Bronx Book Fair 2018

It’s amazing how easy it is to live within a bubble. I live in Bronx, NY, and I have my entire life. I work in Manhattan, known to New Yorkers as “the city”. But while I’ve been a part of the online writing and bookish communities for years now, and I’ve made appearances at events in the city on and off over that time, I somehow never managed to stumble upon some of the events going on in The Bronx for artists within my very own borough. What an oversight! And the truth of it is, there aren’t enough of them. The Bronx has been continually disenfranchised, the media doing its level best to portray us as a neighborhood without thinking minds, a place where only the strong survive. It’s a myth perpetuated by those who proliferate it, a story created to make the old white men who so often make the big decisions feel better about continually pulling funding on education and literacy programs for the area.

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Lorraine Currelly, Executive Director, Bronx Book Fair

But strides are being taken in the right direction, often by stubborn members of the community itself, who have had enough of this wrong-minded take on our rich community. Created in 2013, the Bronx Book Fair takes place yearly at Bronx Library Center and, I’m ashamed to say, this was my first year in attendance. With the Bronx being a focal point of diversity, the organizing members look to reflect the community, with a diverse group of speakers and vendors. And this year just happened to be the first year in which the Executive Director was a woman–Lorraine Currelly, who was just a delight, her kindness and care for the community shining through every word she spoke as she made her presence known. It also happened to be the first year with a female keynote speaker, the lovely badass book lover and owner of the only bookstore in the borough, Noelle Santos.

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Noelle Santos, Owner, The Lit. Bar

Owner of The Lit. Bar, Noelle is really the person who pulled me into the Bronx literary community. I stumbled upon news of The Lit. Bar by accident, while looking into Bronx venues in which to do future book signings. I discovered The Lit. Bar’s website and emailed her for details. Noelle explained to be that she was still in the process of creating the bookstore, and that she’d definitely be happy to have me once they were up and running. After talking Bronx literacy with her, I have watched as Noelle gained media attention with her winning smile, her intelligence, and her real talk. “I’m not polished,” she said, but the truth is, she’s just not doing business-as-usual, and it’s about time for that. She doesn’t need to be polished. She needs to be authentic. In following her, and helping when I could (some of you have probably seen my social media blasts attempting to raise crowdfunding bucks, for instance), I tripped my way into the Bronx literary world.

As the Keynote Speaker of this event, Noelle shined as she related her story of discovering that the only Barnes & Noble, the only BOOKSTORE, in the Bronx was set to close, and how this inspired her to make a change. “I’m not signing any more petitions,” she said. She decided she was going to change the way the gatekeepers viewed readers through her own actions. She was going to show people that a real reader comes in many varieties, and she was going to do it by proving the need for a Bronx bookstore. And she has! Not only has she garnered a ton of press for herself and her cause, but she will be opening her bookstore this summer. And in many ways, she sounded the trumpets for others, looking to find a way to prove our borough is worth more than the gatekeepers of the education and literary industries believe. Hell, I heard the call! By the time I left her speech, I was itching to do something productive for the community. If her closing poem doesn’t rile you up, I don’t know what will.

If I dive into everything I did at the fair (I bought books! For me! For Logan!), this will become a very long blog post, so I’ll give you the condensed version, to the best of my ability. I unfortunately didn’t get to attend everything, due to a combination of the split between programs held in the auditorium, programs held in the conference room, and the vendor floor. Also, I ended up having to leave an hour earlier than originally intended thanks to a migraine (chronic illness and large crowds don’t mix all that well for prolonged periods). But here’s some of the compelling finds I made.

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Bronx Library Center Librarians from left to right: Elisa Garcia – Teen Librarian, Philip Radtake – Children’s Librarian, Elvira Ramos Paralles – Adult Librarian

Bronx Library Center is a beautiful and rather large library, and its librarians are kind, caring people who truly believe in spreading a joy of reading. One of the panels I attended included a discussion of book recommendations from librarians that work in all age groups, and suggestions on how to break a book slump and to encourage reluctant readers. One thing I learned? Don’t discourage children from reading outside of their age ranges. Reading over their age range can help challenge them. Reading below their age range can remind them of all they’ve accomplished, thus boosting their self-esteem.

