The Non-Definitive Guide To Life

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Interview with Camari Carter

INTERVIEWS - May 23, 2020

I met Camari Carter on Periscope about four years ago. We were both following this motivational business coach, whose name I can’t remember, but they were at a seminar streaming a talk with Gary Vaynerchuk. We liked each other’s comments and started following each other on the platform. A few weeks later I decided to go live on Periscope for 100 days to practice consistency ( a value that isn’t my strength) and Camari along with another Periscoper, Little Mousie Creations regularly checked in with me on my consistency journey.

Camari and I then began to follow each other on Instagram and eventually we connected offline over a warm bowl of udon in Little Tokyo. I feel so lucky that the universe pulled Camari into my orbit, or I was pulled into hers because she is one of the most inspiring people I know. She is a talented writer and artist, who pours so much heart and soul into everything she touches. She is a light warrior lifting up the people and community around her, even at her own expense sometimes, like all nurtures.

She refers to herself as a book doula, which is a fitting title as she helps bring the writing and passion of others to life with her knowledge, talent, and expertise.

Discover more about this amazing creative, the radiant Camari Carter in my interview with her below.

Fast Facts

Name &/or Nickname: Camari Carter Hawkins, Favorite Nicknames: Meesh and Mari 

Zodiac Sign (bonus points if you know your moon and rising sign):

Sun: Capricorn
Moon: Aquarius
Rising: Gemini

Favorite Color: Olive Green, Mustard Yellow 

Childhood Hero: Moesha 

What is the multi-hyphenate you are most comfortable identifying with?

Author, Book Doula, Poet

I know it’s likely hard to choose, but for this time in your life right now, what poem from your book ‘Death By Comb‘ is a stand out right now and why?

Good question. The poem that stands out to me at this current place and time is called “Untreated.” Untreated is about my health journey with my thyroid. Back in 2015, I was told by a doctor that if I left my thyroid untreated I would die. After following a natural protocol for 4 years, I was practically normal up until two weeks ago. I had a flare and was hospitalized for 2 days. I was afraid for my life and the poem immediately came to mind. It is not a happy poem unfortunately, but it is relevant at this current time. The flare was caused by anxiety and stress, hello COVID-19, but I have faith and a plan to get myself back to where I need to be. 

You created a wonderful self-guided journal, what inspired you to create this book and what was the process like for developing it?

The Write Back to You Journal was initially created for me. I found myself in a very, unhappy place in my life where I didn’t know who I was – the real me, the me that surfaces when no one is around to distract me. I remember venting to a mentor friend about my life and she said that I’ve “edited” myself out of my life.  I initially looked online for a self-discovery style journal for adults or anything that would help me edit myself back into my life.. After being unable to find one, I decided to create one for myself. At this point, I’ve worked with a local small press and was very familiar with how to create my own book. So, I jotted down a bunch of questions that I wanted to explore with myself and created the journal. After the journal was created, I proceeded to fill it in and realized that others might enjoy it as well. From there, I hosted a women’s retreat in Joshua Tree and several local journaling workshops. I can say that this journal was a true aid in this continuous process of learning myself. 

Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow? 

Tea is a great companion. I can’t say that I have a specific ritual. It all depends on what I am working on. To get into the mood for novel writing, I like to make some tea and listen to some music that my main character would like or would be background music in a novel. For my serious workflow, coffee helps (although I have to cut back). I also live for a good to-do list! Before I get to work, I take a look at the list to assess what is a priority or identify what will move me forward, then I get to work! 

To me, you’re a person who is not afraid to put themselves out there. When you have an idea you execute on it, and find your own way to get it out into the universe – whether it’s your poet chats or your writing retreats.

To the person who has that inner critic that tells them their ideas aren’t worth producing, what advice would you give them to push pass that fear?

Oh dear, we all have that inner critic, don’t we? I hate her! My inner critic is VICIOUS and ruthless!

One of my mottos is “jump first, parachute second!” Realistically, that is how you skydive, right? However, before you get to the jump, you need to do a lot of preparation and self-motivating talks. I like to think about what is on the other side of the jump. I know I would be more upset and resentful if I didn’t try. So why not try? If it is not harmful to others and won’t put you in serious debt *lol* why not?!

