May 2022: Walking in Beauty

I woke up smiling. It was a beautiful sunny spring day and I wanted to walk in beauty. Atlanta High Museum or Atlanta Botanical Gardens?

 After a friend brought me a delicious slice of Visiting Cake, she dropped me off at the Gardens.

What a glorious Eden! Walking among the trees, flowers, and plants (venus fly traps) the aroma of honeysuckle and other sweet florals stopped me in my tracks and so did the glass creations of Chihuly.

On grand display are large-scale metal sculptures of Santa Fe-based artists Kevin and Jennifer Box Origami in the Garden, a traveling exhibition.

It was a sweet surprise to meet Kevin and Jennifer while I was admiring one of Jennifer’s pieces.

The show opens to the public on May 7th.

I hope you’ll make the time to walk in beauty soon.


HOMECOMING

Finally got the chance to see the stunning mural created by Najee Dorsey for the Mildred Terry Public Library, my childhood sanctuary in Columbus, Georgia.

I took photos with my family in front of the mural depicting the history of the library and the community I grew up in.

Najee has been working on an epic project in the Atlanta area, a gallery space, Black Art in America opening to the public soon.

Yes, that’s me in the mural, the girl in yellow typing a draft of the Big Mama Stories at Yaddo Artists Retreat.


UPCOMING EVENTS

July  8 – 14th Horizon Theatre presents SQUARE BLUES directed by Thomas Jones lll

August 15  STAY TUNED for the announcement of a public reading of my play  BOSS LADIES & TENDER-HEARTED GIRLS: A Manual for Renewal and Resistance at the HORIZON THEATRE 

Pre-Order Mama’s Home at CHARIS BOOKS & MORE

Black Women Speak! Marguerite Hannah and Horizon Theatre Present a new Project to amplify the voices of Southern Black women, find it in The Dramatists ATLANTA May/June 2022 Issue – Read: BLACK WOMEN SPEAK PROJECT by Candrice Jones & Shay Youngblood 


WHAT I’VE BEEN READING, RE-READING, AND WATCHING

  • Bridgerton Seasons One and Two 
  • The Gilded Age
  • Nashville, binge-watched all six seasons and wept at the end of Season Five.
  • Better Life
  • Black-ish, binge from Season One
  • This Is Us – when I need to cry. Each episode is good for at least three boo hoo’s
  • Stacks of Illustrated Children’s Books
  • Vintage Cookbooks
  • Cooking Shows
  • Emails from a friend who keeps bees!
  • Cards, letters, and postcards from around the world, I enjoy sending and receiving snail mail

YOUNGBLOOD ARTS

I’m offering 30-minute zoom or phone conversations with creatives. Discuss your writing and creative projects, resources, grants, and how to sustain your practice.

Learn more and register with the links above.

April 2022: Hawai’i Aloha

Some of you know that I lived on the island of Oahu when I was 17-18 years old. I was still young enough to wear a blue bikini and spend many days on the North Shore beaches watching surfers break wave after massive wave.

I enjoyed meeting locals and making new friends. Had fish tacos at Diamond head with a filmmaker, a Korean feast with an artist, among the wild chickens of Honolulu, experienced local contemporary art, and those legendary sunsets over Waikiki.

I founded the Perpetual Birthday Club on my 18th birthday on Waikiki beach. No one remembered my birthday. I told a stranger why I was looking so sad. An older woman probably in her 30’s, squealed. Her smile lit up like a sunrise. “Happy Birthday!”, she sang. You would have thought it was the Queen’s birthday. She bought me a donut. 

I was once given a very expensive necklace that I tried on in a store but knew I couldn’t afford. The owner said it was HER birthday and it looked good on me.

Since that time I realized that I didn’t need anyone else to celebrate me or validate me. I celebrate Shay Day at least once a month. Sometimes I buy myself a small gift and have it gift wrapped, or treat myself to a massage or a solo fancy lunch with a glass of wine, or just eat cake for a meal. Who knows better how to celebrate you than YOU.

