Thursday, July 26, 2012


When I was a girl, I dreamed of being a writer.  In middle school, I started reading Sweet Valley High books and other teen romance novels.  In my early teens, I read E.L. Doctorow, Pat Conroy, John Irving, Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  In my late teens, I painfully made my way through Shakespeare and Faulkner, all the while imagining that one day I'd be sitting at a desk writing deep, complicated tales that would both reveal and inform the American way of life.

I didn't write those tales.  Actually, I didn't finish those tales  Every laptop and every computer I've ever owned contains dusty hard drives imprinted with half-written stories that are trapped in an eternal, peaceful sleep.  When it comes to fiction, I'm just not a finisher.  During those blurry days when I started and restarted my computerized masterpieces, I was using napkins, scratch paper, and the backs of grocery lists to jot down my feelings. Unbeknownst to me, where I was failing at fiction, I was succeeding at non-fiction.  

Around this time I discovered the story of Booker Wright, and I made a choice that would change my life.  I decided to record, here on this blog, the steps I took to uncover his story and my efforts to grasp his soul.  Some of my earlier posts are lame.  I'll be the first to say that.  You can see me struggling to find my way.  At first, I thought that no one would ever read my blog, so I wrote hurtful things about my family, revealing with reckless detail, all of their earthly failures.  

In the summer of 2011, I made a documentary about my grandfather, called Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story.  After our first shoot, the filmmakers went back to their work spaces and started trying to pull together a movie.  I went into a corner and started blogging about everything.  Every feeling, every emotion, every moment of bliss and pain, I recorded here.   

My computers tend to die sudden deaths, and I can't keep up with printed copies. I've lost every story I wrote as a young girl.  That's why I posted here.  I was afraid that if I collected my random thoughts anyplace else that, one day, they'd be gone, accidentally thrown away or trapped in a computer that'd been murdered by the latest virus.  So, I blogged.  Blogging helped me to process, and it simply made me feel better. 

At the time, the only "visitors" to my blog were poor souls from the Ukraine who'd typed in the wrong URL. Then, one day the producer called and said, "Everybody in NY loves you."  He meant everyone at his agency who was working on the film.  I said, "Why?"  He said, "They've read your blog."

I felt like someone had just said, "Hey, yesterday, when you were showering, the window was open and everybody on 46th St. and 11th Avenue was watching."  It was weird.  I went back and read some of my earlier posts, the ones where I talked about which members of my family couldn't hold down jobs and which ones would go on shopping sprees and then not have enough money to pay their bills.  I did some quick deleting.  

Since then, I've tried really, really, really hard to keep writing with the same mission I had at first.  I write to escape, to work out my feelings, to make sense of what stalks my soul, and to record, so that in 30 years I can go back and accurately remember.  

But something has been lost.  Sometimes, I feel like I'm changing my clothes with eyes on me.  I wear my best undergarments, turn my body in a way to highlight my toned parts, but hide the flabby ones.  I have about 60 blog drafts here that I chose not to post because I didn't want to throw anyone under the bus or make anyone angry.  In some ways, I'm a brand now.  When I start to write I catch myself wondering if the writing will enhance or hurt my brand.  I wonder if it will make the people who've invested in me happy or angry.  Will it help the movie?  Will it hurt my book?

My soul lives here.  I stamp myself onto this blog space.  Just now, I started to type, "I stamp myself onto this blog space, because..."  but nothing came after "because."  I don't know why I leave myself here, I just do.  

There are things about this project that I need to work out.  I've seen my counselor about them, talked to girlfriends about them, and even started several pen to paper writings about them.  But for some reason, at least for now, I only seem to be able to get to "the end" of my conflicted emotional ropes when I am here, sitting in a coffee shop, shutting out the conversations around me, and staring at this empty white space, the one that invites me to pour it all out - the goopey, confusing stuff that sloshes around inside me.  

I've learned a lot about myself through this process, most of it hasn't been too beautiful.  I'm working on a book about this journey and I've had to dive deep into my past.  Some shameful truths have come to the surface and I want to run from them.  Lately, I've been spending a lot of time in my bed staring at the ceiling, tossing and turning, and trying to shut out who I am.  It's not working, so I'm switching gears.

I'm really hopeful that if I can write through some of this, that I can get to the other side of the murkiness and once again feel the sun shining on my face.  Some people will think I'm using this platform to harm.  What I've learned about those people is that nothing I say makes any difference, they'll assume the worst about me, anyway.  Blogs are free, go get your own.  

I'm starting a "hard truths" series.  Hopefully, I can use this space to face myself.


  1. Please keep writing and sharing this story - yours and your grandfathers. Good luck to you in your journey.

  2. Dear sister: God is equipping you for this battle, and you are blessing so many people by sharing your testimony. That's how we overcome. Keep writing. Keep sharing. Keep believing.


    1. Your friendship brings me so much joy. Thank you for being there for me. I am so excited about partnering with you!

  3. I'm into writing also, and crafting. Though there are times that we really get frustrated because no one appreciated what we write. Don't you worry, girl. Original content is the king. And no matter what happens, love your grandfather very much.