Writer’s Workshop: 3 Reasons Why you Should Consider a Blogging Series

If you blog on a schedule (i.e., every Tuesday at 11:00a), then you already use this feature. If you blog about one topic on a schedule (Writer’s Workshop), then that qualifies as a series as well. However, the type of series I’m referring to is the kind I shared a couple weeks ago reflecting on my travels. This type of series is more like Netflix. There are at least three posts, and they are serialized to come one right after the other. Once you’re done, you return to your regular posting schedule.

Here are three reasons you may consider this type of blogging style:

#1 Your post is too long. Most blogging “gurus” will suggest you write under 750 words. I agree. Anything longer, and you run the risk of losing your reader. The first blogging series I did was when my father died. I needed to write about my experiences with him; however, it ended up being a three-thousand-word document. I knew that was way too long…no matter how captivating I thought the story was. So, I broke up one essay into five and shared one a day leading up to his funeral. By that Saturday, people were invested in the narrative and genuinely offered me some much-needed support.

#2 You want to delve into a topic. Although I hate the phrase deep dive, deep diving aptly describes my purpose for blogging. If I want to remain surface level about a subject, then I use social media, like Twitter or IG, but when I wanna get deep—I blog. With the travel series, the only way I could fit everything in one post would have been to use bullet points with little explanation. Bullet points work, but the format wouldn’t have served my purpose if I really wanted you to lean into the story and the lessons with me. So, I opted for a series.

#3 You want feedback for a publication. I never write a series for this reason, but it is a thing. When I published the series about my father, another blogger provided some advice. “Flesh out your father’s character, and make him seem more multidimensional,” she said. Later, I had the inclination to publish this story in its entirety as a creative nonfiction work, and in addition to her feedback, a friend of mine also suggested adding some details to my father’s character.

Similarly, you can use the statistics feature that WordPress offers to understand which parts of the series garner the most attention. This may lead you to develop the best parts into a publication.

I know there are more reasons for writing a series that are focused on marketing (e.g., gaining more followers, etc.), but those don’t fit my personality or rationale.

Have you ever written a series? If so, feel free to share how it’s helped you in some way.



Monday Notes: 4 Takeaways from a Writer’s Residency

Last week, I explained that I’ve been in Monson, Maine for two weeks participating in a writer’s residency. As promised, here are four takeaways from my time there:

Clearing space is important.

Before I flew to Maine, I knew it was necessary to clear space in several ways to make room for writing. I suspended all editing services and didn’t accept any new clients; I stopped judging essays for the Florida Writers Association; and I stopped writing new blogs. I focused on my actual job for one hour a day—don’t tell my director. Also worth mentioning, is that I’d already cleared space in other, more personal ways when I decided to release specific angst about people. I’m confident I couldn’t have done this if I was still worried about who was visiting, calling, or maintaining contact with me. It was taking up too much real estate in my head, which I believe can affect your creativity. Clearing space helped me to center my attention solely on my new project. While I was in Monson, I wrote for five or six hours straight, with the exception of eating meals and taking bathroom breaks. 

There’s a difference between grind and flow.

One of the other writers and I had a great conversation about the difference between grinding and flowing. Grinding can occur when you’re worried about the goal; flowing is akin to floating with no worries, yet somehow accomplishing the goal. If you’re doing something you love, but you find yourself stressed about it, then that is the opposite energy you probably want to have. Grinding can manifest in several ways. For me, I developed a headache and felt lethargic. (Remember, my body clearly talks to me). Once I sat down and evaluated why this could be, I determined it was not only because I’d been staring at my laptop too long, but also because I’d been thinking deeply about narrative and research connections too long. I was straining my brain. Even if you love something and are in the flow, you can still overdo it. I needed to not write for an entire day to remove the grind mentality.

Being around like minded people is pertinent.

I really enjoyed being around other artists. On day three and nine, we had to do an artists share. I listened to and viewed some very interesting projects. Artists, no matter the medium, are different. They see life differently, and being around them felt as if I wasn’t in the real world. For example, no one called anyone’s project outlandish, no matter what the idea was. No one was negative or judgmental. Each person was supportive of whatever they heard. This warm response is different from how people interact outside of residencies. In my experience, non-artists always have a lot of questions, like why would you do that? What is that supposed to be? Why don’t you do it this way? There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism, but I’ve noticed these questions are usually rooted in a lot of judgment. We’d all do better to take a page out of artists’ ways of functioning and simply head nod and find something nice to say about one another and our ideas.

