Dec 11, 2008

The High Today Feels Like Twenty-Seven (oh, joy!)

If you listen to NPR (you poor thing) or start yawning repeatedly at 4:30pm because outside it looks like midnight, you might start feeling like you've caught a nasty case of malaise. Fear not! When it's most dark, it's time to light candles, bake tasty treats, and take a walk to admire your neighbors' flamboyant use of electricity. Sure the three layers of clothing are getting heavy and cumbersome and you haven't got the energy to stay up and finish that new novel you just got in the mail from lulu. (If you did order one, THANK YOU!!!) Call up some friends you haven't talked to in months, take some goofy pics out in the snow, and snuggle up with someone you love (or even just like).

I think there's a reason that there are so many wonder-filled holidays during the darkest and coldest time of the year, don't you?

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
That's how the light gets in.
~Leonard Cohen

Nov 24, 2008

Dearest Avid Reader,

"To accomplish great things, we must dream as well as act." -- Anatole France

After many years of dreaming, the time has finally come to act. After many sleepless nights and a great deal of revision, my production and publication crew and I are thrilled to announce the completion of my first novel: "Cast the First Stone."

Letters of inquiry have been written, agents called and publishers sought. Realizing that the road to publication is a slow, emotionally scarring process, my staff and I have decided to create a grass-roots, pre-publication edition especially for the community which has supported me through these crucial first steps. Thank you for enrichening my passion for the magic of story and for being part of this exciting endeavor!

-Gwendolyn Glover


You can now purchase your very own copy of Ms. Glover's debut novel, "Cast the First Stone" online at: Gwendolyn's Storefront. For information regarding the author and to join her on this exciting journey towards publication, please visit:

If you would like your copy signed by the author, please send it with a SASE to:

D&G Productions
PO Box 59408
Chicago, IL 60659-0408
*Please allow for up to two weeks for redelivery.

About the book:
Cast the First Stone is a first novel that is as humorous as it is bittersweet. This unique "coming-of-age" tale set in dreary, small-town Oklahoma, stars Denny Stone, a feisty girl with a sharp tongue and a taste for rum & Coke. Fiercely independent, she typifies the rebel in all of us – constantly redefining herself within the confines of her Podunk existence. By contrast, her best friend Haley is soft-spoken and timid – inexplicably trapped in the role of matriarch with her ever-growing, poverty-stricken family. They struggle with their emerging sexuality, social status, spirituality and family. As Denny plans her escape to California, Haley draws further inward, seeking out God and testing the limits of friendship and loyalty, leaving one burning question: who will cast the first stone?

Don't forget to check back here often for updates about her publication process, upcoming readings and events, news, and new writings.

Nov 18, 2008

Wonder Women

In the last month, I have been to readings from two remarkable female writers. The first is Sefi Atta, who is the writer in residence this quarter at NU. She has a whimsical grace and a sweet shyness. She read parts of several of her short stories, which are available to read on her website. Aftewords, I rushed to buy her first novel available in the United States: Everything Good Will Come. David actually had to corner her and stop her from leaving while I bought the book. I told her that I really admired her and David mentioned that I had just finished my first novel. She immediately and honestly asked about it. I blubbered something. I don’t know what I said. How could I speak of my humble, beginning novel in the face of such a great writer?

Everyone really must give her a read.

The second woman I went to see was Allison Bechdel. I was introduced to her by my good friend, Kyle, who recommended her first graphic novel, Fun Home. It was a work of genius. I read it quickly, as I used to read when I was a little girl. I convinced David and a few friends to go with me to see Allison at my favorite feminist bookstore in Chicago, Women and Children First. (No, I’m not very fond of the name, but I adore the bookstore.) Allison was delightful! She was promoting her collection of comics Dykes to Watch Out For, which not only chronicles the life of a few crazy lesbians but also comments on current events and political issues with a ticklish sense of humor.

You can check out her comics at

A couple of weeks ago, we finally rented Persepolis, a animated film created by an Iranian woman who lives in France. The film followed the success of her graphic novel, which I have yet to read. I had heard interesting things about the film, but the experience was mind-blowing. The animation was done traditionally with ink so it has a soft, almost tangible quality. (David was very impressed by the description of how the film was made, which is why DVDs are cool.) The story is charming, humorous, and honest: an authentic picture into the life of one girl growing up in Iran in the 1970’s. She was a punk rock girl living under an oppressive government, just trying to figure out where she belonged. Sound familiar? It’s a story we all relate to and—can it be?—we learn something about foreign culture in the meantime. I highly recommend this film.

My last wonder woman is new friend of mine that I met at the Rogers Park Art Fest in August. Kelli, of Greenie Bean Totes, makes cloth bags out of recycled t-shirts and material. Her description of her company is this: "greenie bean totes are for the wild at heart. the kindred spirits, wonderlusters, modern day hippies. together, we are radical. in our notions of practicality, reusability, and save the world-isms." She has a contact on facebook or if you want her email address, leave me a comment.

I’d love comments if you have been tantalized by any of these wonder women, or any others lately.

Nov 5, 2008

Oh, yeah!

David just finished the book cover. Isn't it fan-freakin-tastic?

Nov 2, 2008

Witness (a short story)

I remember strange details from that day. I remember wearing a pink Strawberry Shortcake shirt and denim overalls. I remember that my white-blond hair was pulled into two pigtails. I remember the smell of wood chips and the hot steel of the monkey bars on the playground. I remember the looks on the kids’ faces when I asked them where they were going when they died.

Do you know for sure? I asked when one girl, maybe around six years old, with chocolate smeared around her mouth had answered, Heaven.

There were two boys who were ignoring me, which I had found to be very detrimental to their spiritual well-being. It had been Missionary Month at church and school, because I went to the church’s school. I had heard about the communists in Russia and the few people that smuggled Bibles through the Iron Curtain. The words had made me tingle when I rolled them like marbles around in my mouth. Communists. Russia. Iron Curtain. It sounded so cold and thrilling. I had heard about Amy Carmichael, who had been alive when my great-grandmother was interceding for her sons during World War II. Amy had rescued orphans in India and saved their mortal souls as well. In my fourth grade class, we started writing letters to children in Haiti to tell them about our personal Lord and Savoir, Jesus Christ. I had asked my teacher for more than one child to write to. I wanted to do my part. I would lie awake at night, thinking about all the souls of children who were dying of starvation and sickness and going to hell, all because no one had told them about Jesus.

This burning desire in me to save souls was countered by my extreme fear of speaking out loud. I was terrified of talking to people, especially strangers. I had been going to this playground every day all summer, watching the other children: Toby was the bully who picked on the little girls, Sarah and Holly were little princesses (snobs I called them because they made fun of my Maid Marion costume, which I liked to wear on a regular basis), and Johnny was Toby’s redheaded sidekick who laughed at everything he said. Mary was the oldest girl at the playground. She also had the darkest skin of all the children. She never laughed and carried a heavy backpack, never putting it on the ground even when she hung from the monkey bars. Tiny was the fattest boy I’d ever seen and he carried an inhaler with him, using it sporadically throughout the day. There were several others whose names I didn’t know. Every day I thought about what I should say to them. How I should tell them about Jesus. I brought home-baked cookies that my brother and I had made with Mom’s guidance. The kids scarfed down the cookies, but then ignored me. I brought my illustrated Bible one day and sat quietly; reading for over an hour, but no one asked what I was reading.

So, I decided that I should just blurt out the question: If you were to die today, do you know where you would go? I stood frozen, waiting to be made fun of, which was worse than dying.

Toby finally said, what is funnier than a dead baby? He was a good looking kid, maybe a year older than me, with spiky brown hair and a cute smile. His smile at that moment was not cute, though. It was just plain mean. A dead baby in a clown costume, he said deadpan.

The other kids laughed and said, Ew, gross, encouraging him to tell another joke.

What is the difference between a baby and an onion? No one cries when you chop up the baby. The laughter rose from the crowd of brightly colored children and hit my body like the stench of the egg farm we drove passed when we visited Grandma’s.

I ran across the playground; hot tears burned my eyes, filling my plastic-framed glasses and blurring my vision. A piece of broken sidewalk sprang up—it seemed—out of nowhere and I fell, skinning my knee. I sat there, feeling persecuted for the cause, and bawling my eyes out. Suddenly, a hand tapped my shoulder. I turned around, wiping my snotty nose on my sleeve and rubbing my eyes red raw. It was my mother with her calloused hands, dirt under her nails from working in the vegetable garden. I couldn’t tell her what had happened. She held my hand and we walked home in silence. In the bright kitchen we ate big bowls of Breyer’s strawberry ice cream.

Mom told me a story just the other day on the phone. She had called collect, long distance, but I didn’t mind. I’d work an extra shift at The Olive Garden if I had to to pay the phone bill. Mom told me that when she was eleven and Aunt Minnie was nine, my Aunt Gayle, who was sixteen, had a boyfriend. Mom and Aunt Minnie always hung around the two of them while they sat on the hood of his ruby red Thunderbird, drinking Cokes. Gayle was the beautiful sister with thick, licorice hair and long eye lashes. Her boyfriend, Kaleb Green, was a football player and while his father was a deacon at Jubilee Baptist Church, his mother was the head of just about every charity organization in Delaware, Ohio.

My mother said that one afternoon Kaleb came over when Aunt Gayle wasn’t at home. She was at cheerleading practice. She and Aunt Minnie ran out to greet him and brought him the last cold Coke in the fridge. All grins and giggles, Kaleb led the girls down by the Olentangy River and told them it wasn’t a sin if they weren't naked. It was just playing around.

I had asked Mom if they told anyone and she said, No. Daddy hadn’t much use for girls and the quieter we were, the better he liked us. We just didn’t want to cause any trouble.

As I sit here now, cross-legged on the edge of the Pacific Ocean smoking a Camel Light, I wonder about this little invisible girl I used to be. I wonder what would have happened if the children at the playground had listened. Would I have become a hands-on missionary or a Christian self-help writer or, even worse, an advocate for the Bush administration?

