Life is funny…took a break from creative writing just to…

The universe really has a sense of humor. About a year ago, for many reasons, I finally admitted to myself and my readers why it was taking me so long to release another book: I had fallen out of love with creative writing and wanted to have a different career. I wanted to go back to school so that I could prepare for a new track in the health care industry. Well, I got off to a great start. I snagged a job in the industry, started taking some preliminary classes to get myself back in structured learning mode but…six months into the new job had me looking to change positions within the company. I didn’t like it and was sure there was someone who could do it better than me. It just wasn’t a good fit (but the company, the people and industry were), so I found something else that was as close to a perfect as I could get: corporate communications (at the same company-yay)!

I told life I didn’t want to write any more and it basically said so what. lol This update is just to let you know that something greater than me is insisting I not put down my pen, or close my laptop. For the first time ever, my “day job” is being a writer, and the last 14 years of doing my creative stuff after hours has become a tremendous asset.

These days I’m crafting articles and executive speeches—all about health care and helping the underserved. And as a funny twist of fate: theatrical vignettes on issues such as diabetes, stroke awareness, and asthma, etc. As a part of my day job?? What? Who knew? lol Anyway, writing speeches is definitely rekindling some feelings in me—feelings that had fizzled out years ago. I love it. School is going to take a few years to get through and I’m pleasantly surprised to say I like having a mash-up of careers until I finish.

That’s all for now,

-Cheril

Cheril N. Clarke

 

LGBT Children’s Books…

Just a quick update to say thank-you to all who have purchased our books of covered us in the media over the last couple of weeks. We are humbled by the support of the community and hope things continue in this manner. Striving to build a large, multi-cultural library that features LGBT families was no small undertaking but day by day, we get a bit closer to realizing that dream. Last month we released two new titles for Jewish families, Adopting Ahava and The Wonderful Adventures of Benjamin and Solomon, which were our first exclusive books for this demographic. The support has been amazing! In the last week we have shipped books to Italy, France and Israel! So again, thank you very much. The best is yet to come!

LGBT Children's Books

LGBT Children’s Books – some of which we’ve published, others we just retail on www.MyFamilyProducts.com

Two New Children’s Books for the Jewish LGBT Community—Just in Time for Hanukkah

The following press release is for some of my latest work with Monica for our children’s books line:

 

Chances are if you’re a gay or lesbian Jewish couple, you will be hard-pressed to find books that reflect your family—especially children’s stories and young adult fiction. You may find two or three titles if you’re lucky, but certainly not much more. This holiday season LGBT publisher My Family! is introducing two new history-making books that will accelerate the process of building a virtuous library (and legacy) for Jewish LGBT families.

The first of the two books being released is “The Wonderful Adventures of Benjamin and Solomon,” a tale of two scholars who get more adventure on one snowy night than they could dream of. Set in medieval Europe, this fairytale is penned by new author, Elena Yakubsfeld of Greenwich, CT. This book is for young adults.

“Benjamin and Solomon are not just students,” says publisher Cheril Bey-Clarke. “They are two young men whose intimate love for each other is as strong as any other couple. On their quest to recover a stolen prayer they trek through a magical forest, encounter dragons and confront angry knights in a towering castle. They are essentially gay, Jewish heroes and quite frankly there is no other story like this. We’re thrilled to work with the author to bring it to the community!” Accented with lively illustrations and playful dialog, this title explores Jewish history, devotion to God, and non-traditional ideas of family.

 

The Wonderful Adventures of Benjamin and Sol0mon

The second title being released is a picture book for younger readers entitled “Adopting Ahava.” It is a charming story of a boy named Jonathan who wants nothing more for his eighth birthday than to adopt a puppy. But after looking at all the cute, squirming tail-waggers with his mamas, Jonathan makes an unexpected choice. “Adopting Ahava” was written by Jennifer Byrne, who resides in Glassboro, NJ. “This is an adorable story about a beautiful family that radiates love and respect,” says publisher Monica Bey-Clarke.

Both titles aim to encourage childhood literacy, provoke thought, build self-esteem and help to reinforce morality already taught in the home. They are available for 25% off the retail price of $9.99 now through December 6 at http://www.MyFamilyProducts.net. (Use promo code: jcpr13.) Free shipping and handling in the United States.