I need more freedom than I thought.

Every time I leave my house for an extended period of time, I realize freedom is top priority for me. But this time, being away from everyone and everything solidified it. From day one, I was hella excited to wake up whenever I wanted, with nothing to do for the day, except whatever I conjured up. Even though it was nineteen degrees one day, I bundled up and started walking toward the Appalachian trail. Another day, I made up my own yoga routine, and another day, I stayed in bed all day and wrote. No one questioned my safety when I was walking, my sanity when I stayed in bed , or my decision making when I decided to finish my book. My life and time were mine to create. If you’re thinking these seem like small things, you’re right. But guess what? If you’re not careful, then small things add up to one big ball of resentment. For me, I’ve realized I have to build a sense of freedom into my regular life. It’s mandatory.


Turning Page Farm

Participating in this residency is one of the few places I’ve gone in my lifetime where I felt as if I belonged. I didn’t expect to find a sense of belonging among people who, at first, seemed so unlike me. But as time wore on, I saw it clearly. There was an energy that bound us together. I understood when my housemate, who is a visual artist, didn’t wake until ten, spent the day in her studio until two in the morning, and then came home. Likewise, others understood when I closed the door, skipped lunch, and didn’t socialize sometimes. Other than having beer with goats, no one tried to guilt me into hanging out. There was a mutual understanding for artist’s behavior, and quite honestly, after getting to know each person, a common liberalism that superseded race, age, gender, or sexual identity constructs emerged. While I get along with mostly anyone because I love people and socializing, this residency showed me who my people are.


Monday Notes: Monson Arts Residency

Who do you blame for not being the artist you were meant to be? That was one of the questions in The Artist’s Way.

It didn’t take long for me to come up with an answer. First, I blamed my parents. When I was in the fifth grade, I wrote a book called On the Farm. My fifth-grade teacher was so impressed, she entered the book into a citywide contest either named after or sponsored by Gwendolyn Brooks. I’ve written about this before. I didn’t win; however, now that I’m a parent, I wonder why no one asked me about my interest in writing. As an adult, I realized it’s probably because it was the same year my mother received a kidney transplant. She was hospitalized 150 miles away in Madison, Wisconsin. So, her illness probably took precedence over my perceived art.

Next, I blamed my grandmother. The year after my mother died, I announced to her that I was going to write a book.

“About what?” she asked.

“About my mother’s death,” I said.

“You think you’re the only person whose lost her mother?”

I didn’t answer, but what I did do is stop thinking about writing … anything … for a very long time.

After writing something similar to the above in my Morning Pages, I closed my journal and I cried. That was October 2021.

But as I continued The Artist’s Way activities, a thought emerged. I can do the writer things I wished my caretakers would have. I can nurture myself as an artist in ways I wished my parents would have. I can speak positively about myself as an artist in ways that I wished my grandmother would have. I’m an adult, and it’s up to me to live the life I want and to be the artist I want to be.

That’s part of what led me to applying for the Monson Arts Residency. I needed to submit the following:

  • a cover letter explaining why I wanted to come to Monson, Maine and what I’d be doing while I was there,
  • a writing sample,
  • a website, and
  • two references.

The first time I applied, I didn’t get it; however, the director encouraged me to re-apply in 2022, and if I did, he’d waive the application fee. I did, and this time, I was awarded the residency.

Cue the Prosecco!

Holmquist House

I’ve been quiet on the blog because I was in Monson from March 27th to April 7th being the artist I always wanted to be.

For twelve days, I lived in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house with a housemate. During that time, I received free breakfast from the General Store and lunch and dinner from a trained chef named Lou Lou. Lou Lou bought fresh groceries daily to prepare meals for us, like Ahi tuna tartare, pork belly, and congee with saffron. The intentionality of her meal creations was surreal. I had my own writing studio in another house that overlooked a lake with a view of the mountains. At the end of it all, I received a check for five hundred dollars. They paid me to be there. I was literally nurtured as a writer.

