Dear Writer, Don’t Give Up

The hardest thing about writing is opening up a blank page and seeing all white and no black. And the best thing about writing, as Dorothy Parker said, is having written.

When you’re a newbie writer, you may not relate to Parker’s quote. You might be like I was and think writing is THE only task in life where you disappear for hours and come back with work completed, almost in a daze. Perhaps most jobs you’ve done take a conscious and concerted effort and writing seems unconscious and effortless.

Here’s the downside, this may be true because in the words of Anne Lamott, all you’ve got is a “shitty first draft.” And “shitty first drafts” are like an uncut gem. Underneath all the crap is priceless beauty. But to get to the shiny bauble everyone wants to look at, a lot of crap has to be cut, and it can be a daunting task without good people surrounding us.

This is what a writing mentor reminded me of this week. She said to fill your life with people who build you up. This doesn’t mean that these same people don’t offer truth-as-they-know-it feedback, but it means the feedback will be to reconstruct, not destruct your world or your work.

And you only need a few, but once you have them, make sure to give them water and food. Together you can create life; without them you may wither away and concede to defeat.

Which I have done a time or two…

I’m about to confess an embarrassing truth about myself, something I would never want anyone to know about me, but I think is encouraging for young writers trying to find their way. I quit my first salaried job post college graduation without having another one lined up. After convincing myself that I wanted to be a reporter and that I needed time to either intern or travel for interviews, I gave my notice to my remarkably kind and understanding supervisor.

It took me a year to land what I thought of then as my dream job, a web producer position with reporting potential at a local television news station. I would soon realize two things: It wasn’t my dream and my former boss, not supervisor, told my new boss I was hardheaded, which deeply disturbed my 20-something self, and set me up for a hard season at the new job. I was the breadwinner at the time and there was no quitting, and without one or two co-workers coming along side of me, I wouldn’t have had opportunities for some much needed victories.

That environment and those people prepared me for this…

Fast forward to now and I’m working at home each day, either writing first drafts, revising, or editing other people’s work. No matter the task, I’m doing it alone, and at times, especially when faced with rejection, I can start to feel isolated and discouraged. If not for a few writing friends and mentors, I’d have given up a long time ago.

One such friend reached out to me this week and said it was time for a coffee date. She reminded me that it’s even more important for those of us working from home to make time for “work” relationships. People we can talk shop with, exchange ideas, and troubleshoot challenges we’re facing.

If I’ve learned nothing in the past seven years of writing while staying home with my children, it’s that I need a small network of trusted co-workers/friends who get it. And let me say this, not everyone gets it. Just like a doctor and a landscaper might not understand each others’ day-to-day, those who don’t write can’t be expected to understand what we go through, and that’s okay because your people are out there.

How to find them…

So you might be wondering how a hardheaded, yet strong-hearted woman like me found a few great writer friends? And the answer is, I didn’t seek them out. In fact, each of them came into my life during times when I was authoring and perfecting my messiest debacles. Maybe they saw themselves in my bad bits, I don’t know, but the three women I’m thinking of came along side of me during times of major setbacks, when my reputation was on the line, not during successes.

I can honestly say that most people I’ve met during more successful times left when the failure set in. There are no hard feelings since what I see now is that you don’t need a lot of people around you, you need a few good people, who believe in you as a person. They don’t even have to love your work, just you.

Years ago I wouldn’t have shared these personal stories. I would have thought sharing weakness was inviting judgment, but you know what I’ve learned? I’m my worst critic and judge.

Anne Lamott, in her book Bird by Bird writes that seeking perfection in our writing kills our creativity. I would add that seeking perfection also ruins relationships.

Sharing my terrible first drafts and sharing my personal defeats goes against my tendencies toward perfection in others and myself. And without sharing, I wouldn’t have more polished stories or growing relationships. And I wouldn’t be as comfortable with being uncomfortable as I am today – if that makes any sense?

So for the 20-something writers or the 40-something writers who are at wits end and feel like they’re getting nowhere, don’t give up and don’t be scared. Be yourself, share your work, and don’t be ashamed when you mess up. Admit it, learn from it, and move onto the next draft.

It’s all we can do!



Different Worlds: the art of coming together

With small children at home, I get to watch the news maybe once a week, and last week it was on a Thursday. I turned on the PBS Newshour and there was a special segment devoted to the Syrian War. One of the stories was about a mother in labor.

She was caught in cross-fire and hit with shrapnel. Doctors rushed to deliver the boy, thinking the mother’s injury to the stomach would threaten the child’s life. The newborn came out a pale shade of gray and wasn’t breathing.

A nurse hung the baby upside down and whacked him over and over like a butcher might tenderize a piece of meat. It seemed harsh to an ignorant onlooker. But by God, I prayed this whack-a-baby technique would work, and this child would come alive.

Chest compressions. Skin pinching. Hand-strung feet. Whack.

The upside down boy’s chest moved up and down, the pinkish color returning to his skin, and then miraculously, he cried.

A full cry meant this little one would live. He wailed.

OmranThere were other pictures out of Syria including one of a young boy, Omran, close to my son’s age. He was covered in soot and blood. His stare was blank. A living child looked lifeless, torn between the life he was supposed to be living with his family in safety, and the realities of war. He sat alone in a bucket seat.

Can the soul of a person be gutted, stripped from a body, and replaced with a robotic spirit? It’s called survival.