 

Adopting_Ahava_jennifer_byrne

Something I never thought I’d Say: I’m moving on from creative writing

This is a blog that I’ve delayed writing for over a month. I wanted to be sure that what I’ve been fighting for a well over a year had been real. I wanted to do everything I could, push myself in every way I knew how— to make sure my feelings were rock solid and my mind was made up before I said it publicly. So, here goes…Having started this exciting journey at the age of 19, I can definitely say that this was a hard destination at which to arrive but with the exception of one more production of Asylum (more about that in a separate post), I am going on an indefinite hiatus from creative writing.

It’s funny how our lives can change, however, how we evolve and grow from that which we used to love. If someone would have told me ten years ago that one day I’d write a blog like this I would have said that person was crazy and that, “I’m going to write until I’m 80!” It’s also remarkable how (as young adults) we often think that once we choose a career path that we’re locked into it forever. Some people are fine with that option, but I actually don’t think most people are. I think they just stay in their field because it’s familiar and more painful to have to start over because they want to explore something new. I’m not most people, however, and I’ve accepted the fact that it is time for me to move on, expand and do more things with my life—things that will challenge and excite me. Creative writing used to get me up early and keep me up late but doesn’t it do that anymore. Lack of inspiration, procrastination, dread, writer’s block etc., are things I’ve never had to deal with before (not for more than a few days at least). So with all of that being said, I’ve made a major decision. In order continuing feeling fulfilled in all areas of my life, I have to start a new career that will give me that excitement back.

Foundations: A Novel of New Beginnings

While I was sad to arrive at this conclusion—it’s been a long ride, my first book was written on a floppy disk, lol, it’s been a great one. I didn’t accomplish everything I thought I would by now, but I did achieve things that were never in the plan. With five novels, five short stories, documentary work, a non-fiction ebook, two children’s books, two mounted plays (one award-winning, the other translated and licensed to be performed in Spanish) and countless magazine features, I can honestly say, I’m happy with how this chapter of my life turned out. I did IT—what I wanted to the way I wanted to.

So, what’s next for me? I’m going back to school. My choice of study will likely come as a pretty big surprise as it isn’t at all related to arts and entertainment, but science and technology. I’m going to major in biology.

Biology_DSC_0066.jpg

I can’t say exactly what I want to be just yet, but I know what my interests are (artificial organs to prolong life, studies of disease and prevention, etc. it’s wide, I’ll narrow it down).  I may or may not end up doing either of those. I’m not going to burden myself with trying to “know it all” before I start. What’s most important is simply that I start. The answers and my new path will make themselves apparent to me as I get deeper into my studies, I’m sure of it. The Universe/God has a way of putting a force behind you when you follow your heart so I’m not worried that I don’t know it all yet. As you can imagine, this isn’t going to be an easy task. Like most kids, I used to say I hate math and science, but I’m interested in it now and refuse to let a decision the 15 year old version of me made keep me from exploring that interest. I’ll get tutors if I need to, whatever it takes. I want to challenge myself and am going to do it.

I really don’t know what else to say except thank you for supporting my endeavors and me over the years. Thank you for buying my books, coming to my shows, following me on social media and all of the nice things you’ve said about my work, family and me. I hope to stay connected. I’m not saying I’ll never write another story again. That would be absurd. I may do all of this and come back to write that bio-chemical suspense novel that I outlined three years ago and never wrote. It’s funny to me that now that I did that because at the time I had NO INTENTION of going back to school. Life is a trip. Anyway, thanks for reading, thanks for everything. If you have any thoughts or questions feel free to ask! If you’ve done something this drastic, feel free to share. I’d love to hear your story of starting over.

The boxing novel that I was in the middle writing, Brutal Ballet, will unfortunately be put down. If I can’t write it with my heart in it then I don’t think it’s right to force it, which is what I have been doing for the last four months.

That’s all for now.

Best,

Cheril

PS: I will still run My Family! with my wife as that doesn’t require me to write. I love publishing the works of other authors and am definitely passionate about bringing more books for children of LGBT parents to market.

PPS: Check out this news clipping I found from my first book signing in 2002 at B. Dalton Booksellers in Laurel, MD. I think that mall is gone now or about to be demolished.

