The Way We Hurt – Kelly Fitzharris Coody, Editor-in-Chief

At the moment I feel as though I’m going through an entirely unique brand of hurt. During my dysfunctional, bipolar second marriage, we lost three babies. One of which was really recent. So on top of all the lies, the stealing, the hurt, and the distrust, there were three separate pregnancies that all ended with a baby dying.

On top of that, I still have to deal with my ex-husband and our ridiculous custody arrangement for my other two children. Today my son did not want to leave my house to go with his dad. He was screaming, crying, and he was hysterical. (Our custody arrangement is split 50/50 – one of our children is 10 years old, the other is 6 years old. My six year old son is the one who is struggling with the arrangement.) His dad stood there, totally unemotional, unaffected, acting like I had somehow put my own son up to this. The reality is that my son is having a hard time and is having some very real emotions about everything. So when I had to tell him that he needed to leave, it ripped my heart out. I still feel sick over it and it happened over an hour ago. Where do I go from here? What do I do?

I was married (the second time) barely over a year. He already has a lawyer and is planning to just rake me over the coals even though he stole my things and pawned them and siphoned money out of my paychecks regularly; you can’t make a case for any of that since there is no technical “stealing” if you’re married, even if the other party is a drug addict with a documented history of theft.

And as far as the custody arrangement from my first marriage goes, my hands are just tied. I cannot afford a lawyer. I don’t have a family lawyer, nor is my dad a lawyer with lawyer friends who will do things for me for free.

I’m at the point where I just want to give up. People keep telling me how strong I am; is that just because I show up for work and put on a smile? Even though I’m dying inside? Even though I’ve had to just deal with the mountain of crap I’ve been given? I don’t feel strong anymore and I’m honestly so sick of trying. It hurts too bad to try.

Why do we have to cause each other so much pain and suffering? And how much is enough? When do I get to see some sort of light at the end of the tunnel, some sort of vindication?

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Life Has a Way of Drop-Kicking you. – Editor-in-Chief, Kelly Fitzharris Coody

I think you guys all remember the upheaval that my life has been under, right? That divorce from my children’s father, having to start over and try not to be bitter while all I wanted to do was scream after throwing away 12 years of hard work, good times, bad times, a love that I’d thought was there, and two malleable children who deserve the world. They are bright and wonderful people.

I got married again, on August 12th, 2017. I got married to a man with whom I thought I could share forever. At first things were good – well, actually, they were miraculous. I didn’t know how I deserved someone so loving and giving; someone who actually loved me for ME and wasn’t going to constantly throw my misgivings in my face. Someone who loved the kids and told me that he missed them when they were gone…

You know what they say about something that seems to good to be true, right? Well, it turns into a tornado of violence, manipulation, and blackmail. I’m 34 with a job and two children and it was not only the last thing I needed , but the last thing I’d ever expected from my new husband.

He and I lost a baby in December of 2017. I was probably 11-12 weeks along. The doctors did the DNA/ genetic / chromosome testing and found the baby we’d lost had had Trisomy 21, aka, Down syndrome. This past summer, we decided to give it one more go to see if we could have a baby. Now, this was the time that everything spiraled out of control. He’d stolen 71 pills from me the minute we found out I was pregnant. Before that, when I went back to work Feb. of 2018, right before my first day, I’d looked into a nearly empty bill bottle. So he had stolen pills from me for a long time and I guess I just wanted to make it work so badly that I couldn’t see how bad he was getting.

Flash forward with me. As the pregnancy went on, he could not control his anger. He became erratic, frightening, aggressive, and made my blood pressure rise to a place that it should never have to go. One night, after I’d begged him to just let me be and let me lie on the bed, he stormed into the bedroom and threw a steel cup that was full of water, all the way across the room, dousing everything and simultaneously skipping along the wall, damaging it as well. He punched an enormous hole in my wall that I’ll never be able to fix.

He started to get mean with my children too. He made them cry. There was a night that I was in the bathtub and he got mad about god knows what and started pounding his fists over and over again on the tile probably a foot away from where I was taking my bath.

Despite my better judgment, I kept trying to make it work. I tried so, so hard, but he just spiraled downward further.

As I looked through my bank transactions one day, I got sick to my stomach. I counted up everything he’d been doing for the past month; he’d siphoned 2000 out of my paychecks and used it to go buy drugs. There’s more than that 2000- I was too sickened to continue to look.

The last night that I was with him, he had agreed to pick my kids up from school because I was had worked a 12 hour day, on my feet, pregnant. I get home and my house had been RANSACKED. Purses, sunglasses, watches, glasses cases, were all gone. That’s what he was doing all day as I worked. All of the things he stole were either gifts, amazing finds in an antique store where they didn’t realize the item was designer and priced it low, or something I saved up for for a long time. And I’ll never get those things back. He even stole my 10 year old daughter’s saved up cash out my wallet while I was either asleep or in the bathroom or something.

Yes, I was pregnant again. I lost the baby last week and had surgery on Friday to remove the baby, which was about 14 weeks along.

