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.”