My love language is affirmations. It is important that I affirm myself and hype myself up to do something. Prepare, love yourself, then jump! In the end, it will always make for a good story or good experience. Also, it helps to get really excited about the project. I allow my excitement to outweigh my fears. Half of the time, my excitement is so tangible that I don’t even contemplate the fears until after I’ve completed it lol. That’s when I say “What did I just do?!”  I’m kinda backward that way, but it works. 

Who are some of your creative influences or inspiration? 

I don’t have one specific person who inspires me – I look to the poetry community a lot. I try to add to what is going on or make it better somehow. I try not to look at too many celebrities or people with money and influence. It will only discourage me because they can move much faster than me. I try to focus on what I can do and the person who is depending on me.

My husband influences me a lot. He has been a great cheerleader for my ideas. He is also the hardest working singer-songwriter I know. 

Favorite comfort food, is it homemade or at a certain place?

Tacos. Tacos. Tacos. I love me some tacos. I love them with salsa, chopped white onions, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, cilantro, with radishes on the side! Load me up! I can eat them at any time. I prefer whole-in-the-wall spots. My mother makes amazing tacos as well. 

What does the perfect Camari self-care day look like?

The perfect self-care day(s) would be driving up to a cute town by myself, staying in a hotel that provides free breakfast (very important! who wants to cook on vacay?!), taking several baths a day, eating warm hotel cookies (because yum!), and watching old school movies and shows while drinking wine until I pass out. Wake up. Rinse. Repeat. Throw in occasional thrift shopping, sightseeing, and swimming. 

What is a quality you admire in other people?

Truthsayers. I’ve always admired people who just didn’t give a damn and spoke their mind. I admire bold people who speak their truth and stick up for themselves. That is a quality that I want more of so I try to surround myself with people who are good at speaking up for themselves and putting themselves first. 

If you had the opportunity to Matrix download one subject (this includes the entire scope of said subject) into your brain – what would it be and why? 

I would love to download a skill. I would download everything there is to know about interior design. That is a weakness of mine. I can make pretty graphics, words, and social media postings – but interior design? I am at a loss. Now that we are quarantined, I have a strong desire to make my space beautiful but I don’t know where to begin and it gets overwhelming for me. If I could click a button to download all there is to know on interior design, I would be unstoppable. 

Who are some of your favorite writers, creatives, makers, or artists to follow on Instagram? 

I love love love Mindy Kaling. If I could be friends with any creative celeb, it would be her. She’s just so fun. 

I enjoy Alessandra Olanow @aolanow – she creates these illustrations that really speak to me. 

Tony Baker is just for feel good laughter. 

Little Golden Black Out Poems crafts the best blackout/erasure poems and I’m a huge fan of her poetry. 

Brandie Freely drops gems daily and I love her InstaStories. 

WilderBagCo sells awesome vintage wear and shares a lot of her writing.  

Blanket Fort Adventures keeps it positive, quirky, and very fun. Plus, I enjoy her vlogs! — hey, that’s me!

I could go on but these are my top faves. 

What are you working on right now that you are most excited about? 

 I am working on a novel called Brock and Chio. I am really excited about that. I also started an anthology press called Mama’s Kitchen Press. I’m currently taking submissions now for poems and stories by black women who’ve suffered infertility, pregnancy loss, and miscarriage. Since black women rank the highest to either die from pregnancy, get improper care, or carry a child full term, I find it imperative to share these voices and offer community to these women. I am incredibly excited about this.

RSVP below for Mama’s Kitchen Press virtual event “Sorority of Bereaved Mothers” a conversation on Black Women’s Womb Health – pregnancy, miscarriage, loss, grief, advocacy, and community.

About this Event

Sorority of Bereaved Mothers is an anthology and panel discussion on Black Women’s Womb Health created by Mama’s Kitchen Press and hosted by author and poet, October BLU.

We want to invite you to discuss this very important topic and join our community.

Black women have twice the risk of miscarriage compared with other racial groups. Black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women’s health. Put another way, a black woman is 22 percent more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman, 71 percent more likely to perish from cervical cancer, but 243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. (NPR, 2017)

Panelists:

Kat Branchen, Speaker and Entrepreneur

V. Kali, Author and Doula

Camari Carter-Hawkins, Author and Founder of Mama’s Kitchen Press

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sorority-of-bereaved-mothers-a-conversation-on-black-womens-womb-health-tickets-106135648582

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Journey to The Moth Stage – CONTROL

ADVENTURES, READ - November 9, 2017

If you listen to your local, national public radio station, you’re probably familiar with The Moth. Specifically, The Moth radio hour, an hour worth of curated stories from people’s lives that entertain and inform us all about life and the human condition. Each story is a true story from the storyteller’s life and what they share can be humorous, emotional, heartfelt, but basically always leaves you feeling a little more connected to humanity than you did before – or at least it does for me. I love listening to people’s stories. I love connection. So I really love The Moth.

