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Jeanette Hill is an award winning producing playwright. Her work depicts the African American community by telling stories of Black life the way Black people live it.

Meet the Strong Family in ‘No Ordinary Days’!

No Ordinary Days is a sometimes funny, sometimes intense story about the impact of mental illness  on an urban family.

Being raised in the church, the Strong children grew up with a deep faith ethic. A family crisis unites them in prayer but when their prayers go unanswered their faith is wanes. After that, nothing is ordinary!

No Ordinary Days

Meet the members of the Strong Family in         No Ordinary Days:

                                      TAWANNA JACKSON

Simone Madison is a true Boss Babe! Her assertive, ‘I get what I go after’,  personality doesn’t put her high on the girlfriends list. If you don’t serve a purpose in her life, she will not be present in yours. As a result, believing that God has turned his back on her…she is turns her back on God.

 

                                      ANITRA WHITFIELD

There is something about being the middle child! Janey Baptiste, Simone’s peacekeeping sister, is bearing the weight of the family right now. In addition to caring for their mother, she is being mother and father to her teen age son, Josh. And in case that isn’t enough,  she constantly monitors her weed smoking brother who has issues of his own. That doesn’t give her much time for herself…and she needs it.

 

                                       ADARRYLL PERRY

Their weed smoking, philosopher brother,  David Strong, has his own ideas on how to handle life.  Personal and military problems have cause him to doubt his self worth-without his ‘stash’.  As a result, making no plans to succeed,  he fails…frequently . Two tours in the Middle East changed him ways he can’t explain. Not trusting the VA  hospital to provide the proper care for him, he uses what he calls a holistic approach to his mental health-weed and alcohol.  Which may explain his different view if life.

 

                                       SABRINA SIMPSON

The family matriarch, Miriam Strong has not only dedicated her life the church but made sure that her children were under the Christian arch.  However, her devotion Christ and the church couldn’t stop her mental collapse. Accepting it as God’s will, she returns home  from the hospital with her faith in God unshaken.  Her attempts to restore her children to church are not going well.  She awaits the  answer to her prayers for total  restoration of her children to the church and to her.

 

                                        YASHUA JOHNSON

Josh Baptiste, Janey’s ‘can’t wait to be a man’ teenage son is trying to figure where to stand and what to stand for as he transitions from manchild to man as his mother struggles to be both mother and father.

 

                                     ROBERT WALKER JR.

Sterling Madison is Simone’s ex-husband , who is very bit as strong willed as she is. In addition, he is the custodial parent of their seventeen year old daughter, Raina . While he still cares for her,  Simone’s attitude and unpredictable behavior, particularly since her promotion has caused a rift in their relationship to the point of them constantly clashing when it comes to setting boundaries and priorities for their daughter.

 

 

Tamica Monroe as Zenobia                                       TAMICA MONROE

Zenobia Hairston, Simone’s long time artistic and eclectic friend who doesn’t pull any punches and notices the change in Simone since her mother’s return and tries to intercede.

 

                                      LANDO SHEPARD 

Pastor Quentin Gilmore, is not just the pastor to the Strongs but a close personal friend.  He struggles to minister to Miriam after her return home because it triggers a tragedy  from his past, causing him to feel as though he let her down.

KARMA STEWART                                          KARMA STEWART

(Understudy ) as Zenobia Hairston, the eclectic and straight shooting friend.

Online tickets at:

http://noordinarydays.eventbrite.com

We would like to acknowledge the support of the City of Austin Cultural Arts Division of the Office of Economic Development, Austin Creative Alliance and the National Alliance on Mental Illness in the production of No Ordinary Days.


NO ORDINARY DAYS AUDITIONS

JWHill Productions LLC is holding auditions for a cast of talented, energetic actors for a September production.

‘No Ordinary Days’ is a play about mental illness and its impact not only in our African American communities but in our African American churches.

NO ORDINARY DAYS

Simone Madison, strong-willed, career-driven woman who loved God is facing a faith crisis. Her devoted Christian mother is institutionalized following a mental breakdown.

Believing that mental illness is something that happens to the weak, she is devastated that her mother would succumb to this ‘weakness’ and she is angry that God would allow it to happen. Feeling she can no longer trust a God who cannot protect his own, she leaves the church. She is determined to prove that she alone controls her fate.

