Another serendipity moment. I’m cutting my teeth for a book appearance revealing Ameera Unveiled at an iconic bookstore in San Francisco, CA —– Green Apple Bookstore. I hope when it the clock strikes midnight, I lose my glass slipper and my coach turns back into a pumpkin!
Recently, I was honored to be on Southern Writers Magazine’s must reads list. Gary Fearon graciously alerted me and I hit his link. Penning and marketing a book is still an unexplored territory for me. Seeing my cover beside a blog by Patricia Sands regarding her message in The Bridge Club, put a lump in my throat.
Three years ago, when I approached my writing coach/editor, Shari Stauch, with my story idea— without hesitation she pushed me to my laptop to learn my character’s voice. Continue reading
Although this is a work of fiction, I admit it was driven by my own desire to dance—but was told I couldn’t, shouldn’t, or was forbidden. As I pull my main character into facing a long neglected dance zone, I’d ask the reader to be patient with her. Her story focuses on the impact of chasing a glittery dance dream and lack of experience in a spotlight. In spite of many off the page life experiences, she’s suffered and victoriously overcome many obstacles—especially as a woman. But, Ameera’s pioneer spirit blazes a trail through the unknown land of Dance.
Palmetto Oasis Middle Eastern Dance Troupe is real. I was given permission to use many of the actual troupe members’ names. They’ve been patient and supportive as I labored to unveil Ameera. I’ve embraced their generosity to take creative license with the unbelievable glittery story. I hope to show the bonding power of resilience, humor, and passion among friends and strangers. The therapy of dance is real—not fiction.
I would not have accomplished this tale if I hadn’t been introduced to Shari Stauch. Her publishing experience and . . . let’s say it like is . . . puts your balls to the walls honesty required me to get mad and tell how unfair life can be. BQB Publishing enthusiastically polished the project with many talented artists. Terri Leidich, Heidi Grauel, and Julie Breedlove offered prompt answers and resources. My editor, Sharon Hecht, untangled my grammar and cut story interruptions without ripping off the band-aid. Even the book cover embodies many of the messages in the story. Kendra Haskins did an amazing job with my website—capturing the ‘pretty’ that makes women and little girls say “wow!” And, thanks to Leroy Mazyck (Pixel Studios) for always easing the stage fright in front of his camera. He did a fabulous job with my author’s headshot. When I doubted my ability to finish the project, it was my family, friends, and community that urged me on.
If you are reading this, I want to thank the readers! I hope you enjoy Ameera’s glittery release from her forbidden zone. From my own experience, once you’ve been bitten by the dance bug, it infects all the senses and perceptions. It reveals old tapes and fears and rewards you with unique memories and bonds.
But, most of all, I thank my soul mate, Steve. He made me his queen and supported my search for the little ballerina that got left behind in my childhood. It takes a special man to stand with his belly dancing wife. They can’t be afraid of a little glitter!
I’d never imagined that enrolling in my first dance class in 2007 would provide the concept for a story line. A tale of a woman’s coming of age… her journey to face forbidden zones. And I’d never dreamed it would be under the platform of belly dancing.
Something radical occurred when I was bitten by the Shimmy Bug. The glittery injection infected all my senses. My eyes were drawn to things that had jewels, tassels, fringe, glitter, chain mail and tattoos. My ears perked at anything that resonated of shaking coins, little cymbals, doums and teks on stretched hide drums. My nose followed the aroma of patchouli, incense and henna. My hands wanted to undulate and create new costumes. Would this affect my sense of taste? I found myself asking, Do I really want to spend money on eating out… or new costumes?
If there was a billboard that read “This is Your Brain on Bellydancing,” it might have warned me. Listening to the radio caused my brain to think, I bet that I can choreograph a dance to that Led Zepplin tune! If there was a book on “Belly Dancer Intervention 101” in the Self Help section in Barnes and Noble, I’m not sure I’d have wanted the intervention, but I couldn’t speak for my hubby and friends… Help! I see Sparkly People!
On July 25, 2013, please feel free to peek into my character Ameera’s world. The characters forge and sift through tough choices in relationships—past and present. But even through her angst and success the story is laced with a dose of humor.
Like clockwork, after 2-3 years, my dad’s duty station was to be reassigned, I had gotten a peek, a taste and a temporary spot in my classroom, neighborhood kick ball team or Dark Shadows Soap Opera buddy. The next best thing was to resign myself to accept the oldest daughter’s calling– Chief of the Ya Ya Sisterhood of the Hall girls. At the next duty station, my sisters were always still on the journey, sharing a bedroom and fighting over the bathroom. Inadvertently, my tribe taught me many life lessons that revealed themselves decades later. Emotional management, selflessness and resilience were among the list.
