Is Affirmative Action Crucial to America?

Has America progressed into a diverse nation where certain laws forbidding discrimination are no longer necessary?  With a two- term African American president at the helm of the country, some citizens believe we have overcome our negative past, prejudices, and preconceived notions in regards to our differences.

I don’t dispute facts, as a diverse nation, we have made great strides in bridging the race and equality gap. Many impoverished minorities manage to emerge through cracks of inner city concrete jungles to rise above poverty, deprivation, and less than desirable socioeconomic conditions. Those success stories are few and far in between, accounting for a small percentage of the minority population, who escape an all too familiar cycle of hell to arrive at the promise land of prosperity. What about their brethren? Still, there are large quantities of minorities who are marginalized because of ill social circumstances, partly due to a system of classism and race discrimination which currently exists in this country. To make a claim that we have achieved such heights where racism is obsolete is utterly absurd. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In the 60’s, thanks to President John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, Affirmative Action and the Civil Rights Act were created to balance the playing field, diversify, and repair a broken system in which African Americans were widely discriminated against. Legislation created during this era helped pave the way for minorities to receive fair and equal access to employment, career advancement, voting rights, education and federal programs predominantly restricted to whites despite race, creed, color, gender, or national origin. No doubt their agendas were a step in the right direction, but what happens when right wing conservative organizations target racial equality as an attempt to destroy progress made during the civil rights movement?

reverse-racism

– Photo Credit: www.taboojive.com

Case in point, last week the Supreme Court issued its ruling on Fisher v. University of Texas which challenges the use of affirmative action in admissions. The petitioner Abigail Fisher, a white woman sued the university over their admissions policy. Ms. Fisher, backed by special interest groups and private donors (The Project on Fair Representation) states she’s a victim of said policies, citing reverse discrimination.

It’s true, affirmative action is used in most public and private institutions admissions process as a means of diversifying their student body, but it isn’t the primary provision that determines admittance.The university automatically admits students in the top ten percent of his or her class, then factors in race and other circumstances. Pro Publica published an article which looks at the conditions she faced when she applied to the university and the reason her application was denied. According to their research, Ms. Fisher didn’t possess the potential and academic prowess to meet the university’s standards. And race didn’t play a major part in her denial. Perhaps, had she been ambitious enough to achieve high academic marks, she would’ve been included in the top ten percent of her academic class, having no problems being admitted to the university of her preference.

In a 7-1 decision, the Supreme Court sustained the current affirmative action legislation, but in fairness redirected the case back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for further review. The lower appellate court was given orders to thoroughly scrutinize the university’s use of race in admissions, assuring they considered all other options before focusing on race. I applaud the high court for practicing sound judgment by standing in support of institutions of higher learning, and their responsible incorporation of affirmative action in the architecture of admissions as a means to create a diverse student body. What this means is previous advancements made in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), a case which permitted the use of race as a tool to variegate college campuses remains unchanged. The court’s ruling ultimately proved that Ms. Fisher’s legal team failed to demonstrate she was victimized by affirmative action in the admissions process.

equality-bill1

-Photo Credit: http://blogs.edgehill.ac.uk

The question remains, when will issues involving race and equality be passé in America? Culturally, intolerance has become a part of the American experience. The depths and effects of bigotry run deep, and without healing, hatred taught by our ancestors becomes transgenerational.  Perhaps, one day, the use of affirmative action policies to keep the scales of equality balanced won’t be needed. But the likely hood of that occurring is slim to none. Until we address the issues that prohibit us from moving forward as a progressive race of people, the fight for justice and equality will continue.

An Alien to Publishing With David Estes

Publishing, regardless of whether you are self-publishing or going the traditional route, is a lot of hard work. While nothing is ever perfect readers tend to expect novels to be as close to it as possible. We expect the novel to have a good story line, no typos, well rounded characters, eye catching cover art is a big plus, and an attention grabbing blurb. The standards readers set for the books they read are pretty high and writers need to work hard to make their novel a masterpiece. I regress, publishing is a crucial part of getting your book into the reader’s hands and one made all the more difficult when self-publishing.

This month Seven has welcomed established indie author David Estes to break down what it means to self-publish. He was very generous in his advice and we have that all here for you. David Estes has self-published since 2011 and has four series (The Dwellers, The Country Saga, The Evolution Trilogy and Nikki Powergloves) a total of 13 books which include Young Adult and Children’s novels under his belt. He is an amazing writer who has made a lifelong fan out of me. 🙂

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think of indie authors or self-publishing, the first platform that comes to mind is Amazon. It is a leader as a publishing platform and one of the biggest online retailers. However, for someone looking into selling their books on Amazon, knowing the facts is a must. I think that if I were to look into every reason that this selling giant has been dubbed a monopoly I would be here for weeks. Yet when sticking strictly to the publishing world, it can be spelled out in two words: KDP Select. Kindle Direct Publishing Select is a program where Amazon targets authors looking to publish their novel. In essence it asks for a three month exclusivity contract in exchange for higher royalties and ensures your novel will reach a new audience with the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. When Estes was asked, ‘In your opinion what is the best and worst thing about publishing on Amazon?’ This is what he had to say:

Now that’s a loaded question! But it’s also an easy one. There are a few things that are awesome about Amazon:

First, their reach can’t be beat. They are still in a dominant position in the online (ebook) book-selling market. The vast majority of authors will undoubtedly get the bulk of their sales from Amazon.

