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  • Rice-A Reason to Fight, Part 2 of 2

    Part 1 can be found HERE While chaos ravaged the city, our household hummed with domestic activity. Caught up in our usual Saturday routine. In the back bedroom, Daddy sat at the small desk he shared with Mommy. After all these years, I can still hear the keys' rapid "click, click, click" and the screech from the sliding of the return handle on the old manual typewriter. Daddy's Underwood served its purpose. It rolled out countless pages of lessons for Bible college students and delivered our family's latest news on blue stationery to loved ones and supporters in America. Our house helper had "conveniently" taken the day off, so Bertie and I were left to complete the chores Mommy had scribbled on tiny bits of paper—chores that felt like a never-ending marathon as we scrubbed, folded, and dusted our way through the morning. At seven, Shawnna’s duties consisted of freeing her bedroom floor of toys and smoothing out her flowery bed covers. Mommy gave her a bottle of formula every few hours to feed our six-month-old sister, Sharminna. To spare herself from Daddy's impassioned lectures on animal cruelty, she needed to remember to feed Blackie. Our shy, chocolate-colored dog proved useless in the face of robbers. Once, when a rogue broke in, he cowered under the bed in fear. At midday, Bertie and I transformed the back porch into a small-scale production line, washing buckets brimming with oranges and limes. Pesky parasites lurked on the surface of fresh produce, invisible to the naked eye. Even bananas required sanitization. The sun bore down on us, and beads of sweat rolled from our arms into the soapy water. My mouth normally watered at the thought of her homemade limeade. Periodically, Mommy gathered the sanitized fruit, extracted the juice with a hand-held juicer, and poured the liquids into ice cube trays. My mouth normally watered at the thought of her homemade limeade, made with those juice-filled cubes she kept in the freezer. But I had reached my limit. I was sick of looking at the countless number of green and orange balls still needing to be washed. My stomach growled. I stood, dried my hands on my dress, and announced to Bertie, "I'm hungry." Not a moment too soon, Mommy called us in for dinner. She had forgotten to set the timer and burned the rice, so our usual two o'clock mealtime had been delayed by an hour. I plopped onto my designated chair at the dining table. Daddy led in prayer before we all dug into the rice and greens with orange slices on the side. After dinner, Shawnna snuggled with Sharminna on the couch. I glanced at them with envy. Their chests rose and fell in a peaceful rhythm while they napped. Bertie and I stood side by side at the kitchen sink, bathed in the warmth of the afternoon sun streaming through the window. We scrubbed pots and pans while Mommy arranged dishes in our new-to-us portable dishwasher. Just when we settled into a rhythm, a knock at the front door interrupted our concentration. Our chatter ceased. We trailed behind Mommy as she led the way. Water dripped on the floor in our wake. She hesitated at the end of the kitchen counter bar before turning the corner. I spotted Nathaniel, a classmate, through the paneled glass door with his nose pressed against the panes. His chest heaved, and sweat glistened on his forehead. We had been friends since grade school. We shared a bench in first grade. He always gushed over my coloring abilities. I chuckled when he told his tall tales. "Monrovia's on fire. Monrovia's on fire." Mommy opened the door, and Nathaniel burst through with an urgent announcement. "Monrovia's on fire. Monrovia's on fire." A frown tugged at the corners of Mommy's mouth. Hands on her hips. Bertie bolted through the open doorway, and I found myself hot on her heels. Blades of grass tickled my bare feet while I sprinted across the yard. I skid to a stop behind Bertie. We stood on the north end of the carpenter shop and faced the pathway leading to King Gray Village. Mammoth-sized pythons lived in the heavy brush below. We played it safe and stayed at the path’s entrance. Our eyes scanned the sky for any sign of smoke coming from the city ten miles away. I should have known better than to believe Nathaniel. The only smoke on the horizon rose from kitchen fires that puffed above thatched rooftops where the tall palm trees nestled. I sat on the ground and let out a sign. “Why Nathaniel always got to lie, so?" Bertie gathered the hem of her dress. "Don't mind him," she called out over her shoulder before she dashed back towards the house. I took a longer route on the dirt road, kicking up small clouds of dust with every step. When I finally arrived home, Bertie greeted me at the door. "Nathaniel's gone. He's carring his lies to the single ladies' house." Windows shattered, shelves overturned. We soon learned Nathaniel's fire story wasn't so far-fetched. The aftermath of the Rice Riots had left a path of destruction that swept through the city like a bubbling volcano. Storefronts lay in ruins. Windows shattered, shelves overturned. Warehouses stood empty, having been stripped of all their contents. The damage to personal and commercial property was immense, with losses totaling more than 35 million dollars. On Easter Sunday, the day after the riots, President Tolbert took to the airways. "I'm deeply hurt and grieved by this national tragedy..." He stated the issue could not be blamed on the proposed rice price because discussions were still ongoing. "If the government had not exercised restraint," he said, "there would have been even more casualties." He welcomed suggestions from the public and offered his condolences to the affected families. In the days that followed, government officials rounded up the dead bodies scattered on the streets and disposed of the corpses in a communal grave. Dozens of political opponents were arrested and charged with treason. After further outrage, the president reversed his decision to raise the price of rice and released those he had jailed. But his efforts only served as a band-aid trying to cover a gaping wound. Days stretched into the remainder of the year, the tension and discontentment simmering beneath the surface settled into a quiet calm. “The "Country People" are biding their time,” Daddy said. “Patiently waiting for the next opportunity to strike.” Still, Bertie and I paid little attention. Part 1 can be found HERE

