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Sunday, January 3, 2016

Photographer Joe Wesley: Using His Gift to Capture Something Amazing

(originally published by Conversations Magazine March 8, 2013)

by Cyrus Webb

To find inspiration in your life is one of the greatest gifts imaginable. It make everything that you do, everything that you go through worthwhile. For celebrated photographer Joe Wesley inspiration has guided him through his career, assisting him in not only being recognized for his work but feeling the satisfaction that comes from giving your best. "It's been amazing," he told me. "I really enjoy what I do, and I'm very passionate about photography. I like coming to a finished piece that I love that others can like as well."

I found out about Wesley through Facebook. It was obvious from the images that he was sharing there that he had a gift, and I wanted him to share with our audience how he got to where he was. "Ever since I was a child I have been into the arts," he says. "My junior year in college I decided to take a photography course. I loved the whole creative aspect of it." From there he knew he had found where he belonged.

Though he has been recognized for his gift, he knows there are limitations. "I'm aware that I can't please everyone," he told me. That awareness, however, doesn't deter him.  "There are people that I can please and that will appreciate what I do. That's what is important. Focusing on anything else can slow down the whole creative process. It's really about how I feel about what I do. I want to get the right shot, the right photo."

"I do mostly portrait photography," Wesley explained. "For me it's about getting people comfortable and relaxed. It takes a little time for some to gain that confidence. I want to make them as relaxed as possible, finding that space where the image will come out in that comfort. It's all about capturing that mood and emotion that is going on in that moment."

It is that focus that is keeping his star on the rise. "I believe that when people focus on what they love doing others will appreciate it as well," he says. "That's the key to creating great work. That passion and love of it will drive you into creating something amazing."

I'm always interested in the motivation behind work, and I asked Joe Wesley about his motivation when people see something he has created. "My motivation is inspiration," he told me. "I hope my work helps to inspire others to work on whatever they might do. For me my motivation is other photographers, so I hope that I am able to help others be motivated to bring up the quality of their work."

During our conversation we also talked about the role that social media and word of mouth has played in spreading the word about his photography. Joe told me that when clients refer others to him it let's him know that they appreciate his work. Through a referral, he says,"I know that they are truly satisfied."

Joe wants the inspiration he has found to be yours as well. "I think people should take an opportunity each day (about 30 min to an hour) to get to know yourself and what you want. Find out what it is you want to accomplish, what is it that is driving you. Spend some time to yourself to get to know who you are. That way you can approach the day knowing what you want to do."

To stay connected with Joe Welsey find him on Facebook at You can also bookmark his website

American Idol's Scott MacIntyre: Walking By Faith, Not By Sight

by Cyrus Webb

His book BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT was chosen as one of my top reads of 2012, but it was my conversation with American Idol Alum Scott MacIntyre that told me his story needed to be included in this magazine. Throughout everything that he has endured in his young life, Scott has remained steadfast in his belief that there is always something better ahead.

The lessons he has learned are ones I wanted to share to help guide you through your own challenges.

SCOTT ON BEING AN INSPIRATION: "It is amazing and very humbling how people have responded to my story. When we first got the book out in stores it was really humbling to hear back from people about how it was touching them where they were hurting and needed inspiration. I feel very honored to bring them a message like that."

SCOTT ON HIS FAITH: "The main thing for me is my faith. I'm a Christian. It has kept me grounded no matter what I've faced. It's because of the challenges I've faced that I've been able to stay grounded as well. I am so grateful to be alive and even make music. I try to always be the same person I am on camera that I am off camera."

SCOTT ON THE ROLE OF FAMILY: "Family is huge for me. That is where I got my sense of being able to persevere and pursue my dreams. When I was born blind my parents could have chosen to be been upset and bitter. They didn't choose that. They chose to see the beauty in the situation. Whenever I face an obstacle, I know I have that choice. I can choose to be frustrated and upset or see the beauty in life every single day. I choose the latter."

SCOTT ON HIS ATTITUDE:  "I think when obstacles pop up or when people face uncertainty some of us have a tendency to focus on the negative by default and gloss over what we might learn from the situation. If you choose to say this is a tough situation but let me try to focus on some of the good things I guarantee you will be able to find the silver lining in the clouds."

"I had my love of music. It compensated for my lack of vision. I chose to focus on what I could do and not what I couldn't. I say to people in a loving way that there is no obstacle too big or hurt too deep that you can't overcome if you walk by faith not by sight. There are so many situations in life where you can't see where you're going. None of us can predict everything about where we are going to be in a few days or years. It's easy to get caught up in that uncertainty. Don't worry about the steps along the way and focus on the end goal. If you do that, you will succeed."

Scott MacIntyre's very existence is a proof of the power of faith. When you can believe and embrace something larger than yourself and your current circumstances then you learn what it means to trust in the Lord with all your heart. "When I was 19 years old I was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney failure," he told me. "It scared me. I felt hopeless and overwhelmed. I was so weak I couldn't sing or play the piano in my own living room." Thanks to the generous gift of a family friend he was able to get a new kidney and not even a year later he was on American Idol. "It's not so much about where I am now but the journey I traveled to get here," he says. "As long as I am breathing I believe there is still hope."

