Freedom to Dance!

Kat-Varn-Gypsy-DanceDuring the afterglow of my belly dance troupe’s performance during the North Charleston Performing Arts Festival on April 29, 2016, my husband flashed a mobile picture of me. Normally, photos of me dancing make me a little nervous, but this time, the internal reaction for me? It was a money shot.

For those that know me or have read Ameera Unveiled, the journey to free myself to embrace the spotlight has come with many battles: The Battle of the muffin tops. The Battle of It’s-All-About-Me. The Battle of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood gap. Sound a little like a Civil War? It was and is! In any uprising to find freedom from oppression, sexism, racism or any other ism…. did freedom ever manifest without a rebellion? There is no such thing as free.

Not to digress, as I stared at my money shot on hubby’s phone, I couldn’t help but revisit my dance journey. The journey to find the Freedom to Dance. Part of my seasoning was mastering choreography, accepting my rank within Palmetto Oasis and stepping onto the battle field (the dreaded dance stage). In 2008, Private Ameera was drafted and participated in Operation Jamaica. She was assigned to gypsy duty under the leadership of Lt. Nasreen and Lt. Parvaneh. Eventually, the Jamaican performance looked tightly put together and sassy. But, I knew my part was rote and my joy was still stifled under the pressure to get it right.

Freedom-to-DanceHere I was, eight years later performing the same dance as a duo. Nasreen and Ameera were good friends and had served in the trenches. On April 29 as we dueled as sassy gypsy girls, I finally was able to surrender and abandon perfect choreography for the joy of dancing with my friend. After two and half minutes, we did our final pose and pranced off stage. To my surprise, my dance partner hugged me and planted a big kiss on my cheek in front of the audience.

Still staring at the shot, I realized that standing up to a life’s footprint that denied the Freedom to Dance, I’d finally won a battle. My performance was not relative to the term perfection. I surrendered perfection and embraced being an achiever of excellence—baby step by baby step. I could look at my hubby’s photo and realize that for the moment, I’d won the freedom to dance. His picture painted a thousand words to support my 400 word blog…

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Lights, Cameras, Corset

Only a few more days before Palmetto Oasis Middle Eastern Dance Troupe performs in the North Charleston Performing Arts Festival. Some of the women have marinated and subsequently created dances beginning after the 2015 show. We spend hours on the internet Hoop, Kelly and Suhaila 012researching costumes and YouTubes. After my son moved out, I converted his bedroom into a small dance room. My husband thinks nothing of several parked cars and entering the house hearing jingling and exotic music. My dog, Chaz, was eager to greet dancers and hang out until he got underfoot. My cat, Hollywood, loves to get under skirts or plop into the center of the room expecting everyone to dance around him. Continue reading

Facing fears? What’s a little spilt milk…

“The fear of change can keep you from walking into some of the greatest things life offers. Don’t be afraid to let go of things and people that aren’t making you a better person. Life is too short!” ― Buky Ojelabi

The above quote is a beautiful capsule of encouragement to embrace personal growth. But for anyone who has made it part of their lifestyle, the ability to see what to let go of is a complicated job.

When I decided to write Ameera Unveiled, I knew it would revolve around my protagonist facing her fear. A fear that eventually revealed underlying prongs of insecurities… prickly fears we universally experience… school-milk

Continue reading

Up Close and Personal With a Few Favorite Authors

We all like to get “up close and personal” with our favorite authors, learning more about them and why they do what they do. This blog is a part of a virtual blog tour that is giving us the opportunity to do just that with people we know, and introducing us to people we might want to know. I was invited to participate in this tour by author and publishing CEO Terri Ann Leidich.

Terri Ann Leidich

Terri Ann Leidich

I met Terri through Shari Stauch of Where Writers Win and was thrilled when her publishing company, BQB Publishing, accepted my manuscript for Ameera Unveiled. We’ve shared our love of words ever since.

Terri isn’t just a publisher, though. She’s the author of three books: From a Grieving Mother’s Heart, For a Grieving Heart, and her debut novel, Family Inheritance, which will release in October, 2014. Terri lives in Christiansburg, Virginia with her husband and foodie, Glenn. I enjoyed sharing a bbq lunch with them after the Pubsmart Conference. I not only count Terri as a highly skilled and talented publisher, but someone that rejoices in my writing triumphs and helps me over speed bumps.

