Cassidy: Is there a message in your guide you want readers to grasp?
Phil, The Blerd Explorer: That you should travel. Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone and experience new things.
Cassidy: What words best describe your book?
Phil, The Blerd Explorer: Food, Hiking, Fried Chicken Festival!
Cassidy: Can you share one highlight from the book?
Phil, The Blerd Explorer: Of course! E-world, like many places in Korea, is built on the hills so be prepared to climb up and down. I highly recommend bringing comfortable walking shoes and water should you travel to the park. The E-world excerpt comes from chapter 6, “The Parks, The Lake, The Festivals, & E-World.”
Cassidy: Which character or part of the book was the most fun to write? Which part was the hardest?
Phil, The Blerd Explorer: The hardest part was the hiking chapter. While hiking is a lot of fun in Korea, I wasn’t able to complete the trail because I got lost. The most fun part was eating and trying the various street foods at the local markets.
Cassidy: How do you combat writer’s block? Do you have any advice for other writers?
Phil, The Blerd Explorer: When it comes to writing, take your time and don’t try to force it. Should you get writer’s block, take a break, go for a walk, and come back to it when you’re ready.
Cassidy: What marketing techniques have you used to sell your book and which ones have been most successful?
Phil, The Blerd Explorer: Using Instagram and also reaching out to various Black podcasters have been effective.
Cassidy:What projects are you currently working on?
Phil, The Blerd Explorer: Right now I’m taking a break from writing. This summer 2021, I will begin Project Korea where I’ll write a travel guide for the whole country. I’ll spend the summer in Busan gathering research material.
Cassidy: Thank you! Please share your social media and book contact information, so the readers and I can show support.
Phil, The Blerd Explorer: Thank you! I appreciate the support, and I look forward to sharing my future explorations.
Disclaimer: I will recreate events, locales, and conversations from my memories of them. In order to maintain their anonymity, in some instances, I will change the names of private citizens. I will also change identifying characteristics and details such as their physical properties, occupations, and places of residence.
Trigger Warning: Please be advised. These entries will detail varying levels of abuse, systemic racism, and mysogeny. If any of these areas are psychological triggers for you, please do not read these entries.
Attempting to separate me from my heritage is a fruitless battle. I can remember back to lessons I learned from my mother, father, grandmother, and aunt. They taught me my cultural identity around the time I entered elementary school. As I grew a little older, they retold the horrors our ancestors endured to maintain what little cultural identity they were stripped of. After being ripped from their homes, they inevitably cobbled together what remained of their culture with an entirely new one. It is no wonder that when I encountered my first brush with racism in second grade, I was able to immediately identify what was happening and call it out. To make a long story short, a white classmate of mine told me I wouldn’t be able to attend her birthday party because her dad said Black people weren’t invited. (I’m sure he didn’t mean for her to regurgitate his words verbatim). I plainly responded to her by saying her dad was a racist.
As a young adult in the workplace, I noticed nuances of racism. They’re often referred to as microaggressions. While microaggressions in the workplace should not be tolerated, I handle them in a decisive and proactive manner. A source I did not expect to receive microaggressions from was my fellow church members. Let me clarify. I did not expect to experience it with other Black American church members, specifically older members who’d lived through and still bore the scars of segregation. But maybe that’s why the microaggressions originated from them. I’ll perhaps address this theory in another blog entry.
When I saw the posts from survivors of a youth ministry once known as 220 and its internship, 220i, I wrestled with whether or not to speak because I dare not detract from the mission at hand. However, I feel there were things done in the dark at the megachurch over periods of time, which cultivated the toxic environment. It didn’t just start in the church’s youth ministry. I believe it was there well before its inception. I personally witnessed it in the older people in the adult ministries.
I had a mentor at the church, who was an older Black woman. She fixated on my natural hair. (I’ll refer to her as Hannah for privacy reasons). During a casual one-on-one lunch, she changed the subject to appearance. She went so far as to subtly point out a white woman in the restaurant and ask what I thought of the woman’s hair. If you know me and my reactions, you probably know what facial expression Hannah received. Hannah went on to say we (meaning Black people) were the conquered; therefore, we were to conform to the standards of the conqueror. Her assertion was followed by the statement that I was very intelligent, but men love beauty.