How can I make you understand what it was like to be there?

Religion is about heaven and hell, but that’s not the whole story. Religion is about strength of will and faith and fear and guilt. Religion is about knowing a secret that you simultaneously want to tell everyone about and feel arrogant when you meet someone who doesn’t know your secret. Religion is about amazing grace and wayward sinners and great heroic tales where the good guys always win.

Religion is also about oppression. And in my religion, it was about female suppression. It was about not being good enough to preach or be the head of anything or make decisions alone. It was about submission and obedience and conformity.

Religion made me feel safe, but it also made me feel like I couldn’t breathe. It made me feel lonely, insecure, and sad. It also gave me great purpose and the eternal security of my soul.

I was told that religion was the great Love Story between God and His people. I fell head over heels when I was old enough to talk and sing songs in Sunday School and understand colorful pictures in my Children’s Bible. I fell hard and fast and long. I wanted to live happily ever after.

I had my heart broken by a two thousand year old religion.

I was only nine years old. Someone should have told me that the weight of mankind’s eternal resting place was not my job to carry. My job was to make up stories for my Barbie dolls and play dress-up and watch Shirley Temple movies. My job was to pretend, laugh, play, cry, and not worry. You could blame my dad, I suppose, since he is a pastor. Or you could blame my mom, who never ever contradicted my dad so I didn’t know, until recently, what she really thought about anything.

Oct 31, 2008

A Word From My Man, the Artist @ Large

Hello! This is a quickie reminder of my upcoming stint with the Cultural Center's Open Studio Program. It begins November 1st and goes until thanksgiving. M-F, 8-6 @ the storefront in the Pedway below the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph St. The Open Studio Program was created to allow the public to see the art-making process as it unfolds so, by all means, please feel free to swing on by and say hi as I hash out some new works... Got questions? Drop me a line at anytime. Thanks for reading and have a wonderfully creative day!

-David DeRosa, Artist~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Oct 27, 2008

Little Miss Patriotic

Well, I've been feeling all "red, white, & blue" lately. This isn't a political blog, but I am a feminist so I'm duty-bound to remind everyone: DON'T FORGET TO VOTE! David & I voted early on Saturday and we had to wait for over an hour in a nice, ever-growing line. It makes me happy to see so many people enthusiastic about voting. So, remember, when you standing in line, bored to tears, and wondering how late you're going to be for work: smile because you might possibly maybe make a difference.

(Here's me, crossing my fingers and saying a little prayer.)

Oct 24, 2008

A Quote

Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it. ~Hannah Arendt

Oct 16, 2008

Pynchon, the Conflict of the Right Word, and Rambling Sentences

I can't help myself. I said I wasn't going to post anything because I'm in the middle of writing a rather wordy and incoherent novel as fast as I can. But I miss you all and wanted to say hello. Hello!

Do you feel like you've been caught in a maddening whirlwind of continous--and often ambiguous--facts about the economy (which is pretty much fucked) and the presidental election, conflicting with the beauty of golden, firey nature and chilling breezes, and the desire to curl up in a small ball with a bottle of flavored vodka (I like putting a shot in a malt beverage) and a gripping fantasy novel?

Please tell me I'm not the only one.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to write a coherent paper for my lit class, tutor English to my sweet Korean girls, write like a mad woman, and not think about the publishing endeavor I began this summer.

Oh, and I also have a day-job, but that's merely a paycheck so I can eat on a regular basis and have the internet. I'm totally addicted to checking my e-mail. (Write me!!!)

Well, all I can say is thank god for Tina Fey, Season Two of Dexter on Netflix, and our new family member, Jasper.


Oct 15, 2008

Everyone, meet Jasper DeRosa!

Our little toddler is still a bit shy even though we've had him for about a month. Jasper was a birthday present for David and we're training him to hang out on our shoulders, travel with us in the car (he likes hanging out under David's shirt), and eat from our hands. He's a good little kid and makes these beautiful, little chirping noises in the morning.
Okay, everyone say it together: aaaaaaawwwwwww.

Sep 29, 2008


During the month of October, I won't be posting anything on this blog. I'll be participating in a frenzy-filled, group writing challenge starting at the stroke of midnight on October 1st and ending at 11:59 on October 31st. This is the third time I've taken the challenge, which is highly influenced by the National Novel Writing Month. The first time was in January of 2007 and I aggressively utilized the No Plot, No Problem kit, which loosened me up and forced me to give my inner editor and critic a much-needed vacation.

I would love to get inspirational, cheesy, and funny notes while I do this with my totally awesome writing group. Feel free to e-mail me at gwendolyn.derosa at gmail dot com


The maker of a sentence launches out into the infinite and builds a road into Chaos and old Night, and is followed by those who hear him with something of wild, creative delight.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sep 25, 2008

Little Miss Student

Classes have started at Northwestern, where I work as a pharmacy tech. This means that I'm actually busy during the day. The phone is ringing. Kids are confused about insurance. How do they pay for stuff without their parents? How did they get here and where are they going? After several long days of smiling and helping students, my immune system crapped out on me. I caught that stupid, "first week of school," head cold. Right before my first class of American Literature, from 1965 to present.

So, steeped in the fog of a sinus headache and overall crummy feeling, I struggled to focus on the first 2 paragraphs of The Crying of Lot 49. I counted the lines that the first sentence took. Seven. Seven lines and each word seemed vitally important. But why? Was Pynchon just playing a game with the reader or is he trying to say something meaningful?

I knew what I had gotten myself into. I'd read a few short stories by Thomas Pynchon. I'd gotten the inside joke on the Simpsons when he played his alter-ego, a cartoon character with a paper bag over his head. I had started the book a week ago, reading it alongside a study guide. I'd almost finished the book by the time class started. But, as the other students brought up some interesting ideas about just the first two paragraphs, I couldn't think of a thing to say.

I had thought it was an introductory class period. You know, when you get the syllabus and scope out the other students and leave way early. This was not to be the case. My head was stuffed full of mucus and I just wanted to curl up in a little ball.

I can make it, I told myself. I was interested, at times even fascinated, during the first hour of lecture about how the culture of the sixties influenced the literature. But 2 hours later, I had lost my grasp on even a fraying string of mental concentration. So I let go and waited for the professor to end class.

Then it happened. My phone rang. I quickly shut it off. I knew it was my dutiful husband, letting me know that he was waiting at the street corner to pick me up. I told him that I was positive class would be out by 9. It was not. And my phone rang again, letting me know that I had a message. I felt my face turn beet red and my heart raced. Oh, god. I hope everyone didn't hear that. But I was sure that they did.

Five minutes later, the phone rang again. Poor David. He has no idea where I am. Why am I not at the corner where I said I would be? But I wasn't thinking of him. I was thinking of myself. Here it is, the first day of class, and I will be known as "the cell phone girl." As the girl who didn't turn off her damn phone before class started.

I tried to breathe. My stomach was churning. The cold chicken wrap that I had scarfed in a hurry was not sitting well. Why had I made myself go to class when I so obviously was not well? Definitely not well enough to discuss Pynchon. Not even well enough to remember to turn off my phone.

Sigh. Next week I'll be prepared. I'll study all the obscure references in The Crying of Lot 49 and I'll say something smart. Something so smart that people will forget that I was "the cell phone girl."

Sep 18, 2008

Let There Be Peace

Sunday, September 21st, is the International Day of Peace.

Recently, I've become very aware that I'm guilty of being consumed by personal frustations and family-related stress. I distract myself by checking my e-mail constantly and getting news updates from NPR, BBC, MSN, etc. My head is often a constant whirlwind of information and lists of things to do and keeping track of my budget. I'm so mentally exhausted at the end of the day that I just want to be entertained by whatever came in the mail from Netflix. I make very little time to simply be. To focus on the moment. To find peace in my world.

My wish is that all of us would take a moment out of everyday, not just tomorrow, to pause and pray for peace. To recognize peace in ourselves and in the people around us and to work toward peace in our world.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.-- Matthew 5:9

Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.-- Albert Einstein (1979-1955)

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.-- Mother Theresa (1910-1997)

Sep 17, 2008

A Quote

There's only one person who needs a glass of water oftener than a small child tucked in for the night, and that's a writer sitting down to write.

~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966

Sep 11, 2008

My First Time

Last night was a lovely summer-like evening. David and Sarah walked with me to The Heartland Cafe. I mentioned that it's a little piece of San Fran. It's not just a cafe with an open mic venue. It's also a bar and a small store selling fair trade items, socialist and feminist books, and handmade jewelry. I adore it.

We arrived way too early. The website said it started at 9pm, which I thought was pretty late. Especially since I had to get up around 6am this morning. It didn't start until 10pm. A few new friends stopped by and we talked over hard ciders, but they had to leave before it was my turn. They didn't call my name until after 11pm. That's a long time for the nerves to build tension. By ten-thirty, I had a mild buzz, I was sleepy, and my insides were doing cartwheels.

Sarah had selected a short chapter for me to read. She thought it encapsulated much of what the book is about, without giving too much away. David thought I should talk a little about it and my website. I didn't know what to say. There were bright lights and a microphone. From the stage, I couldn't even see the audience. I really wanted to run for it. (But I knew David wasn't going to let me chicken out.)

So, I just dove into the story. I read slowly. I had practiced a few times and had it practically memorized. I said thank you when I finished and tried not to run back to my seat. I think there was applause.

Sarah and David said I did quite well and the audience seemed to like it. They said the clapping was genuine and not just polite. I couldn't tell.

Walking back home after 12:30am, I started breathing normally again. Sarah asked me how I felt. I didn't know.

Today, I've had a huge Vitamin Water energy drink just to make it through the workday. Maybe I'll do this again. I just need to find an open mic that starts earlier. Maybe on a Friday or Saturday night when I can sleep in the next morning. We'll see.

Thanks for all of the lovely messages and mental thumbs-up that you've sent. I really felt all of you there with me. :)

A Nymph Named Joanna Newsom

"We sailed away on a winter's day
with fate as malleable as clay;
but ships are fallible, I say,
and the nautical, like all things, fades.