  • Rice-A Reason to Fight, Part 1 of 2

    1979, Monrovia, Liberia Rice was serious business. Serious as national security, some might say. I didn’t understand the gravity of its effect until one fateful day in April—the day that would be the beginning of the end for our beloved country. Large sacks of rice, branded with foreign logos, were stacked high in just about every shop in town. The locally grown 'country rice,’ sold in smaller sacks, was not as popular with customers and took longer to prepare. It’s coarse, uneven texture looked like the kernels had been hacked off with a dull knife. Country rice required sifting to weed out hulls, dust, and the jet-black pebbles hiding among the grains. The task looked easy for the local women who crouched on the ground, flicking their wrists against their rice fanners. I loved to watch as the wind from their breath sprinkled the chaff into the air. I tried my hand at fanning rice. Sweat trickled down my forehead as I squatted on the front porch, my wrists pressed firmly against the flattened basket. Despite countless attempts to separate the unwanted debris, the good grains always ended up falling at my feet instead of staying in the fanner where they belonged. A meal without rice was not a meal at all. Whether imported or locally grown—a meal without rice was not a meal at all. A Liberian man could snack on juicy mangoes, freshly cracked coconuts, or boiled cassava throughout the day. But if rice hadn’t made it into his belly, he would declare, "I haven't eaten today." Daddy often encountered soldiers on foot when he traveled on dusty roads between villages. Their once-dark green uniforms faded, and their faces were drawn from exhaustion. Villagers showed their gratitude to soldiers entering their town by providing food and supplies. The provisions were always the same—a squawking chicken, a dollar bill, and six cups of rice. At home one cloudy March morning, Mommy served breakfast from her usual spot behind the counter. Thunder rumbled. The promise of rain and the smell of warm, melted butter put everyone in a cheerful mood. Our spoons clinked on bowls of steaming oatmeal while we sat at the kitchen bar. I sprinkled in a generous amount of sugar. And milk. The imported powdered kind. Daddy reached for his little notepad, the one he always kept in his front pocket. He flipped through the pages filled with scribbles and crossed-out entries, landed in the middle, and read his to-do list out loud. I imagined he wanted to get a head start on answering Mommy’s morning questions. Mommy pushed a glass of chocolate milk in front of Sharminna. “Henry, how are you going to get all that done today?” After dipping a corner in his warm tea, Daddy took a bite of toast. “I don’t know, Doris, and I’ve also got to make a trip into town.” “Add rice to your list,” Mommy said. “We’re about to out." She could stretch fifty pounds over an entire month. Rice remained a staple food for us, even after Rosy and Becky left for nursing school. Mommy continued to buy fifty-pound bags at a time, which she stretched over an entire month as long as we didn't have too many visitors dropping in at the precise moment of our afternoon meal. In the world of societal norms, the simple phrase "Come, let's eat" held great significance. Daddy leaned across the counter, turned on the radio, and hummed along with the national anthem—the blaring introduction to the morning news. I joined Bertie in singing the lyrics: "All hail, Liberia, hail. All hail… This glorious land of liberty shall long be ours…” After the anthem, Daddy turned up the volume and scooted back onto his seat, an index finger pressed to his lips. “The news is on. Everyone quiet.” I was content to stay silent. At thirteen, my mind was occupied with adolescent musings, and the background chatter seemed unimportant in comparison. However, within minutes, my concentration was interrupted by a sudden movement from Daddy. I glanced from my breakfast bowl to see him push his half-eaten cereal across the counter. He stood abruptly and slammed his open palm against his forehead, a gesture I knew all too well—a sure sign he’d made a mistake. Normally, he pounded his head three times while muttering to himself, "Stupid, stupid, stupid.” But this time, he hadn’t fumbled. I took a guess. Something on the news upset him. Why hadn't I been listening? I shifted in my seat and glanced across the counter, where he paced the kitchen floor. The skin around his eyes tightened into deep creases. Daddy lowered his head, took a deep breath then blew it out. “If the government goes through with this, there will be trouble... Liberians are serious about their ‘rice business,’ and they’re not going to roll over on their mats this time." "Empty belly can't stand." The tension in the room began to rise. Bertie scooted her chair back with a screech against the linoleum-tiled floor. Her face showed signs of empathy. “Daddy, you know what they say, right? “Who are ‘they'?’” “Liberians—They always say this when they haven't eaten rice.” “What do Liberians say?” “They say, ‘Empty belly can't stand.’” Daddy’s frown turned into a grin. He chuckled. “Isn’t that the truth, my dear. And bellies will be empty if the government persists with this nonsense. We can afford the upcharge, but our Liberian friends will be hard-pressed and hungry." The Country People struggled to make ends meet with an average income of eighty dollars a month. The price of a 100-pound bag of rice, which fed a family for a month, had already risen to twenty-two dollars. The government planned to increase the price to thirty dollars a bag. The Agriculture Minister argued higher rice prices would motivate local farmers to plant more 'Country rice,’ which would reduce the people’s reliance on imported grains. However, Liberian citizens found it difficult to understand how increasing the cost of their main food staple would make the country more self-sufficient. Besides, many of the indigenous rice farms were owned by Americo-Liberians who held high government positions. Increased profits would ultimately find their way into their pockets. As Daddy predicted, the Country people pushed back. Weeks after the announcement, the opposition political group known as the Progressive Alliance of Liberia organized a peaceful rally to express their discontent with the proposed price hike. Bertie and I paid little attention. Liberia was our safe haven. For more than a century, the country had been one of only two African nations to remain independent during Europe's "scramble for Africa." On April 14th, citizens took their grievances to the streets. History would later document this day as the 1979 “Rice Riots.” What had been planned as a peaceful demonstration quickly turned explosive. Details will be forever remembered by those who witnessed it. The thud of footsteps and voices grew louder as the crowd swelled... More than two thousand marched on Monrovia’s streets that Saturday morning, waving plaques and chanting. Police officers stationed along the route prepared to keep order while the rhythmic thud of footsteps and voices rang louder. The crowd swelled to more than ten thousand when Grona boys joined the frenzied atmosphere. President Tolbert sent armed soldiers and tanks to squash the rally, but the protesters persisted. Their voices grew stronger in the face of water hoses and tear gas. Police shot bullets into the air when a group of students broke from the crowd. They marched toward the Executive Mansion, and when a fight broke out at the mansion gate, police opened fire. Citizens fell. Hours later, when the commotion subsided, more than forty demonstrators lay dead, with hundreds more wounded. These “first shots” between the Americo-Liberian government officials and the Country People set the stage for civil unrest that lasted more than twenty years. The end result would forever change the trajectory of Liberia’s history. Still, Bertie and I paid little attention. Part 2 can be found HERE