Second, if your books are selling and getting good reviews, Amazon will help you. They will recommend your books to readers who enjoy similar ones and they will actually generate sales FOR YOU. This is an amazing thing once it really gets going. It can make or break your book.
Third, it’s really, really easy to publish on Amazon and the royalty rates are awesome if you price your book at $2.99 or above.

However, there are always two sides to every coin. There are some really frustrating things about publishing with Amazon that I’ve recently made very clear to them in a customer satisfaction survey:

First, their KDP Select program is a blatant attempt to monopolize the market, which is totally uncool. They promise nice perks like making your books available in a lending library (which you get paid royalties for) and give you the opportunity to make your book available for free every so often. However, in exchange, you have to SELL YOUR SOUL. OK, I’m being dramatic, but for me, it’s almost that bad. You have to agree to EXCLUSIVELY publish your book on Amazon. Like I said, not cool. It alienates readers who don’t buy their books from Amazon which I’m not down with.

Second, they have very strict pricing compliance rules that have been a royal pain in the butt a few times. They insist that your book must be priced as low or lower than every other retailer out there. I’m all for having my book priced the same everywhere, but it prevents you from doing, say, a Barnes & Noble promotion where you make your book $.99 on B&N for a few days. Uh uh, Amazon won’t allow it. They cry and shake their fists and say you have to include them at the party and make your book $.99 for them too. Of course, they have NO problem with you pricing your book at $.99 for a few days on Amazon but NOT on B&N. Yeah, double standards.

Third, Amazon has really annoying royalty rates for books priced lower than $2.99. It’s all part of their attempt to force Indie authors to price their books at $2.99 or above. The way it works is that if you price at $2.99 or above, you get an incredible 70% royalty rate, but if you price below that, you get a pathetic 30%. That’s frustrating because if I want to do a promotion and drop the price on one of my $2.99 books to say $1.49, although my price has only changed by $1.50, my royalty has gone from $2.09 to a measly $.46. For the most part, I price all my books at $2.99 or above, even if I don’t really want to. Otherwise it’s just not worth my while.

The bottom line, however, is that I can complain about my three big negatives until I’m old and gray and red-faced, but Amazon is still the key to my success. I own a Kindle, I buy tons of books from them, and I will continue to use them as my primary publishing platform.

Estes does an amazing job at breaking down what Amazon is to a publishing author. Now that the truth has been put out there, which is that through their good and bad Amazon is still a boss and a force to be reckoned with, you decide to still publish with them. Again, they are too big in the publishing world to look over. Just be wary of KDP Select. As in STAY AWAY!!! 🙂 But what’s next? When publishing you definitely shouldn’t stop there. That being said, Estes definitely has a criteria for selecting platforms to sell his novels, “My main goal in picking the platforms to publish on is to make my books available to as many potential readers as possible. I don’t like the idea of being exclusive to one platform as it completely ignores the thousands of readers who don’t use that platform and promotes the monopolization of the industry.” His goal is one I think all authors can relate to. He continues on to share with us his publishing strategy:

As a self-published author, I can’t possibly publish on every platform that offers ebooks, it’s just not feasible. Every day there are more and more ebook-selling platforms popping up, each with its own business model. At the end of the day, I’m a writer and I don’t want to spend my every waking moment on the publishing process. Plus, because I publish a book every 2-3 months, I need the process to be as streamlined and efficient as possible.

All that being said, my approach to publishing also needs to ensure I get the highest possible royalties for all my hard work. At the end of the day, this is my career, how I make a living, and choosing the right platforms can have a major impact on my success. There are distribution platforms out there, like Smashwords, that can help a self-published author distribute to a number of other ebook distributors. Through Smashwords “premium distribution” it can distribute to B&N, iBooks, Sony, and Kobo, to name just a few. However, as a fee for their service, they’ll take an extra 15% of your royalty. So not only will B&N take a percentage of each book’s sale price, but Smashwords will too. This can really cut into your royalties in a hurry.