And I can recall our caravel:
a little wicker beetle shell
with four fine masts and lateen sails,
its bearing on Cair Paravel."

Sep 10, 2008

What's Your Favorite?

Author Laurel Snyder asked of the blogosphere, "What is your favorite book from childhood?"

The dearest book in the whole, wide world to me is "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis. By age eleven, I was proud to say that I had read it eleven times. I love that children never tire of good things, like songs and games and stories.

I also loved "On Beyond Zebra" by Dr. Seuss, "Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day," and "Too Much Noise."

The Friendly Forces

"What is required of us is that we love the difficult and learn to deal with it. In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us. Right in the difficult we must have our joys, our happiness, our dreams: there against the depth of this background, they stand out, there for the first time we see how beautiful they are."

-Selected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

Sep 2, 2008

A Smashing Good Time

I love Roger's Park! Seriously. We met so many intriguing people who make bags out of t-shirts, and lovable, stuffed "monsters" and jewelry artists at the Glenwood Arts Festival. Thanks to all of you that stopped by our booth. It was a beautifully successful weekend. David sold lots of prints, a drawing, and drew crowds of people with his bright personality. Although on Saturday we became hot puddles of sweat, Sunday brought the threat of rain and, thankfully, a much cooler temperature. Sarah and I received lovely ten-minute massages. We watched a little puppet show in a colorful booth, which was connected to the back of a bicycle. (It felt a little bit like SF.)

I was asked several times if I was doing any readings anywhere, so this is my next task. If I can muster up the courage, I'll be participating in the open mic night next Wednesday (9/10) at The Heartland Cafe.

In other news, the artist/intellectual commune has been buzzing at the DeRosa home. Jacqui (my unofficial editor and good friend) flew in from NYC, and then left...much too quickly. We packed as much fun as we could into every day. We've been enjoying amazing, homemade mojitos, warm sunshine, and quite a bit of luck from the transportation gods.

My brother, Jason, flew in on Sunday and we promptly put him to work carrying heavy bags of groceries and such. :) David succeeded in making fire (with Sarah's assistance) and fed us some mean hamburgers and sausages off of a tiny grill. The guys splashed in Lake Michigan until the lifeguard yelled that they were too far away. Apparently, you can only go into the lake up to your waist. Any further and you get yelled at.

We went on The Untouchables "Gangster" Tour on Monday and experienced the gritty side of Chicago. We discovered the Ragstock in Wicker Park, which is an extremely cheap and totally awesome clothing store. We wandered into Myobic Books, which would have delighted me except it was far too hot in the store. Then, we took the Blue Line to the Red Line to the parked car to get home. (For those of you who don't live in Chicago, it's an exhilarating adventure just to get around the city. Especially if your trip involves the Downtown.)

Jason's here until Thursday. I'm trying to figure out how much caffeine I'll need in order to stay up late for another couple of nights. (I'd be worried that I was becoming an old lady, but I've always been this way. In fact, I think I'm getting more and more playful as I age. But I'll save that thought for another time.)

Here's to old friends and brothers and new connections and living life to the fullest!

Aug 20, 2008

The Glenwood Ave Arts Fest

David and I will be sharing a booth (for the first time!) this weekend. This is a "popping the cherry" event for me. I'm a big knot of nerves. We're working on having a tangible, pre-publication copy of CTFS on-hand. We'll have info on how to order a pre-publication copy of your very own. (To snuggle up with in your favorite chair.) Also, David will be unveiling some of his just-finished paintings. His bright, eye-catching work is ever-evolving and I think his newest incarnation is really striking. Of course, there will be lots of other good people there with art and food and music. Check out the details at

We hope to see you there!

P.S. A shout out to Sarah, who will be assisting us at the fest.

This Isn't A Cop-Out Posting

I really think this is an interesting article.

Aug 13, 2008

The Beginning (of a short story)

It’s a humid August evening. I am unclipping the sun-dried laundry from the nylon line drawn between two maple trees. I hear the phone ring. Surely one of the kids will pick it up. It rings again. Or maybe Joshua will realize that he can, in fact, pick up the phone sitting on his desk, right where he is working on Sunday’s sermon. And rings again. Joshua hollers down from the bedroom window. “Maggie! The phone is ringing.” He says this as if I can’t hear it. As if I am the only person that can answer the phone.

I hurry into the bright kitchen as fast as my chunky legs can take me. The setting sun reflects off the lemony, flowered wallpaper and blinds me for just a moment. I snatch up the receiver just as the answering machine clicks on. It’s Dorothy. Breathing heavily, I fumble to turn off the answering machine. “Hello.”

“Maggie!” I can tell that Dorothy is out of breath as well, although her breathing is deep and full; mine is shallow and thin. “I have great news! Bill gave me a trip to New York City next weekend and tickets to see Les Mis on Broadway.”

I grit my teeth, my shoulders tense and I can feel a ball of stress forming at the base of my neck. Dorothy’s husband is always doing thoughtful things for her. Why doesn’t Joshua ever do anything nice for me? Why is it that my whole life revolves around Joshua’s plans? I clear my throat, feeling painfully ashamed for such an un-Christian reaction. “That’s great,” I say and wish that I meant it.

“Bill gave me two tickets, Maggie. I want you to come with me,” she says.

“What?” I squeak. This is a joke, right? I risk a laugh. “Are you serious?” Dorothy’s not one to play games and she isn’t now. Goosebumps run up my arms. I have never been to New York City. As Dorothy rambles excitedly about the trip, I chew on a number two pencil. How can I explain to Joshua that I really need this vacation?

I slowly walk into the bedroom gripping the heavy, wicker laundry basket tightly to my chest. My husband’s long frame is bent over his desk; a small, antique lamp sits on the edge, illuminating his work. Although his chiseled physique has softened over past eighteen years, he’s still a handsome man. When we met at Oral Roberts University, Joshua was someone I never thought I would be good enough for. I had long, wild hair like Janis Joplin and I actually liked her music. Joshua was respected by the other budding theologians and all the cashmere girls melted if he noticed them. But he never let himself get distracted by the feminine wiles of the giggling Barbie dolls. Those girls wanted the public attention and admiration of being a pastor’s wife. In the world of ORU in the seventies, the most well-regarded place for a woman was to be the wife of a successful minister. I never wanted all the phony attention and I’m not sure what Joshua saw in me.

Joshua doesn’t look up when I walk into the room. He doesn’t even ask who was on the phone. These are minor irritations, like gnats, that he brushes off so he can focus on his real work, which has nothing to do with getting the kids to school or cooking or doing the laundry, or making sure the house looks pristine when the ladies prayer group comes over on Saturdays. I wonder if he notices anything that happens in this house, all of the things that I do for this family. Am I wrong for feeling so neglected? What would he do if I wasn’t here? I wipe the beads of sweat off my face. I shouldn’t feel so sorry for myself. Maybe it’s good enough to be married to an honest man.

One of the characteristics I found endearing when I met Joshua is that he is never concerned about “the things of the world,” as he says. He preaches, at the pulpit and in the home, that “we must be heavenly minded.” He’s no hypocrite. That I admire, but I don’t understand why he can’t see that other people are affected by this world. Before I lose my nerve, I blurt it out. “Dorothy has invited me to go to New York with her.”

Joshua pulls his reading glasses off and clears his throat. “Maggie, can’t you see that I am busy with God’s work? I don’t have time for this.” He turns back to his thick Bible concordance. “Neither do you.”

“It won’t cost us much,” I say. I rub at a grass stain that didn’t come out of Abby’s jeans. “I haven’t had a vacation in years.”

Joshua puts his glasses back on and peers down at the tiny print. “I will not repeat myself, Maggie. Indulging in frivolities is not proper conduct for the wife of a pastor.”

“Dorothy’s husband bought us the tickets so he obviously thinks it is okay,” I mutter. I busy my shaking hands by folding towels, noticing that they are beginning to fray at the ends. A lavender smell wafts up from the stack of sun-warmed laundry.

“Dorothy’s husband may be an elder, but he is not God’s voice! I am.” Joshua slams his fist on the desk. The desk lamp teeters. I rush over and it falls into my hands.

There is nothing you can say in response to a statement like that. All you can do is shovel the mounds of words into the compost pile of your stomach. Momma said there would be fights only won in secret. I think she meant that sometimes whoever has the last word isn’t necessarily the winner.

“Careful.” I force my voice to be gentle as I set the lamp gently back on the desk. “That was Momma’s lamp when she was a little girl, you know.” I feel Joshua relax at the sound of my soft tone. I have always had this one power over him.

“I apologize,” he says gruffly. His quietly rigid voice is like the ticking of an old clock. He is silent for a few minutes as I finish folding the laundry. The tension subsides. “If it’s that important to you, I’ll pray about.” He leans in to touch the pliable skin of my arm. His hand is soggy with perspiration. “I’ll let you know tomorrow.”

Shrugging off his hairy arms, I gather the stack of towels and march towards the linen closet in the hallway. What does God have to do with going to New York City? The church can survive without me there for one whole weekend.

What did I think my life would be like at thirty-eight? In my girlish fantasies I was Ginger Rogers, even though I was a quiet girl in public. When I was sixteen, my music instructor said I had the voice of an angel. After I married, my sisters said now I had the name of a Broadway star: Margaret Mae Singer. I was named after Aunt Mae and Momma. Like them, I am just a wife and mother. Unlike them, I earned a college degree. But instead of performing, I’m only a music teacher. Even as a teacher, I am referred to as Joshua’s wife.

I rub at the aching knot in my shoulder. I didn’t know what I had signed up for when I married Joshua and moved to New Haven, Ohio. Before Joshua started the church, he used to ask for my opinions. But over the past few years, he’s become more and more tyrannical. Joshua doesn’t expect me to be ignorant but if I disagree with him, then I have been disobedient. My duty is to be infinitely pious and effortlessly beautiful. I am neither. Maybe I was trying to be when Joshua and I got married, but I just don’t have the energy anymore.

