Nina "Lyrispect" Ball

The True Poetic Justice

They say a woman with class and favor showcases it in her walk and the way she carries herself. But when you have a multi-dimensional woman that can’t be placed in a box, you just call her a WOMAN. Nina “Lyrispect” Ball, the gifted spoken word artist from Baltimore Maryland, has been seen showcasing her talents on stages, known and unknown, yet many really know her.

A woman that enjoys the finer things in life, like fishing and horseback riding, Nina loves that people enjoy her craft. But she wants people to understand that she has no limits when it comes to her art. Her fluidity when she steps behind a microphone is serious. But the words can catch you off guard. If you wanted to compare her, although you can't, you could say she reminds you of Lauryn Hill – the talented singer/rapper who used conscious lyrics to awaken our thinking. Or maybe a female version of Lupe Fiasco – the Chi-town born rapper who leaves people stuck with his lyrical content. 

Regardless of who you want to compare her to, she’s creating a lane for herself that not many people twice her age have been able to travel. A lane that has led her to open for acts such as Mos Def, Eric Benet and Raheem DeVaughn; facilitate a poetry workshop for the young girls of Black Girls’ Rock and host ReelBlackTV. She’s able to do all this because she is a multi-dimensional woman.

“I have a lot of stuff still up my sleeve,” she said in our face-to-face interview on Sunday.

One of those things includes writing a book. A book that would of course, include poetry. It’s obvious our poetic sister won’t ever stray away from that. That’s why the monthly open mic that she hosts with four other dope poets, collectively known as Spoken Soul 215, has increased in numbers since it’s birth a year ago. The Harvest is held every first Wednesday of the month at World CafĂ© Live in Philadelphia. It brings together every form of art on one stage. From dancing to rapping, from music to tapping, the performances at the Harvest render many proud to be a part of the arts culture. 

"Everyone is represented on the mic," said Nina. "You really never know what you're going to get. You can go to any other open mic you like, but you will not have a harvest experience anywhere, except at The Harvest."

And when it comes to giving back, Nina can be found doing it locally and nationally. As a career counselor for YouthBuild charter school, the angelic help that gets young people, ages 18-21, back in school to get their diplomas, she helps young adults stay motivated and transition to the working world. It was Beverly Bond who chose our gifted Nina as a program facilitator for Black Girls’ Rock. Although the recently televised award show recognized black women, young and old, Nina is a part of the ongoing movement. She helps every other weekend facilitating her own poetry workshop. 

“It generally takes up my whole weekend,” she stated. “Taking the bus to New York and then coming back to Philly. But I can honestly say it’s one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.”

When asked about the girls: “They are so great. They are really smart and talented. I absolutely love working with them.”

An alum of Temple University, Nina has honed her craft beyond the four walls of a college classroom. A gift like this is birthed, not learned. To say she teaches is an understatement when you hear what she has to say. Whether teaching our young black women to embrace who they are and love that they are a "black woman" or stepping on stage to perform her latest spoken word piece, Nina has placed a significant mark in the arts world.

"You have to own that you are a black woman," she said on what makes a strong black woman. "It's one thing to know it, but you have to own the fact that you are a black woman. So many woman don't like being black and may not even appreciate their womanhood, but once you own it, that's what makes you strong."

It's safe to say that Nina "Lyrispect" Ball has definitely proven her strength as not just a black woman, but a strong, multi-dimensional woman who embraces her ethnicity.

For more information on Nina "Lyrispect" Ball, step into the arts world at the links below:

http://www.youtube.com/ (Lyrsipect)


Securing Management for Your Author Career, Part 2

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yesterday, we touched on some very important topics including, when do you know you need management and what to look for in a manager.

Today, we'll focus on:
  • should a female client sign with a male manager
  • what contacts your manager should have if you're an author
  • creating a contract with your manager
  • why working with friends may not be the wisest idea
First, when it comes to management, I don't think gender matters. However, if you are a married woman or your manager is a married man and you're single, just consider how much time you'll be spending with them and make sure the respective mates agrees with it. 

Remember, you'll be spending a lot of time with your manager. For authors, it probably won't be as much as if you are a singer or actor, but it's still a significant amount of time that you don't need any drama surrounding your career. As a single woman, I actually always seem to deal with a team when I was considering management. There was only one case where it was a guy and I felt very comfortable with him. He is very business minded. 

