October 30, 2018

A Moment That Could Change Everything: The Oprah Winfrey Author Connection?

She looked at me and said, "Have you ever met that one person that changed everything." She wasn't looking at me when she said it. Instead, she was looking in her bag for her non-fiction book, her long blonde dreads falling by her side. Her hands frantically searching with no thought as to what she was saying. However, when she stated her words, my heart stopped. The world slowed down for a moment, and I registered it. It was in that moment that I met Paul*.
"Have you ever met that one person that changed everything."
Have you ever met that one person that changed your whole life? The answer was right in front of me. Yes, I had. I was meeting them right then. I was meeting Paul*-- an ordinary man wearing a blue and red plaid shirt and jeans and a goofy smile on his face. He was the type of man whose mind was everywhere all at once, and he carried his kindness in his eyes. He was dark skin, and short, and he laughed a lot, but his excitement for life was contagious. You could see it radiate from him. He looked at me and said, "Oprah." I smiled and listened to him as he told me that he knew a man that knew Oprah. Well, you don't hear that a lot, but then again you do-- so I took it as a grain of salt. I knew a man that knew a man that knew a man-- was a pretty common occurrence in Atlanta. We are all six degrees from separation, but Paul* said he was only two.

I laughed a little and smiled and shook his hand. But, something inside told me to go with it. To take the gamble. What if he did have a connection to Oprah-- as far fetched as that sounded. I shook his hand and gave him my business card, and I said, "Well, if you can get my book to Oprah, I'll give it to you for free." He smiled and took my card and insisted that he could get me on the Oprah show. It was like a game, and I was gambling, making a roll of the die. He says he knows a guy, and whether I believe him or not, I decided to give him the opportunity. What did I have to loose?

It was like a game, and I was gambling, making a roll of the die. 

So, I gave him a copy of my novel-- a free copy, we snapped pictures, I threatened to repossess my book if he didn't get it to Oprah, and we laughed-- but what if this moment could actually changed my life. That moment in that small room on the first floor of a Hampton Inn could change everything. When we parted ways, I didn't expect to hear from him again. I packed up my books, gave my friend
May* a hug, spoke about some other events, and then I got into my car. I sat there for a minute talking to my daughter about the event, and the fact that my phone battery had died. We laughed about the man named Paul* who said he had a connection to Oprah-- but then for a moment, we indulged him. I told her what it would be like to walk up to Oprah, to see her big smile and overly big black glasses looking at me with her bright eyes. To see my book in her hands, as she grinned, and for her to reach out and hug me-- me-- a nobody. For her to say, "Dawn, I loved your book The Shade of Devotion. I started reading it on the airplane and I couldn't put it down." Then, I thought about what I would say.

Would I smile? Would I laugh nervously? Would I put my foot in my mouth and say something stupid? Or, would I quietly shake her hand with my head held high and respond, "Oprah, I wrote you when I was a teenager, and I had lost everything. I wrote you when I was in my twenties when I gained custody of my brothers-- to tell you of my success. Oprah, I wrote you when I wrote my first novel in hopes that you would read it. I've been trying to reach you for a very long time, and now, I finally get to meet you about my book. I knew that you would love it. Thank you for being my silent inspiration." Then, she would turn me around to face the photographer, and he would bend low to take a picture of me, Oprah, and my book. All together-- standing in the center of her room. I would even try to coax her to come to my school and do a speech for my students as we discussed a movie deal.

My daughter and I laughed at the story. She said, "I don't know, Mama." But she couldn't help but list the things that she would buy with the proceeds for my book, and I couldn't help but join her as we drove off in the cold dark. It began to drizzle a little, but I didn't mind. All I could think about is how my brother's college would be paid for, I could finally pay off my student loan debt, I could pay off my home and be debt free, and I could pursue my passion for writing full-time. I could finally do what I always wanted to do-- write. We road all the way back to Columbus like that until my daughter fell asleep. Then, I called my friend and told him about Paul*.

He laughed at my childish faith. Then, he brought up a film "Hustle and Flow." He said "Remember when the main character struggled so hard to get his mix-tape to the entertainer?"
I said, "Yeah, I remember."
He said, "What did he do to him?"
I frowned knowing he couldn't see me. I thought about the scene. Terrance Howard was standing in the bathroom, and turned around. The rapper he had waited so long to give his mix-tape, his hard work, his dream-- was literally--
"Pissing on them," my friend laughed, finishing my thoughts. "He pissed all over his mix-tape. You remember that?" and he laughed, again, making the connection that Oprah would piss all over my book. She would squash my dream-- but I didn't believe it. I refused. I knew that somehow, someday, someway, I would meet Oprah, and she would look at me with a smile and say, "Dawn, I absolutely loved your book." So. I waited and counted the days. Three days, I told myself. In three days, something big would happen.

"He laughed at my childish faith."

So, in the meanwhile I get an email from Paul*. His friend, a book agent, decides that he wants to meet me to discuss my book and getting it into the hands of Oprah Winfrey. When I get the email, I am ecstatic. Like a maniac, I leap from my desk, dance around my room, and I am overwhelmed with excitement. My book hasn't even reached Oprah yet, and here I was discussing handing it over to a book agent-- our connection to the holy grail, Oprah Winfrey. So, he says he needs my book by 2:00 and of course, I look at my clock-- it's 12:30. Atlanta is literally 2 hours away. However, I refuse to let this opportunity go. This is the opportunity of a lifetime-- my novel in the hands of Oprah Winfrey. So, I race to my car. I am out the door with my briefcase, my laptop and of course my books. I am racing down I-185 with rap music blasting and my spirits in high hopes.