It’s not just Joshua that treats me this way. Linda Bartlett demands that I eagerly participate in her endless parade of missionary campaigns and Dr. Edmond Windsor thinks I have endless energy to attend his two hour choir practices. I must be willing to lead if necessary but always under the wise head of the family; the compassionate shepherd of our congregation.

I restock the toilet paper in the beach-themed bathroom. People underestimate me. They think that I am just like them because I don’t voice my dissent. They believe the plastic façade I portray. They don’t see the real me: the me that is angry at God. They don’t know that I think perhaps Christians are a bit too critical, a bit too relentless in their “god-given” mission to save the world. They are so busy being perfect that they don’t really see anything. I’ve been growing slowly in the background. As a simple wallflower, I notice the real things.

I see the coy glances between my son, the blue-eyed fawn, and that pretty boy at the Gap. Francis always looks for him when we go to the mall. He is forever in desperate need of something—a new polo shirt or a pair of socks—but only from the Gap.

I hang up Francis’ ironed shirts in his meticulously organized closet and I tell no one. I eat donuts. Traditional powdered donuts out of the box with coffee. Cream-filled donuts with a tall glass of whole milk. Chocolate donuts by the handful. I eat apple fritters from Kroger’s, fried pop-able holes from Dunkin’ Donuts, sickening sweet honey buns from Mrs. Price on Fifth Street.

The donut obsession started when I became pregnant with Francis. Joshua stopped being intimate. He said he was worried that it would hurt the precious miracle inside of me. I knew he thought I was disgusting because I sure thought so. I had gas. I vomited every morning. I turned on the radio so he wouldn’t hear me. I had to pee constantly, like a nervous puppy.

My children are nearly grown now—or at least they think they are—but I still like to check in on them before I go to bed.

Abigail must still be awake. I hear her talking behind her partially closed door. I peer in through the crack. An assortment of stuffed animals and dolls sit obediently on the bed. Abby’s pink teddy bear, which I had to sew the ear back on when the neighbor’s Rottweiler pup tore it off, sits next to her American Girl doll with the red hair. My daughter paces at the foot of the bed, reading from the Psalms in her sparkling clear voice. Is it normal for a thirteen-year-old to read Bible passages to her toys?

I’ve gradually stopped reading my Bible. What is the point? When Francis and Abigail were small and their small hands and runny noses were everywhere and I had to watch them every minute, they would sap all of the energy out of me. I had nothing left to argue with Joshua when he rallied for political causes and boycotted Disney. After they finally fell asleep, I would kneel for hours praying until my knees hurt. I cried until there were no more tears. God never answered my prayer. Joshua doesn’t see me. He doesn’t know me. I’ve tried and tried to be everything for him and I’ve got nothing to show for it.

Except my children. Sometimes I still whisper a prayer for Francis and Abby. If anything, maybe God will hear those.

I listen to Abby’s hopeful voice, which is clear and delicate like a champagne glass, but not many would know that. She has a crippling fear of speaking in public. When Abby was in the fourth grade, Joshua entered her essay titled, “America’s Endangered Species: Children” in a state-wide competition. When we went to the finals in Cleveland, Abby discovered that she would have to read the essay on the lack of morality in entertainment in front of a few hundred people. She locked herself in the hotel bathroom for five hours until Joshua convinced her that she did not have to continue with the competition.

When she turned thirteen, she took a vow of silence for forty days. No one at church even noticed. She told us, the day after her vow ended, that she had wanted to hear the voice of God. Francis asked her if she did. Abigail said that while she was silent the birds sang with more gusto, the trees were louder, and she could see faces better.

Aug 5, 2008

No One Ever Expects the Spanish Inquisition

Hey, everybody! I'm very, very sorry for not posting anything in such a long time. There's been a steady stream of cool peeps running through our humble home and my fiction writing class has got me pretty busy too. I am vigorously working on a short story, which I hope to post in the next week or so. In the mean time, what's up with all you avid readers and writers?

Oh, I'd just like to mention that David is finishing up the formating of CTFS and we'll have it available on my website by the end of August. Also, we're participating in our neighborhood art fair on August 22nd, 23rd, & 24th. If you're in the area, please drop by to say hello.

Jul 8, 2008

From "Bird by Bird"

Shitty First Drafts

"I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them writes elegent first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think that she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her. (Although when I mentioned this to my priest friend Tom, he said you can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.)

-Anne Lamott

(I friggin' love this woman!)

Jun 30, 2008

Another short story

Nine-thirty and I begin the ritual. I brush the tangles out of my thin, brown hair and braid it into a single ponytail. This takes four minutes. I brush, then floss, then rinse. This takes about eleven minutes.

The studio is too quiet. I can hear my heart beating. I turn on Frasier. I file the bottoms of my feet during commercials. There’s a reoccurring one for pregnancy tests. The music sounds like it was composed by that guy that did the Star Wars soundtrack. I am not feeling inclined to buy this particular brand of pregnancy test. Now if the commercial was more like an Herbal Essence ad then I might be, even if I didn’t need one. I’m very persuaded by advertising. But knowing this is not half the battle. Thank you,
G. I. Joe.

It’s now after ten and I can’t find anything else to watch until the Late Show. I detest CSI, Law and Order, and other seemingly identical shows. The shows are either too gory or too realistic. I need to watch something funny. Something that will allow me to relax. Especially since I know what’s going to happen later. Or maybe it won’t. I do have those pills. I just don’t want to have to take them all the time.

I try reading the collection of Bloom County comics that my brother gave me for Christmas, but my eyes won’t focus. I’ve been proofreading all day and now my eyes have gone on strike. I wish they would talk to my brain and convince it to go on strike also. No luck yet. Eleven o’clock.

I balance my checkbook during the Late Show. Then Conan O’Brien comes on. God, he’s funny. I almost laugh a couple of times. I’ve reached the point where I’m too tired to laugh. He's interviewing Janeane Garofalo. I wonder what she's like in bed.

I’m in trouble when I run out of programs to watch. Do I watch Friends reruns or start sorting my sock drawer? I open the drawer. It’s already organized by color. Holiday socks take up at least a third of the drawer. Maggie says I have the most organized dresser she’s ever seen.

I look at the clock. I wish I didn’t. It’s that time. The time when I turn everything off except the humidifier and try to sleep. My eyes hurt so I reluctantly crawl into bed and close them. The relief satisfies me for about five minutes.

They say that we need sleep so that our brains can process the day and file everything away. I like this idea. I like the process of organizating thoughts and memories into neat, little containers. But somehow I can’t let go and allow my brain to do it without me. I try processing the files consciously.

I slept two hours and nineteen minutes the night before. I awoke before the alarm went off. I stretched to my beginners’ yoga DVD. I felt centered. I took a long shower and jumped out just as the water switched to icy cold. It’s an old building, my landlord says when I complain. No one needs to take a shower that lasts longer than fifteen minutes. I disagree. I ate a bagel, rode my bike to work and still arrived half an hour early.

This all goes into File A: Hope. In the morning, I always hope that I’ll recover from the night before and actually feel alive during the day. I vaguely remembered a feeling like this before grad school.

I sort the following eight hours into File B: Everlasting Hell. The utter monotony of my work allows me plenty of time to glance at the clock. Sometimes I wonder if I can stop time by concentrating on the clock. I’m pretty sure I can, but I haven’t proven it yet.

File C: Try to Have a Life is my next category. Today’s wasn’t exciting. I stopped at Borders to check out their new releases, bought a singing card for my mom’s birthday and rode my bike back home. I thought about calling Maggie. Were we still together? I couldn’t remember the last time we had talked.

I was too exhausted to cook. I ate a bowl of high fiber cereal and washed it down with two glasses of Cabernet. This used to work. Wine used to make me fall asleep. Now it just makes me drowsier.

I checked my e-mail again before the nightly ritual began. No new messages. That’s what I get for having a spam blocker. I considered removing it.

I glance at the leering clock. It’s three-thirty. I have filed my entire day and I still haven’t fallen asleep. Dear God, please let me fall asleep. I think about doing the rosary. It helped one time. I had drifted to sleep from the silent repetition.

What was that? Damn. If I start hallucinating, I’m going to have to take one of those pills. Damn it.

Jun 26, 2008

A Snippet of a Story

Nina wanted you to believe that it was merely hormones. It was just her time of the month. It wasn’t. Nina wanted you to believe that she didn’t already know. She did.

She already knew when you first met in the break room, which always smelled of burnt coffee. She “accidently” bumped into you, splashing scalding coffee on your favorite Spiderman tie. This led you to apologize with that Irish guilt of yours, even though it wasn’t your fault.

Nina said, “Well, now you’ll have to take me out to Starbucks,” which would have been cute in her Oklahoma accent if she hadn’t been so congested due to seasonal allergies.

“Sure,” you said because you have never said no to anyone.

Nina wanted to believe that you fell madly in love with her at that moment like you said you did two months later, but she just couldn’t. Falling in love was inconsistent with her life so far.

Nina found your Myspace page almost a whole year before you met, back when you were still working in medical records and she was a part-time medical assistant. She knew then.

You had fallen on one knee in a spastic moment of adoration in her favorite, used bookstore. You were asking her to be you one and only. You didn’t have a ring so you put a twist-tie around her finger.

Nina said yes because she really didn’t think there would be anyone else since there had never been before. Her life was straight-forward like a shopping list. Plus she was almost sure that she loved you.

You had asked Nina to move in and she started doing your laundry right away. She liked to fold your warm briefs into triangles. She bought you colored and striped underwear. She hated tighty-whiteys.

That was how she found the pen, with its tell-tale inscription. You had forgotten to take it out of your pocket. It was a dull silver and black, but she picked it up gently as if it might burn her fingers. It had been lying under her slimming jeans, unannounced, all day. Nina held onto it for two weeks while you tore through the entire apartment, your stomach caught in whirling circles. You lost your appetite. You couldn’t imagine where you had misplaced it, but didn’t mention it to Nina. You didn’t know that she already knew.

