Posts Tagged ‘people I love’

This is Mr. My President and Mrs. My First Lady’s last night in the White House. I’m sure they’re doing it up, dancing and laughing through every room, singing old songs and clinking glasses. I’m betting there’s even a little cuddling under that last piece of mistletoe they saved just for this night. I’m sure they’re looking forward to having the tiniest bit of their real lives back — they won’t get too much of a return to normalcy, but that smidgen will surely feel like heaven.

Just about every day since Mr. My President was elected, I have said a prayer for him. (Does this surprise you? You couldn’t be more surprised than I’ve been.) Every clear night, I’ve given up my wish on the first star for him. I’ve prayed and wished for his life, for his health and safety, for the health and safety of his family, for him to have the love and support of his rockstar lady-wife and his fabulous daughters, for him to find the way to be the president we voted for.

Eight years of wishes. Eight years of dreams. And now I have to learn to say goodbye.

It hasn’t been an eight-year love fest. There have been those times … those times when Mr. My President has annoyed me, angered me, disappointed me, driven me crazy. He has backed things I’ve wished he wouldn’t, and turned his back on things I know he should have picked up and carried. But he’s always been my president, and I have always loved him, will keep on loving him. I love his poise, his sense of humor, his intelligence, his graciousness, his calm, his speechifying, his love of children, his measured contemplation of issues, his friendship with Uncle Joe, his love for his family … and most especially, his love for Michelle. For eight years he has stood center stage showing us what Black love can look like, showing us strength and grace, swagger and humility. And now, in his last act of modeling classy behavior, he will hand over this country to a man he would surely rather read for filth. And he will do it with dignity. Of course.

Thanks, Obama.

(Surprise me tomorrow morning and change your mind about Leonard. It’s really the one thing I’ve most wanted you to do these last eight years. There’s still time.)

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Before I wrote my slice, before I splurged and took a cab home from Brooklyn Heights …

before I stood in the cold on a windy Montague street laughing with Mercedes and hugging her goodbye …

before I rode the R train from SoHo to Brooklyn …

before Mercedes and I ate lukewarm-but-still-delicious asparagus soup and sandwiches in an Italian place I never saw before on Lafayette …

before I found Mercedes waiting for me in the REI on Houston where she had just bought new hiking boots for her coming-this-summer trip to Machu Picchu …

before I walked up Broadway from Prince Street marveling at how all the stores seemed to sell the exactly same clothes and that all of them seemed to think the world is peopled by young white women planning for Coachella …

before I ran into a co-worker with her mom on the train …

before I stepped outside and realized trusting the weatherman was going to leave me shivering all night …

before putting on my coat and leaving the office …

I looked at the clock and realized it was time to head to SoHo to meet up with one of the dearest people I know, my beloved sister-from-another-mister, Mercedes, who is in town from Mexico for just a few days!!

It’s the Slice of Life Story Challenge! Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the rest of the slicers are up to … and to post the link to your own slice!

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I had a ridiculously late lunch yesterday, walking out of my building at 3:15 to find something I could buy and eat quickly enough to be ready for a 4pm meeting.¹ I walked outside, turned the corner and immediately saw a man coming up the block. It took a nanosecond for my brain to do the processing:

I turned the corner and immediately saw a good-looking Black man with a nice afro coming up the block.

familiar good-looking Black man with a nice afro coming up the block.

familiar-because-he’s-famous good-looking Black man with a nice afro coming up the block.


Seriously. Neil deGrasse Tyson, in all his smooth-walking, self-assured glory. Dr. I-Make-Astrophysics-Crazy-Cool. Dr. I’m-in-a-Superman-Comic Tyson.²

Oh, do I need to tell you I am a science geek and Tyson fangirl?

But I was calm. Ish. I neither stopped walking and pointed frantically nor threw myself at him. Sadly, however, I couldn’t quite function well enough to either take out my phone and snap a pick, or better still, take out my phone and ask to take a selfie with him. Alas. All I could do was stare (yes, very cool). He gave me a knowing smirk and kept it moving.

Neil deGrass Tyson, people!

“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”

Is it any wonder I was starstruck? As Dr. Tyson so grandly informs us, he’s made of “star stuff.”