It’s in shambles, our world. This boy knows it better than any of us and yet I bet if you gave him a field of green grass and a soccer ball, he’d chase after it. He might even laugh.

That’s what kids do. It’s their purpose.

Far too often I’ve heard from well-meaning people that kids are resilient. It’s an excuse for lots of things. Sometimes it’s an excuse for complacency.

People say they don’t know what they can do to help these children in Syria much less the kid in their backyard. Sometimes they know, and I know, but we don’t do. Actions take sacrifice. Time. Money. Nerves.

And for the situation in Syria, it’s harder. We don’t have proximity. We see these videos and these pictures and we think of our own children, but really, what can we do?

I read an article by a pastor that said Jesus is the answer, that His WAY is the way out of this mess, and listed telling others about King Jesus as the number one solution for solving our world’s problems. As the predominant world religion, if getting others to convert to Christianity were the answer, we’d have fewer problems.

After concluding this I returned to my thinking obsession about what it means to bear each other’s burdens and to love our neighbors. Are Syrians our neighbors? Are Muslims our neighbors?

A young Muslim woman who recently published a book got me thinking. During another blood stained day, she tweeted something to this effect – maybe nothing will get better until Jesus’ second coming.

I don’t know her personally, but I thought about her statement, about how she’d read the teachings of Jesus, and that she might even believe in the WAY of Jesus, though she’s a Muslim.

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” -Ghandi

I returned to the book of Mark chapter nine.

            “Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

            “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.” —Mark 9:38-41, NIV

If a Muslim woman and a Hindu man can believe in Christ and act upon his teachings, why is it so hard for us?

Is it that by having labeled ourselves Christians, we’ve settled our fate and no longer need to rely on our Christ to carry out His WAY? If it is Jesus we aspire to be like, are there not compelling actions to take for the sake of our neighbors’ lives?

Faith is an action. It’s a movement and it’s ongoing. It takes determination because it’s hard.

For our egos.
For our calendars.
For our pocketbook.
For our security.

But what’s hard is not impossible. There are actions we can take. That we must take.

  • Prayer (singular and communal)
  • Giving (time, money, resources)
  • Advocating (raising awareness with friends and family, on capitol hill, and on social media)

The man called Jesus didn’t come for himself, he came for others. These others didn’t look like him, they didn’t have the same beliefs, and they were called heathens in their culture. Could it be that if we’re not for others (especially those who are different from us) then we’re not for Him?

Throwing Some Shade: the art of coming together

The temperature was in the 90s when I showed up at Mount Pleasant’s Memorial Waterfront Park. I don’t frequent this area; truth is, I don’t frequent much outside of our little farm.

This is on purpose. Driving when your eyesight is on the decline, in traffic that you’re not used to, with two children in tow, creates a state of the internal shakes – for me.

But this day my girl had a checkup at the pediatrician and there was no way out of the hustle of the road. So we left early, almost two hours early, and needed to play some minutes away. Otherwise there would be whining, and the only thing worse than fear, is loathing one’s life decisions.

So I sought out some recreation.

Now if you’ve heard the news, I live in the most beautiful city in the world, and this bit of reportage is true. Memorial Waterfront Park is situated on the cross point of two rivers – the Wando and Cooper. From the fishing pier, there are panoramic views: to the east, the Atlantic Ocean, the south, Downtown Charleston, and to the west, Daniel Island.


Ravenel Bridge, Charleston, SC

But the hidden treasure of this park is located under the northern arch of the Ravenel Bridge. It’s a double-sized portion of fun. The light blue and white steel structure hosts tube slides, moving bridges, slide-down poles, and a ropes course.


Memorial Waterfront Park, Mount Pleasant, SC

The kids disappeared as we stepped through the gate.

There were several benches and tables in the shade and all were taken by approximately one adult. The two benches in the sun were open, but locals know if you want to make it through the day and avoid heat stroke, you stay away from these hot spots.

So as I gazed out and considered my options, I bolstered up my confidence, and put myself out there like I sometimes do. I asked a woman with a cute barrette in her hair if she’d be willing to share her shade.

Like an angel, she said yes.

Over the next hour, I’d learn several important things about my new friend. Her boys had come from a writing camp, they lived two hours away, and this mother drove daily to take them to this camp. This bit of information made me think we could be friends, and I told her if I knew her better, I’d offer her our house to ease the discomfort of her daily drive. She said the miles were`no matter to her.

She makes the best of things, this would sink in the next time we met.

There’s magic in the water here. Tides rise 6-8 feet daily. Meaning one hour my house is on the marsh, and another, on the water. It means even more for our beaches. Each day as the tide trickles out, pools of water form between sand banks created by wind swirls.


Tidal Pools, Isle of Palms Beach

Tidal pools of cool water turn warm in the radiance of our generous sun, and you know the commercials where a woman is lying in the shallows of the Caribbean with a glamorous beach hat, well that was me and my new friend when we met at Isle of Palms beach (only we didn’t have the big hats and our bodies look real).

It was a dream.

While our four children chased crabs, we submerged our bodies in the hot tub like pools, the warmth healing our child-bearing and rearing backs, the strain and the pull of our Dimples of Venus padded by the soft sand. We talked of our children and husbands and careers. She’s a nurse and a university professor. But mostly what we did was listen to the whisper of the wind. It was a strong breeze off the coast.