So here are the questions I’m required to answer as part of this unique blog tour, and then I’m going to introduce you to some amazing authors I think you’ll want to read…

a) What am I working on?
Ameera Unveiled
is launched and marketing takes a piece of my time. However, I’m now working to write a novel based on the lives of the adorable men of the Old Navy. My childhood was guided and molded by the global struggles, starting with the Cold War, in which my father(s) were Tin Can Sailors. Beside my own lifetime experiences as a Navy dependent, I’ve been embraced by many military veterans and entrusted with their memories. The confessions of Tin Can Sailors fill note cards scattered around my writing room. Hopefully, I can weave a tale that preserves a period of time with less technology but a complicated simplicity.

But, like Terri said in her post, I need to focus on capturing a second story. I’ll continue to absorb their stories, educate myself on historical facts as I attempt to create characters. Characters that hopefully represent a National Treasure– our Tin Can Sailors.

b) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I don’t feel worthy to compare myself to veteran authors of women’s fiction. My writing perspective tends to remain on challenging my writing style. I love to use humor in the face of personal growth. But, at the same time, I like to untangle facing the unknown with all the complications of being human. And that’s not limited to the genre of women’s fiction. Of course, my voice tends to reflect being part of the Baby Boomer era and personal spirituality. Each phase of my childhood did have a dose of innocence and naivete that is not as common for the past few generations. I tend to promote a moral compass and leave some subjects sacred. So, I guess I may be a bit of a dying romantic?

c) Why do I write what I do?
I love to observe people and the serendipity aspects to reaching one’s destiny. I am a fan of revealing the internal depths of my characters. I grew up surrounded by adults that were resilient in the face of hardships. Hardships that spanned disruptions in our economy to global aggression. I’d like to preserve the pride of generations to work and aspire to accomplish dreams. My childhood was filled with a freedom to roam neighborhoods, play kick ball in the street and explore undeveloped woodlands. I want to preserve the memory and experience from a less technically advanced world. Let’s still talk on the front porch, not from a text on a cell phone!

d) How does my writing process work?
I am blessed to have a writing coach, Shari Stauch, who never lets me get away with being too soft or frozen. However, my personality tends to love spontaneity rather than rigid outlines and schedules. I have a strong sixth sense for personal movement. So, if I’m pushed to research, interview and observe– I know it is going to pay off.

As Terri Leidich says, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Once I leave the starting gate, it seems to flow and develop page by page! Attempting to create Ameera Unveiled, I was encouraged to turn off my editor and just write. So, I did. Little did I know that we would cut and paste so many times when it was accepted by BQB Publishing. I loved my main character for a while– until I had edited with the whole crew that gets you to the finishing line. I was about to ask for a divorce! Or smack her around a bit and demand that she quit whining! But, the joy for me to share the deep and strong bonds of healthy women was worth it.

Thanks for the visit– feel free to ring the door bell and visit on the porch next time! Now, here are my blogger/author, recommendations – Enjoy!

Catherine Underhill Fitzpatrick

going on nine2I had the privilege to meet Catherine at an intimate book reading at a mutual friend’s home in Charleston, SC. She took us behind the scenes of her newest novel, Going on Nine. I resonated with so many of her memories. I purchased and devoured her book.

Catherine Underhill Fitzpatrick grew up in suburban St. Louis, the second of six children who ― like the heroine of Going on Nine― meandered through sultry summers unscheduled and unfettered. After graduating from the University Of Missouri School Of Journalism, she worked as a staff feature writer in Hannibal, St. Louis, and Milwaukee.

In September of 2001, Catherine was in Manhattan to cover New York Fashion Week for Wisconsin’s largest newspaper. At first word of the terrorist attacks, she rushed to Ground Zero and filed award-winning eyewitness reports. An account of her reportage that day is included with accounts of other reporters and photographers in Running Toward Danger (2002, Rowman & Littlefield). A front page of the newspaper edition containing one of her 9/11 dispatches is among those memorialized in Washington D.C.’s Newseum. Her book-length account of her harrowing experiences that week has been accessioned into the State Historical Society of Missouri archives.

going on nineGoing on Nine (Familius, 2014), a coming-of-age story set in 1956, is Catherine’s second novel set in St. Louis. A Matter of Happenstance (Plain View Press, 2010), her debut novel, is a four-generation family saga that explores the power of personal character over coincidence.

