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[PLAYLIST] Songs For People Who Smoke in the Shower 5
 

BY GREGORY HEDGEPETH

 

Songs For People Who Smoke in the Shower 5 is a playlist I created because I like to play music when I smoke in the shower. I cut the lights low, turn the music up and let all the stress of the day melt away. Most of these songs have been played ad nauseam over the past year or so, and although theres no single cohesive theme among them, once you spark your lighter and let the music take you away, I think you’ll immediately get the vibe.

Songs For People Who Smoke 5 Cover.png
 

Solo — “Heaven”

My grandmother was recently moved into a facility to help treat her dementia. When I was younger, she overheard me playing “Heaven” and it became the only song I’ve ever introduced her to. It’s such a beautiful song and it always makes me think about her when I hear it. It’s a shame they didn’t put out more music. I also think it’s kinda funny that a singing group would call themselves Solo.
 

Miguel — “Adorn”

If you used to follow me on Tumblr back in the day, you already know why I included this—but if you didn’t, it’s because this song is my motherfucking shit. Miguel is one of my favorite musicians and this was one of the first joints I remember playing on a continuous loop for hours at a time.
 

Freddie Gibbs — “Palmolive” (feat. Pusha T & Killer Mike)

How can you not love a Pusha verse that starts with “Real bars are the ill bars/these scars are the only real proof they couldn’t kill gods/my coke hand is still sketchin’ out my memoirs/what I did to door panels on them Windstars...” That whole Bandana album is hard, but this is one of the standouts. One day, people will stop sleeping on the homie Gibbs.
 

Westside Gunn — “Sensational Sherri”

So I was super-late on the Griselda wave, but I’ve been listening to them pretty much nonstop for the last couple months. Westside Gunn’s ‘Flygod Is An Awesome God’ album has probably gotten more play than most of the others and this song is a big reason why. The instrumentals, the wrestling clips, the gun talk. I love all that shit. If this is your first foray, peep “Thousand Shot Mac” and “Lakers vs Rockets” too.
 

Rick James — “Mary Jane”

I don’t know why it took me so long to include this classic. Besides the obvious reference, the first time I remember hearing this song was on the movie Friday, one of my favorite films of all time (I’m fairly certain I can still recite it by heart). If I have to explain why this is the perfect song to start off the joint or why it’s one of my favorites, this probably isn’t the playlist for you.
 

Listen to the playlist below or simply click the link.


Gregory Hedgepeth is the editor-in-chief of Vital Narrative Press. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Feel free to follow on all three. Or maybe just two. Yeah, two’s probably good — he’s not that interesting. Gregory Hedgepeth is also the author of MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SUNRISES, THE YEAR THAT ANSWERED and A COLLECTION OF ECHOES. BUY THAT SHIT.

Writers Asking Writers Questions | P. Curry & Darlene P. Campos
 

BY P. CURRY

 

A few years ago, we created of series of in-house interviews called Authors Interviewing Authors, where our roster traded conversations in an attempt to get to know one another as well as provide some intimate insights into the life of a fellow writer. Last year, we expanded on our series, aptly renaming it Writers Asking Writers Questions and turned it into a five-week series involving established authors as well as new, unpublished writers.


The previous interviews from our WAWQ series are linked below.


So first things first, tell me a little bit about your upcoming novel, Heaven Isn’t Me?

A: I wrote the first draft in two months, from August to October 2018. Unlike with my two previous novels, I didn’t just rely on my laptop to write the draft – I wrote 85% of the first draft on my phone! Whenever I had a free moment, even if it was just five minutes, I’d whip out my phone and use the Google Docs app to write. Writing on my phone worked wonders in getting this book done quickly. I easily wrote 1,000 words a day using this method.

Heaven Isn’t Me follows fourteen-year-old Elysian Lecaro as she faces a diagnosis with anxiety disorder and tries to solve two mysteries: a) who shot her friends in a recent drive-by shooting and b) who kidnapped Gladys Richardson, her best friend’s older sister?

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Were you in any way inspired by your own struggles with anxiety for this project?

