Colored Girl Confidential by LC Johnson A colored girl's guide to kicking ass in work, love, and life. Wed, 31 May 2017 12:50:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sheldon Junior’s Birth Story Wed, 31 May 2017 12:22:45 +0000

As I write this, Junior is sitting in his swing next to the couch, kicking his little legs and giggling to himself. I can’t believe that he is already three and a half months old! In some ways, it feels like he has been a part of our life forever. I constantly marvel at how fast time has flown since he got here. And while I remember his birth as if it were yesterday, I knew I wanted to write down the details before they started to get foggy. Enjoy!

Tuesday morning, I woke up feeling excited and nervous. Thankfully I was working from home that day so I had some last minute emails and things to keep my mind occupied for the majority of the day. Still, by the time Sheldon got home from work around five o’clock, I was feeling pretty wired!

My mom had come downstairs to hang out with me for the last couple of hours before I needed to head to the hospital and we ended up binge watching Supergirl and eating a huge meal of homemade spaghetti for dinner. (One of the things I was most nervous about was not being able to eat during labor so I had Sheldon make a huge pot of spaghetti – one of my favorite meals that he makes – and I ate it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner the day of my induction! Lol #NoMealLeftBehind)

The ride to the hospital was uneventful save for the butterflies doing cannonballs inside of my stomach.

I kept looking back at the car seat we had installed a few days prior, and it felt so surreal to think that next time Sheldon and I were in the car together, Junior would be in that very seat.

We arrived at the hospital a little after eight PM and went through the process of signing in. Apparently February 21st was a very popular day to give birth in Columbus because all of the rooms in the maternity ward were either occupied or in need of cleaning. Although the receptionist was very sweet, learning that we’d have to wait for thirty plus minutes for our room to be ready was my first disappointment of the night. (Mainly because I was feeling super anxious and ready to get started by that point!)

My second (and third!) disappointment came only minutes later. Since we had to wait anyway, I asked if we could be placed in a room with a birthing tub because I really wanted to try for a natural birth and was looking forward to being able to labor in the water. However, the receptionist quickly informed me that because I was having an induction, I would need to be continuously monitored, and therefore not be able to labor in the tub. Which meant that my only other “request” that I not be attached to machines and wires during the entire birth was also out the window.

I knew going into labor that it wasn’t wise to be overly attached to any particular plans or request and I had tried really hard to keep an open mind and to keep my request minimal but to have my two main preferences stripped away before the process even began was devastating.

As I sat in the waiting room with my husband’s arm around my shoulder, I couldn’t help but to shed a few tears of frustration and anxiety.

What was this experience going to be like? The two things I’d hoped would bring me comfort (being in water and being able to move freely) were no longer an option. I officially had no control over what was to come and I was freaking out about it!

It was around this time that our doula, Jen, arrived. For those of you who don’t know what a doula is – a doula is a non-medical professional who attends a birth and offers emotional support (i.e. coaching and encouragement), non-invasive pain relief measures (i.e. massage, counter pressure, labor position suggestions, etc.), and advocacy (i.e. explaining/clarifying certain procedures, helping talk through decisions, etc.) for a laboring mom and her support person. Depending on where you live, an experienced doula can run you anywhere from $800-$1200. (Yeah, not exactly pocket change!)

I’d known from the time I got pregnant that I wanted to hire a doula but the price was definitely a sticking point for me. Even though my hubby kept encouraging me to go through with it, if I thought it would make me feel more comfortable, I just couldn’t justify spending that much money in the midst of all the other medical bills we were paying and going to have to pay once I got out of the hospital!

Thankfully our hospital is the only one in the state with a subsidized, in-house doula program offering doula services for only $300. The only negative (for me, anyways) was that unlike a private doula who you hire and meet with at least once or twice before the actual birth, the hospital’s program is based on which doula is “on call” when you go into labor. Though you are encouraged to attend a “Meet the Doulas” night in order to meet and get to know all of the doulas, you are not able to choose a particular doula.

(In case you’re wondering, yes, this was reason number 83,973,927 why my anxiety level was through the roof. What if I hated my doula? What if I got someone who turned out to be terrible?! WHY CAN I NOT PRE-SELECT SOMEBODY WAAAAAY IN ADVANCE?!? Labor is hell on Type A personalities, y’all. Straight hell.)

Thankfully, it turned out that I didn’t have to worry about any of this. Jen – the doula who ended up being on call the night of my induction – was amazing. She got to the hospital around 9 PM thinking that we would already be checked in and settled by that time. False. We didn’t end up getting moved back to our room until almost ten o’clock and spent most of the ensuing hour in the waiting room, chatting and going over my already spectacularly defunct birth plan.

Around ten o’clock, we were moved back into our private labor room. It was super clean and spacious, not that I cared all that much about that at the moment.

Y’all. My nerves were on TEN, for real! The nurse on duty came in, introduced herself, and got my IV started (which is always one of my least favorite parts of any hospital visit). Once I was good and hooked up to about five different machines, IT WAS TIME. DUM DUM DUM. (And yes, that’s how it played in my head – dramatic music and all.)

My doctor had explained how the induction would work but the nurse spent a few minutes reminding me of the details: We’d start off with a pill called Cytotec, a pill used to “ripen” the cervix (i.e. soften and begin early contractions) for women like me who need to start labor but whose bodies had not begun dilating or contracting at all. Once I was dialated to a two or a three (which could take anywhere from eight to twelve hours), we’d move on to the dreaded Pitocin which would continue to encourage labor but also shared the sh*t out of me because the contractions were rumored to be about twice as strong as regular contractions.

Before giving me my first dose of Cytotec, the nurse checked me (legitimately one of the worse parts of having a baby is having a doctor/nurse stick THEIR ENTIRE HAND, elbow deep into your vagina #funtimes #notreally) and found that I was still zero centimeters dilated. She gave me a tiny white pill, which she instructed me to place under my tongue until it dissolved and we were off to the races!

Since we knew nothing much was going to be happening for the next six to eight hours, my doula headed home to get some rest and encouraged us to do the same. And while I had read so much advice about getting as much rest as you can in the early stages of labor, I was way to hyped up to sleep. Instead I spent the next four hours watching reruns of House Hunters while Sheldon snoozed on what had to be the most uncomfortable looking chair-bed hybrid thingy on the planet. Around 4 AM, the nurse came back to check me and told me that I had dilated 1 cm, which apparently was “great” progress.

She gave me my second dose of Cytotec and THAT’S when the real fun started.

Within the next hour, I began to experience what felt like mildly painful period cramps. I get pretty bad cramps every month so this initial pain was fairly tolerable but quickly became pretty intense. Within about two hours, I was at the point where I could no longer hold back a pained moan with every contraction. I’m not talking, a cute lil’ sound, y’all. I’m talking full on, is-there-a-dying-cow-in-the-back-room type moan.

It was around this time that Sheldon started to wake up (I had wanted him to sleep for as long as possible since I anticipated a long day ahead) and my doula, Jen, also returned to the labor room. Thank God! Jen immediately jumped into action and started showing Sheldon how to put counter-pressure on my back and hips to help with the labor pains. The pain. Y’all. I do not even know how to describe the pain I was in. Several of the birth stories I had read prior to going into labor had described contractions as a “wave” and I definitely agree.