I talked to God, a lot. I talked out loud, with my heart, my tears and my eyes. I danced in the pine clearings in the neighborhood woods. I thanked God for the beauty encircled by Creation and the way it was fearfully and wonderfully made, like me. I loved the simplicity, the complexity, the color, smells and honesty. As Einstein said, “God doesn’t toss dice.” Mother Nature’s Order demonstrated it wonderfully. From childhood to adult responsibilities, I believed my prayers had been best wafted to the heart of God on the wings of a sea breeze. If the only prayer I cast over the Atlantic Ocean’s endless horizon was Thank You, I believe God heard the volume of my heart’s petition.
A little more than halfway through my first marriage, again fighting multiple circumstances attempting to isolate me, I had been on an introspective journey to deal with erosions of female worth and lack of self esteem. I was missing the power of self image. Sitting in my dining room, working on a sewing project, I was talking to God about needing to love myself so that I could love my neighbor best. The Christian Gospel had said to “love your neighbor as yourself.” I didn’t love myself as well as I should and one of the demons from my baggage of the past, Isolation, kept putting out a stick to trip my Hopeful spirit when she tried to move forward. I had been tripped by the Guilt stick, again, and deferred Hope cried from my heart “Why do I feel so unloved? I know that I am supposed to love me first, so I can be whole to love the way I know You love—unconditionally and wisely. Being a good steward is not a life sentence to being chained to unrelinquishing responsibility.”
There was a lump in my throat but as a sole tear made a trail down my bowing head, a peace washed over me. Sacred oil being poured on my head, sweetly flowing to the soles of my feet. I stopped what I was doing and closed my eyes, inhaled, exhaled and saw a vision in my mind.
There she was, a little blonde girl in a yellow polyester bathing suit, stooping at the edge of the beach surf, sea breeze blowing her long blonde hair in a way I could not see her face, intensely watching little precious clams dig themselves back to safety. She was peaceful and quiet but I felt her joy inside with the simplicity of each time a new wave deposited a new cast of Diggers. She was protecting the little vulnerable sand jewels. Isn’t she cute, pure, loveable? Adorable, I love her! So, do I. And as I saw her hand gently brush the windblown hair from her eyes… I heard a Still Small Voice say, “She’s you”. My cheeks were flooded with salty tears. Liquid prayers of thank You, thank You.
I wanted to protect her, hold her, laugh with her, and show her understanding when she needed correction. There was a scar on my heart from years of isolation and this simple vision healed it–forever. I knew what I had been seeking. It was to have and be loved by The Perfect Parent, The Perfect Lover and The Perfect Friend. The Perfect Lover who would not use shame, guilt, neglect or cruelty to get their way. It applied to roles as father, mother, husband, wife, daughter, friend, boss or employee.
There was an understanding – crystal clear understanding of acceptance we owed each other even with the stutters, wobbly baby steps, sloppy first kisses or any other awkward graduation. I wanted patience and tolerance to allow myself to learn through mistakes without guilt or shame. I had wanted to be an Achiever of Excellence without the pressure of judgment, timelines or measuring sticks. It was the day I knew concretely that if no one else would love me, I did and with it, came the responsibility to protect that adorable, simple and vulnerable little stooping girl from being harmed in unhealthy environments. Even bigger, it was the day that I discovered how to use the word “I.”
One of the supposed traits of a Virgo is an eye for detail… (Okay… being a perfectionist). I love having that Virgo’s eye for detail but look at a challenge with a safety net that allows me to fail. I’ve substituted “Achiever of Excellence” for perfectionist. When I hit detours or situations that require flexibility, it gives me a little damage control: Plan A was a bust, let’s start over. Or, in the case of my book project, there was a better cover than I originally envisioned.
I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by an incredible writing team. From conception to printing, there’s been guidance of short term and long term goals to tell Ameera’s story. One of my favorite phases was designing the cover. Being the achiever of excellence that I am, I dug in on the concept that when a reader finishes Ameera Unveiled, the cover will be even more significant.
Yes, I want to make someone look twice and ask, “What’s going on in that book?” But I also want the cover to embody the story from start to finish. As we searched the globe for the perfect image, my beautiful non-accommodating belly dancer hit my email box. (Teaser for the reader… and all the way from the UK).
Through my own journey towards embracing dance (specifically, belly dancing), it confirmed and reaffirmed my own little girl’s desire to feel pretty and wear costumes. As a product of the 60s and 70s in a traditional gender role, forbidden zones abounded in my life. Thanks to a wonderful cast of characters as I’ve journeyed through so many phases of my life (both supportive and adversarial) I found the stock and symbolic visual to represent the words to my story.