Her mother, Miriam finds that her return home causes tension in the family. Welcomed by other family and church members, it is obvious that Simone is keeping a noticeable distance. This leaves, Janey, Simone’s sister to take on the family caregiver role which includes raising her teenage son, and keeping an eye on David, her cannabis tripping brother.

Finding that everyone is so understanding of Miriam, causes more discord. Simone begins to make more and more questionable life choices. Attempting to prove to everyone that she is stronger than her mother, every day becomes a struggle. She begins to lose those around her ….and herself.

AUDITIONS! AUDITIONS! AUDITIONS!

PERFORMANCES:  September 15th through                                                                  September 23rd (weekends)

VENUE:

  • Boyd Vance Theatre
  • 1165 Angelina St.
  • Austin, TX 78702
  • Non-Equity
  • Austin commuting area only!
  • Paid roles

REHEARSALS BEGIN:            July 23rd *rehearsal calendar at audition.

CASTING: African Americans unless otherwise noted.

Character Descriptions

SIMONE MADISON – Early 40s, divorced, strong-willed, successful career woman

JANET BAPTISTE– 30s, Simone’s younger sister,  the family peacekeeper with strong religious values

MIRIAM STRONG-60s, Mother, devote church worker recently released from hospital after mental breakdown

DAVID  STRONG JR. – 30s, Simone’s brother. A military veteran, he suffers from PTSD prefers to self-medicate using alcohol and ‘herbs’.

JOSHUA BAPTISTE– Teen, son of Janet, looking for a strong male role model. (African American or mixed race)

ZENOBIA HAIRSTON – 40s. artistic friend of Simone’s family, who notices the change in Simone

PASTOR GILMORE- 50s, pastor of the family church.

ELLIS MADISON – 40s, Simone’s ex-husband.  Friends after their amicable divorce with him getting custody of their daughter, Ashton.

NOLAN LOPEZ – 40s, streetwise man from the neighborhood.  (All races)

NATALIE  BAKER–    Church member who maintains a close friendship with Miriam. (All races)

Please send a current head shot,  resume and contact information, as well as the role you are auditioning for . You may submit a  1-3 minute video and or 1-2 minute recording (singing )  if not able to appear in person. Submissions should be received by July 17th!

Subject: NO ORDINARY DAYS AUDITION

Email: Jeanette@jwhillprod.com

This project is supported in part by the City of Austin Economic Development Office and the Austin Creative Alliance.

No Ordinary Days Auditions/Cast Call

JWHill Productions LLC is holding AUDITIONS!

 

JWHill Productions LLC is holding auditions for a cast of talented, energetic actors for a September production.

‘No Ordinary Days’ is a play about mental illness and its impact not only in our African American communities but in our African American churches.

NO ORDINARY DAYS

Simone Madison, strong-willed, career-driven woman who loved God is facing a faith crisis. Her devoted Christian mother is institutionalized following a mental breakdown.

Believing that mental illness is something that happens to the weak, she is devastated that her mother would succumb to this ‘weakness’ and she is angry that God would allow it to happen. Feeling she can no longer trust a God who cannot protect his own, she leaves the church. She is determined to prove that she alone controls her fate.

Her mother, Miriam finds that her return home causes tension in the family. Welcomed by other family and church members, it is obvious that Simone is keeping a noticeable distance. This leaves, Janey, Simone’s sister to take on the family caregiver role which includes raising her teenage son, and keeping an eye on David, her cannabis tripping brother.

Finding that everyone is so understanding of Miriam,  causes more discord. Simone begins to make more and more questionable life choices. Attempting to prove to everyone that she is stronger than her mother, every day becomes a struggle. She begins to lose those around her ….and herself.

AUDITIONS! AUDITIONS! AUDITIONS!

PERFORMANCES:  September 15th through                                                                  September 23rd (weekends)

VENUE:

  • Boyd Vance Theatre
  • 1165 Angelina St.
  • Austin, TX 78702
  • Non-Equity
  • Austin commuting area only!
  • Paid roles

REHEARSALS BEGIN:            July 23rd *rehearsal calendar at audition.