I could feel when a contraction was about to hit. Then the pain would build for about 30 seconds, last for another 30-60 seconds (Jesus be an extra strength Tylenol!) before starting to taper off. I had been laboring hard for about an hour (since I don’t include the first 2-3 hours of mild and medium crampy contractions), with my contractions getting stronger and stronger with each passing moment.

It was at this point that the nurse returned to check my progress and tell me that I was only three cm dilated. I was devastated. Although I knew that progress would be slow, I couldn’t believe that all that pain had only resulted in two more cm of dilation. My goal was to have a natural birth but at this point, I began to doubt myself. As if determined to reinforce my insecurities, my nurse took this moment to inform me:

“This is still early labor. It’s going to get two or three times worse than this.”

Those two sentences were the straw that broke the camel’s back (or in this case, the mamma’s uterus). I broke down crying and asked for an epidural. If labor was going to get two to three times worse than this, there was no way I could make it through. Immediately after the request left my mouth, a new wave of tears burst forth.

I was a terrible mamma already. I couldn’t even make it through labor without pain meds that might impact my baby. I was already disappointing him.

It took both Jen and Sheldon’s words of love and affirmation to convince me that I was trippin and to remind me that I had said that my most important goal was to have a healthy mamma and a healthy baby. In this case,

I was exhausted and in more pain than I could handle.

It took less than ten minutes for the anesthesiologist to make it to the room. She quickly explained the procedure while prepping me to receive the injection. I usually have a pretty intense fear of needles but by this point, I was in so much pain I didn’t even care about the damn needle! Not to mention while she was explaining the procedure, all I wanted to do was shout: GIVE ME THE DRUGS, LADY! Lol

It’s crazy how quickly the epidural started to work. I had about three to four more intense contractions before I began to feel the numbing effects and within about fifteen minutes, I was fully numb. I could still wiggle my toes and feel what I jokingly called the “essence” of the contraction but wasn’t in pain at all. It was magical. Straight Hogwarts-level sorcery!

As soon as the pain was gone, I could feel how exhausted I was. My nurse and doula both advised that I get some rest while my body continued to contract and dilate. They would check me again in a few hours. I was in full support of this plan and fell asleep immediately, only to be woken up less than thirty minutes later. The baby’s heart rate was slowing down and they wanted to flip me over to the other side to see if a change of position would help.

We flipped me to my right side and again I drifted off, only to be woken this time fifteen minutes later. The baby’s heart rate had picked up but had started to slip. They needed me to change positions again. I didn’t bother trying to go back to sleep and it’s a good thing. The nurse was having a hard time finding the baby’s heart rate and decided to check me to see if I had made any progress, just in case the baby continued to be in distress and we needed to strategize around next steps.

I had dilated to an eight! I had dilated five cm in less than an hour!

The nurse was as shocked as I was and decided to call the doctor in, thinking that it might be a good time to break my water. My doctor arrived about fifteen minutes later and it was so reassuring to see a familiar face. She explained that she was going to break my water and it shouldn’t cause me any discomfort but may speed up the process and get the baby ready to come out sooner rather than later.

Sheldon had stepped out to grab lunch thirty minutes prior as everyone had assured him that nothing eventful was going to happen any time soon. He told me later that he had just walked back into the waiting area when the receptionist asked him frantically, “Are you Sheldon?! They are about to break your wife’s water!” He rushed into the room, arriving only seconds before the doctor. Lol

Welllllllllllll, turns out he wasn’t the only one in a hurry! A quick peek under my hospital gown and my doctor looked up with surprise in her eyes. “You’re complete,” she told me, smiling.

I couldn’t believe it! In fifteen minutes I had dilated the final two cm and was at a ten.

And all this on two doses of Cytotec – I’d never even gotten to the point of needing Pitocin. My doctor broke my water and although I was at a ten, suggested I labor for a couple more hours in order to let the baby descend. I was finally going to get the nap I had been wishing for! Or so I thought…

Almost immediately after closing my eyes, I heard the heart monitors start beeping like crazy. Sheldon had come over to my side of the bed and was watching the numbers on the monitors.

“Why are the numbers so low? Is that normal?” he asked Jenn. I could tell he was worried.

And apparently Jen was to. “His heart rate is too low. Your doctor is about to be on her way back in here.”

Sure enough, my nurse and doctor both rushed back into the room not a minute later. They checked the monitor and began whispering to themselves.

I was just started to get worried when my doctor turned to me smiling brightly and said, “Change of plans! Baby’s heartbeat is decelerating and we need to get him out as soon as possible! Ready to push??”

This, of course, was a hypothetical question but my answer was all the way NO! All of a sudden, I was hit with a wave of anxiety. Everything had happened so fast. Every time I thought I would have time to rest and mentally catch up, the opportunity had been snatched away. Now it was already time to push the baby out! Was I ready to be a mom? Ready or not, it was happening. And it was happening that very moment. No time for a nap. Do not pass GO.

I was so nervous but I knew I had to get the baby out ASAP. My doctor, nurse, doula, and husband were all surrounding me with loving and positive energy. They repositioned my legs and my doctor gave me a quick lesson on how to push.

“Pretend like you’re having a giant bowel movement.” Lol

I couldn’t feel the contractions so my doctor said she would tell me when to push and then would count to ten for each push. I would push three times per contraction. We did one practice push and I heard the doctor shout.

“Keep going! I can see his head!”

Fifteen minutes and several intense pushes later and he was out! It was a surreal feeling when he slid out and into the world. For an instant, I felt the utter absence of his presence that had been such a big part of my life, my identity, and my physical body for the past nine months. But then he was in my arms and I lost the ability to think, to breathe, to do anything other than stare at his perfect (albeit grey and slimy) face.

Looking back on that day, a couple of things stand out to me.

Despite only having dilated to a three, I knew that what I was feeling was real pain and that I was in active labor. I wish I hadn’t listened to the nurse who told me that I was still in early labor that that it was going to get so much worse because in reality, the contractions I was having were not only “real” contraction but were twice as painful as regular contractions because they were dilating my cervix so quickly.

That said, I don’t regret asking for the epidural. I believe that allowing myself that brief reprieve from pain (Junior was born less than three hours later), gave my body a chance to relax and prepare for the pushing stage. Had I been too exhausted to push, with Junior being in distress, the day might have ended with a c-section instead of a vaginal birth.

Ultimately the greatest lessons I learned that day were to trust myself and to celebrate any and all choices made with the intention of delivering a healthy baby. Every woman who gives birth – no matter the means or method – is a superhero in my book. To this day, I occasionally look down at Junior and am reminded of the fact that there is something within me with the magical ability to nurture and birth new life into this world. And while it was hard and painful and exhausting, I am forever grateful for the experience of having given birth to one of the greatest blessings in my life.

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Three weeks til baby! Some final reflections on this whole pregnancy thing… Tue, 31 Jan 2017 14:07:54 +0000 Y’all. In just three weeks, Sheldon Jr is expected to make his way into the world.

Wait. Let me rephrase that…


(Have you ever had one of those moments when you were kind of freaking out so you called a friend so that they could totally freak out with you? THIS IS ONE OF THOSE MOMENTS, PEOPLE!)

In so many ways, I feel like I have JUST gotten the hang of being pregnant.

Those of you who follow me here and on Instagram know that this has not been the easiest of pregnancies. High risk from the beginning, I’ve had to deal with daily injections of blood thinners, a fibroid that put me in the hospital for four days mid-way through month five, and gestational diabetes which was diagnosed at 28 weeks.

