Advocacy, Health and Wellness

Overcoming Decades of Childhood Grief

My recent debut as a solo author, “I Wanna See Laney’s House”, reveals a decades-long journey towards spiritual growth and mental wellness. It begins with a tragic moment at the family home on Linden Avenue in East Pittsburgh. A dark night of the soul unfolds when one sister is hit by a car and the other hit by depression.

I have a riddle for you: How does a 5-year-old girl recover from depression? Click to read the full article on Kidsburgh online magazine to find the answer. . .

Author Talk Session & Book Signing: A Community Success

I have a question for you: What do you do when you have a vision with little time to pull it off, not sure who will come, and not sure if it will even work? I’m sure you know the answer…you do it anyway

God dropped a vision into my spirit recently to bring together 10 authors living in the city of Pittsburgh, along with members of the community, to engage with one another, to learn from one another, and to bless one another. The event was billed as “Building Community through Literary Arts”. I began by reaching out to authors I had met through daily living—on Uber rides, attending bookstore events, and social media.

It was the same with the guests. I just put it out there and got some folks in attendance who were just the right people to be there; even had some young people there! The venue was spot on for how I set up the “Meet the Artist” activity. The idea was to have the authors behind the scenes until everyone had eaten. Then unleash the guests to find the authors using a raffle card showing only pictures of their books. The authors were waiting in two separate areas designated as Author Alley 1 & 2. The guests who participated and filled their card were then put in the raffle drawing for individual gift bags that had been donated by the authors themselves—including tee shirts, mugs, bookmarks, books and more. 

Partial list of authors: View the Author Gallery for the complete lineup.

  1. Devantae Butler (Breakthrough from Isolation to Elevation)
  2. Kyosho John Morgan Hamilton (Participation)
  3. Mark Craven (Karyeator)
  4. Rick Claypool (Leech Girl Lives)

I also invited a visual artist by the name of Tranikka Powell, an incredibly gifted young woman who showcased many of her pieces for the amazement of the guests as part of the “Meet the Artist” raffle. We auctioned off one piece called the “Lion Queen”. What I absolutely love about Tranikka’s work is that there is a life story behind each piece; about family, God, relationships, etc. She also presented us with a live event sketch at the end of the evening.

And there was the hospitality crew: hostess Victoria Dorsett (a local high school student) and caterer Vickey Giddens of Vickey Soul Grill Takeout and Catering in Mckeesport PA, a new startup supported by the Mon Valley Launch Box (a business incubator) and Idea Foundry (a business accelerator). The venue, The Beauty Shoppe Pitt Building, provided support as well with a staff member by the name of Sophia. I loved her spirit as she jumped right in, joined the conversation with the authors, and even helped with the cleanup. A young man by the name of Tacumba Turner was the photographer/videographer. One of the things he did was interview each author separately. (Can’t with to see what he produces!)

The highlight of the evening was the moderated Author Panel Discussion where we dived right into the topic of building community through literary arts. Each author gave a bit of their personal story and their writing testimony. Several moderated questions were presented which made for a dynamic, transparent and authentic discussion. The guest participated by asking their own questions, adding comments, and sharing some of their own personal experiences. Breakthroughs were made, prayers were sent up, and new relationships forged. Everyone contributed to building the community conversation. It was an amazing sight to behold!

The next step in the vision is twofold. First, launch a quarterly series of similar events in 2020 (Feb, May, Aug, Nov). And second, officially launch the “Write Source Community Book Club”, which will include a Facebook community for others to participate. Additional details will follow soon.

If you would like to be informed of what’s happening next, please join our mailing list. You can also visit my website, The Place to SOAR, to see what else is on the horizon.

“Always do more to SOAR!”

Musings of A Struggling Writer

I wrote this piece back in June of 2017 as I was struggling to finish I Wanna See Laney’s House, my debut publication as a solo author.

I confess that I am a struggling writer. I often struggle with my writing because I have so much to say but need to organize and structure my thoughts in order to say exactly what I really mean. Other times I
struggle because I have an idea in the recesses of my mind but I struggle to find the right words to communicate or express it. Still other times I can write an entire chapter or a poem in my head while taking a shower.

Creative writing sometimes needs a catalyst. You feel something inside; you can’t quite make it out but you know it’s there. I am struggling right now with writing a book, a spiritual memoir, to be exact. It’s a book that has been inside of me for years, wrapped up in childhood trauma, guilt and fear, a progressively changing identity, deepening spirituality and a hotbed of emotions. I realized there was something there after making a monumental decision to leave corporate America. Towards the end of
2012, I found myself in a difficult situation with a new manager who had a very different value system than my own. It happened at a time when I was already at a crossroads in my life.