Now that the new husband has moved out, he’s acting absolutely disgusting to me. He’d put our gas bill in his name because he said he would take care of all the bills. I can’t tell you how many times he’s threatened to turn our gas off. He’s not even having to pay the damn bill, I am. He’s only doing this to be mean. And I had to co-sign for him to buy me my engagement ring. Now that we’re splitting up, he’s trying to destroy my credit by not giving me the log-in information for me to set up automatic payments on my account. He’s deliberately trying to destroy me in any way that he can. Can he not understand that he was abusive? That my children were scared of him? That we want our lives back? Why is he withholding things that we need to move on?

I’m sure you guys can see why I haven’t had time to post in a while.

I’m up to my ears in to-do lists to try and get my life back on track, but it is a beast. I’m overwhelmed and frustrated. I feel like I just got hit by the abusive husband truck and am having to figure out everything on my own. I have familial support but at the same time, most, if not all, of what I need to do, is on my own.

I’m just depressed. God, I’d felt so trapped for so long. While I’d be getting ready for work, he’d sit to where his face was a few inches from mine and scream at me as I was trying to put on makeup for work. And if he wasn’t screaming, he was dead asleep. It was one extreme or another.

Then it progressed to him screaming at me while we were waiting to see the OB-GYN. The front desk staff even informed our doctor what was happening because they were getting scared for me.

I would say, “Please, stop, you’re making a scene,” as merely a whisper.

He would come back with, “You’re the one making a scene, if you would just stop.”

Then I stopped replying to him. I tried to move chairs to get away from him and he blocked it so that I couldn’t get up and kept getting louder and louder and louder.

That visit ended with him saying through gritted teeth, to where the entire lobby full of people could hear, “And wipe that scowl off your face.”

Kelly

 

Let’s Talk about Unhinged… – MARISELA I. MITCHLEY

I suppose that propriety demands certain things be left unsaid, and though it doesn’t come naturally, I try my best to bite my tongue. I’ve had to dislodge my foot from my own mouth more times than I can remember, but I think that as I get older, I am learning how to more deliberately walk the line between, “Oh shit,” and, “Pertinent.” I ardently hope that this “little” tangent falls under the latter heading.

 

First of all, I have known and been Kelly’s friend for just over 13 years now. I cannot say whether I was the first to read Unhinged, but I was lucky enough to know it in its original inception as a short story titled The Girl in the Angora Sweater. I think one of the reasons she feels comfortable sharing parts of her soul with me is because we share a lot of the same demons. I, too, know how easy it is to become lost in the seemingly infinite mental quagmire of self-doubt, self-loathing, and self-defeating thoughts. When I am stuck and can’t see the forest for the trees, she is there to keep me focused and on track. When all she sees for miles around are the hyper-critical sneers of others who seem to judge her as harshly as she judges herself, I step in to offer words of encouragement: “It’s mostly in your head; you’re making it worse than it is,” as well as the ever-helpful, “Fuck those people, you just keep doing your thing.”

 

So at this point, at the risk of saying too much—as I am wont to do—I must step in and address the literary elephant in the room.

 

I helped her edit Unhinged. I am not an editor by trade or training but I do enjoy writing, and when my dear friend needed help, I felt compelled to do my utmost to ensure the success of her first novel. Mind you—most of my help came in the form of encouragement and motherly orders to persevere. I read the original short story in its unfinished entirety, and snippets of the book here and there, but remember that this process unfolded over the course of years. I didn’t see anything like a completed manuscript until sometime in early 2016. Even then, I didn’t read the entire thing. I wanted to read, and hold, the actual physical copy.

 

As her publication date neared, though, she was so excited. She sent me the first five chapters as a teaser. I couldn’t bear to deflate her enthusiasm, so I started reading during the lulls at work. Eventually, as I got further into the story and found a few more errors than I was comfortable with, those lulls lengthened into breaks, and eventually full-blown work stoppage. As far as I knew, this manuscript was print-ready. I dared not say anything that might make her unnecessarily frantic so close to publication, especially if there was nothing to be done. However, I finally came across an error that, while small, I knew would incite the wrath of grammar-Nazis and casual weekend readers alike: “Rolling Stone’s.” I pointed it out to her and she was horrified, swearing not to have written it herself. So I flipped back through my emails and the documents folder on my laptop, looking for an earlier draft. Sure enough, the apostrophe had been added between the original version and this “print-ready” copy.

 

Up to this point, I had seen other smaller errors which I swore I couldn’t remember reading before, but I just chalked them up to human error and the fact that I am not Data (from Star Trek—come on guys). I now realized something was grievously amiss and, by some miracle of circumstance, learned that it was not too late to put a pause on printing. So she halted the entire thing and I rooted around in my life to make the time to read the rest of Part One.

 

The errors were many, but mostly small things; things a good editor should have caught, but might have been forgiven by a generous client. When I asked her about said editor, I got an earful. This person (who shall remain nameless and genderless for the sake of anonymity) was responsible for inserting the apostrophe into Rolling Stones as well as screwing up the text’s consistency (I cannot even attempt to count the number of times I saw the lower-case formatted “mom” or “dad” mixed in with the unjustifiably mismatched “Mom” or “Dad”—instances where the word(s) did NOT appear at the beginning of a sentence). Like I said, these errors were startlingly many, but forgivably small, and we combed through the entirety of Part One relatively quickly. Part Two, however, was a whole other animal.

