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SAMPLE 1: Book Review

My Name Is Jason. Mine too. Our Story. Our Way By Candace Simmons DMV Spectrum Contributor

Jason Reynolds (poet) and Jason Griffin (visual artist) are modern day blues men-crafting paint splatters into art and everyday words into poetry. They are artists of our time, who are clearly ahead of theirs. Before you even open the book, the cover art demands its own attention with its gritty-cleansketchy-artsy goodness. But let’s back up. Before you delve into the pages, Reynolds and Griffin offer an introduction. Here’s the truncated version: The History The talented Jason duo started out as soloists/college roommates at the University of Maryland College Park as regular cool dudes, one with a passion for paint, and the other a wordsmith. As they say, “One artist, one poet, one Black, one White” or something to that effect. As most idealistic artsy college friends do, they came up with the idea to one day do a project together. The project was “SELF,” an ambitious, thoughtful coffee table book, composed of Griffin’s striking visual work, and Reynold’s poignant poetry. While

“SELF” was self-published, it was anything but your average do-it-yourself book. It looked, felt, and read like something out of an art gallery. Fast forward some years, broken hearts, empty pockets, and a bit of grit served Brooklyn style, and you have “My Name Is Jason,” featuring two artists more matured in their crafts, being put to the task of writing poetry specifically for the Young Adult (YA) audience. The Book “My Name Is Jason. Mine Too.” is more than a book of poetry with pictures. Like its authors will tell you, it’s a regular, coming of age story told in a very unique way. The artwork is striking, intentionally unpolished (depending on how you look at it), but genius. Just like the poetry, it has life of its own. Some poems are literally written upside down or sideways, while all of them tell a part of their unique journey as artists and young men. The artistic pair is obviously über talented, yet their work and their courageously transparent admission of struggle, shows their humility and vulnerability. The book explores issues of selfesteem, sarcastically questions the true definition of manhood, the nervousness of leaving home, and of course the many voices of naysayers who question the sanity of being an artist for a living. So is it a good read? Appropriate for young adults? Yes, yes, and then some.

SAMPLE 2: Movie Review

Film REmixed: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

This film had me at hello. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is an action-comedy film directed by English filmmaker Edgar Wright. The film is an adaptation of the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series created by Bryan Lee O'Malley. It was a bag of goodies: reality meets video-game-alternate- universe. Plus the whole geeky slacker wants girl, gets girl, must defeat girl's seven evil exes thing was cool too. Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), the 22-old unemployed Canadian indie band member has an Asian 17-year old overly-platonic girlfriend situation with Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). Her perky naivety and slight obsession with Cera's character was a nice balance to his obsession with his object of affection Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) - the "too cool for school" type chic with a rough exterior and ever-changing hair color. He barely batted an eye, as he realizes he has to fight seven super villains to keep her. Well he does whine a bit, but he's determined to keep her...hormones at its best. Did I mention

Scott's gay roommate, with whom he shared a bed with? Okay, there was a lot going on in this movie, but it's an action-comedy video game slash movie. I'd be disappointed otherwise. Anyone looking for life-changing cinema would surely be disappointed. But the filmmakers took risks, by using special effects in abundance often in the middle of a scene with graphics and fonts scrolling in the background. They worked to defy reality with sometimes immature yet brilliant techniques: coins fell from the evil exes as Scott defeated them; evil exes came into the scenes out of nowhere ready to fight. Most of them looking ridiculous, much like video game villains of the 90s, which added to the comedy factor. Overall, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is Mortal Combat (repetitive fight scenes), Super Mario brothers (get the Princess), and every teenage movie with the "geeky guy gets cool hard to get girl" premise. It was a fun movie, and visually refreshing. Definitely recommended to anyone who drools over mixed media art film. Besides, who doesn't want to see Cera fight? Geeky heroes are hot! (Published on )