I’ve fantasized about being on The Moth radio hour, but it’s a long road to get there, and it starts with StorySlams. The Moth hosts StorySlams in various cities across the country that are centered around a specific theme. Storytellers then coming to the event put their name in the proverbial hat and destiny decides whether they will share that story or not. Each story is judged by random people in the audience, and the winner of the night goes onto a GrandSlam where they compete against other StorySlam winners. The stories that get onto The Moth Radio Hour are curated from the Moth Mainstage, which is another level of The Moth that I assume one gets to by winning a GrandSlam.

It’s a journey, and one I am ready to embark on. I’ve been called an oversharer. I definitely identify as being a writer. So why not! Last night I attended my first Moth StorySlam. I crafted a story around the topic of control, and then decided it wasn’t good enough to perform – so I just went to observe. Since I was a newbie, I felt just getting a lay of the land would be good and I’m so glad I gave myself the grace to try and then know when I may be out of my realm. Well, after listening to fabulous stories, and not so great presenters of stories, and stories that weren’t even on topic – I have COMPLETE confidence that anything I write is worthy of my name in the hat. And really, I can only get better with each try. So I’m going to keep on trying.

When you attend a StorySlam, slips of paper with a question around the topic is on the chairs, and people can write a two sentence story around the topic to toss into a box. Last night the topic was “Control, ” and the question was, “When was there a time you felt you had lost control.” I wrote four sentences that outline the story I’m going to share below. The host read my slip of paper, the audience laughed, and she ended by saying, “That’s not a two sentence story, that’s an existential crisis.” I loved it. But her saying it was an existential crisis was sort of the reason my instincts said to not share my story because it didn’t feel like a story, it felt more like an essay.

Later in the evening, Dan and I ran into a few of the people who were also at the StorySlam, and I had confessed which slip of paper was mine. They burst into laughter and astonishment in being able to relate to my life existential crisis and encouraged me to share my stories – because it seemed like I could tell a good one.

So without further ado – here is my story around the theme of “CONTROL.”

(please note this is the first and only draft)

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I’m a writer…

SNAIL MAIL - May 2, 2014

We reject and desire labels all the same. Placing them on ourselves like a Name Tag to the universe, Hello I’m___. But if someone else comes at us with a label, well damn them for trying to stick something on our backs with out us knowing. Labels are most used in the work force, when trying to determine what our career is. It’s a very nice social safety net if you have a good label. I’ve been dealing with, am I trying to be a “blogger” or a “writer”. Now a few existential crises later, I have committed and come to the fact, I am a writer.

I either carry paper or a moleskin notebook with me everywhere I go. I’m not as much a people watcher, as I am an observer. I observe everything, like a mental photographer. But my pictures extend past the visual; into scents, textures, sounds, anything that inspire a story in my mind.

One day as I was driving home I saw a mattress propped up on the side of tree outside of an apartment building… this is the vignette which came from it.

We came across this queen mattress, abandoned in the back alley of a converted industrial building that  was now overpriced art studios. Smelling of piss, body odor, and stale sex; we devised a plan to sanitize and get it back to the manor. We’d been sleeping on a pile of donated blankets and worn in sleeping bags, using tacky winter coats as cushioning from the hard wood floor.

There’s a kid we knew, about 16, who’d be our taxi for a case of beer and a few joints. Calling him up, about an hour later, we’d secured our new bed to the roof of his 94 Honda Civic. Most likely a hand-me-down car from an older brother; I always wondered if his upper middle class parents would ever cut him off.

We pulled up to our place and dragged it to the yard, the dead grass causing me to sneeze and legs to itch. We stopped by the 99 cent store to pick up 5 gallons of bleach. Pouring the solution onto the dingy satin, the silk flower pattern began to fade.

It took a whole day in the sun to dry. We smoked cigarettes and talked of the state of our world, various characters joining us periodically to stare at the drying queen.

The fumes burned my lungs as I held it close, hands cracked after dragging it up the stairs into our room, throwing our previous bedding on top. On humid days, our room transforms into a YMCA pool locker room.

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