Finally, Nina confessed but with a tone that made you feel like the guilty party. “Look what I found,” she said accusingly. And, immediately after, “when were you going to tell me?” As if you had hidden it from her on purpose, proving that you were a liar like all the others.

“It’s nothing,” you retorted, reaching out for it. Nina tightened her grip. “I’ve just had it forever. It’s like a lucky charm.”

Nina almost felt bad but then she remembered. “Really?” Nina asked because she already knew whose initials were etched next to yours. “It doesn’t mean anything? Then you won’t mind if I replace it with a nicer one?”

Then she threw the curve ball before you had a chance to respond: “Who gave it to you?”

You abruptly opened the refrigerator. “What do you want for dinner?” Nina knew all about this avoidance trick. She had used it before. Nina just wanted you to admit it out loud. This monster that she had known about for over a year. She just wanted it said so it wasn’t a secret anymore. “Please,” she pleaded.

“Don’t you trust me?” you asked. Nina thought it was such a cliché that she didn’t want to answer. But that wasn’t the only reason.

“I want you to get rid of it,” she finally admitted.

“No.” You snatched your corduroy jacket off the hook. “I need to get some air.” Nina could see that you were shaking. She wished she could make herself very small and crawl inside you and see what was really going on.

As soon as the door shut, Nina threw the pen on the hardwood floor that was impossible to keep clean. She started breathing again when it broke.

Nina knew that you were running along Lake Michigan. That’s what you always did when she wanted to talk about you. About your past.

Nina fixed the pen but didn’t bring it up again. Two years later and she still pulls out the marriage certificate with the names: Ben Holden and Kari Inson. She traces the names with her finger. She wonders if you even know that it’s missing.

Jun 23, 2008

just a quickie

I went on a Borders spree cause my brother Jason gave me some moolah for my birthday. I bought "No one belongs here more than you." I'd wanted to buy the book for awhile, but I can't remember why. I liked the orange cover and the author's name: Miranda July. Also, her pic on the back is super cute.

I've read the first two stories and they are exquisitely and simple beautiful. You need to read these stories. Seriously. If your library doesn't have a copy, buy one. You won't be disappointed.

P.S. I've started sending out query letters!

Jun 11, 2008

Awe...wait for it...some!

It is finished! (Well, mostly.)

I am in equal parts ridiculously giddy and marvelously terrified. Saturday, June 7th, at approximately 2pm, I typed the LAST sentence of CTFS. (That stands for Cast the First Stone, I’ve decided.)

Yes, you read that correctly.

I spent the rest of the day jumping up and down with my husband, huge grins plastered to our faces.

Then I realized that it was now time to dig in deep and get my hands really dirty. It’s time to get focused. It’s time to be professional.

So we went to a lit festival in downtown Chicago. The Printer’s Row festival was totally cool despite (and partially because of) the hour-long burst of torrential downpour. We got drenched, walked around in soggy shoes, and got the name of an agent. Not bad for one afternoon.

Phase two begins. Research publishers. Research self-publishing. Make contacts. Write that query letter. Reread CTFS and polish it up even more. Then, let it go.


Next time: I will talk more about the festivals that we visited and the one we’re participating in this August.

May 28, 2008

The Story of Polly

It happened like this: David and I were walking down my favorite-est street in San Francisco. Valencia has the cutest little stores with homemade stationary and organic cotton t-shirts and super neat people. Just walking into their shops (I have no idea how they made enough money to pay the rent) made me feel almost “cool.” There were stores with handmade jewelry fashioned out of Legos and rainbow-colored, hand-knitted scarves and coffee shops that also sold used books. One of my favorite used bookstores was on Valencia and there was an alien cat that greeted all the patrons of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy bookstore. It is also where 826 Valencia calls its home. 826 Valencia is a pirate store, equipped with traps, glass eyes, and frolicking fish. It also is a writing, tutoring, and publishing establishment, created by the geniuses behind Believer magazine.

I’m getting a little side-tracked. Anyways, David and I were simply relishing the eternal fall of SF when we happened upon a sidewalk sale. And there it was. Practically glowing amidst the discarded clothing and VHS tapes was a metallic blue bike that looked like it had time-traveled from the 60’s. It was in perfect condition except that one of the tires was flat. I oo-ed and ah-ed, but when David asked if I wanted it, I said no, no. I just couldn’t. It was too much money.

We walked half a block away when David stopped and told me to wait. He then walked back, haggled over the price, and bought the bike then and there.

After much consideration, I named her Polly.

Polly and I have been on many adventures. She took me flying down the SF hills. I walked her up those same damn hills. My calves grew strong and hard. When I was with Polly, I felt free and alive.

Of course she came with us to Chicago. The winter was hard on Polly. She got rusty. She lost some of her shine. But I still loved her.

Last week, someone saw her locked behind the apartment. Who knows why they did it. Maybe they felt the pull that I did. Or maybe they just wanted to see if they could get away with it. But what I do know is that they couldn’t break the lock so they broke the fence to get to Polly. They rode her away under a cover of darkness and out of my life.

I only hope that they treat her well. I hope she doesn’t get dismantled and sold for parts. I hope that maybe, someday, she will make another girl as happy as she’s made me.

P.S. After two days of scouring Craigslist, we found a new bike for me. Her name is Tilly.

May 23, 2008

On This Memorial Day Weekend...

A couple of weeks ago there was an unusual interview on NPR with a rap artist. His amazing story can be found here:

I am more of an indie music girl, but this singer/songwriter's passion and courage is something that I can celebrate and stand behind. I'd like to give a shout out to him and his hardcore message of peace.

During the next couple of weeks, I will be hammering and chiseling out these last few (and by few, I mean sixty) pages of my rough draft. The goal is to have a first copy of CTFS available on my website by my twenty-eighth birthday in June. So, I may not be posting very many blogs until this is done. If you think of it, send some good vibes my way. I'm gonna need them.

May 18, 2008

"Oh, my ears and whiskers, how late it's getting!"

I know I haven't posted anything in awhile. Here are my excuses: it's been deliciously warm outside, I've been trying to get a prof's permission to take a fiction writing class this summer (and I'm in!), I just started tutoring ESL to a lovely Korean mother and her eight-year-old daughter, and I've been revising that pesky novel. So there.

I do have a few recommendations for this week. If you haven't watched Juno yet, what the hell are you waiting for? Seriously, you must watch it. Check out these writers: Sherman Alexie, Emma Donoghue, and Lorrie Moore. They have short stories or poems or essays that you can read on the internet. You don't even have to go to the library. Also, if you haven't discovered Emmy the Great on YouTube yet, you really, really should. It'll be good for your heart-strings, I promise.

Okay. If you've got some recommendations for me, please leave me a comment. I'm just starving for good reads and muses. And, thanks, as always, for listening to me rant.

May 9, 2008

Sharing is Caring (says one of my favorite Rainbow Brite t-shirts)

This is an invitation to take a moment and read a beautiful and intimate posting by my friend, Bob Messerli. Bob was an icon of our little clan during the infamous summer of 2003. (Think The Great Gatsby meets small town, Oklahoma.) His words written here are brave and true.

Bob, thank you for sharing your musings with us.

May 5, 2008

Better than Ice Cream

This past weekend, we had a very good friend visiting from the Bay Area. We played so hard (the Art Institute, Hemingway’s birthplace, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, excellent beer at the Hopleaf, and a frighteningly awesome flight on a 1979, four-person, Cessna, over Michigan City) that we pooped out Sunday evening.

But the very best part was spending time with our friend, and it got me thinking. Friend is such a marshmallow word: fluffy, sugar-sweet, and empty. The word just doesn’t have the right connotation linked with it. Camaraderie is a bit better, but still doesn’t quit fit what I want it to mean. I bet there’s a fantastic German word for it. Something like: “betterthanicecreamperson” or “firstcallImakewhenIamintrouble” or “shehasgotmyback.”

This is really what “Cast the First Stone” is about. Deep down, past the literary descriptions and universal themes (poverty, that in-between place of adolescence, and finding God), this story is about that distinct, uncommon, hard-to-find connection between two individuals.

I consider myself pretty lucky to have the kind of friends that are not seen in most popular media. The chic-lit friendships in so many books and television shows are composed of spiteful, back-stabbing, flat, and/or solitary characters that wouldn’t lift a manicured finger to help their supposed friend. I see the kind of “friendship” that I’m talking about mostly depicted by guys: men in combat, brothers, teammates, school chums. This is true, it seems, in a lot of coming-of-age stories as well.

I wanted a story that was true to the type of friendship (there’s that word again) that I’ve experienced: tried and true, loyal and feisty, tough as nails friendship. To this day, it’s these resilient relationships (through many are miles and miles away) from which I draw my creative muscle, my tenacity, and my faith.

P. S. Thanks for the amazing weekend, Maggie-D!

Apr 24, 2008

a shout out to...

There will be a new writer-in-residence at Northwestern next fall and I just read a couple of the short stories on her website:

Her writing style is intimate, intelligent, and intriguing. I am going to buy her novel this weekend. I hope you check her out. Here's some bio info that I stole from Wikipedia.

Sefi Atta
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Sefi Atta was born in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1964, to a family of five children. Her father( Prince Abdul Aziz Attah ) was the Secretary to Federal Government and Head of the Civil Service until his untimely death in 1972, and she was raised by her mother.
She attended Queen’s College in Lagos and Millfield School in England. In 1985, she graduated from Birmingham University and trained as a chartered accountant. She moved from England to the United States in 1994 with her husband, Gboyega Ransome-Kuti, a medical doctor. They have one daughter.
Sefi began to write while working as a CPA in New York, and in 2001, she graduated from the creative writing program at Antioch University, Los Angeles. Her short stories have appeared in the Los Angeles Review and Mississippi Review, and her radio plays have been broadcast by the BBC. Her debut novel entitled Everything Good Will Come was published in the United States, England and West Africa in 2005.
In 2005 Sefi Atta won the International PEN David T.K.Wong Prize for Short Fiction for Twilight Trek. The award was judged by David Lodge (Chair), Caryl Phillips & Eva Hoffman and is accompanied by a prize of £7,500.
She currently lives in Meridian, Mississippi with her husband and daughter and teaches at the Meridian Community College and Mississippi State University.