It’s the Slice of Life Story Challenge! Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the rest of the slicers are up to … and to post the link to your own slice!

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¹ Ha! As if I could kid you that I had anything in mind other than pizza!

² No, really. He charted the location of Krypton for the Man of Steel.

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It’s the ninth of April. That means it’s time for another in the line of birthday poems I’ve written for my god daughter, my lovely, lovely niece. She is 16 today, a fact that fascinates me as much as it freaks me out.

Sweet Sixteen

Too old to call “baby.” In my heart, you’re always that two-year-old flirting with the mirror, who already knew what I have yet to fully learn: that she was everything, was enough. I mark this moment of your arrival. This sixteen-year love. There is only this wonder, this devotion, this all-I-have-is-yours. Sixteen years in love with your cleverness, your laughter, your imagination, your charm. Sixteen years. I watch you — taking notes, learning from your lead. Sixteen years. Every truth of you expanding my heart.


Are you writing poems this month? Where can I see them? Let’s share this craziness!

As I did last year, I’ll be following along with the Poem-A-Day challenge at Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides Blog. Today’s prompt is to write a work poem. Well, not today. Loving my niece is anything but work! You can post your daily poems on Brewer’s page. The top poem from each day will be included in an anthology later this year!

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Ladybugs are supposed to be good luck, right? Isn’t that still a thing? If so, we are steeped in luck here at our weekend getaway house. This place is overflowing with ladybugs. Ladybugs in the spice cupboard, on the windows, on the big triptych painting in the hallway, in the shower with me this morning. I do like ladybugs, and it’s true that I’d be having a very different reaction if we were rich in palmetto bugs or spiders, but it’s also true that there are just a few too many of these little critters flying around here.

Our retreat is coming to a close. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be up pre-dawn to head for the train into Manhattan, and that will be the end of my time in this cozy house with these lovely people. This has been a great time, and I’m glad we’re already looking ahead to planning the next one.

This ladybug house was definitely good luck for me. Now will come the true test of building this time for writing into my day-to-day life.

It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

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Make that, what my world needs now. Most definitely love, sweet love. Thank goodness I have plans for so much of that this weekend.

It’s time for the New York Area VONA retreat! This afternoon I got on a train headed north and I’m now at this lovely farmhouse in the country! This retreat — insert contented sigh — means a weekend full of love. And, of course I mean how much I love my VONA fam and how much they love me. But I also mean love for myself.

This weekend is all about slowing down and taking the time to focus on my writing, something work has made very difficult.

It’s clear to me that I was naive in my perception of what my new job would be like. It is far more high-powered than I’d anticipated. It’s a great job that I’m quite happy to have, but it doesn’t leave me much time. And my work, my writing, has suffered.

I’m not setting and hard targets for the weekend. I am, however, bringing with me my nice, thick notebook, pens and lots of ink, my computer, and the thumbnail sketches for a new comic that have been languishing in my desk for two months. Anything is possible.

And I want that to be true, want anything to be possible. All the time, not just this weekend.

When I talk about my leisurely unemployment this past summer (I want to write “luxuriant,” even though it’s not the right word because it really feels like the right word), I tell people that I recommitted to myself as a writer. I actually say those words. And it sounds weird when I say it, weird enough to jolt me out of my train of thought for a second. But it also feels absolutely correct. I spent a lot of time last summer focused on myself as a creative person, and all that focus made clear to me how much I hadn’t been giving myself and how much I needed to change that.

And then I started my new job. I’ve been running so fast since starting work last fall. The intensity of the pace and the nonstop-ness of it has been overwhelming. A month or so ago I read an article about a bunch of people who work where I work, and one of them made a comment about having a “24-hour job.” I read that and stopped. That’s the problem! I have a 24-hour job. There’s no casual, “Oh, it’s 5:30. I’m heading home,” when the thing I’m working on has to be released/announced/in the paper the next day. You stay till the thing is done. Punto.

And that’s all fine and well, but it also means far less time for all the ways I was enjoying my life over the summer.

And so this weekend. It’s about reminding myself how much I value myself — my time, my creativity, my need to be foolish and fun. Talk about what my world needs now!

It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

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… and a post short.