Our day in paradise was full on with a spa treatment by our children massaging our shoulders and legs with mud. We walked away exfoliated, hungry, and no one wanted it to end, so I invited them to dinner at our favorite pizza joint.

My house was on the way, so we stopped to shower and change. My friend’s boys, who help their grandpa with his chickens and garden, wanted to see our coop and crops, so we took a tour of our growing farm.

As I told my friend the story of my producing, but not flourishing garden, she told me of her father’s robust yield. I asked her how her father knew so much, how they had such a great harvest. She said, “isn’t it obvious, my family has been farming one thing or another for centuries.”

My new friends are the descendants of slaves and sharecroppers.

I didn’t want to assume, I told her, explaining that I’d known several people who were first or second generation immigrants from the Caribbean or from African nations, and this wasn’t their story. She understood.

As we ate together that night, my new friend joked with the waiter, sipped a glass of wine, and talked with me about politics and education. I discovered her freedom. Her mind is not on obstacles, but on opportunities. And she’s not afraid to speak of her history, her challenges, and the hardships her family has faced. I reckon her personality type is two letters off from mine – ENTJ. I’m an INFJ.

A round of hugs ended our first get together and plans for our next visit started within the week. We’re going to them this time. The boys want to teach us how to catch crabs and eat them, which means stepping in stinky pluff mud (gross), and I’m hoping to see the grandparents’ garden and learn a few things.

It’s all about learning.

My new friend has already taught me to throw people some shade. Shade can be literal or it can be any characteristic you have that someone else doesn’t have, like agency. My friend is good with people. She owns her space. While we were together, and without knowing it, she was teaching me and lending me her strengths.

I think my shade is empathy. I feel others pain. I feel her pain. I worry about her boys, these fine young men, of great intelligence, stature, and personality, and how they will be treated when they come of age and are on their own road hustles. If they take an illegal u-turn (by accident, of course) as I’ve done so many times, will they be pulled, searched, or humiliated. Will they be suspect because of their skin color?

It’s a very real thing, the struggle my friends have, and I intend to be there for them. To cast some shade when the sun bears down too harshly. It’s the least I can do to say thank you.

What’s your shade? How can you cover others?

To Kid Parents: May All Your Dreams Come True


It’s the brother taking care of his siblings while their single mother works. It’s the girl without a mother who’s mothering her brother, while no one mothers her.

These miniature adults are often raised in single parent homes, though not always. They’re the kids in school that are spaced out because they haven’t had enough food or sleep. They’re smart but get bad grades, responsible but forget their homework, and though they have good hearts, are often judged as troublemakers.

They’re worried.

These kids aren’t like the others. They relate more to adults than other kids, often. They rise or fall based on their decisions.

If they turn in an assignment, it’s their work that gets them a B-. No one’s checking or proofing their notebooks. There are no story tale readings before bed; often there are few books, if any, in their homes.

And school and getting an education is the least of their concerns. Their shelter could be taken away any day. When they get home, there will not be enough food for dinner, and these pint size parents know their siblings will be hungry. They carry the weight of this burden and at the same time feel their stomach eating itself inside out.

Anxiety comes standard with instability.

When basic needs aren’t met consistently, the human body goes into overdrive. If you don’t believe me, read this.

Every body and everybody is vulnerable, meaning we’re all needy for the basics in life: food, shelter, clothing, love. It’s a shame I have to add this last one, but I’ve come to believe it’s the most important of all the categories, and the most overlooked.

So many children feel unwanted, like they’re a waste of time, a mouth to feed, a whine to put up with, when all they really want is time. They want to throw a ball, take a walk, go on a family trip, and this isn’t a reality for them.

Recently I went into speech mode with a teenager, saying if she wanted the better things in life, she’d have to learn to do the right thing even when others are doing the wrong thing. In this instance, my words were related to her teasing another little kid, but this girl’s had a lot of wrong going on all around her.

Peace_Begins_With_A_SmileNow this girl is also whip smart, but doesn’t believe it. People follow her, but she doesn’t get that. She dreams of living in a brick home in one of those manicured neighborhoods, and she said, “That’s not true, Miss Katie, rich people are snobby, they don’t do right (speaking of the people she aspires to be like someday).”

Touche, tiny adult. I was stuck, didn’t have an answer. Some rich people are snobs. I gained my composure and returned with a sentiment that I would like to believe; that those who do right even when others do wrong will succeed in this life, if not monetarily, then they will in relationships.

If we give love, even when others hate, we are bound to get love, but it’s not always a 1+1=2 equation, which is why I don’t believe in karma.

Finding the Nurturing We Need To Grow

This same young adult wanted to know what my childhood was like and she asked “What were you like as a teen?” She wants to know how I made it out, how I have this family, and this home. How I have this love. We have some things in common, she and I, and she wants to know my path. I hesitated to answer.

Like her and the generations of women before her, I know what it’s like to feel insecure, to not know where my next meal or dollar’s coming from, to have to turn in rolls of change to make rent. I experienced it as a young adult on my own and when I was a young child (though I don’t remember ever thinking we were poor).

It can be painful to go backward, but if going back in time helps someone move forward, it’s worth it to share our stories.

My own experience with what would be considered poverty was short lived. It was one Kmart Christmas, three apartments and two rooms in people’s homes, a string of babysitters, and only later in life did I see the insecurity of our family’s circumstances.

