Poet Interview – Arthur Perez Junior -@apjpoetry

Stop by every other month for extensive interviews with my favorite up and coming poets. First up in this new series is Arthur Perez Junior. I met Arthur on Instagram and was blown away by his words and depth of feeling. And full disclosure, I was super intrigued to hear and learn more from him because he has accomplished the goal I am now working toward–publishing a book of poetry. (You can buy his book Wandering here.) On to the interview…! 

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Arthur Perez Junior

1. When did you start writing poetry?
I started writing at a very young age, around 10 or so. I had always been interested in stories, story telling and adventure and it really came to life when my father got a word processor (new school typewriter). From that point I wrote shorts stories and poems daily.

2. Since that time, how has your work changed/grown/evolved?
I developed a love of reading and found myself finding influence in the books I read and movies I watched. I have tried to remain true to my feelings and ideas. My style has evolved into something I would categorize as my own, my own style per se, and the ease at which words come has increased over the years.
3. What themes do you find yourself coming back to and why?
Love. It is always love. I have grown into somewhat of a hopeless romantic. I adore the melancholy of love and loss and the theme continues to carry through into my writing consistently.
4. Can you remember one of they very first poems you read?
I remember reading Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken, for the very first time and being so profoundly moved. Even at a young age the idea of forging my own way, resisting the urge to do the ordinary and venture out into the world without certainty. That poem has been ingrained in my mind, a reminder of the value in struggle and persistence.
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One of my favorites from Arthur’s IG Feed
5. There are so many forms of writing. Why poetry for you?
I love rhyme, and although a lot comes through as prose, I have always been drawn to the whimsical nature of poetry. I have been very influenced by late 80s and early 90s hip hop. The flow of the words was intoxicating, and prompted me to get into spoken word and eventually recording and releasing 2 hip hop albums.
6. Who are your favorite “established” poets? 
I love Frost, Rumi, Shakespere, Dickinson, TS Elliot, and scores of others. I love classic literature, and there is no shortage of brilliance.
7. Any up and coming poets you enjoy?
In this age of social media, I am amazed at the sheer amount of talent. There are so many gifted writers with a platform to present there work on a daily basis. I have found several people that move me and if I take the time to follow, have something worthwhile to say.
8. What was it like putting a book of poetry together?
Nerve wrecking and exhilarating. Going through revisions, deciding what gets removed or added and learning the intricacies of publishing were all exciting. I loved the process of it all and hope to take what I’ve learned and make the next release even better.
9. What are your plans for the future with your work?
I am in the process of completing my next release, Star Sailors. I am shooting for an April release. It is all about self exploration and discovery with a space theme. I am very excited about this book and am working tirelessly to ensure that it gets the proper promotion.
10. What’s some advice/motivation you could give to other poets?
First of all, don’t wait. Do it. Release your book and don’t look back. Learn through the process and grow!
Second, have a plan. Do your homework and figure out what works for you.
Thirdly, I would say its your world. Don;t conform. Write what you like, release what you want, and enjoy the ride. 🙂 If you are copying someone’s style, the world has already seen it. Perfect your craft and be the original!
You can connect with Arthur here:

Instagram: @apjpoetry
Are you or do you know an up and coming poet I should feature? Drop me a note in the comments below or hit me up on IG!
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Holiday Gift Guide – Handmade Jewelry in NYC – The Roving

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Kaitlyn Usher of The Roving

As promised I am posting spotlights on some of my favorite brands that I featured in my 2017 Holiday Gift Guide. The gift guide features all female entrepreneurs and their products, some are well-established and others are just getting started on their journey.

I met Kaitlyn Usher through Instagram. It was sort of like online dating except we liked each other’s stuff for a year before I bought something from her site and then liked stuff for another 6 months before I invited her out to a dinner for women I host once a quarter. I clearly have no chill. But I was obsessed with how she ran her company, The Roving. (And still am, thus why she had to be in the Holiday Gift Guide.)

Her obvious joy for what she does, her authenticity in each and every IG comment, and the quality and detail of her work drew me in fast. Her feed is perfectly curated (something we know I struggle with) and her jewelry is absolutely unique. Kaitlyn stays away from obvious trends that flood fast fashion stores, and sticks to clean lines. But those clean lines have edge! She uses hards metals, chains, stones you’d want to tile your apartment with, and bright neon beads. They are a grown-up way to say “I’m a little wild” without going off the deep end.

I featured the pair of earrings I bought from her in the Holiday Gift Guide but then she went ahead and released a whole bunch of new stuff and I am just sitting around trying to decide what to buy! Really!  3 of my favorite items from her newest batch are below, hover over to see cost and description and let me know which one you think I should get and I will! I am really into the yellow ones. (Yellow is my favorite color!)

And let me know if you purchase something from Kaitlyn due to my guide. I’d love to know what you buy and see you wearing it.

DECEMBER 16th is final ship day for items from The Roving. It is also her FREE SHIPPING DAY! Hop on that deal!

