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ABC ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Creator, Shonda Rhimes, Says “Yes” to All Things Awesome.

Late last year, at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, Shonda Rhimes, creator of ABC mega-hits Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy, talked about her new book, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun, and Be Your Own Person. The interview was held with New York Times best-selling author and journalist, Jake Tapper.

Year of Yes, published by Simon & Schuster, documents a year in which Rhimes, a notorious introvert, decided to say ‘yes’ to people and activities she would normally say ‘no’ to—this included speaking engagements, parties, and other social events, which Rhimes says were out of her comfort zone.

She even went as far as to describe herself as a ‘wall hugger’ at social events, telling NPR, “I’ve always been an introverted person,” and that fame and success were, to her, “daunting.”

But for an entire year, whenever she wanted to decline an invitation or new experience, she made the choice to say ‘yes,’ and the results, she says, were phenomenal.
During the panel, Rhimes talked about her childhood growing up in a highly-intellectual home where her parents encouraged her to read and write and envision her own reality. She also talked about being the only African American girl in her school and being lonely because off this. Her imaginary world, ‘Shondaland,’ served as a creative refuge.

Rhimes discussed her disdain for the term “diversity” when describing her shows, she feels she’s simply normalizing television by creating roles for actors of color, women, the LGBTQ community, and other underrepresented groups; not revolutionizing it. She also rejects the notion that she alone is responsible for breaking “the glass ceiling” by being, arguably, the only black woman to definitively own an entire evening of network television. Instead, she stated, breaking the glass ceiling is a collective effort.

During the Q&A session audience members were invited to ask questions. To my delight, my question was the first one answered by Rhimes.

I asked her if, when she first started writing, she was ever afraid of her own voice—afraid of the depth of her talent and where it might lead. Her response: “As a writer, write as if you are the only person who will read your work.” In other words, create from honesty, not the need for approval or validation.

So what can we learn from this phenomenal African American pioneer?

  • Truthful representations can lead to success. Just like the saying goes, ‘sex sales,’ in today’s competitive entertainment arena, so does the truth.
  • Stay open to new things and allow yourself to be surprised. Sometimes not knowing is a gift.
  • Build a strong support system of people who respect and inspire you.

Although my question was specific to writing, Rhimes’s advice to create from a place of truth or, at the very least, adhere to your own standards of excellence, is invaluable.

Written by Rebecca Nichloson. Originally appeared in Black Enterprise. 

 

 

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The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis Turns 40

According to Publishers Weekly, The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, celebrated it’s 40th Anniversary this past August as it welcomed Britt Udesen, its new executive director. The Loft has made countless contributions to the publishing environment in the Twin Cities and has been a kind of guardian for writers of all genres, including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Milkweed Editions Publisher Daniel Slager said of the literary organization, in an interview with PW, “The Loft is an invaluable part of the Twin Cities’ uniquely vibrant literary ecosystem.” He went on to say that, “Many excellent writers have developed and honed their craft in the Loft’s writing classes.

We have published a good number of them, as have [other] publishers. They also award invaluable support to working writers and host phenomenal events, featuring many of our nation’s best writer.”

Despite monumental changes in the field of literature, and the publishing industry as a whole, the Loft continues to thrive, providing a much needed haven for writers of all experience levels while also contributing to the progression of a ‘reading culture’ in the Midwest and beyond. The Loft has consistently been an invaluable resource for writers, in that it has been a constant source of support for authors; not only teaching and employing them, but also by providing financial support. In 2015 alone, the organization paid writers a total of $400,000 for teaching, mentorship, and other services, in addition to offering grants and fellowships, collectively, in the amount of $194,000.

The continued prosperity of the Loft can, perhaps, provide a kind of template for other writing centers and literary organizations, in both small and large cities, while demonstrating the role of writing centers in helping writers refine their craft.

Conversations about the state of publishing and the unique challenges faced by publishing firms, as a result of technology and other obstacles, often fail to recognize the importance of not only having publishing companies that can utilize changes in the field, but also to ensure that writers continue to receive the financial and artistic support that will enable them to produce creative work for a lifetime.

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Open Book in Minneapolis, http://www.openbookmn.org

Centers like the Loft not only support writers, they promote a sense of community around literature and reading, perpetuating the idea that reading is an important component of meaningful living and contributes to society on both macro and micro levels.

Also, writers themselves are, generally, active readers and, therefore, both creators and consumers of literature. Any discussion concerning the future of publishing, as an entity, must consider the relationship between publishing companies; regardless of scale, and writers— as publishing companies, in all their configurations, need writers to write qualitative material in order for them to publish qualitative content in both digital and print.