Couple this with all the usual pregnancy struggles – morning sickness, sore boobs, a bladder this size of a chipmunk’s, and (perhaps most importantly) NO ALCOHOL TO HELP COPE WITH THIS MADNESS – and let’s just say that this whole pregnant-lady thing has taken some serious getting used to!

And now, just as I’m starting to feel like I’m getting the hang of things, this phase of life is coming to a close and a new and even more complex phase is hovering just around the corner. (There’s a metaphor for life in there somewhere, but I digress…) To be quite frank, y’all, I am a little freaked out about it all.

Three-ish weeks until I finally get to meet this life I’ve been nourishing for the past nine months. Three-ish weeks until I officially become somebody’s mamma. Three-ish weeks until my life changes forever.

And I am so scared y’all.

I’m mourning for the life I have right now because it is the life that I know, the existence that I understand. I find myself wanting to cling to the woman I’ve become and not the woman that I am becoming, because I know me – have spent a lot of time and emotional energy getting to know the me I am today – but this future me is a woman I do not know. I do not know her wants, her needs, her desires. I do not understand her motivations, her fears.

I am scared of the unknown, scared of the inevitable changes in my life and in myself. Not because I fear they will be negative but because I know that they will be unstructured, unplanned, and scariest of all – uncontrollable.

Three-sih weeks until my life changes forever.

And I’m feeling a little like I’m standing at the edge of a cliff and a calm, still voice from deep within me has just whispered in my ear:

“Just close your eyes.

And jump.”



5 Articles That Sum Up My Black Girl Angst About the Women’s March on Washington Wed, 25 Jan 2017 11:55:16 +0000 Over the weekend, three very important things happened:

  1. I turned 29.
  2. Donald J. Trump was sworn into office as the 45th President of the United States.
  3. Millions of people around the country and around the world participated in a series of marches and protests focused broadly on “women’s rights.”

Two out of three of these events I had some fairly straightforward feelings about. Turning twenty-nine – exciting. Donald Trump – not exciting. However, as pictures and status updates from the women’s march flooded my social media timelines, I quickly realized that my feelings were anything but clear cut.

As a self-proclaimed black feminist, I’ve found myself over the last few years mired in the work of intersectional feminism. The books. The articles. The conversations. The down and dirty community transformation work. I’ve been here for it all. And while the journey has been challenging at times, it has also pushed me to have a deeper appreciation for the complexities of my own identity and experiences as well as that of those around me.

So when 4.5 million people take to the streets all over the country demanding equal rights for women, in one of the largest coordinated demonstrations of our time, you’d think I’d feel happy… excited… inspired. And yet throughout the weekend as I watched friends and strangers (many of whom women of color who I greatly admire and respect) march through their hometowns, all I felt was apathy, wariness, and at times, exhaustion.

Over the last few days, I’ve tried to understand and analyze my inability to tap into the exhilaration that many others seemed to be feeling. And although I still haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact source of my angst, these are the five articles that have at least begun to help me shed some light on my malaise.

Absent for the march. Here for the movement. By Sam Olivia

“It’s been an intense weekend. My newsfeed is full of pictures of women at their local Women’s March. And here in DC folks of various political parties and backgrounds have taken to the streets across the world to stand up for themselves, and the world that they want to leave their children.

And yes, I’m watching it only from behind a screen. Not because of a lack of solidarity, but because of something I’ve learned about myself- rarely am I best helping others by joining in protest.”

Probably one of the best articles I’ve read about the women’s march is from my friend and a DC doula who opted out of the march because she has realized, as I have about myself, that marches and protests are not the way that she can best serve the movement with her gifts. As I wrote on Facebook a few months ago, there are roles for all of us in this work – protesters, healers, writers, artists… and no one role is more important or more significant than another.

Spoiler alert: I do not typically find myself in the “marching/public action” category. Clue number one as to to why, from the moment I first heard of the march, I never felt any urge to participate myself.

Why I’m Skipping the Women’s March on Washington. By Jamilah Lemieux.

“I’ve never felt anything remotely resembling sisterhood with White women. Friendship, affinity, fondness, love—sure. Sisterhood? Nah. That sense of loyalty, interconnectedness, accountability and shared struggle simply isn’t there.

That lack of sisterhood haunted me at times during the 2016 election season. As Election Day approached and Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton emerged as the frontrunner, I waited to feel something. Some sort of connection between her and me, some sort of emotion tied to the likelihood that a person who shares my gender expression would be the “leader of the free world.” It never came.”

Truth: I do have a few cherished and deeply significant friendships with white women whom I love. And yet, very much like the author, I have never felt the same sense of sisterhood or interconnectedness with white women as a whole as I do with women of color. Also like the author, Hillary Clinton’s decision to run for president did not excite me on an emotional level. And if she had won, I don’t think I would have felt the same “now-we-can-do-anything, the-glass-ceiling-has-been-shattered” emotional high that many women said that they were looking forward to.

So while I voted for Hillary, I have never felt necessarily in league with her supporters or biggest fans – many of whom I knew would be out loud and proud during the various marches over the weekend.

Women’s March on Washington Opens Contentious Dialogues About Race. NY Times.

“Ms. Willis, a 50-year-old wedding minister from South Carolina, had looked forward to taking her daughters to the march. Then she read a post on the Facebook page for the march that made her feel unwelcome because she is white.

The post, written by a black activist from Brooklyn who is a march volunteer, advised “white allies” to listen more and talk less. It also chided those who, it said, were only now waking up to racism because of the election.

Stung by the tone, Ms. Willis canceled her trip.

“This is a women’s march,” she said. “We’re supposed to be allies in equal pay, marriage, adoption. Why is it now about, ‘White women don’t understand black women’?””

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: white feminist who thinking talking about race and being asked to check their privilege is “divisive.” Oh. You’re familiar with this story? Yea. Me too.

In a tale as old as time, I shared the concern of many women of color that despite a platform created to address a multitude of intersectional issues, that many of the march’s actual participants would be white women who not only did not have a deep understanding of issues that impact communities of color but who would attempt to actively silence and curtail these conversations, something that had already begun to happen in may online spaces and forums.

Ashley Judd became the breakout star of the Women’s March on Washington. Business Insider.

“Actress and political activist Ashley Judd brought the house down at the Women’s March on Washington, a rally that drew an estimated 500,000 demonstrators in protest of President Donald Trump.

Crowds went berserk for the big-screen actress as she waxed poetic in R-rated language on women’s rights and the perceived threat the new administration poses to those liberties.”

Only in America can a white women become the “breakout star” of an intersectional protest by READING SOMETHING THAT SOMEONE ELSE WROTE. All weekend friends – white women and many women of color – were sharing this video and waxing poetic about how inspired it made them feel. Meanwhile, all I could do was roll my eyes at the irony.

Being a black woman has never been simple and therefore neither are my struggles, my hopes, or my feminism. And while I respect many women who made the decision to march over the weekend, I am trying to be kind to myself as I navigate my own skepticism, apathy, and exhaustion that comes after many years of feeling left out in the cold by supposed white feminist  “allies.”

What do you think?

Did you attend the Women’s March? Why or why not? I’m especially interested in hearing from women of color about their decision and subsequent experience.

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My word for 2017 is “discernment.” What’s yours? Tue, 17 Jan 2017 11:52:41 +0000 Y’all. In three days, I will turn 29 years old.