CASTING: African Americans unless otherwise noted.

Character Descriptions

SIMONE MADISON – Early 40s, divorced, strong-willed, successful career woman

JANET BAPTISTE– 30s, Simone’s younger sister,  the family peacekeeper with strong religious values

MIRIAM STRONG-60s, Mother, devote church worker recently released from hospital after mental breakdown

DAVID  STRONG JR. – 30s, Simone’s brother. A military veteran, he suffers from PTSD prefers to self-medicate using alcohol and ‘herbs’.

JOSHUA BAPTISTE– Teen, son of Janet, looking for a strong male role model. (African American or mixed race)

ZENOBIA HAIRSTON – 40s. artistic friend of Simone’s family, who notices the change in Simone

PASTOR GILMORE- 50s, pastor of the family church.

ELLIS MADISON – 40s, Simone’s ex-husband.  Friends after their amicable divorce with him getting custody of their daughter, Ashton.

NOLAN LOPEZ – 40s, streetwise man from the neighborhood.  (All races)

NATALIE  BAKER–    Church member who maintains a close friendship with Miriam. (All races)

Please send a current head shot,  resume and contact information, as well as the role you are auditioning for . You may submit a  1-3 minute video and or 1-2 minute recording (singing )  if not able to appear in person. Submissions should be received by July 17th!

Subject: NO ORDINARY DAYS AUDITION

Email: Jeanette@jwhillprod.com

Our Summer Sip & Slay!

The Front Porch Divas is hosting its first Summer Sip & Slay event on July 13th at the Water@Wine!

The Front Porch Divas are women of a certain age who refuse to be limited by a date on a calendar or any limitations that society sees fit to assigns to them,

They are determined, in, vibrant and ageless.

You loved the Divas in Past Perfect and now they are coming to share a little more of their lives and the lives of their friends.

 

Join The Front Porch Divas

At their Summer Sip and Slay! It will be an evening of fun, food, drama and music at the intimate Water2Wine venue.

$20 gets you in for this evening of a little theater, food, beverages!

Tickets at:  https://summersipandslay.eventbrite.com

For those wine connoisseurs, Water2Wine is offering for an additional $20 a wine tasting form over 100  types of wine. (A great evening for $40!)

Mingling, Music & Munchies and we also showcase a few staged readings from JWHill Productions!

You’ll see scenes from:

The Best Lesson-

How far would you go to prove to yourself…and your ex…that you still ‘had it’?

 

Picking Up the Pieces

 

Life’s trials bring an entirely new definition of family!

 

 

 

 

And as an unexpected surprise- a few scenes from the debut of the newest play,

‘The Wednesday Woman’.

Could you be a man’s part-time woman? Not his side-chick, just part-time…

For some women, that’s just fine!

 

And a sneak preview of the play we are doing at the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival:

CLEAN SHEETS!

When generational blessings collide with generational curses. Who’ left standing?

 

So dress in your Divalicious Style,  come out and enjoy a night of friends, food and fun with The Front Porch Divas!

Cost:

  • $20 for the staged reading, appetizers and music
  • $40 includes the wine tasting

The Front Porch Divas’ Summer Sip & Slay

Get those tickets early! Seating is VERY limited!

Location:

Water2Wine   3300 W. Anderson Lane

Suite 304  Austin, TX 78757

Sign up for our email list at:

Join our mailing list!

Contact us at jeanette@jwhillprod.com with any questions!

My Artist Statement or Why I do what I do.

My Artist Statement… or Why I do what I do.

As an artist, people are often interested in your inspiration and your process.

I have to admit that I did try to find a home of traditional playwrights where I was told I didn’t fit.  Then  trying to  migrate to the urban playwright community, there was a closer fit but not perfect. , again with no luck. And while there is sometimes singing in my plays, there are by no means musicals. I could visit but not reside there.

For a time, I was labeled (often by myself) an inspirational playwright. But my writing at times didn’t fit that definition either.

Then, several years ago,  I had the pleasure of meeting two icons in black theatre. Woodie King, Jr. the godfather of black theater and Dr. Carlton Molette.