There were several of my friends that I thought would be a great manager just because they had business degrees and were looking to branch out into entrepreneurship. But I never made the call. I personally don't think you should mix friendship with business. You don't need any extra reasons for you and your friend to bump heads. 

I had a friend who was the Vice President of my mentoring organization while we were in college. Whenever I tried to correct her, I felt she took it personal. Once, she hung up on me. That's not cool because as the President, if I'm calmly addressing an issue, why would you handle it that way? So I've learned to not work with friends on that level. 

Plus, it may be hard for your friends to separate the business side of you from the personal side of you. They have to know not to base decisions based on your personal life, but from a business perspective. 

So, what contacts should your manager have if you're an author? I'll use myself as an example. I write children's fiction, from picture books to young adult. I wanted someone who had contacts at schools, the Boys & Girls Club of America, other non-profits that cater to youth, especially young girls and churches. 

That was important to me. And my management team has that. One, my mother has a degree in non-profit management and she has done massive research on non-profits. We also have strong ties to churches in my hometown. My west coast manager has ties to non-profits, colleges and education systems. The first conference call we had, she emailed my mom and I a document with all the college radio stations from A-Z in the country. That's being resourceful. 

If you are a non-fiction writer who writes about health and fitness, you want someone that has connections in the health and fitness world. Having a manager who manages actors may not help you much. Or if you write about animals and animal health, you may want to get someone who has strong ties to PETA or animal hospitals. Trust me. You don't have time to help someone build their Rolodex. As you go along, you guys will add contacts, but they should definitely come with a strong list upfront. 

Now, here's the tough part.Creating a contract. If you sign with a company, they will already probably have contracts set up. But if you just sign with an individual, there are some things you want to make sure are clear. One thing that steered me away from one management team is that they wanted me to sign for two years. Why? "Because the first year, we're just getting to know each other and nothing may happen in the first year, year and a half."

Sorry. If it takes you a year or more to book one speaking engagement for me, I'm good. I'm not looking for microwave success, but I don't want that slow global warming success either. I do agree with one part they said - it does take some time to really get to know someone. Even in a relationship, it can take 6-8 months before you really feel like you know your significant other. 

Since contracts are so important, I'll touch on this with a more extensive blog post next week. 

Questions or comments about securing management for your career? Have you found management? What was your journey like? Comment below or shoot me an email. 


Finding Management for Your Author Career

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After searching for months for a manager to help me book speaking engagements and help me with my branding, I finally found someone who has my back and who will always be there for me - my mom. I know that sounds crazy but my mom never really crossed my mind as a full time manager. She's always helped me sell books and even while I was in Korea, she did a few events for me, but she has a full time job.

But somehow after we spoke about it a few weeks ago, she agreed to do it. Why not give my mother the 20% for each booking as opposed to someone who will probably do what I can do on my own? So, we formed Douglas Management Group and I touched base with one of my PR colleagues in LA and she joined us. So I have West Coast Representation and East Coast Representation.

We created a Gmail email account and grabbed a Google Voice number and got started. That way, nobody's personal information is out there and everyone involved gets the emails and phone calls because it's forwarded to the email.

So how do you go about securing management for your author career (or any kind of career involving the arts)? How about we start with do you even need management? Here's five ways to find out if you are at the level where you need management.

1) You are getting emails from people asking you for advice on how to get started in their career or asking would you be willing to speak at their school/organization.

2) You are reaching a level where you can only focus on your writing (or whatever your artistry is) and you don't want to handle that side of the business.

3) You can afford to have someone take 15-20% of everything you book.

4) You have books (products), fiction or non--fiction, that speak to society and personal topics that make people think "self-help".

5) You are at a place where you truly feel you've done all you can on your own.

Now, if you've hit at least three of these, I'd say you can start searching for management. Now, below are tips that you need to secure the right management for you. Remember, it's like a marriage. This person will know everything about you, including your social security number. You need to be able to trust them.

1) Do massive research. Don't just take the first person that says they want to help you. I talked to three different managers/companies and finally, found my way back to my mom because she honestly had the best answers.