There was one day when our fridge was empty but for a few condiments and something rotten, while inside the freezer was one package of Popsicles. At the age of five, this was a win, dessert for dinner, but for my mother this was a fail. I didn’t know enough to understand an empty fridge and pantry meant no breakfast in the morning, or that we were days away from breaking our lease and moving in with even more vulnerable relatives.


My plant blossoms the morning after the most ferocious thunderstorm.

The Very Worst Thing Can Be the Best Thing

My most influential memory, the one I carried with me for the better part of my life, is of me hiding behind my mother’s leg when people were around, and then having no leg to hide behind. With a few exceptions in my early years, I think I was a very shy child.

And I felt thrust upon my dad, like a curve ball he wasn’t ready for yet. After custody changed, and more than once, I packed an insufficient suitcase and said I was leaving dad to go back to mom. She lived two thousand miles away.

In the early days of missing her, I kicked doors, cried for long spans of time, and acted out in disrespect. I’m sure my dad felt like that curve ball hit him in the face more than a few times because of me. I was right there with him.

After watching the movie An American Tale: Fievel Goes West, I remember looking at the stars and wishing my mom was looking at the same ones and singing, “Somewhere out there underneath those same bright stars…” I mean like night after night after night.

Fast forward to now and getting out from behind my mother’s leg was the best thing that ever happened to me. It’s how I made my first friend (who I talked to on the phone two days ago) and it’s how I developed enough swagger to be on a dance troupe, play on the softball team, and be a cheerleader for the basketball team.

Sometimes It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

My seventh grade year, we moved from that state, from our school, from our friends, and into a new environment, yet again. It was middle school for me- the above average awkward years. From 1992 to 1999, it was a slow and steady drop in self-esteem. There are all kinds of insecurities and not all of them are related to the basics of food, shelter, and clothing.

My brother became sick. We were in a new place, new school, new friends, and a member of my family was missing. He would be hospitalized for one year. My focus wasn’t on school. It was on him. It would remain this way until 2003.

But what I learned through this time was that I could do nothing for him by worrying. I stayed in school, got a job, continued this recipe of hard work and education, and eventually was in a place to help others. It was drudgery sometimes, but I stuck with it.

And if I could tell Kid Parents anything, it would be this: You are loved, not only by your parents and siblings, but also by many others who see your pain and know your struggle. So much is out of your control now, and you look to others to make things right for you. I know because I did this. I put so many people on pedestals and wanted to be just like them when I grew up. The problem is all the people we look up to are just like us, and if we place them too high, they will one day fall on our heads.

One day you will be in the place you desire, and when you get there, remember all of the children are our children, especially the vulnerable, lift them up when you see them.

If you were a Kid Parent, and would like to add your story in the comments, I know that would encourage me and others. If you’re a Kid Parent now, my ears are open.

Rainbows Unite + Update on my Latest Project

How to make a rainbow

How to make a rainbow

When you send your work out into the world, you never know what you’ll get back. The writer is given certain stories that come from places seen and unseen, pulled from a myriad of characters they’ve either known or wanted to know in their life, and a plot develops – not sure how.

My latest manuscript is filled with #diverse characters – shades of color, different socioeconomic backgrounds, different ages. The setting is in the coastal south on a made up island called Prosperity, along the highway from the east to the west coast, and in a desert town in Southern California called Mirage.

It’s about a group of six women who become friends, and through betrayal, are forced to come face-to-face with their lies. In the first 25 pages of the book, the reader is introduced to these women: a rich white girl, a mixed race beauty queen/lawyer from a well to do family (though not accepted into the country club), an Asian tech heiress, a black girl from the projects, and the wisdom in the group – a submissive wife and political conservative, and the most liberal woman on the island.

It all sounds a bit stereotypical, right? And if we’re honest with ourselves, this may be how we look at people: what we see is what they are. We never get to know people well enough for our first impressions to be debunked. But as the page turns, we get to know these women’s stories and find out that our first impressions are flawed.


This has been my experience.

If you look at me from the outside you see a white girl with an advanced degree. I live in a beautiful home, have two children, and drive a white SUV. Married for going on 14 years, I’m aware that my life looks like a privileged stereotype, and I’d say that it is…

Except for the fact that I’m the first person on my mom’s side of the family to get a college degree. She was the first to get out of poverty by working two or three jobs. I didn’t grow up with her in my life from day-to-day, had to accept seeing her every few years in the summer. She made her decisions so that I could have the best life possible and get a good education.

My father raised me, something only one other girl in my school experienced. She was Hawaiian and Filipino and she became my best friend. She was smart and cool and pretty and formed a dance troupe. I was one of two white girls in it (though the other girls claimed I looked Mexican with my wall of bangs, thick eyeliner, and Raiders jacket). I have a video. It’s embarrassing. And awkward. They’re awesome. Me? Out of sync. My norm.

The friends I met at my primary school fill a big place in my heart to this day. We shared a love for music, four square, tether ball, softball, basketball, and art. We also competed for boys, which was less about kissing, and more about being cool.

Throughout our lives we’ve stayed in touch by phone and by email. There have been straight up tragedies in this group and countless blessings: babies, marriages, vacations, job promotions, etc… We share our memories on Facebook and in the mail. Though our former houses have been shot to smithereens in counter terrorism training operations, we will always stand as the George Brat Pack!

