Sunday, September 21, 2014

Rant #453: How To Heal A Broken Heart

For years I have watched people make fun of me and allowed them to think that I don't see them.

Once at a  mixer a "friend" was making fun of what I had on. I admit I am prone to the eccentric and you can never tell what I might wear on any given day. Most times I get dressed with the idea that I am daring someone to say something negative. But on this particular day I wasn't dressed too strangely and on top of that  I wasn't feeling well and was kind of leaning on a bar trying to make it through this meet-and-greet where we had both been hired to teach. I was sick as a dog and had a multitude of chaos going on back home. I was just trying to cope. It was all I could do not to run from the room in tears but I didn't.

Once a friend was making fun of my voice--low and at times inaudible in a film we were both in. Everyone else was loud and perhaps more articulate. Of course part of the problem was that my part of the film had been taped in a completely different environment and I had the portable crew and not the fancy studio setup. The other part is that I was a nervous wreck as I'm prone to be while being filmed.This "friend" has always thought me kind of stupid because my brain almost always moves more quickly than my tongue.

Once one of these same friends was overheard by someone they thought was a stranger making fun of my weight. "She's going to die early," or something to that effect they said. I, more than anyone, know that I have carried an extra one hundred pounds since the birth of my girls some twenty five years ago. I want to lose weight, of course, but I am comfortable in my skin and strive to be healthier. I love myself unconditionally and am very realistic about "high school skinny" and its permanent illusive nature.

I vowed to write them both a letter but I never did.

Once a "friend" made fun of me because he thought I was waiting for news from a big literary prize like half the other writers in the room and whispered something to the effect of "I hope she doesn't think anyone's calling her." The truth was that I was looking at the phone because I was again working out of town and was worried about my children. I certainly wasn't expecting a call from my agent about reaching a rung on the fame ladder. It's never been my thing. That's not why I write and it will never be why I write.

 Funny that nearly all these soul violations have been delivered by men but certainly women have done this too. And one of the violations mentioned above was delivered by a woman. These are people that I love as much as I love my own blood relatives. All of them are chosen family. I keep quiet. I am the woman my grandmother raised me to be. Quiet. Willing to let bygones be bygones. I secretely forgive them again and again and choose to love them still.

Sometimes I talk about them to other friends. In this way I commit the same sin but I never snicker behind their backs in their presence thinking they can't see me. I never say any cut throat, mean thing. Sometimes I tell this third party one of the stories I've told all of you and admit the hurt and feel a sense of relief for verbalizing it. And then I grow tight lipped again.

I hug these friends when I see them and I mean every hug. I always rehearse some speech in my head and hope they'll tell me they are sorry for hurting me. But I never say anything.

I am not a hater of fun. I grew up with cousins who were like brothers and sisters who could cut each other like knives when we wanted to. I am not immune to dishing the dozens. This kind of talk is part of both my African American culture and my Appalachian culture but it's different when you snicker over your cupped hand at somebody you are supposed to care about.

So to everyone who has done this (some of you I love dearly) just know that I am beyond the age of bullshit. I will call you out. Think I won't? Try me. I'm not trying to start a fight but I won't run from a verbal joust about this from now on. And I won't allow you to make fun of other people either.
I have reached an age of love and I know that there can be no true forgiveness without accountability. I don't think I'll mention the past. I'll keep it to myself but I am steadfast in my resolve to speak out next time I see it happen.

As bell hooks says, "For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?"

I see it as a part of my own healing to hold people accountable. Will they be transformed? I don't know but I know that I have been.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Turning The Page at Wild Fig Books: A Bookstore Story

As most of you know my partner Ron Davis and I have owned The Wild Fig books for three years. We are artists and dreamers and want to continue to be an integral part of the Indie Bookstore movement. Wild Fig Books is the people's store. It always has been. We have continued to support writers and readers not only in Kentucky but across the country. Please take time out to read our story in our Indiegogo campaign. Give to the campaign. Share the campaign on your social networks. Order books. Drop in and buy books. Schedule a reading. Any of these things would help ensure that we continue to be a part of the literary conversation.

