Giving Voice to All with “Sing, Unburied, Sing” Author Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward

Get up close and personal with two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward.

In this episode of Women Amplified, we explore writing as a vehicle to give a voice to others past and present. Ward’s powerful insights, however, go far beyond writing instruction. Her words serve as an important reminder that we have a responsibility to speak up and give voice to those who have been silenced or erased in whatever means of expression feels right for us.

Sharing her real-life experiences, Ward will not just teach you about the writing process, but will help you go deep within to find your voice and inspire you to use that voice for the good of all.

“I wanted people to see how growing up in that type of environment, growing up in poverty and as a black person and in the rural South, how that constrains your existence in certain ways. Because you never see people like us. Or back then, you never saw people like us portrayed in pop culture or living complicated lives in television or, I don’t know, or in literature. I wanted us to exist and I wanted us to be able to speak and to have voice and to have agency, and to assert that we are here and that we shouldn’t be confined to people’s ideas about us. But instead, we should be able to speak and to tell our stories and to show that our lives are just as complicated and just as complex and just as unique as everyone else’s.”Jesmyn Ward

 

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This Month’s Guest:

JESMYN WARD is a novelist, memoirist and essayist. She is a MacArthur Genius and two-time National Book Award winner and has been hailed as the standout writer of her generation. In 2017, she became the first woman and the first person of color to win two National Book Awards for Fiction—joining the ranks of William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, John Cheever, Philip Roth, and John Updike. Ward’s stories are largely set on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, where she grew up and still lives. Her novel Salvage the Bones was winner of the 2011 National Book Award. Her debut novel, Where the Line Bleeds, depicts what Publishers Weekly calls “a world full of despair but not devoid of hope” in the aftermath of natural disaster. Ward’s memoir, Men We Reaped, delves into the five years of Ward’s life in which she lost five young men—to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that follows poor people and people of color. The book won the Heartland Prize, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Ward is the also the editor of the critically acclaimed anthology The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, which NPR named one of the Best Books of 2016. A singular Southern odyssey that strikes at the heart of life in the rural South, Sing, Unburied, Sing, earned Ward a second National Book Award in 2017. It was named one of the 10 Best Books of 2017 by The New York Times and Time, and was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Aspen Words Literary Prize.

She teaches creative writing at Tulane University in New Orleans. In 2016, she won the Strauss Living award, given every five years by the American Academy of Arts & Letters for literary excellence. In 2018, she was recognized among Time‘s 100 Most Influential People. Ward is currently working on two new books: a novel for adults set in New Orleans at the height of the American slave trade, and a young adult novel about a Black girl from the South with supernatural powers. Ward received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan, where she won five Hopwood Awards for her fiction, essays, and drama. She held a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University from 2008-2010, and served as the Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi the following year. Ward’s latest book is Navigate Your Stars. @jesmimi

 

Our Host:

CELESTE HEADLEE is a communication and human nature expert, and an award-winning journalist. She is a professional speaker, and also the author of Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving, Heard Mentality and We Need to Talk. In her twenty-year career in public radio, she has been the executive producer of On Second Thought at Georgia Public Radio, and anchored programs including Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She also served as cohost of the national morning news show The Takeaway from PRI and WNYC, and anchored presidential coverage in 2012 for PBS World Channel. Headlee’s TEDx talk sharing ten ways to have a better conversation has over twenty million total views to date. @celesteheadlee


 

Additional Resources:

Website: Jesmyn Ward, Author

Read the books: Navigate Your Stars | Sing, Unburied, Sing | Salvage the Bones | Men We Reaped

Hear from more great Conferences for Women speakers in our new podcast, Best Breakouts

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5 Ways to Create the Career You Truly Want

Erica Williams Simon

At 27, Erica Williams Simon came to an important recognition. She was “successful” but not happy.

“So, I did what we are never supposed to do—especially as women, especially as black women: We’re never supposed to quit. You don’t quit. Well yes, you do and I did,” she recently said.

What she discovered in the time of self-exploration that followed was that many cultural and generational narratives had shaped her idea of what it means to be successful that had nothing to do with what she actually wanted out of life.

Now, the woman who had been listed on several “30 under 30” lists as a rising political star and TV commentator, is on a mission to help others understand the cultural stories that shape their lives and create new ones that will lead them to the life they actually want.

