Come hear me read my most awful teenage angsty stuff!
My friend Becca is planning a Literature Month for her church, which is actually one of the coolest churches you’ll ever see. She asked me to send her a writeup about how the written word elevates, challenges and supports my humanity. I didn’t exactly do the assignment properly, choosing instead to write about how my writing does that for me. Here’s what I told her, and hey, buy a kid a diary. You never know where it might lead.
Writing for the exercise itself started as a recreational habit (recreational writing, I’d like to note, is not unlike recreational drugs, but it is cheaper) in grade school. My aunt (who was also my godmother) bought me a diary with a lock — we all know now how easily picked those locks were, but for a young girl developing her own identity, the idea that some physical place existed where I could put my most secret thoughts and feelings? Well, that enchanted me. From a really young age, too, my head had a lot of voices in it and I learned quickly the best way to quiet the chatter was to let the voices have it out somewhere. That diary allowed the voices to have space. As I grew older I realized I didn’t need to allow the voices to construct my reality, and I had an easier time with that when the voices had a physical manifestation.
Over the years, my writing has progressed from diaries — I still keep journals, and yes, more than one — to books and blogs and professional writing. I’m living a writer’s life, a life with an abundance of words. Writing, along with my family group, no small amount of Ashtanga yoga, and meditation, saves me. I tell people I’m a Pantheist Buddhist; writing delivered me to that position. In writing about experiences like kayaking along the upper reaches of the Everglades or snorkeling with sharks, I see god. Likewise, years of journaling about personal triumphs and heartbreaks has shown me how life will always have pain, but that writing has also led me to understand the pain need not define life; so long as I willfully embrace the pain I canalso move past it. Some people pray; I write. It’s a sacred contract I made with myself many years ago and one that’s not always pleasant. I see writing, some days, as utter joy. Other days, I feel about writing the way Catherine felt about Heathcliff in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights: writing is “always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.”
Also, First Unity is hosting a potentially-mortifying event as part of the 4th Annual SunLit festival, and I’m part of it. Bunch of us writers who’ve achieved a modicum of success (indicated by being able to afford non-generic peanut butter) will read our teenage writings alongside actual teenagers. I assume the idea is to make the teens feel like you can write the shittiest dreck possible (no joke, I wrote about the Berlin Wall falling in badly mangled iambic pentameter) and still go on to have a career writing.
Alongside me my editor-in-chief David Warner will also read, as well as Gulfport mayor Sam Henderson, Executive Director of Creative Pinellas Barbara St. Clair, poet Pedro el Poeta, Community Liaison of USFSP Harris Ambush, actor Becca McCoy, Pinellas County School Board Chairperson Rene Flowers, musician Elizabeth Baker, author Lisa Kirchner, First Unity Spiritual Leader Temple Hayes, Executive Director of The Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum Terri Lipsey Scott, and Gallerie 909 owner Carla Bristol.
I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.
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