Now I celebrate an entire season when my birthday month rolls around in the fall. I still like receiving gifts, cards, and bouquets of flowers any time of the year but Shay Day is when I celebrate myself and sometimes I’ll give someone a special gift because it’s my birthday.

The air still caresses like a lover’s hand, the water is soft, and the beauty of nature is a spiritual revelation.

I was in Honolulu to attend the Association for Asian Studies Conference where I participated on a panel with my Japan U.S. Friendship Commission colleagues. 

The conversations were engaging, and the presentations lively. I learned about new approaches to engaging students in Japanese Studies, data on jobs and educational opportunities, and discussed my ongoing project Add Architecture, Stir Memory supported by the JUSFC in 2011. 

I met the talented filmmaker Baldwin Chiu who collaborated with his wife Melissa Lam on the LINK film Far East Deep South. The film is beautiful and moving.


ASSOCIATION OF WRITERS AND WRITING PROGRAMS
 

The AWP 2022 panel in Philly went on without me in person, but my colleagues Rochelle Spencer, Opal Moore, Kyla Marshell, and Chantal James made dynamic offerings to the audience on how we and other women of color are experimenting with form in our interdisciplinary projects. 

A short sound clip from my work made it into the program. The conversation will be continued.


UPCOMING EVENT
 

In Conversation with Rachel Harper, author of THE OTHER MOTHER    

May 3 at 5:30 pm

Click here to join this Charis Books and More Virtual Event 

I’m beyond excited to be in conversation with the gifted novelist and my long-time friend Rachel Harper. I can’t wait to talk with her about this special novel that many of you will enjoy from the first page to the very last.

Pre-order your copy now and pre-register for the conversation here.


I’M COMING OUT 

As covid restrictions ease up. I’m still masked up but I’m getting out and about. 

With BOSS Janee Bolden at Girl Diver Restaurant in SE Atlanta and to the Atlanta Symphony for some Bruch and Beethoven with my cousin Schmohn.

To the movies – Everything Everywhere All At Once with Izzy.


WHAT I’VE BEEN READING & RE-READING
 

  • The Other Mother, Rachel Harper
  • Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker, edited by Valerie Boyd
  • Women Talk Money, edited by Rebecca Walker
  • Black Futures, edited by Jenna Wortham and Kimberly Drew
  • Black Food, Bryant Terry

March 2022: Traveling Without a Passport

It delights me to be living in Atlanta where the flowers put on a dazzling performance each spring. Exciting to make new friends I’ll soon get to see in person, have old friends throw pajama parties and others fly in for the weekend to show me new perspectives of the city.

Time-Traveling

I’ll be in two places at the same time this spring, in Honolulu at the Association for Asian Studies(AAS) conference to discuss approaches to Japan Studies and at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) to present on a panel with Opal Moore, Kyla Marshell, Chantal James, and Rochelle Spencer about experimenting with form in our interdisciplinary projects. 

I didn’t skip 2021 although there were times I wanted to fast forward past some of the parts that included lockdown and social distancing from my friends and family. These were some of the highlights:

  • I joined the faculty as a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Creative Writing Program, City College, Harlem. I was fortunate to work with a stellar group of writers
  • Presented the James Baldwin Lecture “Unprecedented Heartbreak” for Adelphi University
  • Facilitated two online writing workshops: Creating a Pleasure Toolbox and Grief and Healing
  • My short story “In a House of Wooden Monkeys”, was published in Glory Edim’s Anthology “On Girl Hood”

What I’ve Been Reading & Re-Reading

  • Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston, Valerie Boyd
  • Dust Tracks on a Road: A Memoir, Zora Neale Hurston
  • Vice President Kamala Harris: Her Path to the White House, Malaika Adero
  • Speak Okinawa: A Memoir, Elizabeth Miki Brina
  • Finance for the People, Paco De Leon
  • Cookbooks

News

Youngblood Arts is offering 30-minute and 50-minute Zoom or phone conversations with creatives. Discuss your writing and creative projects, resources, grants, and how to sustain your practice.