Thus, I highly recommend publishing direct to as many major platforms as you can within your time constraints. Because I sell most of my books on Kindle and Nook, I publish directly to each of those two platforms. Then I use Smashwords’ service to publish almost everywhere else, like iBooks, Kobo, and Sony. However, if you choose to use Smashwords to publish some places, but not others, be sure to “Opt-Out” of distribution to the platforms you’re publishing to directly. Otherwise your book may be listed twice. So I lose a little bit of my royalty by not publishing directly to iBooks or Kobo, but it’s a minimal loss as my sales from those distributors isn’t a significant portion of my overall revenue. For me the trade-off between minor loss of revenue and the time it would take me to publish to iBooks and Kobo myself, is worth what Smashwords takes as the middle man. But if I had more time, I’d definitely consider publishing to a few other platforms directly. Finally, I publish to up and coming Google Books on my own through their Partner Program. It’s incredibly easy and already I’m seeing my sales from Google increasing each and every month.

That covers ebooks, but I also recommend publishing a paperback version in at least one place. That way your readers who don’t have ereaders can still access your books. Personally, I publish my paperbacks through Createspace, which is an Amazon company. That makes all my books available through Amazon as print-on-demand with no upfront cost to me.

The last question I asked of Estes was, “To a writer who doesn’t know their way around the selling platforms what advice would you give?”

There are a few key pieces of advice I would give to writers who are new to navigating the many selling platforms that are out there:

1. Focus on ebooks! That is the place to be, especially for Indie authors. You can offer your books at a better price than big published books and reach a growing market. You’ll also receive MUCH higher royalty rates than by publishing through print.

2. Focus on the biggest platforms because that’s where you’ll get most of your revenue. Amazon and B&N still have a stranglehold on the ebook industry. Although they will both inevitably lose some market share over time, the market is growing rapidly, so the overall pie will be getting bigger too.

3. Be aware of trends in the market. Do your research. For example, Apple and Google have both been pushing resources into their book-selling platforms, which will likely mean growth from them.

4. Take advantage of a worldwide market! Amazon and Barnes & Noble are only available in some countries. Use platforms like Smashwords.com to reach almost EVERY country. I’m selling more and more books in places like Asia, Africa, and Europe through Smashwords.

5. Use the templates provided by the platforms you choose. You absolutely need your book to be formatted nicely for each of your platforms. Otherwise readers will get frustrated with how hard it is to read your books and they won’t come back for the next one or recommend it to others.

When you are new to the publishing world and it is alien to you, there is always someone out there who has done what you are trying to do and is honest, open and giving with their advice. So ask questions. Also, be sure to let us know what part of the publishing process has you stomped and we will tackle it to the best of our and an experienced professional’s ability.

David once again, thank you so much for allowing me the pleasure of working with you and giving aspiring authors all this great advice. As per his words from the guest post listed below, “Read, read, read! Be a reader and a lover of books first.” So readers and writers out there, be sure to check out his novels which can be found on Goodreads and Amazon (and all the selling platforms listed above). To hear more on what Estes has to say about writing, publishing and promoting be sure to click on these sites: Advice For Writers That Are Just Starting by David Estes
Indie Author Advice Series #2 by David Estes

© 2013 Seven Magazine

Una Colada Porfavor!

Out of this world

Before jumping into the delicious beverage that we will enjoy as we talk in the native language of WRITER, lets take a second to acknowledge the wonderful midnight sky. Don’t be afraid. Step outside for a second . . . what? Night hasn’t fallen yet. I’ll wait here while it does. No rush.

Well, did you see that? Beautiful, isn’t it? Imagine being somewhere surrounded by nothing but stars. Infinite places to go, with no restraint. Sure, it’s just a ball of gas burning, somewhere . . . but what if that gas formed something AMAZING. This is what I recently came across. Something that I just fell in love with. A unique blend of gas that is suspended in space. I just had to feature this photograph as our June header. It’s called the Horsehead Nebula.

HorseHead2
Photo Credit: NASA

It’s something about the colors (PINK!!! It’s my fav), to the shapes, to the numerous stars surrounding it; I am just mesmerized by this photo. It makes me want to jump onto a Virgin Galactic flight and carry my own portable Hubble camera and photograph the bejeezus out of it. Now, it would be awesome if one could own a Hubble camera or if the government would once again support our space program so that NASA can properly update the Hubble telescope, but that’s neither here nor there. Gladly, it works well enough to travel 1,500 light years away and take this amazing shot.

Señor una colada porfavor!

Coffee
Photo Credit: Seven Magazine

I have a secret to tell you. I’m from Miami. Yes, Miami… Miami, Florida. Home to beautiful beaches, wonderful palm trees, destructive hurricanes and scandalous female drama. It’s also known as an extension of Cuba. I must say that I do enjoy most of the Cuban cuisine. Pastelitos, Vaca Frita, Tostadas, Empanada de picadillo and most of all… OH MYYYLAAANNTTAA I love that Cuban coffee. Señor!!! Oye! Ven aca!

If you’ve never had it before, then you are seriously missing out. I recently learned how to make it at home and it just doesn’t compare to flavor and texture unless a genuine Cuban makes it. Mas azucar porfavor. It’s the best wake up juice in the morning and a quick fire pick me up in the afternoon. I honestly think that the reason that there is sooo much drama in Miami is because of the caffeine that flows through the majority of the folks veins.

