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



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.jpg

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.

America Hates the Poor: Emergency Preparedness is for the Rich



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



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



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.jpg

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.

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



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.


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.


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.


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.




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.


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.


[PLAYLIST] Songs For People Who Smoke in the Shower



Songs For People Who Smoke in the Shower 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. All 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 Cover.png

Nipsey Hussle — “Blue Laces 2”

Even before he passed, I knew this would be the first song on the playlist because I’ve played it like a thousand times. This has always been my second favorite Nipsey joint (“4 in the Morning” still reigns supreme) and from the very beginning of the song, it just gets me in the right headspace. RIP Nip. 

Ari Lennox — “GOAT”

When I heard she was dropping her debut album, I had to double take, because I could’ve sworn she already had one - her 2016 EP ‘PHO’ still gets major play and “GOAT” is def my go to joint. “Shea Butter Baby” with J. Cole also goes hard and I hope it ends up being her breakthrough hit, because her music has been dope for a minute.

Freddie Gibbs — “Triple Threat”

Surprisingly, my daughter lights up whenever she hears this song, so every time I hear it, I automatically think of her. More than that though, I played this album more than anything last year, so I had to include it here.

Little Brother — “The Pressure”

I may be the last holdout for one more LB album, but the production on this (and pretty much every Little Brother track) is so incredible and always reminds me of being back in North Carolina. Not to mention, Phonte goes the fuck off on this joint.

OutKast — “SpottieOttieDopaliscious”

If I ever get serious about completing this spoken word album, I have to feature this instrumental at some point. I’ve always wanted to spit something dope over this. If you can’t smoke one and vibe out to this joint, I don’t know what else to tell you.

Listen to the playlist below or simply click the link.




We asked P. Curry to curate a Spotify playlist for Calliope of Atalan: The American Dream and he selected a whopping 56 songs featuring Cardi B, Ice Cube, Kriss Kross and Frank Ocean.

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Tracie Spencer - "This House"

What would a book set in 1992 be without some New Jack Swing? While this particular cut is rather obscure today, it suits the nature of the story very well. Upbeat, but a little chaotic. Spencer uses a happy, yet trembling voice that shows an optimistic outlook in spite of troubling circumstances, which defines not only this book but just the overall series of Calliope of Atalan as a whole.

Bruno Mars - "Finesse" (Remix) feat. Cardi B

Okay, so I’m sure we’ve all seen one of those movies or TV shows set in the past that are set to modern music. Anachronism can be very fun….when it’s done correctly. The problem many said films and series suffer from is how nothing about the modern music choice even makes sense. That being said, while us 80’s and 90’s babies may have a lot of nostalgia for the 90’s, the nostalgia factor will indeed be lost on younger audiences. So this is why I chose Finesse as the theme music for the series; it manages to simultaneously sound like a throwback for those who came up in the generation while still being familiar to younger audiences AND also making sense in context. Anachronism done right.

The Jackson 5 - "Lookin’ Through The Windows”

A major plot element of this book is how Calliope seems to only know the world from bedroom window. Suffice to say, there’s another mysterious character who also spends most of his time looking upon the world from her window whom she briefly comes in contact with. Although this song is more romantic in nature, I think another way to interpret it is to try to look inside the numerous people who pass you by that you never meet, which is what Calliope has spent her entire life doing.

Kriss Kross - “Jump”

Only the quintessential song of any 90’s party; parties which happen the house next door to Calliope’s quite often.

Randy Crawford - “One Day I’ll Fly Away”

Calliope’s favorite song, and probably her theme song as well. The message suits her very well; living life from dream to dream, and yet, she wants to actually live her dreams, not wait until the day when they must end.