When I finally made it to the station, Paul* is waiting on me in his usual plaid shirt and jeans. I think this is a staple look for this guy. He has that same excited gleam in his eye and the same smile. He gives me a hug and we walk in. I listen to him drop the names of all the people he knows, and all the people in the building and all the connections he has with awe. The only problem is that these are music people, and most of the names he drops-- I don't honestly know. So, it was hard to keep up. The building was tall-- maybe 10 stories. It was white and glass with gleaming tile floors and flat screen televisions and a high end restaurant that serves stuff like sushi to my left.

Here I was with broken glasses (of course they broke that morning before work), over grown braids, and no make up. I was feeling awkward and out of place-- but Paul* was cool. He didn't care. He said "When I saw you up there, I thought the other's were good, but you were the best. When I looked at you and heard your story-- I saw Oprah."

"When I looked at you and heard your story-- I saw Oprah."
I couldn't help but smile. No one had ever looked at me and said they saw Oprah. Heck, most people didn't even really believe in me like that. My friends laughed when I said I was putting out a 500 hundred page book. "Who is going to read a 500 page book," one asked incredulously. In fact, one of my friends read chapter one, before I had published it, and said it was boring. She said, "Nothing has happened yet." Yet, the reviews were sweeping in that people loved it, strangers were reading it, and people I didn't know halfway across the world called me an author-- and now, so was Paul*. When he introduced me to all of his friends in radio, music, and even one or two celebrities-- he said, "This is an author-- Dawnell Jacobs." People scrutinized and scrunched their eyes and looked at me funny-- but they shook my hand anyway. Some took my cards and a few asked for books.

Finally, when it was time to meet his "Connection," we waited in the lobby. In walks this tall man with broad shoulders, a bald head and startling, hazel eyes buried in smooth caramel skin. He reached out shook my hand as Paul* introduced me as "Dawnell Jacobs the Author." I loved they way he said it. I loved the way he made me feel like I was important-- like I was somebody.

His friend looked at me, "You got it with you." And suddenly, I felt like I was in some covert drug operation. Everyone was waiting expectantly at me to produce my "package," like the mule I was. I
may be exaggerating a bit-- a bit-- but I couldn't help but feel nervous as I started scrambling in my briefcase.

"Yeah," I said as I scrambled breathlessly reaching into my small briefcase for the book as he and Paul chatted about things that were way above my head-- things like:
"I normally don't do this."
"I know."
"I usually get a retainer."
"I know."
"If it weren't for the timing."
"I know but I saw her and I saw Oprah."
"I am only doing this cause you're my friend."
"I know. Look she's going to be big."
"She's going to be here today at 6. You're making me feel like I should draw up a contract right now."

And, then I plopped my book on the counter, interrupting the exchange. He looked at my book and flipped the pages. He was quiet for a moment. It was uncanny, the same thing my friends made fun of me about-- was getting me noticed. He hit me with a barrage of questions:
"Do you have a book agent?"
"Can you give me a verbal agreement?"
"Who did your design?"
"Your layout?"
"How did you create your publishing business?"
"How many have you sold?"
"With no marketing? You mean just by word of mouth?"
"Do you ghostwrite?"
And I answered each one in turn: "No" "Yes" "Me" Me" Yes" so forth and so on until there was a silence. he took my book in his hand and looked again at Paul* as though he was contemplating. Then, finally he looked at me and asked the most important question of all, "What is your book about. Tell me how you want me to pitch it to Oprah." And those words made my insides want to splatter out and crawl all over the station.

I had no idea how to pitch my novel to Oprah-- the richest black woman in America and maybe the second most wealthy black woman in the world. What would I say to her to make her want to read my novel? So, I looked at him quietly, then I let all the words tumble from my mouth. The same words I used at the Author's Chat but with more brevity. When I was done, he told Paul he had to go, and he took my book with him and disappeared. My heart was racing.

I had no idea how to pitch my novel to Oprah-- the richest black woman in America and maybe the second most wealthy black woman in the world. 

Then, of course Paul showed me around to other people who were successes and people who were big names in the Atlanta music scene, but the whole time in the back of my head-- all I could think was: at 6:00 my book could be in Oprah's hands. Finally, when we parted ways, I headed back to my car and I drove the long journey back to Columbus, Georgia. The evening was setting in and the sun was going down and here I was . . . riding home to my house in suburbia. It was going on 7:00 by the time I reached my hometown, and I knew it would be even later before I pulled up to my driveway. However, none of that mattered, because the whole time I kept looking up at the sky, looking at all the planes flying overhead, and thinking that on one of those planes-- Oprah could be sitting in first class, exhausted and run down from filming Queen Sugar for her OWN Network-- and she would slip on her glasses, pick up my novel and read the title aloud, "The Shade of Devotion." She could be flipping the pages way up there in the sky at that very moment-- and falling in love with Yasmin and Nisay and Kaleb-- just like I did. I kept thinking how this moment, this chance, this meeting-- could be the key to changing everything. And, even if it didn't, it was proof that I shouldn't stop trying, I shouldn't stop fighting, I shouldn't stop believing that one day my book will be on the New York Times Bestseller's list. One day, my book will be the voice of the unheard-- the black woman: the intelligent, non-stereotypical, humanized, beautiful, natural, dark skin, American minority. As an author, every opportunity is another step toward your dream; never miss an opportunity on your journey to greatness. You never know how it will end.

As an author, every opportunity is another step toward your dream; never miss an opportunity on your journey to greatness. You never know how it will end.

Dawnell Jacobs is the author of The Shade of Devotion, Brains Not Included, Black Magic, and The Monsters of Within: Heart of Darkness. She has also published a self-help book Your Story Matters: Leaning How To Be The Author of Your Destiny. You can find all of her books on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and Barnes And Noble. She is also a motivational speaker to young audiences. She uses her personal journey to inspire hope and change. All pictures and entries in this blog are subject to copyright laws. ©Dawnell Jacobs 2018. 