Apr 22, 2008

My Squirrelly Nature

When I was in high school, my nickname was Pengwen. Although I adore penguins and would like to be one, I think my personality is more akin to a squirrel’s. Like those fast, furry creatures of our yards, I am often alert and neurotic, scurrying about getting things done. There’s also a big part of me that can be very silly.

I was a bit squirrelly about last weekend’s “pop-in” visit with my family in Ohio. There was plenty for me to fret over: flight delays and weather conditions, what are we to eat in an airport that will be halfway healthy, will there be drama, and at whose home will we sleeping? Each item piled onto the other…and then we saw the children.

First of all, two-month-old Rose Mackenzie is just beautiful like a doll-baby and sweetly quiet except when she’s pooped to her heart’s content and wants to be changed. Four-year-old Dave, eager for attention from anyone and everyone, talked nonstop of his favorite comic book heroes. I couldn’t tell if his favorite was Spiderman or Wolverine. The toddler, Zeke, happy to be running around and getting into things, was a constant source of amusement. To top things off, Jason wiggled on Dave’s Batman mask and I nearly died laughing.

Life is ever changing, in nature and in our own (seemingly monumental) environments. But we wish we could play it safe. We only want things to change within our rules and with our permission. When will I really learn that control is merely an illusion? There are unknowns and uncertainties and these pesky things are always in our way.

Unless we go on a walk. And we let things happen. We see what will happen if we pay close attention to a pile of rocks, or follow duck poo, or laugh just being the wind feels good on our skin. That’s what I learned from my mom when she and I took my nephews on a walk around their housing development. And just before we were about to head back to the house, because I am always afraid of being late—just once I should allow myself to not be on time—we went a little further and found the ducks and a Canadian goose. I was happy. Zeke, Dave, Mom, and I all waved to swimming creatures (who look as if they haven’t a care in the world, but of course, they must) and our adventure was complete.

It was perfect and reminded me to take it easy, on myself and on my world. Life is not meant to be controlled, but to be enjoyed. So, when our flight got delayed and then transferred, I didn’t stress. I opened up my book, Ellen Foster, and read for a couple of hours. Enjoying the down time that Delta Airlines had given me.

Apr 18, 2008

Procrastination Fever

For the past few weeks, I’ve been crippled by the dread of actually finalizing my first novel. I’ve spent nearly my whole life writing stories, creating characters, and daydreaming about being a “real” author. But, as I near the finish line, I’m sweating. I can't breathe. I think I'm sick.

It’s finally hitting me: people are going to be reading my novel. Not just my best friends, but people who won’t read it through the rose filter of knowing me. Those people will be judging me. Criticizing me.

I am paralyzed. I want to fast forward to when brittle critiques of my writing won’t give birth to questions of my inherent value. I want to rewind to when I didn’t even know that stories were sliced up and then branded bad or good. When the enjoyment of the story was all that really mattered.

But…but…a little voice is chirping. What about the characters? I can’t leave them frozen in some sort of limbo, half alive and fading. The creation of this world will be incomplete if I don’t persevere. Denise Stone, Haley Fisher, all of them deserve to be fleshed out. To become as real as they are in my imagination. I owe it to them.

I will finish.

Apr 12, 2008

Eek! Cont.

Spring is here! Warm breathe gloriously unseen and budding trees and new life! I’m scrubbing off the remnants of a nervous half-sleep clinging to my skin. (This mid-westerner turned San Franciscan has not quite recovered from the Chicago winter.) The new year started with the blooming of little miss gnomide: this sporadic blog of one bespectacled girl’s journey to find her voice.

And now, the finishing touches of Cast the First Stone are being made. Wiley adjectives and adverbs are being tossed, replaced, and then rethought again and again. Scores of pages are marked up with ink; some entirely torn up. Meanwhile, David has been feverishly designing a professional website for me. (Sometimes, appearing like a mad scientist in the throes of the night.) Finally, after throwing a terrified tantrum or two (shadows of the monster momentarily disrupted the creative process), I am anxiously delighted to present the beautiful handiwork of my terrifically talented husband:

The complete text is not available yet, but there is a lengthy, downloadable sample. Check back to the site often: for this brave, little story will be boarding the digital train, puffing toward the elusive dream of publication.

I want to especially thank all of the fire-starters: Sarah (who giddily read the first rough draft), David (who wouldn’t let me quit), my writing comrades, and everyone who has commented on my blog. I wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for your support.

Thank you.

“remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted.”

--Sylvia Plath

Mar 26, 2008

Free Time

I like that term: free time. I mean, isn't all time essentially "free?" Part of the time, I am actually getting paid for my time. I don't know if I have actually ever paid for my own time. Not with money anyways. I'm not exactly sure where I'm going with this. I do know that I am pretty bored at this time and this caused me to remember a very creative and informative blog: If you're bored to tears, like me, or just have some "free time" on your hands, then check it out. (No wonder people have problems learning English as their second language.)

Mar 23, 2008

Cutting Loose the Tongue: a dialogue

As a feminist icon and peace activist, Maxine Hong Kingston is one of my personal heroines. Coming from working-class family with a ghostly, yet rigid worldview, I feel that Kingston is a kindred spirit in the quest to unearth one's genuine voice.

In her first work of prose, “The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts,” she reveals through an intricate web of reality, fiction, and fable how she struggled to find her uniquely powerful identity.

In one section of the book, “A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe,” Kingston tries to understand why she feels the violent need to be heard. She tells of when her mother confesses to Maxine that she “cut [her tongue] so that you would not be tongue-tied”. She is unsure by what her mother means, because her mother often uses a sort of “talk story” to convey a truth, rather than fact. But Maxine feels very tongue-tied by her Chinese ancestry, by her mother’s talk story, and by being a female American. She cannot articulate the things inside or outside of her body. “Even the good things are unspeakable, so how could I ask about deformities?”

(To be continued...)

Mar 17, 2008


My artist husband, David, has been encouraging (read here: badgering) me to be a more professional writer. He created business cards for me. I still don't like passing them out, even though they are adorable. This blog is alive mostly because he won't let me quit. Now, he's creating a website for me. I am very scared of the website. There's a large photo of me right when you enter it. And, it exists just to promote my writing. I wonder: am I ready for this? Is my writing ready for the world wide web? I don't know. But my husband (read here: fire-lighter-under-my-lazy-butt) insists that modern writers must have a web presence. So, coming soon: or .org or something. I think we'll have it figured out in another month.

Mar 6, 2008


Autumn is the most poetic season with her wild, ecstatic tendrils blowing through the biting wind, her innocence left in dry piles by the swing-sets. Children dash and jump in her discarded childish ideals while she slowly pulls the cloak of darkness down around the day and celebrates the dances of the night. Halloween is mere child’s play when one is well acquainted with the unnatural passions of the darkness. When the light fades, the urges emerge and I am left helpless.

Nathan is in the mirror. Nathan is behind the door. Nathan is under the blankets. Nathan is in the refrigerator. Nathan is standing behind my mother. Nathan is sitting beside my father.

I have been told that my trust must only rest in God. Trust is not a restful thing. It is a squirmy, wriggly worm, which inches just out of reach. How do I trust God when I cannot trust myself?

The real problem lies in this: I do not want to hold back. This flood pushes against the dam with the force of a mighty wind. I ache to let go. I crave the release.

I look into his eyes: dark and warm and sad. When we are together, time itself stands still. I am at peace with the universe. But the universe is not at peace with me. My father stands in my face, silently condemning me to eternal damnation. My mother stands at my side, head tilted down and away. Where is my sister? My beautiful, little bird…where has she flown to? She stands with Nathan. She stands between me and Nathan.

The nights are so lonely and long. I pour all of my energy into the creation of the Christmas play. The hope of light in the darkness. The hope of innocence in the night of unnatural longing. I do not sleep. I work and write and scheme and sketch. The days turn into nights, which turn into weeks and months. The hour of deliverance is soon upon us. All of creation is in an uproar.

She stands naked and shivering, her innocence lost for another long and lonely season. She stands proud and dark, against the cold snow and ice. She stands as one with the knowledge that all seasons change and pass away. The sun always rises. Life begins anew after death. She, the bearer of God, the womb of man, the holy mother and teacher, stands alone. We merely watch, if we are wise, and learn from her faithfulness.

Nathan plays the angel Gabriel. In the play, we call him Gabe. He wears those worn, tight jeans like a rugged cowboy. His converse shoes are wrapped in duct tape; his concerns are heaven-bound. When he smiles at me, the iron gates at my heart melt like wax. I say one last word of encouragement and the curtain rises. The performance begins.

I say each line with passion and a commitment that never wavers. For over an hour, I believe the Story. I am the faithful fiancé, believing in the miracle of spontaneous conception. I am in love with the mother of God; I am the surrogate father of the Word made flesh.

The curtain falls; applause erupts. I hear my father’s voice calling the lost sheep to salvation. “Come back to the fold,” he says, his deep, quiet voice booming through the microphone. “Jesus is reaching His hand out to you. Won’t you reach back tonight.” Energy pulses through the audience. The choir sings Amazing Grace. The church is packed tonight. Everyone is looking for a miracle. Everyone is reaching upward to the heavens. Everyone is putting aside their doubt and disbelief.

I kiss him.

Beneath the lightly falling snow, in the church parking lot after everyone has gone to their warm homes, I kiss him.

He leans against the van, his coat zipped up, scarf wrapped around his neck. I am hard and aching. I yearn to pull it all off and touch his chocolate skin, but I only kiss him lightly on the lips. Sweet, tangible lips. He says nothing. His eyes are angry. His hands are full of unanswered questions. I only want him. He pushes me away.