SAMPLE 3: Personal Essay

REview: Gil Scott-Heron


ou could ask a hundred different people what they think about Gil Scott-Heron and get a thousand different answers-“he brought us "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" at the age of 19”, “he has more than 15 studio albums to his credit”, “he’s a junkie”. I guess at the beginning I was like most people in my generation. We were familiar, but the pieces were fragmented. Isn't he that guy from the Last Poets? While knowing good and well that we can barely name all of the Last Poets anyway. It's not arrogance, just naivety. I mean I haven't heard much from him in my two plus decades on this earth, so I guess he's not really relevant...just legendary. Is that even possible? Since this is a "REview" let me rewind a bit. It was 2004, and I was working in my first corporate job after college. It didn't fit me, and I didn't fit it. I'm an artist, in every since of the word, so I guess I was a cliché. I befriended a woman named Ife, a fellow slave of this institution. Even though she was about 20 years older, she was cool. The type of woman that wears Converses, drinks wine, and tells men what she really thinks without a second thought. She's one of those people that you couldn't sum up in a lifetime. Way too wise, with a sharp tongue, and a sensitive soul. If I were to ever meet Gil Scott-Heron, I would

expect him to be the same. She introduced us. When she asked me if I knew who he was, I said "no." I knew just by seeing her head nod, as she contemplated on where to begin, that I was about to be taken to school. We treated that day like an ode to Gil Scott-Heron--squished in her cubicle pretending to be busy with work as we listened to his words and sounds online. I was grateful for the lesson. This dude was amazing, and I really liked the way he looked. I mean Gil Scott-Heron was a beautiful man! (See for yourself: View image ). But I remembered feeling a twinge of lost as Ife shamefully regarded him in the same feign as a family member that's too painful to love. She introduced me to his other side: the drugs. I figured he played the other artist stereotype: the junkie. It wasn't something that I wanted to associate with the genius that I heard blasting from her speakers that day. So I didn't. I comforted myself in the thought that it was most likely a habit in his past, though I knew this to be unlikely. (End of excerpt. Read full essay here: -Candace Simmons

SAMPLE 3: Feature

Jozeemo: Time to L.A.F. Joseph Murdock III, better known as, Jozeemo, a.k.a. Joe Murda, a.k.a. Joe Melody, understands the power of the pseudonym and its ability to allow an artist to show all of their layers equally, in an industry intent on categorization. Jozeemo, who now calls North Carolina home, is originally from Southside Chicago and has made a name for himself as a fierce battle rapper, an "unlikely" addition to Hall of Justus, and unfortunately, even a felon. But since his release, after serving two years in prison for possession of a firearm, Jozeemo has quickly moved forward with his music. His highly anticipated fall release, L.A.F., is testament to his past and a cautionary tale to others that may be headed down the same path of fast living. But like T.I. will tell you, "be clear," you may have heard a similar story, but you never heard it told quite like this -- equal parts gangsta, humble, humorous, blunt and lyrical all the way through. Jozeemo took time from what he jokingly referred to as "daddy daycare" (watching his daughter and three nieces) to talk to about his relationship with money, his freestyle abilities and paying homage to Little Brother. You just celebrated a birthday, right? Jozeemo: Yes. Happy Belated! So that makes you a Gemini. Do you have twin personalities? Jozeemo: (Laughing) Yes, and you can hear it in my music. I have the light-hearted side and the gangsta stuff. You can definitely hear both sides of me on the album. Speaking of your debut album, L.A.F., what can we expect from it? Jozeemo: It's all about the music now. My life was moving too fast and out of control. When I got locked up, it wasn't for something I didn't do, it wasn't a case of mistaken identity. I got locked up for things I did do, and I paid the price. When I thought about it, I was even taking my kids for granted because things I do can negatively affect my family. But I slowed down, so it's good now. This album is about all of that. The song "Mr. Franklin" is about money, but what made you write it the way you did? Jozeemo: It's basically told as a story about my relationship with money and all the things money can get for you. The people and situations are represented by dead presidents. Coming up, I did illegal stuff to get acquainted with money and now it's different. It's a rendition of my life story jammed into one song. (End of excerpt. Read full interview here

Writing Samples-Candace Simmons  
Writing Samples-Candace Simmons  

4 writing samples: reviews, feature and personal essay