My life as a single mompreneur

Sarah Park Dahlen, Ph.D.

At the 2016 ALA Annual Conference, author Tameka Fryer Brown presented the Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s (CCBC) multicultural publishing statistics during the panel “Celebrating Diversity: The Brown Bookshelf Salutes Great Books for Kids.” She displayed Tina Kügler’s oft-cited 2012 infographic, with the comment that even though the numbers are now 4 years old, the image communicated inequity in publishing so well that she would use it at every opportunity.

Just before ALA Annual, St. Catherine University MLIS Program assistant professor Sarah Park Dahlen had posted to Facebook asking if anyone knew of an updated illustration, but Kügler’s was the only one anyone knew about. Friends said they would be happy to support an illustrator to create an update. Author/teacher Molly Beth Griffin saw Sarah’s post and queried her Twin Cities Picture Book Salon to see if anyone would be interested; David Huyck (pronounced “hike”) responded, and a…

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I’ve Moved!

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My blog is moving to be a part of the and One Economy Corporation family. I won’t be updating this page any longer. Please come visit me at

Thank you for your interest and see you at!


Conquering Self-Sabotage

I’m happy that I can at times laugh at myself. Not always, but sometimes. My brother loves to tease me about my lack of focus and the other night I saw first hand that it is genetic. I might not have gotten it from my parents, but I most certainly gave it to my daughter. Ok, so maybe it’s not nature as much as it is nurture. Perhaps my daughter’s lack of focus stems from seeing me flit around our place taking on a dozen tasks at the same time and not completing any of them.

Last night I had my daughter take her clothes from her drawers, determine what still fit and put her new school clothes away. I was surprised at how many times I had to remind her to finish the task at hand. She doesn’t seem to do this at school, but when she’s home with nothing engaging to do she is so easily distracted. I gave her a goal to work towards. If she finished her task on time she could make zucchini bread with me. She did complete her task with several gentle reminders at what was at stake.

Today I sat down with a serious deadline. I have five days to put a proposal together. What I find really interesting is that I pushed hard to get my project to a point where I could pitch it to a viable entity. I had a great meeting with the power’s that be and now all that’s left is to put this proposal together. Pretty easy, right? Not so much. This is where I begin the self-sabotage. I guess I’m ahead of the game, because I have realized this about myself.

The trick now is to do something about it. I’ve noticed that some of the biggest attention sucks for me are social media, household chores (which I normally don’t want to do), mindless internet surfing (under the guise of important research) and brilliant brainstorming of new ideas.  It’s not that I haven’t been exposed to time management and project management skills and resources. It is a fundamental refusal to sit down and focus on the one thing that could lead me down the road to success. Yes, this is how fear of success manifests in my life.

My plan for battling this attention deficit behavior is to block off periods of time where I ONLY work on this proposal. That means I’m not looking at every tweet, Facebook mention or text message. There will be no surfing the net unless it is actually research that is required for this proposal. Everything else can and will wait. It’s alright to be creative, but at the end of the day I need to be able to focus long enough to execute my dreams.

I deserve success and abundance, as does everyone else on this planet. My goal is to overcome whatever bad habits or subconscious demons I have accepted in the past, so that I can be successful in my immediate future.



Sometimes I wish we could pick and choose the emotions we get to experience. Ah, but that wouldn’t be life, would it? Joy, love, passion, happiness, peacefulness, serenity, confidence. Those are some of the emotions I’d choose. Envy is one I’d leave behind. I don’t think it’s an emotion that surfaces often, but when it does it shocks me.

I was checking my Facebook page and noticed that a friend posted pictures from an African safari vacation. This was a person I had worked with at my previous corporate hustle. As I looked through his pictures I had such a sense of envy. For a few moments I let it flow through me. In those moments I wanted to trade the financial hardships of a single mom, divorcee, entrepreneur, starving artist for the luxury calling to me from those pictures.

Thankfully I limited my envy to a few choice moments and then I gave myself a mental shake. Earlier in the day I shared with a few colleagues that I planned on being financially fabulous! I went on to explain that being financially fabulous means that I will never have to wonder where my revenue is coming from, I live debt free and I will share my wealth with my family, friends and community. I even shared a story with them about how I would use my yacht as a timeshare for my family and friends.