Smokey Robinson - “Being With You”

One thing Demeter loves is her oldies, always playing and humming along to them whenever she cooks. That being said, there’s a certain irony to this. After all, she may wish she’s happy being with her husband, but she can no longer pretend that the marriage is indeed falling apart.
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228 pp. Inside the beloved polis of Auburn, Calliope Thessaly is a teenage writer bound to an immaculate home at the behest of her strict parents. Once summer break begins, her father announces an unexpected move to nearby Griffin where she is granted a little more freedom, making sure to explore the new area at every turn. As summer carries on, she finds the new area mundane and it doesn’t take long for her to discover that many of its pretentious inhabitants are intolerable. Even worse, stress from the move begins to reveal cracks within her family dynamic. As Calliope prepares to begin school in Griffin for the first time, things come to a head when she discovers a mysterious box that exposes the city’s dark past as well as a supreme force that has the ability to change everything.

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Frank Ocean - “Sweet Life”

After the move is made from Auburn to Griffin, I imagine that Calliope and all four of her siblings to have grown increasingly disenchanted with the upper middle-class life their family lead. After all, there’s nothing to complain about, but it often times feels like there’s nothing to live for either.

Madonna - “Material Girl”

Another song that satirizes affluence, Calliope comes across a number of girls with the sort of attitude and mindset which Madonna describes in this song.

Alicia Keys - “Diary”

One major element of this book is that of secrets and interestingly enough, it seems that Calliope is the bearer of all of them. However, as Calliope will always looks out for those whom she loves, anything anyone says will remain safe with her.

Bobby Brown - “Humpin’ Around”

You know, now that I think about it, Brutus’s character arc does correlate with Bobby Brown’s life in a number of ways. Like Brown, Brutus was reckless, arrogant, loudmouthed and just didn’t give a f-, only for his life of indulgent chaos to suddenly come crashing down. This song plays at the very moment that happens for Brutus. Originally, I just put this in because I needed another 90’s song, but this creative epiphany I’m having here makes a lot of sense. I dig the coincidence.

Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth - “They Reminisce Over You”

A sort of shared theme between Brutus and Julius; two brothers with a very strained and turbulent relationship. While this song largely represents grief over the death of a loved one, I still think it works as one major plot point involves them having a massive fall out.

Beck - “Loser”

I’m well acquainted with the feeling of being a deer in headlights. On Calliope’s first day at her new school, she’s the same way; staring around at everyone, ever so mousy, only to end up feeling like, well, a loser.

Geto Boys - “Mind Playing Tricks On Me”

The Megalopolis is a very unsettling place indeed, so this music definitely fits what’s going in Calliope’s mind whenever she’s there.

You can listen to the entire soundtrack below or on Spotify.

 You can purchase Calliope of Atalan: The American Dream here.




Three HUGE Mistakes Writers Make


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Being a writer is difficult enough with character development, plot creation, editing, rewriting, research, writers block, and grammar and punctuation; there's no reason to make it harder by ignoring these three easy tips (complete with recommendations):

1. You aren’t treating yourself like a business.


You aren't marketing, you aren't branding, you aren't writing expenses off when you do your taxes; this needs to stop! You're a business, treat yourself like one. I understand you may not be making "professional money," (and some of you may not be making any money) but you should actively focus on building your brand and yourself as a business. You don't need a finished product. Build your fan base.


  • Get a bank account and track spending. Have lunch with your editor? Buy a new laptop? Get more pens? Work from home? You may be able to write these things off when you do your taxes. Keep your receipts (file them in a simple filing system for easier retrieval) and talk to your tax preparer about what can be written off. Every little thing helps.  

  • Make a social media account to interact with your fans. It doesn't matter if it's on Instagram or Facebook, you can introduce people to the fact you're writing and your style, and start developing your fan base. For example: People love to name characters and if they play a part in a character getting named, they can easily play a role in your profits later on down the line. They will tell people they named a character in your book and, chances are, they'll want to buy it themselves. Also, social media is great for releasing tidbits of work. This is a free way (other than the cost of internet) to create a space for yourself in the writing community. Releasing bits of work can get people invested in your craft if they see what you're capable of. You do not have to have something finished and released to start your marketing and building your brand. The earlier you begin the better.

  • Invest in a business consultant. Business consultants can add to your business and use their knowledge and connections to help you expand. They should have a thorough resume with actionable results. My recommendation is Akamai Enterprise because they work with all levels of businesses and have knowledge of the publishing industry. They are a trusted source to elevate your business (any kind of business but definitely clutch for authors). 