 

 

Tales of Directionless Personal Branding

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If you’ve been following my blog for awhile you’ll notice that I have re-branded three times, changed the content twice as much as that, and fluctuated between writing every day and once a month and well, never. Running this blog has been a strange journey and I am constantly re-evaluating it and trying to determine what it can be.

The only thing that keeps me going is that every once in awhile, I write something that resonates. That moves someone. They write to me and say, “Wow, that really helped me.” Those tiny moments fuel me forward even when I have no idea what I will say next or do next.

If you didn’t know, my day job is spent branding and marketing independent hotels. I do know how to brand. I do know how to market a brand. But branding and marketing myself? I find it impossible because I change and grow and even sometimes, decline. I strive to be authentic and truthful about who I am and what I’m doing, so maintaining a brand that is no longer who I am, or just a piece of who I am feels fake and painful.

I am so impressed with the millions of bloggers out there that brand themselves so well and are so honed into what they want to share and do. I am impressed every day. And I think about the time and energy they put into managing their brand and get tired. People do manage to create authentic brands based on who they are… it’s just embarrassingly hard for me to do so. I also struggle daily with the idea of becoming a “lifestyle” blog or brand. While I LOVE and ADORE my life, because I’ve built it piece by piece, I hardly think the masses would be impressed and envious of it. But who am I to say?

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IG: @CheapCourage

 

Of course the irony of all this is it’s nearly impossible to be alive in 2017 and not have a personal brand. Social Media requires all of us to brand ourselves whether we know so or not. What news stories we share on Facebook, the jokes we tell on Twitter, the filters we use on Snapchat… these things become our respective brands. Obviously we are editing, to a degree, what we choose to SHOW about our lives and what we choose to HIDE about our lives. And in turn we all judge each other based on these very small shared pieces of ourselves.

Some of us are very good at branding ourselves, some of us are not. Some of us can monetize our lifestyle, and some of us can not. So if I am to look at it that way, as I should, it isn’t that I don’t have a personal brand, it’s that I do not know what I want out of it. That is where my confusion, my fuzziness, my lost sense of online self comes from.

So a few Sundays ago I sat and thought about it. Why was I unhappy or confused with my personal brand? If I was simply happy to interact with friends and family and occasionally spark a political discussion or make a joke, then I’d be all set. But that’s not what I want. If I wanted to be known for photos of my outfits or my makeup or my fitness regimen, I would switch gears and feature only those types of images, leave the other stuff out, and focus the lens. But that’s not what I want.

What I want, and what I too often lose sight of is this: I want people to read my writing. I want to share my writing. I want to influence people with my words. The goal of gaining followers on Instagram or WordPress or even Facebook is to funnel more readers to my work and to engage with them. And I’m not talking about my blogs, I mean my essays and my poetry. The things I write and write and write and never share because of fear. (My god I’ve written about fear on here more times than I can count.)

And so for me to build a cohesive brand that serves me… I’m going to have to start sharing some writing. I am terrified to do so. Baby steps of course… but it is possible. And all I had to do, and what I would strongly suggest to anyone going through a hard time with a creative project, is repeat to myself over and over again, “What do I want out of this?”

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IG: @CheapCourage

Create a New Story & Live It

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I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about meditation, mantras, and visualizing goals. I keep reading about mental blocks and holding yourself back from the things that you want and the things you deserve because of patterned thoughts and “stories”– the things we tell ourselves to keep us from going for something. We tell ourselves that we will never have money because we’ve always been broke or we’ll never find love because we’ve never been worthy or never had it before. We take the same paths over and over again because we don’t believe we can take another. It isn’t always about blazing a trail but simply taking a left instead of a right.

I get asked a lot where all my energy comes from. How do I get up early, how do I write at night after work, how do I have a dog… etc. etc. And while I sometimes thought I was just a high energy person by nature, I realized it’s really because I believe I am a high energy person.

Did I lose you right there? Wait! Stay with me.

I know this stuff can sound weird and can scare the living hell out of you but listen… just stop and think about the things you have always just assumed about yourself “I am just a nice person”, “I am just a lazy person”, “I am a math person”. Where did those things come from? You made them up! Or someone told you were good (or bad) at something and you believed them and created your story from it. We naturally want to do the things we are good at and avoid the things we are “bad” at, I get it. Life is easier that way. But what if the you you are now, is based on a series of stories that you wrote for yourself?

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To prove my point I’m going to break down a couple of my stories, both good and bad.

I Am Not A Math Person. Numbers bore me.
This is a story I started telling myself in the 7th grade. What’s funny is that I was in the “gifted” math group in the 5th grade, but it took just a couple of years of consistently being told I was a great writer, that I’d publish a book one day, and that math was my weakest subject, to reject the whole thing all together. No one explained to me that though it was my “weakest” subject, I was still very much “good” at it. I believed what I was told and leaned into my writing and let my math muscle deteriorate. Combined with two unhelpful middle school math teachers who laughed at wrong answers, and of course, puberty, I rejected the whole notion that I could ever be good at math or science and by the time I hit the 9th grade I lived in perpetual fear of it.

