Bringing suicide out of the shadows and into the light

[Originally published in The Sun Chronicle]

“Love u 2.”

That was the last text message I sent to my mom.

One week later, on Nov. 17, 2010, I found out she had died by suicide.

I held the phone to my ear and heard my uncle saying ridiculous things like “your mother is dead” and “she left bags and notes on the kitchen counter.” I wanted to scream. Instead, I sobbed and pictured myself shattering into pieces.

The weeks and months that followed were a blur, a surreal and exhausting whirlwind of activity that kept me focused on resolving the tangible aspects of my mother’s death: selling her house, her car, her furniture and all of her possessions, meeting with lawyers and bank representatives, filling out forms, canceling credit cards and magazine subscriptions until I had uttered the words “my mother has died” so many times they started to lose their meaning.

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Bio for pop/R&B singer Ebon Lurks

It’s hard to believe Ebon Lurks doesn’t have a record deal yet. The 18-year-old singer has pop star good looks, vocals reminiscent of Justin Bieber and Chris Brown, and thousands of die-hard fans known as “Lurkers.” Without major label backing, he’s amassed more than 25,000 YouTube subscribers and 3.5 million YouTube views, not to mention more than 35,000 fans and followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. His YouTube cover of Frank Ocean’s “Thinking About You” — recorded in a bathroom and backed only by a pair of pencils used as makeshift drumsticks — has more than 350,000 views.

But there’s more to the Oklahoma native’s story than raw talent, charm and popular videos that prompt marriage proposals from fans. When he was just 2 years old, Ebon suffered the ultimate loss — the untimely death of both of his parents. In the wake of the tragedy, Ebon and his brother, Malek, moved to Tulsa to live with his grandmother and her daughters, who raised the boys as their own.

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How to create a freelance writing schedule that boosts your productivity

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As a freelance writer, it’s easy to start the day with lofty goals, only to find that by dinnertime all you’ve done is catch up with fifth-grade BFFs on Facebook, play with your cat and write a half-baked outline of a piece you were hoping to finish.

That’s where a schedule comes into play.

As much as freelance writing is about freedom and writing award-winning articles in your pajamas, it’s also about discipline and structure. And it all begins with your schedule.

Having a daily schedule that outlines what you’re supposed to do at specific times — and sticking to it — is how you become a productive, powerful freelance force to be reckoned with. So here are some tips for creating a freelance writing schedule that will help to boost your productivity:
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Why Chuck D was right about Hot 97

By now the Chuck D/Hot 97 beef has been well-documented by blogs, and anyone with access to Twitter can see the back-and-forth exchange that’s spanned several days.

Long story short, Chuck D blasted Hot 97 for this year’s Summer Jam show, calling it a “sloppy fiasco” and criticizing the liberal use of the n-word, questioning where Hot 97 would be if the concert had been filled with Anti-Semitic and gay slurs. He wants urban radio to “get it right or be gone.”

Ebro Darden and Peter Rosenberg of Hot 97 responded, and a war of Twitter words ensued.

On the surface this seems like just another social media spat that will be forgotten tomorrow, but in reality it runs much deeper than that. This is not just about a sloppy show or racial slurs. It’s not about Summer Jam or Hot 97 or Ebro and Rosenberg. It’s not about specific hip hop radio stations or specific hip hop concerts. It’s about what all of these things collectively add up to. This is about what “hip hop” has become, and Summer Jam was just the most visible example…continue reading at Rap Rehab.

Bio for pop/R&B artist Madisyn Elise

In an era of cookie-cutter pop idols, 14-year-old songstress Madisyn Elise is blazing her own path to stardom. A talented artist with entrepreneurial vision, Madisyn writes her own material, plays multiple instruments and co-owns the independent music label MEK7 Entertainment. Madisyn’s trademark sound is a bold mix of pop, rock and R&B that channels her youthful energy, with positive, inspirational lyrics that reflect a maturity far beyond her years. Case in point is her debut single “Crazy, Crazy,” a powerful anti-bullying anthem she wrote after being harassed by peers at school.

“This one experience kind of tipped me over,” said Madisyn, a native of College Park, Georgia. “I was just really tired and sad and depressed, and I wrote that song because of everything that I had been through.”

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Press release for hip hop artist Precise

Veteran Chicago rapper Precise to release “Ladies Love Mixtapes The EP” at listening event “Love Sessions” on May 24

Chicago, May 15, 2014—Acclaimed Chicago rapper Precise will release his new project “Ladies Love Mixtapes The EP” at the Love Sessions listening party at The Silver Room in Chicago on May 24 from 7 to 10 PM CST. Inspired by romantic relationships, the album was created to give female rap fans an alternative to the male-dominated, misogynistic content in the mainstream media. “Ladies Love Mixtapes The EP” tells a story that remains true to the essence of hip hop culture while catering to a woman’s sensibilities. The EP was written by Precise and produced by Tye Hill, D.J. Thunder and Crankz.

Over his 15-year career, Precise has performed with Grammy award-winning rapper/actor Common, Spoken Word Artist Saul Williams and Grammy award-winning recording artist Rhymefest. Last July, Yahoo Voices named him “Chicago’s Most Motivational Hip Hop Artist,” and most recently, he was a finalist in The Hard Rock Café’s Battle Of The Bands.

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The 10 most common press release mistakes — and how to fix them

Writing a good press release isn’t rocket science, but there are some important rules to follow and mistakes to avoid if you want to increase your chances of scoring publicity.

I became all-too-familiar with these mistakes in my first newspaper gig. Part of my job involved taking press releases and turning them into listings or briefs — short blurbs with just the bare facts. Besides being incredibly tedious, this chore exposed me to common errors in press releases that make it difficult, if not impossible, for journalists to get the information they need.

Though I transitioned out of that listings gig a long time ago, I still receive press releases on a regular basis, and I still see the same errors. Some are minor, but others basically guarantee that the release will end up in the trash bin.

So in no particular order, here are the most common mistakes in a press release, and how to avoid them:

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10 ways to overcome doubt, insecurity and fear as a freelance writer

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Being a freelance writer is like having to ask someone out every day for the rest of your life. Not only do you face rejection on a regular basis, but you face rejection of the most personal aspects of yourself — your words and ideas. It’s the emotional equivalent of standing naked in front of the world and saying, “So, what do you think?”

Clearly, a little doubt, insecurity and fear in this scenario is only natural. But letting those negative feelings control you and crush your goals and plans is not an option. So here are 10 strategies to overcome doubt, fear and insecurity and get into action as a freelance writer:

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7 more tips for success as a freelance writer

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While there’s no magic formula for success as a freelance writer, there are specific things you need to do to succeed. Here are the key actions that have helped me to advance in my career, and should help you do the same:

1) Build relationships: Nearly every opportunity I’ve had came about because I knew someone who helped me get my foot in the door at publication X. From that point on it was up to me to prove myself, but a relationship helped me get that first shot.

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