The author of the 2019 book, You Deserve the Truth, Erica shared these five insights with the Conference for Women: Read More

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You’re Not Lost: Create the Career YOU Want | 2019 Session

Making some career decisions can be enough to bring any adult to her knees.  The anxiety, second-guessing and unsolicited opinions we face are often abundant and result in self-doubt. They can also prevent you from making the small decisions that will help you get where you want to go. Career strategist Maxie McCoy will offer insights and advice for how to think about your choices, trust your instincts and decide whether to stay the course or pivot in a new direction. Read More

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Get Unstuck and Transition with Excitement | 2019 Session

The anxiety, second-guessing and often unsolicited opinions we face during times of transition are abundant and can result in a lot of self-doubt. They can also make you feel stuck and prevent you from making the small decisions that will help you get where you want to go. Social worker and psychotherapist Amy Morin will briefly share the psychological factors that contribute to our mindset when facing transition and lead a dynamic panel conversation that will explore how to think about your choices, trust your instincts and decide whether to stay the course or pivot in a new direction. Read More

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Thinking in Bets: Lessons in Unemotional RiskTaking and Decision-Making | 2019 Session

Do you know when to cut your losses? In poker and throughout our lives, we are more successful when we maximize the time spent in favorable situations and minimize time in unfavorable ones. But many of us are too quick to quit when we are winning, or refuse to walk away from a losing game. Former World Series of Poker champion-n turned-business consultant Annie Duke lives with uncertainty, and has found that the key to long-term success is to think in bets. In this workshop, she examines how the interaction of many cognitive biases can cause us to miss good opportunities and continue on when the odds are against us. She shares strategies to avoid these decision-making pitfalls and learn to take a longer term view. By shifting perspective and embracing uncertainty, you will start accurately assessing what you know and what you don’t, improving your decision-making abilities in your career, and at home. Read More

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Intrapreneurship: Pioneer Passion, Innovation and Vision | 2019 Session

Do you ever daydream about becoming an entrepreneur although you don’t want to leave the company you’re working for? The good news is: You don’t have to start your own business to have an entrepreneurial career! You can be an intrapreneur and act like an entrepreneur within your organization. Starting with a brief presentation and followed by an interactive panel discussion featuring some of today’s most successful entrepreneurs and corporate visionaries, you will learn how to take the fiery passion and creativity of entrepreneurs -and unleash them in your current position. Read More

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The Q&A

Susan LaPointeHuman Resources VP Susan LaPointe: “Women have tremendous confidence today. We are no longer willing to sit on the sidelines.”

Susan LaPointe, VP of Human Resources of the Web Division at Akamai Technologies (a leader in content delivery network services and cloud security systems) shares the best and boldest decision she ever made, what she’s learned about success, and more.

Q: What was your dream job as a child?

I wanted to be a graphic designer because I loved to doodle.

Q: What do you love about the work you do now? 

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You Asked. She Answered.

Charmaine McClarie

Q: Is there a good comeback for when someone repeats your idea and takes credit for it? I usually just sit there and think: What just happened?

A: Charmaine McClarie, leadership expert and executive coach says: You can simply say, ‘Excellent idea. I’m really glad that you agree. And I have three strategies that will make a difference as we move this forward.’ Then send out an email and identify what they are so that everyone knows it’s you.

 


More from the June 2019 Newsletter

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5 Smart Steps For Future Entrepreneurs

Ann Miura-Ko

Ann Miura-Ko, a founding partner of Floodgate

So you have a great idea for a business. What’s your next move?

First, take an honest assessment of your personality. Claire Lee, head of early stage banking at Silicon Valley Bank, has noticed three traits in successful entrepreneurs.

“Number one is adaptability: the ability to pivot, really be open to feedback and advice, knowing which to take and which to ignore,” Lee says. “Number two, and perhaps as important, is resilience and grit—you’ve really got to develop a thick skin. And third is resourcefulness—being able to leverage your network, know where to get help and not be afraid to ask for help, is critical.”

Did you check all three boxes? Great! Here are five more starter steps to help you forge a path forward: Read More

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What Women of All Races Need to Know about Success

Click Play below to listen in your browser.

While only 1 in 5 C-suite leaders are women, only 1 in 25 are women of color. What can women of all races do to change that? In this episode, Michelle Gadsen-Williams, award-winning author and Accenture North America’s managing director and inclusion and diversity lead, shares her ideas and experiences about finding your voice, being seen, and “the bold-faced lie of having it all.” 
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