This does not feel like a very big deal to me. Maybe because 29 is not one of those “signature birthdays” (it’s not “30,” after all) that you’re supposed to make a big fuss over. But also because I have never been much for celebrating birthdays.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for a celebration. And I think we can all admit that sometimes surviving three-hundred sixty-five consecutive days on this Earth can feel like a feat. But for whatever reason (not really liking to be in the spotlight? preferring my pjs and couch to heels and a nightclub?), every year when January 20th rolls around, I find myself in much more of a reflective mood than a partying one.

I find myself craving solitude, peace, a quiet place for me and my thoughts to hang out with each other for a little while.

Unfortunately, this year, with things crazy at work, a baby on the way, a house in the process of being built, and a new business in the process of being launched, large swaths of reflective alone time have been at a bit of a premium. Still, over the past few weeks I have carved out small moments of reflecting on and processing my twenty-eighth year and even thought a little bit about what I’m hoping twenty-nine might look like, moving forward.

I’m not one for resolutions but for some time now I’ve wanted to try selecting a yearly theme and I’ve decided that this year (my inaugural themed year, y’all!), my word will be “discernment.”

Discernment. Noun. 1. the ability to judge well. 2. (in Christian contexts) perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and understanding.

The ability to make wise choices based on your attunement with a higher self and a higher power. This is what I want for myself in 2017. Because in a lot of ways, you guys, 2017 represents the unknown. A big, vast ocean of uncertainty upon which I am attempting to sail a boatload of hopes, dreams, and unspoken promises.

In 2017, I will become a mother for the first time.

In 2017, Zora’s House will finally be finished and my first attempt at running a brick and mortar business will commence.

In 2017, I’ll be putting down roots for real for real in a way that I never have in my adult life.

And you know what? I want to plan it all. I want to schedule it, create an editorial calendar for my life, tie each of my goals and transition to a to do list and a timeline. I want the security of knowing I’ve got it all handled in advance. But I don’t, y’all. I don’t have it handled. Because honestly I don’t even know what “it” is.

I don’t know what it’s going to be like to be a mom. I don’t know what it’s going to be like to open a brick and mortar business. I don’t know what it’s going to be like to claim someplace as my own. I. JUST. DON’T. KNOW.

There is no way to plan it out in advance. All I can do is tap into that small still voice inside me and trust myself to make the right decisions as they come about in real time. To rest when the voice says rest. To leap when the voice says leap. To wait when the voice says wait. In so many ways, I feel that God is pushing me to step more deeply into my faith, more deeply into the waters of uncertainty with Him as my only life raft.

Even though honestly, I’d prefer my to do lists. I’d prefer my timelines. Anything other than situations I can’t immediately understand or control! But one way or the other, that seems to be what 2017 has in store. And so my word for the year is discernment.

The ability to make wise choices based on your attunement with a higher self and a higher power.

Wish me luck!

Your turn! What’s your word for 2017? Why?

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Celebrating (yes, celebrating!) burn out in the New Year. Thu, 12 Jan 2017 13:53:33 +0000

Three years ago, I was deep in the midst of blogging for Colored Girl Confidential.

And I use that phrase intentionally to reference a time in my life and in my writing when I was simultaneously hovering at the edge of breakthrough and burn out. CGC had just been nominated to the Forbes Top 100 for the second time in a row, my subscriber count was growing by leaps and bounds, and I had finally stumbled into a routine that had me churning out quality content on a fairly consistent basis.

I was also knee deep into dealing with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy and constantly feeling like I had something to prove. (Why? To whom? Both questions that never found any true answers.)

I say all this to say that this was around the time when I was particularly invested in watching what other bloggers were doing (and of course, comparing my success to theirs). And one thing I noticed was that around the first of the year, all the big name bloggers that I followed would write THE post. The annual “year in review” post – complete with professional photos, lessons learned, and charming anecdotes from the previous year.

Every year I’d read these posts as soon as they hit my inbox and I’d wonder… why? Why couldn’t I muster up the energy to process/heal from/celebrate/dissect the previous 365 days? Why had I not yet come up with a theme word, a big goal, a bite sized list of profound yet practical New Year’s resolutions? Where were all my well-lit and flattering photos, capturing the big and small moments of days gone by?

Every year, y’all.

Every year, by the end of New Year’s week I’d somehow convince myself that I was already behind the eight ball. I found myself unable to admit, not even to myself, that amidst all the celebration and boundless momentum that is the new year, I mainly just felt… tired. Bruised. And a little confused about my next steps.

I once read a book where the main character was described as someone who looked as if she “lived hard.” And while this was in no way meant to be a compliment (this particular character struggled with poverty and drug addiction throughout the novel), for whatever reason this moniker found a place down deep in my spirit and settled in.

A woman who lives hard, a small voice said. YOU are a woman who lives hard.

You are a woman who lives hard, because…

It’s not easy to feel – to give yourself permission to deeply acknowledge your own emotions while finding space to process with and validate others.

It’s not easy to be black, to be female in a world that seems to abhors these identities above all others.

It is not easy to think, to question, to use your voice in moments where others may prefer you be silent.

It is not easy to chase magic, to chase love, to chase joy so fucking unapologetically that people sometimes wonder if you’ve got your priorities straight.

It is not easy to live a life such as this. And you are not a woman who lives easy; you are a woman who lives hard.

I used to beat myself up for feeling exhausted at the end of the year. But in recent years, I’ve come to see this as a badge of honor of sorts, an acknowledgement of a year lived to its fullest, messiest, most challenging, most beautiful extent. You don’t live a year like that – a year of challenge, of overcoming, of complexity, and get to wrap it up all pretty on New Year’s day.

And that’s ok.

It’s ok to be tired. It’s ok to move slow. It’s ok to leisurely unfurl into the new year, to go to bed before midnight, to not know your “theme word” until February. It’s ok. I promise I’m right there with you.



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How To Self-Publish A Book (Part III): Creating a book launch and marketing strategy that works Tue, 17 Feb 2015 07:00:45 +0000 This is Part II of a three part series that goes behind the scenes of how I wrote, published, and marketed an Amazon Best Selling book in less than 90 days. To read Part I, click here. To read part II, click here.)

If there is one pice of advice I wish I could give to every blogger, author, and passionpreneur, it’s this: LAUNCH EVERYTHING.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had friends and clients come to me and tell me the story of how they brainstormed and created this awesome thing, poured their heart and soul into it, only to debut to crickets.

When I ask them what their launch strategy was, they inevitably look at me with a completely blank expression.

We live in a noisy world, people, and it’s harder than ever to get people’s attention. That’s why it’s so important to go through the process of getting people as excited about your book (or passion project) as you are. For me this process stretched over about a six week spam of time.

Here’s an exact replica of my email communication plan:

  • [Date] Subject Line
    • [10/10/2014] Big News! I’m writing a book but I need your help!
    • [10/17/2014] GET. EXCITED. The CGC book cover is here!
    • [1/15/2015] Aaaaand we’re back! Plus two exciting announcements. (Note: One of the announcements was a reminder that the CGC book was coming soon.)
    • [1/20/2015] It’s my birthday and I want to celebrate with YOU! (Note: I included an image of the CGC book cover and referenced the upcoming launch as one things I was celebrating.)
    • [1/26/2015] The CGC book comes out next Thursday! Want to be on my book launch team?
    • [1/29/2015] CGC book launch delayed until next week. 🙁
    • [2/2/2015] CGC book updated (SPOILER ALERT: the book comes out TOMORROW!
    • [2/3/2015 – morning] The CGC Book is here!!!! (Plus three reasons you should buy your copy today!
    • [2/3/2015 – afternoon] Reminder: Buy the CGC Book and get free coaching!
    • [2/4/2015] Help CGC reach #1 on the Amazon Bestseller List!
    • [2/0/2015] We did it! CGC is an Amazon Bestseller!