(I am writing this in a calm manner but I have to be honest, when I found out I would be meeting Woodie King, Jr. , I gave out a silent scream.)

After he viewed some of my work and loved it. (Heart palpitations) Then read another play that I had written and was impressed. (On a cloud) He told me that I needed to stop trying to fit in with ‘labels’. That I had a unique voice and that I should be true to it.

Dr. Molette a year later said almost the same thing. Make my own road.

While I am flattered (and glad that people are patronizing black artists), when told I remind some of David E. Talbert, and not so often, Tyler Perry, I remember that each playwright has not only their distinct style but their unique voice. And that is how I write, from a place that is uniquely me.

This brings up several questions from people who want me to fit into their vision or where my work should be. Having been asked both directly and in round about ways the following questions:

  1. Do you have to write ‘so black’?
  2. Why do you write about the things that happen in the Black community and church the way you do? Approaching issues that head on can make people uncomfortable?
  3. Don’t you think that you’d be more successful if you wrote more mainstream?

My answers to the questions–in the order listed:

  1. Yes.
  2. Because it is imperative that we as a people tell our stories with our voices in ways that we relate to them. Art at its core is activism. It reflects what we live, what we see, what we accept. And to part B or the question, it is not my job to make people comfortable.
  3. I don’t know the answer to that. If it means would I make more money, probably. If it means would I be more popular or have a larger fan base, that’s possible. However, I am writing about to not only entertain but to enlighten those who know a little and education those who may know nothing about the vibrancy of people of the African Diaspora. Either way,  I do know that my spirit would not rest easy if I chose to take the popular way.

As my artist statement reflects…

Jeanette W. Hill

Artist Statement

As long as only the hunter records history,

the lion’s story will never be told.

                              African proverb

 

african beauty is pretty women on the african map

 Well, I am that lion. Telling our stories with our voice. Telling stories of African Americans and the African Diaspora,  who individually and collectively, with faith, love, and perseverance through generations continue to leave a mark in history and carve a place in the future in spite of inconceivable opposition.

My determination can be traced my upbringing. Mornings of watching neighbors step off of their front porch to fight the day’s battle and again in the evenings after dinner sipping sweet tea on their front porches, if weather permitted. I eavesdropped as they discussed grown folks’ business.

Community gatherings–births, home-goings and other celebrations as neighbors showed support with food, love, money, knowing nods, hugs and pats on the back… and yes, even the occasional gossip.  Spirited-filled church services where religion inextricably bled into the community, which moved into action in whatever form was needed.

These places were not just structures…houses on a street, that is a neighborhood. It was a community, a village whose bond extended beyond physical locations and scientific DNA. We were…we are family.

So my passion and purpose are braided together to illuminate the strength, determination and resilience that we as a people pass from soul to soul, spirit to spirit and heart to heart- generation to generation.

Africa map on ethnic background with traditional elements

 

Past Perfect!

PAST PERFECT! The Front Porch Divas are hitting the floor running in Past Perfect .

Is the past ever really in the past? First Lady Claire Gilmore is about to find out that the short and long answer to the question is ‘No’.

Elated at being the youngest recipient of the Governor’s Lifetime Community Service Award, she and the FPDs (Front Porch Divas) are celebrating her accomplishment,

She has dedicated more than twenty years selflessly serving the at risk young women in her community. Not even the FPDs know that her dedication is rooted in a twenty year old secret…until now.

Her troubles seem to being when the new college professor, Sean-Michael Abbott moves to town. You see, Sean-Michael is the only other person who knows the secret she has tried to hard to redeem herself from.

What starts as gifts, cards and nice messages turn in to threats and danger. The FPDs rally around her but with no clear indication of where to look, it seems hopeless.

At the point Claire must confess her past indiscretion to Quentin, her husband, it looks like she;s lost everything.

But has she?

Join us for six performances of Past Perfect at the Boyd Vance Theatre in the George Washington Carver Museum April 14-22, 2018!

Tickets available online at

www.pastperfect.eventbrite.com

We are returnig to the state of the art Boyd Vance Theare at 1165 Angelina Street in Austin, TX 78702.