Catherine is a board member of the Chicago-area TallGrass Writers Guild. She and her husband, Dennis, have two grown daughters in Chicago. She and her husband live in Glenview, IL, and Bonita Springs, FL.

Deb Mangolt:

deb photoI was introduced to Deb at her book signing at a Charleston Barnes & Noble. Later, we bumped into each other and forged a deeper personal connection at the Pubsmart Writing Conference in Charleston, SC this past spring. She is a delightful and witty woman I look forward to running into or intentionally spending time with. She co-authored a girlfriend oriented platform book called Drink Wine and Giggle. I’m all about wine-ing!

As an Event Planner and Certified Professional Coach, Deb brings her positive attitude and bubbly personality to turn family reunions, corporate team-building drink wine coverevents and women’s retreats into memorable and intoxicating experiences that demonstrate the power of true compassion.

Deb’s former career in corporate finance has taken her across North America from Ohio to Tennessee to Toronto and finally to Charleston, South Carolina where she resides with her husband. A devoted hospice volunteer, member of the Charleston Center for Women, and an avid golfer and runner, Deb completed the Kiawah Island Marathon in less than five hours.

 Jackie Madden Haugh

jackieI met Jackie attending the Faulkner Words and Music Festival in New Orleans, LA in 2010. While in the infant stages of writing Ameera Unveiled, I was extremely moved by a situation while on vacation in Florence, Italy. I felt driven to preserve it and forwarded it to Shari Stauch. She pushed me to polish it and submit in the essay competition– it short listed. Needless to say, she pushed me to attend the conference that Fall… and I met Jackie. What a beautiful and resilient woman! I don’t get as much personal contact with her as I would like, but was thrilled to hug her at the Pubsmart Conference this past Spring.

Jackie Madden Haugh is a true native of California. Born in San Francisco, on December 31, 1952, to the son of Irish, Catholic immigrants, who fled the potato famine in the late 1800′s, and the daughter of silent movie actors, circa 1915 in Hollywood. Sandwiched between three boisterous brothers, life for Jackie in her youth was anything but calm and trying to have a voice amidst the rampant testosterone and alpha-male posturing was an impossible feat for her.

MichelleBookCover3-copyWith the gift of a small six-by-six diary on her tenth birthday, Jackie discovered the joy of journaling. Hiding in her room, pouring her heart and soul out on the blank pages not only gave her solace, but a friend who would listen to her thoughts, dreams and desires without any judgment.For the next forty-five years, she continued writing and in April, 2009, she self-published her first memoir, “My Life in a Tutu.” It started as a simple gift for her children, but instead morphed into something much larger. Word got out about this project in her small suburban town of Los Altos, California and to date she has sold several hundred copies there alone.

 Jackie still resides in the loving home where she raised her four adult children. She continues to work in her career as a real estate agent, but devotes her spare time to her writing and her love of teaching dance to children. Currently, she is working on her next project in her series of memoirs, “Tipsy in a Tutu.” It is the hilarious story of friendship between three single woman in a world of married people.

Facing the Unknown – Coping Skills?

crazy eyesOne of the underlying issues for my main character in Ameera Unveiled, is feeling like she is never in control. She resolves to face childhood forbidden zones as she enters an empty-nester zone, but this isn’t always easy. Trying something new is never easy, especially when we haven’t been raised to embrace the unknown.

Some readers have resonated with Ameera’s internalization and self doubts. Others tip their heads and say, “What’s the big deal?”

In that I grew up with many social and gender stigmas as a baby boomer, it is a big deal. As the author, I chose to use a belly dancing class as a catalyst to raise her comfort zone bar. Combined with the instructor who would not take ‘no’ from her students, this produced a lot of internal, wide-eyed panic moments for Ameera. Continue reading

Blazing Trails

stained glass knight
Recently, as I drive, walk, research or just people watch on a daily matter… it dawns on me that we are all an evangelist of or to something. Trails in life are blazed, whether subtle or deep impressions, as a result of stations and callings in life. I appreciate those who have forged ahead benefiting my life’s destiny. I enjoy new open territories cleared of thorny barbs protecting stone walls surrounding secret gardens. Kudos to the crusaders against forbidden zones created by cultural influences, gender labels or social status. Continue reading

There are angels….

angel wing2I have always tried to listen to an inside nudge to be aware of those I meet along my life’s path. Be patient, resilient, kind and aware that someone’s day may have been a struggle in spite of the smile. My faith encourages me to treat strangers as if they were angels unaware. This is a personal goal before and after the holidays. My point?  Continue reading

Spotlight…. please!

