Showing posts from 2014

Stories at The Storey: Brief reflections on the first event

The first Stories at The Storey is behind us, the words have settled and I'm still smiling.

The evening was filled with true stories, an engaged audience, a selection of nibbles and a tour. Launching the Grad College PG Study Hub with the launch of Stories at The Storey has led to the creation of a rewarding ongoing relationship. I couldn't have asked for more.

There were engaging true stories about launching writing careers, research endeavors, creative collaborations, relationship-interventions, honesty manifestos and Black Friday survival tips. The five speakers shared stories without happy endings, about endings and some without endings at all.

The storytellers shared chapters of their lives that ideally left listeners wanting more.

Sponsored by Lancaster University's Grad College, Naomi and I are preparing for the next Stories at The Storey in January. The theme is Resolutions. We will be looking for five storytellers to share loose interpretations of your true stori…

Diary of a Black Friday Shopper (from a Black Friday in the past)

Each year, retailers hope to entice people to part with their money in ever more seductive ways: free upgrades, bundles, instant rebates, discounts.
This year as my best friend and I plotted our Black Friday recession strategy, there was one thing we had not planned on—bigger crowds.
It wasn’t because they did such a great job on marketing this year—while I heard that many large retailers were opening their doors at midnight, Arundel Mills opening seemed hushed in comparison.I knew they would be open this year because they were open last year.
At 11:30 pm, the parking lot is a mass of metallic and light.I find a spot right in front of a store we won’t actually be going to that while not ideal at 11:37 in the cold rain, will be prime once we are gone.
“It’s hard to believe this is a recession."
Initially, I agree.
“Maybe,” I reconsider, “all these people are here really trying to save money.”
In years past, Black Friday has been about camaraderie and competitive shopping.This yea…

The Writing Life Episode 13: Jo Baker

Stories at The Storey: What is a True Story Open Mic Night?

Real people. Real life. Real stories.

It's that simple. 

Everyone has a story. No matter what defines us or how we define ourselves, real life happens to all of us. 

Have you accomplished something amazing? Taught yourself a skill? 

Whether the answer is yes or no, you have a story to share.

Have you learned something about yourself that you don't like? Let yourself or someone else down? Ended up miles from where you thought you would be? 

Regardless of where you are or where you thought you would be, you have a story.

And for one night, you have an audience.

Sharing your true story is therapeutic. It can help you move through something, towards something else or remind you that you are where you want to be doing what you want to do.

Who are we looking for? Everyday people.

What's in it for you? A captive audience (at least for 3 to 5 minutes).

What's in it for us? The Story. We realize not all stories have happy endings and not every story has closure. Whether your story covers …

The Writing Life Episode Nine: Che Parker

The Writing Life Episode 11: Eoghan Walls

The Writing Life Season One, Episode One: Colleen Crangle

The Writing Life Episode Eight:

Career Options for Creative Writers: My next role: Villain (Expanding My Career Portfolio)

When I was much younger (some time before wanting to be a rapper) I wanted to be a villain. Not necessarily a law breaking villain but one on paper, in a book. Now, after maturing, living and realizing possibilities I'm back to wanting to be a villain; this time off the page.

As an upcoming voice-over talent I'd like to play the character of a villain in an audio book, video game or animation. I've performed as a professional voiceover artist and have been cast for narration and corporate reads.

My next adventure?


Have you diversified your career portfolio?

I'm a mom, a full-time PhD Student, an emerging writer working on a novel, a researcher, a literary interviewer, a literary event organizer, a voiceover artist, an Associate Lecturer and an Assistant Professor. To be successful I'm told I need to create a career portfolio and forget what I've been told about a career path. I need to think in terms of strategies not strategy; Opportunities not oppor…

Writing your future, revising your past, moving forward: Yvonne Battle-F...


