Brown girls dominate Wakandacon 2018

LOCAL AUTHOR AND TEEN ARTIST PARTNER TO INSPIRE GIRLS WITH SCI-FI SERIES AT FIRST ANNUAL WAKANDACON

Former Miss America contestant writes brown girls into the spotlight; 9th grader illustrates

CHICAGO July 31, 2018 – Young women of color can identify with new bold champions in the young adult science-fiction fantasy series, The Hibouleans. Writing and drawing their heroes into existence, author and former beauty queen, Octavia Reese joined forces with fourteen-year old illustrator Aaliyah Lachel’e.  Together, the girl team is filling a void, bringing young brilliant brown girls to the forefront of epic adventures.octavia reese wakandacon

“I’m a big nerd,” Octavia said. “I grew up admiring Stan Lee, Stephen King, Chris Van Allsburg, Tim Burton and Ed Gorey. But my favorite adventures always seemed to leave out characters that looked like me. I was tired of watching everyone else have all the fun. My main character, Taryn, looks like me.”

Octavia said she wrote the series for all the brown girls out there that love problem-solving, strength-building, lab experiments and dream of having super powers and being the hero in epic adventures.

Her idea resonated with child-artist Aaliyah, also known as “PeanutBuddar,” who jumped at the invitation to illustrate The Hibouleans when Octavia reached out to her mom.

“When I first heard about The Hibouleans, I couldn’t wait to read it – it’s the kind of story I love to read and watch,” Aaliyah said. “Being able to bring fantasy characters to life is so exciting, plus they look like me and the main character is my age. It’s like I’m drawing my own story.”

Aaliyah, who has been drawing since she was three years old, started her own company, PeanutBuddarArt, when she couldn’t find characters in fashion and media that matched her features.

Wakandacon IG FINAL PBA“I love cartoons, visual novels and books, but I never really got to see any characters that I could relate to – not in their skin, not in their hair, and not in their shapes,” Aaliyah said.

“No one really looked like me at all. So, I drew some that did.” Aaliyah’s colorful and charming characters adorn backpacks, lunchboxes, notebooks and pencil cases.

“Kids should be able to read books and watch TV shows and be able to see themselves in those characters,” she said. Aaliyah has already been published twice as an illustrator and in addition to thriving in high school, playing sports and running her business, she plans to work with Octavia throughout The Hibouleans 10-book series.

Octavia and Aaliyah were both thrilled to be a part of the first annual Wakandacon Convention, which aims to unite fantasy fans and comic-book-loving people of color around the central theme of Black Panther’s Wakanda.

 

Find The Hibouleans and PeanutBuddarArt this weekend at Wakandacon: Friday, August 3, 4pm – 8pm; Saturday, August 4, 11am – 8pm; and Sunday, August 5, 10am – 2pm. For more information, visit www.wakandacon2018.com, www.octaviareese.com, and www.peanutbuddarart.com.

###

Be your prayer

I recently wrote about my presentation at my church small group. Part of the expectation is not only to introduce our business but to also explain how that connects with our spirituality.

My business (which is kind of a secret right now, but I’ll introduce very soon!) is a “company” version of myself, but not limited to my own talents and products and brands. The beautiful thing about the model I’ll present is that there is always room for more creativity at the table — not just mine. I want to elevate others with similar platforms, too.

I nearly ran out of breath listing the sorts of products my company will offer — both entertainment and retail — not only because I was on a clock and I was talking very quickly, but also because of pure passion and excitement to put all of ME out there in a marketable way.

When someone in the group asked about my spirituality, I suddenly stalled. I had a hard time spitting out the words that were on my heart. But finally, I boldly went for it. “I feel like I’m called to redefine the face of Christianity,” I said. Wow. It felt weird enough saying it out loud then but it absolutely feels just as strange and fresh typing it here. I’ve actually been avoiding completing this post for a week just because I was afraid of this…confession.