PERFORMANCE DATES AND TIMES:

April 14th at 1pm and 7pm

April 15th at 4pm

April 21st at 1pm and 7pm

April 22nd at 4pm

Doors open 30 minutes before the performance.

 

We look forward to seeing  you there! For more information, you can contact us at jeanette@jwhillprod.com

 This project is funded in part by City of Austin Economic Development Division.and Austin Creative Alliance

Why ‘Don’t Call Me Brother!’?

Don’t Call Me Brother! –Andrew Merritt’s recent promotion to Assistant Police Chief of the Community Liaison Office, carries the responsibility of restoring trust between the police department and his old neighborhood a priority. The fragile balance between his life, career and family is broken when an unarmed African American youth is killed by a white police officer under questionable circumstances. All eyes are on him. The community is asking is he Black enough? The police department is asking is he Blue enough?

He is asking himself if this promotion was a step up or…a set up?

Don’t Call Me Brother is a story that moves seamlessly from the front page of any major newspaper into the homes of those with the dual citizenship of being African American and in law enforcement.

I wrote this play as a result of watching news coverage of the social unrest in Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD as I watched the faces of African American police officers who were dispatched to quell the unrest. How must they be feeling? There is no doubt they joined the police force to protect and serve their community but there was absolutely no doubt that they fully understood why their brothers and sisters in communities of color were angry. Many of them were probably angry too.

I will preface this piece by saying that they is without question improvement needed on both sides of the badge. Law enforcement and communities of color have much work to do. Unfortunately, these changes will have to happen concurrently with improving the

So I contacted  a number of African Americans who were in law enforcement and asked their feelings about the recurring situation in this country, in fact, in their cities about unarmed African Americans being killed by police officers…without any consequences or accountability.

Their feelings, though not  publicly stated were  similar to those expressed by the African American communities across the country.  It goes beyond cultural literacy.  There are officers wearing the ‘blue’ who shouldn’t be allowed to.

 

(Don’t Call Me Brother! WOW Production in Columbia SC)

They also know that key to improving relations between communities of color and law enforcement is that this problem must be corrected. According to several of the law enforcement officers, one of the biggest problems is that it is almost impossible to remove the unsuitable officers on the force from the inside. Community involvement is needed, meaning residents must step forward when there is a problem concerning an officer’s behavior.

Unfortunately, the people who have the most to gain from lodging complaints, also have the most to lose. They are residents of the communities with the problem sand are acutely aware of the cliché that ‘snitches get stitches’. The fear of reprisal from the police is very real to the people in these same neighborhoods.

I watched and listened to the interviews with the families and friends of the dead men. I watched and listened to the politically correct and crafted response to the shootings from the various police departments made by someone who didn’t look like the victim. I started thinking about those with dual citizenship. Being African American and being in law enforcement.

*My next blog addresses some of the push back I got for the play…*

TONI SIMMONS HENSON-Our Stories, Our Voices! Revisited!

 

TONI SIMMONS HENSON head shot

LISTEN TO WHAT TONI HAS TO SAY:

Theatre Producer, Toni Simmons Henson grew up in Hillside, NJ in the backyard of Broadway. Her passion for theatre stems back as early as when she was 8 years old when she and her sister, Wanda Simmons, the writer and age 9, produced plays in their backyard and basement for neighborhood kids.
In 2004, Henson became the Executive Director of Drama Kids of Princeton. Drama Kids is the US franchise of the Helen O’Grady Acting Academy.

ABTF TONI Jared Brodie

The Australian based academy is the largest children’s acting academy in the world. In just a few short years, under her tenure, the Academy enrolled over 750 students and produced over 80 plays and presentations. The program grew to five locations and two summer camps. The explosive popularity of the program attracted national publicity including articles in Entrepreneur Magazine and the cover of the Princeton Packet Weekend Magazine. Henson received two awards for distinguished achievement.

In 2007, Henson moved to Atlanta and founded Micah 6-8 Media, LLC. Under that company, she produced two hit plays entitled Once Upon a Dream by Khristi  Adams and Big Girls Gotta Eat, Too! by Melissa  Blackmon and Wanda Simmons.  Big Girls Gotta Eat, Too! toured four cities and was a part of the 2012 DC Black Theatre Festival.