A: Yes, yes, and yes. Elysian and I share some characteristics, though she is much bolder and braver than I am. When I was her age, I had anxious thoughts, but I didn’t realize they weren’t normal until I was older. For example, whenever a school dance came around, I was 100% convinced that if I didn’t find a date, I was destined to be alone for the rest of my life. It sounds ridiculous now (especially since I’ve been married for over a year and I’ve been with my husband for seven years!), but back then, I really believed it.

I had other thoughts like I would fail high school and never graduate, even though I was on honor roll and I ended up graduating a year early because I was so ahead in my studies. I remember my friends telling me, “Darlene, we love you, but sometimes you worry too much.” And they were right. So, in my first semester of college, I talked to a counselor and after several weeks of sessions, she told me I had anxiety, but not to fear since there were ways to address these irrational thoughts of the future, such as thinking of all the good outcomes of an issue first.

Because of my experience with anxiety as a teen, I knew I had to write a book with a character like Elysian to show teens of today that there is hope and healing for them. There is a lot of pressure on teens as they grow up. They’re trying to make good grades, they have crushes, they want to fit in, they’re getting ready for the next steps of their lives – so of course they’re going to worry about themselves and their future. They are not alone and they don’t have to feel ashamed of their anxious thoughts.

 

Mind sharing who and/or what some of your influences are?

A: Oscar Wilde, Sandra Cisneros, Barbara Kingsolver, Rebecca Brown, Lorrie Moore, Edgar Allan Poe, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, John Green, ZZ Packer, Tennessee Williams, Elizabeth McCracken, RJ Palacio, Stuart Dybek, Jeannette Walls, and Carrie Fountain. There are others I’m likely forgetting. I went on vacation with my husband to Washington D.C. in June and we drove about an hour away to Baltimore where we visited Edgar Allan Poe’s house. His house is VERY small and the stairwells are so narrow, I’m surprised I was able to climb the steps. At the top of the house, there’s an even narrower stairwell that leads to Poe’s bedroom which includes his quill pen and his writing desk. I cried the second when I saw these items – I couldn’t believe I was looking at the exact spot where Poe wrote his legendary works. The moment felt like a pilgrimage. While Poe is known for his horror stories, I’m a huge fan of his poetry. Poe’s poem “For Annie” is one of my favorite poems ever.  

Likewise, I went on a weekend trip to San Antonio a few years ago and stayed in the historical (and supposedly haunted) Menger Hotel. Oscar Wilde stayed there back in 1882. The Menger has a special plaque with his name on the door of the room where he slept during his stay. The room is available for booking, but last time I checked, it was $300 a night. Anyway, right before I checked out of my room, I found his room and took a selfie with the plaque. I didn’t experience anything paranormal at the Menger, but I seriously hoped Oscar Wilde’s ghost would visit me so I could ask him for writing advice. Unfortunately, he didn’t haunt me.

 

I’ve noticed that you’ve been doing extensive research on the Holocaust and Jewish history and culture. Are you applying this knowledge to a future work?

A: Yes, but since I’m currently sending this manuscript out to agents and publishing houses, I don’t want to say too much about it.

It’s based on true accounts from Holocaust survivors I interviewed plus accounts I learned from the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of other Holocaust survivors I couldn’t interview since they have passed away. I used the accounts along with my own fiction-thinking brain to create this novel.

That’s all I will say for now.

 

Any other ideas you have in mind for future works?

A: I’m revising my fifth novel right now, which I also wrote in two months (April to June of this year) by writing most of it on my phone. It’s about a fifteen-year-old boy named Matthew who wants to be a doctor, but since his mother doesn’t earn much money, he’s busting himself to get a good scholarship. He can sing well, and his friends tell him about a singing scholarship, which is great, except he has horrible stage fright AND he needs to write his own song for his audition, which isn’t his strength. Will Matthew finally get a scholarship for his medical school fund? Will he bomb his audition? Will he audition at all? Who knows? 

The title right now is Matthew The Riot, but is subject to change. Fun fact: it’s also a semi-sequel of my fourth novel.

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I find it admirable how you always do such extensive research on whatever it is you’re writing about, especially in regards to different cultures. What motivates you to always be so in-depth with your research?

