'm forced to reflect and go back to the basics. Someone asked me the other day something that I thought was so obvious it kinda bugged me: What do you do?

And I've been sensitive to this question, being a writer and having my career choice questioned by friends and family members, by strangers and acquaintances. What do you do? As if the implication of that question suggests I sit around and don't do much of anything. I've also been sensitive to this question as it feels like more of a judgment than a genuine ask for information. 

But I admit I have not been clear about what I do, or rather, what my business does and offers and provides for my community. So as a way to unravel that question, to not be defensive and reactionary, I'll articulate a few thangs.

So Frenchie, what do you do?

I provide creative writing workshops in a number of capacities

commissioned workshops: which means that an organization or business asks me to facilitate a specific workshop for them

+ client based workshops: which means that an individual  will book me for my writing coaching or story doctoring to support them one-on-one on a project

+ community-based workshops: which means I create a workshop that I believe is needed for a specific community of people (ie. Writing While Black or Tree Sessions

I also publish writing for commission and develop personal projects

Black Writing Matters is an anthology project that is commissioned by the University of Regina Press.

Face Full of Atmo is a personal project that takes the form of a free e-book.

From the Root Zine is a nationwide publication of writing and illustration by women ofcolour. It is also a passion project.  

I occasionally perform spoken word or do poetry busking

+ I've written customized poems for people at street festivals, conferences, and corporate parties

+ I've performed spoken word at national and international events

+ I've created personalized poems for special occasions such as anniversaries, birthdays, Mother's Day, Father's Day and Christmas

A lot of you already know what I do, but just in case I haven't been clear, it's always good to go back to the basics. To address the questions. And it may be obvious but in actuality, it isn't as clear as I think. 

In the coming months I'll be readjusting this list, prioritizing what is most lucrative and what provides the most joy in my business life, but for now, I'm content with answering that question.

So what do you do Frenchie?

I write.
And I help others write.

(now why did that question make me so nervous in the first place?) Impostor syndrome is real out here, fam.

Over and out!

Over the Mountain in October (October Newsletter 2017)

Please note that this is an excerpt from my full Whitney French Writes newsletter. You can read the full newsletter HERE or subscribe to my monthly newsletter HERE to receive these messages directly in your inbox.

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I've gotta take on some mountains this month.
Even when I'm not ready for it, I gotta go for it.

October is always elusive for me. I adore autumn, hands down my favourite month, but October is always an especially delicate month for me in my personal life. There are shadows of events that I have tried to push past but October pulls me back to that place. It's also the business-versary of Whitney French Writes, and when my first quarter begins. It's never one emotion with October, it is mountainous, I've come to accept. 

The thing I noticed while hiking in Banff for long periods of time is the way that my legs respond to hard impact with the ground. Continuous and relentless force. And I'm heaving through because of that peak, that apex is the goal. So that too is delicate and mountainous and a whole lot of weight and surreal energy and looming shadows in my everyday. It's hard to shake. My mantra to myself, a la Happy Business New Year, is to be a badass. 

Climbing up a huge mountain…feel like a badass
Cranking out tonnes of workshops…feel like a badass
Listening to my intuition and chillin' out…feel like —

So I'm looking for space in my mind to let balance be part of my mantra too. To be reminded to catch my breath a bit. I'm going to make it to the top. Hopefully. It's just at a pace that serves me best. 

How do you pace yourself in your busy (or not so busy life). I'm curious to know what is successful for you when you are up again a scary mountain. Does breathing deeply help? Maybe having a climbing buddy? Or even planning out the hike so you don't burn out.

Either way, I love love love hearing from you. Let's stay connected. Let's keep climbing, fam.

Until next time,

So Long Summer, Send in September (September Newsletter 2017)

Please note that this is an excerpt from my full Whitney French Writes newsletter. You can read the full newsletter HERE or subscribe to my monthly newsletter HERE to receive these messages directly in your inbox.


Consistency.


Autumn is my favourite season. Many mourn the end of summer but I welcome fall weather. I also welcome a chance to cool down and keep things consistent. I do admit this summer has been tricky and as a result I have not been as consistent with my newsletters as I want to be. At first, I got down on myself, then I got anxious when a month and a half would pass. Then I stopped and tried to remember, why did I start this newsletter in the first place?

Connection. 

