In Transition…

June marked the one-year anniversary of the site launch of Writing While Black. I originally started blogging while in grad school in November 2009. Remember that horrendous black background with white text? So glad that’s gone. To be taken serious as a writer I got rid of the WordPress site, purchased the domain and hired a web designer for the site you’re viewing now. A year later I’m still still standing.

I’d be lying if I said I was happy with the design of my website. When I saw my writer friend Arielle Loren’s new design I fawned over it, sending the link to anyone who would listen. “That’s how I want my site to look,” I’d excalaim. It has the sophistication, the graphics, the clean layout that I desperately desire.

My growing unhappiness with my site has parltly led to the once a month posts.

In April I trekked uptown to Columbia University to hear Ebony’s Editor-in-Chief, Amy DuBois Barnett speak. She was very honest, transparent even in how she achieved such success.

Something I’ve been racking my brain to figure out is: Is Writing While Black turning prospective employers off? Am I being pigeonholed or put in a box as the “black chick who only writes about black issues?” What better opportunity than to ask a black woman who has been the EIC of three national magazines; and who has worked for a variety of a publications?

When I asked my question I made sure to mention that sometimes black publications are the only ones that will give writers of color who are just starting their careers a chance, but then it’s a catch-22 when you only have clips from those same types of publications. I admire DuBois Barnett even more for her response. She acknowledged that it is an issue, and that it’s something you have to fight against. Always.

“I fought against this my whole career,” said Dubois Barnett. “But you have to do it. If you don’t no one else is. No one is going to think ‘oh she writes about race, but I bet she can write this travel piece about Rome.'”

If the woman who was influential in cultivating Teen People, Honey magazine and now re-branding the iconic Ebony magazine said it, I’m going to pay attention and take heed.

Branding, branding, branding. I really abhor thinking about branding when I’m trying to create art. Yes, writing is an art form. I don’t know that I want to brand WWB. Is that really me? What does the WWB brand look like? What type of journalist/writer do I want to be known as? In other words, what topic will I be the go-to person for?

When I think of branding I immediately think of my unofficial mentor Demetria Lucas. When it comes to branding the chick is a genius. Who else do you know that in four years has used their day job to become the face of everything relationship wise? She has essentially parlayed her blog that started at Honey.com into a column with Essence, an award-winning blog, a book, radio spots, TV appearances, panel hosting, and sponsored events. You name it she’s doing it.

Any time she’s asked about branding she says she never thought about it, it just kind of happened organically. I believe that. But I do think she’s been strategic in every move she’s made that has advanced her career.

Me? I don’t want to do all of that strategizing in terms of a brand. I just want to write, dude. Now there have been people completely successful who are not branded per se- the kris ex, dream hampton, Toure, Danyel Smith’s of the world. However, they came up in a different era. And my pen game is not on any of their levels. Also, each of those people have a niche. You want an essay/prose feature story on a hip-hop artist like Jay Z that most don’t have access to, go to dream. Anything hip-hop related you hit up kris ex. Music of all genres, Danyel’s your woman. I don’t have that niche or ill pen game so branding is not optional for me.

I say all that to say I’m in a weird transitional phase professionally and with my blog. Hence the lack of consistent posts. I can’t just change the name all willy nilly since the domain is purchased. Also, starting out in the industry I don’t need anything that could hinder my success.

I won’t be redesigning this blog. It will be shut down at some point. But writtenbyBene.com or beneviera.com will be live…sooner rather than later hopefully.

I hope you will continue on the journey with me in my new space. And I hope you continue to check for me on online publications and print magazines. Eventually I hope you all will buy my book. I have two stories appearing in both the August and September issues of Essence, so please pick those up! I appreciate everyone’s support. Without readers, my words mean very little. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

I have talked to some well known writers/editors who say I could totally brand Writing While Black, and that writing about “black issues” is not a bad thing. Then there are those who think it’s very limiting. I’d really like an honest non-black writer/editors opinion though. Oh what I would give to live in a world where these things didn’t matter. Where writing about black issues didn’t make you “too militant” or “overly conscious.”