In summary, I’m thrilled with Ameera’s cover because it demonstrates the inner dancer my main character wants to become… perhaps that we all want to become…
Retired from career and parenting duties, I decided to conquer a neglected area in my life—dance. As a child, I flunked my first ballet classes and missed the muscle memory years. So, when I saw a six-week belly dance class being offered on the campus of my Alma Mata, I went online to register.
My husband was more than supportive as I fought my way out of the old tapes that said, “You can’t dance.” Within the year, I reluctantly auditioned and was accepted into Palmetto Middle Eastern Dance Troupe. Little did we know, it was instant adoption into a tribe. Again, my husband was supportive and tolerant of my love of shiny jewelry, bindis and of course, wayward glitter.
However, within the next year, I came home from a practice centered on dances for an upcoming performance at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center. As we were eating dinner, out of the blue, he states, “Dear, you know I love and support everything you’re doing with the troupe?” (I continue chewing waiting for the… but?)
“And I’ll be in the audience as your biggest fan… but (ah here it is) please don’t expect me go on stage and drum or anything.”
I assured him that it had never crossed my mind. He exhaled and finished his dinner.
One year later, practicing for a repeat appearance at the same festival, the girls in the troupe decided to do an “I Dream of Genie” dance. The choreographer looked at me and said, “Kat, ask Steve if he’ll be Major Nelson, please?” I immediately recalled last year’s plea to leave him off stage and informed them there was no way. With many more pleas, I conceded that I would ask but predicted the decline.
As I walked in from practice, hubbie started the usual query of how practice was and who was there. I jumped into the Major Nelson question and to my surprise—without hesitation, he said, “Sure, ok! What do I need to do?”
Three months later, in a borrowed Air Force uniform, holding a green genie bottle, local businessman Steve Varn participated in our dance show. We even featured him in our press release and program.
A few months after that show, my husband was pitching a real estate project to a banker. After slightly formal meeting between strangers, the banker sat back and folded his arms. Without a blink, the banker hit Steve with a question out of the blue: “So, you’re a dancer?”
Taken off guard and baffled by the question, he immediately denied it. They returned to the business at hand.
That night at dinner, my husband told me of the odd moment during his meeting with the banker. Immediately, I recalled the press release with his name and it was obvious the banker had Googled my husband’s name. We both laughed and went to the computer to see whether the internet would confirm my theory. It did.
Husbands of belly dancers are amazing partners. Tolerance and the endless presence of glitter on their faces and clothes becomes second nature. They do the heavy lifting and set up electronics. Since Steve’s debut, he has been recreated in two more shows as Achmed, the janitor. His red coveralls hang proudly beside his business coats in the closet. Since my induction to this marvelous tribe, I noticed that each girls’ partners embrace the passion of our love of dance. Recently, I even discovered a website called Husband of a Belly Dancer.
When I look back at my online registration to take a six week dance class, little did we realize how much it would infect our marriage. Husbands and boyfriends of belly dancers are so much fun (and look cute wearing a little glitter, too)!
Feel free to leave stories of any other victims of glitter…
I’d been divorced for about three years. Between running a single parent household and keeping a full time job, I loved my newfound adult social life. And, in spite of the freedom to enlarge my social horizons, I silently grieved the loss of my white picket fence dream. I didn’t have my sites on finding a new partner or breadwinner to allow me to stay home and catch up on the Soaps eating bonbons. Instead, I opened myself to meeting new friends, female or male, through line dancing at Desperado, scuba diving and traveling.
Each morning, I cleared my head and asked my heart to embrace a moment presented by… dare I call it, Destiny? Fate? My faith supported my belief that even hardship identified the dross in my life that could be used for self-improvement and reveal silver linings. Continue reading
Well, but, I’m also an empty-nester who has already raised a son and a daughter. I started juggling being a mom, wife (and many other plates) at the age of 20 and I like to think I learned through my mistakes and rejoiced through the milestones of mommy-hood. I wrote on the pages of my children’s hearts and recorded chapters of their experiences in journals.
So, in my late 40s, while they left the nest to pursue their own life goals and dreams, I turned my sights to a late life “baby” goal. It wasn’t that I had an unhappy marriage, or lacked outside interests. My life was thriving. But I’d always wanted to conceive and deliver a new story. The longing and yearning to fulfill my late life golden child pushed me into a relationship with a writing coach. After a one hour consultation, I conceived.
Under the watchful eye of my publisher, BQB Publishing, I’m now anxiously awaiting my due date in July, 2013. The story has survived and improved under multiple edits. And… it’s a Girl! Continue reading