2) Don't go for someone that already has a whole lot going on. Now, my mom and our West Coast partner has a full time job. However, with the three of us, it's going to be a lot easier. And, we all have the desire to be full time entrepreneurs one day. If you find someone who works full time, ask them these questions:

  1. How will they be able to make/take calls on your behalf if they have a 9-5? Do they have a flexible job that will allow them to have conference calls? I doubt it. However, my mom and our West Coast partner can. They have very laid back jobs. 
  2. Are they trying to do management on the side until they can leave and do it full time? If so, ask them for a written plan upfront of how they will work around that and help you out. Now, you have to be fair. Nobody is going to quit their job for a career that technically doesn't pay upfront. Remember, you only pay when they book you, in most cases. We'll talk about retainer agreements tomorrow. 
  3. Will they be willing to travel with you (or can they) with a full time job? Some people have vacation/personal days that they have to take or they might actually be the CEO of the company. 
3) Make sure that person is going to work. I tried someone out for a week. The only thing that he suggested was to post a flyer that I had made in different cities on Craigslist, one a day. I was thinking "And what will you be doing while I do this?" I'm not about to pay someone 20% to give me the tasks while they sit on their behinds. If they have other clients, make sure you talk to them and ask where they were in their careers before they started seeking management and then ask how management has helped them grow their careers. If the growth is noticeable, then move forward. 

4) Don't go or a music manager if you are an actor. They might be in entertainment and I'm sure they know people in Hollywood, but will they really focus on you like they should? Don't go for the person whose trying to be a jack of all trades. Even if they know the president of the United States, it doesn't do you any good if the president is looking for someone to sing the national anthem at his birthday dinner and you're an actor. Maybe the music manager can connect you to someone in Hollywood. 

5) If you are someone's first client, make sure you check up front if they want a retainer. Typically, I feel that manager's shouldn't collect a percentage and a retainer. So if they do one, they shouldn't do the other. That's my opinion. Now, let's say my booking fee is $1,000. 20% of that is $200. And if that manager is doing a great job, we can get booked two-three times a week. That's $400-600/week and $1600-2400/month. That's not a whole lot, but that's a nice amount for someone who may be doing this part-time for now. 

Come back tomorrow where I'll discuss retainer options and what your manager should be doing for his/her 15-20%. I'll also touch on:
  • should a female client sign with a male manager
  • what contacts your manager should have if you're an author
  • creating a contract with your manager
  • why working with friends may not be the wisest idea


Don't Pressure Your Dreams

We all have one. Or two. Maybe even five or six.

A dream that whenever we wake up, it's on our minds. When we go to sleep at night, we dream about our dream. We literally eat, drink and sleep our dream.

And the ones who know where that desire came from, spend time with God to make sure they aren't taking a single step without him.

Since I've returned from South Korea, I found myself doing a little more than planning, preparing and patiently waiting (which is what you should be doing to see your dreams manifest).

Because I couldn't (and haven't) find a job and my business stream is going slow, I started to put unnecessary pressure on my dreams. For all of my fellow writers out there, you know that being a fiction writer and pitching agents/publishers is the hardest, most daunting thing that you have to do before the real process begins.

I write all the time, and I write in different mediums. From January to March of this year, I completed two feature film screenplays. A month later, I completed a pilot script. And a month after that, I completed a spec script for Scandal for the Disney ABC writing fellowship.

I was living overseas and found writing to come fluidly. Writing 2500 words a day was nothing while I was living out there. Oh. Did I mention I also finished my first middle grade novel while living there? So yes, it's safe to say a change of environment certainly helps you to clear your mind and get your creative juices flowing.

But something happened between my travels home (flew out of Korea August 15). Besides the untimely death of my grandmother, I couldn't figure out for the life of me why I wasn't able to write as freely as I had been doing all year.

Here's what happened: I had put in close to 60 resumes/applications (since July) and started my freelance writing business on September 7th (re-launched it). My funds from Korea were dwindling and I wasn't getting any call backs for interviews, had been denied unemployment (twice) and we all know what's going on with Congress and the food stamps.

So I began to write to finish another novel. I planned to write one short story a day so I can submit to literary magazines that I knew were paying for short stories. I started plotted, planning and outlining. Then NaNoWriMo was in sight and I started plotting how if I finished this novel by the end of November (which would make it my fourth novel), then I could query by April (after of course getting it professionally edited and doing a massive rewrite).

