A Message from the Heart of OTV Magazine

It should be no surprise that the theme for February is Love.  When I launched OTV my intent was to connect with authors and readers of all genres who, like myself, needed to remember they were not alone in the world. OTV is, as I have written many times, an extension of me. It is a great privilege to curate these pages.

The last two years have been a journey, the road ahead often difficult to maneuver. At each crossroad the work we have published reflected both my heart and the heart of humanity. OTV has hit many milestones since its inception and we are proud of the content we have shared with our readers. We are even more excited that you loved it as well!

To celebrate the love fest between our authors and readers, we decided to look back on the TOP 5 most loved pieces we have published. OTV was launched in the month of February, a month that historically has been painful for me. The majority of the trauma I have survived occurred in February. I almost lost my life several years back.  This publication changed all that. I no longer connect fear or pain with this month.

I want to thank you all for taking this journey with me. Through you I was able to reconnect with my voice.

All My Love,

Shareen Mansfield

Number Five

 When the Dog Bites : James W. Gaynor

This series of poems was more than a mega hit; the instant connection our audience made with it was mind blowing.

The date of its publication intersected with a painful time for the majority of our OTV readers. At 10,000 strong we had to stop and breathe. Our team was exhausted and disheartened by the election. Our world had shifted.

Kara and I found a way to laugh as we discussed the upcoming issue. We realized that we had a shared loved for The Sound of Music. We joked that the dog had bitten us, and decided December would be the month to celebrate the antidote found in “A Few of Our Favorite Things”.

What then transpired between Kara and James didn’t just prove that Everything Becomes A Poem; James and his muse Emily reminded us that we could move past the shock and enjoy some love.  This adorable Diva of a dog set the bar for all of us–she was simply not going to tolerate any nonsense or hate. The State of our Union was shaky but we were not going to linger in doubt. Emily lifted our spirits, and James reminded us that we still have everything we need to find joy in life if we simply remembered our favorite things.

When the dog bites, sometimes you get magic.

What was unique about this piece was that it didn’t just get love for a few days . It still continues to get shares and views. It seems we all needed to learn why Emily has that twinkle in her eyes.  Poetry is like music to me; it is my favorite genre. No one was more surprised than me to find that readers of OTV connected as deeply with the poetry we publish as I do.

Kara along with James recently discussed this article, its inspiration and inception on a podcast:  Book Buzz With Susannah Greenberg .

You’ll find the heart of OTV is intertwined with the hearts of authors.

Number Four

“My Marriage Survived Pornography Addiction”:  By  Raymond Baxter

This one was the biggest surprise to me. Not because it was about pornography or addiction. Raymond writes to help others. One of the things I love about Raymond’s writing style is his willingness to put himself out there . He shares his story in order to honestly connect. This allows readers to feel safe.

I still laugh when I see the image we used for this essay because we were perplexed for a long period of time while trying to schedule it. This is another piece that continues to get views and pins. Raymond took the time to let us know how important this issue was for him and readers:

“It’s quite a surprise that one of my  pieces made the top viewed list of the last year. I’m honored as well as happy. Mainly, because this is a very important topic for me. Pornography is something that challenges the mindset of most men. A massive thank you from me. Thank you for taking the time to read it.” Raymond Baxter .

Number Three

“The Fear Our Relationship” by Angela Hammond

I remember receiving the submission of this set of poems. As I have said many times before, the work that we publish is intended to reflect parts of me. These poems took my breath away.

I clearly remember chewing my bottom lip as I read the words on the screen. My thoughts going back to those fears. But I wasn’t afraid.

In fact, the bravery in Angela’s words reaffirmed my mission for OTVMagazine.com. The publishing of these poems correlated with my decision to change the name of the magazine from On The Verge to Open Thought Vortex.

I was no longer teetering on the verge. Like me, Angela felt safe to share her experience. As readers you have here the unique opportunity to truly connect with authors. OTV is not only a safe place, it is often a refuge.

“When I’m with you I feel
I’m standing on shifting ground,
because you’re not grounded.
I feel the floor shift,
as you become a shape shifter,
without a certain shape.
I never know what form you
will choose to take.
And if I speak, will it turn
out to be a mistake?”  Angela Hammond

According to Angela this poem had a clear goal . The beauty is that it not only resonated with readers –that success meant a great deal to her as well.

“What I wanted readers to get was a shared empathetic experience. It was a pleasant surprise  when the pieces I wrote were so well received. When I write it is never for an audience . Writing poetry for me is more of a subconscious experience . With each like I got from readers, and to my delight  they kept coming; I knew what I wrote went beyond my own personal experience. What I spoke about was very difficult . I knew then it was relatable . The popularity of the poems on OTV, along with the support from the writers  reinforced that OTV was a safe place for them and me.” ~Angela Hammond 

Number Two

 Jesus Would have Let me Cry On His Shoulder— By Juliana Marcelle Crespo

This essay on body image was more than just powerful. I don’t have the words to describe the connection readers had with it. The editors of WordPress were equally moved by it. This essay placed OTV on the much sought after “Discover” list selected by WordPress Editors.

There are many places in this essay where my heart connected with Juliana. One of my favorites is a recollection of a dream .

At that moment I knew the true power of faith and dreams. My grandma used to say that your dreams are more than just synaptic nerves firing in your subconscious; dreams that stay with us are a message. What a beautiful message came out of this dream:

“In the dream, Jesus had come to me, shrouded by soft light. He held me, not with his arms, but with his love. Just a few moments of being held like this, and I felt like a feather buoyed by air. ” Juliana Marcello Crespo

Number One

“At This Very Moment”   by  Drew Sheldon

This poem was the first poem published by OTV that was  very personal for me. Drew and I had crossed paths after the Paris Attacks. He had connected with me after reading one of my most personal essays It’s Time for Me to Speak: I am an American Muslim.

This wasn’t a new essay or even newly published. Drew reached out to me after seeing a barrage of hate being directed at me. It didn’t matter what I said or how I said it, the hate just kept coming. The word Muslim stirs the fear of many.

Drew’s poem reflected a deeper truth about not just America, but humanity as a whole. The hatred, while threatening and cruel, was about 10% of the responses I got. I had remained silent for years out of fear. Drew’s compassion helped me to feel safe:

“At this very moment somewhere in this world…

Someone is listening.
And someone is turning away.
” Drew Sheldon

Drew was listening.

We asked him to reflect on the success of that poem along with his reasons for writing it. His response synced with my heartbeat, reminding me that I am still safe. “At This Very Moment” will forever remain in my heart.

“I still can’t believe the response. I’m not a poet. I wrote it as a form of therapy.  Almost everything I wrote about happened to me or someone close to me during the preceding holiday season. My inability to change all that made my soul scream. I wouldn’t call “At This Very Moment” a poem. It is a soul scream.” Drew Sheldon