Wandering West: My Solo Trip to San Fran

Every time I get back from the National Association of Black Journalists Convention each summer, I feel energized. This year’s convention was held during the second week of August in New Orleans, Louisiana (a perfect excuse to make my way to a city I’ve always wanted to experience).  It’s always great for me to reconnect with old friends, mentors and acquaintances. It’s also great to meet new people and learn from the pros.

Not too long after returning from NOLA, I made an impulsive purchase for a trip to San Francisco. Alone.

I had never been to California, let alone the West Coast. (The farthest west I’ve been was to Minneapolis, Minnesota — also for an NABJ convention!). I didn’t know anyone who was out there at the time, but I booked it anyway for the long Labor Day weekend.

I knew I wanted to document this experience so I wrote (in a small BuzzFeed book I had gotten at a different NABJ convention some years ago) about what I did each day and how I was feeling. I actually began writing the day before my flight was set to take off the morning of Saturday, Sept. 2.

Read on and you’ll find the “journal entries” I recorded each day.

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On Reading: My 2015 Book Shelf

The new year is here and I can proudly say last year I treated my mind well. In terms of giving myself some time to be comfortably swaddled in literature — I think I did pretty well. I’m sure many college students can relate to that constant cycle of sleepless nights and deadlines that hinder your desire for leisurely reading (if you’re a reader, that is). Upon graduating, I found much more free time to read during my commutes in lieu of worrying about accumulating assignments.

I never set a goal for the number of books I want to read in a year. It’s just not something I ever feel inclined to do, but I do enjoy tracking my progress on Goodreads. And of course I’m impressed with myself every year I surpass the number of books I read the previous year, but I don’t feel the need to compare my progress to others’. For me, reading is a very personal and individual activity. I apologize in advance for the cliche, but it really is quality over quantity. It’s not a competition. (But seriously, look at how Goodreads has organized it all by clicking here. I just love it!)
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Let’s take several steps back for a moment and talk about my third-grade self. I didn’t particularly enjoy reading, I absolutely hated being called on to read aloud in class and I wasn’t a fast reader. Actually, I think compared to my peers, I was a slow reader (and I was for a long time and may still be). In school whenever we were assigned to read silently to ourselves, I was extremely self-conscious. I would hear my fellow students loudly flipping to the next page of a reading, practically exclaiming in my face, “I can read fast and I want you to know it!” It’s very possible that by that time I hadn’t even gotten through half of the reading’s first page. Sometime I would begin to skim the words, maybe even skip whole paragraphs to create the illusion that I was keeping up with the pace. You can imagine how that didn’t work in my favor.

It wasn’t until the fifth grade that reading became an enjoyable pastime for me — and it was thanks to the words and creativity of J.K. Rowling. It was also the grade in which I got encouraging feedback from my teacher on a poem that literally refused to allow me to sleep until I wrote it.

From that point forward writing and reading became very serious aspects of my life and identity. And it makes perfect sense. These two things had to come together for me to get the most out of their company. I also think, something about J.K. Rowling’s work must have inspired something in me. It was magical (pun completely intended). And it never ceases to amaze me how important and influential words can be.

They can evoke some of your best and worst emotions, inspire a night, week or even month of deep, contemplative thinking — and of course, indirectly call to those writers who are selling themselves short, unmotivated or just lacking a little confidence.

Reading this year was truly inspiring. I cannot say I was absolutely enthralled in everything I read, or that every book was the catalyst for me to see the world in a different light. I don’t think it always has to be that deep.

Even if I wasn’t too fond of the book, if there was a line, a quote, a combination of words crafted ever so carefully that resonated with me, the 200 pages of reading was worth it.

When I read Toni Morrison — and this is especially true when I read her debut novel “The Bluest Eye”– I feel simultaneously inspired and discouraged as a writer. It’s as if there’s some kind of call to action, but I know I can’t complete the task. Reading something that possesses such complex characters, a riveting plot and eloquent language was so impressive to me that it made me sulk — just a bit.

Almost immediately, thoughts slipped into my mind like, “Well, why should I continue to write if I’ll never produce something half as inspiring and artful as this?” But I can choose to let her talent and persistence inspire me to be the best that’s possible for me, or I can sulk about how Kori will never be Toni, all while not writing anything.

This year I hope to read more, expand the types of books I read and invest more time in my creative writing side.

Here’s to great literature in 2016!

Quotes From my 2015 Reads

Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong, as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon your world.

– “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran

The most important thing we ever learn at school is the fact that the most important things can’t be learned at school.

– “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami

No matter how hard we try to ignore it, the mind always knows the truth and wants clarity.

– “God Help the Child” by Toni Morrison

It seems we are responsible for everything we do, no matter how the chain of events began.

– “By The Light of My Father’s Smile” by Alice Walker

Goals have been called the building blocks of adult personality, and it is worth considering that who you will be in your thirties and beyond is being built out of goals you are setting for yourself today.

– “The Defining Decade” by Meg Jay

Now I understand one of the important reasons for going to college and getting an education is to learn that the things you’ve believed in all your life aren’t true, and that nothing is what it appears to be.

– “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes