Book Reviews, Personal Anecdote

“Children of Blood and Bone” – A Review

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an EXCELLENT piece of writing, and I am so proud of Ms. Adeyemi for her fearlessness in presenting the voice of the instantly classic female heroines, Zélie and Amari. It often boggles my mind that, as open, far-reaching, and stereotype-pushing as Fantasy and Science Fiction wants to be, this beloved genre often falls prey to the same institutional biases that it rails against. I’m speaking specifically to the issues of race and culture. There are not enough SF/F novels based on or inspired by the civilizations outside of Western (Anglo/Euro) culture or influence.

Warriors still have codes that mimic the tenets of European “chivalry” during the Middle Ages, wizards are still old, mottled, grey-haired white or pale-skinned males, and a protagonist can come in every color but brown, red, or black. And there will never be enough female representation, even though on that front we are FINALLY making gains.

No longer. This book is a war cry that sets itself apart from the typical SF/F read while also holding true to the best parts of the genre that we love: magic, intrigue, star-crossed love, war, epic battles, and the power of one’s destiny.

You are IMMEDIATELY pulled into the world of Orïsha, and despite its MANY faults, by the end of the novel, you want to burn your passport and claim your citizenship. The images are so vibrant and effortless that the people and places leap off of the pages and tell you their story face to face.

I also love the many cultural references to Africa and the African Diaspora. The attire, the languages, the names, the perspectives are all beautiful.

But more importantly, her message in this novel is timely and relevant. We are in a world where marginalized voices can no longer remain in their corners while injustices flood our streets and news channels. We live in a world where hashtags can be conflated with oppression, and that same oppression is force fed to us in media outlets and by political pundits/talking heads. THIS NOVEL rallies against all of it. It is our anger, it is our frustration, it is our fear, it is our shame, and it is our hope. It is our faith.

I can’t wait to reread it (took me 2-3 days the first time). I devoured it the first time, so now I want to savor every syllable. I’m so thankful for the inspiration this novel has given me to finish my own. And I’m even more thankful for this novel (upcoming series!) for giving me the RIGHT to stand in my truths. Our truths.

Because this isn’t about some of us….when you read this book, you will understand that is about ALL of us. As Zélie, Amari, Tzain, Inan, and many others learn in this great fantasy: We are all “Children of Blood and Bone.”

View all my reviews on GoodReads

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Personal Anecdote, Writing 101

How [Great] Writers Read Differently Than You

A writer’s greatest tool is his or her ability to read. That’s the first way we learn what we like and what we don’t, what genres interest us, as well as what’s popular on the market today. Reading is so much more than a pastime. (Although it is by far my favorite – even more than comic book movies and anime and maybe even Disney movies!) It is also our most significant form of professional development.

So let’s talk about how [great] writers read.

If you don‘t have time to read, you don‘t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King

[Great] writers read for insight.

In order to understand the craft of writing, one must read the works of great authors. Just as musicians have to immerse themselves in sounds, so too must writers, authors, and poets immerse themselves in words, in well-written language. How will you know what’s popular or attractive to sell if you aren’t reading the bestsellers and comparing or contrasting to your own work? By what standard do you judge yourself and the strength of your narrative voice if have no scale to use as a rank? Reading helps you establish where you feel like your works fall in the lineup. Reading to understand what makes good writing, what makes popular writing, and what sets apart your writing is so integral.

A fondness for reading, properly directed, must be an education in itself. – Jane Austen

[Great] writers read to think.

Writers are a highly self-motivated group. Or at least should be. Their primary objective is always improvement. Development is key. Reading, however, is the key factor to development as a writer. Whether one writes fiction or nonfiction, poetry, plays, or greeting cards, he or she is daily seeking to grow in the craft. They not only read books that they enjoy, but they also read books on writing, blogs on writing (good for you that you’re already doing this!), and book reviews.