No one should be judged for their hair/body or their self-expression. By perpetuating eurocentric standards of beauty, Hannah and other mentors at the church were basically enforcing slave codes in a modern day setting.
The conversation I had with Hannah was one of the catalysts for my transition out of that church. Among other reasons, like its toxicity, I refused to continue to support a church where my identity, worth, and well-being as a Black woman were devalued. The church’s culture, as a whole, needs to change, and people held accountable.
Cassidy: Welcome, JC Miller and M.R. Spain! Please give our readers an introduction of your shared business, Jess Mo’ Books, and a little about your book, They Call Me Gomer…
JC: Hi Cassidy, we are JC Miller and M.R. Spain; otherwise known as Jess and Mo of Jess, Mo’ Books LLC. We are authors and the LLC founders of the indie boutique publishing company producing inspirational content that glorifies God. Currently, we have five published titles: Finding God in the Kitchen, I Am Rahab: A Novel (a three-part series), and They Call Me Gomer… We are working on other creative outlets, such as our periodical digital magazine, JessMoBooks, and a t-shirt design featuring our reading initiative, Black Girls Read.
Cassidy: Jess Mo’ Books has a lot coming our way. I’m looking forward to it!
What inspired you to write your book as well as pursue entrepreneurship?
JC: I adore Bible stories and have a sincere desire to bring unsung biblical characters into a modern light. For instance, my latest novel, They Call Me Gomer… was inspired by the book of Hosea. Gomer was the promiscuous woman the prophet Hosea was told to marry. She represented the people’s waywardness, and Hosea’s commitment to her was a symbol of God’s never-ending love for humankind.
M.R.: We were inspired by our faith, and the willingness to step out on it to pursue our dreams. We saw the vision, made it plain, and we are running with it.
Cassidy: Amen! Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
JC: My books are primarily about deliverance to the backslider. My intention in recreating stories like these is that all might realize God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Although we are unfaithful, He is the faithful lover of our souls.
Cassidy: Can you share one highlight from the book?
JC: Sure, in my latest novel, They Call Me Gomer… I decided, this time, to include some poetry. Many may not know I’m an aspiring poet. *laughs* Here are two separate poems from the book. The first is from the introduction, and this verse inspired me by the prophet Hosea. “Israel is swallowed up; now she is among the nations like something no one wants.”
In They Call Me Gomer…, the main character, Go-Go, feels as though she’s watching her life from the inside of a beast.
They call me Gomer, but who is she?
Another brown-skinned girl in this overpopulated world withdrawn in her own skin?
Invisible to men?
Misplaced amongst the nation…like a worthless thing.
A beast came and swallowed me whole.
I’m on the inside looking outside.
I hear with its ears.
I speak with its voice. A language, not mine.
I’m in a beast, or is the beast my mentality?
These were my invisible years.
This one is an even shorter one from part 6 of the book. Here the main character loses her diary and proceeds to submit her thoughts on pieces of a paper bag, which she uses to illustrate her current situation.
Brown paper bag letters
Words written for no one to see
Brown paper bag type situation
The trash in the street
Brown paper bag livin’
There go my dreams
I’m just hoping these brown paper bags don’t stifle me.
Cassidy: Beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing your poetry selections with us. *smiles* As a writer, poetry was and is still my first love.
Which character or part of the book was the most fun to write and which part was the hardest?
JC: Creating Gomer was fun, being that our personalities are opposites. Gomer said the things many wish they could and did things most would not. Beginning a book is always the most challenging part for me, but I stay in that pocket once I find my groove.
Cassidy: I agree. The beginning is difficult. It’s tricky finding the perfect starting point.
You’ve written quite a few books so far. Do you have any words of advice for other authors for combating writer’s block?
JC: The cure for writer’s block is to write. Write any and all things until something sticks. Maybe also consider keeping a diary and or notes.
Cassidy: A creative journal of sorts is a good idea.
Speaking of the other hats you wear, how is it being an entrepreneur? What are the best and worst parts of it?
M.R.: The best part about being an entrepreneur is having creative freedom.
The worst part about being an entrepreneur is that you tend to work more off-hours than you would if you were at a regular 9-to-5.
JC: I concur. *laughs*
Cassidy: You are right about that! *smiles* What advice would you give to entrepreneurs struggling to balance their life and business?