I’m in the phase of my career where you end up paying your dues and sacrificing. There is no rule book and nothing to say that it will take me 15 years to get there. What I know to be true is that I need to position myself and my company in front of content buyers who get and want what I am selling. Some days it feels easier said than done, but in reality it’s all a state of mind. So I won’t waste my time on being envious of someone else’s dream. I will celebrate and be grateful that he got to take his dream vacation, and then I will turn my attention to continuing to manifest the life of my dreams.

*Thanks to my mom for the updated edit. I’m glad to have you in my corner to point out my typos so I can be the best that I can be. I wonder if there are any typos here. hee. Mom – I left the “will” in instead of using “could/would” because I know it’s going to happen and I will!

Several things struck me when I met Nell Merlino, founder of Count Me In For Women’s Economic Independence. “Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence is the nation’s leading not-for-profit provider of tools, resources and community support for women entrepreneurs.” What struck me about Nell was how down to Earth she was and her commitment to transform women into eloquent sales representatives who are confident pitching themselves and their business while also talking about MONEY in two minutes or less!

If you’ve never seen Nell work with women entrepreneurs, you should. Philadelphia is the location of the next M3 1000 event. M3 1000 is a pitch competition and two day event  held September 25th & 26th where hundreds of women entrepreneurs will pitch their businesses in an attempt to win a $1000 American Express gift card and a suite of business growth tools (part of Make Mine a Million $ Business)

A woman who heads up a non-profit that supports entrepreneurs and knows my story recommended I pitch my business, St. Lewis Productions, in September.  I was concerned that I didn’t fit the pitch criteria – that my business had revenues of approximately $160,000 (this is an approximation as I can’t find the information at this moment). My understanding is that women business owners at that level are better positioned to quickly hit the million dollar mark. The terrific thing about this group is that they don’t discriminate if, like me, your business has not broken through to that level yet.

Count Me In For Women’s Economic Independence is hosting a series of FREE pitch practice sessions in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas.  The first one I attended was in a lovely art gallery in Philadelphia and was well attended by a diverse group of entrepreneurs. It was amazing, empowering, inspiring and educational to watch these women talk about their businesses and to hear Nell coach them. I knew that I had to pitch even if I was scared. I had spoken to Nell when I came in so she already had an idea of my business.

When it was my turn I was still nervous and shaky. I see the benefit of attending multiple pitch practice sessions. It gives you an opportunity to work out the nerves, get the coaching, implement the coaching and then finally polish your pitch so you are prepared to knock it out of the ballpark on event day. My pitch was ok. More importantly I got very helpful feedback, and even more unexpected I collected several business cards that will open doors for me.

That is the basic premise behind the pitch competition. You can see it in their tag line, “You’ve got to tell it to sell it!” I didn’t know what to expect when I showed up at the pitch practice. I knew that I was nervous and felt unsure of myself.  I’m happy to report that it was a beautiful and empowering experience. I’ve been recommending it to my friends who are women entrepreneurs, and I would like to recommend it to you as well. I understand that there are women coming to the September event from 20 states. Now that I understand the value of the experience I completely see why someone would travel to be a part of this.

I have yet to find a community that is so fully committed to supporting and uplifting each other to financial success. I believe the statistic that Nell shared was that only 26% of women owned businesses have hit the million dollar mark, which is far lower than our male counterparts. I love that Nell is taking a stand for women entrepreneurs. The cost of the conference is $49 which even for this starving artist is reasonable. The cool thing is that you can attend all the FREE pitch practices you want and become a member of the M3 community for nothing. So if you haven’t started your business, aren’t raking in serious dough or feeling confident about jumping all in, you can just attend a pitch party and see how it goes.

You have nothing to lose and millions to gain!

(Please visit the M3 1000 link provided above for accurate stats and information. I’m just going off what I can remember and quickly find)

Once in a while a movie comes along that ends up providing you with a tremendous educational opportunity. For me that movie is The Help based on a novel by Kathryn Stockett. At the time of writing this post I had not read the book. A friend of mine had asked me if I had heard about this book called The Help. She told me she was hooked and loved it. That put it on the radar for me, but I still didn’t run out to get it. It was then I started hearing more and more about this book and upcoming film.