The Writing Life Episode Ten: Ramzy Sweis

The Writing Life Live Panel Episode 12: Carys Davies, Emma Geraghty, George Green

Stories at The Storey: Open Call for performers (Lancaster, UK)

Jobs. Relationships. Journeys. Stories. Everything starts with a beginning—a launch. We want to hear yours. Stories at The Storey offers a nonfiction storytelling experience and is looking for performers, students, community members, staff, visitors and anyone with a true story to share to fill 10 True Story Open Mic Night slots. We are interested in engaging stories told well. On December 1 we are launching our True Story Series and are honored to be joining Lancaster University's Grad College for the launch of the PG Study Hub at the Storey. If you have an engaging story that loosely explores the theme “launch” we would love to hear it. Email: for more information and to apply for a 3-5 minute slot. Event sponsored by LU Grad College.

The Writing Life Episode Five: Alison MacLeod

The Writing Life Episode 4: Royal Shiree

The Writing Life Episode 3: Simon James

The Writing Life Episode Seven: P.A. Chawla

The Writing Life: Episode Two Joe Kipling

The Writing Life Episode Six: Melanie Hatter

What's Next for The Writing Life? Upcoming The Writing Life Season

As I prepare for a new season and new possible directions for The Writing Life, I took some time to reflect on the things I've learned these past three seasons.

The top of the list:
1. Write because you love it.
2. Write because you need to.
3. Publish because you have something to say.
4. The story is the most important element.
5 Without characters, there is no story.
6. Challenge yourself as a writer.
7. Challenge readers.
8. Write

Catch up with The Writing Lifeinterviews here.
What did you learn from the interview season? What questions would you like me to ask future guests? Comment below.

What's new this season? This season I'll be interviewing emerging writers as they showcase their work on the show. I'm looking for poets, short story writers, playwrights, novelists and Creative Nonfiction writers: any one with a story to share.

Want to get involved? Leave a comment here, contact me through the station or Tweet me on Twitter: @YBattleFelton

One Class at a Time: Back to School for Moms and Dads too

I started my adult learner education when I was in my 20’s. It was around 2002. I had two children, worked full time and it had been almost a decade since my last attempt at pursuing my education.
“What about your kids?” Friends asked. “Who’s going to take care of them while you’re in class?”
It wasn’t like I was going traipsing around town, I was taking evening classes at a community college.
“Their dad,” I answered.
“What if they need you?”
“What if someone gets hurt?”
“What if…”
I was leaving them with a capable adult. No one asked what if when I went to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week but the decision to go to school sparked quite a few discussions. Why are you so angry about me going back to school? I wondered. 
I didn’t ask. 
No answer would have been enough to stop me from going back to school. People thought I was selfish to choose my education. That’s as ridiculous to me now as it was then. How can pursuing my goals while providing for my children be wrong? Where is it w…

Making a Career with my Words

Usually when I assess my career goals I end up with the same goal: I want to make a career with my words. There is something exciting about manipulating words on the page (or screen) that I love. The more people I talk to people who make a living writing, the more possible my dreams become.

I find my research as a student often leads into research in life. My interest in interviews as a medium for crafting the Slave Narratives and as a source for gathering information complements my interests in crafting narratives through interviews in my career. It's only natural that my interest in words would mingle old traditions with newer ones and lead me to want to use my voice both on the page and on the mic. 
Which came first?
When I was a teenager, my friend Alicia and I decided we were going to be rappers. We didn't say we wanted to try to be rappers, just that we were going to be rappers. Our manager was a good friend, Peace. She didn't know much about the music industry but …

My TEDx Tips: What I Learned in My TEDx Talk

A few months ago, I was nominated to give a TEDx talk at Lancaster University.   I had watched TED speakers engage, entertain and enlighten audiences for years. The opportunity to present a talk on a platform I admired was as exciting as I imagine it will be to be listed on the New York Times Best Seller’s list.
 It wasn’t until my nomination was approved and I was offered the opportunity to speak that my excitement turned in to something as close to panic as I get.
What would I talk about?
While I was pursuing my Master’s at Johns Hopkins I attended a class in Florence, Italy.  I was writing a novel at the time. The novel was problematic. There were three main characters in varying degrees of relationships with one another. The complication as I saw it was that none of the characters wanted to be in a relationship. The complication according to Professor Perlman was that all of the characters were me.
He didn’t say that.
“Who are the main characters?” he asked. “And what does she want?” If…