M.R.: When it seems as if success is very unreachable, don’t give up. Remind yourself that you already took those initial steps to fulfill your dreams, but be realistic with your goals, and remind yourself that you can manifest them.
JC: Set aside time for yourself. Even if it’s only for an hour or two a day, write or do something for your business and mental health. Baby steps are better than giant steps. Also, scheduling your social media posts for the entire week helps. I use the Crowdfire app.
Cassidy: Realistic goals and planning are surely assets for any entrepreneur.
What marketing techniques have you used to sell your books, service(s), and/or product(s), and which ones have been most successful?
M.R.: Amazon, Canva, Bonfire, and collaborations with other authors and entrepreneurs.
JC: Creating fanfare at least six months before your book releases helps. Get people involved with the anticipation by creating fun posts and great giveaways. And know that even when it feels like no one is watching, they are.
Cassidy: I’m sure an author reading this interview appreciates the words of encouragement. *grins*
Where do you see your business in three years?
M.R.: I see our business flourishing with more book titles, not just from us, but from other writers we have helped accomplish their dreams of becoming published authors.
JC: I see a complete catalog of diverse books, movies, and a series that not only entertains but inspires people to do and be more for the kingdom of God.
Cassidy: Then, we will be waiting in anticipation of what is to come. Thank you both for sharing your wisdom and vision with us! Please share your social media and business contact information, so we can support you both and stay connected as your new projects are released.
JC: Thank you for having us! I included our information, but any readers should feelsm free to reach out to us on social media. We are happy to hear from readers and authors alike!
Michelle: Hi, everyone! I’m Michelle P. Jones, and the most recent book I published is Desperate Housewives of Biblical Proportions. It chronicles the lives of the seven matriarchs of Genesis, their physical and/or spiritual relationship with barrenness, and how their choices turned into Generational Curses that still plagued the Jews today. It also show everyone the damaging consequences when we live a life of barrenness where our lack controls our today and our tomorrows for generations.
Cassidy: What inspired you to write your book?
Michelle: It was a divine assignment. It’s the culmination of a project that began as Vacation Bible School literature and grew into a book that speaks to how barrenness manifests itself in all of our lives.
Cassidy: Is there a message in your novel you want readers to grasp?
Michelle: That there is an answer and solution for the barrenness in your life.
Cassidy: Which character or part of the book was the most fun to write? Which part was the hardest?
Michelle: I enjoyed writing about Hagar she represents so many women today who have compromised themselves to have what always looked attractive and appealing. The harder part to write about involved Leah because of the real pain she experienced when she consistently compared herself to her sister, Rachel, and never saw her own value and worth.
Cassidy: How do you combat writer’s block? Do you have any advice for other writers?
Michelle: For each of my books, I scheduled the writing process and wrote during those times only. I kept my writing relevant by writing for a blog and magazines to have an outlet for the noise that sometimes came into my heart and mind. Noise that easily could have caused a block for me.
Cassidy: That is some very sound advice. An outlet to channel excess creativity through is a must.
Is there something your enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? Is there anything you aren’t fond about in entrepreneurship?
Michelle: The best part of being entrepreneur is being of service and sharing my knowledge, tools, and wisdom. The worst part of being an entrepreneur is, due to a lack of resources, sometimes I have to wait on implementing different aspects of programming until the resources are available.
Cassidy: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs struggling to balance their life and business?
Michelle: For some balance is an illusion. I would say make a point of keeping a regular schedule of self-care activities. It will help you create the balance in your life you desire. Remember, you are the most important person in your life, and you should treat yourself as such.
Cassidy: What marketing techniques have you used to sell your books, service(s) and/or product(s) and which ones have been most successful?
Michelle: Creating a community of supporters has been my favorite marketing tool. It has created a momentum that translated into sales. We work so hard in getting testimonies and referrals. By creating a community of supporters you have both within the same group of people.
Cassidy: Where do you see your business in three years?
Michelle: I see myself fully implementing my Authorpreneur Academy membership structure, where members can learn at the times available to them and remain knowledgeable in their chosen field.
Cassidy: Your insight has been valuable to me and our readers. Thank you! Please share your social media and business contact information, so we can continue to follow, support, and glean from you.
Michelle: You are welcome and thank you! Here are a list of my platforms.