  • I Am The Biggest Liar Ever

    NOTE: Diary entries are inspirational stories not included in my upcoming book. I must go back to the 1940s when my father was a young sailor. My favorite photograph captures him lounging on the deck of a Merchant Marine ship, basking in the warmth of the sun. His muscular chest is exposed against the backdrop of the sea. The sun has bronzed his 5-foot 11-inch frame, and he's resting carefree on a chair. I can almost taste the salty breeze wafting through the deck railing. Twenty-five years would pass before the man in the photograph would become my father. It is difficult for me to imagine Daddy as a young sailor roaming the streets of Europe with a constant cigarette in hand. Or visualizing him stumbling around Paris in search of fun with "le femmes," as he penned in his diary. Daddy comes to my memory as a serious-minded middle-aged man occupied with the daily grind of fixing things, a scholarly individual well-versed in theology, and a man of passion who loved the whole world. In truth, he would have sacrificed anything to save the souls of men, and indeed, he did. He fixated on upholding his integrity, even though his moral code would shame the most righteous of characters. There were occasional moments of imperfection. He sometimes cursed at an uncooperative appliance that he was trying to fix. While it may have been a serious issue for him back then, I find it humorous to read the entries in Daddy's diary where he expresses his struggles with trying to quit smoking. March 2nd: "An impossible task—I resolved for the hundredth time to cut out smoking. Tomorrow, I hope to abstain from all lust and especially cigarettes." The Next Day: "But someone lied, 'cause I consumed three cigarettes til 10 pm. The pain of drug abstinence is worse than hunger or passion, and it seems that man needs the inspiration to accomplish great works or do the impossible." The Day After That: "I have come to the sad conclusion that I am the biggest liar ever. I deceive myself. What a fool. Course, to be a liar doesn't prevent a fool from trying again." April 18th: "I quit smoking on this Day and night of the 18th of April 1945, and that's a fact. GOD BE WITH ME. I have gone astray like a lost sheep. 'I will lift my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.'" Day after April 18th: "I guess I didn't lift my eyes high enough 'cause I am still smoking today. One thing is sure: I didn't have any hills to look up to." Daddy's brother, my Uncle Bill, a devout Christian, wrote letters to Daddy and his other brother Wayne about the condition of their souls. But Daddy wasn't interested in Uncle Bill's religion, nor did he want to be called out for his "sins" by his younger brother. He wrote in his diary, "Bill clings to his religious convictions as a drowning man would hold to a straw…." But Despite Daddy's disdain, Uncle Bill never gave up and continued sending Daddy religious pamphlets. As time went by, Daddy grew more lonely and increasingly discontent with his life. "I think I am getting fed up with this sea life. By God, I want a wife, a home, and a couple of kids. I want to make a comfortable living and contribute to humanity—I want love and happiness." Daddy's ship broke down and docked for two months off the shore in Singapore. Missionaries forced out of China had set up street meetings where they preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Daddy had had enough of the loneliness and his lack of self-control. After attending the street meetings for many nights, Daddy committed his life to Christ. That night, he told his sea mates of his decision. His testimony was simple: "I'm a sinner saved by grace." This decision was the most critical link in a fantastic chain of events that landed Daddy in Africa, where his missionary career spanned thirty-five years. The war was nearly over when he returned home to South Carolina. With the help of a local prayer group and their unwavering support, he was able to overcome the smoking addiction that had plagued him throughout his time of service. See more excerpts HERE

  • "Where's Amy?"