As a movie lover, Actress and Independent Producer the movie angle was what really got me. I still didn’t know much about it other than it was about Black (I will be using Black as opposed to African-American in this post) maids in the South during the 60’s, but what I did know was that several wonderful actresses were going to be featured. I want to see anything Viola Davis is in! She is supremely talented and watching her is a blessing and an education. I have also grown to appreciate Bryce Dallas Howard’s work. During the credits of several films, I found myself shocked that she had even been in the movie. She had morphed for me into the character so much so that I didn’t recognize it was her.

Now, Octavia Spencer was an actress I had my eye on before I learned about her involvement in The Help. We were kicking around names for our narrative project, Life with ALICA, and hers was one that came up  – but I’ll come back to that later. I hadn’t had a chance to truly see what she could do with a large role in a project. This was my first opportunity to sit back and take her performance in. It was worth the wait and she was spectacular. I was duly impressed with all of the female leads, including Emma Stone, who I really enjoy.

I saw an advanced screening of The Help back in June. I was blown away and I loved the film. It did what movies, in my humble opinion, are supposed to do. It made me laugh, it made me cry and it made me angry. In coming out of the film and talking to friends and colleagues I began to realize that not everyone was on the “I love The Help” bandwagon. Immediately following the film several of us had a brief discussion about this being another film where talented black actresses were relegated to playing maids in a stereotypical roles.

I guess this is the point where my education begins. I’m not sure what the answer is. As a “Black” actress trying to get the combination of blessings and breaks required to do what I love AND make a living, I’ll be the first to tell you that the roles available to me are few and far between. Add the fact that I am a plus size or “real person” type and my odds diminish further. So when roles like this are available, do we not take them as a form of protest? Do we demand that the characters get re-written until there is some public consensus from the Black collective at large that the roles are not offensive or hurtful to our culture?

I’m not trying to be flip about these questions. With much chagrin I admit that I didn’t find The Help offensive. I found the actions of the characters offensive, but probably just the way Kathryn Stockett intended that I did. One of my friends, who is a Black woman and a Producer, asked me what I thought of the film. She hated it. I was shocked. I think I’ve always known that I grew up in a Wonderbread world where the majority of my community and friends were not Black. My Black experience is like many others, but as I have come into my own as a Producer delving into the Black community (and specifically, the Black film community) that Wonderbread world is falling apart.

I have a few friends that are graduates of Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCU) and I often joke that you can spot them a mile away. I used to say that they had a chip on their shoulder, but I am beginning to understand that they are educated in ways I could never imagine and hold the world to a higher standard than I would consider. I know who Medgar Evers is, but I missed the inaccuracies portrayed in The Help. One of the issues that gives me most pause is when the feedback is that the way the Black characters speak in the book and film is offensive. To that my question is, didn’t people speak like that? Again, I am not trying to make light of the situation. Clearly there is a gigantic need for the rest of our stories to be told. The ones that feature the educated and empowered side of our history (and maybe I’m not even phrasing that correctly.)

I realize that I have much to learn about the history of Blacks in America. I am the American born daughter of parents who immigrated from Haiti over 40 years ago, and who was raised in a predominantly White neighborhood. I was taught to assimilate and to work harder because nothing was going to be handed to me. I’m not sure where I fit in, but I know that I created my own community. I love that my community now resembles the United Nations. My friends come from all ethnicities and many different countries around the world, but that still does not provide the formative education I clearly could use about Black culture in the United States.

What I do know for certain is that it’s not enough to say that movies like The Help are offensive. Some will love it, others will hate it. At the end of the day, I believe the movie will be a huge box office success. The mainstream viewer will miss the majority of the things that people will find offensive in this film.  In my experience many may be confused about the fuss. Where does that leave those who feel like we have once again set Blacks back 50 years by performing in, supporting or outright praising this film?