I have to repeat that. The nurturing I wished I had, I received from this writer’s residency, including being safe, secure, fed, and paid.

With nothing to worry about, I wrote no less than six hours a day, and with that, I was able to finish a draft of my second memoir.

I’m still in awe that I was even there. But I hope you see what I’m saying. I will always advocate for drilling down to the source of how you became who you are. After all, each of us is a product of our environments. But if you’re dissatisfied with the outcome of your upbringing, it’s equally important to take the reigns of your own life and do the things that will allow you to be who you desire. You’re the only one who can do that 😉

Next week, I’ll share the lessons learned/reinforced about myself while I was in Maine. Until then, let me know what you think in the comments.


Writer’s Workshop: Studying the Craft

There are many ways to study the craft of writing. You can earn a bachelor’s degree in English. You can attain an MFA in creative writing. You can even take a few classes here and there to learn from experts.

But what should you do if you’re like me and have no intention on setting foot in another university as a student?

Read. That’s what! Writers read, and it’s important to read books in the genre in which you intend to publish. For me, that’s memoir.

Writers read, and it’s important to read books in the genre in which you intend to publish.

So, in 2018, I read ten memoirs to learn what bestsellers are made of and to understand what the pulse of a “good” memoir is. Here’s what I found out.

A “good” memoir focuses on one theme. My favorite memoir that demonstrates this basic principle is Jesmyn Ward’s Men We Reaped. The overarching question is why have so many of the men in her community died? The quick answer is the interrelated nature of racism, poverty, and gender. The long answer is her 256-page memoir, where chapters are written in a seesaw fashion. One chapter is devoted to understanding one man’s in-depth story, while the next chapter reflects Ward’s life as it was related to each man. By the end of the memoir, Ward has clearly made a case for how systemic racism affects human beings.  

A “good” memoir has to present a bigger purpose. A bigger purpose doesn’t mean theme, necessarily, but it should answer the question: why is this author telling these stories? In My Dead Parents: A Memoir, Anya Yurchyshyn spends the first half of her book describing how much she disidentifies with her parents, how much she hates them, and how much their deaths don’t affect her. Part two digs deeper and explores who her parents really were prior to marriage and children and how this showed up in her life. This is ingenious. Anyone can write a book about why they dislike their parents. But she researches their histories as a way to see their identities, and then analyzes their lives outside of being her parents.

A “good” memoir weaves back and forth through time. This is a skill. Tara Westover’s Educated is superb at showing how to write a linear/not-linear story, which is important. While the overall story should be a cohesive narrative, it should travel back in time and then snap or slowly crawl back to the near present. For example, Westover remembers one of her brother’s violent acts from when she was an adolescent and then moves the story forward to a more recent memory of when she planned to visit home. The memory of the violence is important for how she will return and interact with her family in the book’s present.

A “good” memoir fits into a clear subgenre. Issa Rae uses humor for The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, which is a coming-of-age memoir. Kenan Trebinčević’s The Bosnia List: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Return is obviously a historical memoir, and so is The Girl Who Escaped Isis (Farida Khalaf and Andrea C. Hoffmann). Celebrity memoir is a thing, but more literary leaning ones, like Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime demonstrate sociocultural lessons. Finding Your Creative Muse explains more about these categories.

There’s nothing wrong with taking classes or seeking degrees; however, if you’d like to see what works for published authors, then I suggest reading in the genre you plan to write. I am also in no way advocating that you imitate the style of your favorite author. To me, that’s a no-no, but studying and learning about how others put words together? That’s a win for you and your growing body of work.

Are you intending to publish a book one day? Who’s your favorite author? What’s your favorite genre? What makes a book good?

Writer’s Workshop: Introductions

Introductions are important. Just think about your favorite song. Whether it’s the way the first note comes in or it’s the way an artist says the first word, the introduction to a song determines if you’ll continue listening or fast forward to something else.

Writing is no different.

A good first line or paragraph lets me know if I’ll be reading more of what the author has to say.