The smell smacks your senses into attention and once you feel that hot liquid touch your lips, the warmth flows through your body. It brings an alertness to every crevice in your body. If every writer has a muse, then I’m guessing that this is mine. Instantly, I am transformed into una escritora divina. I start thinking in another language and sometimes, the words are transferred onto pink and black. (I have pink paper…I told you I love the color!!) Muchas gracias Señor.

This got me thinking. What exactly is a writer other than a master of vocabulary? If in fact, you don’t feel that you have conquered your language, then read some more. Grab that dictionary and get to it! The great desideratum of a writer is to form a a fructuous collaboration with the written word. Fear not a verbose carom of providential serendipity, just ambuscade the nearest dictionary and figure out what this verbal judo is all about! (I used dictionary.com)

Not only would a big vocabulary affect the level of your writing. PAUSE for a second. If you have a large vocabulary, it helps the writer create a vast level of characters. It creates dimensions. PLAY. Now imagine the world you can create in another language.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a bilingual home. Spanish being my first language, even though now I don’t speak it so well. However, I can still read it. It has given me the opportunity to meet a variety of writers and really experience the world they were trying to create. Trust me when I tell you that the majority of the time, even the most academic translations DO NOT do an original piece justice. Just think of the transition of a book to a movie. Yeah… a lot like that!

I have promised myself to become some what fluent in a different language for each year that I am alive, starting this year. (I haven’t decided on the language yet, but I do see Rosetta Stone in my future.) As a writer, I owe the many characters that live in my head, the honor of living their lives to the fullest. The only way to do that, is for me to live vicariously for them. I can’t do that with all of them if I don’t speak their language. It is my duty to experience as much as I can in my lifetime in order to make each character believable to my readers. I strongly believe that diversity is what makes a good writer. What do you believe?

© 2013 Seven Magazine

Uncommon Grounds

I place the final period and smile at the screen in approval. Staring at the new age typewriter I reassure myself, “this one is good,” as I finish the outline for a short story. Written with care and confidence; this is how I write many of my short stories. I’ve created my own formula for writing them, it’s become a secondhand nature. Whether they’ll be good or not is up for debate, but I know how I like to write them. This allows me to share these stories with friends and followers. It’s all about a comfort I have in knowing what works for me when writing.

Now. As for this piece I’m currently writing, that you are now currently reading, not so much. I feel a slight uneasiness about putting words, non-fictitious words, words of advice, into this new age typewriter. It’s unsettling to think that someone may take the things I say to heart and I can’t simply defend my words with “it’s fiction.” This rather scares me a little. It’s a new experience that I’m unfamiliar with. A discomfort zone, if you will. I don’t like it, but I also don’t dislike it.

Photo Credit: Girls
Photo Credit: HBO series Girls

A year ago, I would have fled from the discomfort. I didn’t like the lack of confidence that came with the first times. This scared me away from many opportunities growing up. The dastardly fear of the unknown tormented me. It ruined my words. It was a tiresome battle with myself to overcome my fear. I had to change things, to climb the wall of discomfort and try something new.

It wasn’t until I was asked by SEVEN to submit a short story that I decided to make my move. My climb began with “Charley Parkins.” That was the spark I needed. The key in the ignition. The kick in the…you get my point. As I became more confident, I began sharing more of my work. I founded my writing formula and found comfort in my short stories. I was always willing to share with others my work. I loved the ecstasy of confidence that filled me. I decided then, “I don’t want this feeling to end.”

So here I am, typing unfamiliar words, full of chattering nerves. Doubt floats around in my head, but I write on. You see, writing aside, I’ve learned that there is nothing to be gained by remaining in your comfort zone. Life can’t happen if you stay in bed. The past year I’ve made numerous new friends, found solace in poetry, and even made a big change by moving to Ocean City from Baltimore (about three hours away) after living at home for almost 21 years. These experiences I’ve had with my friends, new and old, have inspired me; giving me new subjects to write about. The reason I don’t dislike the discomfort is for the simple learned fact that new experiences are uncomfortable, but also unforgettable. You must embrace the unknown. Never fear the new. I’ve wasted too much time hiding from that first time fear. It’s a lesson I learned by taking one chance, affecting my person and my writing.

Go out and try something new. Leave your comfort zone behind. Whether it be trying a new restaurant, talking to someone new, or even attempting to write something inspiring and filled with a little bit of advice. Get out of your comfort zone and enter your discomfort zone, for this is the place we can truly grow.

© 2013 Seven Magazine

Your Book Sitting on a Book Shelf

I’ve had the pleasure of getting of working with Cindy C. Bennett a few times throughout this year. She’s pretty amazing, friendly and very knowledgeable about publishing. Cindy is an amazing author who has 15 published titles under her name. Two of these are traditionally published and she has found success there and in self publishing. She agreed to allow me to pick her brain about the publishing industry… I’m not so sure she knew what she was getting into 😉 but she very graciously and sincerely answered all of my questions. Thank you very much Cindy!