The Beauty of Belonging

What some people may not understand is that in the 80s growing up in a single parent home was not the norm. We were the outcast kids. Parents often wouldn’t allow their children to hang out with us, or if they were allowed, the preference was for us to come to them. The problem? Our dads or moms were working and we didn’t have transportation.

So the latchkey kids united and spent all of their time together – making up dance routines, playing sports, and perfecting our makeup. No kidding, we grew up fast. And there was some early mischief, but mostly it was good clean fun.

I now live in the coastal south, where churches and schools are predominantly white or black. Groups of friends look alike and I’ve heard outright racist comments from people I thought were friends.

It hurts me and I get defensive and I don’t belong.

And I think THE SPOONSTERS, my latest manuscript, has helped me process through the race, class, and political divides I see all around me. This story is an outpouring of my soul, a heart cry for openness and love, and the end to superficial divisions.

Social Media

I had a conversation on Twitter recently about whether or not a white person could be marginalized. This person said that because white people are the majority race, they cannot be sidelined, and I think the danger in this way of thinking is assuming that all white people are alike. That they belong together in a group: white people over here.

That’s not my story and that’s not where I belong. I’m full of layers and varied; random as one co-worker tagged me, and I belong to whom I say I belong, and I say I belong to a rainbow. White is just what you see when you look at me. It’s not who I am.

People are not their skin color. We’re as multifaceted as the greatest story ever told, with layers of influence (gender, color, familial makeup, socioeconomic status, religious and political affiliation), but these influences only have the power we give them. We are who we say we are, and if we let anyone else tell us differently, we run the risk of being marginalized, of sitting on the sidelines and thinking our story doesn’t matter – that we have nothing to add to the conversation because we’re this or that, as if any state of being is static.

Rapping it up in a Symphony


This past Thursday I attended my first symphony. Free tickets to the National Young Artist Competition were being offered through the school where my children attend, and with a love for music and for all things free, I jumped at the opportunity. We arrived to the Gailliard auditorium in downtown Charleston and I felt out of place. The seats were filled with white people, skewing older, with no children (tickets were free for children, so I expected lots of kids) and people were staring at us. That’s how I saw it anyway. I felt like I didn’t belong, but I gave myself a pep talk through the voice of one of my favorite characters, Gibby, and settled into my seat.

At intermission, my little people were complaining of hunger and acting malnourished, and the two ladies behind us were making remarks about how bad they felt for my children. Never mind they ate a full spaghetti dinner, and had a snack of fruit and cookies before we left. So I ushered my kids up the aisle in search of a snack booth and ran into another mom from our school.

One of the first things out of her mouth was “I feel so out of place, like a country bumpkin,” and I loved her for this! It was her first time at the symphony as well and she felt like she didn’t dress right and maybe shouldn’t have come.

This mom attended for her daughter, who plays the Ukelele and the piano, and wanted her to see teenagers playing with the orchestra. She looked beautiful in a white linen shirt and khakis, but more importantly, she and her daughter appreciated the music. Who cares if they’re from the country, got their tickets free, and had never been to a symphony before?

After getting snacks, I returned to my seat, and didn’t have one more inferior feeling, not even when the two old grannies behind me looked at my sleeping son and said, “Poor little fella.” They gave me a disapproving look and I wanted to say, who’s poor? My son’s not even 5 and he’s attended his first symphony and he LOVED it. But I didn’t. I carried my son from the Gailliard auditorium to our car in the adjacent parking garage and reminded myself that class is how you treat people. We had every right to be there, simply because we appreciated the music.

Rainbow Experiment:

  • Place food coloring and water in individual cups.
  • Drape a line of connected paper towels over the cup, pushing the middle of the paper towel so that it touches the color mixture.
  • Watch the paper towels absorb the colors and blend together to make a rainbow.

Triage In Region Three

There are things in me.
Things I can’t write – not yet.
Too painful.

Writing these things is good.
Good like tweezing a bullet out.
Good and feels good are not the same.

Pain is living death.
Opening wound can take life.
My own.

“Leave bullets where they be,” I say.

Skin grows up over them.
Too many.

complicit. Me.


Cover up.

Protecting you.
Protecting me.
But you’re not protecting me.

Poison leaks.

“Extract it, damn it, now.” I yell at me.

Tweezin’ it out.
Still. So still.
Breathing in. Breathing out.

Forgotten breath.
In and out.

triage. Triage.
Clot in region three.
It’s toxic, the metal object within me.

Who Chooses the Presidential Nominees – Voters or Super Voters?

It’s primary season in the Palmetto State and this means South Carolinian’s will be casting their vote for the candidate they want to see on the ballot come November. Their votes will be tallied, and based on percentages, each candidate will receive a number of delegates.

This weighted process continues throughout the states until one candidate from each party remains. And ideally, the candidate who receives the most individual votes in each camp winds up on the ballot.

However, this is not always the case, and many are losing faith that every vote counts. Why? Super delegates, or termed unbound delegates by the GOP. This is a group of elected officials and party representatives that are not legally bound to support the candidate choice of the people. Meaning if Trump receives the majority of individual votes, he still may not win the support of his party.

(Disclaimer- Trump is not my choice for various reasons, see why here, but the main one being his platform seems to be about His bottom line – protecting His wealth. However, a fan of democracy, if the majority of individuals vote for him, his name should be on the ballot.)