His encouragement for you? "If you want to live an exciting life you have to run for it. This is a race for living. I haven't stopped running... I try to make the most of every day."

You can stay abreast of all of Scott's activities on his website and his Twitter handle @scottdmacintyre.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

[To You, From Me] Discovering Your WHY In Life


It's a question as a child I found myself asking or thinking quite a bit when I would be told something or see something going on around me. Maybe you were the same way or still find yourself asking that simple yet profound question today.

When I was reflecting on the year that has been 2015 for my brand and me I couldn't help but smile at what we have been able to do and think about the work that still lies ahead. Every day I can honestly say I get up excited about what Conversations and I are accomplishing: the people I connect, the interviews I am able to host and the events that bring me together with like-minded individuals. For me, the reason I have been able to experience a measure of success and growth is because I have been singular in my vision of creating great content that brings people enjoyment and inspiration. When people ask me how I am able to do what I do to the extent that I do it, I share the above with them. THAT is my WHY.

What about you? As you look at where you are and what you want, do you find yourself asking why you do what you do or why isn't it happening for you the way you think it should? The answer to that question is pivotal, and in the conversation I had with fitness trainer and model Branden Nicholson we discussed how identifying your why will help you stay focused on what you want and help guide you in getting there.

As you go throughout this issue and read the conversations featured or see those that are being spotlighted remember that each of them, just like you, had a goal or vision. They have been able to get to where they are simply because their actions have answered their why. Going into a new year that is what I want you to reflect upon: Is your Why clear? Do you know what your endgame is and how you are going to get there? This might mean a change in direction, but even that is good if it will bring you one step closer to your goals and dreams.

Here's wishing you a purposeful 2016, and may all that you desire and work towards find success.

Cyrus Webb, Editor-In-Chief
Conversations Magazine

Conversations Magazine's 25 Recording Artists You Should Know (2016)

For the past 9 years music has been an important aspect of Conversations Magazine. Both online and in print Editor-In-Chief Cyrus Webb has worked to showcase not just nationally-recognized artists bur those rising stars that are introducing amazing music to the world.

As 2015 comes to a close and a New Year approaches, here are 25 recording artists of different genres that along with the title of one single by them we have come to love that we believe you'll want to add to your playlist as well:

25 Recording Artists You Should Know (in no particular order)

  1. Andra Day, "Rise Up"
  2. Chelsea Crites, "What Goes Around"
  3. Ricky Jarman, "Get to Know Ya"
  4. Woodson Michel, "Whoa"
  5. Antonique Smith, "Higher"
  6. Kevin Garrett, "Refuse"
  7. Andromeda Turre, "All Or Nothing"
  8. March to May, "Embers"
  9. Bob Sima, "Be the Change"
  10. Jake Worthington, "That's When"
  11. Jason Little, "Let Me Know"
  12. A.J. Kross, "Wreck Me"
  13. Keith Robinson, "Love Somebody"
  14. Sasha Brown, "Good Life"
  15. Troy Petty, "Unfinished"
  16. Summer Franklin, "I Told You So"
  17.  Cheri Maree, "Time to Shine"
  18. Julie Geller, "Hey Girl"
  19. Matt Farris, "She's Done"
  20. Wolf Critton, "Jane Doe"
  21. Young Marco, "Gone Long Gone"
  22. Chandra Currelley, "You're Just Right"
  23. Kyle Lettman, "Moving Too Fast"
  24. Donica Knight, "Love Ain't A Prize"
  25. Antoine Dunn, "I'm Gonna Love You"

Cyrus Webb Presents...10 Books You Need to Read In 2016

by Cyrus Webb

I read A LOT of books, and thankfully because of the work I do I get to enjoy some titles before they are officially released to the world. Though there were some amazing reads that came out in 2015, I am really excited about 2016 and what it has in store for readers.

Here are 10 books (7 fiction and 3 non-fiction) that I have read and enjoyed and I believe you should definitely add to your reading list in 2016. Some might have been released after I compiled Conversations' top books of 2015. Others you might have to pre-order and wait a little while before being able to enjoy it. Either way trust me when I say that each one is worth the time and your support.

Cyrus Webb Presents... 10 Books You Need to Read in 2016
(listed in no particular order)

  1. The Restaurant Critic's Wife by Elizabeth LaBan (Lake Union)
  2. Best Friends Forever by Kimberla Lawson Roby (Grand Central Publishing)
  3. Given Not Taken by Kenneth Thomas, Sr. (Jozef Syndicate)
  4. The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith (McElderry Books)
  5. Angels Burning by Tawni O'Dell (Gallery Books)
  6. Writers on Writing by Antoinette Kuritz and Jared Kuritz (Nightstand Press)
  7. The Four Purposes of Life by Dan Millman (New World Library)
  8. A Better Life by Michael Jenet (Motivational Press)
  9. Karma's A Killer by Tracy Weber (Midnight Ink Books)
  10. Hustle. Believe. Receive. by Sarah Centrella (Skyhorse Publishing)

10 Books to Help You Develop and Advance Your Business in 2016

by Cyrus Webb

I am asked quite a bit what has helped me in building my business and brand over the past 10 years, and I have to say that reading books that were designed with the entrepreneur and visionary in mind has been the key. Sure associating with like-minded individuals and learning and growing along the way have been instrumental as well, but these are qualities that have been reinforced for me in books that I have enjoyed, many of which I have read over and over again.