In my experience, the best launches start about three months before the product release. In month one and two, you hint at the fact that you are writing a book, what’s it’s about and when it will be published. In the month prior to your book release, you want to send a series of “get excited” emails to your community giving them more and more information about the book and how awesome it is.

Two types of posts that I found to be particularly helpful during my launch was the “help me make a decision” email (I asked for help with naming the title of my book) and the “sneak peak/behind the scenes” email (I gave my email list a look at the book cover long before the book came out).

If you don’t already have a community of subscribers, remember that your friends and family can also act as your biggest fans. In lieu of a more in depth email communication strategy, make sure you are at least keeping your network posted on your progress via social media.


Putting together a book launch team

While I was researching book launch best practices, I came across this epic article by Michael Hyatt where he details his book launch strategy. Early on, I made the decision that because of the number of other projects on my plate, I didn’t want to do a huge launch for The CGC Book. I knew from jump that my launch would consist of a few emails to my community and one or two strategic social media posts.

After reading Michael’s article, however, I decided to add one last element to my strategy: a book launch team.

A book launch team is essentially a team of people who volunteer to give you feedback on your book as well as help you promote on launch day. About a week before my book came out, I sent out an email to my list and asked if anyone wanted to be a part of my book launch team. All they had to do was reply to that email and say “hell yes!” (What can I say? I like my crew enthusiastic.)

About twenty women volunteered. Since the book was already finished, I envisioned their role being mainly to support with book promotion on launch day. I provided all 20 women with an advanced copy of the book and asked that they write an HONEST review (positive or negative) of the book before the official launch date.

My rationale was grounded in the fact that books with reviews are more apt to get noticed than book without them. Six of the women ended up writing reviews and I believe that this definitely added to the book’s credibility on launch day.


Creating a listing and pricing strategy

So, people are officially excited for your book to come out! Whoot!

Unfortunately, building buzz is only one part of a successful book launch strategy. The other part has to do with how you price and list your book.

Let’s talk listing first.

For me, listing my book was a surprisingly multi-faceted process. Maybe I hadn’t done enough research into what exactly book listing entails (quite probable). All I know is that my plan to start the process at 8:45 PM on a Thursday night, speed through in 15 minutes, and then be on my couch with a glass of wine in time to watch Scandal did not exactly go as planned. This is my attempt to save you from a similar fate! There are four small tasks that compose the listing process.

Book description

Your book description is the text that goes on the back of the book. It’s essentially an attention grabbing description of why your book is awesome. If you’re a fiction writer, this looks like an exciting overview of your main plot line. If you’re a non-fiction author, you want to highlight what people will learn from reading your book. This is your chance to convince people that your book is going to change their lives in some positive way so don’t waste it!

Author page

Your Author page is optional but I highly recommend you have one. It’s a great way to give folks a better idea of who you are and where you live on the Internet. It’s nice when people buy your book but your ultimate goal should be to build a long term relationship, something more then a one night, ahem, one book stand.

Book Categories

The Amazon bookstore is broken into categories and choosing your book categories is one of the most important aspects of the listing process. While you need to be able to sell 2,000-3,000 books on any given day in order to make it to Amazon’s general list of best sellers, it is possible to make it to the top of a specific category or genre by selling a fraction of that number.

Most books can easily fit into more than one category. What’s important here is to pick the most specific niche possible while still maintaining an accurate description of your book. For instance, my book fits under the category of self-help but I knew that this niche would be crowded with other advice books. Because my book is primarily composed of first person accounts of different situations in my life, it can also be considered a memoir.

Because I’m a black woman, I got even more specific and listed the CGC book under “Biography & Memoir -> Ethnic -> African American.” It was here that my title truly had a chance to shine. When listing your book, be as specific and as creative as possible in order to have the highest chance of success.



Once you’ve got your listing together, the next step is to come up with a price for your book. Your pricing strategy will vary based on the goals for your book. If your goal is pure exposure, it makes sense to price your ebook in the $.99 – $2.99 range. If your goal is to gain credibility and make a little more money with each book, then pricing closer to industry standard is your best bet.

My goal was a mix of the two. I primarily wanted to gain credability and a bit of money from royalties but also wanted to make sure the book was affordable to women with less discretionary income. With this in mind, I priced my paperback at $12.99 and my ebook at $5.99.


Final numbers

When all was said and done, here’s what my final numbers looked like:


  • Copies sold: 86
  • Royalties: $337.80
  • Highest Category Bestseller Rank: #5



  • Copies sold: 55*
  • Royalties: $210.10
  • Highest Category Bestseller Rank: #88

*Not counting copies sold by me during book signings and speaking engagements.


At the end of the day, I definitely feel as if I accomplished my goals with this launch! I was able to publish my book, sell a good number of copies in the first week, make it up to number five on the bestseller list in my category, and most importantly increase my level of credability within my niche. I will continue to promote the CGC Book but no matter what happens from here on out, I feel satisfied that this project was a success!


5 most important lessons I learned

  1. Tell people about your launch date in advance. Not only does this build buzz around your book but it also adds another layer of accountability to your project. It’s one thing to tell yourself that you’re going to write a book. It’s another thing entirely to tell about a hundred of your closest friends and family!
  1. Give yourself plenty of time to go through the uploading and approval process. Now I’m not going to lie. I tend to do things a little on the last minute side. (Procrastinators of the world, UNITE!) In this case, I ended up having to push back my publication date a full week because I didn’t give myself enough time for the uploading and approval process. Give yourself at least two weeks!
  1. Be strategic about the first image/status you post. This was a huge lesson for me! As part of my book launch announcement, I did a fun video of my opening my very first book after it was delivered from Amazon. This meant that in my book launch announcement on FB was a clip to the video and not an image of the book cover. FAIL! About 30 people ended up sharing my status and while they mentioned and linked to the book, at first glance was just a video screen shot of a random black chick (me!) holding an Amazon box! Make sure the first status/image you share has all the relevant information: book title, link, short description, and book cover image; because this will likely be the status that people share.
  1. Categories matter! If I hadn’t taken the time to choose the right categories for my book, I never would have made it to number five on the Bestseller List, or been featured as a “Hot New Release,” both of which provided a huge amount of credibility and exposure to my book early on.
  1. Say thank you. Last but certainly not least, don’t forget to say thank you to everyone who helps you throughout your book writing, publication, and marketing process. Without the people who are willing to support you in big and small ways, the journey would be even more challenging than it already is!


In conclusion

Even if you don’t consider yourself a “writer,” I believe that publishing a book is a worthwhile goal for anyone interested in building visibility within their niche. With a little creativity, dedication, and hard work, anyone can succeed in getting their ideas out into the world in a big way!

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How To Self-Publish A Book (Part II): Understanding The Self-Publishing Process, Costs, and Timeline Fri, 13 Feb 2015 11:59:55 +0000 This is Part II of a three part series that goes behind the scenes of how I wrote, published, and marketed an Amazon Best Selling book in less than 90 days. To read Part I, click here.)

