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.”

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.

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.