I was at the right age with enough years of service under my belt to seriously consider early retirement. I was also yearning for independence and a real shot at building my own business. As a matter of fact, I had a vision one day while leaving work; a vision of stepping off of a cliff and just
soaring in the air, not falling but soaring. Shortly thereafter, I had an incredibly distasteful conversation with my manager.

When it was all said and done, when the steam stopped coming out of my ears, I knew it was time to move on. I gave myself a few days to mull it over then penned a rather lovely resignation letter—no struggle with that piece of writing. Suffice it to say, as of February 1, 2013, I no longer had a 9-5 job. Breathe.

Several months after my resignation, something unexpected happened. I had met a woman on Facebook who was hosting conference calls about mothers living their dreams and aspirations while being mothers, wives, caregivers, etc. She had gone through some dramatic life experiences that left her broken until she realized that she still had dreams and aspirations she wanted to achieve. She was also the compiler for an anthology of 30 writers, all women, and she invited me to be a contributing author.

I had always been pretty good at writing in general and had suspected for years that there was a book inside of me—though by no means did I actually consider myself a writer. After hearing the concept for the book, in the midst of pure uncertainty and bonafide fear, I said yes.

The book, Motherhood Dreams and Success: You can Have It All, originally published in 2014, turned out to be a gem, a collection of 30 incredible stories; stories of heartbreak, struggle, and pain juxtaposed with victories, triumphs and breakthroughs. Two things came out of that experience; first, it was an honor to be counted amongst the fellow authors; and, second, that 1500-word chapter was the creative catalyst I needed to begin the journey towards a solo book project, the spiritual memoir I mentioned earlier.

I started writing the memoir in 2015. I developed a rough draft for the first chapter, then stopped dead in my tracks. I struggled. I simply couldn’t go any further. Then I attended a one-night women’s revival at my church. At the end of the service we were like a river, all standing around the altar and praying, like women do. It was one of those serious, God-is-in-the house moments, where all these women were praying and crying together.

Right in the midst of that day-of-Pentecost moment, God spoke directly into my spirit, informing me that the reason I was unable to write is that I was simply not digging deep enough. He reminded me that it’s the depth of the journey that matters and if I do not dig through all the layers of trauma and emotion, I will never be able to write the truly authentic story that is in my
head. So I started digging, peeling stuff away to reveal the real story that is my life.

Though the struggle continues, my goal is to have the manuscript completed by June of this year. I am learning some very valuable lessons as I write. Hopefully these lessons learned will help other struggling writers out there. Happy struggling…I mean writing!

  1. As a writer, it is often a struggle to get the raw data out of your head. (My friend Lynn told me that.)
  2. Embrace the struggle, envisioning the life and the structure of your story as you write.
  3. The pool of human creativity never runs out, the more you create the more you have to create. (Maya Angelou taught me that.)
  4. Life is a never ending story and we are each a book in God’s eternal library.
  5. Writing is a function of your identity—know that only you are you and you must understand who you are to tell a truly reflective story.
  6. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper when you write; that’s where the golden nuggets lie.
  7. If writing is your gift, then you are a writer 24/7.

God’s Eternal Story

Every person’s story is a microcosmic enactment of God’s eternal story, a portrayal of His relationship with humanity. Written with a cathartic tone, this sibling story reveals an adventurous testimony of the presence of God over the entire course off a lifetime. It is a testimony of developing faith and struggle for identity, personal acceptance, and self-liberation.

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Have you considered writing your story? If yes, what is holding you back from getting it done? The written word is a testimony to the human experience in a given period of time. Each of our lives represents a single chapter with many verses and multiple storylines, filled with old testaments and new. It will be difficult, no doubt, first to get started and then to finish. Just know that your story is a growth journey, either fruitful and purposeful or stunted and stuck. Either way it deserves to be told.

I took the steps to begin writing my story back in 2015. I had participated in a collaborative project shortly after leaving my corporate career behind. That particular book, Motherhood, Dreams and Success, was my first venture into the world of self-publishing.

This book, I Wanna See Laney’s House, is a personal triumph. The structure of the book was crafted post-it-note by post-it-note on my bedroom wall. I had to dig deep to overcome inner obstacles. I had periods when I simply could not write, the words refusing to flow, my mind refusing to process difficult emotions.

Finally at the end of 2018, three years from the very first set of post-it-notes, I submitted the manuscript. Wow, how good that felt! After the editing process, it felt even better when I got the email saying the book was ready to go to print. I hope you read and enjoy my chapter of God’s eternal story. I encourage you to write your own.

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