Let’s look at this intro to My Dead Parents:

My mother, Anita, died in her sleep in 2010, when she was sixty-four and I was thirty-two. The official cause of death was heart failure, but what she really died from was unabashed alcoholism, the kind where you drink whatever you can get your hands on, use your bed as a toilet when you can’t make it to the bathroom, and cause so much brain damage you lose the ability to walk unsupported. The case of her death was herself, and her many problems. (Anya Yurchyshyn)

As someone who spends a lot of time reading and studying the writer’s craft, I loved this introduction. As soon as I read these eighty-four words, I thought man, if this is how the story begins, then I can’t wait to read the rest of this book!

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Therefore, I focus for several minutes (sometimes days) on how I will begin any piece of writing. Let’s take “Monday Notes: Seeking Perfection” as an example. Because this was a blog post, I knew I couldn’t waste time getting folks engaged. Initially, I wrote this:

I awoke in a Northwestern Memorial Hospital bed with two women staring at me, one was the nurse and the other, my mother. They told me I’d been hit by a car.

This wasn’t the most engaging introduction for a few reasons:

  1. Readers need to know why I was in the hospital sooner.
  2. Narrative is important. People prefer stories, even if they’re brief. So, I opted for an anecdote.
  3. Beginning in medias res (in the middle of things) is a strategy, but I’d begun too far in the middle. I needed to pull it back to provide a bit of context.

Ultimately, the introduction became this:

I was hit by a car when I was fourteen years old. It was a Saturday. Because my father was the youth pastor, we were going to church to pick up teens for an activity. When we arrived, my then best friend stood across the street in front of the building. She yelled out my name, and without a second thought, I darted into traffic.

This first sentence may be a bit of a shocker. Most people (friends, family, or bloggers) don’t know I was hit by a car. So, I’d argue that a reader would want to read more about this. The next few sentences rewind the story a bit so that you can understand how I was hit in the first place. Then, the remainder of the blog delves deeper into the actual topic: A small imperfection, such as chipping my tooth has bothered me since I was a teenager.

There are many ways you can begin your writing. I’ve just described one: beginning with a narrative. You can also ask a question, begin with a quote, provide a statistic, or give a description.

Have you ever thought about how to begin your writing? Do you just start writing? Do you have a favorite first line from a song or book? Let me know in the comments.

Digestion, Gut Health, and Me: Senior Year (Part I)

“The bus will be here soon,” my grandmother announced.

I hadn’t been on a school bus since the eighth grade, but it was different here. Here was a podunk town too small for a transit system. Everyone rode the school bus. Kindergartners and twelfth graders, alike, all on the bus headed to the same building to learn the required curriculum.

“Okay,” I replied, then excused myself to the bathroom for the second time that morning. I hadn’t even eaten breakfast, so I wasn’t sure why my stomach was gurgling and what my body was eliminating.

“Are you nervous?” My grandmother asked.

I was.

The first day of senior year was nothing like I’d envisioned. My friends in Chicago, the ones I’d gone to school with since first or seventh grade knew me. They knew I was part goofy, part serious. They knew if I looked at you funny, then I was probably judging your hair, clothes, or speech. But they also didn’t care. Would these new people understand, or would they do like most new people did with me and assume I was stuck up or bougie?

“No,” I replied. It was easier than admitting the truth and then having her turn my fear into a speech about the uselessness of fear or into some inspirational moment on apprehension.

I went to the bathroom one more time.

“The bus should’ve been here by now. School’s starting soon,” my grandmother said. “Bernie, you’ll have to take her.”

Divine intervention. My stomach was relieved. I wasn’t supposed to be on the school bus after all, not at seventeen, not my senior year, not today. Maybe God would also perform some act that reversed everything that had happened up until this point. Maybe I would be transported back to Chicago, where I would meet my friends on the L, where we’d revel in our senior status, mimic house music songs while waiting on the train, and fantasize about post-graduation plans.


My grandfather dropped me off in front of the one-story brick building.

“Have a good day,” he said.

“Okay, I replied,” and I knew I would because I planned on keeping quiet and shrinking into the building and its smallness, hoping no one would notice me or my sudden urge to use the bathroom every ten minutes. I hoped I’d disappear into this nothingness of a town.


Digestion: Undergrad (Part II)

Digestion: Adulthood (Part III)

Digestion: Healing (Part IV)

Monday Notes: 2021 Year in Review

Sometimes, I feel as if I haven’t done anything. It might sound irrational, but it’s true. I stood in the middle of my room a few weeks ago and wondered what I’d really accomplished this year. It sounds like this: What have you done? Can’t you do more? So what you published a book? This happens frequently. I know where these “not good enough” thoughts come from, but I won’t be sharing root causes today. I mean…if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, then more than likely you can fill in the blanks.