 

At this point, we both realized that the editor contracted by her publishers had all but skimmed the second half of the book and given a completely unfounded thumbs-up to the print department. We were astounded, dumbfounded, flabbergasted, and aghast—ALL of those things. Sometimes all at once, others in quick succession. Formatting inconsistencies, continuity errors, oversights in punctuation and typography. You name it, we found it.

 

Now, I understand and fully agree with the sentiment that in the end, beginning, and throughout the process, it is first and foremost the writer’s responsibility to make sure the story makes sense, that all changes to previous drafts have been implemented throughout the ENTIRE manuscript, that the book’s geography and timeline make sense, etc. But on the other hand, when that same author has spent years looking at the same manuscript—going back and forth, keeping some changes and rejecting others, editing and re-editing for errors in typography, spelling, syntax, continuity, consistence, grammar, punctuation, and formatting—it is more than understandable for certain things to slip through the cracks. With a 100k+ word manuscript, even 1% of the entire work is still more than 1,000 errors—if we’re equating errors to word count, which is not really now it works.

 

So yes, it is ultimately Kelly’s job to ensure that her book is in ship shape before it goes to print. But if that were easy to do, editors wouldn’t exist, let alone receive a tidy little paycheck at the end of the day. Everyone needs help, even the masters of their craft, and EVERYONE improves as time passes. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. You create, you err, you identify, you fix. Then you move on and try to do better next time. So when we dove into the second part of Unhinged, expecting approximately the same amount and sort of errors as littered the first part, we were dumbstruck to discover that this half of the book had seemingly NOT BEEN TOUCHED by an editor, except for a few notes here and there where we found unjustifiable, unnecessary, absolutely perplexing, and seemingly token revisions. After a few days of reading, I felt—and still feel—very firmly that this editor gave the second part of the book no more than a cursory glance. I can only speculate as to this person’s reasons for such shoddy workmanship, but I won’t do that here because most of it is unfounded and fired by sheer bias and outrage.

 

But then, on top of the litany of mistakes this editor tacked onto her manuscript, Kelly’s publishers offered nothing in the way of actual reparations. Despite the contract she had signed, that THEY had offered, she was not made whole. Instead, she received some sort of half-hearted, half-assed, completely transparent apology in which one of the publishing partners offered to take a look at the manuscript for her, even though he admitted up-front that this was not his area of expertise. Now I’m sorry, but that’s just bullshit. You don’t open a business, advertise a professional service that you charge people money for, and then duck out of holding up your end of the deal when it becomes apparent that—because you did not thoroughly vet your subcontractor—your client’s livelihood has been all but T-boned. In fact, if you operate a small, nascent, independent business which cannot afford to make such mistakes, then you work double-time to a) make sure such expensive errors don’t get made in the first place, and b) fix all such errors so that your completely satisfied clients have no other thought but to rave about your company, which will hopefully increase business and profits. You don’t say, “I’m so sorry and I understand that it’s our fault, but we can’t make it right because we’re just getting started and that will cost more to fix than we can afford to spend. Maybe I could look at it for you even though I have however many other responsibilities associated with running my own business, along with however many OTHER clients who need my attention as much as you do.”

 

All of that is to say: Kelly did not get what her publishers promised her. The editor they hired to do the job phoned it in. No—scratch that; that editor cut a perfectly good cord connecting the mouthpiece to the actual mechanism and said, “Here, I upgraded it for you. Now you have a cordless phone.” Newsflash: That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

 

So I helped her. Out of necessity, we stretched the initial two week timeline into six, and at the end of the entire process, we were dazed and exhausted and sick to death of the manuscript. I don’t wonder that more than a few errors made it past us, and I’m so thankful that the first run won’t be the only run.

 

And that is the story behind the printing of Unhinged.

 

Now, I didn’t go off on a tangent just to complain, or to beg forgiveness for editing oversights, or to excuse those errors that made it through to print and ask the reader to try and get over it. I wrote this in an effort to inform you of the fairly bumpy and unplotted road we traversed in order to ready this book for public consumption. I wrote it because the thought finally occurred to me that perhaps some people might gain insight (of debatable value) from a behind-the-scenes look at our uphill struggle to edit the book.

 

Every reader is free to think what he or she will of the finished product; your criticisms and opinions are your own. And while they may hurt our egos, feelings, and sense of worth (especially if they are well-founded), even the negative criticisms are valuable and appreciated. In order to grow and improve, an artist must receive input—both good and bad. But in the end, even having taken such considerations into account, I still felt it necessary to tell our story. Let it color how you assess and judge the book or don’t take it into account at all. That is your choice as the reader and I leave it to you.

 

But I would be remiss if I did not at least mention the catalyst for this epic spiel. You will find it here, in the form of an Amazon review, the writer of which I trusted was more than capable of supporting his or her criticisms. This person’s words hurt a great deal because when I read them, I felt like I had let my friend down by overlooking such glaring errors—among many others. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was just off, so I finally decided to look into these errors again. As it turns out, “idler” is a form of the adjective “idle.” In fact, “idle” is only defined as an adjective or verb (not a noun), and “idler” is a strange word. It does stand out to me and I remember reading and being struck by it many times before. But I also distinctly remember giving it the “ok,” because it’s a correct use of the word. Just because something sounds strange to my own ears and is not commonly used does not make it incorrect, and I cannot in good conscience allow my personal preferences to color someone else’s voice. So I chose not to omit it during the editing process.

