Category Archives: Interview

Yasmin Shiraz – Writer, Filmmaker, Social Media Star

Yasmin Shiraz does everything I mentioned above and more. Yes, she’s made movies, and she’s written books. She does speaking engagements. And she’s helped to spread both her message and her reputation through social media. I met her on Twitter and to me she’s proof of the good people on Twitter who need to be better known by the masses. She’s also one of the people I highlighted in my post on 21 of the Top Black Social Media Influencers. One of these days I’m going to be in one of her films (okay, she didn’t say that, but who knows right 🙂 ).

1. Can you tell people all that you’ve done and do?

I’ve written 7 books that have been published — a couple of best sellers, an award winner, and even a critically acclaimed book that was taken from my teenage diaries.

The Blueprint for My Girls: How to Build A Life Full of Courage, Determination & Self Love; Retaliation: A Novel, The Blueprint for My Girls in Love: 99 Rules for Dating, Relationships & Intimacyicon; Exclusive: A Novel; Privacy: A Novel; Teens, Handle Your Business: 24 Tools for Motivation & Success; and The Blueprint Guide to Success & Motivation: Identify, Focus On, & Achieve Your Goals.

I’ve written, directed and produced 2 films – one a 4x award winner – Can She Be Saved? is my documentary film about teen girl fights. It won several awards including Best Documentary at the NC Black Film Festival. They Call Me Dae is a short film that explores the life of a teen bully.

I’ve keynoted and conducted speeches for the Essence Music Festival, the NAACP, Planned Parenthood, Congressional Black Caucus, and at least 60 colleges throughout the US.

I’ve owned several businesses including a hip hop magazine, Mad Rhythms. I’ve interviewed more celebrities than I care to recall – though Johnnie Cochran and Martin Lawrence are among my favorites. I’ve been to Diddy’s house in the Hamptons and Jay-Z once threatened to throw me out of his dressing room. (He has a wicked sense of humor.)

2. Where did you get the passion to do all these things?

I love LIFE. I love doing things that I enjoy. I love music. I love being creative. Every day I push myself to enjoy myself through work. I feel that if I’m alive, I should use my life to enjoy myself and be happy.

3. What’s it like putting a movie together?

Wow! Putting together a movie is fun, creative, grueling, exhilarating. It pushes you to your limit. Just when you think you have nothing left, a film lifts you up and you feel satisfied that you didn’t give up on yourself. Its one of the best experiences of my life.

4. Your stuff is so edgy and real; do you ever worry that people will stereotype minorities because of it?

No. I don’t worry about stereotypes. My goal is to educate and give a voice to the voiceless. I want young people’s pain to be heard, seen and felt. If you look at one of my films and are not more in tuned with a young person’s experiences then you have missed the message.

5. You’ve written seven books, even winning awards. What awards have you won, and how did you get your first book published?

My first young adult fiction book, Retaliation won the Top Ten Reluctant Readers Award from the American Library Association in 2009. It was a major moment for me. My Blueprint books have been on various bestseller lists. After numerous agents rejected my manuscript, I wrote The Blueprint for My Girls and published it myself. 6 months after I published it, Simon & Schuster offered me a book deal.

6. You’ve written both fiction and nonfiction. I find fiction difficult; how have you broken through in your mind to be able to write both?

I love writing. I don’t overanalyze it. But, I love writing. I love expression. If I have an idea that I need to express in a non-fiction format then I work it in that medium. If I decide that the message will be better expressed in a fiction medium, then I go with it. I never limit myself or my writing. I’ve written poetry, raps, biographies, screenplays, interviews etc. You name it, I’ve written it. Most writers who truly love writing, love it in all forms. I am a writer’s writer.

7. Which social media outlets do you use and how have you seen it help you?

I use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn… I love the concept of social media and so I’m always game to try it on.

Twitter has helped me reach new people and meet new people. I love it. Facebook has helped me to show people in a sorta intimate way what I really do. It has made me more familiar to people. LinkedIn has brought me new business customers.

8. You also do speaking engagements; do you enjoy that as much as I do?

I don’t know how much you enjoy it, but I am thrilled with it. I love writing speeches and delivering them knowing that I can capture a phrase, or a word in such a way that it punctuates the moment. I love how speeches allow me to be part comedian, part actress, part activist, part showman. I get to do it all when I’m speaking.

9. You do a lot; how do you script your time?

I keep to-do lists and every day I make sure I “to-do” what’s important. (LOL)

10. You’ve already done it all; what’s left?

Getting really paid for it. LOL. But also, I love to continue to stretch myself. Who knows what tomorrow brings? So, I push myself to see if I can make tomorrow a little bit different from today.