A: Simple – I LOVE to dive right into my research. I can read a thousand books, watch a thousand videos, and interview a thousand people, but it is not the same as experiencing what I’m researching. When I was writing my second novel, Summer Camp is Cancelled, the protagonist, Lyndon, is Catholic and I knew close to nothing about Catholicism. So, I went to Mass several times, learned prayers, songs, and talked to priests. I read books and watched documentaries and other informative videos (shout out to Father Mike on the Ascension Presents YouTube channel!). I also interviewed over forty practicing Catholics, but the best part about learning was being present in Mass, because I experienced Catholicism firsthand. I even went to a two-hour long Christmas Midnight Mass because Lyndon attends a Christmas Midnight Mass in the novel.

Additionally, SCIC has a character named Melody and she is deaf, and Lyndon’s father is deaf in one ear (just like my father). I interviewed people who are deaf to shape these characters and I read books and watched videos, too, but I also spent days with earplugs on to experience the silence. For Lyndon’s father, I spent days with one earplug. By diving into my research, I feel that I can properly capture who my characters are without making them seem like stereotypes or unrealistic. I worry about improperly representing characters outside of my own realm, which is why I want to be as accurate as possible so I do not hurt anyone’s feelings with misrepresentation.

 

What are some of your long-term career goals?

A: My ultimate dream is to earn enough money to give to charity and those who need my help without having to think twice about it. Ever hear about those anonymous millionaires who donate tons of money to nonprofits? I want to be one of those millionaires. Need surgery? I’ll write you a check, so you won’t have medical debt. You need your car repaired? Here’s $25,000 for you to buy a new car. Homeless animals at the local shelter need food? Here’s $50,000, get them dessert, too.

Okay, I’m getting carried away by my dreams, but wouldn’t that life be the best?



 

Would you be open to a film or TV adaptation of one your books in the future?

A: Of course! But they have to let me write the screenplay. If not, the deal is off.

 

Let’s say, you were banned from writing! What path would you take from there?

A: If I didn’t write, I’m not sure what I would do with my time. The longest I can go without writing is a few weeks and then I feel the withdrawal and get back into it. So, if I were banned from writing, I would write anyway, even if it could get me arrested. Then I’d write in prison, too.

Photography is another passion of mine, but it’s nowhere to close to writing. I also love to box and swim for exercise. I would easily give up my camera, punching bag and boxing gloves, and all my swim gear rather than my pen and paper.

 

Since you aren’t actually banned from writing, is there anything else you’d like to do with your craft besides penning novels?

A: I wish I could do something different, but novels are my specialty. I have had poems published in various literary journals in the past, but I can tell you with full certainty that I am not a poet.

I also wish I could write songs. My great-grandfather, Alcides Martinez, was a musician, songwriter, and a poet. He wrote songs which are still covered by Ecuadorian artists today. However, I sadly did not inherit his abilities.

Novels are it for me!

Vital Narrative Press Is Five Years Old!
 

BY GREGORY HEDGEPETH

 
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I can’t believe I’m about to say this… we are officially five years old! It feels like it was just yesterday when I decided I was tired of sleeping on my grandmother’s couch, waiting for destiny to fall in my lap.

In 2014, despite all the obstacles that stood in front of me, I took a leap of faith and decided I was going to start Vital Narrative based on what I already knew about the publishing industry with the little bit of money I had from my last job in customer service. I told myself I’d just have to learn everything else on the way down. It’s taken twice as long to learn what I figured I needed to know and I’ve spent way more money than I ever expected — but it’s all been worth it. Just about every waking moment not devoted to my wife and daughter are focused on this talented roster of authors and the blood, sweat and tears they pour into their work. 

The things I’ve learned about the industry pale in comparison to what I’ve learned about myself as a person. It takes a lot of resolve to run a business and to be constantly evolving from your mistakes. Every day, I learn something I can apply in some capacity and that’s honestly one of the most rewarding parts about running the company I sought out to create.

I’ve always been a writer, so I wanted this to be more writer-centric than other publishing companies. It’s why our authors earn 50% royalties as opposed to the 8% they can earn at mainstream publishers. It’s why I want the authors to have so much input on how this company runs and it’s also why I think we’ve managed to survive.

Some of you have been supporting us the entire five years, giving me all the motivation I needed to keep going during those days when I wanted to quit. I can't even keep up with the number of times I got a message from someone telling me how much they appreciate what we're doing or getting a referral from someone who has purchased from us. Those are the kinds of debts I can never repay.