I think this is the gap. The place where there is huge educational potential. Did I worry when contemplating this blog that some people would be upset with my views? Yeah, a little bit. But at the end of the day I am a woman, a mom, an independent artist and a student of life. I am here now with the questions I have because my perspective was such that I didn’t see a reason for offense. Since viewing the movie I have been open to hearing about the offensive nature of the film. Like anything else, I try it on and if it resonates I look for an opportunity to learn more. If it doesn’t fit, then I just let it be.

As I read some of the write ups about The Help, it makes me feel less educated about my community, my history and my responsibility as a Black person in the world. I used to feel ashamed about that, but now I realize that I can only be who I am at this moment. I have a chance to learn more about American history, and in particular Black American History.  Here are the two posts I read prior to writing this post and

I do believe that collectively we have a responsibility to bring films, television and other works of art that we can be proud of to the mainstream. That is where I see the greatest struggle. You can be upset that this film was made, or that Black actresses took these roles, but until there are hundreds and thousands of other stories being told that give us positive and empowering opportunities these stories will continue to be in the forefront of mainstream media. It’s not enough to write the story. We must be able to get these stories funded, produced, distributed and most of all – achieve consistent box office success.

On our journey to get our narrative project Life with ALICIA made, we’ve heard a lot of disheartening feedback. We’ve heard it’s not Black enough, it’s too Black or that there is no audience for a show like ours. Life with ALICIA was born out of our desire to see positive images of Blacks in the media and Blacks that looked like us (myself and my business partner at the time, Cymande Lewis). We can handle the feedback that it’s not interesting, or that it was poorly executed or that it had already been done, but that’s not what we heard. Here is a link to the pilot teaser so you can judge for yourself

About Last Night

What we heard was that we had created characters that were likable, that were accessible and relevant, that the issues our main characters were facing were universal issues. Our project is a starting point. It’s born from a need to be heard, seen and recognized. It addresses the things we don’t see in the mainstream media, but after two years we are still pushing. Maybe the timing is off or perhaps our blessing is right around the corner. This is not about embracing our individual show, although that would be great. I believe that the solution lies in getting behind positive and empowering stories and uplifting them all the way until they smash the box office.

We can sit back and criticize all day long, and in many cases it will be valid. The Help is providing me an educational opportunity to embrace what I don’t know or have been too complacent to see. With a little bit of education perhaps as I build out programs in the future I will have a greater sensitivity to the cultural nuances and offenses that are still a major part of mainstream media. This is no small undertaking. This is the beginning of a lifetime of learning. I am up to the challenge and can only hope that from this moment forward I will be able to appreciate all film with a wider lense.

A Promise is A Promise

When my daughter came home from her 5 week trip to visit her father, I promised that I would take a week off from work and spend it with her. Then came an important conference I felt I needed to attend three days into her time home. I worked out a deal with her. I would go to the conference and then pay her back a day. Today is my payback day. So why am I blogging in the middle of the afternoon? Because I had to find a way to have a working vacation day.

She’s sitting with me watching tv while I try to handle a few emails and write this post. The concession I had to make? Every few minutes she says, “Look mommy! Look!” It’s totally distracting, frustrating and I’ve realized absolutely fun! While catching up on past episodes of her new favorite show Phineas and Ferb, I got to crack up a few well placed jokes.

Phineas and Ferb was the one non-educational show that I was willing to let her watch. I’ll admit I came to the light side very reluctantly. She saw it a friend’s house and fell head over heels in love. My goal has always been to keep her as young as possible for as long as possible, but in today’s society that’s pretty tough. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the humor, originality and creativity of Phineas and Ferb.

In keeping my promise to my daughter we got to watch a LOT of Phineas and Ferb together.  This includes their latest, Phineas and Ferb the movie: Across the 2nd Dimension. We had a great time laughing and talking through the movie. My sensitive-hearted child cried with concern because Phineas and Ferb were in danger. This provided another opportunity for me to snuggle my little one, reassure her that everything was going to turn out alright and to just be there for her as she readjusted to being home.

It’s really easy for me to think that I need to put my work first, and realistically I do.  I can’t eat hope, and snuggles don’t pay the bills. Last night I realized that for the next few weeks I’m just going to have to get really creative while balancing my daughter’s needs and my work load. It’s doable. Parents do it everyday. I will have to improve my time and project management and the time I spend with my daughter will need to be  quality time.