It’s so jarring to me because it seems like a very heavy burden to carry: How could one person reroute what’s been ingrained for more than two thousand years? Well, with one little drop of me, being myself and doing what I was created to do. What if your greatest call to worship, your purest form of prayer, and your most genuine communication channel with The Divine was by simply being yourself?

What if your greatest call to worship, your purest form of prayer, and your most genuine communication channel with The Divine was by simply being yourself?

The Grand Canyon wasn’t formed over night. Maybe it was one tiny pebble that diverted trickling rain water just enough to make it into a river. And maybe every rainfall that river grew a little bit wider. And after millions of years of H2O molecules passing and leaving their tiny impressions, an enormously stunning landmark was carved into the earth.

Not one of those molecules said, “Today, I’m going to make The Grand Canyon.” No. Every molecule simply existed.

img_5075

Water has been teaching me a lot over the past several months. I even referenced water in a Facebook live event I hosted, reading a piece of The Hibouleans and debuting the first track in The Hibouleans book score.

Skip to around 6:50 — water doesn’t strive for perfection. Water is gonna do what water is gonna do. The water doesn’t ask permission to be there. Water is. The journey I shared here was that I’m learning to accept (my)yourself in not only what (I)you do, but in each phase that (I)you do it.

So as I spoke to my spirituality, I offered this — that my faith is woven into every fiber of my company because I touch every grain of my company with my rawest most unfiltered gifts and talents. My quest to cultivate my passions and share them out of love and pure positive intent, not only shines my gratitude and adoration into those around me, but it is also a mirrored reflection of what is shone into me from The Divine.

I cannot separate my spirituality from my work. It is impossible to unbraid worship from my craft. Me being true to my gifts is my most authentic form of worship.

I don’t have a big conversion testimony. I can’t tell you the day Jesus saved me. I can’t tell you the moment I heard God speaking to me not from above but from within. But I can tell you that God speaks. God exists. God is love so great and abundant our humanness cannot even begin to quantify it.

img_5073

I can also tell you that my faith is not a product — I’m not in the ministry “business.” But I do have a calling to be the sort of Christian that makes people reexamine spirituality, Christianity and truly living the way Jesus — and others — showed us: let everything you do come from a place of love. Not superiority. Not judgement. Not hatred. Not condemnation. There is no other to judge — only us.

You see, when you recognize offering yourself — your gifts, your skills, your excellence — as a form of worship, it eliminates all the mechanics of doing it right. You’re already doing it right! Another reason why I love praise dance, or just playing my cello for the pleasure of making a joyful noise: I’m eliminating the limitations of conscious planning; I’m circumventing the human process of articulating and opening a direct channel between myself and the heavenly plane. This meditative, hypnotic, trance-like state, I believe, is what prayer is. Prayer, perhaps isn’t an action, but a state of being.

…when you recognize offering yourself — your gifts, your skills, your excellence — as a form of worship, it eliminates all the mechanics of doing it right.  

How many times have we all gotten caught up in interpretation and rules and words and how we might sound  or look to other humans? Our worship isn’t for them — it is for above. And that gate deserves to be fully opened without fear of imperfection, shame, humiliation or ridicule.

You are a gift to the world. Shine through your positives and in doing so, you honor God, whatever you perceive God to be.

I can’t wait to introduce you to my new company! Coming in just a few more weeks. Stay tuned…

xx,

Octavia

Feminist Author Joins Fun Home Talk

CHICAGO AUTHOR JOINS DISCUSSION PANEL FOR TONY-WINNING MUSICAL

Author Octavia Reese discusses feminism, family and LGBTQ issues in Grand Rapids production of Fun Home

GRAND RAPIDS, July 23, 2018 – Chicago author Octavia Reese, will be among a panel of West Michigan social justice activists to analyze and discuss the underlying themes of cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s Tony Award-winning musical, Fun Home. The musical, adapted from Bechdel’s graphic novel-memoir of the same name, chronicles the cartoonist’s youth and showcases powerful themes of family, self-awareness, mental health, death and sexual identity. Bechdel also developed The Bechdel Test, which helps scale how women are portrayed in film. Reese, like Bechdel, creates deliberately woman-centered literature.

