Why ‘zora’ is the password for my restricted material: A spotlight on the one and only Zora Neale Hurston

If you navigate my site, you’ll notice I have a prose & poetry section where I post little pieces of mine taken from scrap paper, napkins, and buried files. It’s a work in progress and definitely needs polishing up, but to keep things a bit more interesting, I’ve installed a passcode for viewing these pages on reeniverse. The passcode is zora.

The reason I chose that particular name is of course because it belongs to the magnificent Zora Neale Hurston. Undoubtedly one of the coolest and most badass women of all time, Zora has inspired and mystified me for years now. I’m still working my way through her material, which is a goldmine, but I find her personal story more fascinating than anything.

Z “looking mean and impressive”

Zora Neale Hurston was born in Alabama in 1891 and raised in Eatonville, Florida. Her life was a series of daring and creative endeavors: she was a writer, ethnographer, anthropolist, and a founding figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Throughout her extensive career, her charm and intelligence attracted patrons, friends, and mentors in creative and intellectual spheres.

Under the great anthropologist Franz Boaz, Hurston collected folklore, religious practices, games, recipes, and songs from communities in the American South and Caribbean. During the Harlem Renaissance, her short satirical stories and plays were published in several anthologies, including FIRE!!, and she collaborated with the renowned poet Langston Hughes on a production that never went to stage. She also wrote several novels, the most famous of which was published in 1937: Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Zora’s work centered around the African-American experience in America and she was highly devoted to telling their stories honestly and accurately. She chose to portray African-American spoken language in her work based on how it sounds to the ear, and she also held controversial opinions on what it meant to colored. Refusing to compromise her views, Zora’s strong opinions sometimes got her in hot water, and by the end of her life she had fallen out of favor with the artistic black community and died without enough money for a proper gravestone.

1st and only issue of afro-centric magazine FIRE!! 1926

Many credit the author Alice Walker for “rediscovering” Hurston in the 1980s by citing her works as essential inspiration for her novel The Color Purple. In fact, it was by reading The Color Purple and doing some digging on the internet afterwards that I stumbled across the marvelous Zora Neale Hurston. So thanks, Alice!

I could go on forever and ever about Zora and how interesting her life was. I love and admire her for being so brave and daring. It might sound crazy, but if I’m ever stuck in a rut with my writing and need a burst of inspiration, I write a short letter to her. Zora dedicated her life to the discovery and creation of stories, and I’m all about that! I’ve chosen Zora to guard some of my creative material, not because I wish to hide it, but because I want more people to know her name. Remember it!


The Great Outdoors: How we find ourselves in nature

[mid-week update, inspired by a lovely little walk I took this morning.]

Sometimes I take a minute to notice how much space and wilderness is around me for miles. I think of how many trees and flowers and bees and other millions of things are alive and working endlessly to survive. It’s easy to forget how small we are in the grand and ongoing production that is nature.

we all spiral

I have a good piece of advice: when life’s problems feel too big to conquer and the world feels like a crappy place, go out in nature and remember. I think it does a great favor to our mental health and wellness to ground ourselves in the great outdoors. Even if your schedule only allows you to get out there for 15 minutes a day, do it because it’s worth it.

Nature is where we find our true authentic and creative selves. It’s where we find love and inspiration. Allow yourself the discovery and cultivation of these wonderful things. You owe it to yourself and the world!


Why do people crave Authenticity? A quick look at YouTuber Shane Dawson’s series

I’m a big fan of YouTube. Since 2006 I’ve watched the humble broadcasting platform for small filmmakers take off and become a giant corporate entity that pumps out millions of minutes of content daily. From vloggers to beauty gurus, many YouTubers are affluent entrepeneurs that have risen up to the status of “influencer” due to the power of their large and steadily growing audiences.

When I first tuned into YouTube, someone with one of the highest subscriber counts was Little Loca, a character played by the late Stevie Ryan. Today, Little Loca’s profile has just below 50,000 subs. That’s an astonishing number compared to Pewdiepie’s 97 million, and goes to show just how much YouTube has grown.

little loca

I love to watch people rise to the top and I can’t seem to look away when they have an inevitable scandal and fall off. I try to take note of the style of content that audiences gravitate towards, and over the years I’ve noticed one key thing: people crave authenticity.

A good example of this can be seen in the work of YouTuber Shane Dawson. Shane is someone I’ve seen transform and launch himself to the top of YouTube since 2008. His multi-part series on figures like Jeffree Star, Jake Paul, and most recently Eugenia Cooney have received tens of millions of views from an audience that highly anticipates this content. The central goal of these series is to capture and share an honest and often uncomfortable look at the subjects’ authentic lives.