Heading into a new year I wanted to share with you 10 books that have helped me in developing and advancing my business. Though some of them might appear by the title to be specific to a particular profession or passion please don't let that stop you from giving it a try. I found that each book on this list has principles that can be applied to whatever your interest might be.

10 Books to Help You Develop and Advance Your Business in 2016
(listed in no particular order)

  1. The Martha Rules by Martha Stewart (Rodale)
  2. Pitch Your Business Like A Pro by Victor Kwegyir (VicCor Wealth Publishing)
  3. Swimming With Sharks (10th Anniversary Edition) by Bernadette Giacomazzo & MJ Deskovic (Smashwords)
  4. Be An Icon by Kenneth Nkemnacho (Kenneth Vision Media)
  5. The ABCs of Success by Bob Proctor (Tarcher Books)
  6. Venture Mom by Holly Hurd (American Management Assoc.)
  7. Commit to Win by Heidi Reeder (Plume)
  8. The Not so Common Sense Guide For Authors by Omegia "O" Keeys (Passionate Writer Publishing)
  9. The Anatomy of Buzz by Emanuel Rosen (Currency Books)
  10. The Definitive Guide to An Unpredictable Career In Comedy by Joe Randazzo (Chronicle Books)

Tony Lindsay Presents... Author Nathan C. Heard

Writers are introduced to the craft of writing through a variety avenues: reading, experience, teaching, and mimicking. Writers often copy the skill sets of those they admire. It has been argued that all these inroads are necessary in the creation of a writer. Through the classic 1968 novel, ‘Howard Street,’ it becomes obvious that Nathan C. Heard travelled all these roads.

The setting of the novel is Newark, NJ. In an area coined Howard Street; modern black vernacular represents the area as the ‘hood. A place were pimps, muggers, gangs, thieves, prostitutes, crooked cops, rapist, and the disillusioned roamed. An area of the city where society had turned a blind eye, on Howard Street innocence is exploited. The naive are hardened to the disillusioned. Weakness is prayed upon like chicken for wolves. The golden rule was considered a weakness, “A man can’t fool with the Golden Rule in a crowd that don’t play fair.” There was no fair play in the novel, no silver lining or happy ending only the fatalistic reality of those surviving through the exploitation of others. To write the starkness of the harsh and brutal existence, empathy does not suffice; one must experience this life style to write about it as Heard did. The reader leaves ‘Howard Street’ knowing it was based on first hand experience.  To write such explosive text, to capture the nuisances, the attitudes of those who survive the life style, one must learn how to convey the consciousness of a “streeter.” Heard acquired this skill through reading.

He read Baldwin, Ellison, Wright, Baraka, Hughes, Mailer; it was the reading of these greats that shaped ‘Howard Street’ into the pillar of street lit that it has become. Any writer who decides to write in the genre would be well served by reading this work. As Heard recognized, one must read those that came before. To be able to relay an experience effectively a writer must see it done. A motif of the text is sibling rivalry; the two brothers Lonnie (Hip) and Franchot (Shots) are in constant conflict throughout the novel; through their relationship Heard examines the never-ending conflict between “squares” and “streeters” or the exploiters and exploited, or the “lames” and those “living the life.” With words he illustrated what was important to each, what each valued and how these values were in conflict; this cold not have been accomplished if he had not seen in done in text prior to writing ‘Howard Street.’

After reading the greats, Heard horned his craft further by reading writing craft books; this acquired knowledge eventually led him to teaching positions at California State University and Rutgers. As a writer, Heard quickly acknowledged that mimicking the greats would only get him so far; it was through being taught the skill of writing through the crafts books that he felt empowered enough to share his work.

‘Howard Street’ reflects the pensive, concise, caring work of an experienced observant writer; the work confronts topics of: police brutality and corruption, segregation, street life, family, white liberalism, homosexuality, the black church, the power of community, addiction, prostitution, the duality of black males, peer pressure, pimping, and the destruction of innocence. There are no innocents that survive ‘Howard Street’ that is the most disturbing reality of the text. The reader hopes for one surviving lamb but all are devoured. The novel, ‘Howard Street’ is not a tale of redemption, few are redeemed; it is a hardboiled reality based tale that lays bare the socio-economics of a hustlers’ life. It is a must for any student of literature.

Tony Lindsay is an award-winning author and adjunct professor at Chicago State University. He can be reached at or on Facebook at