 ABTF TONI SojournerABTF TONI Melba 10

In 2012, Henson founded the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival where over 200 artists perform 40 plays in four days. This annual event attracts thousands of theatre lovers from 24 states and three countries.  In 2014, Micah 6-8 Media, LLC was nominated and awarded first runner-up as Emerging Business of the Year by the DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce for the Festival’s “significant contribution to economic development and community impact.”

The festival hosts an annual event gala that has honored theatre legends such as Taurean Blacque, Melba Moore, Pearl Cleage, Alia Jones-Harvey and American Theater Hall of Famer, Woodie King, Jr.

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Henson holds a B.B.A. from Howard University and an M.P.A from New York University. She has been married for 25 years to Antonio Henson, V.P. of PNC Bank and together they have four children.

ABTF TONI nat king cole singing 1

 

ATLANTA BLACK THEATRE FESTIVAL LOGO ABTF LOGO

LASHAUNDA HOFFMAN-Update!

hoffman

LASHAUNDA HOFFMAN

{LaShaunda has a new book out on how to  promote your business online

‘Building Online Relationships’ is available at SORMAG 

 LaShaunda Hoffman has been on fire for the last few months, forging new paths! Let’s talk about her journey!!

 

SORMAG has become a very recognizable name in the online promotion field? Tell us how you started and what has sustained you on this journey?

I started SORMAG – Shades Of Romance Magazine as a tribute to my favorite African American romance authors. I honestly didn’t think it would last as long as it has. We celebrate 15 years this September.

I wanted a place where readers could stop by and learn about the latest books and meet the writers who write them.   I decided an online magazine would be the perfect avenue for my dream. Inside the magazine we feature books, author interviews, and articles about the craft and business of writing. We have a little bit for the readers and those who write books.

My love of books and promoting them has been the driving force behind SORMAG. I truly believe there is a book for everyone and I’m making it my business to introduce readers to their book.

SORMAG is free digital magazine I invite you to become a subscriber.

http://bit.ly/1zudAdC

We also offer it in print format for a small fee. http://www.magcloud.com/user/sormag

LASHAUNDA HOFFMAN AND BRENDA JACKSON

Tell us about Virtual Tea with LaShaunda? It sounds so inviting!

Online book promoting can be overwhelming at times. Virtual Tea with LaShaunda is my way to help writers in their book promoting journey. I offer private one on one session, or group sessions.

These are hands on training and you do a lot of work each week. Together we create a promotion plan that will help you reach new readers online.

If you would like to learn more about Virtual Tea with LaShaunda

http://conta.cc/1LMZP1P

A large part of promotion seems to include being an encourager, getting people to believe in themselves and their work. What are 3 tips you can give.

LASHAUNDA TEE C AND CURTIS BUNN

My first tip – Get Passed The Fear – Fear can stop you from doing a lot of things, writing, promoting, selling. It stopped me for years, until I realized I wasn’t doing what I loved. I was hiding behind the fear and not going after my dreams.

My second tip – Believe in your dream. Write it down, create a plan and do the work. Dreams can’t come true if you don’t do the work.

My third tip – Promote your book . No one can buy your book if they don’t know it exist. Don’t be afraid to tell people about your book.

 

Your hard work has made you promotion royalty. What advice do you have for people who are struggling with not becoming an immediate success?

Success takes time. Yes there are a few who have instant success, but for those who want to make a career of this. It takes time. Create a plan for your career. Know what success looks to you. What it looks like to someone else might not be the same for you. I had a hard time with that because I was looking at other’s success compared to mine. However God showed me the amazing things I’d done and I was a success because I was still here helping others. It was never about the money.

If success means lots of money for you, be prepared to do a lot more work to get to it. Remember that plan I was talking about. Set your money goals and work toward them. Don’t talk about it, DO IT.

LASHAUNDA BANNER

You will be joining the ranks of a published author soon. Tell us about your book. How does it feel to be on the other side of the promotion table?

Building Online Relationships – One Reader At A Time is my gift to writers who are struggling with their online promotion. These are the lessons I’ve learned while building SORMAG and my online presence. Each chapter is a lesson to help writers build a promotion plan to reach new readers daily.