“Don’t ever do that again.” Quietly aggressive, he turns his back to me and climbs into the bitter van. I get into the passenger seat. I force my sight towards the window. The houses pass like train cars. I am not moving. Everything is moving past me.

Christmas morning brings sweet smells of cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate. It is just the four of us this morning. The few presents sit on the coffee table. Mom lights a few candles. It is four a.m. Grandma calls and wishes us Merry Christmas. Did we receive her hand-knitted hats and scarves? The phone is passed around. I feel dead inside. The rejection sits in my stomach like a canon ball.

Dad reads the Christmas story. We sing carols. Aunt Mae and Uncle Kurt arrive at noon. Mom and Aunt Mae fix a huge Christmas dinner with turkey and ham and stuffing and greens. Abigail curls up in the window with the new book I gave her: “The Color Purple”. Dad and Uncle Kurt play chess. I pace back and forth. I bother Abigail so she keeps losing her place. I finally help in the kitchen, cutting the turkey. We eat dinner and then play Win, Lose, or Draw. Abigail and I win.

We bundle up and take a walk around the neighborhood. Dad is too cheap to decorate our yard. He declines the invitation to walk with us, making up an excuse that he needs to work on his sermon for Sunday. The neighbors have lights galore, plastic Santas and reindeer that glow, big blow-up snowmen dancing in the wind. The snow from the night before is just a mere dusting. Others are outside, walking off the holiday calorie fest. We greet each other. We even wave to the atheists next door.

I am consumed by the big, bad wolves: hurt, jealousy, rage. My house is shaken by the huffing and puffing. Abigail asks me if something is wrong. I hold her hand and squeeze.

Wise, old nature herself cannot understand this pain. I call up my ex-girlfriend and ask her out on a date. Meredith O’Connor agrees hesitantly. I know that I hurt her last time, giving the excuse of self-imposed monk-dom as reason to break it off. I fake it all week. I fake the laughter and the excited banter over French fries and hamburgers. I fake the coy interest during the sad, holiday movie. I don’t fake the soft kiss on the cheeks. I close my eyes and pretend she is someone else.

The mask falls away on Sunday. I spend all of morning service, searching for his face, longing for his distinctive shuffle, the way his body relaxes against the back wall. He never shows.

He calls two hours before youth group. We meet at his favorite coffee shop. We hide in the back corner, sipping green tea.

He apologizes for the miscommunication between us. I admire how good the forest green sweater looks on him. He confesses his mixed feelings, but that he feels it is against God’s will for there to be any sexual feelings between two people of the same sex. I admire how long his legs are. He assures me that our friendship will make it through this trial by fire. We must die to our fleshly desires. He quotes Saint Paul. I adore his voice. I agree wholeheartedly, but only with my spoken words.

Mar 2, 2008

She woke up sad. Inexplicably sad. Bright sunlight shone through both bedroom windows and she pulled the blankets over her head. She wanted to sleep, but she wasn’t tired. She heard her husband in the kitchen, banging and clanging. He must be in a good mood. It made her sadder. It’s Sunday. She should be happy.

Later, she decided to walk. The weather website said it was supposed to be warm, perhaps as high as 40 degrees with a slight chance of rain in the afternoon. She wanted to ride her bike, but that would take too much effort. She’d have to pump the tires, low from disuse. She might even have to sand off the rust. The wind was calling her. She put on a hoodie and kissed her husband. “I won’t be gone long.”

Where should she go? It was depressing. She missed San Francisco. Everything was in walking distance. She knew where everything was. If she didn’t want to go far, but still get a decent work-out, she could walk up the steep hill to Grace Cathedral. She could sit in the park and watch the dogs or read. Nothing was in walking distance in Chicago. The library was closed. The lake was still half-frozen and cold.

She walked to Sally’s Beauty Supply. The manager asked her if she needed help three different times. She liked to browse. She liked to look at every single hair color. She liked to read labels. No, she didn’t need help…was it because she was white? Most of the store carried things for ethnic hair. She finally chose a small conditioning packet for color-treated hair.

Outside, spring was loud: cracking ice and dripping water. Her feet got soaked because she couldn’t jump completely clear of the puddles. She didn’t mind. She could forget everything as long as she was outside. She forgot to be nervous. She forgot to be concerned. She forgot about her lists and piles and things to do.

She got home rather quickly despite her wandering feet. She breathed deeply through her nostrils, out of her mouth. She wanted to stay outside, but it was still too chilly to sit still. Her heaven would be an elaborate tree house, like the one in Swiss Family Robinson.

She weighed her options: hide in another book? She had just finished The Subtle Knife yesterday. Or maybe watch a movie? Boring. She was almost out of alcohol. Despite the many drinks that night before, she couldn’t get rid of this feeling. Why was she so fucking nervous?

Feb 24, 2008

Looking for Narnia

In my hometown of Westerville, we frequented a thrift store run by “old” ladies in a beautiful, magical and—to my child eyes—gigantic house. Every time we went there, I would go into the crowded closets and touch the back walls. Over and over again, I hoped that this time my fingertips would find pine needles instead of solid wood. That my sneakers would be crunching cold snow instead of worn hats and the hems of discarded prom dresses. That I would return from the closet with the memory of hot tea and an eerie, entrancing melody instead of the smell of mothballs and a pair of dusty, cowboy boots. The backs of closets are still enticing. I know that I won’t find my Narnia. What I will find are old journals and letters, memories forgotten, a few trinkets of who I used to be.

A few years ago, much of my childhood paraphernalia was stolen. Due to bizarre circumstances, my treasured stories (which I wrote in manic frenzy, for as fast as I could write them, more pushed their way into my imagination), my carefully maintained and beloved doll collection, and my childhood diaries and letters were tossed out like garbage. (I still hold to the hope that someone rescued those dolls and that some little girl loves them as I did.)

Loss is one of the saddest things a human being can feel. As one who truly believes in redemption, I wonder if this too can be reincarnated. Can loss be reborn into something beautiful?

Feb 23, 2008

to one of my heroes...

"you will never wear your trousers rolled.
there isn't time.
you have prophesied under bridges
with no one around.
at the sun's rise, you were walking
west to face the night.
while they raised their hands,
beneath the crystal steeple,
you colored train cars with hardcore love
in a can."

Feb 11, 2008

e.e. cummings

let it go--the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise--let it go it
was sworn to

let them go--the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers--you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go--the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things--let all go
so comes love

Feb 10, 2008

San Francisco (for the first time)

city lights and downtown heights. just
between you and me, i think this may
be close to home. (is it me or is this
city intoxicating?) i felt a twinge of hope
and desperation like pigeons' wings
(taking off.) when he called to me. to
anyone. (please.) i never saw so many
sinking into cement like the open jaws
of a desert monster. (crunch.) gaping
holes. no one pauses. "ignore-ance is
bliss," they say. but i would rather be

green apples. orange peels. daisies
in the night. between you and me is a
little thin air and a lot of weighted time.
silence is heavy like silver bullets hitting
the ground.

all around us is buying and selling and
eating and shitting and then what?

here comes the old question of "why?"
the duct-taped cardboard signs and
the good ol' red, white, and blue burning
in our ears. war breaks and clatters to
the pavement like an old alarm clock with
all the bells and whistles. i can't see
straight. the rain is soaking my prejudices
(and best-laid plans). i'm sighing of relief
when i smell the salty ocean. (what flavor
am i?) they say it's the only way but i only
know of oneand it doesn't taste like this.

falling in love is like this. i'm skidding
and sliding down a skid-marked, slippery
slope (stopping on a grassy knoll to read)
but the drum beats on and on and on.
("dance for us, won't ya, sistah?") i can't
dance. maybe, someday, i will. but for
now i'm going to bed. (after a cup of tea.)
good nite.

Feb 8, 2008

A Shout Out To...

I wanted to recommend a fantastic, British, lesbian writer. Jeanette Winterson's first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was a real inspiration for Cast the First Stone. I recommend it to anyone who loves unique, coming-of-age stories.

Her website is

Feb 7, 2008

this is

this is the way i dance:
with flirting eyes
and swimming arms,
with eyes that taunt
and smiles that warm-

i'm sorry.

this is the path i walk:
in the dew grass
and around the ant hill;
see how they scurry around!
i like the sweet smell of dirt-

i know.

this is how i worship:
with closed lips
and open eyes,
with tears burning,
i sing like that-

i hear.

this is how i love:
with one thigh over
and the intoxication
shattering reality-

i see.

this is how i write my poem:
with silver drops
sliding down the banister,
singing songs of heroes
in the puddles of tales
and my toes get muddy,
wet hair hanging in my eyes-

may i...

here is how i sleep:
when and if i do,
between the sheets
of yesterday and tomorrow,
i lie-

...touch you?

Feb 6, 2008

The Writing Life

The prospective writer is never told how painful it is to revise one's story. The questions are seemingly endless: is this the right adjective? Is there a better one? Would this character actually say this? Would she say it in a different way? This paragraph is really slow and boring. do i need it? How is this or that moving the plot along? How is this or that revealing more of the characters?

But, no one ever mentions how absolutely wonderful it is either. How after an endless day of running around like a headless chicken, trying to meet every petty demand of one's customers, it is the most amazing feeling to walk three blocks over, order a cup of pomegranite green tea, and start writing. The tension is leaving the tight shoulders. David Gray croons from the CD player behind the coffee counter. An hour flies by. And before you know it, it's time to go home and heat up some leftovers for dinner.

Ah, the writing life.