The Self Publishing Process (and what it costs)

Once I decided to self publish, I quickly realized I had no idea what that actually meant or what the process entailed. Ooooooor how expensive it would be. Lol

All I knew is that my biggest concern was going from zero to “on the shelves” in ninety days and that I didn’t have a whole bunch of cash to lay out upfront. Everyone’s timelines and budgets are different but with that in mind, here’s what my process looked like:

Step 1: Write the book (1 – 2 months)

Clearly, this step is going to vary widely for each individual. Because I blogged my book, I had essentially written 90% of the content over the course of a three year period. But that didn’t mean that there wasn’t still work to do! I didn’t want to give my readers an entire book taken verbatim from the website. Some of the major changes I made were:

  • Getting the flow right. Because my book is composed of a series of short articles (vs. a continuous narrative), it was really important that I think about how each piece would flow into the next.
  • Renaming every article. This may not seem like a huge deal but as I always tell my blogging students, titles are half the battle in every piece that you write. Getting people intrigued enough to read is the first and hardest step. I wanted the book to read like a guide or advice for certain situations so I went through and read every article and asked myself, “What situation might a women be in to find herself needing this advice” and named each title accordingly.
  • Getting contributors. I also wanted to feature articles and advice from some of MY favorite bloggers. This wasn’t suuuuuper time consuming but the process of identifying, asking, and following up with contributors was tedious.

Step 2: Work with a copy editor. (1-2 months)

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I only mildly care about typos. It’s not that I don’t want to cross my t’s and dot my i’s. It’s that I’m more concerned with content and timeliness and don’t always have someone to look over my posts for me. However, for the purpose of the book, I really wanted the polish and professionalism that comes with working with a copy editor.

I would basically send over big chunks of the book and he would send them back to me with track changes awaiting my approval.

Step 3: Cover Design (3 weeks)

Your book cover is of UTMOST importance. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a cover that grabs someone’s attention (and not because it is so shoddily done that they wonder what you were thinking).

I actually designed the front for the CGC book using Canva, a free web application that helps with all types of graphic design. This would have been the end of the story had I just planned on releasing an electronic cover of the book.

However, because I also wanted to release a paperback version of my book (in addition to an electronic version), I knew I needed to make special considerations for both the back of the book, the front of the book, and the book spine. I ended up outsourcing the print cover formatting cover to a designer who specializes in book covers.

Step 4: Book Layout and Formatting (FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER / 8 hours)

In addition to front and back cover design, you are also responsible for formatting the inside of the book (including copyright, table of contents, chapter headings, etc.) so that it looks like a real book. Both the print and e-book version of the book have very specific formatting guidelines that need to be adhered to.

CreateSpace (the self publishing platform I decided to use for the paperback version of my book) gives free templates depending on the desired size of your book. However, I ended up going with a paid template created by blah blah people.

Even using the template, I almost went crazy trying to format my book. I literally spent eight seemingly endless hours trying to get everything to look exactly like I wanted to. Worst eight hours of my life.

Step 5: Uploading, Proofing, and Listing (2 weeks)

Lastly came the process of uploading, proofing, and listing. I ended up going with CreateSpace (Amazon’s print publishing arm) for my paperbacks and Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon’s ebook publishing) for, you guessed it, my ebook. The process for uploading, proofing, and listing your book is fairly simple for both of these platforms.

Both CreateSpace and KDP allow you to preview your book but it will likely take you a little trial and error to make sure your book looks exactly the way you want it to. Once you approve the book to be published, you’ll still need to creating your listing, book description, and Amazon author page. Plus, Amazon still need to approve your book (a process that SAYS it will take 48 hours, but my book took almost an entire week).

From beginning to end, this process took about two weeks, when I thought it was going to take two DAYS. Lol. This ended up delaying my launch and stressing me out completely. I’m a serial procrastinator but I would recommend that you try to finalize you book and begin the uploading process at least two weeks before your desired launch date.

ACTION ITEM: Create a realistic timeline for getting your book out there in the world. What I like to do is start with an ideal launch date and then work backwards to see what pace you’ll need to set in order to make that happen. For extra accountability, publicly announce your launch date to friends and family. This will help keep you motivated to actually completing your book on your desired timetable.


Let’s talk money!

As I mentioned earlier in this article, my two big considerations when producing the book were to get it done quickly and to keep upfront spending to a minimum. Here’s an overview of money spent:

Things I Invested In:


I decided to hire a professional copy editor to scan my work for typos. This was a big deal for me because it was important to me that the final product be polished and professional. Most copy editors charge by the word and a book that is around or under 50,000 (as mine is) costs between $300-$500 to edit.

Note: This price goes up if you decide to hire a content editor as well as a copy editor. While a copy editor only checks your work for typos a content editor makes sure your ideas are clear by making suggestions on the wording and flow of your book. Content editors are helpful if you want to write a book but don’t consider yourself a natural writer. Be prepared to invest, however, as full service content editing can bring your total bill to $1000-$1200.

My copy editor’s name was Elliot and he was great to work with. Get in touch with him at if you’re looking for an editor for your blog or book!

Investment: $300

Book Template:

When it came to designing the inside of my book, I decided to purchase a pre-designed template. While there are free, standard templates available through CreateSpace, paid templates tend to have more variety as well as more style and design flourishes. I purchased the Balance template from these guys.

Investment (for ebook and paperback bundle): $47

Back Cover Design + Formatting

Lastly, I needed help formatting my paperback book design and back cover. I probably could have done this myself but because everything needs to be precisely measured based on the size of your book and how many pages, and I hate math, I decided to outsource this task and I’m glad I did.

I loved working with Damon! I initially reached out to him once I designed my book cover and asked him how much he would charge to essentially “make it better.” Lol. He told me that he thought it actually looked great already and then took the time to suggest a few small tweaks.

Because the cover was already complete, Damon charged me $97 to put together the back cover and format everything for paperback. His full service work (including front cover design) starts at $195 for a pre-designed cover that he will customize with your title and information, $495 for just an ebook cover and $595 for an ebook and print cover. This is pretty standard and worth it because Damon’s designs are AMAZING as is his customer service.

Back Cover Design + Formatting: $97


[Total Investment: $444]


Things I DIY’ed:

Book cover

I designed my own book cover. Something I only suggest if you feel very comfortable in your design skills, and even then it may take two of three tries. My first cover design was NOT a hit with the CGC community. I emailed the initial design to my community and several folks took the time to email me back and say that the cover just didn’t do anything for them.

I ended up going back to the drawing board and found a new image to work with that really helped the design pop. For inspiration, I pulled about 15 books off the shelf and studied their front and back cover design. Then I incorporated ideas and elements from some of my favorites into my own design. This process took about 2-3 weeks of going back and forth in order to complete.

Things I DIY’ed but wish I invested in:

Book Formatting.

MY. GOODNESS. Book formatting. I swear, I don’t know what I was thinking trying to do this on my own. It should have been a red flag when my eyes kept glazing over trying to watch the super complicated YouTube tutorials. I ended up formatting my own book in order to save money but ultimately it was not worth the headache it created. My advice? Outsource this task and be done with it!

ACTION ITEM: Figure out how much it’s going to cost you to publish your book. I was able to do some things myself, published my book for under $500, and still be satisfied with the results. It doesn’t need to cost a million bucks to get your work out there. However, don’t cut corners just for the sake of saving money. You’ll end up with an unprofessional product that will hurt your credibility and your sales. Make a realistic budget that accounts for the things you think you can do well and the things you’ll definitely need to outsource.