But NaNoWriMo came and to date, I have about 2,700 words written. I stopped. Here's why:

My dreams aren't meant to be pressured by my current financial struggles. Our dreams are a gift from God. Those desires you feel tugging at your heart day and night were placed there for you to pursue and enjoy the journey along the way. Your dreams should never fall victim to your current circumstances. Or your bank account.

And that's why I want to encourage you all NEVER to put pressure on your dreams. Don't let a bill, a late notice (or shut off notice), a slowly growing business or ANYTHING put unnecessary pressure on your dreams. Once they manifest, you'll be working harder than ever before. Why rush that process? Enjoy the lessons you are learning on the way to achieving your most profound dreams. And keep dreaming.

But go after them everyday. Keep your vision in front of you and remember why you have it in the first place.

For my writer friends out there, keep writing. Even 200 words a day count to something. Don't pressure yourself.

Check out this Balls of Steels post by Jeanne V. Bowerman on Scriptmag.com. Stay encouraged and dreamers everywhere - don't ever stop. Don't ever settle.

With Love,
Mya Kay

PS Please like my new facebook author page, www.facebook.com/AuthorMyaKay. Help get me to 100 likes before the year is out! XO


Design and Color Trends for 2014

I took part in Interior Designer Chat on Twitter about a month ago. It's a twitter chat that takes place every Tuesday at 6pm EST (#IntDesignerChat), bringing together designers from all over the world to chat about key topics relating to the industry.

I'm a writer with a focus on the Home & Design industry, so I find it valuable to try to take part at least twice a month.

I gathered a few tips when Sherwin Williams was a host. I decided to provide anyone who may not have been able to take part with the information that was provided (PDF link is below).

Home Designers from everywhere engaged in conversation about color schemes and what colors would be the trend for 2014.

I took three of my favorite colors that came up in the conversation and inserted them with my own point of view of why these colors will dominate in 2014.

Gray is the new black.

I heard this a few years ago when I was working at Express. Gray has always been one of my favorite colors. It goes with everything and even can set off any other color you choose to use when decorating your home. photo credit: coco+kelley via photopin cc

Purple color family.

I have always felt soft purples were a great way to enhance an already beautiful layout or room. A dark purple as a frame could make an interior more compelling.
photo credit: coco+kelley via photopin cc

Orange and rust tones stand up in strong light.

Rust colored bathrooms and kitchens have always been a favorite of mine. Browns make a room flow with life. And when the light goes on...
photo credit: MillenniumLuxuryCoaches via photopin cc

Here is the Sherwin Williams Color Mix 2014: Sherwin Williams Color Mix 2014

Enjoy! Let's talk colors. Feel free to add your pinterest photos and let's have a colorful conversation.

Engaging as a Strategic Plan

I had a conversation with a friend this week. He's a businessman and has a new product that he is ready to launch to the world.

In the midst of the conversation, Twitter came up. I noticed that he hadn't been tweeting from his personal account in the past, so I asked him about the account for his new product. I didn't even know he had one. 

I asked him "Have you been tweeting and engaging with people on Twitter yet from that account?" His response, "No. I don't know what to tweet. I need to have a strategic plan in place first."

And the violin playing begins. Here's the thing:

Don't let a strategic marketing plan that hasn't been written or implemented yet stop you from engaging with PEOPLE. 

At the end of the day, it's PEOPLE who invest in products and businesses that they love. To be honest, PEOPLE aren't thinking about how you strategically placed your tweet and tweeted it at a certain time because the volume on Twitter would be higher and how you keep up with social media trends and blah, blah, blah. 

Let me make something clear: I am in no way, shape or form saying that you should just hop on Twitter and tweet anything that pops into your head. That would be social media suicide. What I am saying is, having a Twitter account with no followers because you're waiting for that perfect time or perfect tweet to send out, is ridiculous. 

Don't let "marketing" overwhelm you and cause you to over think just talking to people. I may not have thousands and thousands of followers on Twitter, but every follower that I do have came from talking. The truth is, nobody wants you to tweet about your product all day, everyday. 

What they want to know is that you're human. Building relationships builds revenue.