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Tiffany Papageorge discusses her children’s book, My Yellow Balloon

I watched a presentation about a wonderful children’s story about dealing with grief, My Yellow Balloon by Tiffany Papageorge. Following that, there was a reading of the book in Spanish, as that book had just been released, translated into Mi Globo Amarillo by Fernando Aquino and Melissa Coss Aquino. Melissa also taught a writer’s workshop that focused on narrowing yourself to one writing project and how to remain focused on it until its completion. Specificity was stressed, and the need to cut out a time to work on several small goals to contribute to your larger goals was a very helpful discussion for a writer like myself, who always has a billion balls in the air.

Another highlight was a panel titled “How to Get Your Work Published.” While I’ve been around that block a time or two, this was a great panel for people who are just starting out and are looking at the different methods of getting your work out into the world. The panel featured Carolyn Butts, Editor/Publisher of African Voices Magazine, Steve Bloom, writer, and Jennifer Baker, creator/host of the Minorities in Publishing podcast, and contributing editor of Electric Literature. The moderator was Marc W. Polite, Founder and Editor in Chief of Polite on Society. The sentiments here varied, with some discussing the advantages of self-publishing, while others discussed methods of snagging agent representation. Editing your work was stressed, as well as a need to get out into the world and make human connections. There was a general agreement that opinions are arbitrary and taste-based, and the reminder that rejection doesn’t mean the work is bad, it’s just not right for the person reading it. Writing Workshops were also discussed, reminding young writers that a writing workshop should feel helpful, not soul-sucking. Jennifer in particular discussed the helpfulness of borough-based grants in NYC.

Women in Leadership: Arts, Activism & Social Responsibility featured Yolanda Rodriguez, Co-founder and Executive Director of BxArts Factory, and Poet and Author Mercy Tullis-Bukhari as they discussed the various demands and misconceptions that circle women in the arts. A particularly interesting point was when a question was posed: Is it an artist’s responsibility to also be an activist? Both women stressed that activism should find its way into art when it comes from a genuine place. Tullis-Bukhari specifically discussed how her identity and the identity of her family are among the groups that are under attack in this country, so she often has no choice but to lean towards activism–it’s a part of her life. However, Rodriguez pointed out that if a person chooses to create work that does not serve as activism, or if a person cannot march among activist, it does not mean that they are not assisting in any way. There is more than one way to protest.

From the vendor floor, I got to meet so many amazing people, and wish I’d been able to make a stop at all of them. I discovered the National Writers Union (and joined them), an organization that offers tremendous resources to writers such as contract advice and seminars about important writing issues. To learn more, check them out here. Riverdale Avenue Books had a table, and I had a great time chatting with Publisher Lori Perkins. I picked up an intriguing book about the #MeToo movement that I intend to gobble up.  

Another great vendor represented at the fair was Boogie Down Books. Specialized in readers from 0-18, Boogie Down is a bookstore without walls, with pop-up shops and special book-related events hosted in local stores around the borough. Another great place for children who love reading to try, Writeopia Lab offers writing classes for kids in grades K-12, both individually, and through their school, or camp. It truly sounds like a great way to turn reluctant writers into pros.

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Me, raring to go, and then totally wiped out. 😉

All in all, while chronic illness left me super tired and kinda hurting through this, the people I met and the discussions I viewed were both inspiring and invigorating. It’s been a few days and I’m still riding high off the feeling of community and the sense that I want to do more. The Inkwell Council was my first attempt to try to do more for the writing community, and it has been a success. But my brain is starting to work towards what I can do for the literacy community in The Bronx itself. Stay tuned, folks–I’m spinning around a few ideas…I’ll keep you posted.

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Busy Weekend of Writing Events

Hey all!

This weekend has been and will continue to be a super exciting weekend. On top of a birthday gathering with my two beautiful two year old nieces (honestly, the highlight of my weekend), this has been a great writing weekend.