I told you how I let fear stop me for many years. My dream has always been to be a published author. I’ve written a few fiction books, but the fear kept them in my closet. I started this book in 2011 and put it aside for a little while. My mother’s death reminded me that I wasn’t living my dream of being a published writer. She was my number one fan and I’d let fear keep me from letting her see my name in print. I promised myself that I would finish this book and kick fear in the butt.

I will admit I’m a nervous wreck about being on the side of promoting my own book, but I have my lessons and I’m doing them one at a time and I’m reminding myself daily that is dream I want and I have to do the work to see it come true.

Thank you, Jeanette, for this opportunity to share my experiences, if anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me – http://lashaundahoffman.com

LASHAUNDA HOFFMAN BONDING THRU BOOKS

LaShaunda C. Hoffman took her love for books and turned it into an award winning online magazine, Shades of Romance Magazine. Her mission in life is to introduce as many books as she can to readers. She’s happily married mother of three who believes in dreams and working hard to achieve them.

Catch her online: lchwriter@gmail.com SORMAG – http://sormag.blogspot.com, See Ya On The Net, her personal site – http://lashaundahoffman.com , Facebook -facebook.com/lashaunda.hoffman or Twitter – lashaundaH.

TIA ROSS-A True Renaissance Woman!

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Tia Ross is a Renaissance woman with an impressive range of skills and diverse experience across multiple vocations. She has a 17-year track record of delivering stellar results across the enterprise, nonprofit, academic, and government sectors. Her primary areas of focus and interest involve information architecture, IA design, web content optimization, technical documentation, and communications design. She also specializes in event planning and production.

Tia owns and manages three companies: PenTechnical, a small freelance technical communications agency; Boss Meetings & Events, an independent event planning company; and Black Writers Events, a legacy-defining series of conferences and retreats. Through legendary events such as Black Writers Reunion & Conference, Tia has empowered countless individuals with the knowledge, skill, and confidence to pursue their dreams of becoming authors, playwrights, screenwriters, publishers, and literary entrepreneurs since 2000.

BWRC_Vegas_09_Shirt_Design

Tia holds an arts degree in writing and an applied science degree in computer information systems–software and database programming. Tia’s early work as an editor earned her a nod from Writer’s Digest Magazine in 2003 as one of the “Top 37 Book Doctors in the U.S.” and a 2008 NAACP Image Award for best nonfiction book along with countless bestseller awards for her clients. She was recognized with a series of “Best Website” awards for web design and content architecture, including twice winning a spot on the Writer’s Digest Magazine “Best 101 Websites” list. Tia was awarded the Platinum Page Award for being most instrumental in contributing to the lives and careers of African-American writers and literary entrepreneurs, chosen as a Woman of Influence in Publishing by Written Magazine, and nominated for an Influential Black Women in Business Award for her work in the literary community.

Born in Los Angeles, Tia grew up between southern California and northeast Texas, where she picked up a rather authentic “Southern Belle” accent and lost the “Valley Girl.” An audiophile with an undying affinity for hi-fi audio, she’s into cycling, swimming, traveling, and adores spending leisure time at the beach. She is “Mom” to two awesome young men.

Let’s see what’s going on with Tia…

You created the Black Writer’s Reunion Conference (BWRC), the most successful writer’s conferences for African American writers and authors. Tell us how you came up with the concept and how you implemented it so successfully?

Memphis Vaughan Jr. of TimBookTu.com and I first toyed around with the idea of a writer’s conference for our online communities in the late 90s. I’d just formed the first 501c3 literary arts association to organize online for Black writers and he was featuring up-and-coming authors on his site (and still is, 17 years later). I thought it was too soon to launch the event. A year later, members of my organization wanted a meet-up, and Charene Thornton, one of the members, began coordinating the event in Atlanta. I felt that if we were going to dedicate valuable time and resources to it, then we needed to also incorporate education, book promotions, contests, and other key conference components. BWRC TIA TERRENCE 2001We were already this big, very close-knit family of writers by that time, so I gave it the name “Reunion & Conference” to acknowledge the family gathering as an equally important component of the event. Its success was borne from the fact that it was and continued to be, a collective family effort in support of the vision I shared with them and our mission to continue to build upon the nurturing community we all cherish.