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©Dawnell Jacobs 2017 Author of The Shade of Devotion, Brains Not Included, and The Monsters  Within: Heart of Darkness. Now on #Amazon, #Kindle, #Nook & #Barnes And Noble. Buy your copy of The Shade of Devotion now and Brains Not Included today!

June 26, 2018

MCSD Transition Fair: Creating Visionaries With a Single Novel, Your Story Matters

In each of us is a story. All of us carry a story in us of where we have been, and where we are going and where we are meant to be. And although, many of our stories end in success, many of those successes are traced in obstacles, in downfalls, and even in failures. In fact, every successful person has been a failure. Every one has failed. We have tripped; we have fallen, but it's what we do when we are down, when our face is in the dirt, that matters the most. When you are knee deep in mud, when you feel like you are sinking, are you going to lie there? Are you going to bury your face and suffocate? Are you going to drown in a sinking situation, or are you going to get back up. Will you stand and try again? It is in our darkest points that we see what we are really made of, and it's in our highest points that we can turn back and help others. I have been in my darkest hour, I've fallen, I've dusted myself up, and now I am slowly rising. Now, is the time for me to turn around and give someone else a helping hand. When I received the email from Paula about the Transition Fair, I knew this was that opportunity.
It is in our darkest points that we see what we are really made of, and it's in our highest points that we can turn back and help others. 

One day, I was at home, and I received an email from Paula. She was the director of the Transition Fair, which was an organization composed of local businesses, the school district, and mental health organizations. Each year they hold a transition Fair, which is meant to encourage those with special needs and help them transition into adulthood. When I received the email, I was excited because it was another great speaking event that I could help those in need, and it was just in time to promote my new self help book titled Your Story Matters: How to Become the Author of Your Own Destiny! I was excited to help these young people meet their dreams by sharing my personal journeys. So, I spoke to her on the phone, took notes on what she needed for the event, and negotiated any fees. Once we were done, I got to work creating a dynamic speech.



It took awhile to brainstorm exactly what I wanted to say to these students with disabilities. I wanted them to understand first that they were not alone, secondly, that there were people that have been where they are, and lastly, that they can be successful regardless of their circumstances. I also wanted to encourage parents. I wanted them to know that it was possible for their child to accomplish their goals-- no matter how big or how small. However, in order to have a goal-- you have to have a vision. A vision of where your life is now and a vision of where you want to be. A man is not a man unless he has a vision of his future. So, I titled my speech-- Creating Visionaries, because that is what I was going to do. I wanted to use my words to create a room full of visionaries-- of people with a purpose, a goal for the future-- and I wanted to do that by doing what I do best-- telling stories.

I wanted them to understand first that they were not alone, secondly, that there were people that have been where they are, and lastly, that they can be successful regardless of their circumstances.

However, there was one flaw in my plan. I had my personal story-- which was dynamic, and I was a visionary; however, I lacked a disability. Most of the people in my audience had medical, mental and even physical disabilities that enabled them handicapped. How could an able bodied person relate to them and preach to them that they had a future. How could I motivate them-- when I didn't have a story that exactly related to them. Well, lucky for me, I was surrounded by people with the same disabilities as the young people I was speaking to that had proven successful. My daughter and mother both suffer from mental disabilities, my brother has a medical handicap, and although, I wasn't disabled-- I battled with depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD for years. I could incorporate all of these stories into a single message. Of course, with permission of all those involved.

For the nest couple of days, I wrote, made phone calls and created PowerPoints. I decided to tell three stories: my mom's story of overcoming a mental disability, my brother's story of overcoming a physical handicap, and my own story-- of overcoming homelessness. The next day, I presented my speech to my students who were studying speech. I used myself as a model to guide instruction-- and my students were allowed to grade me. Many of them were so enthralled that they didn't want to leave to go to the next class. Some of my students cried, some of them laughed, and all of them gave me a standing ovation. I was complemented and told that I was an inspiration. I took their kind words to heart-- because if they were motivated by my words, I knew that the students at the Transition Fair would be moved also.
I decided to tell three stories: my mom's story of overcoming a mental disability, my brother's story of overcoming a physical handicap, and my own story-- of overcoming homelessness. 

On the day of the even I was nervous. I would be talking for an agreed upon time of 40 mins. Then, I would have a breakout session for 20 minutes-- for a grand total of  1 hour of just me speaking. I set up my station to sell my novels and my new book, I arranged my volunteer helpers-- and I made sure that my outfit was stunning. I also watched my audience as they slowly shifted in. I saw women with babies, children with special needs and developmental delays. I saw a older and younger couples with disabled teens-- and I saw a lot of people that seemed un-enthused. They milled around the food area getting snacks, the hugged each other, and many seemed to be catching up. I also saw professionals that I had worked with in the teaching realm-- who were all excited to see me as they gave me hugs and wished me good luck. The superintendent was also there. He congratulated me on my current successes, introduced me to prominent people in education, and made a lot of jokes. Then, Paula came to swoop me away and make sure that the mic fit properly, that my PowerPoint was shown correctly, and to calm my nerves. She was a gray haired women full of vibrant energy for her students. She couldn't stop telling me how excited she was to have me, and all the things the county had in store for these children that needed it. I smiled, listened carefully and nodded. I wanted to make sure that I lived up to her expectations.