About Cindy
20130509-054805.jpg Cindy C Bennett was born and raised in beautiful Salt Lake City, growing up in the shadows of the majestic Rocky Mountains. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs. She also has two sons. She volunteers her time working with teen girls between the ages of 12-18, all of whom she finds to be beautiful, fascinating creatures. When she’s not writing, reading or answering emails she can often times be found riding her Harley through the beautiful canyons near her home (yes, I ride a Harley and no, you’d never know it to look at me!).

Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Web Site

Q: Besides a good novel, what do you believe is the biggest necessary attribute to be successful in the self publishing world?
A: A willingness to work hard and learn everything you can about marketing, without over marketing.

Q: Besides a good novel and persistence, what do you believe is the biggest attribute needed to have your novel picked up by a publisher?
A: A willingness to take a lot of rejections before you find the one that’s a good fit for you, and also to not be afraid to say no to an offer if it doesn’t feel right.

Q: When it comes to writing and publishing do you have a philosophy or advice that you live by?
A: My advice is to make sure that you have learned the mechanics of writing such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. Without those, no matter how good your book is, nobody will read it because it will be too distracting to read or come across as bad writing.

Q: When writing a novel, how do you personally make the distinction of self publishing that novel or seeking a publisher?
A: With my first traditionally published book, I found them during a time when I did not know what I know now about publishing. With my second published book, my publisher asked me specifically for that book which is why I have two novels with Sweetwater books.

Q: What is the biggest piece of advice you can give to aspiring writers about publishing?
A: Understand that you’re going to get rejection in the publication process, and even if you do succeed, whether you are traditional or self published you will get rejections from readers that are harsh. You just have to learn to let it roll off your back and not take it personally.

Q: Looking back on your writing career, what would you have done differently?
A: I would have started much younger. I would have not been afraid of thinking I was going to get rejected. I would have published sooner, one way or another.

Q: What do you consider to be the best aspect of each publishing method?
A: The best of traditional is seeing your book sitting on a book store shelf. There is something inherently validating in that. The best aspect of self publishing is being able to retain complete creative control over every part of your book.

Q: What do you consider to be the worst?
A: The worst aspect of traditional publishing is the very small amount of money you make for all of the hard work that you do for your book. The worst aspect of self publishing is that it requires a lot of time to get your book ready, including editing, formatting, etc. that you might end up having to pay someone to do.

Q: What advice would you give writers who are interested in publishing and are unsure of which route to take?
A: I would suggest, with the way to marketplace is today, to look into self publishing before traditional because the publishing world is changing. There’s almost more reasons, at this point, to self publish than to traditionally publish. But in the end, it has to be what you feel will work best for you and your lifestyle, as well as the amount of time, money, and work you want to put into your book.

Q: With deadlines being a big deal in the publishing world, how do they differ on each side of the spectrum? How do you go about dealing with each?
A: With traditional publishing, you’re more tightly bound by deadlines than you are with self publishing. With traditional, you have many people who are working on your book and need to have it by a certain time to get their job done. A traditional publisher schedules releases and so you have to have it done by a certain time. With self published its more relaxed because you’re the only one requiring to have it done by a certain time so if you’re not done it’s not the end of the world.

Q: Are there any problems that are unique to women in the publishing world?
A: I actually think it is easy for a woman because many time a woman has more freedom with time to work on her book and work on marketing than a man who might be supporting a family. I don’t think there is a prejudice from a man vs. a woman on who is going to sell more books.

Q: Because we are celebrating Mother’s Day this month, how do you manage your time with writing and motherhood?
A: I have extremely understanding kids who are very supportive of my career and encourage me to write and they even read as I’m writing, so I’m probably luckier in that area than many areas. I don’t have little kids at home, my kids are a bit older. For me, I always prioritize my family first. If there is a family thing, or something they want to do, I do that first before doing my writing. So for me, I don’t generally find that there is a conflict between writing time and family time.

Thank you Cindy for this insightful interview. Be sure to stop by one of her links, follow and thank her for this amazing interview. If anyone has any questions or topics you would like covered in Anyone Can Write be sure to comment below. We will be trying hard to cover topics that will help writers better navigate the publishing world.

♥’s Do Not Have a Gender

As I sit in this coffee house writing the New York Times Bestseller The Definition of Love, (ok, it might be a bestseller in my head, but that’s where it starts). I begin to run out of ideas. What does a writer do in a crowded coffee house when in need of some inspiration? Well you begin to look around and analyze the people around  you. I stare off into the distance and come across an unlikely couple. Their hair doesn’t match. One is blonde, the other a brunette. I laugh to myself and jot this difference in my mental notebook. Then I notice the exchanges between them. The lingering stares filled with pure adoration and comfort. The gentle lip curls as they exchange words barely audible, but easily understood between them. The passionate caresses that marks a sigh of relief on each others face. They have found something so pure, something that the heart desperately desires. A thing that is intangible to some. They have found true love. I stare for inspiration. Others stare because the couple I have been observing are of the same sex.