First book signing 2002

ASSIGNED SEX: A DOCUMENTARY FILM

This is a quick, unplanned post. It’s not every day I see a project that makes me want to share it with ALL of my social networks, but since I heard of this one, that’s all I want to do. Covering probably one of the most misunderstood group of people in our community, Assigned Sex is a documentary film showcases five transgender individuals who “untie themselves from stereotypes that American culture has regarding gender roles.” There are only a few days left to pledge and back the project on Kickstarer. If you have a few extra dollars to help the producers of this make through production I know they’d be extremely grateful. Check it out and spread the word if you believe the transgender community needs more visibility, more help breaking through stereotypes and more support from allies.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/assignedsex/assigned-sex-a-documentary-film

Assigned Sex

Personal Power – My “30 days” with Tony Robbins

It’s been a while since I’ve done a blog entry and I can’t help but think that a review of my going through this program is one of the best ways to come back with an update. For the last month, I’ve spent about an hour a day with Tony Robbins via his 30 day audio program (the classic version, not II). Though much of the first half was familiar to me either from other programs of his or someone else’s,  it was still very much worth the investment.

Tony-Robbins-Personal-Power-2-1

People often ask me how I’ve gotten so much done by age 30 (I’m 32 now), if I have any advice for “success,” and how I manage all of my artsy endeavors and business interests while working a full-time job, etc. The answer to that is quite simply:  I have made it a daily habit to learn how to master my life, which includes time management, emotional mastery and continuous goal setting, etc.  Every day, for at least two 30 minute time blocks, I listen to something that is enriching, motivational and educational. I do this when I’m putting on make-up, eating breakfast or driving to and from work. I do it no matter what and highly recommend this practice to anyone who wants to get the most out of their life. I haven’t accomplished all of my dreams thus far on my own, I’ve had daily help from others who keep me motivated and striving for greatness.

As one of my favorite motivational speakers used to say (bless his soul), “People often say motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily!”

Back to Tony Robbins’ 30 Personal Power program; whether you’re looking to improve your finances, relationships, a business, your performance in school or just have more joy in your life, this program will definitely put you on the right track IF you do it the way it was designed to be done. Unlike many other self-help programs, this one is JAM PACKED with action items for you to do that will naturally keep you moving forward. It’s not just someone telling you a bunch of affirmations. It teaches you how our brains work, why we do the things we do and why we don’t do some of the things we should do. It explains how we can control our emotions, which in fact means, controlling our lives. This program implores you to work. Some of the exercises may make you uncomfortable if you’re not already in an honest place with yourself and your behavior patterns, but by the end of each day you will feel EMPOWERED to change your life. You will recognize that “your past is not your future” and it doesn’t matter if you’ve failed or never taken action in the past. None of that matters because you can still do what you need to do to improve your life right now IF you’re willing to put in the work.

So if you’re tired of being late to work/church/school all the time or tired of waking up feeling like you need more sleep, then check it out.  Are you tired of seeing other people achieve their goals while you seem to be in the same place you were last year? Tired of feeling like you’re unlucky and bad things always happen to you—tired of feeling out of control and without power over your own life? Then take a look at this program.

Like I said earlier, much of the first half of this program was more of a review for me because I’d long learned the basics of creating the life I wanted but it was still good to hear again. I forced myself to this as it was designed because I knew author had a reason for producing it the way that he did. Listening in order is important and now as I reached the end of the program I actually feel like I’m going to miss hearing him every morning! I got used to getting a strong daily dose of YOU CAN DO IT, THIS IS HOW! If you’re brand new to action oriented self-mastery programs this will change your life. It is not for those who are too lazy to stop dreaming and start acting. It is for those who are READY to start “living with passion” and creating the life they feel they deserve.

One of the best sections in this one that speaks of success and how people think that once they get to this place called success all of their problems will disappear. Tony explains who this couldn’t be further from the truth (which I’ve always believed) and that successful people are not people without problems. They are people who have learned how to look at them as challenges and make fun out of overcoming them. Success isn’t a place or destination you’ll arrive at someday, it’s who you become while you’re striving for your dreams.

Don’t be put off by the price. If you can’t afford the CD version of it but happen to still own a tape player, get the cassette version. Because I purchase expensive audio programs very often when I take interest in ones that are $300+ dollars I look for more cost effective ways of doing it like buying a pre-owned cassette version and using a converter to convert the audio from tapes to mp3s—-where there’s a will there’s a way. Including the converter, I think I spent $45 to obtain a $300 program. This is just one example of overcoming a perceived “problem” (did you see what I just did there?) If you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way to get it. 🙂 It is an investment in yourself.

30days

If you decide to get this program or any other one, let me know how it goes!