By far though, I’ve grown so much as an editor, a writer and a businessman because of our authors. They are the ones who deserve mountains of praise in gold, because they are always working hard to ensure this company becomes a success. If there's one thing I can admit to loving more than anything else, it's sitting face-to-face and discussing their work with them, helping them mold their stories into the best versions of themselves — nothing compares to that feeling.

The most surprising thing I've learned is that five years goes by PRETTY DAMN FAST. It still feels like we’re just getting started with the work we want to do here, because there’s honestly so much left to do and so many barriers left to break. We can't do any of this without you — I hope you continue on this journey with us.


Gregory Hedgepeth is the editor-in-chief of Vital Narrative Press. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Feel free to follow on all three. Or maybe just two. Yeah, two’s probably good — he’s not that interesting. Gregory Hedgepeth is also the author of MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SUNRISES, THE YEAR THAT ANSWERED and A COLLECTION OF ECHOES. BUY THAT SHIT.

[PLAYLIST] Songs For People Who Smoke in the Shower 4
 

BY GREGORY HEDGEPETH

 

Songs For People Who Smoke in the Shower 4 is a playlist I created because I like to play music when I smoke in the shower. I cut the lights low, turn the music up and let all the stress of the day melt away. Most of these songs have been played ad nauseam over the past year or so, and although theres no single cohesive theme among them, once you spark your lighter and let the music take you away, I think you’ll immediately get the vibe.

Songs For People Who Smoke 4 Cover.png
 

Dr. Dre  — “The Next Episode” (feat. Snoop Dogg)

When I first started curating this playlist, I already knew what I wanted the first and last song to be. As soon as I hear the beginning of the instrumental, it instantly puts me in the right state of mind. Not to mention Nate Dogg ends it perfectly with his “Heeyyyy-ay-aaayyy, smoke weed everyday!” crooning.
 

Rick Ross — “Elvis Presley Blvd.” (feat. Project Pat)

My wife works pretty close to Elvis Presley and when she was still pregnant with Lamb, we stopped by the Krispy Kreme there to get doughnuts and for some reason this song always reminds me of that. Even though I’m not a Memphis native, this joint always makes me feel like I grew up here.
 

Lauryn Hill — “Nothing Even Matters” (feat. D’Angelo)

This is one of the most criminally underrated love songs of all time. Lauryn and D’Angelo were a match made in heaven on this one and I don’t understand how it doesn’t get more recognition from others.
 

Dennis Edwards — “Don’t Look Any Further” (feat. Siedah Garrett)

It’s really hard for me to listen to this song without laughing because I either imagine Dennis Edwards giving the Bobby Brown face at the beginning of the video or the colonizer parody floating around the Internet, but this song still goes hard. Not to mention it perfectly sets up “Hit Em Up” next in the queue, which is one of my favorite diss records of all time.
 

Petey Pablo — “Raise Up”

As a North Carolina native (and Raleigh specifically), I HAD to include this jawn. It reminds me so much of high school, because it’s one of those things I look back on with a mild sense of embarrassment — but only because of how enthusiastic I was about it back in the day. You couldn’t tell me shit when this came on the radio or the video played on BET. It will always hold a special place in my heart even though I can admit to not having heard it in years. I knew it would be the perfect song to end on.
 

Listen to the playlist below or simply click the link.


Gregory Hedgepeth is the editor-in-chief of Vital Narrative Press. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Feel free to follow on all three. Or maybe just two. Yeah, two’s probably good — he’s not that interesting. Gregory Hedgepeth is also the author of MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SUNRISES, THE YEAR THAT ANSWERED and A COLLECTION OF ECHOES. BUY THAT SHIT.

[PLAYLIST] Songs For People Who Smoke in the Shower 3
 

BY GREGORY HEDGEPETH

 

Songs For People Who Smoke in the Shower 3 is a playlist I created because I like to play music when I smoke in the shower. I cut the lights low, turn the music up and let all the stress of the day melt away. Most of these songs have been played ad nauseam over the past year or so, and although theres no single cohesive theme among them, once you spark your lighter and let the music take you away, I think you’ll immediately get the vibe.