Love is love. No matter how you look at it. Just as a plant needs water and sun to grow, so does a human need love to flourish. Each human was born with the desire to love and be loved. It isn’t something to be hated or ignored. Love is what makes the world go ’round. If we didn’t love anything then this world would be chaos. Think about it for a second. Without the environmentalist, we would never know what the beach is supposed to look like, what the air is supposed to smell like and what water is really supposed to taste like. This world would be in shambles and you wouldn’t care. Actually, you wouldn’t be around to care, because there would be no one to nourish you and look out for your well being as a child because no one loved you enough to look out for you as an infant.

I know. I know. You don’t want to hear it. However, what exactly is the, dare I say it, hatred with the LGBT community? Lets set aside the religious or scientific aspect of it. Face it, it’s a tired argument. So over it! God made Adam & Eve not Eve & Eva..etc etc. From hormones to brain waves and all the other eclectic things, no one really dives into the issue at hand. The heart wants what the heart wants. Its a fact that falling in love causes a chemical reaction. One cannot control what the heart demands.

There are certain desires that the heart craves that cannot be explained logically. Love. It’s a feeling. Its an emotion that overcomes every inch of reason and all one is left with is an unaltered pure devotion to the person that caused this madness within you. There’s a saying that you can’t control who you love. I believe this. There are many odd couples out there where you wonder, how is it that she’s sooo hot and he’s sooo not? Regardless of what you think, what you say… she looks at him as he is the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to her. Why is it wrong when this look is shared between a woman and a woman or a man and a man? Isn’t it enough that they found someone to share their lives with?

The tides are shifting all over the world and no matter what you believe, this issue is not going to go away. People are fighting for their right to marry who they deem fit and to share a life together without prejudice and without restraint. Laws are being changed all over the place. I was always taught as a child that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. Stand firm in your beliefs, it’s your God given right to do so. It is not, however, your right to judge and to attempt to tarnish a heart desire that someone else has. If it’s not for you, then GREAT! Live your life accordingly. Allow each person to explore their own happiness and wish them the best. Life isn’t about whose wrong or right. It’s about fulfilling the desires of the heart in a safe environment. After all, that is the true meaning of love, isn’t it?

© 2013 Seven Magazine

The Pen Bleeds

Welcome to The Pen Bleeds where poetry is more than rhyme, more than reason, more than words flowing with rhythm; it’s a combination of jagged thoughts, feelings, actions, and a unique language opening minds to see the world from a different perspective.

This Months Featured Poet: Dr. Zoë A. Lewis LewisZoeAnn

This month’s feature is an amazing woman! It is a great honor featuring Dr. Zoë A. Lewis a writer who’s passionate words have the ability to melt the core of the coldest hearts. Her inspiration for penning Poetic Penumbra were African, Asian, and Indo-European muses and goddesses known to incite creativity in poets. In addition to that, Dr. Lewis has racked up several degrees and accomplishments, proving, through resilience and perseverance women can accomplish anything. But don’t be intimidated shes quite humble. We posed seven questions to better familiarize our readers about her influential role models and passion for uplifting women.

Q&A with Dr. Zoë A. Lewis

Seven: What is your definition of a strong woman?

Dr. Zoë A. Lewis: ‘Beautiful woman fights’. My graffiti girl in a favela of Rio De Janeiro says it all.   A strong woman was a young girl that learned how to fight for herself and her beliefs.  All women need to fight prejudice, free their minds and then keep themselves free from being enslaved by what others around her believe a woman should be, in any society.  A young woman creates her unique sense of ‘self worth’. Her self-confidence and inner beauty grace the world because she is strong enough to be gentle; she can give her love freely without fear.   

Seven: Who are your heroines and how have they impacted your life?

Dr. Zoë A. Lewis: How about my ‘favorite’ heroines because there are too many!

Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham, legends of the modern dance movement. I studied dance for years and dreamed once to be a professional dancer. These women were emblematic of freedom and breaking traditions in art, and dance like all things, becomes conventional once its established.  They were leaders in their day because they found a way to capture our emotions with dance movements that were liberated from tradition. Lead, don’t follow was what I captured.

Rosa Parks, Human rights activist.  I grew up during a time of protests and civil unrest – the Vietnam War was on TV every night, and race riots were happening too. Those older than me were protesting in the streets, often with violence. This gentle woman’s nonviolent defiance showed me everyone could challenge the system when it was wrong. I was 13 when I  rode on one of those first desegregated school buses and went to an integrated high school outside of Philadelphia.  Parks’ efforts were relevant to my worldview, teaching me stand up and be heard.