Click below for more information:

Thursday, May 1, 2014


1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71. 72. 73. 74. 75. 76. 77. 78. 79. 80. 81. 82. 83. 84. 85. 86. 87. 88. 89. 90. 91. 92. 93. 94. 95. 96. 97. 98. 99. 100. 101. 102.... 103. 104. 105. 106. 107. 108. 109. 110. 111. 112. 113. 114. 115. 116. 117. 118. 119. 120. 121. 122. 123. 124. 125. 126. 127. 128. 129. 130. 131. 132. 133. 134. 135. 136. 137. 138. 139. 140. 141. 142. 143. 144. 145. 146. 147. 148. 149. 150. 151. 152. 153. 154. 155. 156. 157. 158. 159. 160. 161. 162. 163. 164. 165. 166. 167. 168. 169. 170. 171. 172. 173. 174. 175. 176. 177. 178. 179. 180. 181. 182. 183. 184. 185. 186. 187. 188. 189. 190. 191. 192. 193. 194. 195. 196. 197. 198. 199. 200. 201. 202. 203. 204. 205. 206. 207. 208. 209. 210. 211. 212. 213. 214. 215. 216. 217. 218. 219. 220. 221. 222. 223. 224. 225. 226. 227. 228. 229. 230. 231. 232. 233. 234.

This is what I write at the top of the page. I am a Black woman and I have never seen 234 Black girls before. So I try to imagine my three Black daughters in their place and multiply that by...but I can't do the math. I add on my three Black granddaughters, my cousins, my sisters, my aunts and it still doesn't work. I add on all the Black girl faces I have seen at family reunions and at church while I was growing up and it still doesn't add up to 234. I cry.

At least once an hour all night, I cruise the internet looking for some word of them. I can't imagine the anguish as a mother. I hope I never know this kind of pain. I lie awake thinking of the mothers. Thinking of the girls.

The news (I have to dig for it) tells me that they were kidnapped by a militant group and possibly sold to Islamic militants as brides for $12 each. I am outraged and can't fathom such a possibility. This worries me and I sleep only off and on and constantly check my phone for new information.

I can't imagine, even one, or two girls forced into trucks and kidnapped by uniform wearing thugs. But their are 234 of them--girls between 14-18--kidnapped, scared somewhere in the forest. They have possibly been wedded off, which means that some of them are being raped. All are being held against their will. I cry. And feel helpless. Some of them escape. Perhaps some of them escaped and were recaptured.

I write FB post in the middle of the night. I whisper I love you to my daughters who I hope are safely in their own homes sleeping while I write this. I whisper God please. If you are there God please. I pace the floor.

I pray that the Nigerian government gathers enough resources, internal strength, money, whatever it is they need to rescue these children.

And what about our government?

We run quickly toward the eradication of terrorism. Sometimes too quickly. We drop bombs. We send ships and sonic equipment and specially-trained personnel. What are we doing to fight this? What can we do? And I'm asking that of my government, myself, and I'm asking that of you.

And what of race?

I'll keep it simple. If there had been 234 white schoolgirls who were kidnapped anywhere in the world and being sold as brides, what do you think would be happening right now?

There are 234 Nigerian school girls kidnapped, two hundred and thirty four young women with are just beginning their lives, who have not had a chance to even begin to fathom their potential.

There are 234 Black girls missing,

There are 234 girls missing, which means 468 parents who are missing their daughters and a potential 936 grandparents who have a missing granddaughter. I can't grip my mind around the expanse of this tragedy.

Monday, February 24, 2014


I received a text earlier today from my dear friend Nikky Finney urging me to help her get the word out
about the petition below. A link on her FB page was accompanied by this post:

Dear fearless lovers of truth and poetry,
As many of you know the story of LaVena Johnson is close to my heart. When I wrote the poem "Florissant: for LaVena Johnson, 19" I intentionally wanted to join other voices calling for an official inquiry into her rape and murder. Here is a new campaign we simply must not miss being part of. Please please please sign this document. Do it now. Please step into this arena with me and link arms with others who refuse to let this story die along with LaVena. She could have been any one of our daughters, sisters, mothers, selves.