To follow Yasmin on Twitter: @yasminshiraz
To Visit her site: www.yasminshiraz.net
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Yasmin-Shirazs-Still-Eye-Rise-Friends-Fans/139699712763511

 

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Isaac Bidwell – Artist

Isaac Bidwell is a local artist whose work I happen to like a lot. He’s starting to garner a lot of attention both in the central New York area and in other parts of the country. His art is being shown all over the place; he’s going to be a big deal one day and I get to go to a big fancy party on his behalf. Okay, I’m allowed to dream, right? Take some time to learn about Isaac, and if you like this and want to learn more then check out this first interview I did with him on my other blog.

1. Why graphic art instead of any other type?

That’s a hard question to answer. Personally I think my work is part Graphic Art and part Fine Art. Fortunately the lines a blurring.

2. How does the creative process begin?

First I think up a concept, then I start to sketch. After that I draw a detailed pencil sketch. At this point I either scan the image into my computer to digitally ink and color the image, or I use a quill pen and ink the art and then add watercolor.

3. How long might it take you to fully complete a work?

Anywhere from an hour to a couple of years. It all depends on the deadline for the work. This week I created 4 images for two gallery shows. I also have a comic I’ve been working on here and there for the past two years.

4. When you don’t have models, are you thinking about famous people, people you know or are you making them up?

I’m a big believer of using references. I used to be against it, for some stupid reason. But with a couple of references, the work simply looks better.

5. What kind of genres does your art fit best?

Before I would say Comic art, but after talking to an art rep, I realized that’s not really the case. I feel my work is more ornate, similar to Art Nouveau or sometimes to old ink illustrations of the late 1800s.

6. What kind of clients would you look to work with, or do you want to just be independent?

I’ve tried freelance and it didn’t work out well. My mistake was I thought local, not national or global. Currently I’ve been exhibiting in some amazing galleries. I now realize I can do anything I put my mind to. I honestly feel it’s just a matter of time before I go out and land some big clients.

7. Where can people see more of your work or even purchase some of it?

My work can be seen on isaacbidwell.com or thecreativefinder.com/isaacbidwell. I also have some works for sale on my publishing site: lestylemoderne.com. And I can always be reached at isaacbidwell@gmail.com.

8. Close with a pitch; tell people who you are and why you’re going to be the next big thing.

My talent. Now when people read or hear that they may think I’m full of myself. But here’s the thing, I don’t mean the art. Granted, I believe in my work, but my true talent that will make me successful in this field is the business part of my brain. I realize this is work and a business. Too many artist forget that if you want to create art for a living, it’s a job. Luckily for me about 99% of the artist out there are lazy, they just want it handed to them. I want to go out and get it.

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Getting A Little Bit Of Love; Interviewed Again

What a strange week this seems to have been. It started out with my buying my first couple of pairs of shorts ever, with my wife’s help, and finding out that I can actually wear a waist size of 42; I haven’t worn a size 42 waist in 20 years! Working out seems to be doing at least part of the job; glucose isn’t down though.

Then a consulting gig I’m supposed to be working hasn’t started yet; I haven’t even heard from the client in about a week. That’s how it goes sometimes when you’re an independent consultant, which is why I was so key on my earlier post this week about getting some money upfront; it’s not always the fault of the people trying to do work for you.

And now this; I’ve been interviewed again, this time by Christian of Smart Boy Designs. I was kind of surprised because I actually did the interview back in April, then forgot about it until I was going through old emails yesterday and started to wonder about it. And then there it was this morning; nice timing, eh?

Of course, it was also fun being a part of Ileane’s Basic Blog Tips this week with my post on 5 Ways Your Blog Might Be Irritating People. I really put out for that post because I always believe that you give as much to others as you’d give to yourself, and if you can you should give more since you’re reaching out to a new audience that you’re hoping you can drive to your site.

All that and tonight I’ll be staying in a hotel about 5 minutes from my house in a room with a jacuzzi… all by myself. My wife is holding a large garage sale with her friends and asked if I not be present; I can take a hint. 🙂 So I’ll be pampered tonight on my own, then heading to the casino in the morning. Yes, I do live a strange life; but it’s pretty fun as well. Is it any wonder why I smile so much?

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How Ready Are You To Be Interviewed?

Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of being interviewed for Carolee Sperry’s Blog Talk Radio show called Blogging Biz Mom. She does this show every Wednesday at 6:30, and I was honored to be the guest this time around. The show only lasts 30 minutes, and though I can’t say I’ve caught close to all of them, I have listened to a couple here and there when I’ve had the chance. If you’d like to listen to the interview we did, you can download it here; it’s an MP3, and I’m sure Carolee doesn’t mind. It’s publicity after all.

