Starting Your Dreams Later In Life and Embracing the Detour

Jenee Darden speaking at Creative Mornings I know it's been a while since I've posted anything but that's because of my job. I'm working as a reporter covering Oakland and I host an arts segment on the radio where I get to interview amazing artists from around the Bay Area. Plus I'm publicizing my book  and building my speaking career!  You know what's funny? I thought this would all happen by the time I was 27-30.  Nope. That wasn't God's plan for me. I'm finally beginning to do the things I've wanted to do and I'm almost 40 years old. Some people reading this who are 40 will say 40 is still young. But some younger people reading may think 40 is nearly ancient. But I'm writing this post for those who like me, thought their career and personal dreams would come true much early in life. I'm here to tell you not to give up.  You know, death inspires life. A number of my relatives and friends have passed away, ranging in

A Dream Come True: I'm an Author!!

Signing my first book, When a Purple Rose Blooms for readers!
Photo Credit: Kelechi Ubozoh

Thank you to everyone who attended my book launch and/or purchased a book! I deeply, deeply appreciate your support.  For anyone who wants to order a book, visit

Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018 will forever be etched in my heart, because it was the day of my first book launch.

Four years ago, I met author Walter Mosley at a reading he gave in the Bay Area. I had been pushed out of my job, but I still had a lifelong dream of writing a book. When I told him I got the boot from my job he said, "Congratulations. Now go write your book." I had no intention of publishing a collection of poetry and essays. For years I've been working on getting a nonfiction book about Black erotic literature published. That's been my 20-year dream and book I told Mr. Moseley about. In those 20 years of working on erotica,  I've written poems and essays about love, sex, race, mental health and embracing my femininity. All of these issues I've written through the lens of living in America as a Black woman. I never thought of putting all those pieces into a book, but When a Purple Rose Blooms really wanted to be here. And here she is: 

My book is here!
Photographer Rev. Harry Williams 
Why the title When a Purple Rose Blooms
The title When a Purple Rose Blooms is a work about my own personal growth. It's a celebration of my femininity and strength. It's Black womanhood from the petals to the thorns. Aretha Franklin's song A Rose is Still a Rose has been one of my anthems since it came out back in 1998. The Queen of Soul passing away weeks before my book came out made me do some spiritual reflection. There's more to this title, especially the color purple (hint, hint, Alice Walker and womanism). But I won't give too much away. I'll let the readers figure out more of the symbolism behind the book. 

The process
There's a shirt by the online faith-inspired vendor Ven and Rose that says "Embrace the detour." This book was a detour that I love wholeheartedly. As I said before, I wanted my first book to be about Black erotica, but I guess that's not what God had planned. Over the years, I wrote poetry and essays. I posted them on this blog or read them out loud at readings around the Bay Area. Back in the day I read at spots when I was a college student in San Diego. Reading publicly changed my life, because it gave me visibility. After I read, people would ask me if I had a book for sale. So I figured my poetry and personal essays were reaching people. 

My process was mainly writing when life happens. Heartbreak, joy, racial violence, romance, good sex, depression, anxiety, overcoming obstacles all drove me to my pen and notebook. Or they drove me to this blog to write. That was my therapy and now it's also my book. 

The most challenging part of this process was re-writing and editing. That took a lot of time. It wasn't easy while trying to work a full time job. I gave up a lot of weekends. In the end, it was worth it. 

What I hope people get out of the book
After putting this book together, I thought about the little girl inside of me. The girl who was bullied for being dark-skinned. The little girl who sometimes internalized her father's absence and questioned her own worth. The little girl who was nerdy, bright, smart, fun, ready to take on a academic challenge. The little girl who loved her family and dreamt of this day in her bubble gum pink bedroom. Over the years, I wrote this for her. And I wrote it for so many Black women and girls who share my experiences of pain, pleasure, depression and resilience. I really wanted the mental health message there. Anyone can learn something from this book. I hope it makes people think and take into account how some Black women experience the world. 

Flowers from my friend Kelechi. Card and
balloon from Mom

That new-author feeling 
I've wanted to be an author ever since I could write with a pen. In the book there's a poem called "The Gift." It's about a small binder my mother found at work when I was a little girl, and she turned it into a journal for me. That was when I started writing. I read that poem on stage at the book launch and got choked up. We live in such a materialistic society, and sometimes we forget the little things that make a difference. Those small acts of love can be life changing. 

My mom is so funny. There were no more regular congratulations balloons in the store. She bought me a graduation balloon. LOL I guess in a sense my book launch was like a graduation in my writing career.  

I feel great. I'm excited. I also know I have a lot of work ahead in marketing this book. But, I'm going to enjoy this moment. I work hard and I work a lot. In the past I would achieve a goal and jump to the next goal. These days, I'm spending more time smelling the roses. 


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