They remind of me a bit of early 2000’s celebrity documentaries that offered a glimpse into the life of a star, showcasing a side of them never been seen before. While some viewers, particularly of the Jake Paul series, have criticized Shane for his overuse of dramatic editing and other questionable practices, the response to his work has been overwhelmingly positive. This is interesting because Shane often chooses controversial and polarizing figures to focus on; despite this, the audience eagerly consumes whatever he creates and praises it extensively. He undoubtedly possesses the power to change public opinions on the people in his series by showing them at their most vulnerable and authentic.

Without going too deep into my personal opinion on Shane and his work, I want to highlight once again the general hunger for authenticity among consumers of media. I think there will always be a push-and-pull between the need for polished and prettily packaged content and, on the other end of the spectrum, a more raw, unpacked, and authentic style. In my observation, there’s a high demand right now for truthful and authentic voices telling highly personal stories. These stories may be uncomfortable to hear but ultimately resonate with many people.

In closing, you’ll definitely be hearing more from me about this topic in the future. When it comes to representation and expression, authenticity is an essential principle that I and many others crave – not only in the media but in our real lives! It’s a goal of mine to understand how we can embody our authentic selves every day and express ourselves fully and honestly. So far, all I know is that it takes bravery.


What I learned from Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

I was in a 100-year-old house in the mountains between Germany and Czech Republic. It was the dead of winter, a nasty storm raged outside, and the electricty was out. I had nothing but my phone, which was thankfully on full battery. I used it to read a digital copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

This book is about the process of creation and inspiration and the stunning power of ideas. I was surprised when I realized that Gilbert had also written the world-famous memoir Eat Pray Love, which went to the big screen in 2010. Instantly, I trusted the wisdom shared in Big Magic and considered it genuine stuff that worked. To be honest, I’m still testing it out (and having a great time). Here are a few gems I plucked out of the pages that I continue to meditate on and think about as I work on my own writing:

  • Create for the sake of creation
    Life is an endless creative process and we are creative beings by nature. Rather than overthink about creation and take it too seriously, it’s better to create for its own sake. For example, I keep journals, not because anyone else will read them – in fact, I don’t even read them once I finish – but because writing simply for the sake of writing is in my creative nature.
  • Reframe mundane activities as creative
    Things like gardening, cooking, cleaning, exercising, and other everyday actions are ultimately creative and should be seen as such. They feed our creative needs and are therefore good for the soul! No matter what we do, we’re always creating.
  • Bring life to ideas
    Ideas are weird, mystical things that we don’t quite understand yet, although Gilbert makes the case that they are sort of entities that seek us out in order to bring them to life. Think about this the next time one comes knocking at your brain. Make the commitment to work with it: give it your energy and play with it. See what happens! It’s such an interesting way to view the creative process and I love how Gilbert describes it.

Big Magic was a great read that made those dark and stormy days I had this winter fly by. It’s one of those books I’ll keep referring back to throughout my writing career because it pushed me to look at my creativity in a different way. Even though I wasn’t a big fan of Eat, Pray, Love, I admire Gilbert’s brave approach to the writing process and I definitely aspire to be as raw and authentic as she is in her writing. It’s work in progress! Stay tuned.


how to fall in love with yourself in 3 easy steps


Life is hard to stomach when you’re not your own friend. It’s much sweeter, thrilling, and more meaningful when you adore yourself. After all, you’re with yourself 24/7, and will be for the rest of your life (and possibly after). It’s a worthy endeavor to work on loving yourself! Self-Love is a pretty easy principle to understand but a difficult one to embody. It’s tempting to loathe your own existence, especially when it’s so normalized in today’s millenial culture, in which death is desired and it’s funny but also sad and infuriating.

I say forget self-hatred and to hell with self-pity. Commit to self-love. You deserve you be deep in love with yourself and now’s the time to start falling. This is about you. You are worth committing to. It’s not going to be instantenous, and as I’m writing this I’m still learning, but here are a few things that can help you along:

  1. Observe cats.

    Cats are interesting to learn from because they exude unadulterated confidence and are supreme at stepping into and radiating self-love. Watch how they care for and carry themselves, and honestly, take mental notes. Cats are good at this stuff.

  2. Embrace failure.

    I challenge you to challenge yourself to make a mistake. Give yourself enough room to fail at something, small or big, and when it happens, surrender. Sit with that feeling of failure and then let go of it. Notice that you’re still alive and life is moving on. When you eliminate judgement of yourself, you move away from fear and closer to love.

  3. Add lemon to your water

    This is honestly just something simple you can do that makes you feel like a classy supermodel.

There you have it, folks. A simple pathway towards the gift of self-love has been paved for you!

Obviously, I’m kidding: there’s no easy one-size-fits-all way towards an optimal relationship with yourself. In fact, I’m not an authority to instruct others on how to get there because I’m not quite there myself! However, the point I wish to highlight is that self-love is an important thing to put your time and energy into. It’s a personal decision you have to make and commit to seriously. The more insight I gain on the topic, the more I’ll be able to share. Cheers!