  • Part III: Creating a book launch and marketing strategy that works

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How To Self-Publish A Book (Part I): Establishing Why And How Thu, 12 Feb 2015 18:58:02 +0000 It’s been said that everyone has a book inside of them somewhere. And while this may be true, after self-publishing my first book, I now understand why most of those books never make it into the world! Turns out writing, publishing, and marketing a book is hard work, y’all. Who would have thought? 🙂

And yet looking back on my experience producing my first book, I can honestly say it is worth the effort. The feeling of seeing my book shoot to number five on the Amazon Bestseller List in its category, of seeing picture of women in the CGC community holding a copy in their hands… it’s not something I will ever forget.

In the week since the launch, many of you have reached out to me with questions about the process of self-publishing. What is the timeline? Costs? Is it worth the investment? There are no simple answers to any of these questions so instead of even trying to simplify the experience, I’ve written arguably one of the most epic blog posts in CGC history.

This three-part monster will take you behind the scenes of how I wrote, published, and marketed an Amazon Best Selling book in less than 90 days. I don’t hold anything back. In this blog post series, I’ll be sharing every detail including production decisions, costs, marketing strategies, number of books sold, income, err’thang! Let’s get started!

Three good reasons to write a book (even if you don’t consider yourself a “writer”

Not everyone who starts a blog has the intention to eventually write a book. And that’s ok! I definitely didn’t start Colored Girl Confidential thinking that my words would one day be chillin on the shelf next to some of my favorite authors.

Shoot, I have enough trouble keeping my bank account safe from my occasional Kindle spending sprees without imagining that my own name would one day grace the pages of my favorite search engine. (Because, duh. Every time I run a search on Amazon I almost always end up buying something. Take that, Google.)

Still, after maintaining the blog for almost three years, I realized that turning the CGC blog into a book made a lot of sense for me, for three main reasons.

1. Writing a book is a great way to build credibility within your niche. There’s nothing like successfully publishing a book to help you build visibility within your area of expertise. Whether it’s a novel, a manifesto, or a how-to, being able to say that you’re a published author says to people that you take pride in your ideas and expertise, and you’re serious about sharing them with the world.

2. Writing a book is a great way to find “your people. In my tribe-building course, I write a lot about finding people who believe what you believe (regarding your chosen topic). These are your people. They love hearing what you have to say and they love the way that YOU say it. But not everyone reads blogs; not everyone prefers to consume information that way. Writing a book is a great way of introducing yourself to a completely different audience.

3. If I ever decided to retire the CGC blog, a book is one way that the CGC legacy can continue to live on. I know that I don’t want to write on CGC forever. There will come a time when I’m ready to move on to new and exciting challenges, and when that time comes, I wanted there to be something left of the community I’ve worked so hard to create.

ACTION ITEM: List out your goals for publishing a book. What do you hope to accomplish and how will publishing a book help you with this? Be as specific as possible in order to determine whether a writing a book is worth the time, effort, and expense.

Want to write a book? Start a blog first. 

The publishing industry has changed drastically over the last few years. These days, authors are expected to already have a following in order to be able to successfully launch and market a book.

While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that you NEED a blog in order to be a successful author, I do think that a blog (or some other new media presence like a podcast, YouTube channel, or even incredibly active social media page), gives you an advantage. In my case, the CGC blog served three distinct purposes:

1. As a way to build an audience. Part of the reason my book was able to sell enough copies on launch day to hit the bestseller list in it’s category was because I’ve spent years building an audience of several thousand women who already love my work. And when my book came out, they were eager to grab a copy.

2. As market research. Cultivating an independent media presence is also a great way to get inside the minds of your target market. You get a sense of what they care about, what excites them, what type of content they enjoy most. All this helps you to put together the best book possible.

3. As content inspiration. Your blog can also serve as content inspiration and in some cases, actual content for your book. In the case of CGC, most of the content was pulled directly from blog posts I’ve written over the years. By publishing my book content as blog posts first, I was able to not only get a sense of what resonates most with my target audience but through the comments and responses, gained valuable feedback that allowed me to make my content even more powerful.

ACTION ITEM: If you already have an online presence, list out some of the ways your website or social media profiles can work to your advantage once you are ready to write/publish your book. What specific steps should you be taking now so that you are better prepared when the time comes?


Traditional vs. Self Publishing 

Once you’ve decided to write a book (Whoot! Gon’head with your bad self!), the next step is figuring out how you’re going to publish it. Well, technically, the next step is actually WRITING the book. But the step after THAT is figuring out how you’re going to publish it.

You have two main choices. You can either pitch your book to a traditional publisher or you can publish your book yourself. There are pros and cons to each approach. For a more detailed look at traditional vs. self publishing, check out any of the following articles:

Here’s what my pros and cons lists looked like, however:

Traditional Publishing

  • Pros: Seen as more prestigious; wider distribution (including to libraries and brick and mortar bookstores); they cover all publishing costs and sometimes provide a cash advance against future sales
  • Cons: Grueling pitch process (may be rejected from many different publishers before being accepted by one); extremely long timeline (9-18 months from beginning to end of the process); less creative control


  • Pros: Full creative control; work at your own pace – as quickly or as slowly as you like; don’t need to wait on anyone else’s approval or permission before publishing
  • Cons: You’re responsible for all expenses; can be challenging to get brick and mortar distribution; some stigma still attached to self-publishing

When it came to publishing the CGC book, my two biggest priorities were creative control and expediency. Once I created my list of pros and cons, it was clear to me that self-publishing was the option that best aligned with my particular goals.

That being said, the hardest thing for me to overcome while making this decision was my perceived stigma around self-publishing. To me, it seemed like a self-published book was the equivalent to telling the world, “NOBODY WANTS TO PUBLISH MY BOOK AND NOW I HAVE TO DO IT MYSELF. BECAUSE I’M LAME. YOU HEAR THAT, WORLD? I AM LAAAAAAAAAME.”

(Yea, yea. My inner critic tends to go a bit overboard at times. So sue me.)

After talking to my mentor, however, I realized how hypocritical it was for me to hold this view. After all, the founding of the Colored Girl Confidential blog was predicated on the idea that women of color should have complete control of their own stories and voices, and that we don’t need mainstream approval or permission in order to share our truths.

Once I realized that it was my own fears of my work not being good enough and that this was causing me to obsess over my perceived self-publishing stigma, I knew what I had to do. I knew that I couldn’t let fear or insecurities stand in my way of making the choice that was best for me, my work, and the CGC community. Self-publishing was the way to go!

ACTION ITEM: What are your biggest goals and priorities what it comes to publishing you book? Would you like more control? Does timeline matter? Would you prefer to have someone else foot the bill? Decide on your first and second most important priorities. Which publishing process is most in line with your personal priorities?



  • Part II: Understanding the self-publishing process, costs, and timeline
  • Part III: Creating a book launch and marketing strategy that works

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On unlovable relatives, feeling grown, and choosing your own family. Thu, 25 Sep 2014 19:25:04 +0000  

Note: This post is Sponsored by @InSightBulletin’s #MyTherapy campaign – a campaign that focuses on different ways to self-activate wellness and emotional well being. Normally I don’t do sponsored post but this issue of mental health + this week’s theme of “family” was just too close to my heart for me to pass up! xo

My family is… complicated.