Feb 3, 2008

Down Sheridan Drive.

snow banks, tall and awkward--
alive, unknowingly cold

and too tempting
clunky feet go first,
then legs,
obviously to cold wetness
(until much later,
when peeling off shoes, plastic bag-covered-socks...
too broke to buy snowboots)

plop down, butt first, then
back, arms out and whoosh. whoosh. whoosh.
a powder marble angel appears.

another, then another and off!
running, laughing,
falling, sliding, kissing

the lake.

overwhelmed by the crystal emense foreverness until...
the apartments buildings leering up
the abandened playgrounds whispering, come
swing higher and jump

into the soft--not a blanket, but more like
a pile of icy, mashed potatoes--snow

Jan 27, 2008

untitled rant, greatly influenced by "Howl"

Holy is the hard-headed father. The priest, the holy master. The godhead. Holy is the bitter-broken mother. The wise woman. The teacher-friend. The goddess. Holy is the way-ward child. The student, the learner. The god-child. The babe in the manager. Holy are the lovers. The sex in the heat and passion and sweat. Holy is the yes and the no and the yes again. Holy is the robber and the grave. The ghost and the goblin. Holy is the thief on the cross. Holy is the artist. Holy is the poet and the neighbor giving cups of white flour. Holy is the hot tea brewing. Holy is the cold ice cream melting. Holy is the tin can. Holy is the red wagon. Holy. Holy. Holy. The archangel and the man.

Holy are the spectacles and the wallflowers. Holy are the gnomides and goblin daughters. Holy is the typeset. Holy is the word.

Jan 26, 2008

you asked for it! another excerpt from Cast the First Stone

The last day of ninth grade began with a red sky. I wore my black combat boots and my jean jacket. On the back I had painted a black cat with x's for eyes. I'm crazy about cats. They're so smooth and distant. They don't have a care in the world. They're the James Bonds, the Audrey Hepburns, the Han Solos of the animal world.

If I were a cat, I'd be a Siamese cat. I've always wanted one, but Donna doesn't like animals. Haley would be some kind of dog, for sure. Probably a Terrier or a Spaniel. Something small and sweet and loyal.

Mike touched my butt during lunch. Well, touch is the wrong word. He grabbed it and squeezed it when we were making out. I know Haley saw cause she wouldn't talk to me for the rest of lunch nor every time I saw her in the hallways. God, it felt great though. I still wouldn't let him touch my breasts. It's not that I'm a prude or anything. But, we're not even dating. We just mess around cause we can. And we're comfortable with each other. And it feels good. Besides, I know girls in my class who've gone all the way. I think they're stupid. No one needs a baby in high school.

It began raining in fourth period. I watched the huge droplets hit the glass window and slide down. The raindrop orchestra drowned out Mr. Michaels' droning. Blah, blah, blah. He was like the teacher in the Peanuts' cartoon. I couldn't wait to get outside.

I waited at the door for Haley. When she brushed past me, she barely glanced over. By the time we reached the bus, her hair had quickly become a wet mop. I squinted through my rain-soaked lashes. "Fine, Haley. Why shouldn't I expect you to act like a baby?"

I sat in the back of the bus, next to the pot smokers. Our bus driver was so old, he couldn't smell or hear anything that happened on the bus. I'm surprised they still let him drive. I stared at the back of Haley's head for the entire ride.

When she got off the bus, she stood still, facing her home. I got off and "accidentally" whacked her with my bag. She whirled around. Her face was flushed and strands of wet hair stuck to her skin.

"What are you doing, Den?" she whispered, the words seeming to choke her. Hot tears simmered in her eyes.

"Haley, you're the one that has a huge tree up her arse. You need to get over yourself." I stomped across the street, not caring that I was getting completely soaked. Suddenly, I stopped in my tracks. In my driveway, sat a red sports car. My chest burned. A hand touched my arm and pulled me away.

Jan 25, 2008

another quote

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection. -Anais Nin

Jan 23, 2008

when i can't think of what to write, i post a quote

Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college.

Kurt Vonnegut, A Man without a Country
US novelist (1922 - 2007)

Jan 16, 2008

who knew that 34 degrees was bike riding weather?

i have this beautiful, "old school" bike, without gears or hand brakes, named Polly. David bought her for me from a sidewalk sale on Valencia (my favoritest street in the whole world). she's blue with a little bell that i can ring when i want to warn people that i'm about to hit them. i adore my bike. for two months (except for one, very strange weekend when the temp rose to a crazy 60 degrees) i have not been able to ride my bike. she's been sitting cold and rusting on the back porch. but, today, since David had some training to do at his new art teaching job, i rode my bike home from work. i was wearing thermals under my warmest jeans, a long sleeve shirt, my strawberry scarf, hoodie, my oklahoma coat, mittens, and my little penguin beanie. it's a four mile ride. at first, i was a little chilly. but by the time i reached home, i was actually warm. maybe i'll attempt this again. boy, living in san francisco really made me into a weather-wimp.

Jan 13, 2008

Prologue from my unfinished second novel, Invisible Elephants

The church is crowded this morning. There are faces I have not seen in months. There are faces I have never seen. The mass of faces blur together like one giant hive of angry bees on a garden of flowers. I am sitting next to the empty seat where Francis usually sits. Mom is sitting on the other side of that empty seat. Both of us feel the emptiness. The choir is singing Alleluia, but a voice cracks here and there. They're fidgety. Mrs. Farmer keeps blowing her nose. Her nose is red like a tomato. Mr. Johnson keeps clearing his throat. His shirt is buttoned all the way up and his tie looks like it is way too tight. My clothes are uncomfortable too. Mom ironed this skirt/vest combo that she made for me last year. They're too tight even though I've lost ten pounds in the last month. According to the scales, I weigh one hundred fifteen pounds. The vest won't close in the front. It is pink with tiny purple and blue flowers. The skirt is plain purple: Mom's favorite color. I'm wearing a white blouse under it that I've never worn before. It is itchy. My little, black shoes hurt my feet. I look over at Mom. A frozen, tight smile sits on her lips like a stranger in the room. Her hair is loosely curled and the only make-up she wears is a soft mauve lipstick. I think she looks beautiful. Dad has not said a word to us all morning. The air is thick. I want to wave my church bulletin like a fan, but I do not want to cause any more attention for myself.

The music stops abruptly. Dad walks up to the podium. His hands are shaking. He takes a slow sip of water. The whole auditorium is silent. Everyone is on the edge of their seats. Dad clears his voice and taps the microphone.

"Fornication is an abomination!"

I bite my lip so hard I taste blood.

"This house must be cleaned of the filth of the Devil!"

Mrs. Walker in the front row whispers "Amen" and waves her handkerchief.

"Our children are in danger, my people. Our children are not safe, my people."

I see a tear roll down Mom's cheek. I hand her a tissue.

"I have failed you. I have failed my children. I brought Satan into the house of God. And I have been punished. I ask for your forgiveness." Dad's voice cracks. One of the elders walks over and lays his hand on Dad's shoulder. Mrs. Farmer begins bawling. Another elder comes forward as my dad begins to cry. No one moves toward Mom. I feel the blame reach us like a wave of electricity. I wish I were invisible.

Jan 11, 2008

if my name was hazelwood

i remember being a little girl (the weather was i don't know maybe nice i was with my brothers) we were at the house trailer my mom grew up in the country of ohio state (red and gray buckeye state) there was a school bus renovated yellow and black like a bumble bee and there were candy bars in the fridge and we loved our mom's sister's husband cause he was a welder and not dad (i didn't know once uncle drank my mom) he hated our uncle (but mom stayed inside where it was so dark we played outside) i knew uncle looked so old because he smelled different (my mom was older than she looked)

i remember the braided trees around grandma's white house (they were indian huts and towers for princesses—not in distress—and home for ewoks) i would desert the boys in the fruit-papered kitchen and eat with the grown-ups trying to be smart for my dad and me too (think think think) they were so old and intelligent spouting noise on religion and politics while i colored stories on my metal tray images of childhood fantasies near strawberry shortcake (my brothers wanted me to play g.i. joe with them but i couldn't make gun sounds)

there were girls on my mom's side but i wasn't pretty (i wore my hair in a ponytail every day i could climb trees) they weren't smart i heard my dad act but they were mom so i wanted the white-trash trailer house

fireworks were my favorite holiday cause i wore all red, white, and blue ribbons in my didn't want curly hair and sang america and watched the candy parade past grandma's white house (the sirens hurt my ears) i got to play with sparklers like a welsh fairie and aaaaahhhhh at the brilliance exploding on the dark curtain hanging up

it was dusk on my childhood but i was already old (writing stories with my barbie dolls) and the hazelwoods multiplied and the glovers retired into their theory-lives and i grew to love my curly hair and blue eyes (my brothers have pretty eyes too) i didn't know but i remember now i am both and neither the same and different i am simply me

Jan 9, 2008

Continuing Excerpt

"Wow." Haley's wide sea-swirled eyes held the vision before her.
"So, that was the first time I ran away from home. I was only six." I said, proud as a puppy.
"Why did you want to run away?" asked Ginny. She was walking slowly three feet up, on Mr. Rogers' wood fence that he had worked on all summer long.
"Well," I paused to chew on a piece of tall grass. It was sweet at the thick, roundish end. "Gramma was giving me another lecture about my awful manners. She'd said, 'I don't want people thinking that you were raised in the wild,' and I'd said, 'That would be fine with me!' Then I ran out the back door and across the neighbors' yard and into the wooded lot that was totally off-limits."

Jan 7, 2008

Excerpt from my novel, "Cast the First Stone"

Chapter One
Being lost is not the worst thing in the world. The first time I ran away, I didn't mind being lost at all. Everything about the house was heavy and hot and it was hard for me to breathe. But as soon as my feet reached the soft ground of the woods, I felt different. It was the very first time I had ever felt this kind of different. For several minutes, as I stood slightly bent over, heaving loudly to catch my breath, I didn't even realize that I was lost. The dark shapes of trees loomed high above me like a protective umbrella. Behind every tree scurried an unseen squirrel and above my head flew a robin, bringing food to his new family. I began thinking that maybe there was a lamppost in this wood, like in the cartoon Donna bought me for Christmas. The sky was a soft gray like the shadows and the earth. I felt alive. I felt like the wind might just carry me away if I held my breath tightly and stood as still as I could. But, like in the instant your hand slips and the glass breaks, my Gramma's strong hand grabbed my wrist and just like that I was yanked away.