Unfortunately, our voting system doesn’t protect the voice of the people and delegates are not legally responsible to support the candidate chosen by the majority.

For Instance

News broke yesterday that Bernie Sanders, though winning by sweeping margins in New Hampshire, was tied 15-15 with Hillary Clinton for delegates. With a 60-40 margin, there’s no way Sanders and Clinton should have the same number of delegates in the state of New Hampshire, but Clinton got the support of all but two of the state’s super delegates. With this in mind, some wonder is it even worth it to vote since random designated “Super Voters” can toss out the ballots of thousands of commoners.

(Disclaimer- though I like Bernie the best and think he’s the most sincere candidate, I can’t get behind changing our economic system and granting free college tuition. However, if the majority can get behind him, he should be on the ballot—in a pure democracy.)

That said, I haven’t been able to get behind any single candidate, preferring a meshing of two party opposed candidates, which frees me up to ask this question: If I could get behind a candidate, if the nation of non-party line people could get behind the same candidate, would they be elected?

The Palmetto State

In the next two weeks, my neighbors will vote for the presidential contender they think will protect them, create an environment where they can prosper, improve conditions for the poor, restrict or nullify the practice of abortions, bring our state out of the bottom fifth percent in education, and perhaps bring us together.

Up for grabs in the state of South Carolina are 50 delegates for the GOP, 26 of those will be chosen by popular vote, three are unbound, and 21 are bound by congressional districts. Now, there’s one caveat to the GOP guidelines for bound delegates. To become the Republican nominee, one candidate must obtain 1144 delegates. If no candidate reaches this number, then the vote goes to the floor of the Republican National Convention, and those bound delegates have some power to change the outcome of who gets the nomination. Here’s why:

One additional area where there is some observed variation between states concerns how and how long delegates are bound to particular candidates at the national convention. The South Carolina Republican version of this has the delegates voting for the statewide winner or the winner of the congressional district on the first ballot only. If that candidate/those candidates is/are not nominated then those delegates are bound to the second or third place finisher statewide or at the congressional district level. If none of those three are nominated, then the delegates are unbound. Source: Frontloading HQ

In this traditionally red state, the projected majority of votes will be cast for a GOP contender, and polls show Donald Trump winning, which means he will most likely get the majority of GOP delegates if the popular vote swings his way, and the three unbound delegates support the citizen’s choice.

On the side of the Democrats, there are 59 delegates, six of which are “Super”. Hillary Clinton already has the support of three of these delegates and this is before any vote by the people has been cast. So she’ll most likely wind up gaining momentum as she leaves South Carolina.

Who are “Super Voters”?

It’s a group of party leaders, governors, senators, representatives, and national convention members, who by their party commitment are given a delegate seat. These are the real party line people, they have very specific agendas, that may or may not be driven by party affiliated “Super PACs,” another convoluted distortion of our system, and one that pays A LOT of money to get their candidate elected.

So do the American people, you and me, really choose the presidential nominees? Like the indeterminable number of powerful “Super Voters” and the indigestible amount of money thrown around by “Super PACs,” it’s unclear.

Delegate Math in the Presidential Primary – Washington Post

What’s Your Writing Routine? (I was interviewed for a thing)

Several months ago, I was interviewed by the Scarlett Rugers Book Design Agency, for a new segment on their website called Writing Routines. Since I’m usually the one interviewing others, I took this as a test, wanting to see if I could pull off being interviewed. The following resulted (note – there is mention of constipation and how a paint splattered sweatshirt turned me into a writer).

1. Can you give us a bit of a background about yourself as a writer?

Raised in a household of boys, I often received messages that my emotions were wrong. I was too sensitive, cried too much, and needed to get over it (my mom’s leaving). I seemed to feel and sense more deeply than others, but learned to repress my thoughts and emotions – the page is where I found freedom.

When I was seven, my grandmother gave me a journal and encouraged me to write. By middle school the pages were filled, so I began writing poetry on notebook paper, and by high school, I had a selection of favorite poems I kept hidden in plastic sleeves. Throughout college I wrote non-fiction and then had a career as a producer for web and television news. It wasn’t until my second child was born that I wrote my first novel, THE LOST STORY. I’m currently in the middle of six lying, scheming friends, who learn by hiding the unlovable they can never be loved. THE SPOONSTERS is my second novel and it will be complete in March.

2. When you’re in the midst of writing a book, what does your routine typically look like?

My day starts like any other parent, corralling the kids into a carpool line and seeing them off on their daily adventure in school. When I get home, I warm my cup of inevitably cold coffee and slowly transform from mommy mode to writer mode. I rest in silence, and infuse my brain with caffeine. I may tweet a bit after that, read a motivating article – generally procrastinate – till about nine or so, and then I dive into the scene of the day. Four hours goes by in what feels like minutes and my stomach lets me know it’s time to eat. After lunch, I read for about an hour, sometimes my work, but usually another author’s. Then I do random chores and go pick up the kids. Occasionally, I write at night after the kids are asleep, and most days I read for another half hour to an hour before the night tucks me in.

3. How does your routine change when you stop writing and start editing?

My routine doesn’t change much whether I’m writing or editing. I probably read more when I’m editing because I hit upon issues I’m having trouble solving, and I want to learn how the “greats” develop their characters or plots, or even be reminded how to change up my sentence structure.