 

Best,

Cheril

Cheril

To be Black and Gay in the USA Today: Why the Future is Bright

This blog was originally published by the Human Rights Campaign in honor of black history month 2013. Below you can find the unpublished (until now), unabridged version. 🙂

 

To be Black and Gay in the USA Today: Why the Future is Bright

 

For years people have discussed what it’s like to be black and LGBT inAmerica—a simple search of those key words bring up pages and pages of negativity. Pundits have weighed in, activists have chimed in and the clergy has shouted in, but despite the obstacles black people face in this country, America is more of a place where all things are possible than she has ever been. Now is a time of hope; a time to acknowledge our challenges, yet celebrate our achievements.

This month we honor our ancestors who survived a racism that defies our ability to imagine. Yet black people in America have not only survived, we’ve thrived. There is no other prosperous nation that has as many black people in political positions of power; that liberates rather than subjugates its women than the USA. Despite woebegone voices of those who acknowledge only our struggles, black Americans are not just living the dreams of our ancestors but are exceeding them. However, much work remains, especially for those of us who identify as LGBT.

As we celebrate our more recent heroes, it is time we add to the list those who have been fighting for the last half a century for LGBT equal rights as black Americans. Just as Malcom X and Rosa Parks stood on the shoulders of slavery survivors, there are many who have helped our modern civil rights movement: people like Audre Lorde, Anita Cornwell, James Baldwin and many others who were stigmatized because they loved like us.

Today we have activists who have fought for and won protection against bulliesworkplace discrimination and military discrimination. We have black LGBT brothers and sisters channeling the strength of those who once did sit-ins to protest against segregation, standing firm on their right worship openly. They refuse to allow bigots to force them to choose between their sexuality and God. Their presence alone is their choice of weapon. Let’s appreciate them all for their strength and courage to live out and proud.

Thanks to contemporary filmmakers like Patrik Ian Polk, Tiona McClodden, Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Julia Wallace, black LGBT individuals can feel assured that we will not be omitted or shamed out of history as we have been in the past. Photographers like Duane Cramer and LGBT publishers are making sure that there are beautiful images of our families now and for many years to come. Our children now have books that accurately depict their families: black, happy and LGBT. Let us rejoice in these achievements and understand that the best is yet to come. If each of us continues to do our part, we can be sure to make it through this last lap of injustice for LGBT Americans.

Laws are slowly starting to get on our side. Much of the work has been done for us and for what is left all we need is the courage to be visible and no longer silent, the discipline to be educated and politically active. We need to harness the indomitable spirit that is encoded in our DNA, hold fast to a steadiness of purpose and secure what is rightfully ours: the right to love and marry; the right to raise a child; the right to worship; the right work in environments free of prejudice. These things are inalienable.

For when the dust settles and this chapter of history has ended, our children should be able to look back with pride knowing that when their parents’ generation held the baton they made sure history arched toward liberty and freedom for all people.

-Cheril & Monica

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed, please share.

 

Cheril and Monica Bey-Clarke
photo by Nnamdi Ejim

Unintended hiatus, expanded life, what I’ve been up to since my last novel…

It’s been about four years since the release of my last full-length novel, Losing Control. It’s been a while, I know. To be honest, that’s not how I thought things with go with my works and me. I thought I’d be well on my way to completing my tenth novel by now, but it just didn’t quite turn out that way. That’s not a bad thing, however, but before I go into why I think I ended up in this unexpected hiatus I want to say to those of you who don’t know, that I wrote my first novel when I was 19. I published it by the age of 21.

From a very young age, I had laser-like focus on what I wanted to do with my life and a general idea of how long it would take to accomplish all that I wanted (10 years) with regard to being a novelist. Before I could reach that ten-year mark though, an unexpected jump to another medium of writing took me off course.  Playwriting. When I was in my early 20s I never thought of writing plays, but through the relentless pushing of a friend of mine I decided to give it a try and Intimate Chaos the play was born. After a number of successful runs and the blessing of having the show translated to Spanish for a production in Puerto Rico, my heart was pulled toward another story, the true story of Prossy Kakooza. Prossy’s story of escaping an honor killing at the hands of her father because she’s a lesbian tugged deeply at my heart from the moment I heard of it. When I first made contact with her I didn’t know I was going to write a play about her, but over time we developed a respectful friendship and with her permission, Asylum was born. Both of these plays took me further away from novel-writing and I’ve gotten your e-mails. I know you want me to hurry up and get back to writing full-length works. Here’s the thing, I’ve tried. I have tried repeatedly to finish a book that quite honestly has been on my plate for about 10 years. It is the only one of my manuscripts that I struggled to write to the end. It was called Until the Day Breaks. I say “was” because I’ve decided it will be the first of my manuscripts that will never see the light of day. I just can’t love the characters in that story. They’re inspired by people in a chapter of my life that has long-since been closed and are too de-energizing for me to deal with for a year in order to publish it.