I (used to) love sitting down and getting geared up for my newsletters. Somewhere along the way, it became a habit. A chore. But I lost sight of the purpose. I get to share with you dear reader, not just about what's happening with me, but also what's happening with you. So I want to usher in the new season with lightness and gratitude to everyone who's followed so far. Look at all the loving messages I've received in my inbox from real readers like you:

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Write here…

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I adore you all. Every like, open, comment brings life to the work and re-reminds me that this is how I connect with others. This newsletter is a blessing and I have been fortunate to be sharing and building meaningful connections when folks since 2012. After reading these amazing responses, I am falling back in love with my newsletters and I am recommitting myself to being consistent. And I'm always down for more responses, more feedback, and love on your end...if you feel compelled to.

Is there something that you do, either artistically or professionally that you used to love but it has become a chore? How can you fall back in love with that thing? How can we practice consistency together? Until October (and maybe even sooner) I'm out...

Frenchie hugs!

Shazaam Poetry Slam at St. Teresa School

On May 31st, the students from St. Teresa Catholic School threw down a most epic in-class poetry slam. These grade eights, after six days of brainstorming, writing, and practising created a repertoire of poetry. Topics ranging from sports, moving away, their favourite pet rock, hunting, overcoming fears and going to high school. It’s always a pleasure running these types of workshops and with my fabulous co-facilitator-in-crime, Ebti Nabag we were able to explore both written and visual arts so students could express their fullest selves.

St. Teresa student writing their spoken word piece

St. Teresa student writing their spoken word piece

The Shazaam! program is a unique spoken word and photography initiative within schools through Lakeshore Arts which allows professional arts to work with students and teachers to examine identity through in visual and performance arts. Lakeshore Arts really hosts incredible workshops for the community.

 

Emotions were high on that final day of the program: some students were beyond enthusiastic, and ready to show off their stuff. Others, a bit more intimidated by the stage were nervous but still confident and determined to share their story. Once all the pencils were used up, all the words written, all the prep and practice was complete, they were ready. The slam was on!

 

It was an honour to be the host and our judges were blown away by the talent, performance and the content of the poems. Some of the highlights from our winners include:

 

“the insecurities we have

do not define us

the colour of our skin

should not divide us.”

 

 

“once you find who you are

don’t think you’re forsaken

be yourself in this world

because everyone is taken.”

 

Congratulations to our slam winners: Elijah, Dominika, Natalie and Mackenzie.
Special mention to: Szymon, Raquel, Sarah, and Zach.

Our slam champs right here!

Our slam champs right here!

It was a very special day. After the slam, the students were buzzing and celebrating, and most importantly, supporting each other throughout the whole process. Sometimes I can be sceptical about the whole “art as competition” thing, but these young artists were like a small community, uplifting one another instead of fighting to be number one. That was the real highlight for me, to see how unique and special each poem and each person was and how all the students made space for their peers to shine.
 

Much respect to the Shazaam crew, Thom & Alessandra for their incredible support and Kate for the photography. Big up Ms. Fortades for allowing us the opportunity to work with her students AND for her amazing rubric rap (so fly!).

If you are a teacher or principal interested in have a Whitney French Writes workshop in your school, book a workshop HERE. Or, if you are interested in the Shazaam program, check them out at www.lakeshorearts.ca

 

 

Immature -- I'm Mature

I'm mature
(
Im)mature
Immature


I made it to another decade. Give thanks. It's a blessing, and yet I feel like now is the time to level-up and adult-up hard now that I'm 30. I look to the sky, to my ancestors, to Creator for guidance.

I'm a kid at heart!
How am I gonna pull this off?

And who are the ominous "they" with their societal expectations of me now that I've been breathing on this planet and took thirty trips around the sun? What does this say about my small business? What does this say about my writing? What does this say about how I interact with people...or my returning Tetris addiction?

It's self-imposed pressure but pressure nonetheless. I feel like all my clothes are things that a twenty-something wears, or a teenager wears, or a really small senior citizen wears. And it's not just the perception of looking young that I'm insecure about its the perception of acting young. 

I'm so over my twenties very much excited to join the Dirty Thirties but there's a lingering feeling that I'm not mature enough. This all came up on me so suddenly, although I've been calling myself thirty since I was 28. 

Some musing I suppose. It's weird writing about age because it's just a number.

And I'm not "freaking out" about aging. Hell, my first gray hair was celebratory in my household (ask my sister) because it means I made it! As someone who lives with chronic illness and has visited too many hospitals, trust me when I say, thirty is a milestone and it's survival. 

But I can still be a kid, right?

I need validation, darn it! (how childish)