It seems so simple, now I get a chance to make it so.



As we approach the beginning of the school year I cringe at the thought of the dreaded little creatures I now know inhabit my child’s school (as well as most other ones). Ignorance truly was bliss last year. I had no idea of the prevalence of lice in elementary schools or the likelihood that my child would be exposed to it. Perhaps growing up in a household where we never had lice and never knew anyone that had it created an unrealistic expectation.

The funny thing is that when we had lice I turned to my friends in my moments of despair. It was only then that I learned that two of my closest childhood friends had lice when they were younger. I never knew! Then again, why would I. Even now people don’t talk about having lice – unless you are new inductee to the lice infested club. Once you’re in the club a wide array of information becomes available to you. I can’t help but wonder if we’d be better off if that information was part of our daily conversation instead of when a child comes home with lice.

I’m still a little perturbed that my school district does NOT notify parents when your child has been exposed to lice. Perhaps if they did I might have looked up preventative measures and would not still itch at the least provocation! At any rate, I am determined to share what I learned and make sweet lemonade out of that nasty, moldy, disgusting batch of lemons which was my experience with lice.

My daughter already knows that her beautiful, luscious curly hair will be pulled back and smelling like peppermint every day she is in school. I don’t care that her friends might think she smells like a candy cane! We have a friend who has amazing hair. She’s only about 8 but her hair is that of legend! I aways wondered why her mother never left her hair out. As a matter of fact, I remember thinking what was the point of having such amazing hair if you never left it loose. Now I know!

On my end, I have destroyed my hair. Thankfully it is chin length and fairly thick. I still remember the first day I went into a salon after treating my own hair for lice and combing through my naturally coarse hair with the lice comb. The stylist almost fell over. She was shocked at how broken and damaged my hair was. It didn’t help that I didn’t leave myself enough time to stay for a deep conditioning treatment. I tried to explain myself, but she clearly had not had a customer who had broken off half of her hair trying to comb out lice.

If you have black hair and get lice, I’m not sure what to tell you. The only saving grace for my daughter is that she is of mixed ethnicity and her hair is more like her father’s. I was in between relaxers so I had a significant amount of new growth which was coarse hair. There are new heat treatments that will kill the lice and the nits but you still need to comb through the hair to remove the remnants and check for any missed ones.

The lice combs don’t work for my hair. I just had to decide that less hair was better than more lice. Here is an opportunity for a savvy inventor to come up with a special treatment for black hair, because we do get lice and shaving out heads is not always a viable option. If there is a treatment out there already, please let me know so I can share it.

I’m going to be visiting with a local lice treatment center in the coming weeks. I will bring back some tips for managing lice and lice prevention. Here’s hoping you have a happy August – free of creepy little critters!

Joyful Thinking

I have several vision boards at my home. For those who don’t know, a vision board is something you create that has images or words that are part of your vision for the future. The vision board I was looking at this morning has the words, “Joyful Thinking” which I clipped from a magazine. They are very large and prominently placed on my board. I went to bed feeling a little bit down about my financial situation. Waking up and seeing my vision board reminds me to be think joyfully about everything.

I’ve been underemployed for going on four years. I’ve done part-time gigs here and there and of course book an occasional acting gig. I have applied for full-time employment, but ask any job seeker and they’ll tell you how well that’s been going these last few years. I knew when we created our production company that it would be a tough road, but I never expected it to be this tough. The funny thing is that people see my activity and remark that they are glad things are going so well.

Things are going well, because that’s the attitude I take. I am where I am supposed to be, but that doesn’t mean that things can’t and won’t get better. This morning my task is to focus on the things I haven’t done that can advance my business. Actually, since I am still on a staycation and my daughter just woke up, my task is to continue to help her adjust to being home. I’m not supposed to be working until Tuesday, but as the bills mount and my brain worries it’s hard to focus on fun.

I think that’s the trick. At any moment one of the irons I have in the fire can explode. Everything I’ve read and heard about spirituality and the Universe says that I should have the attitude of having already made it. When I “make” it I believe I will feel grateful, excited, happy, relieved, successful and validated. I guess that means that my morning task is to begin channeling all of those feelings now and to let the Universe work out the rest.

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