2. You aren’t getting your work professionally edited.


If you do not know how to edit, save yourself the time and get someone who can. Don't trust your creation with someone that can ruin it. 

First of all, no one's first draft is the best. If that's the case, you're saying the more you write, the worse you get. That's the complete opposite of how writing works. As an editor, I've seen some damn good first drafts, and even those have cringe worthy typos, errors, and general problems. A first draft plays a key role in the writing process though. The worst thing you can do is not give your manuscript enough effort to mature it. 

Secondly, there's no difference between refusing to edit your work and editing it incorrectly, whether by you or someone else. I often see authors over correct, therefore, convoluting an amazing concept. I've also seen authors make the wrong corrections. Dialogue is very easy to mess up. I've seen people take correctly written dialogue and butcher it with punctuation. I've also had friends give me edits that completely change the style of my work while others have had me scrap perfectly good scenes altogether because they couldn't relate to it. 

Besides knowing HOW to write, a good editor should also be able to take YOUR style and what you're already bringing to the table and enhance it while working on your weaknesses. This is why it's important to have some sort of rapport with your editor. I've been fortunate to build a relationship with my authors and I feel a big part of that reflects in the work. I can only imagine if you're trying to complete a project and you frequently don't see eye to eye with someone about something you created, it's bound to get frustrating and that may prevent the best work from happening.


  • When selecting an editor, keep in mind that your writing is extremely intimate and find an editor that you mesh well with. Through Vital Narrative's consulting services, we have developed a great process that encompasses all levels of editing. With this process that we implement, it allows us to offer a thorough, helpful, educational, and meaningful experience. On top of bound copies that the edits are in (and extras for yourself), we hold a private meeting to discuss your project so you know your next steps and what you're doing. Essentially though, when selecting an editor keep in mind that as a creative outlet, writing can be extremely intimate so find an editor that you mesh well with.


3. You alienated everyone on your friend’s list once your book came out.


Don't spam your friends. It's the quickest way to turn people off. If they don't like it, they simply aren't you audience. DON'T FORCE FEED IT DOWN YOUR FRIENDS THROATS! Not EVERYONE will be your fan--optimistically, you may find fans in the strangest places. 


  • Keep a broad idea of your target audience and don't discriminate against your friends. At the same time, don’t assume they won’t be fans because of your writing style. For example, if it's extremely vulgar, it may not be for everyone on your friend’s list. But by adding people more indiscriminately than not you may catch a few fans where you least expect it. In my experience, quite a few people that I'd least expect to interact with my work have and it's been amazing. And even if they aren't as crude (and some shockingly are) they'll interact with the less vulgar stuff and with the more artsy stuff.  There's such a huge payoff in that because it drives more traffic to your sites hopefully grabbing the attention of a new reader. I have everyone from school teachers, stay-at-home moms, business owners and nurses, interacting on my page making it more of a community while driving visitors from all over the world. And while there are millions of people that may not like what you're bringing to the table, there could also be millions of people looking to be your biggest fan.

  • Research your target market. Read articles. Narrow down who your market is and focus your attentions there. This is also extremely inexpensive because you can find most of this information on the internet. Similarly, if you're working with a business consultant, they can assist you in doing this as well.

These three mistakes can be easily avoided with just a little effort. Writing is a craft and should be honed accordingly. Just don't forget to treat yourself as a business that puts out a product. Neglecting that business aspect of your business will be its biggest downfall. But most importantly, never stop writing. Good luck!

Sacha Hamilton is Lead Editor for Vital Narrative Press.

A Golden Age For Publishing



One of our main initiatives for the year is to showcase the accomplishments of women of color in the publishing industry. While women dominate the industry across all departments, including editorial, production, sales and management, these are mostly white women. People of color are few and far between in the industry. Four percent of workers are Asian and Hispanic, respectively, while only two percent of workers are Black or African American.