 

And as to the other error this reviewer chose to showcase—ending a sentence with a preposition—I adamantly maintain that such uses of the written and spoken word are justifiable and should not need to be defended in the first place. Personally, I do agree that if at all possible, one should avoid or severely limit such instances.

 

Once more, with feeling: I, personally, do not like to end my sentences with a preposition if I can avoid it. Of course, that assumes the fact that I am always conscious of writing with better grammar than I speak (which I am not, because I am fallible and I accept my mistakes, loathsome thought they may be).

 

BUT—language is a living, breathing thing; it changes and grows to suit the needs and demands who we who use it. If it didn’t, God only knows how we would communicate today. Through a series of grunts and signs and visual cues? There are some things I feel I will never be able to get behind, like officially adding widely used popular words like “manscape” and “YOLO” to the English dictionary. But on the other side of that argument, without incorporating new words and the novel use of old words, any language would be woefully unequipped to adequately express and articulate the ever-changing world or our lives within it (if you’ve ever “googled” anything, you’ll know what I mean). It was not so long ago (1954) that the “like” vs “as” debate entered the public arena in the form of a Winston cigarette ad. Who has the power to exercise absolute judgment on such matters? I, for instance, adamantly support my purposeful and deliberate decision to start certain sentences with “and,” “so,” “or,” or “but,” because in some cases, it just works.

 

Of course, some rules should be adhered to, because otherwise how could one ever hope to govern the eloquent and proper use of written language? And in the same vein, it would be all too easy to defend and completely dismiss poor writing with the individual, purposeful choice argument.

 

But I fail to understand how one can conclude with supreme certainty that an author has inexcusably assaulted the English language and committed an indeterminate number of grammatical sins when one refuses to accept or even entertain the idea of language as a fluid and changeful thing. Nor do I understand how one can draw such a broad conclusion without first securing an absolutely unassailable argument. This Amazon reviewer does not have such an argument.

 

Like I said before, what I feel matters most is that we tried. We didn’t just slap something together, throw a cover on it, and call it worthy of purchase and consumption. We tried the best we could and if errors are present, trust that they will be remedied in subsequent printings (insofar as they do not begin to re-write the book). And if you don’t like the story, or think the writing is sloppy, or have any number of other valid criticisms, that is your prerogative as the consumer. You may choose to read another of Kelly’s books or not. But regardless of your ultimate decision in the matter, I do hope that you don’t issue final judgment upon Kelly—or any author—because of how you felt about ONE of her books. Especially if that book happens to be her first.

 

In closing, please, PLEASE, allow me to emphasize: I don’t expect a free pass because language is adaptable and everyone has their own writing style. No one should simply excuse the style of the book or any aspect of it they dislike simply because the editing choices we made were deliberate, calculated, and suited to our own personal tastes. What I am saying is that these reviews matter, especially for new authors. If they didn’t, Amazon would not have recently shored up the rules they have in place to fight the fake ones.

 

So, in light of the fact that in an ideal world, reviews should exist to provide a necessarily biased but hopefully accurate assessment of a product’s usefulness, the purpose of this entire tirade is simply to implore you, the consumer, to review and communicate with discernment, honesty, and objectivity. To break it down to the barest of bones: I don’t personally like goat’s milk. But I will NOT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, allow my opinion to color my four year old daughter’s impression of it before she has even tried it for herself. To offer any sort of negative input might affect her ultimate opinion; and in the very worst of scenarios, it could very well affect how she approaches all new foods for the rest of her life. I will tell her what I can to give her an idea of what it will be like, but I will try not shape her opinion before it even exists.

 

And finally, if you don’t take anything else away from this rant (which I genuinely hope was not a massive waste of your time), I hope you DO go away with this one sentiment: We’re human, y’all; sometimes we fuck up, and sometimes we fix it. People can and do change, often for the better. Everyone deserves a second chance (sometimes more) or the benefit of the doubt. Be kind, and be open-minded.

 

Peace out.

M. I. Mitchley.

What is a Woman’s Worth? – by KIM D. BAILEY

What is a Woman’s Worth?

By Kim D. Bailey

 

With all that’s going on this week after the election, this question bears asking and answering, with gritty insight and truth.

Many of my female friends are feeling betrayed at this juncture in our American journey. I won’t go into the politics of this too much, except to say that we have a President-elect who does not instill, for our national identity as women, a respect for us. Nor does he practice any respect for women on a personal level.

With that said, I want to address the women, and some of our brothers out there who are feeling lost and frightened by this new reality that is upon us.

Aside from the obviously egregious responses and actions being made by this new administration to race, freedom of religion, cultural diversity, and LGBTQ issues, our sense of worth as women has been compromised by the electoral vote of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States of America.

Those of us who are voicing these concerns are being met with deflating rhetoric. We are being told to calm down, get over it, give him a chance to show he’s not so bad, and sometimes—we are being told we don’t even have a right to voice our thoughts and feelings because we are intrinsically flawed in our thinking and feeling.

We are being called horrific names. Cunt, Whore, Slut, Stupid, Libtard, Bitch. We are being attacked at the very core of who we are—as women—for having an opinion outside the collective conscience of those who either voted for the PE or who abstained from voting altogether.