I love being interviewed. I want more of it, I must admit. Doesn’t matter if it’s print or radio or internet radio, I’m ready. I’m not sure the world is ready for me on TV or with a live audience, but maybe one day we’ll find out. I think I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m always ready to be interviewed. Beverly Mahone has these tips on preparing for a successful interview, and though they’re great tips, I have to own up to the fact that I have rarely done any of those things.

The couple of times I did do it was when Beverly invited me to help her host a couple of shows on older music. In that case I really did do some research and gather some facts on the acts we were going to talk about because, though I knew much of the music and the names, I didn’t know much detail about those songs or the artists; I was kind of young at the time after all.

I want to go in a different direction in talking about being interviewed. I think there’s a mental preparation one has to go through to make sure you’re ready. After all, this isn’t like a speech, where you get to write the entire thing down, memorize it, practice it, then repeat it perfectly to an awaiting audience. This is live, and you have to be calm, collected, funny, engaging, and above all else not come across as nervous.

This last one is a key if you’re being interviewed about something you’re promoting, whether it’s you or something else. If you don’t sound confident, then people are going to think you’re unsure about your business. That’s obviously not true, but if that’s the perception you put out then they’ll feel it and you might as well find a new career.

So here goes, tips for getting ready for an interview:

1. Grab something, act like it’s a microphone, and practice talking. As silly as you might think this is I don’t know a single person who had access to a pen or pencil as a kid that didn’t at least once act like they were doing a radio or TV show. What you want to practice is your “live” voice. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you want to make sure that you speak clearly, speak loud enough without shouting, and not speak so fast that no one knows what you’re saying. You might feel a little silly initially, but you’ll feel natural in no time at all. If you have to practice singing; the right voice will eventually come to you.

2. Sit in a chair while you rehearse. Most interviews you’ll be a part of will have you sitting down. Your diaphragm, where your air comes from when you’re speaking, is a bit more compressed than when you’re standing up. Strange as it seems, you’ll run out of air quicker speaking while sitting than standing if you’re in a stressful situation. Interviews aren’t supposed to be stressful, but you might find it that way. If so, make sure you do this step.

3. Think of at least 5 possible questions you might be asked. This should be really easy because you’re being interviewed about something you do that the person on the other side wants to learn something about. It’s rare that you’ll be interviewed by someone who’s an expert at what you do, but even if they are who says all experts agree with each other? Unless you’ve done something wrong or the person interviewing you is mad at you, there won’t be many “gotcha” moments. In some circumstances interviewers will ask you to give them questions you wish to be asked; that’s makes things really simple.

4. Think of terms you can use to help you buy time in case you can’t come up with a quick answer. I actually did an interview of someone last year for my business blog and I wrote 13 questions up front that I didn’t have the chance to share with her before we began. For more than half of them she thought about it for a few seconds, then led with “Wow, that’s a great question.” It bought her time to formulate what she wanted to say.

5. Be calm. Remember that someone came to you and asked you do to the interview. This means they really want you to do well, and they really believe their audience will like you. No matter what the topic is, at that moment you’re the expert, the star, the one everyone came to hear. This wasn’t an assignment you had to do; this is fun. See it that way and you’ll do just fine.

And there you go. And if you listen to the interview above and want more, you can check out these other interviews I’ve done.

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An Interview With Marelisa Fàbrega

To say that I admire Marelisa Fàbrega’s blog and her writing style would be an underestimation of the esteem I hold for her. I don’t know when I discovered her blog Daring To Live Fully, which she started in April 2008, but I know I love the way she blogs and share her posts whenever I can. If you’re not reading this blog regularly, you’re doing a disservice to yourself, especially if you want to learn how to be positive. I’m so proud that she has accepted my request for an interview, and, if you’ve seen other interviews on this blog, you’ll notice that she has totally different questions to answer. She’s unique; we deserved to learn something different.

1. What was it that led you into blogging?

About five years ago I worked as a labor attorney for the agency that runs the Panama Canal. One day I was talking to one of the canal pilots, and he mentioned that he was reading a book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad, written by Robert Kiyosaki. The book sounded really interesting, so I ordered a copy through Amazon. I read the book, and I really liked Kiyosaki’s definition of wealth, which is being able to pay all of your expenses from passive sources of income.

At the time, all of my income came from the salary I was making as an attorney. I started thinking of different ways in which I could earn passive income, and I decided to start a web site. On the web site I offered several personal development products for which I’m an affiliate (products which I use and love). I started the blog as a way to draw traffic to my web site. As I wrote more and more blog posts, and started getting good amounts of traffic and comments from readers, I really started to enjoy blogging. Now I blog for several different reasons: because it’s a source of passive income; because it’s a creative outlet for me (I love writing); because I learn and grow with each post that I write; and because I feel that I’m helping others to get more out of life.