The better you want to be as a writer, the better reader you become. [Great] writers also read personal development books and articles. They study ‘growth mindset’ and learn about the marketplace for publishing in both traditional and digital formats. As students of the craft, they are also knowledgeable of the businesses of print and digital media as well as where they fit into or want to fit into today’s market. Even the writer who only writes for the love (meaning for free!) must still understand what the best ways to share their stories and their voices are. There is no better way than to read what’s available for them and find out.

Libraries raised me. – Ray Bradbury

[Great] writers read to branch out.

Understanding the marketplace means going outside of your comfort zone. There will be plenty of books and series that become popular that make you scratch your head or want to ram it through a wall. However, as a [great] writer, you must understand the whys! Why do people like it? Why do you hate it? Being able to make the connection helps you become stronger and more versatile in your own writing. Plus, you could accidentally discover a fondness for a new genre. And who doesn’t love opening themselves up to a slew of new, exciting books they never knew about?

Also, when you branch out to read new things, it exposes you as a writer to new writing styles and plot development techniques. Every writer has something that is unique to their voice. We can all learn from each other. Maybe you’re a fantasy writer with a pacing problem, but when you read the mystery novella your sister recommended, you notice a cool technique that could help you get your manuscript together. Or what if you’re a script writer, and you can’t get the dialogue or stage directions just ‘write,’ and one day you pick up a piece of nonfiction that establishes a beautiful connection to the reader that parallels with the story you want to sell?

Branching out as a writer opens up your mind to new and exciting possibilities you may have never considered. It helps you get away from the traditional tropes of your genre and gives you fresh ideas for invigorating your writing style. I personally always seek new types of books and movies and magazines to enjoy (or not!), both print and digital, from well-known and virtually unknown creators. No matter how bad the writing may be (or how exceptionally great), I can always find something that I’m able to use to be better at crafting my current story or next poem.

You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive. – James Baldwin

[Great] writers read to connect and be inspired.

The art of writing is the art of connection. If you’ve never experienced it, how on Earth can you ever convey it to your audience? Writers of merit seek connection with other writers through their work just as they (and every other human being) seek it from other persons in any aspect of life. There is a need to touch and be touched that we all share. Reading feeds that desire and, if done well, creates an ever worsening hunger.

Feed your inner beast. Read.

In the highest civilization, the book is still the highest delight. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

[Great] writers read for the hell of it. To them, reading is fun.

I’ve never met an amazing writer who wasn’t an avid reader first. And not for any of the (albeit important) reasons listed above. Every writer I know genuinely enjoys the option of a good book over almost any other pastime. Reading is an opportunity to enter into someone else’s world, and oftentimes you leave with a better understanding of the one around you. When done well, reading will create a response on the inside that you hope to bring about in others. Developing a love for reading is ABSOLUTELY imperative to developing the ability to write well, in such a way as to gain and maintain the love and trust of your reader. Besides, reading is its own reward. Virginia Woolf said it best:

I have sometimes dreamt … that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards — their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble — the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when He sees us coming with our books under our arms, ‘Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.’

 

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Personal Anecdote

MéShelle Fae on Stage!

Author. Poet. Mentor….Actor!

So I just got the callback friends, and I have OFFICIALLY been cast as Alma in the Piccolo-Spoleto production of “Yellowman.”

This is a Pulitzer Prize winner written by Dael Orlandsmith (born Donna Brown) about the issues of colorism in the black community. It also happens to be set in South Carolina.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Piccolo-Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC it is a 17-day cultural arts extravaganza! It’s part of the world-renown Spoleta Festival USA where artists and craftsmen come from all over the world to experience the beauty and creativity of our “Holy City.”

There are no exact dates yet for this particular production or ticket costs, but as soon as I find out I will let you know! The official festival dates are May 25 to June 10, 2018!

Thank you to my family and friends and this beautiful community of fellow writers for your continued support. I am thankful to God and the Directors/Producers of this show for giving me a shot at doing something that brings me a lot of joy!

P.S.

If you’re in the Charleston, SC area and are interested…we’re still casting for my counterpart, Eugene! The character is a very fair-skinned African-American male in his thirties. No acting experience needed, just a passion to learn and give your best! 🙂

 

 

[04.06.18 UPDATE — We have fulfilled the role of Eugene guys! Thanks for the interest my friends…I meant to update this sooner!! Our opening night is May 27, 2018 in Charleston. Post a comment or send me a message for more information on how to catch me and my hot, amazingly talented -also hottt- co-star on stage! And don’t forget to let us know what awesome events you have going once!]

 

[05.13.18 UPDATE — Due to unforeseen circumstances, this production has been cancelled. However, you can’t keep a good crew down! Instead of a full production of “Yellowman” by the illustrious Dael Orlandersmith, we will be doing a stage reading of
“We are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia” at PURE Theatre in Charleston, SC on May 27 @ 7pm, May 31 @ 8pm, and June 3 @ 7pm. IT’S TOTALLY FREE! SO bring the family and enjoy a creative, re-telling of the awesome production, “We are Proud to Present…”!]

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Personal Anecdote

What Disney & Marvel’s “Black Panther” Means for Marginalized Voices

If you’re a writer (or ANY creative talent from a marginalized community tbh), thank the creators and actors involved in this amazing film for blowing open a door that’s only had a small wedge in it for decades.

I personally have so many #FEELS after watching (and rewatching!) the film that seems destined to redefine the landscape of the “superhero origin story”. I wrote on social media that I had so many thoughts and reactions as a woman, a nerd, a person of color, as well as a black female nerd (because each of those realities has been a different experience growing up!). Each of one those consciouses is at war for dominance right now.

But the writer is winning.

Here’s why:

While television has been known, especially in recent years, to break the boundaries on marginalized voices: Hollywood is still notoriously #whitewashed and #maledominated. Those stories, those heroes (and villains) are still the loudest, most publicly recognized and most awarded on the big screen.

We’re all familiar now with the tropes of a blockbuster movie, so I won’t take the time to spell them out. Let’s just remember #OscarsSoWhite is still a relevant movement, not only due to institutionalized prejudice, but also to the belief that marginalized stories are only important to the communities telling them. Women go see chick flicks, nerds go see sci-fi, LGBTQ+ communities watch gender identity/”alternative” sexuality movies, etc.

Of course many of you (being the beautiful people that you are) are thinking, “Hey I watch movies with casts that don’t look or live the same way I do. And I know lots of popular movies like that.” But remember: popular does not always translate to lucrative.

We remember films we thought would break the barriers, but unfortunately, fell short at the box office:

Milk (2008) – $54.6 million, Birth of a Nation (2016) – $16.8 million, Fences (2016) – $64.4 million

And there have been a few films featuring marginalized groups, cultures, or lifestyles that met or exceeded our expectations:

Brokeback Mountain (2005) – $178.1 million , Hidden Figures (2016) – $236 million , Sex and the City (2008) – $415.2 million [Because proper any portrayals of sexual liberation for women is still an issue!]

But I would argue that no recent (or long past) films have been popular, have been lucrative, have been critically-acclaimed, and have been able to engender such poignant conversations on race, cultural representation, feminism, and historical narratives as this film as done ALL while featuring a predominantly non-white, mixed gender cast.

If you disagree, I dare you to call me out with a better example at any time in film history.

Black Panther is shattering box office records left and right. At the time of this post, it has already grossed a projected $235 million opening weekend debut, breaking at least seven records and landing in the top 10 of at least nine more! That’s amazing for any movie, but it is especially incredible for a film with a lead actor wearing a big-cat-themed leotard.

Director Ryan Coogler [Fruitvale Station (2013), Creed (2015)] and his amazing, star-studded cast accomplished by staying true to their mission of using the fictionalized nation of Wakanda to create an authentic, honest Afrocentric perspective. The creators and cast pulled no punches whatsoever in their dialogues. This movie tackled some huge issues that are relevant topics of discussion: colonialism, contemporary effects of slavery, cultural representation, global politics, and familial value systems.

It is also featured some glorious, underrepresented features of African culture: scarification, lip plates, masks, tribal garments, colors, ancestral worship, dancing and drums! Be still my beating heart.

It was fun for the whole family, no matter what your family looks like. It created an inclusive atmosphere for sharing the story of millions of people whose voices have traditionally be shut out without mixing words or downplaying solid, historical truths. It also did that without sacrificing great writing for good jokes. We took these characters and their world seriously the entire way through the film. And we were forced to consider not only their decisions and world purview, but our own as well.

I say thank you to everyone who contributed to this film. I know there are so many more posts I can (and probably will!) right about it. However, it was most important for me to go on record as saying, if you come from a culture, a lifestyle, a birthright that has been largely ignored or marginalized in the past, this film should excite you. Even if it did not represent your unique truth, it offered proof that our voices are all capable of creating something valuable and lucrative.

Our voices are all relevant. And our voices don’t have to labeled “marginalized” anymore. We’re just waiting on writers like you with the boldness and daring of these creators to give us the next record-shattering, truth-giving narrative.

 

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Creating Your Perfect Story Arc, Writing 101

5 Steps to Better World Building

There’s something so captivating about a fictional setting that lulls you into submission. However, there’s also something so disappointing about a world that’s unfortunately “beyond belief.”

Every writer and poet can benefit from a lesson or review in worldbuilding because every story has a setting that occurs in some form of time and space. The best storytellers (including nonfiction writers!) can craft a world around their protagonists that becomes a character of its own, that lives and breathes, and that acts upon the protagonists in the story with as much intensity as any villain or friend.

There are countless examples of authors who give us worlds that we are just as enamored and enthralled with as we are with the characters that made them famous. From J.R.R. Tolkien’s mind-blowing land of elves and orcs in the award-winning The Lord of the Rings series to the engaging landscape of 1980s Iran from the mind of 14-years-old Marjane Satrapi in the nonfiction graphic novel Persepolis

So how do YOU do it? Well, we’re going to look at some of the greats at this. As I said, there are COUNTLESS writers we can point to…these are just some of my favorites. Feel free to give some examples of your own in the comments below!

Here are my 5 fool-proof starter steps to worldbuilding:

1. There’s a science to this thing.

You don’t have to get Star Wars technical about how you write your next great literary work, but trust me that it does need to make sense. Our suspension of disbelief does not qualify you to suspend good effort from the backstory. Your world should be self-explanatory and answer some key questions about why your setting is the way it is or how it came to be. Don’t just say it…make me believe it.

       

via GIPHY

For the same reason that Newton’s apple fell out of the tree in the real world, the laws of physics (or possibly lack thereof) should apply in ways your readers can wrap their minds around. Just because you have a futuristic sci-fi thriller that involves instantaneous time travel, does not mean you get to jump over the small details. What kind of change does that have on the time stream or the human body? Does your story involve magic? Well, magic has rules just like everything else in the world. Does it work like a muscle from the inside out that one has to develop or does it work like a tool from the outside in that one has to master?

If you are writing an epic fantasy, please be aware that armies do not move thousands of men across vast distances in days…or even weeks….in the olden days, it could take years to get armed military forces, supplies, rations, weapons, and animals from one place to the next. In HBO’s TV adaptation (“Game of Thrones”) of the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, multiple epic plot points of the storyline happen in between military movements, in castles far from the bloodshed. So, keep these things in mind as you’re creating the plot line and building up to the epic battle scenes of your story.

       

via GIPHY

If you’ve built a world that is expansive, be prepared to play the long game with yourself. Travel over mountains and valleys, desserts and snowy terrain, marsh and beaches. How are the supplies ferried from wherever they come from to the troops? Are there weak points in this system that the enemy can exploit? Who are the major players making these decisions? Who are the major players on the ground working with and over the troops? Do they have the same agenda?

If it takes years to get where you want to go in your story because the world you’ve built has to be explored and the science or geography has to be explained, then tell us what is happening during the down time to build up to that climatic moment in the book (or series)? What is building up in the world, in the warring communities, to key individuals and organizations? Make the world you’ve built for your characters work for you, not against you. 

2. Define points of interest.

I see new writers (and even some veterans) who mess this up in their worldbuilding frequently, so it ranks pretty high on my list. At some point in the writing process, a writer can get so excited about their work and the world they are describing that they take us on a literary tour of every place and point of interest. Well, just like every country has its capitol cities and points of interest, so too should your story, book or poem. If there are a myriad of amazing places to visit in the world you are creating, then that is awesome. We want to read about them all…just not in the same chapter and sometimes not even in the same book.

There are sequels for a reason.

There are novellas and literary accompaniments (like guidebooks or maps) for a reason. 

Personally, I think a great example of how to do this well is J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. If you haven’t read this dark, paranormal romance then you should. It’s littered with amazing, indecent leading males and females who cover the gamut of hotness, ferocity and chivalry. It is also an epic example of worldbuilding in the modern era. Set in the real life borough of Caldwell, New York, the Brotherhood fight a hidden battle that goes from the city streets to the rural farmlands to underground hospitals to a mansion in the woods to a cave in the mountains to so on and so forth. However, most of each novel takes place in no more than two or three locations. 

Over the course of 15 plus books, two spin-off series, and a host of novellas and anthology short stories, Ward has taken us through every nook and cranny of this would-be small setting, expanding it with relish and fervor in our minds. But she never felt the need to give us too much at once. As you build the world your characters live in make sure that the major plot points are happening in a manageable amount of places. Not only does it help you keep your story from running away from you, but your reader can process these snapshots of places in each story much more than they can handle being ridden around the globe in every novel you write.  

3. A good setting is organic…it develops.

The trick to this is that you can’t be afraid of change. I know what you’re thinking. “I spent so much time creating this idea and making it work….” And it can continue to work, but don’t be so frigid about the how. The same way that characters can grow and develop in ways you didn’t originally plan, so can your characters’ world. Maybe the endless universe suddenly comes to an end or the someone kicks over the playground bully’s bike for the first time. Whether the change is small or grand, it doesn’t matter. Epic comes in all sizes.

In the Harry Potter series, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is a perfect case; the entire setting is actually created to shift at will with moving staircases and rooms that change positions and characters in paintings who go from frame to frame throughout the castle. Hogwarts also undergoes numerous transformations during the Golden Trio’s (Harry, Ron and Hermoine’s) time. These changes were not just the physical sort as when the school regenerated itself after the major battle of the last book, but also in the nature of how Rowling described Hogwarts according to what was going on in each novel. 

There was a sense of awe and amazement during the first novel as Harry acclimated himself to the Wizarding World, and as time went on the magical happenings of Hogwarts began to be described as more and more commonplace because both the main character and the readers were growing accustomed to it. Another example is the atmosphere of the books during Hogwarts’s takeover by the corrupt Ministry of Magic. It goes from being a safe, secure haven to being the threshold of the enemy. Things get darker and heinous very quickly in the same place where peace and joy once reigned.

   

via GIPHY

Rowling’s ability to take the same setting and play on different emotions based off of the needs of the scene is amazing. She demonstrates how influential both physical and metaphysical changes in worldbuilding can be. Keep this in mind as you work through your own manuscripts. Are you taking advantage of changes in season, day and night, destruction of important or holy places or maybe even the creation of them to add a different dimension to your story?

4. The setting and the plot should mirror.

This step goes hand in hand with the previous one. Just as your setting should develop along with your plot line, it helps to paint a picture for the reader if the setting and plot mirror each other as well.  Take for example, the dystopian page-turner Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins about a girl from an outlying, poor district of the fictional country of Panem accidentally getting in the middle of a rebellion to overthrow the country’s despot. Katniss could have grown up in the Middle Ages for all the poverty, wildness and brutality of her original home, District 12, verses the vibrant El Dorado of The Capitol.


via GIPHY

The series (and movies) also take us through technologically advanced training and monitoring centers …


via GIPHY

…as well a harsh and unforgiving wilderness where the children of this country do battle.


via GIPHY

The genius of Collins’s writing style is that the various settings of Panem play together in such a way as to show the depths of the hypocrisy, classicism, and machiavellianism that run rampant in this culture. The setting pushes the plot without any of the characters necessarily pointing it out. Their reactions and responses to each new place (and how these responses differ from character to character) add a unique layer to the overall themes and arc of the story.

5. Make your setting is the main character of your story.

To help keep that organic flow we discussed earlier, you have to think of your setting like it’s another character. What is its backstory? Is it the protagonist or the antagonist? If your world could make a wish, what would it would wish for? Who or what is standing in the way?

When worldbuilding you have to have a setting that is as integral to the storyline as the characters themselves. There’s something very anticlimactic about a reading a book, thinking it’s well-written, but it could have taken place anywhere. This was my foremost thought after reading Soundless by critically-acclaimed author Richelle Mead. Now, I’ll mention Ms. Mead again in subsequent posts because I really am a huge fan of her work. Her YA series Vampire Academy and its spin-off Bloodlines totally inspire me as far as emphasizing the diversity of feminine strength and the power of being able to write distinct roles for girls that do not succumb to the same modern pitfalls of most novels.

However, Soundless, a story about an ancient Chinese girl from an isolated, deaf-mute village in the mountains who wakes up one day as the first person in generations who can hear, does not meet the mark as Mead’s previous stories did. It wasn’t the characters who were an eclectic mix of youth battling between the traditions of the past and needs of the future or the storyline which had ample plot twists (though the ending was quite contrived). The most basic issue I had with the novel was that it could have happened anywhere. I kept asking myself, “Why is this girl Chinese? Why a mountain? Why not Polynesian and on an island or Scottish-American living on a rural farm?” The characters didn’t the setting, and the setting didn’t need the characters. Their relationship was accommodating towards each other at best.

Remember that you can’t force your characters into a world that doesn’t make sense or force your world to adhere to pre-created plot points for your characters. Don’t build up how treacherous a mountain is or how rare the golden goose egg is and then every five chapters someone finds a new egg or scales the mountain with only a few bruises and scrapes. And never write a story where the world you’ve set it in is unimportant to the storyline. It’s one of the most important characters you can write.

I hope that these steps help you on your journey towards crafting a better work of art. Writing is something that you have to work at, and you’ll find that all the magic happens in the editing. My goal is that this guide makes your process that much more effective and thoughtful.

Are these helpful hints for you or were you expecting something else entirely? There are so many points to better worldbuilding or other books and stories that make great examples beyond the ones mentioned here. Share in the comments what books you would have chosen or which steps help you in your process? This way we all get to be a part of the process.

Don’t forget to share!

I can’t wait to read what you’re writing! 

—xoxo MéShelle

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Personal Anecdote

The Rape of ‘Wonder Woman’

You think of her as strong. resilient. untouchable.

But – she was touched. She was hurt. She was violated.

And for the first time – the very first time – you think, just maybe, “Wonder Woman” can lose. Wonder Woman is fallible; Wonder Woman is broken.

 

And it’s a lie.

 

It’s a sham.

Bad marketing.

But for that one agonizing moment, you did believe it.

As a writer, we do not have the luxury to believe bad marketing. As [great] writers, we do not have the luxury to write bad marketing. We market only in the truth. The first step to compelling storytelling is to be real. And what’s real isn’t always sugar plum fae-ries. Sometimes it’s raw and comes from a dark and unpleasant place. But that’s what your readers expect and need from you. They need your darkness, just as they need your light. So don’t fall for the hype.

Those who have been raped and sexually assaulted are not victims. They are survivors. They may have lost something in that battle, but the war is far from over. I’ve begun to write a character who experiences this trauma herself because it’s the only way I know to positively filter out my feelings [other than this blog]. Can I be honest with you? I was sideswiped this week, and it was not a great feeling.