Yesterday, I appeared on a live panel discussion on Youtube, which I managed to advertise on most of my social media platforms, but didn’t manage to post about here! That’s because my computer had decided to die the night before. Thankfully, I knew this was coming, and was ready with a new laptop and my backup files on my hard drive. Unfortunately, this left me scrambling to get the new guy updated in time to film the livestream, with a slight disregard to promoting it.

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The good news is, even if you didn’t spot my social media posts, you can still view the archived version of the livestream here. Just like the previous one, this will be run by Craft Quest, and will feature myself, and fellow authors Megan Manzano, Maria Turead, Ari Augustine, and Vivien Reis. This time we’re talking all about cliches, tropes, and stereotypes.

In addition to that, today, Sunday at 2PM EST, I’ll be chiming in on a twitter group chat to help authors prepare for Camp NaNoWriMo, which is quickly approaching. Join us today at #WhereWritingHappens, to participate, and you could win a Printable Packet for writers, created by Ann at There is Magic!

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If you’re interested in joining Camp Nano, I am hosting a cabin where we can all talk over our writing, and hopefully provide helpful encouragement! Comment below with your username if you want to join!

Lastly, stay tuned. Later this week, I will give you a heads up on a special guest post I will be making on All the Way YA, a great source for the real deal behind being a YA writer in this industry.

Hope to see you today!

Extremely Last Minute Announcement…

Hello all,

I’m usually better about giving you guys notice when I’m going to be somewhere or do something, but my 9-5 work life has been absolutely insane lately, which basically meant I worked until I came home and knocked out from sleepiness and stress. However, there is an important thing going on today, TODAY, that I would love for you guys to attend from the comfort of your own home.

Today at 5PM EST, I will be appearing on the first ever live stream over on the YouTube channel Craft Quest which you should totally subscribe to. Craft Quest is a great YouTube channel, looking to help writers, which we all know is my bag. So today, together with Craft Quest team Maria Tureaud and Ari Augustine, YA Fantasy Author Vivian Reis, and one of my Inkwell Council co-runners, Megan Manzano, we will be discussing starting your story–beginnings.

It will be a live stream, so you can send in questions and pick our brains. I’m so excited to hear what questions you have waiting for us, and to get to sit on this virtual panel with so many great people in the writing community. So come check us out, that’s 5PM EST on the Craft Quest Youtube Channel.

Oh, and you should subscribe to their channel, because they will be giving away three copies of Scrivener, an awesome writing software, once they hit 300 subscribers.

Hope to see you there!

CHRONIC ILLNESS ANTHOLOGY TITLE REVEAL!

Last week, I told you guys that my first literary non-fiction piece had been accepted for publication. The piece was about suffering with migraine, and would be appearing in an anthology about living with chronic illnesses.

Today, we’re revealing the title of our anthology. Ready?

Set…

Go!

Letters to Me Title Reveal Art

That’s right! The title of the first book is…
Letters to Me & Other Chronic Illness Warriors: Volume 1

Mark your calendars if you’re excited to check out our cover reveal on October 7, 2017! I know I can’t wait to see it!

“Not Just a Headache” accepted for publication!

people-2568886_960_720Hey all,

This weekend, I got some great news, but between the wedding of one of my best friends, and my husband’s birthday, this announcement is a little late.

A few months ago, I stumbled upon an anthology that was looking for entries. The anthology was to be by chronic illness sufferers and for them as well, and was looking for the author to write letters to their younger selves about their chronic illness journey.

Diving in, I wrote a letter to my younger self about my struggle with migraines, tentatively titled “Not Just a Headache”. This weekend, I got the news that my letter was chosen for the anthology.

There will be lots to cover in the coming months, until the anthology is released, and I will keep you apprised of all of it as I receive it.

Thank you, as always for your encouragement and support.

Love,
Justine

Surviving Social Media Series Part 2: Stereotypes and Fact-Checking

Welcome to Part 2 of my Surviving Social Media Series. You can read Part 1 here.