Instead, I compiled a list. Initially, the point of the list was for me to see how ridiculous my “not good enough” thoughts were. It was supposed to be like a tangible pep talk for myself. But then I figured you may want to read one of these essays, too. So, here goes:

Stories of Sport: Critical Literacy in Media Production, Consumption, and Dissemination

The year began with a publication with my colleagues. Aside from being proud of myself for leading this project, it shows the both/and space in which I’ve begun to live. I can be both a scholar and a personal blogger. I don’t have to choose.

There’s Strength in Softness

Life continued with one of my proudest essays. I’d been thinking about generational patterns, how we oftentimes unknowingly pass on ways of living that don’t suit our children. What are the effects of passing down generational patterns? How does it affect the child as an adult, who then becomes a parent? This was the purpose of There’s Strength in Softness.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: I’m Speaking Now: Black Women Share Their Truth in 101 Stories of Love, Courage and Hope

Shortly after, my essay Good Enough (that’s ironic, huh?) was published in the well-known Chicken Soup for the Soul (CSS) series. To be honest, I didn’t think anything about it at first, mainly because publishing my feelings about being an Affirmative Action hire in a special edition of Black women writers actually showed what I was saying (another irony). But then, a blogger friend, Shira D. tweeted “Thank you for speaking for us all.” And boy, did that shift my thinking. I really hadn’t even thought about it that way. The CSS franchise has only had a special edition of Black women writers once before, twenty-five years or so ago. Being selected as one of 101 writers is a big deal.

Pro-Choice: What Being It Actually Means

If you’ve been following me for a while, then you probably remember reading a piece I wrote a couple years ago called What it Actually Means to be Pro-Choice. It was first published by PULPMag, which not only advocates for reproductive rights, but also freedom of sexuality, in general. I was excited when my blogger friend, da-AL wanted to re-publish it this year, especially given the current conversation and actions on abortion rights.

5 Reasons Critical Media Literacy is Important in the 21st Century

I mentioned Shira D. earlier. I promised her some time ago to guest blog on Educating for Future Democracy Collaborative. Because the site is focused on democracy, and because democracy in the United States seems to be quickly waning, I thought it would be appropriate to write about the role critical media literacy can play in the twenty-first century.

2021 (the year of the ox) is my Chinese New Year!

What is Happiness?

Do you follow the hot goddess? If not, why? How can you not follow someone who is a self-proclaimed HOT goddess? Anywho, she asked me to answer one question: What is happiness? My and others’ answers can be found on her blog.

Oh, and I started another blog focused on all things menopause (and midlife). Aside from myself, several contributing authors have shared their own journeys with this global community. If I haven’t said it before, thank you to those of you who’ve written for the site in its inaugural year, and thanks to those of you who have liked, subscribed, followed, or shared something from it.

Spotlight on Menopause Advocate: K. E. Garland

Keisha over at The Real Perimeno deemed me a menopause advocate! That was surprising. But I’m here for the new title. My interview with her about Navigating the Change can be found on her site. Also, she and I will be bringing an essay contest to fruition very soon.

Lori L. Tharps invited me to be a guest on her new podcast, My Bloody Hell. After listening to a few episodes and googling who Lori is, I was more than excited. My episode aired on November 3, 2021. I can promise you a whole lot of laughing and girlfriend-type conversation about perimenopause.

Top 10 Ways Perimenopause Helped Me Get My Sh*t Together

Quite honestly, I think this was the best way to end my writing year. I went from not knowing wtf was going on with my perimenopausal body, to being able to tell you what hormone is currently affecting me and how to alleviate the shift. Tera’s invite to write a top 10 list about midlife couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

Julia Cameron said, “the antidote for shame is self-love and self-praise,” and I agree. I used to be really good at praising myself whenever I accomplished a task. Somewhere along life’s journey, I stopped. But I’m reclaiming that practice. When you do good work, you should be proud of yourself. I should be proud of myself. In 2022, I plan to be more intentional about celebrating myself when the process is complete. I know there’s a fine line between hubris, confidence, dismissiveness, and humility. But this year, I’ll be pushing those boundaries to find my own sweet spot. Strengthening my self worth has become a priority for living a full life.