The latter is a dismally large number, by the way.

Of those who voted for the PE, many were women. Our sisters, mothers, aunts, nieces, daughters, cousins, grandmothers, and friends. Their reasons are their own—as we all have a right to vote for whom we choose—but their responses to our outrage is just as harmful as that of their male counterparts.

None of these responses reflect any truth as to our actual worth.

Women have fought long and hard for the rights and responsibilities that our male counterparts have enjoyed and born out. We were even behind African American men in the right to vote, not obtaining this right on a national level until 1920, over 70 years after the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, the first women’s rights convention.

Nearly 170 years later, many of us voted for Hillary Clinton. In fact, the numbers are coming in, and in the popular vote, Ms. Clinton received upwards of 2 million more votes than did Donald Trump. More women voted for her than did men. Many women who voted for her are college educated to some degree.

As with any election, there is a winner and a loser. So, in this case, more than half of all those who voted in this election are grieving the loss.

But it isn’t just about losing.

For the first time in our history, a woman ran for president of our country. As a lifelong politician and public servant, Ms. Clinton was a strong candidate, especially in her demeanor, experience, and ability to work in a bipartisan manner for the good of the whole.

Therefore, many of us are grieving not just a loss, but the loss of a lifelong dream we have held that a woman could president of our nation and do a good job—as well, if not better—than any man.

We are hurting. We see this loss as a setback, because in so many ways, it is.

Not only did Clinton lose, she lost to a man who openly espoused sexual harassment as a normal part of his day-to-day life. He is also facing charges of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and even sexual molestation of a minor. In addition, he has been charged with fraud (racketeering) related to his failed Trump University business, he has somehow managed to avoid paying taxes for years (of which he brags), and he is in the process of building a cabinet that encompasses known Anti-Semite(s), a VP who is openly and harshly opposed to Roe vs. Wade and LGBTQ rights, and even includes his grown children as part of his special team. By the way, this a clear conflict of interest as they will continue to run his private businesses while he leads the country—with their assistance.

What were Clinton’s sins? The vitriol against her flaws, as opposed to his, was disproportionately astonishing. Emails. Being unlikable. Not smiling. Being hard and firm, even an evil bitch. Being part of an established form of government that people were sick and tired of supporting.

Being a woman.

Yes, I said it. Being a woman.

Our country voted for a misogynistic, criminal, unethical, and racist man over an imperfect woman.

I’ve heard some of my male friends—who I believe are well-intentioned and who believe they mean no harm—say that if it were only a different woman, maybe Elizabeth Warren for example, who had been chosen for the nomination to run for president by either major party, a woman may have made history this election year.

Beside being a crock of shit, this has become a tired refrain that diminishes reality and insults us further as women. The hard truth is, our country wasn’t ready for a female to lead.

Back to us, we are now in a reactionary dance. When we express ourselves, we are being attacked from so many sides, imploring us to accept what is.  We are being told we still don’t measure up.

When we are admonished for our opinions and feelings, we are hurt, and sometimes our response is anger and pain.

The root of this anger and pain, however, lies in abject fear on all sides.

Men see us as a threat. They truly do. Even when they deny it, there is a niggling sense of intimidation in most men’s minds that we are overcoming and surpassing them at alarming rates. For a society that has been rooted in patriarchy, this is a tough pill to swallow. Their fear became woefully evident in the results of the election. And this was supported by women who believe that men are to hold the power because they are indeed the stronger sex.

Women who did not vote for him are reacting to all manner of attacks and berating comments out of fear as well. We are afraid we will never be taken seriously, respected, or honored. We are quite certain that we shall never be fully heard.

When you stand in your own silence for so long, only hearing the echo of your voice off the canyon walls when you shout your worth to the universe, it’s hard to accept other’s reprimands and not-so-gentle advice to calm down. It’s even more difficult to be told to shut the fuck up.

So many of the responses we continue to receive are various forms of gaslighting, which as described by Oxford Dictionaries, is a verb: manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.

We see it and hear it every day. Our female friends are saying, “There must be something wrong with me.” Or they say, “I’m sorry, but, maybe I’m not thinking this out like I should…,” when they question this continued status quo. When hit with a barrage of gaslighting, or overt verbal abuse, many of us fold back into ourselves and believe the lie. We return to that place where we think we are asking, even expecting, too much to be heard and validated.

My call to action today to all women is not to give into this lie.

We must gather our strength and courage, more than ever now, and continue to stand for our worth.

Our worth is intrinsic. It does not rely on our abilities to “do a man’s job” well. Women are equally worthy as men to inhabit any space in this world. We need to embrace that worth and reiterate it to the world over and over until it becomes an unquestionable fact.

So, enough with the rhetoric.

If you feel your feet slipping on the icy slopes of the lie that we are not as capable and worthy, remind yourself that you are so much more than what others want you to believe. Do not back down under chastisement or shame for speaking out. Do not allow anyone—man or woman—to make you question your truth and your place in this world.

Pull out the threads of the tapestry that is the lie and weave your own. Then cover yourself in this fabric of authenticity.

WE as women are worthy, simply because we ARE. Once we believe that, there will be no stopping us.