“The times I see characters that look and think like me in my favorite genres are still too few and far between,” Reese said. “There will always be a need to consciously write women, especially women of color and queer women, into the narrative as meaningful and memorable significant characters.”

She said she wrote her series, The Hibouleans, to fill a representation void of women of color in sci-fi fantasy epic adventures.

Bechdel, who was first published in 1983, began her career to fill a void, too, developing pieces that raise queer and women’s voices into the spotlight.  Her first cartoon publication features gay women in the forefront, something that hadn’t been seen often – if at all – in the early eighties.

“Bechdel’s artistic contributions have reached so many spaces that are too often ignored,” Reese said. “Women cartoonists, LGBTQ youth, the importance of mental health – the list goes on.”

Reese added that representation this isn’t just for female, queer or brown-skinned communities. “The whole world needs to get used to seeing us,” Reese said.

“We have names, stories, talents, and the capacity to run the show, too. We’re not just voiceless, nameless bodies.”

The panel discussion will be held at Circle Theatre in Grand Rapids July 27, 2018 after the show. For more information on the event and for tickets to see Fun Home, please visit www.circletheatre.org.

For more details about Octavia Reese, visit www.octaviareese.com.

###

Why The Hibouleans Matters

People. I am still reeling from Detroit Festival of Books 2018. While I’m riding this wave, I wanted to reflect on the experience.

This is why it was incredible:

  • It was my first appearance as an author in my hometown. I have been a Chicago resident for 12 years but The Hibouleans is based in Detroit, where I was born and raised.
  • It was my first event featuring Volume 2 in my series, The Hibouleans.
  • I nearly sold-out – I brought 40 copies with me, and left with only seven!
  • Anu Prakash from WXYZ Chanel 7 stopped by and told my story; on Facebook alone, it reached more than two thousand views in one day.
    • See the original article here:
    • Or watch the archived YouTube video:

I am honored and thrilled to be a woman of color envisioning other brilliant brown girls to the forefront of sci-fi/fantasy epic adventures.

The Hibouleans is not only a part of my soul and a child of my imagination, but it is also my dream of what the future could be…I hope the America that my sons inherit has a new, evolved, inclusive and openhearted baseline for what is normal.

Here’s why The Hibouleans matters:

  • Ethnic representation matters, period. Brilliant brown teenage girls are the heroes of this adventure. The Hibouelans is an addictive commercial fiction piece, featuring African-American Taryn and her best friend Priya, of Asian Indian decent – the heroes of the story are the kind of people that look like me and my friends – we’re seldomly featured, and if at all, we’re not even close to being the focal point.
  • Gender representation matters, period. The male characters in The Hibouleans support, encourage and respect the leading ladies. In The Hibouleans, strength, bravery and ability is not only shared and received, but expected equally across genders.
  • STEM and creative representation matters, period. Taryn and Priya are the ultimate magical geek heroes: they don’t shy away from adventure, they’re equal parts artistically and mathematically creative; one of them has telekinetic powers and the other is a shapeshifter.

The Hibouleans is not only a part of my soul and a child of my imagination, but it is also my dream of what the future could be. I hope to normalize brown women paving the way in fearless adventures, sound leadership and groundbreaking scientific advancements. I hope to see more men that love — and are not intimidated by — strong women. I hope the America that my sons inherit has a new, evolved, inclusive and openhearted baseline for what is normal.

I’ve designed The Hibouleans as a series of novellas – if you consider one novel to be an entire season of a TV show; each volume in my series is comparable to one episode – which I release every few months. The first 10 volumes are already written and I cannot wait to put them in your hands!

xoxo,

Octavia

Dear Perfectionists…

I’m fortunate to belong to a sister-fren-hood of writers. We are each other’s go-to idea banks for all-hours sounding boards; ever-ready moralers for milestone celebrations and we are reality-checks for middle-of-the-night visits from The Ghost of Low Self-Esteem and her evil hench-spirit, The You’re Not Good Enough Imp.  I was just talking to my sister about her query letter for her new incredible LGBTQ novel. She has been avoiding it like the plague. The funny thing is that in addition to her day job as a technical writer and her soul’s work as a novelist, she also writes and edits other people’s resumes and cover letters. In summary, she’s a pro.