I have written about not despising small beginnings on more than one occasion. If I had to pinpoint when I’ve written about it the most, I would settle on these pieces being written during periods of transition. Transition can be exhausting. It can even be demeaning because some transitions require a person to revert back to square one and rebuild.
As someone rebuilds, people may question his or her qualifications or experience. Entrepreneurs face this dilemma constantly. If they open a new business, they have to start somewhere. There has to be a first sale, a first testimonial, and a first repeat client. While it is reasonable for people to request more information about their experience before services are purchased, it should not cause the entrepreneur to question his or her legitimacy if he or she is putting in the actual work to build the business.
For any entrepreneurs facing the challenge of a small beginning and questioning their legitimacy, I offer this advice… continue to network, continue to educate yourselves, and continue to forge the foundation of your businesses.
There are mentorship and educational opportunities, which can help you gain business training using cost effective methods.
Here are several I’ve come across:
The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), a nonprofit organization, can assist you with fulfilling your business ownership goals and achieve greater success through mentorship. Find a SCORE business mentor here.
Online courses through Alison are useful for people who prefer virtual learning.
There are also grants made available through nonprofit organizations, specifically targeting small business ownership. The SBA offers grants for entrepreneurs, but they are limited. You’ll find a listing of other small business grants, here.
As you comb through resources, reflect on your ultimate goals. Are they short-term, long-term or both? What does strategic planning look like for your business?
Remember, every great company began somewhere. Your efforts and vision are no less admirable or worthy. So, keep your eyes and ears open. Help is out there.
Cassidy: Welcome, Shaylon! Please give our readers an introduction of yourself and a brief explanation of your business, Book Mecca.
Shaylon: My name is Shaylon Scott, and I am the Founder of Book Mecca. Book Mecca is an online literary platform and bookstore that highlights Black authors and their stories.
Cassidy: To give our readers more insight into Book Mecca’s offerings, please give a rundown of your products and services.
Shaylon: It’s important to us that our stories, magic, and melanin glow is told by us and shared for generations. The best way to learn about a culture, even your own, is through reading a book. We seek to amplify the voices of Black authors through a personally curated online bookstore, virtual and in-person interviews as well as hosting and facilitating book themed events.
Cassidy: On that note, who or what inspired you to pursue entrepreneurship?
Shaylon: Entrepreneurship was always a retirement idea for me growing up. I always felt as if a steady paycheck was what my family needed and that my ideas were not strong enough to stand on their own. It wasn’t until I fully tested the feasibility of my business and idea through a women’s entrepreneurship course from WINGS of Dallas that I fully saw the possibility. They encouraged me to see my passion project as a purpose and not a hobby.
Cassidy: It sounds like the journey toward entrepreneurship was a gradual process. What would you say are the upsides to being an entrepreneur, and what are the downsides?
Shaylon: The best part about being an entrepreneur is seeing your dreams leave your mind and see others enjoy and embrace it. The worse part is the constant self doubt. You have to continually speak over yourself to encourage yourself when things are going great and when they aren’t.
Cassidy: I completely agree. Speaking affirmations over oneself can have a major impact on us and our success.
Along the way there have surely been milestones. Would you mind listing some of your greatest achievements or accomplishments you are proud of?
Shaylon: Some of my greatest achievements are interviewing six New York Times best selling authors in my first year, of which four of them are now slated for tv show/movie adaptations. Working with these authors early allowed me to establish my voice, theme, and the opportunity to connect with more nationally known authors.
Cassidy: That is an amazing achievement and one to be proud of. I’m sure it’s going to be awesome continuing to observe their evolution as I’m sure they will feel the same way about yours.
Getting to such a point is no small order, of course. For entrepreneurs who are working towards their own crowning achievements, what advice would you give them if they’re struggling to maintain a work/life balance?
Shaylon: I would advise any entrepreneurs to fully use their calendars and not try to remember everything themselves. As you grow, your calendars will fill up with all sorts of opportunities. You will need to prioritize and fully engage in opportunities that align with your mission and your true availability not your desire to do it all. You are still human, so it’s ok to say no or even better, not yet.
Cassidy: I concur. Giving oneself grace is integral to the delicate balance of entrepreneurship. Even the most organized and efficient people have to know their limits and practice self-care.