Finally, it was time to settled down. Paul took the podium first, and her words flew out calmly to the crowd, guiding them to their seats to start. Next, was the superintendent, who spoke about all the great things happening in the county, and giving his own illusory explanation on my chosen theme-- Creating Visionaries. Then, it was my turn. I walked up to crickets, and I took the stand and looked out at a bunch of teen and adult faces that already looked ready to leave. There was an awkward silence as I opened up with a joke and people shifted in their seats. So, instead of wasting anymore time, I merely dived into my speech. I explained first what a Visionary was-- and broke the definition down into three parts, then, I described the three visionaries that I would discuss, and finally, I began to tell their stories.

I explained first what a Visionary was-- and broke the definition down into three parts, then, I described the three visionaries that I would discuss, and finally, I began to tell their stories. 

Of course, I started with my mother who had a dream of going into the military, and told that she would never be able to accomplish it due to the mental damage caused by a head injury inflicted by a hit and run driver. i discussed how she strove to accomplish her goals and eventually accomplished each one-- to the shock of her family. Next, I discussed my brother who was born with a debilitating disease and how the doctors did not believe he would live to see 21. I described his personal journey through pain and how he eventually lived to 25, got married, and graduated with a degree in medicine. Then, lastly, I spoke about my own life. I discussed how I was homeless, how my brothers were in foster care, and how I strove to get each one of them out. My life was difficult and arduous, but because I had a vision, and I didn't give up-- I met every goal that I set out to accomplish. I ended by telling them that this can be there life. All they need is a vision, and step by step, they can accomplish their goals and achieve the vision they made for themselves. Finally, I appealed to the parents to help, support, and give their children visions of their future. I begged the parents to allow their children to be visionaries, because no matter the disability-- each of them can have the future that they plan.

When I was finished people gave me a standing ovation and the podium was swarmed. Young people asked for pictures, parents wanted autographs-- and they all wanted a copy of my book. I was swamped with people telling me their own stories of survival, people wanting advice, and young people thanking me for giving them hope. Honestly, it felt so good that for that moment-- my words seemed to motivate, to help and to captivate. Paula also approached me-- and said that was one of the best speeches she had ever received at the Transition Fair. She hugged me and said that she cried, she laughed, but most of all she felt hopeful for the future-- and she invited me back to speak again next year. I was grateful. Then, I was off to the break out session to do my next speech-- on how Your Story Matters.

She hugged me and said that she cried, she laughed, but most of all she felt hopeful for the future-- 

When I left the event that night after closing-- I thought about myself as that seventeen year old girl so long ago. I thought about how I received the call at school, how I cried because I had nowhere to go. I thought about how I walked 3 hours at 3 am in the morning to my boyfriend's place-- just to be turned away 2 weeks later. I thought about every trial, and every tribulation I went through. I thought about every mean word and spitful comment people made about me future. I thought about the people who told me that "I would never amount to anything." I thought about my Mom-- and how her life had turned out despite trying to prove everyone wrong. At the time, I thought my constant battle was never ending-- and there were so many times I attempted to take my own life. Yet, here I am, giving speeches, writing books, teaching classes, and motivating others.

You never know where life is going to take you, but the point is that you have to believe that it is going to take you somewhere-- and it is going to take you somewhere good. You have to believe that there is hope, that there is something greater, and that all your struggles are not for nothing. Belief and hope is our strongest weapon, and it is the one that turns the victim into a victor. So, if those students and adults took nothing else from my stories-- I hope they took that one sage piece of advice. Be a visionary; have hope; greater things are on the way.

You never know where life is going to take you, but the point is that you have to believe that it is going to take you somewhere-- and it is going to take you somewhere good. 

Watch the speech here:




Dawnell Jacobs is the author of The Shade of Devotion, Brains Not Included, Black Magic, and The Monsters of Within: Heart of Darkness. She has also published a self-help book Your Story Matters: Leaning How To Be The Author of Your Destiny. You can find all of her books on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and Barnes And Noble. She is also a motivational speaker to young audiences. She uses her personal journey to inspire hope and change. All pictures and entries in this blog are subject to copyright laws. ©Dawnell Jacobs 2018. 

Follow me on twitter by Clicking Here. Friend me on Facebook by Clicking Here. Follow my Author's page by Clicking Here! Check out my Instagram by Clicking Here!

June 04, 2018

An Author On the Set of Star with Queen Latifah, Maegan Good and Evan Ross: To be a Star, You Must Surround Yourself with Stars

Networking makes the dream work, and I can't say that enough. It's so important to meet and greet people that are bigger and brighter than you are in the hopes that you can learn how to shine just as big and as bright. And, what better place to meet people that are shining brightly than on a nationally shown television network. To sit among actors and actresses that have already made their spot in Hollywood and that are attempting to climb even greater heights is an excellent way to learn how to do the same for yourself. I always believe that to learn to be successful you have to surround yourself with success, and I could not get anymore successful than surrounding myself with the cast of Stars on Fox Network, and with veterans in the entertainment field. To see them live, and close, and in person working in a professional environment would be the necessary step I needed to help me focus on attaining my dreams. So, when I received the opportunity to be an extra on the show, of course, I signed up to be an extra on Lee Daniel's latest hit series Star, and I will say I was easily impressed, mesmerized, and star struck (pun intended). It was easily one of the most highlighting experiences of the year.

Of course, as always, I brought my book. I think its pretty well-known that when I am on set-- I am never just an ordinary background actress; I am an author, bridging connections and trying to find a person to pitch. What better place to pitch your novel idea, than a film set filled with other writers, directors, actors, and those with connections that can further your career. In life, it is never about what you know-- but it is always about who you know, and who better to get to know than a person who has already made it to where I am trying to go. So, once I received the call, I packed my three best outfits, my three best books, and hit the road to Atlanta, Georgia to meet greatness with stars in my eyes.