Songs For People Who Smoke 3 Cover.png
 

Little Brother  — “Slow It Down”

Phonte spit one of my favorite lines of all time on this jawn: “I want a girl when I want a girl. And when I don’t want a girl, I want a girl who understands that. And that’s some hard shit to explain to a woman that’s in love with you...” My wife actually hates that lyric, but to me it really encapsulates what I ran into quite a bit when I was single. Sometimes, you like a girl but not enough to make a commitment — not because there’s anything wrong with her, but because a relationship isn’t what you’re looking for. It’s a line that I’ve always thought was underrated (mostly because Phonte is underrated in general), but it’s just a small part of what makes this song so great.
 

Ray J — “Wait A Minute” (feat. Lil’ Kim)

I know some folks kinda think of Ray J as a joke at this point in his career (or maybe they’ve always thought that), but I think it’s silly to underestimate someone worth $6 million. If you asked a hundred people about his most popular hit, most of them would probably pick ‘One Wish.’ But this is his best song IMO. Shoutout to OG Lil’ Kim rapping on the feature and The Neptunes on production.
 

Lauryn Hill — “Ex-Factor”

Is there any song about a past relationship that’s more relevant than this one? I mean, does the significance even need to be explained? It’s just one of those songs that’s hauntingly beautiful and I’m afraid the pain in Lauryn’s voice will forever be etched in my mind.
 

TWENTY88 — “Deja Vu”

One day last summer, I played this song about 100 times in a row. I just couldn’t get enough of it. Jhene Aiko and Big Sean need to make songs together forever, because there’s something about their music that just makes sense. This is another one of those relationship songs that I believe we can all relate to.
 

Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes — “I Miss You”

I’m a huge, huge, HUGE fan of this song. I mean, how many of us had to beg for their lady back after we inevitably fucked up? Even still, while I can admit relating to the outro on more than one occasion, I still think it’s wild the song goes on for about seven minutes before he asks about his son’s whereabouts — I’d assume that would be brought up a little quicker. A sign of the times, I guess. Even still, this is another classic breakup song.
 

Listen to the playlist below or simply click the link.


Gregory Hedgepeth is the editor-in-chief of Vital Narrative Press. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Feel free to follow on all three. Or maybe just two. Yeah, two’s probably good — he’s not that interesting. Gregory Hedgepeth is also the author of MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SUNRISES, THE YEAR THAT ANSWERED and A COLLECTION OF ECHOES. BUY THAT SHIT.

America Hates the Poor: Emergency Preparedness is for the Rich

BY Q. VERGARA

 

The earthquakes that hit Southern California during the Fourth of July Weekend got quite a bit of news coverage. And while the information was useful, they kept insisting people should stock up on emergency supplies in the event of a natural disaster. It makes sense to plan ahead and be prepared, but let's be honest, it isn't always practical or realistic.

Image by Jessica Weston from  Associated Press

Image by Jessica Weston from Associated Press

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune (2019), California ranks number one in poverty across the United States. The U.S. Census calculates poverty in two different ways:

  1. based on income, and

  2. based on a measure called “supplemental poverty measure”

This measure allows the census to calculate how many people are living in poverty by how much government programs are assisting low-income families. Using this measure, California's poverty rate sits at a whopping 19 percent (San Diego Union-Tribune, 2019).

If so many families are struggling with day to day necessities, how are they expected to buy anything extra? When you're wondering where your next meal is going to come from and your stomach is touching your back, how realistic is it to buy groceries to set aside for "just-in-case?" When you're already living every day in emergency mode, because your finances do not allow you to breathe, how are you supposed to spend the money you don't have for an imminent hypothetical?

Image by  Marcello Migliosi  from  Pixabay

Having money in the U.S. not only provides you opportunity, but allows you to mitigate any damage you encounter when things go awry. Trouble with the law? Post bond and pay a good lawyer. Feeling sick? Fly to where you can get the best medical care and pay for it, no problem. Natural disaster? Pay earthquake insurance, move, rebuild, whatever. When you have money you are no longer at the mercy of your surroundings. When you have money you can be proactive. But when you're living in poverty, you're forced to be reactive and adapt. 