I also have a lot more anxiety with editing, so I tend to take more breaks for snacks, or Twitter, or when I’m really frustrated, my garden. Pulling weeds seems to help me figure out what darlings to kill.

4. Do you have any quirky rituals or specific writing goals to help you to focus?

When I’m really having trouble believing in myself as a writer, I put on this particular paint splattered sweatshirt. It’s soft cotton on the inside, and collegiate on the outside, with the initials of my college on it, CNU (Christopher Newport University). When I attended this school, I never felt like I fit in, and struggled through a full time schedule and 30 hours of work in the university book shop. But I made it and I did well. The sweatshirt reminds me of this period. Of how I finished what I started and was more capable than I thought.

As far as writing goals, mine is simple, to finish well – each story. Sometimes I write 500 words, but they’re good ones and I’m satisfied, then there are crazy days when I write 3,500 words. It’s more about getting through the scene then it is word count for me.

5.  Can you describe the space in which you usually write?

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 12.19.37

A decluttered space with a comfortable seat and natural light are key for me when I write. So my room is my favorite spot to draft. On my bed, I sit with a host of pillows supporting my back, and when I look up from my computer, I’m staring out at oaks, pines, and maples. When editing, I choose a chair and table, either the desk in our office, or the dining table – whichever is cleaner!

6. Which software and apps help you to write? Which tools do you use?

I wrote most of the first draft of THE LOST STORY in Pages on my iPad, and then realized the editing functions were limited in this program, and switched everything over to Word. I’ve heard a lot about Scrivener and am considering getting this program.

7. What music or sounds help you to better focus?

My soundtrack is based on the scene of the day. I have a writing playlist that includes jazz, pop, alternative, gospel, and blues. All music is inspiring! Often I write in silence.

8. What kind of things completely take your focus away?

My husband and children are my greatest distraction and inspiration. It’s difficult for me to write with loud, unexpected sounds in the background, but I’m able to zone into my writing with white noise. Flexibility in writing is key to perseverance and finishing the novel. Our work environments are often filled with flames, so its no wonder our first drafts are often burnable.

9. How do you get back on track when your writing routine has broken down for a few days or more?

Author Tayari Jones wrote a blog on this and suggested journaling, which has been a passion of mine. In my greatest, most discouraged time, I took her advice, and penned a personal page. It got me on track. And still to this day, if I miss a day of “work writing,” I turn to my journal to cope with the backup of words. That’s what it feels like for me when I don’t write, I get word constipation.

10. If you could change anything about your routine, what would it be?

If I could change anything about my writing routine it would be the unexpected interruptions, which often wind up in my work. I’m learning to take life as it comes and embrace flexibility in my writing. Neighbors, friends, household appointments, school book fairs, bring new experiences to my books.

What About You

Do you have any strange or superstitious writing routines? What are you currently working on? Or are you in a rut and need a coaxing pen or magical keyboard to lure you to the page?

Love Letter to Ta-Nehisi Coates

It’s that time again, where I’m compelled to write a love letter, and the man’s wife may not like me saying this, but the letter is dedicated to her as well, and their son. Not 48 pages into Between the World and Me, I had to put down this book. It had to stop, the pain. I wanted it to be wrong, the words.

The circle of emotional grief continued through the night.

How can the gradient of one’s skin, made by the great artesian of all, be subject to so much more pain than me, all because I have an undertone of blue, showing face value of white.


Reading Coates letters to his son, I wanted it all to be a lie, so I could be true, and remain in my innocence. The rhetoric of my youth fought for expression. I’m irish. I’m native indian. My ancestors were not such as these. I have no part in harming you, nor did my father or his father, for that matter.

I had to allow the question to stir in my mind: What if I’m not so innocent? What if my ancestors were the masters of slaves, or were given favor because they appeared white, or sidelined a black person, or thought their tribes shouldn’t mix, shouldn’t intermarry, shouldn’t be neighbors?

And I mourned. I didn’t want a part in someone else’s history, another’s choices; I didn’t want to take personal responsibility for the sins of my fathers. But Coates wrote that he had to take responsibility, not only for his own body, but the potential actions of other bodies, and what they may do to him.

Then I recognized it. Though I’d not been part of hurting the body of a black man, there was a time I played the role of the white princess, waving my dollar bills for diapers, thinking my horse was the better way to get a sister from point A to point B. Had I thought I knew better than a black sister, without asking her what better meant to her? Yes.

I’m not so innocent.

Later in the book, the question of faith came up, a question of eye for an eye vs. turn the other cheek, and this was one I understood well.

While in business law class, my partner in a project leaned over and said she dreamed her boyfriend, who was in prison, had relations with me, actually she said he raped me, and that I put him in prison. It was all very strange. I didn’t know her boyfriend, or her, so I tried to ignore it, her words. This was during a faith transition in my life and I didn’t want any trouble.

Several weeks later, the girl, not black or white, but a gradient in between, started in on me again, but for the whole class to hear. I got closer and yelled back. I was close enough that she kicked me. I punched her in the face. She ripped my hair out. When the teacher returned, we were separated, and suspended.

I thought it was over.

But the consequences were much like yours the day you went to the convenience store and had a gun pulled on you. It turns out the girl I fought was part of a gang, and she called my house one night, saying if I didn’t meet her at some location, her gang would bring guns to my house, and hurt me and my family.