My first advice to anyone that is trying to use a film set to network is to stand out and do your research. The night before appearing on Star, I re-watched all the episodes of Season 2. I paid careful attention to what the cast were wearing. I wanted to look like I belonged, like I was a part of the cast, like I was an insider. I wanted to "look the part" and looking the part is half the battle. I knew that when I stepped on set, I would be in a sea of people all striving for a spotlight. Most people are going to wear either the skimpiest outfit or the craziest-- and I wanted to do the opposite. Sometimes, the best way to stand out-- is to simply fit in.Thus, I choose a sequin blazer, fitted jeans, nice flats, and I wore my hair straight. I patterned my makeup a little edgy with dark lipstick, which is signature for the show and big hoop earrings. I was very urban, but catchy. Based on the responses from my look when I arrived set, my outfit was the perfect match for the show.
My first advice to anyone that is trying to use a film set to network is to stand out and do your research.
After donning my outfit, I rode to Atlanta and arrived to set 30 minutes early. What awaited me was a long line of extras being shuffled from the parking lot into a tent that was several miles away. Of course, I took this as a great time to network. I always treat every person as an opportunity to share ideas, exchange information, and learn more. You never know who may be in the crowd. One woman I spoke to happened to be an aspiring film producer who had done quite a few indie films. As we exchanged information, I had no idea she would become my best friend quite literally. Her expertise in the film industry as a crew member, a film student, and an aspiring producer would literally help me navigate the entire set as though I was a pro. She was my first major connection, and she was a resourceful one. In fact, she is currently creating the promos for each of my novels as we speak, so this connection was definitely a great one.

Nevertheless, by the time I made it to set, I had made several friends. Some were older, some were younger, most were carried in their professions-- but some would prove life changing. However, I will get back to that later. As I set in the tent looking at the styles and clothing of all the extras, wardrobe approved my sequin jacket and actually fell in love with it. They were the first to make a comment on how cool it was-- and it made me feel as though I had chose correctly. Next, we were off to hair and makeup for a quick picture, and to gel my edges down. Then, we were walking behind a production assistant to the set. Of course, we were all freezing, the sun was out, it was noon, but the PA's didn't care. They barked orders for us to line up, to get in our places, to follow directions and to listen. Some of the PAs were nice and some weren't, but they were all in a hurry to get things done, and they were not interested in answering questions.
I always treat every person as an opportunity to share ideas, exchange information, and learn more. You never know who may be in the crowd.
However, this is were my new found friend came in-- because she had so much film experience. She literally whispered in my ear the answers to my questions before I had time to ask them, which was nice. She was charming, beautiful with a nice smile-- and she was literally saving me from embarrassment at every term. Words like holding, reset, back to your ones, and picture up-- were all new for me. I was thankful that she would explain them with ease. Opening yourself up to new people can many times lead to unexpected successes. If I had never networked with her, made friends, or exchanged information-- I would never have had the opportunity to learn from her tutelage and improve my experience on set. Being open, willing and flexible to other healthy relationships-- it can be the difference between success and failure.
When we reached holding, we were in a bar, and we were all guessing what scene we were going to be a part of. From the colorful beads, rainbow colored decorations, and colorful Mardi Gra mask-- I guessed a pride parade. However, let's be honest-- I had read the information on the email. I already knew it was a pride parade, but it seemed that I was the only one who read the email invitation thoroughly. It's important to make sure that you read a packet thoroughly before going to an event. Ignorance is not always bliss, and knowledge can give you a really clear edge over the crowd.

However, as I was sitting there chit chatting with all these various ladies from transsexuals, to strippers, to everyday housewives, to educators, I was having a ball-- I was surrounded by people and I was navigating all types. You can't be narrow minded when networking, and you never know who is sitting next to you so remember to treat everyone with a decorum of respect. There were ridiculously funny and entertaining. In fact, during the course of the conversation, many of the ladies were discussing stealing someone's jacket. I stopped long enough to listen to hear them jokingly reveal that the jacket they were planning to steal-- was mine. I was elated, that I was receiving so many compliments and notice from a simple jacket.
 Being open, willing and flexible to other healthy relationships-- it can be the difference between success and failure.
Once we were out of holding, we were introduced to the Assistant Directors who led us to our places. One director in particular pointed me out, and my new found friend came along with me-- along with a few other ladies. She led us to the middle of a street that was blocked off by false police cars and had a huge black bus waiting in the middle. She looked at our group and said "Are any of you guys friends for real?" Of course, Iesha raised her hand immediately.

"We are," she shouted, and I couldn't help but laugh. Not only was she knowledgeable, but she was quick to take advantage of an opportunity.  This is a necessary skill set when networking; never turn down lucrative opportunities because you never know where they may lead. The director nodded her head and lead us to a corner in front of a stand in, which was a young woman with a badge on her shirt. Iesha explained that a stand in was meant to reserve the spot for one of the actors as they filmed. I nodded, but I couldn't help but wonder who the young lady was "standing in" for. The director than explained that when we were given our cue, we were to pantomime or pretend to dance and have fun a this Mardi Gra parade for the first scene.

As we stood there listening to the director give us our directions and going through rehearsals, I suddenly found out who was meant to fill the spot behind me. It was none other than Meagan Good. The actress from Think Like a Man, Stomp The Yard, The Unborn, and so many other films.  It took so much will power to not gush, or ask her for photographs, or spaz, but I controlled myself. However, after much joking around-- I finally got her to interact with me. She discussed her dreams of directing films one day, and I was able to sneak in my dream of becoming a New York Times Best Selling author. And there you have it, we were two people on the road to our dreams, but she seemed a lot closer to hers than I was. I wanted to show her one of my novels; however, it was time to pantomime our dancing scenes again-- and I never got the opportunity.

