Deonna Kelli Sayed

Writer. Storyteller. Coffee Drinking Bad Ass.

This past two weeks have been filled with amazing, wonderful creative people.

Let’s talk about love, Atlanta!

Brunch with the Atlanta crowd. Also pictured: Alan Howard

Brunch with the Atlanta crowd. Also pictured: Alan Howard

I had the honor of participating in the Atlanta Salaam, Love reading with contributors Alan Howard and Anthony Springer. I read an excerpt of “Even Muslim Girls Get the Blues” from Love,Inshallah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women. That essay started me on an amazingly transformative journey, and one I was happy to discuss during the reading.

The highlight of the Atlanta weekend was finally meeting Love, Inshallah and Salaam, Love editors, Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi. They brought me on a year ago to help edit LoveInshallah.com, a process that kept us in touch on a daily basis. However, I had not had the honor of meeting them face-to-face.

The weekend was a blur of amazing folks, including the awesome weight-lifting Kulsoom B. Abdullah, who took these fabulous pictures.

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Reading from my Love, Inshallah essay.

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The entire panel, which was moderated by Aisha Saeed. Anthony Springer is reading his Salaam, Love essay.

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Brunch time in Atlanta. Love, Inshallah and Salaam, Love editor Ayesha Mattu is pictured. 

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Love, Inshallah and Salaam, Love contributors with the editors.

Several of us imbibed with chai and conversation until the wee morning hours. One of the best conversations I’ve had in years occurred in the living room of Young Adult author (and Love, Inshallah contributor), Aisha Saeed, along with her husband and two adorable sons. Also present — Salaam, Love’s Alan Howard and Ayesha Mattu. I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to have had that weekend with these amazing people.

One tidbit that stayed with me is when Ayesha reminded us that Islam’s legacy is one of love, and it is time that we start to reclaim this.

stories and chai

Speaking of chai and stories, Painted Hands author Jennifer Zobair has launched a new site called story and chai. I am honored to have my essay, “Ghostwriting the Self” as one inaugural entry. Aisha from Atlanta (who has an overly enthusiastic love for the grocery store chain, Publix) is also featured on the site speaking about writing YA literature.

In my essay, I briefly outline my writing journey and I reflect upon writing’s magical alchemy:

For those who think their story doesn’t matter, or feel too afraid or ashamed to share it, I assure you that it does.  Someone out in the world somewhere needs to read what you have to say. They are waiting for verification that somebody else feels like they do. Writing is invocation; it is a way of making things happen. When you find the bravery to tell your story, that is the moment you become something bigger than yourself. That is when you call the world to you.

Jennifer Zobair is a participant in this weekend’s The Muslim Protagonist conference at Columbia University, along with other fabulous Muslim writers and thinkers. Congrats to Jennifer and the other authors for rocking the snot out of things. 

On Being a Creative Protagonist…

I finally attended The Southern Entrepreneurship in the Arts Conference at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. I’ve intended to go for years and finally got around to it in 2014. The event reassured me that I am on the right path in developing my creative platform. I bumped into food and travel photographer Dhanraj Emanuel and several other super cool folks.

A few highlights from the conference:

  • Musicians, artists, writers are no longer “discovered.” This model is outdated and irrelevant, so stop waiting for someone to “find you.” These days, you have to build your audience by creating work and engaging your potential public through social networking. A web presence is an absolute must for anyone serious about their artistic craft.
  • Every creative professional, no matter at what point in their careers, often begins each new project with feelings of inadequacy and the fear of  failure. Clinical psychologist and writer Anne Paris shared her perspectives from twenty years of experience with artists and writers. It doesn’t matter how successful or well-known one becomes, people still become overwhelmed with the creative process and producing a product for public consumption. It is OK to acknowledge these feelings, but allow yourself the experience of  immersion in your work rather than getting overly stressed by deadlines and (the lack of) daily progress. The reasons artists often procrastinate with their projects is rooted in personal fears of success, fear of failure of just the fear of the Self.  It is also important to accept whatever creative process works for you.
  • Don’t put your talent into one endeavor. Successful creatives need to be able to diversify, a point brought home by artist/ illustrator Kyle Webster in the event’s closing keynote address. Talent and hard work goes a long way, as does a little luck. But if you don’t diversify and invest your talent in multiple directions, you aren’t going to get very far. He provided the analogy of dominoes. You want the domino effect when it comes to your work, but you have to make sure the trail isn’t going to falter by going only in one direction. You want your dominoes to branch out in multiple directions. Once you’ve got something in motion, it keeps going…and going..and going.

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