- Nikky

Other Resources:

USC professor highlights problem of sexual assault in the military (a rcent article about Nikky's fight for LaVena's justice)

The Silent Truth  (a film feature LaVena Johnson's parents) Petition (Please sign)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Creative Burst in an Otherwise Mucky Week

It's been a long while since I posted. Honestly, I have been living in a whirlwind. Spread too thin? An understatement. A friend recently sent me a FB message that began "I see from your FB post that you have a lot going on..." I wish I had a long list of fabulous things that I could post here or something profound but I don't have that right now. In fact, I feel as though today there is barely any of me left.

This week I have a husband with a damaged cornea (more than a month back and forth was cute when he made his first appearance as a pirate on Halloween but it's not cute any more..for some reason it will not heal); my mother is recovering from having a fistula placed in her arm for dialysis (her healing is exacerbated by diabetes and kidney disease and stubbornness (of course); and a plethora of other things that I won't go into at this time.

So the sunshine in the day is that in the midst of all the chaos Ron and I decided to collaborate for a moment....well it took a little bit longer than that but it was nice to feel creative for awhile and even nicer to do something together.

Several people have asked me about my short story "Holler" which first appeared in Slice  in 2010 and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the journal's editors. Later anthologized in Degrees of Elevation: Short Stories of Contemporary Appalachia and TalkingAppalachian: Voice, Identity and Community, 
Holler gives a glimpse into the lives of African-American characters who live in the hills of Kentucky. I am grateful for the number of friends and strangers who have used it in their classrooms.

The story is narrated by a woman who has just lost her father-in-law and tries to cope with the brokenness of her husband, her brother-in-law and the rest of the family she's married into. The story is also about the family's choice to stay loyal to their rural way of life even after the patriarch is found dead and lynching is suspected. And it's about the disconnection between city and country people irregardless of race. It's also about a lot of other things but you can read it for yourself.

This story is a spoke on the wheel of a short story cycle that I am working on. 

I asked Ron to design cover art for the story, which I love. 

While you are in e-book land check out two other short stories that you might enjoy.
Rules for Virgins

When It Dawns On Them


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Celebrating 12 Years in Print:

For Marita Golden, Marie Brown, Judy Sapp, Matthew Miller and Christine Wilkinson, who all believed even when I didn't.

It has been a long time habit of mine to wake up at 4 a.m. to write.

This morning I woke up to play "catch up" with my classes at the university.

In the shower, I bemoaned the fact that since the beginning of the semester I had spent little to no time dedicated to the final edit passes on  a book that I have been working on for several years. These spells of nonwriting always spiral me into the  Am-I-A-Real-Writer? place. It's a dark place that makes me fatter and dreary and mean.

The water was spraying, I was trying desperately to at least write a poem in my head so that my writerly lust had been satisfied for the day.


Then I thought about my first book Blackberries, Blackberries.

Twelve years? Really?

Yes! I have been in print for 12 years so that is something to celebrate.

What made me think of it in the first place?

Today is the final day that you can get this first work of mine for $1.99 through Amazon's Top 100 Kindle Books for $3.99 or less chosen by the editors of AmazonEncore for January. I meant to do a bit of self promotion earlier in the month but life got in the way. So there! Twelve years (whoo-hoo). Buy the Kindle version for $1.99 (whoo-hoo). I feel slightly better like a teeny tiny baby step toward feeling better. But I will embrace it before that witch on my other shoulder throws back her head, laughs and says "So what heifer it's been ten years...." Blah. Blah. Blah.She's queen of the dark Am-I-A-Real-Writer place (cave).