    President William S. Tolbert's warm greeting on April 3, 1978, marked a momentous occasion—the first time an American president ever paid an official state visit to Liberia. "Standing here beneath the sunny expanse of Africa's skies, we most heartily salute you, Mr. President, Mrs. Carter, Amy, and members of your suite, and with intense warmth, embracingly welcome you…" "It's long overdue," stated President Jimmy Carter in his speech to the Liberian public. "The bonds between our two countries are too strong for such a long period ever to elapse again." President Carter complimented President Tolbert on Liberia's long-term preservation of independence and noted the country's "senior status" among other African nations. He spoke of "a very old friendship," referring to the joint venture when the American Colonization Society encouraged American Blacks to "return to Africa." After Liberia's independence in 1847, the United States drifted away from its "stepchild,"—a term used to describe America's somewhat benumbed relationship with Liberia. Stepchild or not, every Liberian living between the thirty-five-mile route from Robertsfield Airport and the city of Monrovia planned to take up posts along the highway—to get a glimpse of the President of the GREAT United States of America. The day before, volunteers hung tens of thousands of palm branches at ten-foot intervals along the route to welcome him, though he and his entourage would only be staying four hours. The children were especially thrilled to learn that President Carter's daughter, Amy, would accompany him on his visit. Bertie and I couldn't wait to meet her. Meeting Amy meant we hoped she'd acknowledge our existence with a simple wave after we stood in the blazing sun for hours and hours, awaiting the presidential motorcade. April 3 was declared a national holiday, and our entire school, all 300 of us, stretched side-by-side along the highway outside the Carver Mission compound entrance. The sun burned hot across our faces, arms, and legs while we waited. We swayed back and forth in our blue and white uniforms while we practiced our waves for the moment we heard the sound of the government vehicles approaching. I imagined we looked like ground swells creaking the shoreline at ELWA Beach. The waves thundered merely five hundred yards away. Days before, Bertie and I bantered back and forth about who Amy Carter looked like. "I heard she has red hair," Bertie said. "Blond with blue eyes," I said, "and she wears her hair just like I used to wear mine when I was her age. Long with short bangs." Rosy once told me I looked like Amy, and I wanted Bertie to acknowledge it. "You aren't anything like her," Bertie said, "she's the daughter of the President of the United States. You're just a so-so Liberian." "I'm not Liberian. I'm American." "All of a sudden, you're American now?" I roared back and bolted from the room. "At least I'm closer to her age than you are." Maybe Amy would see me in the crowd and realize how much we looked alike. After all, we could be twins. And perhaps she'd tell the driver to stop so she could shake my hand. Then I'd be famous. When the sleek black limousine raced past Carver that day, I threw all my arm strength into a thrashing motion, waving fast and hard. I squinted. My eyes darted from one vehicle to the next while I scanned the car windows, searching for Amy's face. Everyone shouted, "Where's Amy? Where's Amy?" But no one spotted her, not even me. Our chance to meet the President's daughter zipped past like a fast-moving train. Why hadn't Amy looked out the car window to see us cheering? Given all the fanfare in her honor, her nose should have been pressed against the car window. Perhaps the eleven-year-old slept in her mother's lap. That would explain why she didn't acknowledge anyone when we jumped up and down, calling out her name. After the convoy of government cars passed, Bertie and I walked home. I kicked the dirt. My hopes dashed to the ground. Bertie tried to comfort me. "Never mind, Georgie. Just because she's the President's daughter doesn't mean she's better than us. And you're "fine past her." That's all I needed to hear from Bertie. I was "fine past" Amy Carter. Thanks for reading a draft excerpt from my WIP. See more excerpts HERE