***

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Kim Bailey Deal writes Women’s Fiction, short stories, poetry, and nonfiction. She has written two novels, now in revision. She authors a weekly column and is former Social Media Manager for www.five2onemagazine.com. Kim has several works published, including in Firefly Magazine Issue #3, on Writersdigest.com, Pilcrow & Dagger, Tuck Magazine, The Scarlet Leaf Review, Madness Muse Magazine, Drunk Monkeys, and forthcoming publications in Sick Lit Magazine, The Magnitizdat Literary, and Firefly Magazine Issue #8. A mother of four, she lives near Chattanooga, TN. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @kimbaileydeal and her blog at www.kimbaileydeal.net

A Special Tribute for the Month of September- Now, My Birthday Sucks by Lynn Sollitto

Now, My Birthday Sucks

The morning of my twenty-sixth birthday began with a phone call from my boyfriend. It would change my birthday forever.

“Lynn, have you been watching the news?”

I don’t watch the news; it’s too depressing. He knows this.

What I was about to see would burn in my mind and give a whole new meaning to the news is too depressing.

“Why would I be watching the news?”

“Just… Turn on the TV.”

I sat on my bed and flicked on the TV.  The television played footage of an airplane crashing into the North Twin Tower. The South Tower came down shortly afterwards.

I grabbed my head and moaned, “No…”

Immobile, I watched the news replay the horror of the buildings collapse. These towers were a symbol of the time in my life that made me, well, me.

I moved to New Jersey from a small town in Northern Wisconsin when I was eighteen. I lived twenty minutes from “the city.” (Friends constantly needed to remind me as to which city they were referring, as the whole area was one big city to me.)

Each weekend I went by bus on the Garden State Parkway, through the Lincoln Tunnel and into Manhattan. As we exited the tunnel, The Projects loomed above us. Continuing on, the Twin Towers rose up in the distance, the majestic king and queen looking over their loyal subjects.

I would stare at the towers, craning my neck to see them as long as possible. The people hiding behind their newspapers or leaning against the window with their eyes closed perplexed me.

How could anyone take that view for granted?

The towers symbolized a time of finding myself. In my year on the East Coast, I gained confidence as I learned to navigate public transportation, drive a stick shift on highways with more than two lanes, and apply make up so expertly that I passed for twenty-one.

Most important, I realized that although I came from a small town, I was capable of doing large things.

This time in my life was a turning point: There was Lynn pre-New York City and Lynn post-New York City. The magnificent towers reminded me of this whenever I saw them.

Nearly eight years after I lived there, I watched them crumble into a pile of memories.

Later, I would mourn the lives lost. I would donate money in a firefighter’s boot.

And I would grieve for the towers that lived in this great city, inanimate yet just as alive as any New Yorker.

But in that moment, as the world watched together, all I could feel was shock.

My birthday plans were to meet my boyfriend for breakfast and then go to school. I was on autopilot walking to the restaurant, eating, and driving to school.

The weight of this tragedy hung in the air.

Campus students walked around in slow motion, statues come alive and uncertain how to proceed in this new world.

The news was turned on in my English Literature class. There was no chatter in the classroom, no commentary about what we watched. The students were silent; their gazes fixed on the screen as the destruction played over and over, a recurring nightmare.

That evening I went to dinner with my boyfriend and another couple. My favorite restaurant was usually packed with people and loud murmurs, but that night it was subdued.

I began to look at things as pre-Twin Towers and post-Twin Towers.

My children’s births were post-Twin Towers. They’ll never get to see them, and this breaks my heart.

An old movie with the Towers could elicit a tightening in the chest.

A memory of my time in New York could tie a knot in my stomach.

A year ago I visited Manhattan to celebrate my fortieth birthday. It was the first time I’d gone back since my coming-of-age experiences twenty-two years earlier.

My mom and I visited Ground Zero on our last day. As soon as we stepped into the memorial, the atmosphere changed.

Just blocks away, taxi horns honked and people yelled, but within the walls of where the Towers once stood, the air was solemn. People spoke in heavy whispers, respectful and reverent.

A well of emotion overcame me. I was grateful to be wearing sunglasses, which hid my eyes.

At the memorial, Reflecting Absence, I traced my fingers over the engraved names. The names reflected the diversity of all the lives lost that day – women and men who were not only American, but also Hindu, Jewish, Russian, and more…

…And Muslim.

The terrorists destroyed buildings and thousands of people, but they hadn’t destroyed what made and continues to make America great:

Open arms that welcome anyone wanting to become part of our diverse family.

And we must remember this to honor those who lost their lives and those who are weighed down by that day’s loss. We will stand together as a symbol of America’s greatness.

 

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Lynn Sollitto lives in Sacramento, California, with her husband and three children. She has been featured on Carrie Goldman’s 30 Days of Adoption at Chicago Now and has been a guest contributor for Transfiguring Adoption. Lynn blogs about her foster adoption journey at www.lynnsollitto.wordpress.com and about the writing life at www.bittersweetadventures.com. She can also be found on Twitter or hanging out at lksollitto@gmail.com.

My Name Is…Kate Jones – by KATE JONES

My Name Is…Kate Jones

If you ask the majority of nine year olds, (and often many adults), what superhero power they’d like to have, I’ll place a bet that a lot of them will say invisibility.