Beyond stocking up on food, there are a countless number of other hurdles those in poverty must face if hit with a natural disaster. Hopefully you don't have kids, elderly, or disabled folk in diapers—gotta stock pile that. Hopefully you don't rely on medication—can’t go over your allotments on insurance. Hopefully you have a house or at least enough room to even store the things you keep. God forbid you live on the second floor and have mobility issues. In an emergency, there's no chance in hell you're getting down those stairs. With just a little bit of money, you could have moved somewhere else, bought extras, and paid your way out of trouble to keep you and your family safe.

Image by  StockSnap  from  Pixabay

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

The super hurricanes you see on TV have been jarring enough. Infants in plastic storage containers, floating in dirty murky water on a stack of pillows and blankets. What would I do in that situation? If it happened tomorrow, I wouldn't have enough money to evacuate.

Not enough money to be awarded the same opportunities to keep my family safe. Not enough money to be safe. That's a scary thought. Having the foresight of emergency preparedness does nothing, because I still need the money to buy shit.  

I hope by the time the big earthquake hits, I have enough money in my pocket to keep my family safe. I pray that by the time it hits, I have enough money to keep my community safe. 

The Single Most Important Step in Your Writing Career

BY SACHA HAMILTON

 

One of the most frustrating parts about writing is putting together a first draft. No matter whether it’s an anthology, a novel, a biography or an essay, your writing is going to require one and it’s easy to become discouraged if you don’t remind yourself of the role your early drafts play in your final work. That being said, let’s take a step back and examine why writing a first draft is the single most important step in your writing career.

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In a perfect world, when an idea popped in our heads, it would already have the necessary elements to create the story. We would be able to sit down, write the book from beginning to end and have it be complete and coherent, with all the character arcs and climaxes intertwined around themes that logically propel the plot forward. And voila! The story would be successfully written.

Unfortunately, we know how imperfect the world really is and writing just isn’t completed this way.

(Image by  Lubos Houska  from  Pixabay )

(Image by Lubos Houska from Pixabay)

Most first drafts are rough… in fact, they’re beyond rough. Chances are they’ll be rife with spelling errors, continuity problems or they may not make sense at all. And as a writer with universes bursting to get out, it can feel defeating to read back what you wrote after imagining the perfect story, especially if it’s not very good. This may be the point where you begin to consider if you should continue working on your story or just quit altogether and start fresh.

The thing to keep in mind is that first drafts play a valuable role in producing any kind of writing, especially a large manuscript. They’re meant to help you sort through your ideas and get them down on paper. Focusing on how “good” it is shouldn’t be your goal, because first drafts aren’t built with that in mind.

The endgame should be to focus solely on mapping out your thoughts and getting them down on paper (not to be confused with mapping out your story during brainstorming). Once you’ve crafted your first draft, going through the editing process will expose the holes within, and you’ll discover exactly what you need to fix in order to make your story stronger.

Benefits to having a first draft:

  • The flaws of your story become more pronounced

  • You are more likely to figure out your flat characters and how to fix them

  • Your story’s plot will become clearer

  • It will become far easier to highlight the holes and/or contradictions in your story

  • You can decipher which story elements and scenes don’t work

  • You will learn how your characters mesh within the story and how they interact with one another (many writers come up with characters that come alive as they write and learn about them in their first draft)

  • You can nail down a sequence, so your story has a logical, fluid pace and flow.

(Image by  Birgit Böllinger  from  Pixabay )

(Image by Birgit Böllinger from Pixabay)

Take solace in the fact that first drafts are meant to be rough and no one ever has to read them except you. The editing process can always help you find the best version of your work, but you can’t edit an empty page. So always keep in mind that writing a first draft can help you organize your work and provide you with a clearer path to a much better finished product.

[PLAYLIST] Songs For People Who Smoke in the Shower 2
 

BY GREGORY HEDGEPETH

 

Songs For People Who Smoke in the Shower 2 is a playlist I created because I like to play music when I smoke in the shower. I cut the lights low, turn the music up and let all the stress of the day melt away. Most of these songs have been played ad nauseam over the past year or so, and although theres no single cohesive theme among them, once you spark your lighter and let the music take you away, I think you’ll immediately get the vibe.