Diary of a Creative Writing PhD Student: On Keeping Secrets

As an adult, I have used silence as both a shield and a sword.
Growing up, many people learn that what happens at home stays there. At some point we learned that discussions about family problems were not to leave the family table.  
Domestic violence, financial problems, mental health illness and a myriad of other issues were solved (or not) at home.  Sharing information with “the streets” was viewed as wrong—perhaps even more wrong than whatever the problem was.
The idea of what happens at home stays at home extended to the community so that what happened in the community did not go beyond that. As a community we needed to appear strong, united.
Where did we learn this?
As part of my research as a PhD student I’m exploring the premise that the Black community has become well versed at keeping secrets and hiding pain; sometimes to our own detriment. I don’t know that this is a Black/ African American phenomenon, a gender experience or if silence is something that affects households and …

The Writing Life Episode 10 with Ramzy Sweis

Writing is a business. Like any successful business the business of writing takes more than passion, desire and talent.  Finding the right balance is up to you. Each week I interview writers about how they craft a career with their words. In Episode 10, comedian, novelist, screen play writer and teacher Ramzy Sweis shares insight on pitching, promoting and getting results.

Listen in.

What's your writing life? Please share your stories below. Questions you want me to ask my next guest? I'm just a comment away.

After thoughts: Reflections on My Interview with Writer P.A. Chawla

How cool is it to wake up one morning and decide to leave your job and write full time?

Well, without planning, a solid foundation, and a strong support team, quitting your day job might seem cool but it won't pay the bills.

Talking with writer P.A. Chawla helped me put a few things into perspective. I want to make a living with my words not be a starving artist. My children need to eat. I analyze options before I make decisions. Before making any major decision, I outline the main characters of the situation (story), review motivations and consider possible tension and plots. Because I want to make a living, I'm more likely to plan, organize and save before deciding to drop everything and write.

According to Chawla, I'm on to something. In a candid interview, writer P.A. Chawla shares her route to the Writing Life.

Virtual Lancaster News Blog: The Writing Life: three Lancaster-based authors to...

Virtual Lancaster News Blog: The Writing Life: three Lancaster-based authors to...: Local author Carys Davies. Author photo © Emily Atherton. Via S alt Publishing Three professional writers, including BBC Radio 4 writer ...

The Writing Life goes Live: A Discussion About Making a Living as a Writer

I’m pursuing a Creative Writing PhD.
“What are you going to do with that?” People ask.
It’s not what some consider a logical degree choice.  Logical choices translate from degree to bank account; from dollars in cost to dollars in revenue. Logical degree choices don’t just make sense; they make cents—a lot of them.
I am a writer.
What other degree allows me to write and research engaging topics that interest, love and inspire me? Who would I be if I didn’t follow my passion? And what will I be if I don’t apply logic to passion?
It is not logical to assume I will graduate and no matter how engaging my writing, tumble in to a full-time Creative Writing faculty position. Despite my modern degree, chances are I will have to earn my position the old fashioned way: one best seller at a time.
Each conversation I have with either an established or emerging writer shows me that it is possible to craft a career as a writer, as long as I keep a day job and a steady stream of projects and poss…

The Classroom is not the Front Line

Over the past four years I have taught “traditional” college-aged students in their late teens to early twenties, as well as “adult learners” and “mature students”; these are all labels that don’t necessarily seem to translate inside the classroom: they are all students.
My students are individuals with a drive for individual success, a sense of responsibility and a set of needs that lead to expectations that I hope to meet and exceed if not the first class, by the last.  Not all of my students are happy about being in a classroom; they don't all want to be there. But the battle is not between them and I; it is not personal.  And so I will teach them--but I won't fight them. I don't picture myself forcibly injecting knowledge or administering academic CPR.
Though I struggle with names, I hope to build relationships with each student and learn their personalities, goals and needs in ways that make sense to me: I learn about people through their words, mainly through their wri…

You Know You're a Lady When...(Reposted)

I wrote this post a few years ago but it made me smile when I saw it again...