Yet, I was still able to establish myself as an author, and I still remember the look of amazement on her face. I was now not just another face in the crowd, and who knows, if I ever see her again-- maybe she'll remember that moment. However, one of the biggest things I took from her that day was her kindness. Her willingness to take pictures with fans, even in the middle of a busy work day, her willingness to let someone she never met kiss her on the cheek (while we have a flu epidemic going on mind you), and her ability to speak to someone-- who for all intents and purposes was a "nobody" to her about her books. Meagan Good was simply a good person, and good people can achieve a lot. She was thankful, kind and willing to talk to everyone-- no one was beneath. Stars don't have to struggle to shine; they don't have to diminish those around them to stand out; they are bright all by themselves; yet, a true star is kind enough to share the sky with others.
I suddenly found out who was meant to fill the spot behind me. It was none other than Meagan Good. 
Regardless, the role I had been given by the director was simple. Iesha and I were to be friends crossing the street in front of the other actresses which included a star stellar list-- Queen Latifah as Carlotta, Jude Demorest as Star, Ryan Destiny as Alexander Cane, Brittany O' Grady as Simone Davis, Evan Ross as Angel, Luke James as Noah Brooks, Stephan Doreff as Bobby Dean and Lance Gross who has just received a reoccurring role on the new season. Regardless, they would all be climbing down from a bus, and we were to cross in front of them pantomiming our new found friendship along the way, which was  lot harder than it sounds. On the first take, we did great. The second take, I think Iesha bumped into Queen Latifah, and nearly died. I couldn't help but laugh, as I had came close a time or two. The third take, we somehow got separated and had to regroup, on the fourth take, we ended up going in a completely opposite direction, on the fifth take, I was worried that our small part would be end up on the cutting room floor (if they even still had a cutting room). Regardless, by the 20th time, we made sure to stay out of the stars way, because they definitely wouldn't stay out of ours.

In the process, I was able to say hello to Simone, or Brittany, and catch the attention of Evan Ross. He was nice enough to speak to me every time he saw me, which happened to be quite often. We kept crossing paths the entire day. In fact, he even noticed my jacket and rubbed it to see if the colors changed (which it did by the way), and we even made a couple of jokes together. Of course, my new friend decided to embarrass me in front of him, by gushing on our impending wedding day (Evan is already married by the way) within ear shot (like right behind his back) and get me a couple of dirty stares. However, overall, he was probably the nicest (and handsomest) of all the cast members. Also, who knew my jacket could get me so much attention, especially a compliment from Diana Ross's son and Tracie Ellis's little brother. However, I was never able to stop smiling and drooling enough to discuss my novel with Evan and pictures were out of the realm of possibilities. Yet, who knows? Maybe, we will cross paths again and he will take a picture with me and my novel. Or, maybe when he was rubbing my coat-- maybe he left a little bit of his star power on me. Regardless, it was nice to be noticed.
Stars don't have to struggle to shine; they don't have to diminish those around them to stand out; they are bright all by themselves; yet, a star is kind enough to share the sky with others. 
Finally when night came, I got to watch Evan and Brittany in action-- acting out a volatile scene of her slapping Angel and the cops coming along to impose a small racial undertone. Although, the cop car broke down a few times-- the moment was mesmerizing. Watching Lee Daniels in action, redirecting, coaxing the scene he wanted, changing the lighting and making sure he got the perfect shot was absolutely magical. I honestly believed he was the real star of the scene-- from behind the camera he worked small miracles. During this time, I had another small part of walking my friend home. I imagined, the TV seeing me in my sequin jacket fade into the night behind Evan as he sat-- hands tied behind his back on the sidewalk. It was nice to be a part of something-- although by this time my feet were hurting and the tiredness of the day was starting to settle in.

Image may contain: one or more people, night and outdoorAgain, when Evan and I crossed passed-- he always had a ready smile for me. It was almost a running gag by this time. "It's always you--" he said commenting on how he always saw me when he looked up, and I would smile and gush-- only being able to answer "yes" followed by an embarrassingly school girl giggle. However, the weirder part is that I didn't want to seem like I was stalking the man-- so there were times that we crossed paths that I would not look up or pretend not to see him-- so he wouldn't think I was some crazed fan out to bask in the glow of his stardom. I am not sure if that was more awkward. However, as awkward as that seemed, I was upset at myself for not speaking to him as I was able to speak to Megan Good. So, I figured this was something I needed to work on. Not only did I need to network with women-- but I also needed to learn to navigate the world of the opposite sex. Yet, the awesome part again is that out of sea of faces-- pretty girls with high skirts, low cut tops, boys with designer clothing, and flashy jewelry-- I was the extra he noticed. There had to be close to a hundred extras on that set, yet I was noticeable; I stood out by blending in. In fact, during one small moment while I was sitting on the bench waiting for my scene-- a passerby asked me "Are you an actress?" There were 10 other extras standing around me, but he looked to me, and asked me was I apart of the main cast.  Sometimes, the universe gives you signs when you are on the right path in life, and I definitely felt that my being noticed was a sign for me to keep going. I was beginning to look like who I perceived myself to be.

Finally, when the scenes were over, and my pantomiming dance moves, and pretending to walk home a drunk friend were done-- I was left with many memories. I honestly wished I could bring my students on set, so that they could experience what I had experienced, and what I had experienced was a life living your dreams. I had experienced a collection of people working hard doing what they loved the most. I had experienced a small taste of success and stardom right there in Atlanta, Georgia. I had saw the possibilities that were available to us all. As I walked back to holding, with the night crowding in around me, I thought about what it would be like just to have one of my books being produced. I thought about the stars that could play my characters, and the director who could bring it to life. I thought about my future, and how great it could be if I just keep working hard at it. I solidified in my heart that one day I wouldn't be the extra on set, that I would be the writing consultant working closely with the director and turning my characters into household names. Don't stop believing, I thought to myself.
Sometimes, the universe gives you signs when you are on the right path in life.
Regardless, when the night was over I road home on a natural high. I watched the wrap up one scene, and move to another, and even end the day. I watched people doing what they love for a living. That's what I wanted to do. I wanted to do what I loved-- all day, everyday. I wanted to be like the Stars working with the gifts and talents that I was given to create ultimately my own brand, image and fame as a author. I wanted to be my own star added to a night sky that had room for us all. However
, in order to be a star, I needed to place myself in the midst of them-- I needed to be surrounded by stars. As they adage often says, birds of a feather flock together.