Emilie du Châtelet, French mathematician and physicist  from 1700’s. I didn’t have one female professor in a hard science or mathematics in my undergraduate courses or in medical school in Italy.  I wanted a mentor that was also hot!  This lady was not only brilliant, (she corrected a theory of Newton on kinetic energy), she convinced men to accept her into their intellectual circle when virtually women had none such freedoms. Voltaire, one of her many lovers, declared in a letter to his friend King Frederick II of Prussia that du Châtelet was “a great man whose only fault was being a woman.”  I reckoned like her, it was totally awesome to be smart and sexy and enjoy my woman’s body and mind, no need to be just one of the boys.

Sophia Loren – I lived in Rome, Italy for over ten years, Italian is my language of love.   Sophia Loren’s characters in her films inspired me when I was an ingénue in my twenties to focus on what counts as I became a woman. I wanted to be like her as a mother, lover, wife, friend, comedian, confidant, spaghetti-cooking temptress. But of course, for me, I wanted to be all of  them at once – an Italian multiple personality sex symbol –  and  a serious medical student. It was really fun trying.

Seven: What type of literature, influences, or experiences drives you to create written word?

Dr. Zoë A. Lewis: I was plastered in books most of my life because books grew my imagination and grew my knowledge.  I started to write for others by the time I was in high school, jamming out essays on the floor of the girls bathroom for kids who hadn’t done their assignments, after I’d bartered for something. I simply loved to read and write using my imagination. The force behind writing my Alzheimer’s books came after I was incredibly moved by the loss of an individual with dementia. I wanted to help caregivers, so shared what I knew. That project was a labor of love and compassion. Crazy abandoned love makes us all poets under its influence, whether we write or not – in love, we are all poets.

Seven: Can you share with our readers a time where you called upon your inner strength to encourage and inspire someone?

Dr. Zoë A. Lewis: When I go to work,  each day I start out, I call upon myself to give up wisdom, skills, and bend my ego towards the needs of my patient. I try to encourage every one of them towards health. Often I take care of drug addicts, shackled criminals, homeless folks, people who are sick that break others around them and break themselves.  I look past whoever they are, whatever they have done and try to be present and in the presence of the individual that is in front of me.  I try to inspire them with the reality that love does exist, caring people do exist. I teach that self love starts each of us on the path to our own healing.

Seven: You channeled numerous female goddesses for inspiration to write Poetic Penumbra. What methods or rituals do you use to tap into your creative goddess?

Dr. Zoë A. Lewis: I don’t have any rituals but I practice yoga and work on getting myself still and open to feel beyond what I can see. Of course making love, while being in love, is the greatest way to tap into my creative space, and the poets through time know this. The poetry collection was unusual because I was semiconscious, half asleep when I wrote it. Around 4 am I kept waking up with these words in my head, I just had to write them down. Seemed to me at the time , the energy of  muses, goddesses in spirit were present guiding my imaginative experiences. Love and the art of lovemaking, tapping into ones sensuality, creativity, never seemed more enchanted. I surrendered and let the feelings pour in  and was suddenly able to write without thinking. I blossomed like a big fat peony and exploded pollen poetry.

Seven: What in your life has bought you or given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfillment?

Dr. Zoë A. Lewis: Helping patients to die peacefully.  I did hospice work for many years and of course still do when the need arises.  To know you helped someone by easing their pain, any kind of pain, and then guide them and their loved ones, as far as any of  us can offer guidance up to the  moment we ‘cross over’- a nice euphemism for dying – is just beyond words.  To be filled with compassion  and see a final peace and love overcome them, see it in their eyes, that is the greatest gift I’ve been given.

Seven: Women’s roles in the community have drastically transitioned over the past forty years. How have these changes affected you? How can we improve upon those changes to create a better society?

Dr. Zoë A. Lewis: I am fortunate to be standing on the shoulders of giants that came before me.  My mother did not have the opportunities that I did, her generation and her mother’s before her were  removing obstacles for women.  I am blessed to be exquisitely, unapologetically, unequivocally my own person, able to determine my own path. But we have a lot of work to do if women are still kept from a basic education,  sold like animals into slavery, and female infanticide prevents her born life  in many parts of the world still today. These are current horrors.  We can be the giants for the next generation and mentor other girls to do the same: break rules, break traditions, become self-aware and free their minds from anyone who dictates what a girl or woman should be. We need to teach by example, be what you want to be and fight for it.

Zoë Ann Lewis, MD, FACP   is a nationally recognized Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine physician, speaker, published author, travel writer, photographer, poet, radio show host and healthcare education activist.

She has an undergraduate degree in Biology with departmental honors from Temple University in Philadelphia. She got her medical degree, summa cum laude, from the Università degli Studi di Roma -La Sapienza  Facoltà di Medicina e Chirurgia.  Her graduate doctoral thesis research on melanoma was published in 1993, Oncology.  She completed  her medicine residency at the University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Hospital. She won a post graduate scholarship for research on parasites at the Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand 1994. She was elected to the honorary society of American College of Physicians as a Fellow, FACP. She has other numerous awards and medical publications.