What are you working on for 2022? What are you proud of from 2021?


Monday Notes: The Nutribullet: A Life Lesson

“That’s what we do in this family. See things and ignore them,” my youngest daughter said a few years ago.

I don’t remember what she was talking about. It may have been a piece of paper left on the stairs for too long or it could’ve been something she’d noticed about her sister. Either way, I agreed.


Fast forward to a few weeks ago.

My Nutribullet stopped working. I had already piled everything in it: frozen fruit, kale, Vega One, and kefir. But when I twisted it in the little motorized thingee, it wouldn’t start.

I was also running late for yoga. I didn’t have time to figure out what had happened. So, I left it on the kitchen counter, ordered Tropical Smoothie, and rushed out of the door.

When I returned, of course it was still sitting there. It was mine to take care of; however, when I tried to unscrew the base, it was too tight. I sat it to the side. That was Monday.

On Tuesday, the contents began to separate. All the fruit rose to the top. Water settled toward the bottom. I asked Dwight to help, “but not right now,” I added. I have an adverse reaction to wet food and didn’t want to get sick.

He agreed.

By Thursday, the broken Nutribullet was still sitting on the counter. I started to say something to Dwight, like hey…maybe you should unscrew it today so we can throw it away. It was trash day, and I even ran into the garbage men and had a thought to just hand it over to them.

But I didn’t. Dwight knew it was there, he’ll unscrew it when he’s ready. I said nothing.

Then, Friday night came. I was just settling into a deep sleep when I heard a thud and a pop. I’d left Dwight downstairs putting together a bike rack, so I thought maybe he was in trouble.

“Did something fall?” I asked when he came back in the house.

“Fall?” he repeated.

“Yeah.”

“No,” he said.

Back to bed I went.


“Quite a mess downstairs,” Dwight said Saturday morning.

“Yep,” I replied.

“Yep?” he asked. “Don’t you want to know what the mess is?”

“Boxes and sh*t,” I answered, assuming he was talking about the bike rack’s packaging.

But no. That wasn’t it. A few minutes after I’d gone to bed, Dwight looked to the left because there was a vomit-like smell. When he turned on the kitchen light, there it was. Monday’s smoothie splattered all over the blinds, kitchen, and stove. The Nutribullet had exploded, hit the ceiling (apparently), and left six-days’ worth of rotten fruit all over.

All I kept thinking about were my daughter’s words: That’s what we do in this family.

Or maybe it’s just me.

Maybe I’ve learned to ignore all of the things, until situations explode into a vomit-filled mess that has to be faced. Now, that’s an analogy for you.

Either way, lesson learned. Deal with everything as soon as possible. Otherwise, you’ll be scrubbing moldy kale and mangoes off one panel at a time. And that, my friends, is no fun.


Monday Notes: A Confession on My 25th Year of Teaching

Twenty-five years ago, I began my career in education as an English teacher. However, I didn’t enter the profession out of a profound sense of passion. Here’s what happened:

I began undergrad as a business major: business management, to be exact. However, there was an assessment everyone took to test out of remedial math (Math 109). I took and failed the test during orientation. Then, I took it again and failed at the beginning of Math 109. The university offered it again mid-semester. Failed. And again shortly after, which is when I passed.

That’s when I figured I needed to change my focus. How was I going to be a business major if I couldn’t do basic math?

I sought advice from one of my aunts, who suggested I become an English major. When I talked to the advisor, she said English education was a better option.

Fast forward twenty-five years, a masters, and doctorate degree later, and I’m still teaching.

I’ve thought about if this one choice was a “mistake.” I mean, clearly, I have a passion for reading and writing, but did I need to become an educator? Maybe I could’ve been an investigative journalist, as my blogging buddy Dr. D. recently observed. Or perhaps I could’ve just begun a writing career twenty years earlier.

I don’t know. Falling into an abyss of what ifs is not good. I do not recommend it.

Here’s what I’ve decided.

There are no mistakes. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we’re always making choices. But our choices are tied to who we are, our level of awareness at the time, and our self-imposed limitations.