  • "Our Daddy Nah Come."

    The three-and-a-half miles from Belefuani to Warta seemed more like a path where elephants trampled than an actual road. Our bus crept along wearily for over an hour. I imagined seeing leopards described from Daddy's stories bouncing on their tails and berry-stained juju rags hanging from vines overhead. But the only threat we faced was a flat tire from dipping in holes the size of an oversized cheese grater. When we pulled up to the mission compound, two men stood on either side of the entrance, their strong arms swinging wide and fast, creating a gust of wind with every flap of their thick palm branches. "Welcome. Welcome. Welcome to Warta!" Palm fronds waving over the bus gave me a sense we were being ushered into a holy city, though riding in on a donkey may have been more fitting than our oversized and dust-filled VW Combi. When we stepped off the bus, a crowd gathered, all vying for a place in front of Daddy's camera, excited and eager to be seen. Daddy beamed as he staged a group in front of hibiscus plants, his expression like a man who just returned home. Once the camera stopped clicking, the children separated from the adults and rallied around Bertie and me like kids at a carnival. Two girls grabbed my hair and snuggled their noses against my split ends while another held Bertie in a face lock, caressing her cheeks like a pet kitten. "How did you get White?" Rosy and Becky smirked from the sidelines, unharmed by the disorderly groping. In a way, Warta differed from all the towns we had seen on our journey that day. Glowing faces expressed a sense of hope and peace not present elsewhere. And the children wore clothes, though some were mere remnants of fabric. I recognized a few pieces—garments I remembered mysteriously disappearing from my closet. A pink pleated skirt Grandma Hungerpiller sent me for Christmas one year, a floral nightie Mommy had sewn for my fifth birthday, and a pair of shiny red shoes I once picked out of a missionary barrel. Harris and Joanna Wiah visited us in the city on occasion, and in exchange for a taxi trunk load of fruit, Mommy gave them our outgrown clothes, school supplies, and sometimes our baby dolls. Mommy found shelter on the bus and waited for the excitement to settle. Daddy, on the other hand, seemed to relish the attention. He invited the boys to test his strength, and I watched as they grabbed onto his bulging forearms, their legs dangling and kicking below. He pumped his arms and let out a hearty laugh as he lifted them effortlessly into the air. "Our Daddy nah come," one of them said. Another repeated, "Yes, our Daddy nah come, oh." Within a few seconds, the whole gang broke into song, "Our Daddy nah come, oh… my people, oh… I tell you… our Daddy nah come," as if Santa Claus had just shown up in their village. Their squeals were more than I could bear. Why were they saying and singing that their Daddy had come? This was our Daddy. Bertie and I were happy to share him with Rosy and Becky, but not with this band of songbirds wearing my old clothes. A hammer slammed through my consciousness, and the truth I already knew in my heart pounded my ears. Our Daddy wasn't solely ours. Daddy's capacity to love and care for the "least of these" became his legacy years before Bertie and I ever existed. We had arrived too late to have him all to ourselves. I knew Daddy would give up his life for any of his daughters, but I would also need to accept he would do the same for these unknowns in the Bush... See more excerpts HERE

  • White People Smell like Raw chicken.