  • Radiya Trusty

    In reading this it seems like your greatest limitation at the moment is yourself, B. I think what's most important to remember is that your brand is a representation of YOU and how you want the world to view yourself. I love the concept of Writing While Black because while you have the freedom of any writer to discuss any topic you please, it also highlights that (both as a writer/journalist and as a person) you will ALWAYS have your culture and history as a foundation for your beliefs and the way you see things. What happens if you view Black not as an inhibition but as a platform, an illustration that a Black woman CAN address other issues while still maintaining pride in herself and where she comes from? It seems to me that this identity crisis with your blog is parallel to one with your career. I know for me a lot of things came together and made sense when I reassessed my life plan. And what made me happiest was that in doing so I realized that I didn't have to neglect or omit aspects that didn't seem to fit, I just had to get more creative about how I assimilated them. Tap into that creativity, girl! And stop selling yourself so damn short.

  • 1. Thanks for the shout out! I wish I could take credit for my redesign, but you already know that I can't code worth a darn lol.

    2. I'd recommend that you port this blog over to your new site and just build new content on top of it. I think it's a mistake to throw out all of the content that you've published on this site. But I agree that writtenbybene or beneviera.com is a better way to brand yourself. Just no need to completely trash your roots.

    3. I'd also redirect this url (writingwhileblack.com) to your new site, so you don't lose any of your readers. It's still you, even if you're no longer focusing on black issues. And you should give your fans the opportunity to have access to all your old writingwhileblack posts.

    In short, when you take this site down, save all your content by porting over your blog posts to your new site (your web developer should know how to do this), and redirect your URL. I know you hate branding, but yes, you're right, we're not coming up in the same age as dream and them. If you need help brainstorming, just let me know. I'm always down for a work session 😉

    Much love sis!

  • Courtney C.

    Ok, let me just say you do have an ill pen game! I most definitely admire the works of the other writers that you listed because I have been following their careers for a while and I go to them for inspiration, but I also turn to you for inspiration. I'm an aspiring journalist still in college who has been on your career since the early days when you first started this site. Wherever your writing moves to just know that I will follow and there is no doubt in my mind that when the time is right your work will be just as well recognized and respected as dream hampton, Demetria Lucas, Toure and a host of other great writers. Trust me when I tell you, you have the talent. And I can't wait to get my Essence in the mail so I can check out your work!

    • writtenbyBene

      Girl (?), you're about to make me tear up. Don't do that! I'm so sensitive these days. LOL! But thank you so much for your comment. I appreciate your support always. And I think you're right. Sometimes we are our own worst critics, ya know? Messages like yours makes me happy because inspiring others is what it's all about. 🙂

      @Arielle: Girl you know I will hit you up too. Thanks for the info and the words of advice. I'm reading that e-book you sent me too. Good stuff.

  • Always an inspiration. We've had some talks like this before, not enough but I'm sure they are to come. I'm proud of your transition. I can't wait to see the transition. I know the hard work is taking place. I'd have to pick up a copy and get you to sign them 😀

  • Courtney

    I don't see how the two have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, I think your voice would be much more powerful if you continued to write about "black" issues in between posts of non-race related topics… because if your intent is to create a safe space to voice your thoughts and ideas about race-related topics, then sure… separate the two blogs. But if your intent is to change the word with your words… then I think you may want to write about both in the same space. I think most people who need to understand forms of oppression (men and sexism, whites and racism, heterosexuals and homophobia, etc.) usually do not actively seek out content or forums where people are discussing these issues. But if Mr. Straight White Joe Schmoe is linked to an article about Mars, which happens to be right above an article about White Privilege… I think good things can happen. Or more trolling lol.

    That said, I've enjoyed your blog very much. This is my first comment and I wish you the most success in whatever direction you choose. You're supremely talented. The world needs more young black female writers – both to write and to be acknowledged.

  • I've been following you for a minute now (crazy how we stumbled upon each other but you taught me a valuable lesson!!) I've been going through something similar with my site and constantly pray for guidance and direction so that where I am needed I will be present. You are a great inspiration to the up and coming dreams, Danyel's and Toure's. I'm so happy for this movement of thought-provoking writers in this day and digital age! You all help those like me who want to give up, but are challenged to better our skills and keep at it! Praying for you sis!

    • writtenbyBene

      Thanks sis! That really means a lot. And you can't quit. Ever. It gets better babe. 🙂

  • It's still Just the beginning and look how God is moving! I am proud of you, beyond words….with meaning! I'm looking Forward to it all….especially when we are old and gray, going over "Remember when". I am humbled to have you as my best friend! Love you much!…..