Also, before I dive into Part 2, I wanted to announce that I was interviewed by Libby Heily last week, and it’s up on her blog, so please check it out! It will give you a little insight into my book and about working with Fantasy Works Publishing. Please pop on by!

And now, without further ado…


Did you know that people think they know a lot about you from your favorite social media account? There are actually plenty of people out there who firmly believe they know you based just on that. I must give them a hell of a time predicting with my collection of social media.

If you use Facebook, you’re a sheep, one of the crowd. I mean, come on. Great-Grandmothers use Facebook.

If you use Twitter, you’re a rabid fan, looking for contact with celebrities. You probably only got on there to talk to your favorite actor and you probably have never received a reply to any of the thousand tweets you’ve tweeted @him.

If you use Instagram, you are either self-involved and proving it with a countless number of selfies, or you are lying about your life and are proving it with well-lit photos of your surroundings looking perfect. Just out of frame of your perfect healthy meal is the tremendous bag of Oreos.

If you are on Pinterest you are a stay at home Mom or a perfectionist. After all, who else makes pretty DIY crafts like that?

If you are on Tumblr, you are probably a social justice warrior! And a hipster! You silly person, you. You couldn’t possibly have a decent opinion on real things, you delusional equality-believing artsy dummy! (written as an avid Tumblr poster since 2010).

So, how do you feel about that? Does any of that fit you?

Probably not. And there’s a reason for that.

Stereotypes of anything are bullshit.

The truth is that many different people post many different things on social media. The things we complain about are everywhere. But for every annoying post we run into, there is the ability to get news spread faster, the self-esteem boosting posts, people sharing love for their friends, the ability to find homes for animals, and just an increased awareness due to the spread of social media.

So we have an increased awareness of important news topics. And we also have an increased awareness of every. Single. Thing. That one poster ate in a given day. It comes with the territory and we’ll discuss that part further in a later edition of this series.

But for now, let’s talk about that glorious spread of information. When it is good, it is very very good, but when it is bad, it is HORRID.

6beThough this meme is obviously a joke, it is a satire about the way people post incorrect memes all the time. Nobody in social media fact-checks. When some new bit of dubious information arises, it spreads like a damn plague before anybody realizes it could potentially be false.

This is one of the major problems about the spread of information in the age of social media. We repost, we share, we retweet and reblog and pin, and we often don’t know the truth of the news we are sharing. We often don’t know what agenda the initial disseminator of the information has. We don’t pay attention. As Captain Smek from Home said of the internet, “The Internet does not lie.”

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Sure, it doesn’t. The internet is a connected web of computers. It doesn’t lie. But the people who are putting information out to be shared through the web of computers? They lie. They lie plenty.

So remember, folks, if it’s on a website that is solely about your ideological bend, whatever that may be, you might want to double check those facts. And if you think you know something about a person based on what kind of social media they use, you might not want to base your stock portfolio on that great predictive mind of yours.

I’m sure you’ve all run into people like the ones I mentioned above. Feel free to share your tales of woe in the comments. And stay tuned for next week, when we discuss a need for approval and social blackmail.

 

Author Spotlight: Ismael Manzano

It’s funny. I do these author spotlights every now and then, and while the writers involved are often my friends, I have never done something like this for a person I know better than I know myself, about a book I read in its nascent stages, a story I’d heard about for years in various possible incarnations before it became what it is today. But here I am. My author spotlight today is for my husband, Ismael Manzano, and his novel, Soulless.

Now, below you will find a whole lot of press release type information, and I want you to read it and enjoy it, because it’s good stuff. But before I even get to that, I want to tell you the truth about this book.

I love this book. And not just because it’s my husband’s book. The story is imaginative, and I connected with the characters immediately, particularly the main character, Charlotte. Learning about this world through her eyes has been an exhilarating experience.