When I arrived at my home, I knew I needed to do more than simply network. I needed to start forming relationships and bonds that would elevate me to the next level. Maybe, a little of Evan Ross's star power had rubbed off on me. Maybe, I was a small star, beginning to shine.


Dawnell Jacobs is the author of The Shade of Devotion, Brains Not Included, Black Magic, and The Monsters of Within: Heart of Darkness. She has also published a self-help book Your Story Matters: Leaning How To Be The Author of Your Destiny. You can find all of her books on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and Barnes And Noble. She is also a motivational speaker to young audiences. She uses her personal journey to inspire hope and change. All pictures and entries in this blog are subject to copyright laws. ©Dawnell Jacobs 2018. 

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May 06, 2018

MCSD Teacher of the Year 2018: How Losing Big Created One Big Win for This Author


Success is a series of flamboyant failures. It's a list of almost wins and big losses, even public losses. Thursday, I took a very public and very big loss by failing to win big as Muscogee County School District's (MCSD) Teacher of the Year. Not only would I have won a lasting title as a Top Teacher, but I would have been entered into the running for the State Competition, and I would have took home a plaque and cash prize of 5,000 dollars. A prize to which my family was looking forward. I worked hard for the title from showcasing my best lessons to staying up late working on speeches, to analyzing every compliment as a sign to a possible winning clue, to buying a winning outfit for the special night. I remember thinking that May 3rd couldn't come soon enough, and suddenly feeling the dread of doubt. What if my name wasn't called? However, I convinced myself that I was a winner, I had a winning persona, and of course, I could do no less than win that night. So, as sat in the audience holding my daughters hand, clutching my winning speech, and silently praying in anticipation, my feet steadily shivering in excitement, you can imagine my shock when my name wasn't called.  I remember seeing in slow motion the simultaneous shock of those around me as their eyes and mouths dropped in disbelief. To them, I was the clear winner, but for the county, I just wasn't number 1. I remember unraveling my prepared speech full of thanks and poignant quotes, and tucking it into my purse to never see the light of day. I failed, or at least that is what it looked like on the outside.

"Success is a series of flamboyant failures"
However, in this moment, I thought about the entire year. I thought about the fact that I was a Top 3
Teacher of the Year, and all the letters that littered my classroom from my students, their parents,  Mayor Tomlinson, Cathy Williams, school board members, former principals, former MCSD's past Teachers of The Year like Stefan Lawrence and Sheryl Green, and even my old professors from Columbus State University. I thought about the love of my family, and the newspaper pictures that lined my favorite aunt's refrigerator. I thought about the words of my aunt as she reached over and hugged me "Your mother would have been so proud," and my brother's words, "You are my teacher of the year" and the words of my students, "We love you Ms. Jacobs, win or lose." I thought about all the support I received from the community-- from text messages and letters to phone calls and emails. Despite, what it looked like on the outside-- I was still a winner. I had won the heart of the community-- of my hometown, and that was the most important prize of all. The girl who was a high school drop out, who was the daughter of the "crazy mother," who people had said would never be great or be special-- had for a moment been the spotlight of the entire town. I had become a Top Teacher and had the love of my community. People were celebrating my successes with me, were rooting for me, and felt the sting of my loss just as heavy if not more so. When I thought about the journey I had walked, the mile I had run, and the joy I had created-- I realized I was still a very big winner. In fact, I was probably the biggest winner--because no one expected a woman like me to get so far.

"'We love you Ms. Jacobs, win or lose!'"

I think back to the girl I was at 17 years old, and I want to hug her; I want to wipe her tears like her favorite English teacher did so long ago, and reiterate that "Everything will be all right. That everything will work out just fine. Have faith," because in that moment, I realized that my life had worked out just fine. I have a profession that I love that loves me in return, I have a burgeoning career as an author, I have a family that I kept together despite the obstacles, and I have hope for the future. At 36, nearly 19 years after that school phone call that sent me on a downward path of despair, I was finally living the life I planned for myself-- a life of success. I won big that night, not because I took home a plaque or another title or a grand cash prize, but because I exceeded the statistics. I have accomplished more than anyone ever thought I could.

I won big that night, not because I took home a plaque or another title, but because I exceeded the statistics.
The next day, my Principal allowed me to read my acceptance speech to the whole school, and it moved some to tears, and my students applauded. I was faced with a sea of black and brown and
beige bodies overwhelming me with hugs and love and hope. I knew that teaching was my calling, that I was where I was meant to be, and I was excited for my next adventure. As I said in my winning speech, which is below, "a good education can change everyone, but a good teacher changes everything." Each day, I give a good education that creates future learners, but I was also a great teacher-- and I was changing everything for my students-- I was changing lives: being a Top 3 Teacher of the Year taught me that. So, I am forever proud of this moment, of who I am, and wherever I end up next. I know the next phase for me will be even bigger. Thank you Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation (MEEF) for giving me the opportunity and showing how much I really mattered.