What marketing techniques have you used to sell your services and products? Which ones have been most successful?
Shaylon: I have focused primarily on social media and book club/author groups to share about our services and resources. Instagram has been especially fruitful in developing strong relationships with authors, famous and new. Facebook has been a great resource to engage and educate the community searching for resources and a place for their work.
Cassidy: I see, a combination of virtual and in-person methods. As you market your services, are you working on any projects concurrently?
Shaylon: The Pass the Voice Initiative is an effort to bring Black literature into the hands of future readers wherever they are. With the establishment of free, little libraries in high-traffic businesses where African Americans frequent and where literature will be valued, it is a way for us to always have access to great literature and not feel overwhelmed by the variety of content available in larger libraries. We are bringing our stories closer to home. Our initiative starts in North Texas because there are so many African-American families who have moved to the area and seek to have their voices heard and stories told as well. This initiative also provides a way for families to share literature and give back on a consistent basis and become more cognizant of the authors and stories they are reading and providing to their children. The funding will be used for the following: (Starting in North Texas (4-5) and as we grow we will move to more locations)
*Creation/Building of the little libraries
*Purchase of YA books/Children Books/Adult Books (book drives will also take place for continued inventory)
*Marketing/maintenance supplies/scouting locations/expansion goals to more counties (Initiative Link: gf.me/u/yvkdpb)
Cassidy: Fantastic strategic planning! With all of these projects and initiatives in progress, where do you see your business in 3 years?
Shaylon: In three years, I see Book Mecca as a well-known independent bookstore and resource for Black authors, famous and independent. It would serve as a go-to place for Black lit for readers and authors.
Cassidy: Your vision is truly needed and truly inspiring. Thank you! Please share your social media and business contact information, so our readers can pass along your resources as well as support you and your initiatives.
Shaylon: No problem and thank you! I’ve listed my most frequently used social media and website information. Please contact me through these channels if you are interested in any resources or services Book Mecca provides or if you have any questions. Thanks again!
Pressure brings forth condensed, refined objects. It’s an understatement to refer to 2020 as a pressurized force. Reflecting on it, I measured the rest of my life’s experiences: personal illness, layoffs, the death of my father, the end of an engagement, the loss of friendships, and the literal destruction of most of what I own in a natural disaster.
All I can say is… I lived through it.
I grew. I adapted. I pushed forward. God knew my heart, my desire to pursue purpose. In my eyes, He has honored my request by giving me the endurance and will to fight.
I stubbornly remain focused; I refuse to give up.
For anyone who is struggling to move past a hardship because it’s weighing you down, seek God. He loves us in all our states of being. When the people around us can’t accept or empathize with us, He fully embraces us. It won’t happen instantly, and things won’t immediately change. Healing is a process. But you can live through it.
I pray God gives you the will, the supernatural strength to live through it.
Blessings and breakthrough to you and your loved ones in the new year,
Bianca: Well, I am just a girl obsessed with the magic of conversations. Whether it is reading one, watching one, or holding one, I love conversations and the intimacy they create. I am aware this is weird, haha! I have been a talker my entire life. I write about that in my book; it didn’t matter which seat I was seated in the classroom, I would get even the quietest student talking. While it led to countless PTA meetings, it was also passion shining through. I am amazed at how a bit of vulnerability can create space for a big bit of impact and change.
I am a motivational speaker, life coach, and an author. My business, bc. houses several subsidiaries. The biggest of which is, Ahead! The Ahead Retreat and Workshops strive to enhance the well-being of women by equipping them with tools that can be used in everyday life to thrive spiritually, physically, and mentally to focus on all that is Ahead.
Cassidy: It seems like you’ve really connected with the women in your ministry. What inspired you to write your book, and why did you decide to pursue entrepreneurship?
Bianca: I wanted to create a space that was relatable, with concepts that were easy to grasp, and consequently make a relationship with God easier to navigate. At some point, the idea changed to capturing it in the form of a book. As I began to compile, I committed to thirty new entries. When combined there were exactly 70 entries! So I researched the number 70 and learned it was a number emphasizing spiritual awakening and enlightenment, inner-wisdom and understanding, discernment and thoughtfulness, endurance and persistence of purpose. I decided to title the book 70 Days, 70 Ways He Speaks to Me because each of the entries grew from an encounter with God, whether big or small. It is my hope readers will find Him in these pages in new ways while being inspired to keep shining their light brightly in order to illuminate the way for others to follow.