    John Toga was our first "houseboy." Regardless of economic status, almost everyone who hired domestic help used the term—even outsiders like us. People occasionally employed "housegirls," but young men were the favored choice for house help. Our houseboy, John, had a never-ending supply of jokes and pranks that left me doubled over with laughter. I couldn't help but smile every time I saw him, knowing another hilarious moment was just around the corner. His duties varied: cutting grass with a handheld cutlass, burning brush, cleaning windows, collecting trash, and washing large volumes of oranges, limes, and pineapples that Daddy's friend, Harry Wiah, often brought us from upcountry. On Saturdays, He scrubbed the porches, trimmed hedges, and scaled fish if Daddy had caught any the night before. Sometimes, he helped with unpleasant tasks, like slaughtering chickens. Daddy said it was time to butcher the old bird given to us when we moved into the green house. He said I could watch if I wanted to, and I wanted to. My sister, Rosy, reached across my face and put her hand over my eyes. "Turn your head, Georgie." Her warning only heightened my curiosity. I pushed her arm away, planted my bare feet firmly in the sand, and fixed my eyes on the rooster. "I want to see." John clenched his hands around the chicken's midsection. It squealed, clucked, and fought to free itself from his grip. Daddy tied one end of a thin rope around its feet. Then, he pulled the other end, tied it to the rafters of the open shed, and hung the poor creature upside down by its feet. The squawking turned into a high-pitched screech like an alarm clock that wouldn't stop ringing. John handed Daddy the knife and firmed his grip on the chicken's body. With his left hand, Daddy wrapped his fingers around the neck of the chicken and clinched the wooden handle of the blade in his right. "Everyone, stand back." My chest pounded. I stared at the rooster and tried not to blink. When Daddy's hand drew back to strike, John let go, and the bird's head fell clean off on the first try. The rooster's body twitched and convulsed, splattering blood in every direction. Daddy dropped the head onto the ground and hopped backward. I felt the sting of tiny wet drops on my skin and turned my head to prevent my face from being completely showered by the flailing bird. I heard a scream come from the house and turned to look. Bertie stared into the yard from our bedroom window. She had run inside earlier to avoid the assassination but had resorted to peeking through the window instead. Her sensitivity baffled me at times. I didn't understand what the big deal was. It's just a chicken, I thought. John started a fire and heated water in a pot under the sheltered building. Rosy and I squatted beside him while he soaked the bird repeatedly in the scalding water until the feathers loosened. I shielded my nose with my hand to mask the pungent odor while he and Rosy plucked the plumes from the rooster's flesh. John glanced at me, and a mischievous grin plastered his face. "White people smell like raw chicken." I had heard the peculiar statement before but didn't understand what it meant. Rosy laughed. "Don't mind, John, Georgie. You don't smell bad. But your hair does smell funny when it's wet." "Funny, like how?" John's grin turned into a chuckle. "Raw chicken. White people's hair smells like raw chicken." After Bertie and I had bathed that evening, I grabbed a handful of her damp hair and held it close to my nose. I needed to know the truth. Do we really smell like a raw chicken? I threw my head back and laughed. "Bertie, You smell like raw chicken." "No, I don't," she said. "Yes, you do!" I couldn't bear the thought of being the only one wandering around the yard smelling like a freshly butchered chicken, for other than Mommy and Daddy, there wasn't another fair-skinned soul within a ten-mile radius that shared my predicament. Find more excerpts HERE

  • 2 Types of Tribes you need to Survive while Writing a book.

