Intro by Jessica Strawser, Editor of Writer’s Digest
And now, for something completely different.
I recently had the amazing opportunity to speak on a publishing panel at the Anguilla Lit Fest, a low-key but talent-packed celebration of the writing craft and the writing life, surrounded by “tranquility wrapped in blue,” as our island hosts so aptly put it.
The event kicked off with a talk and reading by Grammy Award–winning performance poet J. Ivy, who had the crowd on their feet for not one but a series of standing ovations. (Let’s just say I was glad I didn’t have to give my presentation next! “Tough act to follow” would be an understatement.) Most writing events, as this one did, feature a combination of instructional sessions and inspirational talks. But the energy J. Ivy brought to the stage was part motivational speech, part hip-hop artistry, part … well, something unique to J. Ivy. He talked about finding his voice through writing as he climbed from a childhood being raised by his mother after his alcoholic father fled in an economically depressed Chicago neighborhood, to a young adulthood becoming known as “The Poet” on his university campus, to a dream career where he got his big break on Russell Simmons’ HBO Def Poetry. The name of the poem he performed there? “I Need To Write.”
Ivy speaks to the world at large with his poetry (he has collaborated with Kanye West and Jay-Z, performed at events for Deepak Chopra, and been featured on “Oprah’s Next Chapter”), but what struck me about his work was that so much of it strikes directly at the heart of his fellow writers. Consider this line from his poem “Dream Big”: “Dreams don’t come true, they ARE true.”
Here, J. Ivy has generously granted us permission to share his heartfelt video performance of that very poem. And we’re so pleased to welcome him, with his post below exclusively for WD, as our latest guest blogger, to remind us all why we do what we do. For love. —Jessica Strawser, editor, Writer’s Digest magazine
To Fellow Writers & Dreamers
By J. Ivy
This is for the dreamers, the believers, for those who thrive on the hope of fulfilling the potential we’ve all been blessed with. This is for those who continue to tap in to that inner strength, that courage that moves you to use your voice and proudly write your story. Here, within the confines of this mentality, fear isn’t allowed to edit how you feel. Yes, life gets hard, problems have to be solved, but you refuse to give up, and are recharged by the inspiration that life provides. I think of myself as one of these people. I believe in what I’ve been given, in what I possess, and I fight for it daily. Why? It’s simple. I want to do something special that will not only move me forward, but help move others as well.
A month of Sundays ago, the seeds of my dreams were planted. I discovered my love for performing and writing after Ms. Argue, one of my high school English teachers, made me do a [poetry reading at a] show. I immediately fell in love with the art and began moving forward with hopes of expanding my stage and my reach. Years later I found my early wishes coming true when I landed a spot on Russell Simmons’ award-winning HBO Def Poetry, where I performed one of my poems titled “I Need To Write.” Here I was, fresh out of Chicago with a dream of my dreams being seen and heard by millions, and that is exactly what was happening. It opened a lot of doors that would allow me to expand the reach of my voice.
A few Sundays later, I’m still filled with dreams of doing great and greater things. Recently my latest book Dear Father: Breaking the Cycle of Pain was released by Simon and Schuster’s Beyond Words/Atria Books. The release of Dear Father has been nothing short of a dream coming true. It was on my list of goals and after years of hard work and perseverance it is now a reality. For me it has been an incredible example of not giving up when the doubts set in, when the obstacles present themselves, or when the timelines shifts a bit. It has taught me that no matter what, if you want to accomplish your goals, if you want to reach your dreams, you have to keep going. You can’t stop. And you certainly can’t stop believing. It taught me that when it comes to matters of the soul, desires that burn deep in your heart, you have to push thru the pain and always “Dream BIG!”
To learn more about J. Ivy’s story, find audio and video of his performances, buy his books and much more, visit http://www.j-ivy.com.