“I hate this so much, Tavi,” she had said in one conversation. I talked her down. Pumped her up. And finally I told her, “Just write the damn thing, Nan.”

It’s the same work that she does for others – she just had to do it for herself. This went on for weeks. We laughed at ourselves and at each other and finally, she did just write the damn thing. And, guess what? It was a great query.

Ultimately, she got it out of her head. She got out of her own way, and she did it. I was so proud of her for finishing it. And then even more elated that it was quality. The query letter that had become some big looming beast standing between her and the next step of her own success had been defeated.

If you try to make it perfect, it will never get done.

Fast forward to my church small group. We aren’t your Grandma’s Bible Study. Ok, well maybe some of the groups are. We have a whole catalog of different small group themes. Some are gender-specific (i.e. single ladies), or role-specific (i.e. mom’s group/dad’s group), or theological studies (i.e. analysis of the book of Jonah), or in our case, interest-specific: Like a Boss, a small group for entrepreneurs.

This small group offers entrepreneurs networking, feedback and community among other Christ-following business owners. Over the course of the session, we each receive the opportunity to share our business mission, vision and goals and then to make it a full circle with our connection to or foundation in our individual spiritual journeys.

Last night I drove a shiny red Ferrari 488 GTB in circles around the West Loop because some of my group-mates own a company that puts exotic supercars in the hands of the average human. Their ministry is making regular people’s most magical vehicle dreams come true.  As I mentioned, we aren’t your Grandma’s Bible Study.

Last week it was my turn. I presented. I introduced my new media company. I asked for feedback. And wouldn’t you know, my friend Brian offered me the sagest advice:

My only comment or word of advice is to move quickly and get your site live and your brand out there. It’s really easy to keep working on all of the fine details and trying to make it perfect. I once read that completed is better than perfect. If you try to make it perfect it will never be done. Get it out there in the world and you can make changes later if necessary.

Chortle. Didn’t I just say that to someone else? I did.

But I needed to hear it for myself.

I needed to hear it from someone else.

Just like Nan can see so clearly how to help others succeed, but she was blocked for weeks when it came to her own work. I’ve been sitting on my brand for months and needed someone else to say back to me what I always say to everyone else. Perfection doesn’t exist. Do your most excellent work and finish it. Stop waiting. Stop avoiding. Just do the damn thing.

If you try to make it perfect, it will never get done.

perfection is stagnation octavia reese

 

I needed that reminder. You probably do, too.

Since this is a blog post, here’s a list for all you TLDR-ers:

  1. Strive for excellence; not perfection.
  2. Complete is better than perfect.
  3. Perfection is stagnation. If you try for perfection, it will never get done.
  4. Just do the damn thing.
  5. Oh and you’re awesome — go forth and make your magic.

xoxo,

Octavia

Detroit’s Miss Michigan 2005 Returns for Festival of Books

FORMER MISS MICHIGAN RETURNS TO DETROIT TO INSPIRE GIRLS WITH BINGE-WORTHY SCI-FI SERIES AT DETROIT BOOKFEST

Independent author and former pageant queen aims to redefine how young women of color set expectations for themselves

 

DETROIT, July 9, 2018 – Detroit-raised author, Octavia Reese, created a world where bold, brave, brilliant brown girls fearlessly step into their own greatness as stars in the sci-fi epic adventure series, The Hibouleans. The leading teens, Taryn and Priya, are STEM fanatics and must use their math and science knowledge to solve clues as they embark on a life-or-death treasure hunt against terrifying shape-shifting Hibouleans.

Octavia, who now resides in Chicago, represented the state of Michigan in the 2006 Miss America pageant is also a cellist and composer, and wrote The Hibouleans book score, too – the musical theme that accompanies her characters’ adventures in the series.  As Octavia travels, reading excerpts from her series and performing on her cello, she hopes to send one major message: it’s time for the world to envision women of color in more leading roles, especially in science fiction.