While it comes as no surprise that the industry is driven largely by white women, I had no idea the disparity was so immense until I began researching for our initiative. A few weeks ago, I had a few questions for Tahara Saron of BlackGold Publishing, a Black-owned, woman-owned publishing company out of Newport News, Virginia, and she took time out of her incredibly busy schedule to give me insight into why she started BlackGold, how she conquers work-life balance as well as the most difficult part of running her business. 


I’ve always been incredibly impressed with your work at BlackGold. Why did you decide to start a publishing company?

I actually started BlackGold Publishing shortly after a personal experience with the prejudice that so often plagues this industry. I had a major publishing house, upon review of my manuscript, tell me that my work was too “ethnic.” I realized then that I needed to create a safe space for myself as well as for other black creatives in the area — where they could freely express themselves both culturally and creatively. The serious lack of representation and diversity, both within the spheres of production/marketing, staffing and mainstream releases, will never sit right with me. It’s within my hopes that, alongside the other Black-owned publishing houses statewide, BlackGold Publishing will do its part to change the narrative.


I’m sure that story resonates for many authors and company leaders within the industry, myself and Vital Narrative included. How do you decide which books to publish or authors to pursue?

We have the traditional review process as most publishing houses. Once a manuscript has been sent in for consideration, it is sent straight to our editorial board. They analyze key elements such as marketability, story arc, character development, structure, style and tone to convene on a final decision before sending it back to me for approval. They are very good at vetting out raw talent, and for that, I’m extremely grateful. On the other hand, I am typically a lot less structured LOL I hardly say no to any one seeking publication, within reason, of course. But if it’s plausible to work with you and build with you in any way, more times than not, I’ll do my best to accommodate the author.


It’s great to know that you’re willing to work and build with authors. I think that’s an element that is missing with a lot of publishing companies. How do you find the balance between your family and your business, which must take up a tremendous amount of time?

You know, this is a great question… one that I’m asked quite often. Truth is though, I can’t even tell you how I have survived some of these days, because quite frankly, it gets really, really hard. What I’ve realized though, is that for me, it’s been less about perfecting a balance so to speak and more about not giving up on myself. There is no such thing as a universal strategy to stability, trust me I’ve looked. But if you focus your efforts on not letting anyone down, including yourself, through determination and tenacity, you can do anything you put your mind to.


It’s commendable for you to be so determined and put your focus into yourself and the people around you in order to succeed. What’s the most difficult part of running your business?

The most difficult part about running BlackGold would be, still, dealing with the oppressive forces that remain behind the scenes in this industry. We’ve been hung up on, redirected in wild goose chases, called a “negro company” and disrespected in a plethora of other offensive, manipulative ways. But it doesn’t stop us. As an independent company, I expect our journey to not always be reflective of that which is in our hearts. The bad experiences only fuel our passions ten times stronger and have led to breakthroughs and unbelievable opportunities. We won’t be stopped.

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Persevering through the forces working against you is the key to making in this industry I love that you already have the mindset that you won’t be stopped. What do you hope to accomplish over the next several years?

We are currently shifting into a more distribution-heavy publishing style, working on contracts with Scholastic as well as scoping out our first major factory. It’s all surreal to me. The growth has been phenomenal, but we are excited and grateful to see what the future holds.


I can’t wait to see what comes next for you and BlackGold. I’ve been very impressed with everything I’ve seen from you all thus far. Do you have any final thoughts?

I’d like to close on a note of encouragement for any minority creatives out there looking to take their work to the next level — be unafraid. Be vehemently unafraid of the power and talent you possess. Audre Lorde, one of my favorite authors and activists, said it best: “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” I encourage you all to find your power and to find your voice. Our expression is all we have, so don’t be afraid to do so.

We are currently servicing a diverse group of authors and clientele thanks to our amazing service members and staff! Absolutely everyone here on the BlackGold Publishing team believe’s in quality service and putting our clients first. We also pride ourselves in being 100% inclusive - providing continuous representation and opportunities for writers of all walks of life.

Gregory Hedgepeth is the editor-in-chief of Vital Narrative Press. Sometimes he writes things, too. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Feel free to follow on all three. Or maybe just two. One is fine as well. No judgement here.