#BlackHistoryMonth Treat: How Playwright Lorraine Hansberry Inspired My Novel, Love’s Troubadours


My debut novel, Love’s Troubadours was inspired by a speech given by activist and playwright Lorraine Hansberry in February 1964. She spoke to a Harlem-based group of aspiring young, gifted, and African American writers about the power to love in America. In her remarks, Hansberry stated,

“O, the things that we have learned in this unkind house that we have to tell the world about! Despair? Did someone say despair was a question in the world? Well then, listen to the sons of those who have known little else. If you wish to know the resiliency of this thing you would so quickly resign to mythhood, this thing called the human spirit … Life? Ask those who have tasted of it in pieces rationed out by enemies. Love? Ah, ask the troubadours who have come from those who have loved when all reason pointed to the uselessness and foolhardiness of love. Perhaps we shall be the teachers when it is done. Out of the depths of pain we have thought to be our sole heritage in this world-O, we know about love!”

She referred to African Americans as troubadours, the descendents of people who used the power of love to live through and overcome despair and insurmountable odds. She went on to urge the audience to seek wisdom from African Americans because of their capacity to love.

I first read about Hansberry’s speech in Salvation by bell hooks in 2001. Salvation discusses how African Americans have used the power of love to transform their lives and communities. hooks’ writings caused me to question how I could use my gifts as an artist and writer to promote love as a healing tool in the lives of individuals and communities in America. I answered that question by writing Love’s Troubadours, a novel that tells the story of Karma Francois, a 30-something museum curator and yoga teacher who loses her job, discovers family secrets after a loved one dies, and begins a healing journey as she relocates from New York City to Washington, DC. Learn more about her in the video below.

Karma learns many life lessons as she comes face-to-face with the choices she has made in her life and relationships. Watch the video below and learn about some of them.

Throughout her journey, she uses journaling, meditation, mindfulness, poetry, spirituality, therapy, and yoga to heal and love herself. Hansberry’s wisdom on mindful living inspired the way I wrote about Karma’s healing journey:

 “I wish to live because life has within it that which is good, that which is beautiful, and that which is love. Therefore, since I have known all of these things, I have found them to be reason enough and–I wish to live. Moreover, because this is so, I wish others to live for generations and generations and generations and generations.”

Watch the video below and learn how Karma’s healing journey transformed her idea of love in her life.

After reading Hansberry’s book, To Be Young, Gifted and Black, I made a conscious decision to use my novel’s characters to celebrate the beauty and diversity of people of African descent. Watch the video below and learn about the diverse characters.


Listen to a chapter excerpt from Love’s Troubadours that illustrates the diversity of African Americans when Karma walks into Mocha Hut, a coffee and tea café in her U Street neighborhood, and eavesdrops on a conversation.


#InternetGeek Tuesday: #InternetGeekat50 Lesson 5 WRITE

Happy #InternetGeek Tuesday!

WRITE is #InternetGeekat50 Lesson 5. During the WordPress Press Publish Conference in Portland two weeks ago, I participated in a “Blog to Book” panel discussion with Automattic conference organizer Andrea Middleton and my fellow authors and bloggers Cecilia Gunther, Christine Lee, Jerry Mahoney, and Mary Laura Philpott. After the discussion, I had several conversations with people about how I used blogging to write and publish my books “Love’s Troubadours” (novel), “That Which Awakens Me” (creative memoir), and “Digital Sisterhood” (technology memoir).


Here are 8 tips I shared during my post panel conversations to inspire bloggers to WRITE their blogs with the intention of creating content for books they plan to publish.

1) Write your blog posts freely and fully with your authentic voice and passion.

2) Write your blog posts without censure.

3) Create or use a daily (Creative Every Day) or monthly challenge (Art Every Day Month and National Novel Writing in November and National Poetry Month in April) to establish a regular blogging practice and generate content you for your book. I used National Poetry Month in 2008 and 2009 to prepare content for my creative memoir. Currently, I am using National Poetry Month to prepare content for my e-book series.

4) Launch a blogging series to create content for your books. I’m currently writing a blogging series about being 50. I plan to use the content for my e-book series.

5) If you have been blogging for 5 or 10 years, select your favorite blog posts during the time period and prepare and publish an anniversary blog book or e-book.