My family has always joked that of the four girls in the family, the spotlight was always on Kerry, Kerry, Kerry. (Yes, she is the topless one in the picture) However, while researching dated photos for my next writing project, I ran into this photo taken by my father as he finished his degree at Purdue University. My sister, Kerry, had even tried to trump me by being born exactly one month before from my FIRST year oldest daughter birthday!  Obviously, I hadn’t got the memo that my time in the spotlight was over!spotlight with Kerry

As I struggled to get a story within the cover of Ameera Unveiled based on my own childhood angst without the instruction of formal dance training, I assumed I had always been shy and fearful. Officially be advised… the posing diva is Mu-ah. Continue reading

I’m Off To See The Wizard… Again

Wizard-of-OzAs a baby boomer born in the late ’50s, the Wizard of Oz had debuted nineteen years earlier. With the development of television, CBS broadcast the movie annually as of 1959. I’m not sure at what age my mother felt it was an age appropriate movie for her daughters. In spite of the beauty of the ruby red slippers, there were witches and flying evil monkeys. Society was not inundated with games or shows desensitizing children regarding the taking of life. The only act of violence I remember was when JFK was shot; I was in kindergarten.

In spite of owning one black and white television, I remember being allowed to stay up late to discover and soon celebrate Oz’s example of good triumphing over evil. When we bought our first color television, it became a new and still exciting annual broadcast in our home.

After the birth of my daughter, I looked forward to sharing the adventures of Dorothy and her new friends. Almost every home owned a VCR and my mother was quick to make the movie available to show her granddaughters on sleep-overs. For my daughter’s first grade book project, she requested to be Dorothy with her stuffed Benji dog peeking from a picnic basket. I covered her tennis shoes in red sequin elastic ribbon.

ruby-red-slippersWhy am I sharing this piece of personal trivia? I wonder how much of those early messages of good vs. evil transcended my own resistance to accepting current trends of bullying and histrionics. Reality shows tend to emphasize negative interactions among circles of ‘friends.’ And I know Oz is the source of my love for ruby red stilettos and meeting new friends through life’s adventures.

In my own story of Ameera Unveiled, the main character finds herself in a quest to find her way home to a natural calling to dance. She seeks the help of her Wizard of Dance, Sybil Yocum.  Leaving the love and safety of her own home, there is a bond created between strangers discovered on a glittery journey to Jamaica.

I feel blessed that so many readers have given me their own appreciation of Ameera and her desire to face her demons and obstacles. Last week, when my sister called and asked me to go to the 3-D version of The Wizard of Oz, I sat among a predominantly baby boomer crowd. Untiringly, we lip synced the words of the songs and simultaneously clapped as Dorothy whispered those famous words: “There’s no place like home.”

It struck a personal victory in my own heart that there is a universal story that people still want to believe in. As we each take our journey down the yellow brick road, with or without our ruby red slippers, most of us want to find a bond. Bonds that remain in spite of physical separation and time. Experiences that urge us to move forward and to never stop discovering our own personal enlightenment.

Dear Pen Pal

The Iconic Mailbox

I grew up in the days of pen pals. Looking back, the closest I got to social media were ads in the back of my comic books or Mad magazine. There were little postage stamp size ads with addresses to find a pen pal in another part of the country. I’d use loose leaf paper and start with “Dear Pen Pal… How are you? I am fine.” I probably asked what was their favorite television show, cartoon or share what book I was reading. I’d give them to my mother and she would show me how to address the envelope. I’d lick my stamp before depositing in the classic blue tin mailboxes. I can still hear the clunk of the door when I released it from tip toes. Ahhhh… the days of snail mail have been left behind by the internet energizer bunny! Continue reading