“I’m a big nerd,” Octavia said. “I grew up admiring Stan Lee, Stephen King, Chris Van Allsburg, Tim Burton and Ed Gorey. But my favorite adventures always seemed to leave out characters that looked like me. I was tired of watching everyone else have all the fun. My main character, Taryn, looks like me.”

Octavia said she wrote the series for all the brown girls out there that love problem-solving, strength-building, lab experiments and dream of having super powers and being the hero in epic adventures.

“I wrote it for my inner child and to fill the color-gender void I saw in my youth,” Octavia said. “Now I want to share it with all people that crave epic adventures – representation not only changes our narrative but changes how others view us as well.” Octavia hopes The Hibouleans normalizes diverse character leads in magical, science-fiction and fantasy genres.

“I also wrote this for my own children. I want my three sons to equate strength and bravery with boys and girls,” Octavia said.

In June 2018, the Miss America Scholarship Organization officially announced the elimination of the historic swimsuit competition from the annual pageant, sending shockwaves across the country.  Octavia supports the decision and says it aligns with her own vision of The Hibouleans.

“It’s time for women of all shapes, sizes and colors to take back our own narratives and tell the world how we want to be received. While the Miss America competition has evolved into being so much more than the swimsuit portion, that’s still the only thing most viewers remember. Now they’ll start to see us for who we really are – gifted and educated forces of change.”

Find Octavia, her cello and The Hibouleans this Sunday, July 15 from 10am – 4pm at Detroit Book Fest. For more information, visit www.detroitbookfest.com and www.octaviareese.com.

Meet PeanutBuddar!

Can I just gush for a minute? You know when you have that ancient chemistry heart-strings magic connection with someone? Well, that’s what happened when I met Aaliyah aka PeanutBuddarArt and her family in February at Harold Washington Library featuring Soulful Chicago authors for Black History Month.27971905_10213642661294453_6598028606628917770_n

It was an instant, “Hey fam!” feel.  Not only did they feel like home, but Aaliyah is a mind-blowing artist. The kind of artist I

Black History Month at Soulful Chicago Harold Washington Chicago Public Library

was looking for in the very beginning of this journey. I told her and her mom Kelli about my plan for The Hibouleans to be an animated series and how it would be so perfectly fitting for Aaliyah to be on the illustration team. I told them that I wish I had met them first because I had already partnered with another talented illustrator and while he wasn’t her, he was still cosmically gifted and I could see him doing  beautiful work bringing The Hibouleans to life.

Fast forward to a failed second chance, a second ghosting, and a lost $50 deposit…

And then I thought, hold up, didn’t I ask for this? I did. I asked for this.

I won’t go into details, but I will refer you to my previous post, point No. 4 — draw your own conclusions. Hehe. Draw. Anyway.

Octavia Reese and PeanutBuddar at Black Women's Expo

 

At first, I was distraught and disappointed. And then I thought, hold up, didn’t I ask for this? I did. I asked for this. And the Universe delivered.

I reached out to Kelli, and said “Hey, remember how I said that I wish Aaliyah could be my illustrator? Well, now she can!”

 

The Hibouleans PeanutBuddarArt Octavia Reese

And Team Hey Fam was born. Aaliyah captured the essence of The Hibouleans in all of the best ways. She took something that doesn’t exist anywhere but inside my head, and brought them to life. She breathed a new vision into my characters that I never could have done alone or with any other artist.

And the truly amazing thing? Aaliyah is 14 years old. She’s the same age as Taryn; she’s equipped with the same gifted curiosity; she emits the same depth of wonder and the same timbre of laughter. It’s as if Aaliyah is drawing her own story. I couldn’t have wished for a better family to — oh wait — yes, I could. I did wish for this. They are my actual dreams come true. The Hibouleans PeanutBuddarArt Octavia Reese

Be sure to follow Aaliyah/PeanutBuddar on IG and FB and pick up the latest episode of The Hibouleans on Amazon.

xoxo,

Octavia