Songs For People Who Smoke 2 Cover.png
 

Todd Rundgren — “Hello It’s Me”

I’m a huge fan of ‘That 70s Show’ and I’ve probably watched every episode about a hundred times. During the first episode, the gang goes to a Todd Rungren concert in Eric’s Vista Cruiser and end up having to exchange a muffler for two tickets. It’s one of my favorites, but I always slept on the actual music, thinking it was just an old song by some white guy. One night when I was smoking, I actually paid attention for once and discovered that shit actually slaps though.
 

Nas — “If I Ruled the World” (feat. Lauryn Hill)

Nas was the first rapper I ever fucked with heavy. In fact, this was the first rap song I ever memorized from beginning to end. I actually wrote all lyrics out and listened to it over and over until I could recite it without any mistakes. When I got older and started writing, it became the first song I’d play before starting an outline for a new story because it always put me in a contemplative state. I mean, as I began world-building, I would just ask myself: what WOULD you do if you ruled the world?
 

Kendrick Lamar — “Kush & Corinthians” (feat. BJ the Chicago Kid)

I actually wrote a script for a series called “Kush & Corinthians” about two brothers who live completely opposite lives until one finds God — I still need to put that out. Anyway, Kendrick snapped on this jawn, and there aren’t nearly not enough people who know how talented BJ the Chicago Kid is. This is another song that really puts me in a creative state of mind.
 

Kanye West — “Devil in a Blue Dress” (feat. Rick Ross)

I know we’re not fucking with Kanye at the moment because of the “slavery is a choice” comment, but this is arguably his best song. The production is A-1 and I still get hype every time Ross spits ”when it come to tools... fool, I’m a Pep Boy!”
 

Lupe Fiasco — “Mural“

Niggas forget how dope Lupe is because he goes over our heads sometimes (well, a lot of the time). This joint doesn’t even have a hook. It’s just nine minutes of him rocking over spectacular production. TETSUO & YOUTH dropped like four years ago and it still feels like I’m discovering new metaphors in this joint, because of how dense his lines are.
 

Listen to the playlist below or simply click the link.


Gregory Hedgepeth is the editor-in-chief of Vital Narrative Press. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Feel free to follow on all three. Or maybe just two. Yeah, two’s probably good — he’s not that interesting. Gregory Hedgepeth is also the author of MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SUNRISES, THE YEAR THAT ANSWERED and A COLLECTION OF ECHOES. BUY THAT SHIT.

Darlene P. Campos’ Latest Novel is a Love Letter to Everyone Suffering With Anxiety
 

BY GREGORY HEDGEPETH

 

Writers are notorious for having mental health issues, most likely because we’re always in our own heads, constantly obsessing over the worlds, characters and scenarios we have created. Here at Vital Narrative, we are no different as a number of us advocate for and suffer with our own mental health issues, myself included.

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As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, I felt it was important to share my experience reading Heaven Isn’t Me, the third novel from Darlene P. Campos. After completing my first read, I couldn’t deny how at ease I felt. There was such a calm in my spirit, because I felt seen and understood. In fact, it felt like she wrote it specifically for me. The story revolves around a 14-year-old girl named Elysian who discovers she is suffering with anxiety. The most poignant part of the narrative deals with the many stigmas surrounding mental health diseases in the form of Elysian’s family, who perceive it to be “all in her head.”

I started to read the anxiety pamphlets. They said the condition was common and it wasn’t anything to feel ashamed about at all. The typical symptoms were worrying, panic attacks, endless fears, trouble sleeping, and a lot more. t wasn’t me being weird. None of the emotions or attacks were my fault. It was anxiety. I had finally found the answer to what was wrong with me, and for some reason, knowing the answer made me feel normal.
— Elysian Lecaro, HEAVEN ISN'T ME

I was about 25 before I began to discuss my mental health issues openly, and since then, I’ve been a champion of others revealing theirs, because I see the impact and empowerment that comes with realizing you aren’t alone. These afflictions convince us that there’s no one else struggling with the same thing, even though we know it isn’t true. That’s why it’s important that we stay vigilant about treating these issues, but also help rid the world of the stigmas that come with them. 