“I’m a fucking lady,” she screamed in a voice thick with the promise of tears and violence, “Where’s he at? Where the fuck is he at?”

No one answered.

Silence is one of the first rules of avoidance isn’t it? Pretend you don’t see them and the potentially crazy, violent person will fade away? I didn’t know who ‘he’ was where ‘he’ went and since I wasn’t looking at her in the first place, I didn’t know who it was that she could not see.

Each time I go to the laundromat I vow it will be my last. For at least six months, my dryer at home has been broken. I repaired it once before and the cost was more than the cost to replace it. I have agreed to buy my husband out of the house--if it makes financial sense for me to do so, and I haven’t decided that it does. To purchase a dryer, have someone haul it up my 28 stairs, down the 10 or so stairs to the basement and haul the old one up 10 or so stairs and down 28 stai…

Why Do I Host the Writing Life?

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Jen Makumbi Morris on balancing life, writing, family and other career goals. If you missed the broadcast on my show, The Writing Life, I've included it below.

Why do I do it?

Like many people in various stages of academic pursuits, I'm faced with the opportunity to create, edit and reinvent my career path. My question is how will I balance providing for my family with my writing passion?

The obvious answer seems that I would write for a living.

I don't need the obvious answer; I need a strategic plan. I need to see other writers making careers with their words and writers who balance "day jobs" and writing careers. I'm interested in stories that work well and stories that need a bit of revising.

Along with writing my first novel, I write short stories, personal essays, business blog posts.  I'm also a novice script writer. The ability to write both fiction and nonfiction as well as my interest in Public Re…

Diary of a Creative Writing PhD Student: One Thing My Research Allows Me to Do

My research allows me to study nonfiction texts like newspaper articles, scholarly journals, narratives, studies, and letters as well as contemporary fiction to establish a historical context that helps me create well rounded characters; characters who adapt and challenge their reality and to write a work that reflects the individuality of my characters’ experience. 
There is no quintessential slave story and I do not endeavor to write a narrative that pretends to capture all of the possibilities between the pages. My hope is to capture characters as they exist within the world I create which is based on fact. Slavery relied on a relationship between the slaver and the enslaved; my research shows for some slavers the need for the enslaved to act as if they were in some way appreciative and happy. My hope is through language and dialogue to capture some of the psychological aspects of slavery.
I’m interested in the stories of mothers trying to find their children and of mothers who had …

Diary of a Creative Writing PhD student: Why Write About Emancipated Slaves?

There is a recognized formula for grief. Experts say we grieve in stages; in cycles. Because everyone grieves differently, there is no set time frame for the stages. Still, society often tells those in grief when enough is enough. When we grieve a marriage friends, family and coworkers have a certain amount of sympathy before encouraging us to “move on” romantically. If we are adults when our parents die, we are granted a period of mourning before returning to work, a little sad and less productive perhaps, but we are expected to reach full capacity within a few weeks. For most losses there is an imagined timeframe, an allotted time for grief.
How long are we granted to grieve a child?
The loss of a child is an ongoing loss with consistent reminders throughout life; there are lost birthdays, holidays, graduations; there are no weddings, no grandchildren, no continuation. The loss resonates in the laughter of school children; the cry of random babies; the familiar shape of an eye, a wal…

Diary of a Creative Writing PhD Student: Reflections on Research--One Year Later

Today marks the one year anniversary of my family and my move to the UK.  As I prepare for my One Year Panel Review I have the opportunity to see the last 365 days titled, page numbered and revised; it’s a wonderful thing. Over the past year, I have crafted almost 30,000 words in fiction, thousands of words in reflection and research and read thousands of pages. My practice based research encourages me to build relationships with researchers, historians and professionals from around the world; as I write about relationships within the past I am building relationships for my future.
My research is taking me into new areas: I’m focusing on my place on the shelf, in the genre as well as crafting opportunities for other writers of color to publish and have their books read. My objective is to write stories rich with “Black themes” like family, love, friendship, and success, forgiveness.