We’re not complicated because of one BIG thing. Our complications are a tapestry of small experiences and shared secrets.

Like that time my parents and siblings and I were living in a homeless shelter and some family members drove through town but didn’t say anything because it was awkward  and then we didn’t talk to them for a couple years but then that was awkward so now we all just kind of act like that didn’t happen. Even though it did…

Or the million and one times when I was a kid and my parents decided it was time for something new and we would all pile into the car with a backpack of our most prized possessions (to this day, I pack light as hell, y’all) and hope and wish that that new place would treat us kindly but knowing that even if it didn’t, we had each other and what was that.

Or when I got married and had to stop thinking of my mamma as my one and only partner in crime (because she had been for so long) and start including my husband in that equation, only that was way more complicated than I thought it would be and I sorta made a mess of it. Like all the time.

Which essentially all boils down to the fact that my family is… complicated. Or maybe I should say that my understanding of my family is complicated.


Husbands. Presidents. And margaritas. 

Maybe that’s because for a long time, I thought that the term “family” referred to a group of folks who I entered this world claiming kinship to, and that this kinship was eternal and unchanging. There were certain people who had already made the cut – whether they deserved it or not.

In recent years though, I’ve decided to rethink this definition, to both expand and contract my definition of “family” in accordance with a grown woman’s perspective of who I do and do not want in my inner circle.

(That’s right y’all. I figure if I’m grown enough to chose my my husband, my president, and my alcoholic beverage of choice, then I’m grown enough to choose he folks who I consider family as well.)

Given family vs. chosen family

These days I like to imagine that if you were to gather my entire, immediate family into one selfie, it might be almost as epic as the one that Ellen took at the Oscars. While it wouldn’t rival in terms of star power (I’m still waiting for someone to tell me that Denzel is my long lost uncle – I’ll keep you posted), we’ve definitely got her in terms of diversity.

In fact, take nothing but me + my sisters into account, and between the seven of us, we represent African-American, Ethiopian, Italian, Chinese, Egyptian, and Native American heritages.

None of us are adopted and no, we are not the most mixed raced family since, ever. (I’ve got the kinky ass afro to prove it!)

In fact, only two of the “sisters” I’m referring to are connected to me by blood. The other five were not born my sisters and yet over the course of the last ten years, each one of them has earned the title many times over.

In lieu of parentage, we are related via tear stained heartbreaks, and drunken college memories; shared secrets and whispered words of comfort and care. God didn’t choose us to be sisters. We chose each other.

We get it from our mamma(s)

The practice of “choosing family” is honestly nothing new. As black and brown women, most of us are intimately familiar with the practice of mixing our blood relatives with our chosen ones.

You know that “auntie” who, in real life, is your mom’s roommate from college? Or all those “cousins” you see every Thanksgiving whose link to the family no one can quite explain?

During slavery, African-Americans were forced to construct a much more fluid understanding of “family” than their white American counterparts.

With husbands being sold away from their wives and children from their parents, your family became the people who claimed you as their own; the people who would feed you, clothe you, and be counted on to tell you when you were acting a damn fool.

And that matters. Because then, as is now, the practice of choosing family was no mere formality; rather, it was a matter of emotional and spiritual survival.

Even a STRONGBLACKWOMAN needs a support system

A close knit network of people who have shown that they love us and have our best interest at heart is crucial, even for the most independent among us.

They are crucial not just for the obvious reasons (people to watch Scandal with every Thursday night, duh) but also because these tend to be the people who are able see things in us that we don’t even see in ourselves.

And for those folks who we are related to in name only? Well…

Out with the old, in with the new

I’ll leave you with one final radical notion: Everyone in your family should love you and you should love everyone in your family.

Let me say that one more time (‘cuz y’all know I come from a long line of Southern Baptist preachers and we believe in repeating the good stuff): Everyone in your family should love you and you should love everyone in your family.

You may not love them all in exactly the same way and the way they express their affection for you might be equally complex but at the very heart of the matter is the fact that you’re grown. And if you want it, you have the power to choose who makes it into your inner circle. You get to choose who you call your family.

And it’s ok to make folks earn the title.

About The #MyTherapy Campaign

The #MyTherapy campaign was started by InSight Bulletin, a wellness blog that specializes in helping people cope with the stresses and challenges of everyday life.

The campaign focuses on self activated happiness/emotional well being that we can sometimes find within our family and friends, thus seeking therapy and mental wellness is a normal behavior we can find simply by spending time with those we love.

Discuss + Take Action (and maybe win $50)!

What do you think about the idea of “choosing family?” Are you someone with a mix of blood and “other” relatives who you know will have your back at any given time? Discuss below!

And now for a little homework assignment:

Share a recent photo of you doing something with someone you consider family. Share your post on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and tag your post with #mytherapy.

The picture with the most engagement will win a $50 prize. Any entries that are tagged @InSightBulletin with #MyTherapy in the caption are eligible to win.

Me + Grandma Coleman

My #MyTherapy moment = visiting Grandma Coleman at the hospital a couple weeks ago. View on Instagram.


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5 Things Every Black Girl Should Say To Her Brother Thu, 18 Sep 2014 16:27:28 +0000 One of the hardest things this summer about watching the Mike Brown tragedy unfold was that Mike Brown reminded me of my little brother. Not really in terms of personality (my brother is a bit of a homebody and about as far from an aspiring rapper as one can get), but still in ways that were real and tangible to me.

My brother is a black man. Who, like Mike Brown, lives in America. And, also like Mike Brown, has a sister who loves him.

For months, this knowing has sat heavily with me. Haunting me. Taunting me. And I’ve wondered: If something were to happen to my brother, today or tomorrow or the next day, are there things I will wish I had said to him?

Today I realized that the answer is yes. So here goes: To my brother, who I love…

1. You look nice today.

Not because of the clothes you’re wearing, but because it’s nice to see you. YOU. As in, the person that you are. Because no matter what mainstream media would have you to believe, you are so much more than your fashion choices.

To me, you are no less lovable in a hoodie than you are in a suit. You are no less deserving of my respect in sagging pants than you are in a freshly pressed polo. So yes, you look nice today. And not because of the clothes you’re wearing. But because it’s nice to see you.

2. I love you. But…

I straight up need you to love me back. Not just with your words, but with your actions. Show up for me. Respect me. Defend me. And I promise to do the same for you. I love you so much that I refuse to be a martyr for you and I don’t want you to be a martyr for me either. I want more for us than that.

I don’t want to love you because you are my brother. I want to love you because you are my friend. I would very much like us to be friends.

3. I respect you. But…

I need you to earn it. Daily. By being kind. And caring. And someone we can both be proud of.

4. I believe you.

So tell me the truth, brother, because I promise I will always believe you. I promise I will have your back, defend you against the naysayers. I promise that I will always hear your side of the story and I will never play the “are you trustworthy” game with you.

So tell me the truth, brother. Because when no one else believes you, I promise I will always believe you.

5. I want to know you.

Talk to me, brother, because the world needs your voice. Because, I need your voice. Share with me the richness of your ambition, the depths of your fears. Bless me with the unwritten poetry of your day-to-day life, the beautiful and the heartbreaking.

Allow me to know you, brother. Personally. Profoundly. As more than just the memories we share. Talk to me about your friends, your favorite tv show, what you like to do on the weekends. Talk to me as the man you are today so that I can stop confusing you with the boy you were years ago.

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