She’s an acclaimed speaker on hospice issues, and received national recognition from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization for her leadership role in the development of new programs for hospice care and end stage dementia patients.  She produces and hosts the  30 minute  radio program,  ‘Hope Through Knowledge Radio for Caregivers’ on blog talk radio, guests from the NHPCO, AARP, national aging and elder care organizations, and award winning authors.  She has presented at the National Council on Aging, American Society on Aging and National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization as a faculty speaker.

She is the author of three books.:  “I hope they know….The Essential Handbook of Alzheimer’s Disease and Care, ” a listed resource with the National Alzheimer’s Association,  and the Spanish translation, “La  Guía Holística para la Enfermedad de Alzheimer”, and Poetic Penumbra.

Her websites, zoealewis.com  and hopethroughknowledge.org, are sites  dedicated to “Hope Through Knowledge,” promoting physician and community education on Alzheimer’s disease and end-of-life care.

Dr. Zoë has 16 years of experience as an internist and hospitalist. She was the Corporate Medical Doctor for Beacon Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc.,(the largest hospice in New England and  she is one of the first certified HPM specialists in the country.)

She held academic positions as Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard School of Medicine, Tufts University Medical School, and University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Currently she  holds three state licenses: Massachusetts, Florida and Pennsylvania and is an independent contractor hospitalist physician and hospice consultant. When not working, she lives in Miami Beach and travels, and produces and hosts her radio shows. She’s been to  45 countries and now writes and photographs her travel experiences for the internet magazine, Travel Curious Often.

For more information on Dr. Zoë A. Lewis please visit:

Website: zoealewis.com

Twitter: twitter.com/zoeannlewis

Facebook: facebook.com/pages/Hope-Through-Knowledge-with-Zoë-A-Lewis-MD-Talk-Radio-for-Caregivers/191572204199518

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/hopethroughknowledge

Blog Talk Radio: blogtalkradio.com/hopethroughknowledge

Books

1. Poetic Penumbra

Itunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/zoe-a.-lewis/id521169283?mt=11 

Lulu.com: http://www.lulu.com/shop/zo%C3%AB-a-lewis/poetic-penumbra/paperback/product-2846354.html

2. I Hope They Know- The Essential Handbook of Alzheimer’s Disease and Care

VBW:http://www.virtualbookworm.com/bookstore/product/I_hope_they_know.html

A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably different.  ~ Melinda Gates

Welcome to our women’s issue!  Seven is celebrating inspirational women across the globe who contributes positively to society in some way, shape, or form.  Who are your female role models? What is your definition of a strong woman?

Women represent a vast majority of the world’s population, and yet are the most underserved, impoverished, and uneducated in comparison to men. Partly, this is because of gender inequality and poverty which marginalizes women as a whole. But when women armored with the essential tools to compete in a male driven society, where odds are stacked against them before conception, they blossom.

This month The Pen Bleeds features the artistic stylings of Dr. Zoe A. Lewis, Shashi Moore, Jill Scott and Maya Angelou, all positive women who inspire others to use their voice and be comfortable in the skin they’re in. See how their verses flow below, and be inspired to pen a piece of your own!


poetic

Untitled 

Why fear confrontation,
if once for love we died?
We ably massacred our enemies,
blood mingled side by side.
No strangers to our glorious past,
no shadows left to fear.
Steady onward towards our future,
rebirth through love is near.
We’ve found each other once again,
but still I’d like to know,
if love finds life eternal each birth,
why souls are want to go?

-by Dr. Zoe A. Lewis

 Essence of a woman

Heavenly beauty of divine handiwork

Preordained with chic elegance

Delicate mingling of strength and poise

Adorned with virtues of inestimable value

Covert, hidden display of aptitudes

Archetypal, classic

Placed on earth to stand beside her

Complement gent

Cherished and charmed

No aorta of abuse should befall

The creation of God

-by Shashi Moore

Tree Like She (for Grandmothers Everywhere)

How many times have you heard the infant cry?

How many leaves have you lost to fall?

How many secrets held?

How often, the dead weight of castrated boys on your arm?

How many younglings lost in the name of lesson?

How many generations?

Fire from fire

Storm from storm have you stood with your feet clinging

And your bones crying for lie down?

How many poets rest their backs against your frame?

Tree How many danced when the wind blew

Or the water tumbled

Or the sun looked and the snow painted?

How many names carved in your heart?

How many lovers rock sweet and right under your blessed shade?

How many moons?

How many knives?

How many destinies have you seen get wet?

And yet you are constant

painstakingly healing and swelling from your greater providence

You have seen the earth green and fresh

Turn to synthetic

Yet you grow

Through fences

Through the concrete

Through wire

Through rapid obliviousness

Through hared swept in neat piles

I watch you sway in the October breeze

and am

up

lifted

everytime

-by Jill Scott

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

-by Maya Angelou

© 2013 Seven Magazine