Whether consciously or unconsciously, we’re always making choices.

At the time, I didn’t have a home to return to in Chicago, and I damn sure wasn’t going back to live with my grandparents. I just wanted to do whatever would afford me a salary and a ticket toward independence. An education degree did that.

However, I also didn’t know any writers. I’d only seen so-called safe and secure jobs: pharmacy technician, accountant, social worker. I couldn’t conceive of a career in writing, much less pursue a degree that may lead to one. My choices seemed limited.

I know what you may be thinking…why get more advanced degrees in the field? My answer is the same: lack of awareness and self-imposed limitations.

I had no idea I could’ve easily switched to an MFA or even a PhD in English, so I continued the same path I’d begun in 1991: Education.

So, here I am.

I don’t have regrets, though. No. That’s not what this is about. I’m writing this to encourage anyone out there who believes he, she, or they only have one path. Not to sound cliché, but there are infinite paths for living life. Infinite. Think about what you want to do. Research your options. Talk to people who are doing what you think you want to do. Then, make up your own way based on your informed decision.

If what you want to do isn’t reflected in your family or environment, then don’t be afraid to create a life based on what you want. Guess what? That’s what I’ve done over the past seven years.

Today, I own a successful business, with no business degree. I’m a successful writer, without having an English degree.

I’m convinced each of us can do what we want. All we have to do is first believe it is possible.



Monday Notes: Self-Expression and Personal Power

I was raised as an only child in a family of older relatives. In addition to my parents, there were two grandmothers, one grandfather, three great-grandparents, and three great aunts. Most of my cousins were actually my mothers’ cousins; meaning, they were each around my parents’ age. That’s a lot of older people who believed that “children should be seen and not heard.”

In case you cannot tell, I always have something to say about almost everything. This is not a new development.

So, what happens when a child, who has a lot to say, is raised in a family where she cannot express herself? What happens when a child is raised in a family where she is slapped in the mouth for saying something “out of line?” What happens when a child is raised in a family where she is told to “shut up?”

Well, I don’t know about others, but as soon as I was of age, I said what I wanted in the unhealthiest of ways. I was extremely sarcastic because I didn’t know how to safely communicate my emotions. I used to run around telling people to “shut the f*ck” up” when I didn’t want to hear what they had to say. I’d berate people’s ideas by asking them if they were “stupid,” something my grandmother frequently used to ask me.

But when I began this blog, I did it with the purpose of being able to express myself differently—in healthy ways that I value.

I promised myself that what someone else had to say about how I’m communicating my thoughts would not matter. There’s no way I can write about the topics I do (i.e., abortion rights, imposter syndrome, etc.) while thinking about how others who may have been involved are going to interpret a narrative from thirty years ago.

Initially, this worked because I wrote about issues centered on people who are deceased (e.g., my mother) or jobs where I’m no longer employed.

However, I quickly learned it is impossible (for me) to maintain a blog and only talk about dead or distant relatives and jobs from years ago. Life happens, and because I’m living it with others, I may have something to say about a conversation from yesterday or an experience I had last week.

But recently, it seems my blog has made people uncomfortable. One person said, “Don’t put this on the blog,” before engaging in conversation, and another re-quoted words from something I’d written to “prove” I was exhibiting hypocrisy.

And you know what happened? With the former request, it felt like the person was trying to control what I write…on my blog. With the latter, it seemed as if my words were being used against me. Neither of these felt good, especially because I’ve struggled to have a healthy voice in the world for so long.

I had to reflect for a minute. What you’re reading is the result. I had to remind myself of a few things:

  1. I’m not a child or teenager. This reminder is not in an immature, I’m grown; I do what I want South Park kind of way. It’s literally a way to ground myself in the here and now to say, “KG, you’re an adult and you’ve learned how to communicate in healthy ways, so do that girl!” I had to give myself a pep talk.
  2. My power is in communicating. Subsequently, no one can take it away. I can give my power away. I can acquiesce to the needs and wants of others, consequently yielding power, but no one can take it from me.
  3. My “why” on this blog is always to inspire. As long as I sense I am affirming readers’ experiences or inspiring you to do or think about something in a new way, then I will continue…in my own way.

Sending love, light, and the ability to garner your personal power to anyone reading this.