You know that hopeless, rug-pulled-from-under-you feeling I’m talking about.

There have been so many articles, blogs and news stories about rape culture and the nature of sexual assault and misconduct in America. There is NO rock you could have been hiding under to miss the overwhelming flood of reports over the past few years about the horrific acts of powerful media moguls, famous athletes, college sports hopefuls, teachers, high-ranking military personnel, and even trusted, childhood heroes. For most of us the most disheartening part is the knowledge that these public, frequent events are not even the tip of the iceberg. We know that there are more out there, have always been and our fear is that they always will be. However, the truth is that news travels in fast, and old news travels out faster. In our society, anything constantly in our face annoys and alienates us, especially when it’s sad or psychologically probing. The only thing most of us can fill our brains with nonstop are cat videos and reruns of “Finding Dory.”

                                           [via tumbler – itslolit-a]

“Out of sight, out of mind” is more than just an old Merriam-Webster quote. It’s the continual salt bath we throw on society’s wounds. It’s the sore we won’t allow to heal. Understanding this helps us understand why we allow this cycle of subjugation to continue. Oh, and just so you know the scope of this epidemic in our country: It’s not just the subjugation of women. Sexual assault checks all boxes: men, women, trans, children, adults, elderly, poor, rich, free, incarcerated, military, civilian. Anyone who is a person can be a victim. According to RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization) someone in America is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds! That’s insane. It gives that opening song from “RENT” a wayyy more sinister vibe.

                                                                                                  [via tumbler – springawakenings]

That’s 321,796 people a year.

That’s inexcusable. Yet a fact that most of us go all day without thinking about. To be honest, this post has taken awhile to be written because I’ve gone the past few days thinking of little else.

To put this in perspective: While over 300,000 people is a terrible amount, it’s still less than 1% of the US population. It’s actually less than 0.5%. So I [and many of you] have been blessed that it’s never truly affected my life in any direct manner. It has saddened me. It has made me write a few Facebook posts. But it has never rocked my core. Until it happened to my Wonder Woman.

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Personal Anecdote

How I Knew I Had to Write…

Not everyone can say they’ve been writing their whole life, including me.

My relationship with the “ink and quill” didn’t formally kick off until I was 10 years old.  Half bribed, half dragged into a chair by my 5th grade teacher, I had a piece of paper and a pencil, plus the promise that I could skip leaving the classroom for lunch, recess, art, and music class so I would have time to finish a poem on “Backgrounds” for some arbitrary competition. [More on that poem and the significance of it in my life….on a later date!] Why would I be so lucky as to skip all of my FAVORITE out-of-class activities? My teacher waited until the last day for submission to tell me that there was even a contest. Well, obviously I was excited about rising to the occasion (although I silently resented missing lunch with my friends to eat by myself in the classroom), and I knew I wouldn’t need that many hours to complete the task. As a matter of fact, I set a goal to be finished before the music ended with enough time to sing a few bars before art. I reached that goal and then some. My piece that was barely submitted on time ranked #1 in the Clayton County School District and continued on to place in the top 10 in the state of Georgia.

That went a long way to boost the confidence of a kid who’d just hit double digits and felt like it was time to start making something of herself. Great grades just weren’t as exciting or challenging for me by that time (and to be honest, that trend would become a problem for me in college, but that’s for another post!), so I needed an outlet. Writing seemed like an interesting venture. I’d never competed against myself before that moment.

I had a lot of pent up words to share…even if I just shared with myself.

So, I started with notes and poems and thoughts. Suddenly, everyone knew about my award-winning debut as a poet. There were spare journals, diaries, notebooks and all manner of floral, sparkly, pastel stationery in my room. They seemed to be taking root and sprouting out of the walls, under the covers, inside the drawers and behind the closed doors of the closet. Every birthday, Christmas, moving day, spring cleaning, or “just because it’s Wednesday” gift featured something to write with or on. The expectation was obvious, yet mostly unspoken….so was the pressure. Continue reading

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