6) Make a podcast series featuring your thoughts for book content. Select key points or the core messages from the podcast series and include them as your book content.

7) Record video blogs, pick out the most relevant points, and prepare content for the book.

8) For Flickr, Instagram, and Pinterest Users: Use your photos on these social media channels for inspiration to write a short update that can be used later as book content.

Photo Credit: Marcia Johnston

Happy #CreativityThursday: Writing E-Books

Ananda writing in her journal at Love Café on U Street in DC in 2004
Ananda writing in her journal at Love Café on U Street in DC in 2004

Happy #CreativityThursday!

I’ve been writing books since 1992. I started with poetry chapbooks which opened the door to women’s creativity workbooks. All of this writing laid the foundation for blogging which began 10 years ago and the publication of my first novel, Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One in 2007 and my two memoirs, That Which Awakens Me in 2009 and Digital Sisterhood in 2013.

Photo Credit: http://ebookreadersoftware.wordpress.com/tag/publish-ebooks/
Photo Credit: http://ebookreadersoftware.wordpress.com/tag/publish-ebooks/

For the next six months, I have decided to write and publish a series of e-books. Today, I found a great article about publishing e-books on my digital sister and fellow author/blogger, Shonell Bacon’s LinkedIn page. It gave me some great tips for publishing my e-books. Click here to read it.

Do you have any plans to write an e-book? If yes, what resources are you using to write it?

What creative projects are you working on this spring and summer?

Happy Creativity Thursday: What are your favorite art forms?

Ananda's Collages
Ananda’s Collages

Happy Creativity Thursday!

What is your favorite art form?

Mine is collage. I can make them all day long. They help me express what’s waiting to burst forth from my creative heart. They also help me visualize my creative making process. I use them when I am writing my books and working on other projects. I also use them in my visualization boards.

Ananda's books and paintings
Ananda’s books and paintings

What creative dreams are you longing to give birth to?

I long to give birth to more books and paintings. I have a few e-books and a novel inside of me. I also have some big paintings that long to live on the canvas.

May we all use the Spring season to give birth to our creativity!


From now until March 31, I am offering a special discount package on my creativity coaching services. See details below.

My Creativity Coaching Practice: Click here to read more about my approach and background as a creativity coach.

Discount Period: The creativity coaching packages must be purchased via PayPal by March 31, 2014. They must be used by July 31, 2014.

Fees and Services:

1) 1 one-hour session with 2 email follow ups – $99.95 (original price – $139.95)

2) 3 one-hour sessions with 4 email follow ups – $359.95 (original price – $389.95)

3) 6 one-hour sessions with 7 email follow ups – $769.95 (original price – $799.95)

4) 9 one-hour sessions with 10 email follow ups – $1,169.99 (original price – $1,199.99)

5) 12 one-hour sessions with 13 email follow ups – $1,569.95 (original price – $1599.95)

Contact Information: If you are interested in one or more of the packages, please send me an email at kiamshaleeke@yahoo.com to schedule a free 20-minute consultation call (available via telephone, Skype, and Google Hangout).


Happy Creativity Thursday – Read Some of My Favorite Writing Wisdom Quotes & Writing Life Poem

Happy Creativity Thursday!

Today, I want to share some of my favorite writing wisdom quotes from writers I adore.

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” Joan Didion, European American author

“The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power.” Toni Morrison, African American author

“Writing becomes a way to embrace the mysterious, to walk with spirits, and an entry to the realm of the sacred.” bell hooks, African American author, poet, professor, and cultural critic

Photo Credit - Leigh Mosley, www.leighmosley.com
Photo Credit – Leigh Mosley, http://www.leighmosley.com

Here’s a poem about my writing life.

My Writing Life from That Which Awakens Me


I’m a writer who writes even when she is asleep.

Right now I’m a writer who is in the midst of a long creative stretch.

One that involves birthing a book every two years.

My journey is both passion and paradox all at the same time.

At times it can consume me and keep me living on my own planet with enough rice milk, granola, ginger tea, honey, strawberries, bananas, apples, and split pea soup to last a lifetime.

This path has called me.

And I can’t begin to explain to folks what that exactly means because I am living it.

So I hope they can just get the meaning by watching me be me.


I write because language chosen from deep within me liberates my hidden thoughts and gives life to my dreams.