Cassidy: I love how purposeful you were with compiling your book. As you combined the entries, did you notice a message began to form in your book?
Bianca: Yes!! Developing a relationship with God does not have to be hard. He is not concerned with perfection. He just wants you.
Cassidy: So true. It’s always refreshing and encouraging to read a book like yours where a relationship with God is not characterized as a complex dynamic.
On that note, would you mind sharing a highlight from the book? *smiles*
Bianca: Of course! “One last analogy for the road. Just as a fisherman goes for a day at the lake, you must go to the Lord. As you stand next to a sea of faith filled with blessings waiting to be claimed, you must stand flat foot and firm. You must have solid and rooted faith. You must know burdens can be bait if used correctly. The same thing you are holding on to, once you cast it into the sea of faith, God will grab hold of it and you, turning your situation into one that is a blessed one. Remember, you must throw it out to God to get even better blessings in return. Let go and let God.”
Cassidy: Amen. Holding on to our burdens keeps us from finding peace and exercising faith in God. It’s a powerful lesson to learn.
While you were compiling your book, I know you said you wrote the first set of entries separately; however, did you ever experience writer’s block while writing the second half? And if so, do you have any advice for other writers?
Bianca: Yes! This is so real! When it occurs though, the best advice is to step away and step into life. Everyday living gives inspiration to write. Create a system in capturing notes in a moment when you feel inspired to.
Cassidy: That’s insightful advice, especially for writers who may push themselves to meet writing goals. They may need to pace themselves and rediscover the joy in it instead.
On top of being an author, you’re an entrepreneur. What would you say are some of the best and worst aspects of being an entrepreneur?
Bianca: Freedom to just be! I know it may sound so cliche, but there is so much truth in that statement. I love the ability to dream up something and then make it happen. Or the freedom to create events, or workshops that fit the needs of [people] I have been speaking with. Sometimes as women, we adapt to what life has given us and never heal from what we have experienced. I love creating spaces where instead of just being a listening ear, I can also provide a way to let people know that not only are they heard, but they are not alone.
Bianca: On the contrasting side of this, the worst part is also that same freedom. No one is going to make you do anything, so there is a certain level of discipline, accountability, and responsibility needed to keep your business afloat. You will never be able to pass the blame to anyone else.
Cassidy: You’re certainly right about the last part. The buck stops with you. From the outside looking in, some people may see the flexibility in entrepreneurship without realizing the amount of discipline it takes to maintain a business.
For entrepreneurs who may need guidance, what advice would you give them if they are struggling to balance their life and business?
Bianca: My best advice is awareness and responsiveness! Admit the struggle! Once you admit it is a struggle, you aim to find solutions. What software do I need, how much time do I need to learn more of this or that, what types of people should I be around to learn from, what type of person is my cliente type, where are they? All important questions to ask and access where you are. Then begin to ask, how does it fit in with blank, how can I be more efficient, what things are no longer serving me?
Cassidy: Excellent points!
I’m sure they would also like to know what advice you may have for promoting their businesses. For instance, what marketing techniques have you used to sell your book and services, and which ones have been most successful?
Bianca: My most consistent form of outreach has been my website with planned or scheduled emails and social media. I am not ashamed to send emails weekly, nor am I ashamed to boost a post to random strangers on social media. Just go for it!
Cassidy: Yes, consistent communication is a must.
You’ve accomplished a great deal. Where do you see your business in the next three years?
Bianca: In three years, I see my business reaching even more women than I can think to imagine. I hope to have established a retreat tour that will move from state to state bringing countless ladies hope and a refreshing outlook on life. I hope to be doing this full time with no regrets or hesitations.
Cassidy: I pray you are able to do it full time as well!
Thank you so much for sharing your passion for ministry and entrepreneurial knowledge. *grins* Please share your social media and business contact information with our readers. We would like to support you and share your resources.
Bianca: Thank you very much! I appreciate the support!
I’ve provided my website address, link to my book, 70 Days, 70 Ways He Speaks To Me, on Amazon, and my social media contact information. I look forward to hearing from you all!