I’m not just crafting stories here; I’m revising myself, my family. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m lovi…

Choosing a Username: What Does Your Username Say About You?

Since I heard about Mumsnet a few weeks ago I’ve been skirting along the edges trying to decide if I was going to dive in. I’m a mom, I’m a writer and I’m a mom who writes about Momming; so why not join a network?
I spent longer than I planned coming up with a snazzy user name that wasn’t already taken.  I thought I would make up one that captured my many roles: MotherWriterPhDtobe. But I don’t like guess work: will readers pause where I want them to pause? Will they recognize my play on words or will they think what I think when I see usernames with acronyms, creatively spelled (ok, misspelled) ones or names that challenge me to multiply, subtract and divide to add meaning to them?
I settled on battlefelton; a version of my last name.
After I selected it I thought: why didn’t I capitalize it? Why didn’t I at the very least hyphenate it like I do in life?
What does a lower case “b” and a run-on name say about me? I thought about creating another account, one with Battle-Felton capitalize…

I'm a Mumsnet Blogger

I talk about being a mom all the time--to friends, colleagues, strangers; it's a part of who I am. It's only natural that I blog about it. Of course, being a mom is not all I blog about, just like it's not all I talk about. It's a part, a component, a sliver of the pie that is me.

"How do you like uni?" a man from a local store asks my daughter.

"It's great," she answers.

I smile and walk away.

"How does he know I'm at uni?" She asks less than an aisle away.

"It comes up in conversation."


"You know: how's the weather, how are your comes up."

She doesn't believe me.

"Are you all here for the holidays?" I'll admit, I had never seen these people before.

"Sort of," I answer. "I go to school here so we're here all year round. My daughter studies business at another university. She's here for the break."

My daughter and I set off a few minute…

42 Blocks to Nirvana

I found this post in my writing attic--my writing past. It is from nearly five years ago and in some ways is still true and in others not as much.

Except for the accents, we could be standing in any one of the brightly lit GameStop/EB Games stores we frequent on a far-too-regular basis in Baltimore.  GameStop/EB Games have developed a brand: a unique blend of computer-geek/technology-nerd paraphernalia capturing the illusion of some sort of Nirvana for gamers of an appropriate age, and beyond it.  My gamer is thirteen.  We are at the counter of GameStop #1234 in New York City, one of the first spots on My daughter’s mental list of places to go on her birthday trip to NYC. Her brown eyes sparkled when she saw the familiar GameStop logo in the middle of 7th Ave and Broadway.  We are spending the day doing whatever my teenager wants to do; if that means stumbling around another video game store, it means doing so and pretending I like it.  Searching for new Play Station 3 games and com…

Look Down When You Walk: A Lesson Learned and Forgotten

I said my goodbyes, locked the door and practically ran down the twenty-eight stone steps. If I hurried to the car, sped down the street, and raced along the highway I would still be late—but I had to try.
I slid into the car, placed one foot—ever ready—on the brake pedal, began closing the car door and sniffed: shit, literally.
Between stepping off the last step and stepping in to the car, one of my feet had sunk sole deep into a pile of dog poop.
I didn’t have a dog.
I tiptoed up the steps, kicked off both shoes and leaving them outside, I rushed back in the house. Armed with paper towels and cleanser I tried scraping the offending goo from my shoe but stuck for time, I searched for other shoes to match my outfit. Ten minutes later I was again at step twenty eight.
I scraped residue of poop off of the brake, tossed the wasted paper into the trash can, slid in the car, turned the key, sniffed and inhaled deeply.
I had cleaned the poop from my car but not from in front of the car door; I h…