You are a master at networking and negotiating, both valued skills. When working on a project with so many variable components, how do you determine which people will be a fit?

It’s become kind of intuitive for me now, but I learned to look at people’s track records. Their brands speak volumes. What have they been doing to support fellow writers to date? Are they already contributing members of our community, networks or extended networks? What do they expect in return for their contribution? How supportive are they of fellow writers or are they in it simply for self-gratification? How have they treated people who’ve come to them for help? The answers tell the tale and make it easy to identify those whose motives mesh with the organization’s goals and mission and to weed out those whose don’t. Someone who strictly wants to make money off of us will not fit in.

BWRC 2008 TIA

Bringing writers together brings with it the inherent possibilities of egos going viral. How did you manage to keep this to a minimum while cultivating a spirit of camaraderie?

I simply don’t cater to egos. I treat everyone as equals, and I extend to new speakers and workshop facilitators the same respect and gratitude that I extend to those who’ve been with us since the very beginning. I’ve never bought into the belief that we need so-called “big name/V.I.P.” authors for our events to be successful. Writers do not attend our events to meet anyone who is only there because they were paid to be and otherwise has no interest in them or their writing dreams and goals. People come to Black Writers Events’ conferences, retreats, and workshops to learn, to be inspired to take their talents for writing seriously, to be enlightened on how to nurture and develop those gifts and be profitable, to find and build support systems, and to be empowered on the spot by those who have the knowledge and are present because they want to give back and serve as teachers and leaders within an organization that supports them in return. These are the true VIPs to me . . . without any airs. When there is a noticeable, distinct lack of pretense and arrogance at our gatherings, camaraderie and fellowship naturally ensue.

TIA ROSS BWRC 2

What do you believe the BWRC conference accomplished and what do you see as the next level movement?

BWRC was all-encompassing of the best of what one hopes to find when s/he attends a writers’ conference. Tananarive Due said it best when she said BWRC offered “the kind of organization and nurturing available to African-American writers that have been available to white writers for years.” For some reason Black writers had lowered standards when it came to events by us and for us, as if we expected schedules to run late, equipment to be broken, conference materials and handouts to be poorly put together, meager menu offerings of primarily high-cholesterol, high-calorie finger foods, and for our events to be hosted at 1- or 2-star venues where the bill hadn’t been paid before we arrived. TIA BWRC sessionBWRC changed the game by making top-notch event production at world-class hotels and resorts the new standard without gouging attendees’ pockets. The next level can only dictate that Black writers and readers demand the highest standards across the board for all events we patronize. One of my favorite quotes: “The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for.” I apply this to everything in life, and specifically with regard to black writers conferences I’d add another favorite: “Never settle for less…even if you have to wait a while.”

What do you mean by “wait a while”? Is there something else over the horizon for BWRC?

One of the main reasons I stepped down from BWRC was due to the workload. Finding venues and producing outstanding conferences requires significant amounts of time and energy, and when you’re raising two sons, working a day job plus moonlighting as a freelancer, and trying to effectuate new career and business endeavors through a degree plan course of study, something has to give. I was overwhelmed, so I stepped back from the conference. The late, beloved Gwynne Forster praised the conferences since the beginning, continually encouraging me to keep supporting emerging black writers no matter what and, as I fully expected, I dearly miss the camaraderie of the Black Writers family. So, I am working on creating new events that are less labor- and resource-intensive and require less capital to produce but are equally rewarding for all involved. I’m also relaunching Black Writers Alliance with plans to offer structured critique groups, literary support services and other membership benefits for published and professional writers, editors, publishers, to name a few, and those who aspire to be. The door is open to various opportunities for interested individuals to get involved on the “ground floor” posted at BlackWriters.org.

TIA bwrc2008faculty-staff

To find out more about Tia or Black Writers see below:

Tia Ross:

http://tiaross.com / http://linkedin.com/in/tiaross / http://twitter.com/tia_ross / http://plus.google.com/+tiaross

Black Writers: 

http://blackwriters.org / http://twitter.com/blackwriters / https://plus.google.com/+BlackwritersOrgEvents / http://facebook.com/blackwritersevents