An invisibility cloak. It’s a fun idea, right?

I always wanted an invisibility cloak as a kid. I was a bit of a loner at times – I think a lot of writer’s are.  I would wish that I could disappear into my own imaginary world, unaffected by knocks at the door asking me to come and play.

As an adult, think of all the annoying people you could avoid if you could turn yourself invisible. The times you could edge out of a boring meeting or banal party and slip away into the night…

Anyway, when Kelly put out a call for themes for the magazine recently, I knew I wanted to write about invisibility.  I still disappear into my own imaginary world when I’m writing, but my reason for suggesting this theme was much more relevant and urgent than that.

You see, I have discovered, after 42 years on this planet, that I actually am becoming invisible.  More so as time passes, it seems.

I’d been stewing on this issue that has been bugging me for some time now, the past few years actually, and like many writers, the best way I could think of tackling it was by writing a story about it. That was where my idea for ‘My Name Is’ came from.  I ‘wrote’ that story in almost complete form in my head one night, seething in bed because I had been ignored one too many times.  It is totally fictional, of course, but the reasoning behind it is very much non-fiction, unfortunately.

You see, I could be forgiven for thinking I have actually got the invisibility cloak I dreamed of as a kid.

Many, many, (trust me MANY) times, I will be out with my family, and we will bump into somebody we know. They will stop to exchange pleasantries. They will ask my husband how his job is going. We will chat for a few minutes, during which time, they will not once think to ask how my work is going. How I’m doing. Nothing.

We used to run a successful business together, and, despite us having equal roles, I had countless incidents of customers insisting get your husband to call me and discuss it if I refused to agree to a demand. Friends and family always saw him as being the owner of the business, whilst I ‘worked’ there.  This, despite the fact that we had created the business together from scratch.  We were both involved in every aspect of the success of that business, yet I felt that I got no credit for the success of it.

When recently, at a party, I dared to climb out of the shell for a few minutes and join the conversation, mentioning my writing, somebody turned back to my husband and asked: And are you happy with her sitting at home and writing while you’re out working?

What the fuck?

Now, I know this might sound like I’m paranoid or bitter. I’m honestly neither. But the truth is, last year, I lost count of the amount of times this happened. Even more bizarrely, I have lost count of the amount of times I have attended events alone, and people have stopped me to ask how my husband’s career is going. After our eldest daughter did exceptionally well in her exams, I had one woman tell me you must be so proud of your daughter – she obviously gets her brains from her father.

WTF IS THIS ABOUT??

I’m positive this didn’t happen before I had children. I think that, once you take your husband’s name and become a mother, you often lose your own, individual identity. I bet most of the other mother’s at my daughters’ schools don’t know my first name – and to be honest, I don’t know their names either. We simply refer to one another as ‘so-and-so’s Mum’.

I find this so strange.  I love talking to other people about what they do, I find people fascinating. But I know it isn’t just me. I’ve spoken to other women and they have similar experiences, including the fabulous editor of Sick Lit herself, which was one of the reasons why I wanted to write for the magazine in the first place – in response to her rallying cry to women.

I have to add here that I am happily married to a man who is a total feminist.  I mean it.  He is nothing but supportive to any venture I undertake; he never made me feel anything less than an equal partner in the business, as we are in our family life.  Sometimes, I take care of the domestic and childcare more as he is working.  At other times, he has stepped in and been the one to attend doctor’s appointments and school events.  We are supportive of one another – and the benefit is that our two daughters’ thrive in an environment where their opinions and views are listened to, and where they know they can become anything they put their mind to.

The only response I can think of to combat this culture of invisibility is to stand up and stand out.  Say what you think and feel; make sure you get people’s attention (in a positive way), ask questions of other women and make the path clear for the next generation of feisty females to feel confident speaking out.

Oh, and when I asked MY nine year old what superpower she would choose, she said, without missing a beat, shapeshifter. So, there you go – invisibility is out, shape-shifting is the new power to have.

My Name is Kate Jones, and I am a Writer, a Woman, A Feminist, a Wife, a Mother, a Dreamer….and then some.

***

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***Kate is a freelance writer based in the UK who writes articles, including regular contributions to online women’s magazine Skirt Collective, as well as publishing life writing and poetry both in print and online.  She has a passion for flash fiction and short stories, and is usually found lurking around coffee shops, writing and listening to other people’s conversations. Jones has also become a regular contributor to Sick Lit Magazine, and is a 2016 nominee for the Pushcart Prize through Sick Lit Magazine.***

She blogs at www.writerinresidenceblog.wordpress.com.

Find Kate on Twitter at:  https://twitter.com/katejonespp

 

Creative Writing – by ROB TRUE

The process of creative writing, from an uneducated, dyslexic idiot with no qualifications

 

If you’re sitting there staring at a blank screen, or piece of paper, not knowing what to write, you’re going nowhere.

Nobody gives a fuck if you have a BA, or an MA or some other qualification for creative writing; it ain’t gonna help – wondering what to write is nowhere-bound. You’re trying so hard, you get nowhere. You know where, nowhere!

Get up and go out.