But more importantly, I love the writing, the way he weaves words together and takes you on a ride with them. I speak a lot about writing on this blog, but I rarely point out this fact – I am only a writer because I was inspired by Ismael. He not only told me I could, but he challenged me, and he showed me what dedication to the craft looked like, and without him I’d probably still be auditioning for acting jobs with my own stories dancing in my head. I got very lucky. I got to marry my favorite author. And I’m so very pleased to help create some of the fanfare surrounding this book.

So, without further ado, here’s a little about Ismael, and a little about Soulless.


Available Today!

Soulless
by Ismael Manzano

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Synopsis:

The devil’s not the only one buying souls; both sides need bodies to fight their war, and both have something to offer in return. Nearly anything is possible, if you are the type of soul they’re looking for. Charlotte Furio learns this the hard way, when a spirited and mysterious woman named Trisha follows her home one night and gives her ailing father a simple choice: a healthy body for his immortal soul.

His decision introduces Charlotte to the world of soul brokering, and Charlotte is not only drawn to it, but finds she has a knack for it. Having lived the last decade of her life with only one purpose—to care for her increasingly disabled father—Charlotte sees this as her chance to give direction and meaning to her own life, and the lives of other people. To help them as Trisha had helped her father.

This mission is quickly derailed when Charlotte is framed for the murder of one of the brokers’ leaders. Where she once had only one purpose, now Charlotte has two: get her father’s soul back and find a way to prove her innocence before it’s too late.

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Excerpt:

I walked around the car so I could jump into the passenger’s seat, waited for the crowd to thin and calmly—barely holding onto my senses—asked for the knapsack. It weighed nothing, but when I opened it, I found a parchment resting peacefully and eagerly inside of it. The full moon was out, and the sky was cloudless and unobtrusive, so when the pale, silvery light touched the papyrus, it was not reflected but enhanced. Trisha started the engine, and put the convertible’s top up to block the moonlight, then adjusted her mirror. Her face glowed nearly as bright as the papyrus.

The windows were tinted so I felt safe removing the parchment completely from the bag. The second my hand touched it, I felt a rush of something inexplicable, like a jolt of pleasurable lightning traipsing through my nerves and extending outward to the world at large. At first, I thought Trisha had pulled out a taser gun and had shocked me, but nothing hurt. I closed my eyes and allowed myself to enjoy the strangeness of the sensation. Shivers passed through me randomly, tingles that lit my skin. Without knowing how, I knew those shivers were my body’s reaction to people passing alongside the car. It was as if I was connected to the air through which they moved. I heard the wind pushing through the desiccated leaves still clinging to their branches, and it sounded like water rushing around a brook. The smells of the city, even through the confinement of the car, assailed my nostrils as if someone had bottled it up and threw it—concentrated—into my lap.

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PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon | Smashwords | Nook | Kobo

Author Bio:

Ismael_Head shotIsmael Manzano was born and raised in New York City, and has lived his entire life in the Bronx, first with his parents, and then with his lovely and talented wife, Justine, and now with their kinetic maelstrom of a child, Logan.

Ismael is an avid reader of fantasy books, and knew at an early age that he wanted to be a writer. He worked his entire life to hone his craft to achieve the goal of removing the prefix, ‘aspiring,’ from his title, and referring to himself as a writer.

He has written many reviews and social commentaries for the web magazine, G-pop.net. Recently, Ismael has found success publishing his short stories, Playing in Shadows, at This Dark Matter and Cold, published in July 2015, at Grey Matter. In 2015, Fantasy Works Publishing signed his Urban Fantasy series, Soul Broker.

Ismael loves watching historical documentaries and listening to audio lectures about Medieval England, Ancient Rome, and Egypt. He considers himself an amateur historian, and has never met a BBC historical drama he didn’t like. One of his favorite things to do is to watch shows like the Tudors and movies like Elizabeth, and try to pick out the discrepancies between fact and fiction. He also hopes to one day solve a Rubix Cube puzzle, but that dream, sadly, seems to be the greatest fantasy of them all.

Website: IsmaelManzano.com

Twitter: @IsmaelManzano76

Facebook: Ismael Manzano – Author