This brings me back to discussing my hiatus. I believe the other reason for me having trouble settling down with new characters for a full-length novel is the fact that I started writing so young. Over the last few years while I worked in live theatre I also took some time to have more life experiences. I continue to need more experiences so that when I return to writing books they will be bursting with energy and authentic interpretation of things I see, do and feel.  I’ve come to accept that I’m at a point in my life at which I really need to just live. As I was struggling to write my last book, I experienced some frustration with feeling like I was “reaching” for experiences. I knew what I wanted my characters to go through but because I hadn’t directly been through those things or at least knew someone who did, I couldn’t give them the authenticity they really needed. Research is no substitute for feeling. These two work best together for me.

 

We live in a time where new authors pop up daily, gain some notoriety and quite often disappear after one or two books OR they turn into a machine, churning out novel after novel. I am neither of those. I’m not going anywhere, but I am not a machine either. Novel-writing is near and dear to my heart and that kind of writing, for me, just can’t be microwaved. It can’t be rushed. It can’t be formulaic. It has to keep you up at night. I want your eyes to be glued to the page or screen on which you are reading my text. For that to happen, however, I need a little more time to grow personally and artistically. I need time to travel, rise and fall, help people and to be helped by people, etc.  I need time to experiment with my life. This is why you have seen pictures of me riding horses, sitting in private planes, modeling, traveling in luxury, traveling modestly, etc. I am sinking into all of the abundance that life has to offer so that when I resurface I give you everything I have with regard to rich characters and sensational stories. I am doing a little bit of everything that piques my interest all while fully letting my five senses take it all in. I am also running a start-up business with my wife that produces and retails products for children of LGBT parents. So, I’m definitely staying busy! 🙂

I was just a kid when I started writing and I’m steadily growing into a well-rounded woman. I just need a little more time to get to that place where I feel I’m ready to give novels my best. It won’t be too long, but I can’t say that it will be next year either. In the meantime, I am releasing a series of short stories entitled The Beautiful People, which is chock full of fun, travel, erotica and of course, drama. There are even bisexual characters in this tantalizing series. It’s exclusive to e-readers and low cost.  The Beautiful People is a different style of writing for me and it may catch some of you off guard, but I ask you to give it a chance. You won’t be disappointed. 😉 In my next blog post I will post a preview to the upcoming installment, which will be set in South Beach!

 

Thanks for sticking with me and watching me grow. I’ve been meaning to write a post like this for a while because more than a few of you have asked what’s going on, what’s taking so long, when is my next novel going to come out. I’m really humbled that you’re even asking and miss my work. All I can say is, as soon as I can and I won’t let you down once the time is right! If you have anything in particular that you’d like to see me explore in a future work, and this can be anything from characters who are in specific sectors of work to MTF trans characters to anything under the moon, feel free to let me know. You never know, you just might inspire me! Thanks again for your support and your time in keeping up with me. I hope you stay with me and watch me grow. It should be an exciting journey!

 

Cheril

 August, 2012

New LGBT Children’s Book “Freddy and Frieda’s Traveling Tales,” Promotes Understanding of Different Families for Early Readers

A new children published by, My Family!, (founded by my wife and me:).

This playful book is written in rhythmic verse and is intended to be read aloud to babies – pre-schoolers. While engaging them in hide-and-seek fashion (children are challenged to find the hidden mice on each page), the story celebrates the differences in family structures and reminds us that we all share one thing in common: Love.

Please visit our children’s book website for more details on this adorable title by South African author, Claudia Eicker-Harris.

$9.99 | May 15, 2012 | ISBN: 978-0976727385  | FREE USA Shipping from www.MyFamilyProducts.net!

Human Rights Play, “ASYLUM” wins Audience Award at Downtown Urban Theater Festival 2012!

I could not be more proud of my cast and crew for all of the hard work they put in to bring home this Award! Based on the true story of Prossy Kakooza, ASYLUM, is an original work of mine that made its premier at the 10th Anniversary Downtown Urban Theater Festival in New York City! More information about the show including a photo and video gallery can be found on the official website: Asylum the play.

Here’s a sneak peak from one of the riveting scenes lead by Tiffany Barrett:
ASYLUM


 

 

 

 

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