Grab a beer on the way and drink it walking down the street. If you’re not tuff, act hard, if you are tuff, play the fool. Look people in the eye, so you can see through their windows, see what they really are. Start a fight, it doesn’t matter if you win, or lose. Or fuck someone, a real dirty fuck. Put some effort into it, make it epic. Do something visceral, act like a cunt, or do something you haven’t done before. Do something you’re not allowed to do. Go and steal something. Don’t be afraid.

Think differently around things, look at them inside out, upside down. Throw left, or right wing politics, or concepts of right and wrong out the window. Instead of being politically correct, noble, or moral, play devil’s advocate next time you argue. Fuck with other people’s ideals and sensibilities, twist ‘em up and get in their heads. Don’t come with a fixed point of view, but counter attack with flexibility of free thought, watching from above, taking out the weaknesses in their fixed ideas. Look for the feeble words in their arguments and swipe the ankles, like a hunter taking out the lame member of a herd. It doesn’t matter if you’re wrong. Words are magic.

Look at people, their strange interactions and weird relationships. See how bizarre life is, the structures and rules we create around us for some understanding of a so-called reality which doesn’t really exist. Open up all the doors you have bolted shut in your mind, from fear, or self-preservation of your sanity, or wanting to fit in with an imagined normality, until all the monsters are released and then, let them destroy you. Laugh at sad, or disturbing events and cry when you’re happy, while listening to electronic music of a nineteen eighties video game. All this is dangerous; your magic will grow stronger.

I remember when I was a kid at school and the art teacher told us to do something based on the human body. Now I wasn’t particularly inspired at that moment, I’d already done figure drawings and a few surreal pictures with figures in. I’d even painted a half-naked nun with an upside-down cross, morphing into a cock. Anyway, I was staring at this blank paper and I knew that was going nowhere, so I put down my pencil and punched myself in the face as hard as I could. My nose burst and I let the blood drip all over the page. I called it Nosebleed. The teacher and other pupils, were quite horrified, but I was rather pleased with it. I’ve still got it.

Don’t sit there wondering what to write, just write something, anything.

Write about when you got beat up in a fight, or that time you knocked someone out with one punch, or something strange that happened when you were drunk, or high, or about what a cunt your mother is, or how you bullied some poor kid at school, or got bullied, depending on where you stood in the absurd hierarchy and pecking order of these moronic animals that we are. Write about the argument you had the other day with your brother, or the best, or worst fuck you ever had. Write about the inside out chick you found still alive after your cat played with it and how you smashed it with a brick to put it out of its dying misery and how beautiful its broken guts looked, all flattened and feathery blood mess. Write about going down on a beautiful girl and as you go to kiss her pretty little pussy, a snake suddenly shoots out of it and bites you on the face. Write about something real, or just make it up, it doesn’t matter if its bullshit, or if it makes you sound like a prick.

When I write something, it’s usually because I already had the inspiration. It could be from a dream, or real events, or just an image, a vision, or an idea that just appears in my head, like magic.

I write mostly short stories, which are about fifty/fifty fiction/true stories. In between I fuck, fight, work, steal, drink, laugh like an idiot, get into trouble, hurt, get hurt and think. I generally don’t try to write anything.

I don’t like to strain. I never squeeze out a shit. I wait ‘till its banging on the back door, so when I sit down, it just falls out with ease.

I just get ideas beamed in and the creativity spills out like magic, or vomit. I write it down as quick as I can and it feels effortless and beautiful. Making art, or writing for me is an other-world experience. The effort comes into play if I work back over it. (I don’t always do this, but sometimes it is necessary to make the best of a piece). I have a friend who is a biker and this process always reminds me of a chopper. Take a motorbike and chop it. All the fairing off, back to the basic frame and machine. Then polish it up and bolt on all the fancy accessories. I sort of do the same by chopping out the introductions, the explanations, take out unnecessary words and strip it back to raw idea, the magic. Then I fuck around with the words a bit to allow them to flow better with a rhythm of poetry and punch. This process I find equally amusing and not at all a chore. I never stare at a blank screen, or page.

I remember in a film, or maybe a TV program years ago, someone said something along the lines of don’t try, just do, or don’t do. I can’t remember the exact line, or if it was Mr Miyagi, or Yoda, or Cain from Kung Fu. Probably all three said it one way, or another. Those words always rung true to me.

So there it is, don’t force it. If you’ve got it in you, it’s in there somewhere. It will come to you when you’re not expecting. While you walk the street, or at work, or something. I work in construction and I come and go when I please, but if you work in some shitty office when this happens, up end your desk and jump out the fucking window, run all the way home and hit that keyboard hard, let it all flow out the way it comes in on a beam of golden light and don’t stop for nothing, or no one ‘til it’s all run out. Even if you have to shit in your pants, just keep going until its done with you, because you’re no longer in charge, the idea has taken over, possessed you.

You are just the vehicle, the pathway for it to enter this dimension.

***

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***Rob True was born in London 1971. He left school with no qualifications, dyslexic and mad, in a world he didn’t fit into. He got lost in an abyss, was sectioned twice and spent the best part of a decade on another planet. He returned to earth just in time for the new millennium, found a way to get on in life, married a beautiful girl and lived happily ever after. She taught him how to use paragraphs and punctuation and his writing has been a bit better ever since. Find him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/robjtrue  ***