    I'm a little less-than-a-year wiser—a new writer, in rough form, I might add. Embarking on my journey of memoir writing has been both daunting and rewarding. And time-consuming. In addition, there's been a lot of soul-searching, but I'll save that for another post. Let's get straight to the subject of finding your tribes. Yes, tribes. Suppose you are serious about completing a significant writing project like I am. Let me suggest two types of groups that will help you survive your journey. Finding them should be your top priority. Tribe No. 1 - Writing Group/s No. 1 - Writing Group/s The What: Find a writing group or groups of like-minded individuals who can: (a) teach you new writing craft concepts; (b) give honest feedback on your rough submissions; and (c) share writing opportunities. More often than not—I prefer the people in these groups to be strangers. Taking criticism from an unbiased and previously unknown character is much easier. At least, for me, it is. You need a group that will motivate you, but also give honest feedback on your work. Why not bare the brunt of criticism beforehand. Because future readers will be brutally honest, we need to get all the upfront critiques we can before our words are exposed—printed—for all to see? The How: Search for local writing chapters in your area. I'm a member of Word Weavers International. which has chapters all over that world. Involvement in my local chapter has been a game changer for my writing. Word Weavers have both in person and on-line groups. Their forum is primarily for Christian writers with writers of all levels. I also participate in FB and instagram groups, but be selective with these. Some are more for entertainment and promotion than quality information. Another great source I use is an online critique forum called Critique Circle. I've found some really great editors here, and it's free. But you'll need thick skin for some of the feedback. Tribe No. 2 - Prayer/Support Groups No. 2 - A Prayer Tribe The What: Find a prayer or support group of heart-guarded individuals. Notice the word guarded. These are individuals that will emphatically guard your heart. This doesn't necessarily mean your best buds or the ones you enjoy hanging out with, although it could be. For me, the best prayer/support partners are often people who are a little bit removed from my daily life, yet, they are people who I've known for a long while. Ones I have skin-in-the-game with—and I know they can be trusted to guard my heart. The How: Think of the people whose lives you may have, at one time, invested something of value in. An old friend from college, a colleague from a previous job, someone you took a trip with once—and you really connected. It could even be your very best friend. Just not that brand new person who seems to be a superhuman prayer warrior. They haven't been in the trenches of life with you, so don't burden them. You'll both end up disappointed. If you have a large social circle, I advise having five or six support partners, although one or two crucial partners is adequate. You know the saying, "it takes a village to raise a child." Well, the same holds true for successful writers. I'll say it like this. "It takes a whole tribe of people to create a compelling story." Happy Writing.

  • Why writing is like Childbirth

    A long time ago, I bore three children. Natural childbirth, they called it. No fancy epidural to numb the process—the pain was real. I am not bragging. We were poor, and I was grateful for a hospital, but their torture-reducing options were limited. Not too long ago, I started writing a book—a memoir. Natural self induced insanity, I'd call it, with no fancy training manual. The discomfort has been equally real. Unlike childbirth, in writing, I'm grateful I can control the narrative. When the aches come, I stop them. Do a different task... go to bed. I decide what day, month, or year I will finish the manuscript, yet, if I don't push through the pain, I will never give birth to it. "unless it is written brilliantly... this probably won't work. I've joined a few local and online writing groups, and soon I'll be on my way to my first writer's conference. From one of my most recent critiques, which was anonymous, someone wrote, "Memoirs tend to be very much about you, and unless it is written brilliantly, you are famous, and/or the story is something extraordinary, this (referring to one of my entries) probably won't work." I'm not famous. My life isn't extraordinary. And I am not a published author, yet. But I have a story to tell. It matters not who reads it—it matters that it's written. If I wait for brilliance, I'll never write. And so I'll plug along. I've always known I'd write a book some day, but I never imagined how difficult it would be. I'll be honest. I'm struggling. It's been six months since I first put pen to paper and fingers to keyboard, and my first three chapter drafts are painfully ugly. I'll be honest. I'm struggling. Most days, my brain gets fatigued, and my confidence wanes. God only knows how long I'll be pregnant with this book. Yet, I'll admit, the stories that are conceiving deep inside of me fill me with awe, regardless of how terrible the writing is. Why am I writing? I have grandkids now, and one of my daughters is pregnant with our fourth. A part of their history is my story. If untold, how will they know it? What a tragedy that would be. While preserving some of my family's legacy, writing also allows me to open the glued pages of my past: a white child growing up in Africa, having black sisters, and a personal tragedy that altered my life plans. With every passing day, my anticipation grows. I imagine what it will be like once this book baby is finally birthed. I'd like to invite you to join me in my journey. Write your own story—to anchor and mold the next generations in your family. If this post has inspired you to write, or you're also struggling with the process, I'd love to hear from you.

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