2. You have an interesting background, especially the law degree. But you seem to do many other things. Tell us about yourself and what led you in another direction?

I’m from the Republic of Panama, which is where I currently live, and I’ve also lived in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the US, Egypt, England, and Italy. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., as well as a Juris Doctor from the Georgetown University Law Center.

I think that you need to be constantly looking out for any opportunities lying on the horizon, and then choose among those opportunities based on what you think you’ll most enjoy doing, and what will give you the most satisfaction. The Internet is a fantastic opportunity: you can be a one-man or a one-woman operation anywhere on earth, and you can have access to the world and make yourself look huge. I’m still doing some law work, but I’m looking for ways to spend more time and energy building a strong online presence.

3. Your posts are quite deep and thought-provoking; how long does it take you to research your posts before you start writing?

When I start reading about a topic which I find interesting, I always want to know more. I do research until I feel like I have a good grasp of the subject matter, and that I have two or three very useful “takeaways” for my readers. That is, I’m not looking to just add to my readers’ knowledge-base. Instead, I want to offer them concrete action-steps that they can take to improve their lives. Sometimes I get there after an hour of research. Other times I do research for three or four hours. As an attorney, doing research is second nature to me.

4. You’ve gone against the grain in writing long, yet beautiful posts. What led you to write in that manner, and how would you compare it to the so-called experts who say posts shouldn’t be more than 400 words?

I’ve read in several different places that you should write one or two short posts a day. However, I tend to write two or three long posts a week. I think that the key to blogging well, and the key to life in general, is to be yourself and to do what feels right for you. One of the things that differentiates my blog is precisely that I try to cover topics in depth.

In addition, I pay a lot of attention to the quality of my writing, even though I’ve read that people just skim blogs looking for ideas and don’t pay much attention to the writing. I want to give my readers a rich, positive, quality experience each time that they read one of my blog posts. I guess, in a way, I want “Abundance Blog” to be to blogs, what Rolex is to watches (without the hefty price tag).

5. Do you generate any significant income through your blog and other websites, or is most of your income generated offline?

There’s a steep learning curve to making money online; it’s certainly not easy. One of the objectives for my blog and my other online activities is to earn passive income, as I said earlier in this interview. I’m already doing that. Now I just plan to gradually keep setting higher goals for myself in terms of how much passive income I make online. In the meantime, I do generate income offline.

6. I follow you on Twitter and it seems like you pretty much write from anywhere; is my perception correct?

I write mainly from my home office. I also write from a club I belong to that has a pool overlooking the ocean. I can sit there all day and write. Then, when I want to take a break, I can watch the fishermen in their tiny boats, and the cruise ships and container ships waiting in line to transit through the Panama Canal.

7. How many books have you written, and where do you find the time to write so much?

I’ve written one eBook so far, How to Be More Creative, A Handbook for Alchemists. It’s a guide to living a more creative life, and I’m happy to say that it’s gotten a lot of very positive reviews. I’m also in the process of writing another eBook which should be ready soon: “How to Live Your Best Life –The Essential Guide for Creating and Achieving Your Life List.” The second eBook is going to help people create a bucket list—a list of all the things they want to do before they die–, as well as give them tips, tools, and resources so that they can get out there and achieve their life goals.

How do I find the time to write so much? One of the topics I write about on my blog is productivity, and I try to follow my own advice. 🙂

8. You use Disqus on your blog, and as you know, I’m an opponent of that and other services like it. How do you find it works for you overall?

I like Disqus because I feel that it makes my blog more interactive. For example, people can share their comments on Twitter and other social networking sites. In addition, once you create a Disqus account it’s really easy to leave a comment on any other blog that uses Disqus.

9. Your blog is well respected in the blogging community; you’re always showing up on some list I come across, and I even included your blog on one of my top lists. How do you feel about the accolades?

I love it when my blog is mentioned by others, whether it’s by linking to one of my posts or by including me in a list of “top” blogs. I get people leaving comments on my blog all the time letting me know that they just recommended “Abundance Blog” to their readers, or that they linked to something I wrote, and I just get a huge smile on my face every time I read that. It makes me feel like people enjoy and appreciate what I write, and that’s a great feeling.

10. What three short recommendations could you give to people who feel like they’re struggling with both their blogs and their life?

I would tell people to make happiness their number one goal in life, and that happiness is a choice. In addition, happiness is a state of mind, so it’s something that you can have access to at any moment, regardless of what might be going on around you at any given moment. Also, you need to persevere. The people who get what they want in life are those who know what they want, who keep their eye on the ball, and who keep taking the necessary steps to get there, no matter what.

Once again, I thank Marelisa for this interview, which I hope all of you read, then follow back to her blog. You’ll be a better person for it.

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