I write because it is one of the best ways I know how to access freedom.

I am talking about the kind of freedom that brings all aspects of my existence into one room so that I can appreciate the fullness of my complex beauty.

The words that express my thoughts and describe my dreams make their way into phrases.

Some find homes in sentences that question and answer.

Others join the gospel choir in my mind and participate in call and response.

A few dangle as sharp, shooting fragments with meaning.

And then there are those that cast their net wide and paint wildly sensational murals on the canvas of my life.

They all embody the voice of my soul.

Happy Creativity Thursday – Read Poem About Being Poetry Virgin

Happy Creativity Thursday!

Here’s a lovely poem that shares the moment I lost my poetry virginity in the 1990s! Enjoy!

mewriterWhen I Lost My Virginity as a Poet from That Which Awakens Me

Before Busboys and Poets arrived on the scene, spoken word poets congregated at Soul Brothers Pizza on the corner of 14th and U in the early 1990s.

Two Morehouse brothas opened it up and kept it going for a few years.

Soul Brothers Pizza is where I lost my virginity as a poet.

It happened one night when my friend Kwame was hosting an event.

He had just helped me publish my first chapbook of poetry.

WPFW 89.3 radio host Grace Cavalieri had recently interviewed me on her show, “The Poet and the Poem.”

Despite these accomplishments, I was nervous.

I had never read my work in a public venue before.

As soon as Kwame introduced me, I could feel my hands trembling.

By the time I reached the makeshift stage, my mind was playing tricks on me.

My five senses soaked up the scene.

The second hand smoke made my eyes itch.

Conversations at nearby tables overwhelmed me.

I stood looking into the small crowd and wondered if they would even listen to anything I had to say.

Just when I thought I was going to sit down, words tumbled out of my mouth.

They were rushed.

Some folks stared at me for a nanosecond before returning back to their conversations.

The volume of table banter increased.

Kwame asked the audience to quiet down.

A few moments of silence emerged.

I closed my eyes.

That’s when I offered a few lines of my poetry.

After I uttered the last word, I opened my eyes and stared into a sea of blank faces.

I wondered if they understood my poem’s meaning.

Maybe it was too deep

Or maybe they just wanted to keep talking and eating.

Happy Yoga Monday – Read A Yoga-Inspired Poem About Writing and Yoga

Happy Yoga Monday!

My yoga practice has helped me focus my creative energy and anchored me during my writing process for several books over the past 16 years.  I have even wrote poetry about the connection between two of my favorite practices. See my poem below.


Yoga and Writing from That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery 


When I practice yoga, my ego disappears.
I merge into the Infinite.
We become one.
One Love.
One Creation.
One Vessel.
Messages pass through me.
They become stories, essays, poems, truisms, quotes, prayers, affirmations, letters, e-mail messages, blog posts, and journal entries.


I inhale and raise my hands above my head, pressing the palms of my hands together.
My gaze is focused on my thumbs.
My head is balanced on my shoulders.
My shoulders are rolled back.
My heart shines forth.
My spine is long and strong.
My belly is soft but tucked in.
My arms hang gracefully with splayed fingers.
My legs support my core as my feet ground themselves to Mother Earth.
In this space, I breathe in and out five times.
On my next inhalation, I come into a forward fold.
The blood rushes down from my head.
I get a buzz.
It feels like nirvana.
I take a deep breath and raise myself up one vertebrae at a time.
As I exhale, my arms find comfort by my side.
I stand in place for several moments, feeling the benefits of my short practice.
The next moment encourages me to inhale and bring my hands into prayer against my heart.
I close my practice chanting seven Oms.
Om in my spirit.
Om in my heart.
Om in my breath.
Om in my mind.
Om in my body.
Om in my thoughts.
Om in my writing.


I have also taken yoga and writing workshops taught by my yoga teachers, Yael Flusberg and Kimberly Wilson. Their workshops offered me a chance to explore how different yoga poses and breathing exercises can stretch and energize my body, open my heart to new ideas, quiet my mind and clear emotional space so I can hear my inner wisdom, and focus my energy to meet deadlines for writing projects. They also gave me an opportunity to complete writing exercises after doing yoga poses and to share my reflections with a supportive community of fellow yoga students and writers.

Do you use yoga to support your creative work? How has it helped?