I had two writing deadlines for March 15th, and I could only make one of them.  Here’s the post I wanted to put up yesterday:

Today is the deadline for writers to get their applications in for VONA 2015. I’m not applying to VONA this year, but my heart is with everyone who is applying. I mentioned VONA to a friend a couple of weeks ago, and said I was feeling sad about not going this year, and she wondered what the point of going would be. After all, she asked, haven’t you already been a bunch of times?

And sure, if three is “a bunch,” I’ve been a bunch of times, but … why on earth would that matter? If you tasted the most delicious food in the world, would you decline a second, third, four-hundredth taste simply because you’d already tried it? My friend, course, doesn’t understand VONA. How could she, when she’s never been?

So, why have I been three times (and why will I apply again in the future)? Here’s the answer I gave to that question when I was asked to address it for VONA’s newsletter:

The simplest truth for why I return to VONA is …. it’s VONA.  A place where I will be surrounded by a universe of talent, where no one will ever say my characters “don’t sound black,” where I’ve never had to explain why my narrator talks about her dead relatives in the present tense, where I will be nurtured by amazing writers, where I can expand the loving, supportive, we’ll-kick-your-butt-when-you-need-it community I’ve been building since my first workshop in 2010.  I will go back as many times as VONA will have me.

Just before leaving for Berkeley, I was fired from a job I’d loved and worked hard at for 12 years.  I’d spent the weeks between that moment and getting on the plane questioning – my judgment, my decisions, my options, my skills.  I was grateful to be able to go to VONA, but worried that going was a luxury I shouldn’t afford myself – surely putting my head down and finding a job was the wiser, more important focus. On Tuesday, I stepped out onto the balcony during break.  a classmate stepped out beside me and put her arm through mine and it hit me: Oh, right, I’m home. This is family. This is curling up in the palms of my ancestors’ hands. This is the only thing I should be doing now because this is about my soul, about my writing.

I recommend VONA to every writer of color I meet.  I’m sure I sound like some crazed zealot when I do, but I am a crazed zealot.  It’s VONA, after all.  It’s VONA, and I will go back as often as I can because every workshop will move me forward, every workshop will give me something new, every cohort will give me something new, every faculty reading will give me life, every moment sitting quietly in my room reading manuscripts and dreaming will fill my creative well.  VONA is different every time, and the “new” it has to offer is always what I need.  VONA is also the same every time: always full of beauty and brilliance, always a warm space of welcome and acceptance, always a challenging space that doesn’t let me belittle or disparage myself, always a reminder that I have work to do and that I’m the only one who can do it, always a reminder that I’m not alone.


I’m working on a story right now, a story that’s due tonight. The story takes place in 1856, and the main character is a child who is a slave. As I’m writing dialogue in this story, I have an annoying voice in my ear telling me that the readers won’t find my dialogue “believable” or “accurate” because I’m not writing in dialect, because my slaves don’t sound some stereotypical way slaves are supposed to sound (read: there’s narry a “gwine” or a “massa” in the piece). Every time one of my characters opens his or her mouth, I’m forced to pause for a second and question my decision not to give them that other language.

As I’m wrestling with that irksome critic on my shoulder, I’m thinking about VONA. Every writing workshop I’ve ever taken outside of VONA, I’ve run into someone telling me my characters don’t “sound black.” I have begun to counter by asking if the speaker thinks I sound black. This usually results in flustering the person and derailing the conversation … and I won’t say I mind that a lot, but I mind it some. Why is there only one way my black characters are able to sound? And who decided what that way was? And, if I don’t sound whatever that way is, why would you think my characters would?

It seems a small thing in my “why go back to VONA” response when I say no one’s going to tell me my characters don’t sound black. Trust me that it isn’t small. Conversation starts from a different place at VONA, and that’s gold, that’s precious beyond measure.*

So tonight I’m thinking about all the beautiful people who are applying to VONA. I’m wishing you all inspiration as you write your application essays, and I’m wishing you the opportunity to have that amazing, mind-blowing, soul-filling experience. We all need VONA. As often as we can get it!

It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

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* Of course, finding the right community isn’t only about surrounding myself with people of color. I was in a writers’ group for many years in which I was the only person of color. Aside from the fact that I loved the women in that group, I think one of the reasons I stayed was the fact that no one ever said anything like that to me.

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