I didn’t go. I lived in fear.

Following a faith conversion to Christianity from a sort of agnosticism, I had few of my former friends, and following that fight, I had none. I returned to school with a mess of scratches from the girl’s fake nails and clumps of hair removed from my head. Rumors abounded that the girl was expelled or transferred to another school, but her calls didn’t stop for weeks. I walked the path of shame, alone.  And somehow even then I knew I’d never be in that situation again, that it was a departing from my old ways. That’s when I got serious about school.

It was the eleventh grade.

I write all this as a response to the world between you and I, to say we’re not so far apart, and that by dismissing the creator of all, we may be dismissing hope of being brought together.

Some blame the “mysterious Gods” for the past atrocities of people groups, and think Christianity has been used to keep African Americans from true freedom.

And I get it.

I’ve been in the Bible studies where an elderly person thinks God justified slavery “for a time”. Many people prefer God’s sovereignty to His free will, yet there are equal parts of both in the Bible. But it makes sense, if God is in control, and could have stopped slavery, and didn’t, then humans are void of personal responsibility for their actions. We can do what we want regardless of the harm it causes others.

But it’s a lie that’s gone on too long and is settles in the book of James. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (1:22). There is and never was a call on any man’s life to enslave another human being, but the only call of every man and woman is to love, period.

For the Critics

The foremost command of the New Testament is found in Matt 5:28 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength; and likewise, love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus the Christ said these words. It’s a playback to the Old Testament scripture found in Deuteronomy 6:5, with the addition of “love your neighbor as yourself.”

And fast forward to AD 2000’s and we’re still twisting the character and nature of God for our own well being and not our neighbors. We like this scripture when our neighbor is our friend, or like us, or of the same political persuasion, or socio-economic status, or gradient of skin, but not so much when our neighbor has shells of cars spewed about his or her lawn.

And somehow in this political, social, religious construct that we call our home, we justify intolerance, hate, and avoidance, with the desire to uphold or conserve the former ideal of a “biblical” world that never was, and never will be…here at least.

The former construct some idealize only serves one people group, and really the males of that people group, and held us, the Christians, as the elites, or at least accepted in the mainstream, something denied to the Christ, for which the religion was named.

So Simple, Yet Made So Complex

Most things that are the best are also the worst. Take, for instance, sugar, this sweet additive is why we have chocolate croissants, rhubarb pies, and cookies. And now sugar is being blamed for obesity, heart disease, cancer, ADHD, depression, and bi-polar. How? Is it God’s fault? After all, he put it in the garden.

And many will say it all goes back to the garden of good and evil. The freedom is in the plenty and the abstinence of one. But we want that one. A lot of that one. And sometimes the need for the thing becomes justification for getting it, no matter the cost to ourselves or others.

Our nature’s desire is to plunder. Consider children after Halloween, how if left to their selves, they’d eat the entire bucket of candy. It’s not within them to deny themselves. It’s not within us, either.

Done with the Womansplaining, I think

So as I rise up in anger at the falsehoods presented to me by church folk, on occasion, I’m reminded of the enemy lurking around, setting himself up to destroy our BODIES. Often by turning human against human.

And God says the answer to this all-pursuing destruction is to LOVE, that we heap burning coals on our enemy’s head when we give him a cup of water (Pr 25: 22). Yet I want to throw the coals on their heads, especially if they throw them on me first, or a friend, and to yell, and to call people out for saying false things. But it’s a waste of time, the acting out in anger part, plus in my world it’s a sin.

With 35 years of general hardship under my wings, and six of those as a parent, I’m learning that people rarely listen, but especially when the volume is raised. In this age of digital devices, I have to put my son’s face in my hands and say “look me in the eyes,” and then say whatever it is that he needs to hear. Often three times before I’m sure he’s heard me.

Now Back to You

This is why your story is so important to me and to the world. Because what we often can’t achieve in conversation without heightened emotion and defensiveness, you’ve proved we can achieve through books. What my friends can’t tell me for fear of hurting me has now been said, and I know black parents fear for their children, especially their sons, with an intensity unknown to me.

More than an award winner, your greatest achievement is in creating discussions through your words, helping to break down the barriers that exist between the races. Any white person who wants to learn what it’s like for a black man can read your story and become educated. Any Christian wanting to know how their faith has been used to further injustice can learn from your book and be part of a redemption tale of love. Any person willing to listen, can learn to hear.

Hope for change, for reconciliation and restoration, somehow seems more possible, not less, having read your book, even despite your lack of hope, as sometimes professed in Between the World and Me.

Even knowing you prefer Malcolm X to Martin Luther King, an eye for an eye, over turning the other cheek, the truth is in your life story. You didn’t return with a gun that day at 7-11, you didn’t hunt down the cop who killed Prince Jones, you stayed clear of certain streets, kept your head down in books, and now you write for the Atlantic. Using everything you learned, you waited for the opportunity, and used your voice, not your fists, to make a point.

I’d say you have a dream, and I do to, but like you said,

‘The writer, and that was what I was becoming, must be wary of every Dream and every nation, even his own nation. Perhaps his own nation more than any other, precisely because it [is] his own.” Coates

Sincerely and with great affection for you and your family,

Katie Newingham

P.S. #writeon


2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 480 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 8 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.