Now off to campus and maybe I can squeeze in some time to get these edits done and keep the woman who lives in the cave who rears her head to mock me in the shadows


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Brick. Mortar. Ink. Paper: Why We Bought a Book Store

The Wild Fig Books--1439 Leestown Road--Lexington, KY
Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read.  One does not love breathing.  ~Harper Lee

I have owned a house in the Meadowthorpe Neighborhood in Lexington, KY for more than 17 years. My son turned 13 when we moved into our house. The twins were five. One of the mainstays of the neighborhood was Morgan Adams Books, an eclectic used bookstore less than five minutes from my house. I bought books there for my children, for myself. I thought I had died and gone to heaven to trade a pile of books in for another pile. I was a single parent and sold books there when bills were tight. When I was writing my early books, I went to the bookstore to find inspiration, often leaving a pot on the stove or the kids playing in the yard since it was right around the corner to rush down for that book that would lead me to gently into the next phase of writing my own.

Years later, when Ron and I became a couple, he decided to work part time at Morgan Adams so that  he could supplement his artist's income. How perfect! It was right in the neighborhood. Truth be told, we bought more books than his salary provided over two years and he knew the perfect way to charm me more (If that is possible. He's a very charming man :) ) was to bring me a book he knew I'd adore.

So when he came home and said "Well I won't have a job at the end of the month," we began to at first play with the idea and then to be more serious about it until we simply bit the bullet, bought the inventory and got the ball rolling.

Photo from the Lexington Herald-Leader June 9, 2011
Since we opened The Wild Fig Books on June 20, so many people have thanked us for opening, for keeping a bookstore at this location. "You're so brave to this day and time, " they say.

Of course we've all heard to the stories about the large book chains closing and I have mourned the closing of every single independent across the country, many of which I visited last time I was on a book tour. But brave? I've never thought of myself in those exact terms. Unrestrained, maybe? Careless? No. Mostly it's simply that I don't believe the hype. A day and a time when ink and paper books don't exist. Pshaw!

We thought it would work because: 

1) The previous owners (Mary Morgan and David Adams) spent more than 20 years building the foundation of a book store at this location, so obviously it had worked on some level. This neighborhood needs a bookstore. Lexington needs a quality bookstore on this side of town.

2) We have great business neighbors in Goodwill, Steepleton's, Pop's Resale, The Dollar Store and The Meadowthorpe Cafe.

3) We thought we could make it affordable. Of course this part is a little scary but in addition to gushing over the books we are trying to be business savvy.  But frankly we probably gush more (Especially me).

4) Most importantly, everyone I know, whether they have a Kindle or not, still buys ink and paper books. Ron and I still buy ink and paper books. I still write ink and paper books. Ron was recently commissioned to design a real ink and paper book cover for a poet-friend. We want our children and grandchildren to continue to read  ink and paper books. As book lovers and writers and being an artistic couple of course we jumped at the chance to be brick and mortar bookstore owners.

We hope that you will pass the word along to those you know. We plan on a variety of readings and musical guests in the future and have an art performance/installment in the works.

Join us for our official grand opening on Sunday, September 18 beginning at 1 p.m. and meanwhile come in, buy some books, taste our coffee, enjoy our comfy chairs. We are open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. We have lots of books to choose from.

Call 859-381-8133 for more information. Or catch us on Facebook or Twitter.

We are located in the Meadowthorpe Shopping Center between Goodwill and Steepleton's near Pops Resale.
From Downtown Lexington, KY
  1. 1Depart US-27 / US-60 / US-68 / S Broadway toward US-25 North / US-60 North / US-421 West / W Main St158 ft
  2. 2Turn left onto US-25 North / US-421 North / W Main St0.5 mi
  3. 3Keep straight onto US-421 / W Main St1.0 mi
  4. 4Turn right onto N Forbes Rd, and then immediately turn left onto Leestown Rd0.1 miMarathon on the corner
  5. 5Arrive at The Wild Fig BookstoreThe last intersection is W Main StIf you reach Burke Rd, you've gone too far