Have you ever taken a yoga and writing workshop? What did you learn?


If you are looking for yoga and writing resources, check out the list below.

Happy Creativity Thursday!

Photo Credit: Leigh Mosley - www.leighmosley.com
Photo Credit: Leigh Mosley – http://www.leighmosley.com

Happy Creativity Thursday!

Writing a book is a journey in itself.  When your write about yourself like I have in my debut novel and creative memoir, you may encounter moments in your writing journey that force you to deal with your fears and past experiences. That’s what has been happening during my Digital Sisterhood memoir book writing process. I have started and stopped many times. I have been overwhelmed and wounded by my own need to control a creative process that requires constant surrender. I have allowed my reaction to the edits I received from my publisher in December to stall my publication process. In short, it has been a creative struggle I often wish I did not have to deal with, but I am hanging with support, positive energy, and love from an amazing team of family, friends, peers, yoga teachers, an acupuncturist, a book editor extraordinaire, a keep it real life coach, and detailed copy editors who keep me on track.


I have also used inspiring books to strengthen myself from the inside out as I finalize the manuscript. One book that has inspired me greatly is writing teacher Judith Barrington’s Writing the MemoirIn her book, Barrington writes with emotional honesty about the memoir writing journey. It gave me the words I was looking for to describe the bottled up emotions I have been carrying around about my writing fears.  It was liberating to read her guidance on theme selection, voice, tone, form, plot, scene, and character development. She also stressed the value of having a disciplined practice. I enjoyed her references to writings by Alice Walker and Virginia Woolf. After I finished her book, I felt refreshed and ready to pick up my editing pen and complete my Digital Sisterhood book edits. What a blessing!

It’s Monday — Basking in my 5K Race glow!

May 7 007, originally uploaded by anandaleeke.

Happy Monday!

I hope you had a great weekend! How did you spend it? What were the highlights?

My weekend highlights included attending my Mastermind meditation group meeting, working at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center as an artist-in-residence with a retired Army airman who told me some great stories as we created two collages with poems and six word memoirs, hanging out/dancing/sipping on cocktails with my cousin Sharon and her friends at a really cool lounge called Cities, running the Race for Hope DC 5K, spending time with my creative accountability sister Jess at Cafe Collage, writing, going to church, napping, taking some nice long walks, and seeing the Restless City movie at the West End (wonderful movie).

The one thing that really stayed with me was meeting people impacted by brain tumor cancer during the Race for Hope DC 5K race. The conversations I had were deep and at times caused my eyes to water up. When I crossed the finished line, I bowed my head in deep gratitude and dedicated my run to everyone living with brain tumor cancer. Click here to listen to my audio blog that includes some of my Race Day reflections.

So what’s your week looking like?

Mine is all about getting my rest, writing, decluttering, fitness training at the gym, running 3 miles 3x this week in preparation for June 5K, yoga/Reiki/meditation, and finishing my homework from my financial advisor.

See you next week!



Digitial Diet Update & Nurturing Creativity with Collage

Collage and photo by Ananda Leeke

Happy Monday!

My digital diet for the week of April 9 helped me be more mindful about my time.  I was able to write, rest, practice yoga/Reiki/meditation, go to the gym, take care of home and personal finance responsibilities, attend an art exhibition opening at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, participate in the monthly artists-in-residence meeting held at the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, create collages with patients and staff at the Walter Reed National Medical Military Center, and read chapters from Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection during my morning commute with greater ease.  I noticed my creative juices were flowing much better.  The best part of the week was not carrying my smartphone with me most days.

My biggest challenge was going online in the evenings to check my email and other social media accounts.  On some days, I spent more time than I originally budgeted. So I am working this week on sticking to my plan.

My greatest lesson learned was that when I write my Digital Sisterhood book chapter drafts on paper instead of my lap top I am less likely to go online in the evening.

Collage and photo by Ananda Leeke

Last month I started making a weekly collage to nurture my creativity journey.  These collages help me stay on track with my commitment to expressing my visual voice.  Many of them serve as visual affirmations that I use to support my fierce living commitment to self-care, fitness, unplugging, and completing my Digital Sisterhood book.  I included two collages above from my April collection.  What do you think?

How are you nurturing your creativity?

Are you making collages or artwork?  If yes, share links in the comment section.