I knew that teaching was my calling, that I was where I was meant to be, and I was excited for my next adventure.
TOTY Winning Speech

Good Teachers Change Everything



First, I would like to thank MEEF (Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation) for this opportunity. I want to thank the members of the school board, the superintendent David Lewis and my coworkers. Thank you, Ms. Toelle, for being my first Mentor at Early College Academy and for allowing me to practice my speech in your classroom. Thank you to Ms. Robinson and Mr. Larkin for putting up with the figurative language song and all the desk banging, rapping, and debating that makes my classroom stand out, thank you Dr. Forte for teaching me how to be confident, thank you to Ms. Everett, Ms. Jones, and Ms. Hernandez for always being encouraging. Thank you, Mr. Brock, for always being so positive. Thank you to my students of ECAC—because as I told them—a teacher is only as good as their weakest student. I could not be a good teacher without great students, and I may be biased but I honestly believe that ECAC has some of the best students in Columbus, Ga. Thank you to Ms. Douglas and Ms. Alexander from Baker Middle School who both told me that if I keep going and creating creative lessons, one day I could be Teacher of the year—who would have known how right they were. 

I would also like to thank my family and friends. I would like to thank my cousins Latosha Rogers, Kenny Earl, Trina King, Terry King and Lyndell King as well as my children and brothers Lakeisha Jacobs, Joshua Jacobs, David Jacobs, and Jason Jacobs, my aunt Audrey Parkman, and my friends Delincia Hart and Scott Hart. Thank you holding me up when I felt like falling and giving my strength when I was weak. Thank you for all the support through the years. Also, I want to thank my mother without her I wouldn’t be who I am, where I am, and with the strength I have. My mother is my best friend, my biggest fan, often times my biggest critic and my most complicated relationship, but she is also my first teacher.

In fact, my mother could be considered a Tiger Mom. I am not sure if you heard of that before but a tiger mom is a mom that is highly critical. She demands the best at all times and forces their children to strive for the highest achievement. I remember, I would bring her my school work growing up, and she would tell me it was wrong. She would erase every answer and make me rewrite it over in complete sentences. She never used Baby Talk—often using vocab words like idiosyncrasies and forcing me to look the word up in the dictionary if I didn’t understand it, and I would read the newspaper to her at 8 while she drove. If I made a mistake, I would always tell her “But Mom, I did my best!” Her response was always the same: Well, your best wasn't good enough. These words have haunted me my entire life.  They were both motivating and hurtful.

 After washing the dishes, after cleaning my room, after doing my homework, after writing an essay—my mother’s response was always the same “Well, your best wasn’t good enough.” Eventually, I stopped hearing your best—all I heard was “not good enough” and that meant that I wasn’t good enough. So, no matter what I did, or how high my grade or what I achieved—I always felt as though I was not good enough. Until this moment, until I became teacher of the year. When the teachers got together to make me teacher of the year, for the first time a group of people said “Ms. Jacobs, you are good enough.” When I became the Top Ten—thanks to the school board and MEEF— all I heard was “Ms. Jacobs you are good enough.” When I learned I was in the Top Three—the Superintendent fist bumped me and reminded me that “I was good enough,” and as I stand here on this stage I know that not only am I good enough—I am great. I am a great teacher surrounded by great teachers. This is a moment I have wanted my entire life—to feel “good enough.”

But, I am not alone. This is a reality for many of our students. Many of our students grow up feeling not good enough, and it is our job as educators to change that. It’s our job to make sure they are good enough to pass the class, they are good enough to walk along the stage for graduation, they are good enough to get into a college or trade program, they are good enough to write the essay to get the scholarship—and definitely good enough to create the resume to get the job.  And if we have students that walk into our class that lack the skills to be called good enough, it’s our job to give them the skills to make them good enough. It’s our job to teach students like me—students who are considered “high risk” and to hopefully change lives. And, “high risk” students are everywhere. These students are in every neighborhood, in every school and across socioeconomics and cultural groups. In fact, I would bet that many of us in this room were once one of these students.
 
In fact, let’s do a social experiment. If you feel comfortable, you may stand if you match one of these descriptions. Stand if you were student from single parent home, stand if you were a student with a poorly educated mother, student from home with alcoholism, stand if you were a student from substance abuse, stand if you were a student from foster care or adopted. Stand if you experienced  any form of abuse, including emotional, physical or mental, if you are from a family that has had any type of criminal involvement and stand if you have experienced poverty, stand if you grew up in a large city or stand if you grew up in a rural area —these are all considered high-risk indicators that are associated with “low test scores” and “a greater likelihood of dropping out,” but I can bet that each of you can think of one teacher that impacted your life and made a difference. A teacher that made sure you were good enough to pass, and graduate, and get the job.  In fact, I bet that teacher is who made you want to become a teacher.

Well, our students are just like you. These students are just like me, and it’s going to take all of us—parents, teachers, business leaders, -- the community—a village to make sure that our children, our students, feel the same why I feel right now. They don’t just need to feel good enough, but they need to be good enough—in fact the need to be great. Our students are our greatest investment and our most precious asset, and as a community it’s our job to sustain them. If you don’t remember anything else, remember this: “a good education can change anyone, but a good teacher can change everything.” 




Dawnell Jacobs is the author of The Shade of Devotion, Brains Not Included, Black Magic, and The Monsters of Within: Heart of Darkness. She has also published a self-help book Your Story Matters: Leaning How To Be The Author of Your Destiny. You can find all of her books on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and Barnes And Noble. She is also a motivational speaker to young audiences. She uses her personal journey to inspire hope and change. All pictures and entries in this blog are subject to copyright laws. ©Dawnell Jacobs 2017 

Follow me on twitter by Clicking Here. Friend me on Facebook by Clicking Here. Follow my Author's page by Clicking Here! Check out my Instagram by Clicking Here!