Darlene’s novel is going to save a lot of lives. When you consider that even though anxiety and depression are treatable, but 80 percent of kids with a diagnosable anxiety disorder and 60 percent of kids with diagnosable depression are not getting treatment (according to the 2015 Child Mind Institute Children’s Mental Health Report), it becomes clear that this novel could serve as the caveat that drives teenagers and adolescents to seek treatment and not fear that which ails them. Despite the fact that the dialogue about mental health is finally coming to the forefront of mainstream media, we must remain attentive and sympathetic to the needs of those currently dealing with these illnesses.

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When I asked Darlene about what led her to craft this novel, she said:

Around the time I started thinking of an idea for my third novel, I was having the worst panic attacks, depression, and anxiety episodes of my entire life. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression when I was 19 or 20, but as a younger adult, I noticed I would worry about almost everything and I would catastrophize all the time like ‘If I don’t find a date to the dance, I’m going to die alone,’ etc. So, I knew I needed to write the book I needed when I was younger. HEAVEN ISN’T ME is fiction, but there are real-life scenes sprinkled throughout, especially Elysian’s anxiety attacks. Those are the same attacks I had when I was her age. My mission with this novel is to let young people know that it’s okay to seek professional help.
— Darlene P. Campos

If I had come across these words as an adolescent, life would’ve been so much easier to navigate and I wouldn’t have spent so many years trying to hide myself and my affliction. Words can’t express how grateful I am for Darlene and her novel, which I’m sure will help ease the minds of us who feel alone, different or flawed as we cope with anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADHD, substance abuse and the plethora of disorders stemming from mental health illnesses. I’m proud to say Heaven Isn’t Me will release through Vital Narrative Press later this year.

 

Take a sneak peek at part of the cover below.

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To my fellow mental health sufferers, continue to stay strong and seek help when you need to. If you are a young person in need of mental health resources, visit the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.


Gregory Hedgepeth is the editor-in-chief of Vital Narrative Press. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Feel free to follow on all three. Or maybe just two. Yeah, two’s probably good — he’s not that interesting. Gregory Hedgepeth is also the author of MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SUNRISES, THE YEAR THAT ANSWERED and A COLLECTION OF ECHOES. BUY THAT SHIT.

[PLAYLIST] The D.A. Way
 

BY D.A. ALSTON

 

We asked D.A. to curate a Spotify playlist featuring the songs she plays while writing, reading or just songs she’s been playing a lot recently and she selected 40 songs featuring PJ Morton, Whitney Houston, Khalid and Lizzo.

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Masego - “I Do Everything!”

This is the epitome of “I’m feeling myself” in the smoothest jazz/trap way. Masego is undeniably one of the best musicians of this generation. This song resonates with me so much because it reminds me that it’s okay to brag about yourself sometimes. I am a woman who writes, teaches, draws, does graphics, sings, etc. There are times I dull my light, so others won’t feel uncomfortable. But this song is a slap in the face to all that. Masego is letting the world know ‘yes, I do all these things and I am daggone good at it too!’
 

The Recording Collective -  “Reckless Love”

I’ve always been into well-written songs. This song supplies the perfect imagery and symbolism of how I feel God’s love is for me. No matter how I am feeling, it’ll make me feel like I’m being embraced by a hundred hugs. My relationship with God has always been a focal point for me, so this song is an anthem and thanks and adoration for His love for me that is overwhelming and never-ending.
 

Jordin Sparks & Elijah Blake - “Real Love”

First and foremost, this pairing is a dream in and of itself! One word I would use to describe myself is a lover. I love LOVE! This is a feel-good song that has been on repeat honestly. Being madly in love with someone who feels the same about you is something that many have tried to explain, but words don’t even come close (but this is a pretty good job).
 

Jazmine Sullivan - “Masterpiece (Mona Lisa)”

Jazmine Sullivan’s voice is the melody of my soul. The lyrics speak to a vulnerable place in me.  There are times I don’t feel good enough or that I’m not pretty or whatever, this song reminds me that, contrary to what I may feel, that’s all a lie. I am a work of art. Sometimes you must remind yourself of who you really are! I am a masterpiece; Mona Lisa has nothing on me!
 

Listen to the playlist below or simply click the link.


D.A. Alston is the author of THE UNLIKELY TALE OF THE ROYAL ELITE SQUAD.