LATE BREAKING NEWS: 2020 Tried to Kill Me I’m Still Here

In the most challenging two years of my life (2018-2020), I moved 5 times (twice during the pandemic) experienced heartbreak, loss, health issues, etc. During the pandemic I have had the opportunity to spend quality time with myself asking:

Who am I in this moment now?

 How do I choose to live?

How do I choose to love?

How will I move forward to create a sustainable life for myself and contribute my skills to my community?  

We live in a new world. Our lives have changed dramatically from the pandemic and righteous protests against police brutality, a devastating economic downturn and political chaos. Zoom is a verb and we are both burnt out and able to extend our reach world because of it.

Grateful to 2020 for these highlights

  • My new home in Atlanta is SANCTUARY, KITCHEN LAB and CREATIVE STUDIO
  • Made deeper connections with my TRIBE of women friends, my blood and chosen family and made new friends
  • Emory University’s Rose Library acquired a portion of my personal and professional ARCHIVES
  • Published a graphic novel about a black female superhero/sex educator
  • Sold two illustrated children’s books to Chris Myers at Make Me A World and, Porsha Burke at Convergent (RANDOM HOUSE imprints)
  • My novel Black Girl in Paris was optioned for film/tv by Natalie Baszile the author of the novel Queen Sugar
  • In a creative learning/ experimenting spree, I made a series of drawings about the meaning of HOME during the pandemic, took ukulele and piano lessons, a manifesto writing workshop, weight training and yoga classes and streamed hours of classic opera from the MET and podcasts on subjects ranging from the esoteric to the erotic. I also cooked the most amazing meals and invented recipes.
  • Celebrated Georgia turning BLUE, thank you Stacey Abrams & Fair Fight Action, and the election of Biden and Harris
  • Velina Hasu posted a lovely interview with me on her blog highlighting Women Theater Artists https://matchabook.wordpress.com/2020/12/09/this-is-shay-youngblood-her-eyes-have-seen-and-the-seeing-continues-to-soar/

2021 is all about FOCUS and RADICAL SELF-LOVE

 New Events and Adventures in 2021

  • Launch of Youngblood Arts Second Sunday Genre Bending Literary Fitness writing workshops in MARCH!
  • Excited to teach writing workshops for VONA Feb 27-28 and July 2021
  • Artist Residency with Indigo Arts Alliance (Portland, Maine) TBA

SELECTED READING LIST

Black Futures, edited by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham

Accra Noir, edited by Nana-Ama Danquah

The View From Breast Pocket Mountain, Karen Hill Anton

What’s Your Story, Rebecca Walker and Lily Diamond

African Look Book, Catherine McKinley

Everything Inside, Edwidge Danticat

Rise, Marcus Samuelson

Resist, Veronica Chambers

ARTISTS on my RADAR

Robert Pruitt, Deborah Roberts, Carolyn Miller

*Please support Black and Independent Bookstores and BIPOC artists

DENTON BLACK FILM FESTIVAL: Community Action

image1Shay Youngblood with David Herman in the “green room”

The Denton Black Film Festival was a good time, reflective, informative, celebratory and sobering. The sold out screening of I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO was an action that inspired me to return to a writing project with urgency. Christopher Blay’s exhibition KWTXR was moving and captured this moment now. The Women in Entertainment panel was illuminating and lots of new connections were made. The films and events were rich with testimony, strategy and respite in these challenging times. Thanks to Linda and Harry Eaddy and the DBFF Crew. Community Action at work!

Broken Beautiful

“When you uncover my body there will be a name for every heartbreak inked into my skin.  Anyone who sees me naked will know it’s not just my body that’s vulnerable. I can still feel the buzz of a thousand needles.

Some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouth. My mother gave me mine. Raise the cuff of my left shirt-sleeve three and a quarter inches and you will see, tattooed on my inner wrist, a long narrow instrument for scooping marrow from the bones of slow cooked meat dishes like osso bucco and oxtail stew.”    Shay Youngblood from Broken Beautiful

 

art Marrow scoop