And then I had a wonderful Chemistry teacher who was TOUGH on everyone. She was this way because she believed we could do anything we worked for. I spent hours after class with her going over formulas again and again until I could do the most difficult problems she wrote. I worked my ass off and got an A. Because she believed in me, because she made me focus, and because she made me work as hard as she knew I could.

It still took me some time after that, years and years of undoing the bad story, but here I am, working at a company, doing math, handling my own finances, figuring shit out. The stories we tell ourselves are sticky but they can be unstuck if we focus and move past our setbacks.

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I am high energy. I don’t require sleep.
When I got to be about 16 years old and was forced to work my ass off at boarding school (a school that I was getting a free ride to and thus was in perpetual fear of getting tossed out) I told myself that I required little sleep. I worked a part-time job, I stayed up late doing homework, I had a boyfriend, friends, extracurricular activities, started playing sports…I jam packed my days and found that if I pushed outside of myself, the energy was there. The same went for college, I pushed my limits, always feeling a heightened awareness that college was going to end and that I needed to soak up as many experiences as I could. I went to parties, I took lots of weird classes, I worked as an RA, I said “I can do it all” because I truly believed I was that type of person. If I pushed, I found the energy for it all just outside my comfort zone.

Flash forward to me as an adult trying to do as much as I did in college but adding in new responsibilities: rent, a dog, full-time job, bills, navigating NYC, cleaning my apartment… At times I would come to a screeching hault all of a sudden and realize “Maybe I can’t do it all.” But I had always been that person, I had always told myself I could do it all. And the moment that belief faltered, so did my ability to do the things I wanted to do.

It took me a few years (yes, years) to right this ship. It took learning a new way of doing things and getting things done to get there. I went through months and months of stress and of simply doing it all wrong. I tried to apply what I knew in college to my new life and that failed miserably. And now I do believe I can do it all, just in a different way.

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I absolutely know what you’re thinking right now. Really! You’re thinking that this can’t possibly be true, that there are things standing in your way but just remember, someone who was born with more than you has fallen and someone born with less than you has risen. It’s all a matter of perspective and of creating stories for yourself that fit. If you secretly wish you were “A Morning Person”… Tell yourself you are, set your alarm like you are, GET OUT OF BED like you are. If you wish you were kinder. Tell yourself you are, do kind things, enjoy the feeling that comes from doing kind things!

I’m not saying this cut and dry and I am not saying it is easy. It actually kind of sucks most of the time. Re-writing your story is HARD. But like… what else are you doing with your time here?

Don’t Take for Granted How Far You’ve Come

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On Father’s Day last week I was scrolling through my Facebook photos to find a favorite one of my father and I from my brother’s wedding 5 years ago. I did find it:

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I love this picture because our relationship has always been about laughter. Challenging ourselves to tell the worst joke possible, or swapping stories about the crazy people we have the misfortune of meeting in our respective workplaces. My mom is the first person I call when I have a crisis, my dad is the first person I call when I want to laugh.

I am stunned by the sheer amount of my friends and acquaintances who have already lost their fathers. The memories of these men now gone from our world to another stack one atop another on my Social Media feeds like blocks. I don’t know what it means other than the fact that I am lucky. Two living parents. Two living souls to call upon when I need that extra support I can’t find anywhere else.

I am not going to be ashamed now to pull from the now removed/now famous Instagram post from Khloe Kardashian. I get it, I am a writer and I am supposed to be above pop culture and people famous for being famous and all of that but… I AM a writer and my job is to pull inspiration from wherever it may come, to consume all that I can, to shape words the best that I can. So here we are.

'You knew what you had, you just never thought it could slip away': Khloe allegedly decided to stop helping Lamar out unless he decides to beat his addiction once and for all

Set aside for the moment that she is most likely talking about Lamar here and take in this:

“We take things for granted on a daily basis, always with the assumption that whenever we need something, it will be there. There are many things that we fail to realize the value of until they are missing from our lives.” 

There is so much I take for granted. People, places, things… It’s important that I strive for more, to be better and to do better, but if I cannot appreciate what I have already fought for and have won, nothing will ever make me happy.

Sorry…but Khloe is right… I have fought (and I have fought so hard) to be where I am in this exact moment. I have cried, I have counted every penny, I have done things that have scared me to my core, I have been lonely, I have felt like giving up (like… everyday) but, without any of that I would not be where I am today. I am who I wanted to be 5 years ago. I surround myself with people that love AND support me. There is still SO much more to do but today I am going to sit down and take in everything I have accomplished and every failure I have survived. And I suggest you do the same.

Take 5 minutes and look around you. Look inside you. You have done so much, you have come this far, you have survived when you thought you wouldn’t. And you’re going to do it again. Don’t take anything you have for granted today. And I will do my best to do the same.